Friday, November 19, 2010

a visit to the rising (collecting water at the "holy well")

Yesterday we took a drive across the crest of the mountain and into the hollow along a vertical outcropping of Oriskany sandstone, unloaded our bottles and filled them at the spring house.

We live equal distance to two springs where we go to collect water. It's a bit of a drive, but worth it. Both springs have bath houses and modest resorts attached to them, Berkeley Springs rests in a small town with local artist studios and restaurants; people visit for hot baths year round. We usually go here in the summer because the kids love the outdoor swimming. Capon Spring has an enormous old hotel and spa built in 1850, but is usually more of a ghost town this time of year - this is where we went yesterday.

A "holy well" can be any spring that holds significance in the folklore of the area. Both of these springs are believed to have healing properties and were sacred places to the native Americans tribes that resided there. For me the collection of the water at its source is holy enough. After walking down the aisles of the grocery store lined with bottles that ensure my safety it feels magical to have water rise up from the ground ready for consumption.

Put visiting a spring on your summer to do list, it offers perspective and the road trip almost always takes you somewhere you wouldn't have discovered otherwise.

View from inside a steaming private bath at Berkeley Springs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

white bean and kale empanadas

Every culture has its favorite stuffed dough; empanadas are a Spanish and Portuguese stuffed bread or pastry. The name comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Haiti, Indonesia...each area has its regional twists on the filling. I enjoy coming up with new vegetarian fillings for these little pockets. Last night I experimented with white bean and kale. This is a delicious hearty filling that creates a whole meal in a pocket. These flavors work well this time of year...not to mention, a warm empanada in your hands is the ultimate comfort food.

Soaking beans and mixing your own dough is always an option, but I'm going to share the last minute version. This method makes use of canned beans and store bought pastry disks. You can find the disks in the frozen foods section of most specialty stores, or super markets with a well stocked international aisle. If you'd like to get comfortable making the dough now, here are a couple recipes:

Red Yucca Empanada Dough

Martha's Empanada Dough

To make the filling sauté half a cup of red onions in olive oil until they just start to get soft. Sprinkle a little cumin over the hot onions and oil. I love the flavor of cumin, but you might want to start with a pinch, taste and adjust to your taste. Next add two cans of cannellini beans (I had some left over red beans that I mixed in for this pot) gently stir until cooked through, add salt and pepper to taste, then add chopped kale and some mozzarella cheese. Mix gently and remove from heat.

Place your discs on the work surface and add a table spoon of filling just left of center; fold the disk over and press with a fork to seal the edges.

Now that the empanadas are filled you can bake in a hot oven for 20 min. at 400 or 450. Before placing in oven, brush with milk. To fry, heat oil in a deep-fryer to 365 degrees F. Place one or two pies into the fryer at a time. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning once to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels, and serve hot. You're not going to eat empanadas every night so go ahead and fry them - the delicious bubbly crust can't be beat!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

holiday gift giving - picture books & bookplates

I'm starting to think about holiday gifts and one of my favorite gifts to give, or get, is a picture book. My list of favorites is long, but here are a few I've purchased already:

Little Beauty
by Anthony Browne
A love story...and because any Anthony Browne is a beautiful, mysterious adventure.

by Kevin Henkes
Because I once wished my name was Jane and every child has a moment when they want to wish away some fabulously embarrassing thing that they'll be thankful for later.

Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life
by Maurice Sendak
A lesser known Sendaak book - A terrier living the dream takes off in search of what's missing.

A book is a wonderful gift alone, but to add that special something consider adding a book plate, or a handmade bookmark. I love book plates; you can add the recipient's name and place one at the front of the book, or give custom book plates for their library. I'm happy to say they seem to be making a comeback and you can find a large selection on line.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Personalized Vintage Blue Bird Bookplates

Bookplate (floral) - pack of 9 by Milkshake crafts

Do you have any favorites you'd like to add? Place them in the comments below!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

new forestscapes

Here are a couple of the new landscapes. I'm enjoying the search for fall color that avoids some of the over used "autumn pallets" that end up looking like the artificial foliage aisle at the craft store.

I enjoy the horizontal lines that fir and pine trees add. This interplay of lines has been keeping my landscapes in the woods lately. When you're still in the woods, you become aware of the mesh around you - the property of self similarity bringing together the elements of the forest. I enjoy seeing this in the work without loosing the immediacy of a painterly approach.

I will be transitioning into some larger pieces next.

Older work from the same series:

view more work at

Saturday, November 6, 2010

accepting holiday commissions

I'm enjoying the new work space and will be able to share some of the new series (in both paper mâché and paint) next week. I've recently moved and won't be attending some of my favorite holiday art shows. I'll use the blog to list my work available for sale this season. More work can be viewed at -

The deadline for holiday portrait commissions is November 13th. Prices start at $375 for a 12x12 oil on panel with a deposit of $100.

The Paper People listed below are available for sale:

Mother and Child with Halo

Couple Standing

One Morning on the Bed

Contact me with any questions.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

the renegade pony and the little prince

I woke to a cold, grey morning - chewed granola and watched clouds roll themselves over the mountain and linger, dropping a steady rain over the forest and fields. As I settled into some work, I received a call, our little pony, who is staying at farm over the mountain while we prepare the barn for her, had escaped and was running around evading all efforts to capture her. She refused apples and sugar. She disappeared into the woods and returned, defiantly tossing her head and kicking up her heals.

I left my work on the table, dragged my son (home from school with a stomach bug) into the car and took off to capture our renegade mare.

When I pulled up I saw her across the field. I was prepared to chase her around in the rain cursing, but she waited as I walked across the field and took hold of her halter. She licked the palm of my outstretched hand, steamy breath lingering above the tall grass.

"You had me drive over here with my sick child in the rain you absolutely naughty little brat!" She just looked at me and her eyes reminded me of a story:

"Good morning," said the fox.

"Good morning," the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.

"I am right here," the voice said, "under the apple tree."

"Who are you?" asked the little prince, and added, "You are very pretty to look at."

"I am a fox," said the fox.

"Come and play with me," proposed the little prince. "I am so unhappy."

"I cannot play with you," the fox said. "I am not tamed."

"Ah! Please excuse me," said the little prince.

But, after some thought, he added:

"What does that mean-- 'tame'?"

"You do not live here," said the fox. "What is it that you are looking for?"

"I am looking for men," said the little prince. "What does that mean-- 'tame'?"

"Men," said the fox. "They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?"

"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does that mean-- 'tame'?"

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. It means to establish ties."

"'To establish ties'?"

"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."

"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower... I think that she has tamed me..."

"It is possible," said the fox. "On the Earth one sees all sorts of things."

"Oh, but this is not on the Earth!" said the little prince.

The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.

"On another planet?"


"Are there hunters on this planet?"


"Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?"


"Nothing is perfect," sighed the fox.

But he came back to his idea.

"My life is very monotonous," the fox said. "I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..."

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

"Please-- tame me!" he said.

"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."

"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me..."

"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.

"You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me-- like that-- in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day..."

~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry
And so, on this cold, rainy day I realize that my cycle of water carrying,feeding and brushing has tamed this little horse. She had been left alone for so long before we bought her and I wondered if she would respond, whether she felt a need for connection, but now I understand - she was just following taming protocol.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

La Liberté éclairant le monde

I'm taking a break from late night studio time. Primer is drying and I guess it's inevitable that after being bombarded with politics all day my post won't escape the topic.

I've been writing about freedom a lot this past year - defining it for myself so that I could move toward it with purpose. It became evident that it was far too easy to become entangled in a mess that amounted to nothing more than keeping our heads above water. I had to consider my choices carefully and ask some hard questions.

Interestingly enough, at the same time that the word was echoing in my head, it was also being echoed by the growing, Tea Party movement. They were gaining strength by touting a message of freedom, liberty and choice with a formula the Republican party has mastered - vagueness. Listen to three people who identify with the group and you'll get three different answers as to what it means to them - brilliant! The Tea Party has mixed up an apparently intoxicating cocktail of outrage, rebellion and patriotism shaken frequently with delightful snarking and silly sign making. All this shaking keeps you from examining what life might be like if the aspects of the Tea Party that are actually backed with some $power$ were to come to fruition.

Who wants to be tread on? Not me. Who wants to be free? We all do. How do they not see that they're serving up such tragic irony? The list of how their collective vote undermines their shaky platform is ridiculously long. Is this the movement for people who have been against movements? Are they intoxicated by the new experience? Or, have some people found ways to veil some ugly beliefs and in exchange for support of their prejudice they'll facilitate a halt on progress.

So here it is, the moment in the abusive relationship where they start to believe it will be different this time. I guess we didn't hit rock bottom. Nationalism and scapegoating weren't set aside so that the hard questions could be asked - What is liberty? I've tried to look at from different angles, but no matter how I slant it, I don't believe you'll get there without freedom from fear, health, education and the dignity of a living wage.

I hope that before this wave carries in its next ship of fools, we take the time to really ask what we want from life.


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