Monday, November 21, 2016

It was hard keeping this a secret...

I have been waiting to post this one... such a fun super secret surprise piece. This was commissioned by a groom for his bride as a wedding gift because this was the spot where he proposed to her... under the big oak tree at Augusta National, the home of The Masters golf tournament. Congratulations to the bride and groom who are now Mr. and Mrs.!

"The Big Oak at Augusta National"
- 10" x 13" graphite

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thanksgiving is now less than two weeks away

How did this happen?  Time does march on.  With Thanksgiving in mind, I realize that I am thankful for so much -- I have SO MUCH for which I am thankful -- and yet I don't have EVERYTHING.   God continually shows me how much I need Him.  We are in the midst of one of the worst droughts in history where I live.  The lake that is our main source of water is so dry that people can walk across it.  We are at 54 days with no rain.  NO rain.  And the forecast for the next 10 days shows 0% chance of rain.

The conditions are so bad right where I live that the Water Works has issued a 400% fine on any who go over the allotted water amount for the month.  400%!  And that is the same whether you are a family of one or a family of ten.  We are a family of five adults and one fur baby.  But, we usually hover around the "fine-worthy" amount in our usage. So, we are finding creative ways to conserve even more than we normally do.  Yet, we are still praying, "Lord, please send the rain."  And, this continues to remind me that I am not in charge. 

As always with my scripture graphics, feel free to download and use this one!

Despite the recent election and the divide that we see in our country, we can be content in the circumstance and know that He is still God. So many feel that four years with our president-elect will doom our nation.  But, just as many felt that way four and eight years ago. And, here we are still plugging along. At the end of the day God calls us not to criticize those who don't vote or believe as we do. Rather, He calls us to love. Unconditionally.  Wholeheartedly. Even when it's hard. EVERY person has value to God. Including President Obama and including President-elect Trump. I pray that we can all get past this hate and division... and can find the contentment that He promises.

So much of life is beyond our control.  And so many of us are control freaks (anybody else, or is it just me and the people in my family?) When we have circumstances in our lives that are disappointing or challenging, they could be God's way of reminding us that no matter how much we try to control the variables in our lives, He is still ultimately in control.  And, I am at peace with that (well, most of the time.)  I try, with Paul the apostle, to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself.  And every time I go into my kitchen to get a glass of water, I am reminded of that.

"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:11-13

Saturday, November 5, 2016

We need this right now...

So, I have always loved Steven Curtis Chapman's music, and so much of that is due to his rich lyrics.  He has written this song just recently in response to our upcoming election.  I would strongly encourage you to click the link or photo and listen.  It was just what I needed today, and I am afraid I may listen to it a zillion more times in the coming days. No matter what you're going through, God is on the throne...

It's not just applicable for us here in the States, but for all God's children... wherever we may be.  The lyrics are powerful, but even more so when you hear his heart as he sings them:

I hear everybody talking
on the right and on the left,
They're holding out their promises
while we all hold our breath,
and if I did not know better
I would be scared to death,
But God is on the throne.
I know that it all matters
and there's so much at stake
And I know we all need wisdom
for decisions we must make
But there's only one who's making promises that He won't break
And He is on the throne.

He is faithful and true,
everything He says He'll do,
And everything we go through,
He will go with us.
All the kingdoms of man
are in the palm of His hand
So I will not fear, I'll say it loud and clear, so my own heart can hear it
God is on the throne.

Well I've got my fears and worries
like everybody else
I love this country and it's broken
and in desperate need of help
So I'm praying to the one
who has the power to make us well
'Cause He is on the throne

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall,
only one stands through it all
It's the kingdom of
the God of grace and love
And I'm not worried because I know
God is on the throne.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Thankful for amazing doctors

I am one who cannot imagine being a doctor or a nurse, so I can't imagine having the courage to operate on another person.  But, I am so very thankful that there are those who are brave enough to do just that, as today it saved my friend's life.  She had an aneurysm that was fairly large and very dangerously thin and bulging. The doctor felt it could have ruptured and put her life in jeopardy at any moment.

She found out about this aneurysm because she had what she thought was a migraine ... for over a month!  She went to her general practitioner who suggested she get an MRI "just in case" and today she had a very intricate surgery to repair the aneurysm.

This was a 7 hour surgery (she was actually in the operating room that long), with a couple hours prep and a few hours in recovery.  Very long day! The doctor came out and told us that it was much larger and more serious than they originally thought and that the location of it in her brain was a very tricky spot.  Yet, he was able to repair the aneurysm, and he was hopeful that she should recover fully.

We are praising the Lord and thanking Him that someone whom we had never met before was brave enough to learn to do this kind of thing, strong enough to stand there for 7 hours (or however long it might have taken), gifted enough to use his skill and knowledge to accomplish this, so that our friend (who is in her mid-40s and has a husband and two children) will be well again.  Thank You, Lord, for doctors and for being the Great Physician, whether through miraculous healing or through miraculous doctors.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Yummo Seafood and Sausage Gumbo

I have been making gumbo for years now, thanks to a Southern Living recipe collection that I subscribed to back in the 90s, with a few personal tweaks.  I thought I would share it... this is not the quick, throw it in a pot, and have it ready in 30 minutes kind of soup.  But it is so worth the effort!

Here are the ingredients:
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 large bell peppers, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 2 10 oz. packages frozen cut okra, thawed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 Tbsp. Tony Chacheres Creole Seasoning (Zatarain's works, too)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. thyme
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 16 oz. Andouille or Conecuh Sausage, sliced
  • 2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined

Once you have gathered all the ingredients, the first place to start is dicing all the vegetables. You must do this first because there is no time to do it once you have started everything else.

Next, you'll make the roux.  Be brave... this is the fun part.  In a very large and thick bottomed stock pot, put the oil and flour in and turn on medium heat. (Photo at right is how it looks when you start.) You need a long-handled wooden spoon or long-handled sturdy whisk, as this gets extremely hot and there's no sense singing the hairs off your arm!  You will stir this continuously, so be sure you will not be distracted during this step.  Continue on medium heat until the roux is about the color of milk chocolate or a tarnished copper penny.  You'll be tempted to turn up the heat to speed the process... trust me, don't!  For me, on medium heat this takes around 20 minutes.  Yes, I stir just about the entire time.  Just think of it as working off the bowls of yumminess you'll be eating later.  The mixture begins to get grainy toward the end, and particularly then you must not stop stirring. (Photo below is how it looks when it's ready for the next step.)

Once the mixture reaches the right color, it is time to add the diced veggies... peppers, onions, celery, and minced garlic.  Dump them in and stir, stir, stir for about 5 minutes.  At this point you're going to want to fumigate your house ...scented candles, fans, essential oils, whatever it takes.

Next add the 2 cans of tomatoes.  Then add the okra. 

Once you have added all that and stirred vigorously for a minute or two, it's time to add the 2 quarts of water.  You can add less if you like a thicker gumbo, or more if you like thinner.

 Next, add the Seasoning Mix, salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaves.  

Add the sausage, next, and simmer for  around an hour.
Once you have simmered and the sausage is done, add the shrimp and cook for an addition 20-30 minutes.  
You can cook white rice to go in the gumbo if you like it that way (most people do.) But, I like it without rice, like soup.  You can add Tobasco, Texas Pete's, Frank's RedHot, or any favorite hot sauce, if you want it hotter.

And last, but certainly not least, dip a bowl for yourself and dig in!

I would love to know if you actually make this and what you think!


Monday, October 31, 2016

I have a secret...

I am no good at decorating.  There, I've said it.  It's one of the reasons that I found blogging hard for so long.  All of the bloggers I visit seem to have this wonderful decorating gene.  I just don't have it.  I know what I like and am comfortable with, but when it comes to taking a room and seeing what it needs to really come to life ...well, I just keep staring.  Even with bloggers and Pinterest for inspiration, I am still stymied. This is where my amazing mother comes in.

Last year we wanted to redo our downstairs den so that our grown-still-living-at-home-children would have a nice place to escape.  The walls with NO windows were papered in a navy and burgundy giant striped wallpaper.  With a dark red brick fireplace and dark green carpet that needed to be removed, we had some challenges.

I know what you're thinking... the sofa completely clashes with the walls.  Yeah, I figured that one out all on my own. He he. The walls were that way when we moved in to the house, and this was the 2nd tier sofa and loveseat so they just ended up together.  Can't imagine why no one ever wanted to use this den!?!?

Well, we wanted to do something creative with the room, with a little bit of adventure thrown in.  My (adult) kids had some ideas of what they wanted to do, but weren't quite sure how to make it come together on a budget.  So, I called my wonderfully gifted and creative -- especially when it comes to decorating -- mother.  She immediately said, "Oh, what you're wanting is a British colonial look with a hint of jungle."  OK, but still how to accomplish it?

She began to brainstorm, and then she started to search the web and pin things to Pinterest for us. We thought about function (for the kids to be able to camp out down there and even bunk down if they wanted to). We thought about light (because there are no windows). We thought about furniture (because we knew those old sofas were going to have to go).  We thought about flooring (because we knew that awful green carpet had to go).  We thought about what we could do with the dark brick fireplace.  We thought about the "adventure" theme that the kids were wanting... and suddenly a plan began to come together.

First, (after priming the wallpaper) we painted the walls a creamy, almost-yellow, off-white color so that we would have a neutral backdrop and open the space.  Next, we chose a chocolate brown color for painting the cement (which also had to be stripped of all the glued down strips of carpet tacks and primed...  yuck!)  Once the floor had been painted and had time to dry, we came up with the idea of stenciling something around the edges because there were many rough spots where the carpet tack strips had been pulled up (you can see these in the top left part of the photo).  Keeping in mind our adventure theme, I came up with a rope trim and made a stencil from a plastic file folder.  We also wanted to add bits of intrigue and so my son made up an East India Trading Co. logo for stenciling also.   The result of all this is the photo at left.  I loved the way the stenciling turned out.  We painted the rope in the light tan of the baseboard trim color, and then stippled back over it in the darker brown for an antiqued flair.

Next, we had to tackle the fireplace.  We decided to paint it, too, as it desperately needed to lighten up.  I wasn't sure how this would go, but we took a deep breath and plunged in.  We were going for a sort of faux stone look, so I Googled how to do that and found that cutting a sponge with large holes to the same size as the bricks, and using a couple of shades darker paint, while leaving the grout the color we painted it, would imprint a stone look onto the bricks.

We painted it first in the same color as the walls (above). And we came back in lightly with the sponge adding the darker color onto the bricks.   At this point we could see that we were actually getting somewhere, and we were ready to start adding some furniture.

We knew we had just enough money for a couple of key purchases, so we chose an affordable futon so that there would be something to sleep on down there.  I had a wicker rocker that had been in our first nursery that would work.  We found some great throw pillows -- some were given and some were purchased.  We found a "rattan" chair that was a floor model and was very reduced in price.  We found a throw rug that virtually matches the floor.  We even found a couple of other accent blankets and things.  We were also given an old trunk that really goes well with the decor.  We found a great mirror that functions much like a window for the room.  And here is the result:

We love how it turned out, and best of all the kids have gotten a tremendous amount of use out of it.  Amazing how far a little inspiration can go with someone as creatively wired as my mother is.  I am blown away by her gift for this because while I did get some creative genes, I certainly didn't get this one!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Just sent off the latest commissioned piece...

I just shipped out my latest commissioned piece -- the one I mentioned that the groom is giving to his bride for a wedding present.  I can't wait to share it with you, as it was such fun!  But since it is a super secret surprise, it will have to wait until after the lovely bride has laid eyes on it...

I wanted to give you a little peek into my drawing room and table. I have a few commissioned pieces that I could share since I last posted about them on this blog, but here is one that was a pleasure to do.  It is on our local historical register and the current owners purchased the home in the 1970s.  This house turned 100 years old in 2015.

I thought I would share the process for this one.  It is pretty much how I work on all my commissioned pieces.  Here is the original photo that I was sent by the person who commissioned the drawing.

Original photo:

This is the first step (below) in how I work, lightly laying in the beginning sketch.  This is really the crucial point of the drawing and sometimes the longest step, as I must get the perspective right, the house straight, all the angles relating to the horizon correctly, etc.  There is a lot of sketching and erasing happening in this step! ;)

Once I am satisfied that the house looks correct from all angles (and doesn't look like it's falling over to one side or the other) and is proportionally correct (the porch isn't too large for the house, the steps are proportional to the door, the windows aren't too large or small, etc.) I can begin to fill in details.  This is where the fun takes over. 

Filling in details is about texture, shading, and all the architectural nuances that make a house a house... the boards on the wall next to the windows, the stonework on the porch, the little architectural details under the eaves, etc. When filling in, I work as much as possible from left to right and top to bottom, as the graphite will smear while I am working (right-handed) and rubbing back and forth over the areas.  I also use a piece of parchment to cover areas that I have already filled in, so that they are protected from my (very active) hand and arm.

Some of the most challenging details about some houses are the windows, especially if the surrounding trim and wood is white, as the ones on either side of the front door here.  It is difficult to get the panes all uniform and straight lines without distorting the white trim around them because the white part is the negative space.  It's much easier if the trim is darker than the panes.

I loved doing this house because there were so many different textures and features. It is really amazing to me how much this makes me appreciate what architects do.  To think this beautiful thing was designed and built in 1915 and is still so beautifully standing and giving shelter to this family today just amazes me.

With all of the house finished except the roof, I get to thinking about the landscape.  I have to be sure that the house is covered with parchment during this step because this when my fingers fly.  Shrubs and grasses and trees and flowers are a lot of fun.  As you have probably gathered by now, I really enjoy doing these.  I am thankful that people continue to ask me to do them, and each one is unique and special.  And so we've made our way back to where this post started, the finished product...


One thing that I do while I draw is pray for the families who are represented by the homes... those who live there, those who have lived there and have moved on, those who are giving the gift to the ones who live or lived there.  It is a privilege to be able to touch a family in this way. This is just a little taste of my commissioned work, but I also still love to paint and take the opportunity to "play with color" in between my commissioned drawings.

Wednesday blessings,

Monday, October 24, 2016

Chicken, Kale, and Wild Rice Soup

I love soup. Especially THIS time of year. Just as the weather begins to have a bit of a chill, we are in need of something to warm our bones. Soup to the rescue!

I had a broth bowl at Panera Bread a year or so ago that I absolutely loved and wondered if I could come close to it at home. I have to admit that I never would have thought of putting kale into a soup.  So, here is what I came up with, and while it is not exactly the same it is every bit as tasty.  It can easily be adjusted for more or less soup as you go.  I wish I had a picture of it to share (I found one that I cropped... looks very similar to mine), but trust me on this one... it is delicious!

Chicken, Kale and Wild Rice Soup
  • 1 to 2 boxes organic chicken (or bone) broth
  • 1 to 2 qts. water
  • 2-3 medium chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 can mild Rotel tomatoes, drained
  • 2 whole lemons
  • 1/2 cup wild rice blend (I use Texmati with flaxseed, black lentils, couscous [pictured])
  • Fresh kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Greek seasoning (I use Cavender's)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth and 1 qt. water to a boil in 2 1/2 quart pot.  Add chicken breasts and cook until tender.  Remove chicken breasts and set aside to rest and cool. When chicken is cool, cut into bite-sized chunks.

Add Rotel tomatoes (if you can't get Rotel, most any petite diced tomatoes will work) to broth and reduce heat.  Zest the 2 lemons and add zest to the chicken broth.  Seed and juice the lemons, and add juice to broth.

Bring broth back to a boil.  Add Greek seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Add rice blend, cover, and reduce heat to simmer until rice is done (appx. 15-20 minutes depending on blend).  Add chicken chunks.  Add kale pieces and simmer until tender.


NOTE:  This recipe can be chicken-less... and if no chicken is available, it is also good with a whole boiled egg (this is how it was served to me at Panera).