Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Honey Love

Oh, how I love the little bee that brings me nectar for my tea!

This is the time of year I start longing for a nice hot cup of tea. Of course, that means I will need some honey to sweeten the brew. Fortunately, the bees have been busy and productive (as always) so my desires will not go unfulfilled. Earl Grey, Wild Orange, Country Peach and Spicy Cinnamon Apple all taste better with a drizzle of liquid gold. Hail to the honey bee!

To make these fragrant ornaments I mixed 1 Cup of Cinnamon, 3/4 cup of Applesauce, 2 TBLS. glue and several drops of spicy essential oil to increase the fragrance factor. The dough should be about the same texture as pie crust dough. I rolled it out on a sheet of wax paper, then cut out my shapes with a cookie cutter. I used a plastic straw to poke the hole. Next, I stamped in the initials of the bride and groom whose wedding gift bags these were going into. What a sweet addition to a fall-themed wedding!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Heirloom Tomatoes and Melrose Peppers

It's Harvest Time!

I've been waiting for months to sink my teeth into this summer favorite fresh from the garden. THIS is the reason I patiently grow my heirloom tomatoes. NOTHING can compare to the taste and texture of these meaty, flavorful treasures. Of course, they seem to take forever. Mine grow very tall (7 ft.) and produce about 7-10 tomatoes. But, I grow mine in pots (large pots) so perhaps that is affecting the growth habit. This particular variety is called MORTGAGE BUSTER. Excellent. My all time favorite is MR. STRIPEY. Both varieties are full of sweet flavor and slice up beautifully. The texture is firm, solid and never, ever goopy like grocery store tomatoes.
For this tasty treat I sliced a bagel into three thin slices. Butter, a little garlic powder...pop it under the broiler. Once toasty brown I add a slice of tomato heaven and a slice of mozzarella and put it back under the broiler for a few seconds to melt the mozzarella just a bit. Finally, I top it with fresh basil (grown in a pot right next to the tomatoes, of course) and a sprinkle of balsamic vinaigrette. Have I died and gone to heaven?
Melrose Peppers
Well if all that tomato heaven wasn't enough I now have a new favorite pepper growing in my garden. Remember, my vegetable garden is grown in large pots, so I usually choose varieties that I think will do well in pots. I had read a lot about these Italian favorites and was excited to share them with my pepper-loving Italian hubby. I had no idea they would be so PROLIFIC, CAREFREE and DELICIOUS. I have probably harvested about a dozen 4" peppers from each plant and they just keep going and going.....They can be eaten green or red. They can be stuffed, sauteed or used in salads. They are SO MUCH BETTER than regular sweet peppers. Why doesn't everybody grow these? Probably because, like me, they never heard of them...till now. By all means, get yourself some Melrose peppers and enjoy! They are not as thick as regular sweet peppers and when you cook them they don't get mushy and tasteless. They hold the flavor and remain relatively sturdy when cooked. Great for stuffing. I found this tempting recipe online
I don't want to have to enjoy these merely once a year so I have strung a few dozen of them and hung them to dry for more sauteed peppers in the chilly months ahead!

Ceramic Apple Bowls

Ceramic Apple Bowls

I'm preparing some apple-inspired pieces for a fall wedding. These should be just right for holding caramels.
They're about 7 inches wide and slightly curved up along the edge. I rolled my slab about 1/4 thick and used a variety of items to make impressions. Then I cut out the apple shape and slightly raised the edges, using a long twisted rope of paper towelling for support. Once fired I applied dark brown glaze, wiped it off so it remained only in the recesses, and loosely dry-brushed some red and green glaze on top and popped it in the cooker for the final glaze firing.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ceramic Bowl w Nature Impressions

Using Leaves
and other items
to make impressions in clay
As an art teacher I look forward to having time to create, play and experiment with new idea's during the summer months. I've been making ceramic pieces with impressions of leaves for several years and wanted to incorporate some 'man made' impressions as well. Mixin' it up was lots of fun and produced some interesting pieces. I also experimented with glaze applications that seemed appropriate for this style. By the time the fun was over there was a whole lotta mess and several finished pieces that will become gifts for friends and family.
I have a lot of variety of leaves in my backyard and selected ones that were hearty and had raised veins. Naturally, thin leaves don't leave much of an impression. Likewise, if the veins were too thick, particularly the center vein, I reduced the thickness by slicing off a portion. I found that if a very deep impression is made the bowl or platter would occasionally crack along the deep impression during firing. I laid the leaves on with the veins against the clay and used a rolling pin to make the impression. Pressing with your fingers will not be effective. I put all the leaves down at once and left them in place after rolling. I cut a circle out AFTER the impressions were made. If you cut the circle out first the force of the impressions will distort the circle and you will have to re-cut it. Once I cut the circle out I removed some of the stiff leaves and placed the circle on top of my bowl mold and gently pressed the clay into shape. The bowl mold was made by pouring plaster of paris into a bowl.
The clay should remain on the bowl mold until stiff, but not dry as it will crack if left on the mold too long. When I worked outside on a hot, sunny day the clay was stiff in one hour. Indoors, at average temperature it took about 3-4 hours.
After bisque-firing the bowl I applied a dark brown glaze, then wiped it off so it remained in the impressions. Then I applied various colors of glaze using brisk, light strokes. Some colors were overlapped. Finally, I applied clear glaze and made sure the entire surface was covered.
Besides using leaves, I also found other items from nature that made wonderful patterns and textures. Shells, a seed pod and an odd little pine cone rolled along the surface added interest. Man-made items that seemed to fit in well with the nature items included lace, buttons and my own stamps made of (fired) clay.




Hydrangea....what can I say about you? A big flower made of little flowers. Never goes out of style. Changes color. Huge, small, short, tall.....I love Hydrangea!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

S'mores Snack Bites. Simply irrestible.


These irrestible treats disappeared quickly at a recent family gathering. Everyone wanted to know how to make them, especially since my daughter, a busy working mom, said they were FAST and EASY. We like fast and easy when it tastes this good! She found the recipe here:
Here's the short version: Graham cracker crust (ready made or make up your own using graham cracker crumbs, butter and powdered sugar) pressed into mini muffin tins. Bake at 350 for about 4-5 minutes. Put one small square of Hershey chocolate in each crust. Cut marshmallow in half and place cut side down on top of chocolate. Back into the oven for 1-2 minutes. Let cool/stiffen. Dip in melted chocolate. Ohhhh....

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Abstract Painting COLLAGE Method

Abstract Painting
using a magazine collage as your inspiration
Student work (high school introductory art)

Wow...We just finished our abstract paintings using the method demonstrated in a video featuring insrtuctor Jim Cogswell from the University of Michigan School of Art and Design (Great School!). Students created a collage from magazine cutouts, then used the collage as a guide for their painting. The college level paintings are large, thoughtful works of art that are an inspiration to my younger students. After watching the video we all want to take Jim's class!

My high school students LOVED this method. Very often, they simply don't know where to begin with abstract design. Show your students this fascinating video and watch the masterpieces unfold before your very eyes!
Because my high school students are at an introductory level, I have slightly amended the process  described in the video to provide a little more direction for students who lack painting experience. I have found my students garner more success when they pre-plan a color scheme. I also introduce the concept of symbolism by requiring students to describe a theme or mood they wish to invoke. The theme should be a short 1- 5 word description or title such as 'summer', 'explosion', or 'hot meets cold'.
High school student work:

To see examples and brief instructions for some of my FAVORITE ART PROJECTS IN THE CLASSROOM (High School) click here