Coneflower – Colored Pencil

I had a lot of fun creating the Lily of the Valley piece I shared the other day, so I decided to make another piece of that type. I am thinking I might make a series out of these. Today I created a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) study. I love how bright the colored pencil is when I push down hard on them. The softness of these particular pencils blend well which makes them extra fun. 

I sketched this out lightly in pencil, then traced the pencil with a permanent marker. I used a fine tip waterproof pen to add some detail. Lastly, I colored it in with colored pencil. 

Coneflowers are a late blooming perennial native to the east and midwest. They are a favorite of pollinators in late summer and early fall. They get their name from the large orange “cone” in the center of each flower. Once the flowers dry these cones provide seeds that propagate the species and provide a food source for some bird species.  

Echinacea are also popular as a remedy for colds and flu, as all parts of the plant can be used to stimulate the immune system. 

When growing in the garden they prefer full sun and well drained soil. With the right conditions they bloom up to two months. 

Liz

Fresh Bruschetta


I decided to whip up a batch of Bruschetta since I had a few ripe tomatoes on hand. This simple version is quick and easy to make. I like to serve it with toasted sliced Baguettes, or as a topping for chicken. It also makes a great dip option for a party. See some of my favorite uses below.

I think it tastes like a little bit of summer!

Each year I grow quite a few tomatoes. I am always looking for different ways to use them up since it seems like they all are ready at the same time! This recipe came out of necessity. This past summer the deer robbed me of my tomatoes (and the plants) just as they turned ripe. They pulled my fence down and ate the whole patch in one night! They even bedded down and slept in my raised bed after they finished eating the plants. (I have plans for a MUCH better fence this year…) But USUALLY I make this Bruschetta recipe a few times during the late summer… 

Fresh Bruschetta

Bruschetta

  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar 

Dice up tomatoes and place them in a bowl. 

Mince garlic and basil and add to the tomatoes. 

Add oil and vinegar. 

Stir well. That’s it!

Serving Ideas:

  • Slice a baguette thin and brush slices with olive oil. Toast at 350 for 10 minutes. Top with Bruschetta.
  • Serve with scoopable tortilla chips.
  • Bake or grill chicken or pork chops. Top with Bruschetta and shredded mozzarella cheese. Broil for a few minutes to melt cheese. 
  • Use it as a pizza sauce – Roll out fresh pizza dough. Add a layer of Brushchetta. Top with additional veggies if desired. Top with cheese and bake until melted.
  • Add it to a calzone.
  • Add to a wrap or sub as a sauce – pairs well with turkey. 

Let me know if you come up with more ideas! I would love to hear them. 

Liz

Lily of the Valley – Colored Pencil

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) has always been one of my favorite spring perennials. The sweet scent of it in the garden is especially fragrant in the early morning or evening. They spread pretty quickly via rhizomes in the soil and make a great groundcover for shady spots. 

Fun fact – they are in the same plant family as Asparagus, which is evident in their rhizomes and also in the red berries that are formed after the flowering period. If you have ever grown Asparagus you will notice similar berries. Unlike Asparagus, Lily of the Valley is very toxic. 

There was always a large patch of it at my grandmother’s house. She would pick little bouquets of them and bring them in the house to enjoy. She put them in little tiny bottles on the kitchen window sill. I used to love the way the scent of just a few sprigs would fill the whole house. After her passing I lived there for a time when I returned home from college. Along with taking care of the house I was blessed with the task of rejuvenating her long neglected perennial beds. A task that took me a few summers to tame. The patch of Lily of the Valley thrived. 

When I moved a few years later I took many of the plants from her garden to my new garden across town. Because Lily of the Valley loves shade, I chose to leave it behind as all my garden space is full sun. The spring of the second year in my new garden I was doing a little cleanup and low and behold…pips. (Pips are what the budding shoots are called.) They came with me. They tagged along with some Lady’s Mantle and within two years established themselves in a nice little patch. Despite the fact that I have no shade whatsoever they continue to grow. It may be the rhizomes were in the soil… but I think it was grandma. 

Liz

Crustless Quiche

I make a crustless quiche about once a week. They can be cut into wedges that can be eaten right away, or frozen for up to a few weeks. It makes the easiest breakfast imaginable that is packed with protein and vegetables. If fresh, pop a slice into the toaster oven (preferred) or microwave for a few minutes, and a little prep once a week makes breakfast easy.

This recipe is great because you can use any vegetables, cheese and meat you have on hand at the time. It is completely customizable. As long as you stick to the same egg to milk ratio, anything goes for the flavor.

Today I had some leftover shredded carrots, bell pepper and two leftover breakfast sausage patties. So there is our combo for today. I will share some of my favorite variations at the end of this post and as time goes on, on the blog.  

The base for this recipe is the same every time. The oil, garlic, onions, egg and milk portions of this stay the same with each variation. Just the add ins, meat and cheese changes.

great with breakfast, lunch or dinner

Crustless Quiche

350 degrees, 50 minutes

Serves 4-5

  • 2 tsp. oil (I use olive oil)
  • 1 small or ½ medium, white/sweet onion diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced (I use two)
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¾ cup shredded cheese (today I used NY sharp, white cheddar)

Today’s Mix Ins:

  • ½ bell pepper, diced (any color, today’s is orange)
  • ⅓ cup shredded carrots
  • 8 basil leaves
  • 2 cooked breakfast sausage patties, chopped up 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chop and prep all your ingredients.

prep makes it easy

In a small pan saute onions, garlic and chosen vegetables (peppers and carrots in this case) in two teaspoons of oil. Cook on medium until vegetables get soft and onions turn clear. 

vegetables soft, onions turning clear
place in greased 9″ pie plate

Grease a 9” pie plate. Add onion/garlic/vegetable mix to bottom of pie plate. Add meat and shredded cheese. Add basil or other herb leaves. 

layer other ingredients

In a mixing bowl beat eggs and milk. Pour mixture into pie plate. Salt and pepper quiche. 

top with egg/milk mixture

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Eat immediately, or cut into slices.  To reheat – toast in toaster oven for 3-5 minutes. If microwave, 1-2 minutes. Freeze up to two weeks. (Wrap slices individually.)

Some Favorite Variations:

Western: diced ham, bell pepper, shredded cheddar

Caprese: sliced tomatoes, basil leaves shredded mozzarella

Mexican: taco meat, shredded cheddar, black olives, diced green onions

Veggie: asparagus, tomato, spinach, pepper, shredded carrots

cool and slice

Favorite cheese options: cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, pepper jack, feta or whatever you like.

Favorite meat options: bacon, sausage (breakfast or italian), chopped steak beef/venison, diced ham, leftover taco meat of any kind, chopped up ribs, diced roast of pork/beef/venison, corned beef…really whatever you have. 

Favorite veggie options: bell pepper, asparagus, spinach, tomato slices, sliced carrots, black olives, green onions, broccoli, kale…sky is the limit here…

Give it a try and you will add it to your weekly routine guaranteed.

Liz

Watercolor Gerbera Daisy Still Life

I was shopping the other day and I’m pretty sure this cute little Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) jumped into my cart all on its own. All of a sudden it was in there, I don’t know what happened. 

check out the photobomb at the top of the photo, haha. Hi Dash.

Such a happy little sunny friend, guess it just had to come live we me.

Once I got it home I potted it up in this small pot I had available at the moment. I hope to keep this little guy going and then move it to a bigger container on my front porch for the summer. 

happy in a new pot

I love fresh flowers. I buy myself some every few weeks in the winter, and pick my own bouquets weekly in the spring, summer and fall. During the holidays I make my own arrangements with fresh greens and switch the flowers out throughout the season. I just love having fresh flowers in the house all year. Nothing like it. 

I decided to try painting a little still life. Not a big fan of painting these usually. A little out of my comfort range, but thought what the heck.

pencil sketch

Started with pencil sketch, then traced in waterproof pen. 

traced in pen

Here is the first wash of color. 

first wash

Finished painting. I’m ok with it. Not my best work in my opinion, but I do like the composition and as a little bonus, the forced Paperwhites from a few weeks ago are in the background. Love that. 

final painting

Liz

Baked Chicken Wings

Last night was the superbowl. Decided to make our own wings. I have tried a lot of different homemade wing recipes in the past and all have been pretty good, but nothing that I would say was the best wings ever. 

Last night I’m pretty sure we made the best wings ever. They were simple, but delicious. Crispy and hot. Baked in the oven, so easy and so good.

Oven Baked Chicken Wings

350 degrees (first bake 40 minutes, second bake 16 minutes)

  • 1 3 lb. bag of wings (approx. 30)
  • 2 ½ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground, black pepper

Pat wings dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Do not skip this step. 

Mix flour and spices. Toss wings in mix to coat. Place on parchment lined baking sheets.

coat wings in four and spices, place on parchment lined baking sheet

Bake 20 minutes, turn wings. Bake 20 minutes more.

Remove wings from oven and toss is chosen sauce. 

bake 20 minutes on both sides, remove and toss in sauce, bake 8 minutes more on each side

Return to baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes per side to crisp again.

Toss again in remaining sauce. 

crunchy, hot, spicy, sweet, yummmmmmm

Done. That’s it, no frying and mess. No oil. They come out super crispy and caramelized. Would be great tossed in any sauce. 

We used Brooks BBQ ‘Oneonta 51’ Medium wing sauce since we stopped by yesterday. It was a great sauce, good heat and flavor. We picked up a couple wing sauces there. Can’t wait to try them all out. 

Give them a try!

Liz

from Brook BBQ, Oneonta, NY – www.brooksbbq.com

Snowy Walk In The Woods

Today we were blessed with beautiful, lightly falling snow so I took a very long walk in the woods. Not only was I feeling sort of cooped up today, but I was experiencing that feeling you get (often at work) when your space is a mess, and you just know that you are not going to be able to do anything productive until you clean it up. My mind was feeling a bit like that and so I decided that a long walk might do the trick. 

There is nothing like a long, quiet walk in the woods to help you sort out your head. I spend equal parts thinking and not thinking while I walk. Usually I have a somewhat designated route in mind, but today I just wandered for a few hours. Slowly sorting the detritus of my head into categories, tossing stray thoughts into mental boxes, and arranging the boxes in the closet of my mind. 

my “thinking” Oak

There is little pond up the hill from my house that I visit often. I like to sit at the base of the Oak tree that grows on the bank and just think. It’s a quiet spot and there are always acorns to toss into the pond, which make satisfying little plops and rings in the water in the summer months. In the winter there is usually ice to skim them across. Today the snow prevented acorn tossing, so I hiked on. 

sitting spot – favorite sitting root hidden by snow

The sun kept trying to come out today and occasionally you could see it shining through the clouds. It lit up this patch of Pines so I stopped for awhile and just kind of admired how it was sunny and cloudy and snowy all at the same time. 

The back side of the swamp ponds is pretty. You can only walk through this side in the winter once things freeze up. The water isnt that deep here, but goes over your boots in the summer. Kinda fun to walk around the big dead trees. Rescued a lure I lost this summer. 

back side of swamp ponds
recent blow down

Took to the back ridge for awhile and got onto some deer tracks from last night. Looking like a little superhighway. Lead right to where they have been bedding down. Actually spooked a few out and they took off. We are now into February and food is getting more limited, so there is a lot of activity all around the Oak trees. They have tore up the ground pretty good looking for acorns. 

last night’s deer room with a view
open buffet

I love this little stream that winds along the side of this Spruce stand. It runs all year. The water in the stream was crystal clear. Followed that as it meandered for awhile.

I have always loved this little patch of clubmoss (Lycopodium obscurum). Many call it ‘Princess Pine’. Neat little plant. Love the way the little their little strobili (now we’re getting plant dorky, for simplicity’s sake let’s call them cones….) were sticking up out of the snow.

clubmoss

I took a diversity of plants class in college as an elective. Only woody trees and shrubs was required, but I took all the plant courses. That course focused on mosses, ferns, liverworts and other assorted types of plants…. and clubmoss in particular have always been one of my favorites. They are protected in New York State. Years ago people used to pick them for Christmas arrangements and whatnot and as usual, they overdid it. Patches like this can take years to form. They only grow where the conditions are just right. Unique little friends.

snowy Balsams

On the way back I wandered through this stand of Balsams. Kicked out a few grouse. Scared the heck out of me. Love the way the snow collects on the Balsams. Also the most delicious smelling portion of my walk. I will post the snowy video to Facebook/Instagram accounts.

Arrived back home wonderfully tired and feeling a little sorted out in my head. Nature sure is good for that. 

Whenever I walk in the woods in the winter I always think about the Robert Frost poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’. We had a copy of Frost’s poems when I was a kid and my dad used to read to me from it. This one has always been my favorite. I will leave you with my favorite lines from it…

Liz

 

“The only other sound’s the sweep, 

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, 1923

Watercolor Sunset and Winter Trees


Tonight there was a beautiful sunset. Lots of orange and blue shades blended together. Today was a beautiful, sunny winter day and this afternoon was one of those warm, slanted light afternoons. I noticed today that the days are starting to get longer. A sign that spring is coming, slowly and awhile off… but we are over that shortest day of the year part of winter and coming out the other side. 

I took this shot of the sunset with winter trees across the street from my house. I liked the contrast here. I did a quick wash for the background. I used two different oranges and a deep shade of navy blue. Only three colors in this painting. 

I added some Spruces, which I actually have on the other side of the yard adjacent to this, but didn’t catch in the photo. I painted this from real life looking at the spruces, then studied and added the trees. I just took the photo to show the concept. 

Here is the whole painting. 

I also wanted to share a neat trick I learned. I took some adult watercolor classes a few years ago, and one of the things my teacher taught us was that you can take smaller snapshots within the actual painting. Sometimes these end of being even better than the painting as a whole. I took a number of snaps “within” this painting. I like them better.

Liz

this one is my favorite

Watercolor Rudbeckia

Giant Coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima) is a native wildflower that grows to an impressive 7’ tall! The piece I created today is based on a photo I took of the Rudbeckia growing in one of our display gardens at work. I took the photo standing under them, and they were easily 2’ taller than me! 

Rudbeckia maxima

In late summer these impressive perennials zoom up quickly and make quite the statement in the garden. To learn more about them visit www.wildflower.org.

pencil sketch

As usual I start with a light pencil sketch. Just the general shapes of the flowers and clouds. I loved the simplicity of the original photo and wanted to be sure that I maintained that simplicity in the sketch and ultimately, the painting.

I had a lot of fun with the Ampersand Mt. painting I did recently that used the waterproof pen and watercolor technique. I thought it might be fun to try that again, this time with flowers.

waterproof pen

I lightly trace over the pencil with the waterproof pen. Then erase all the pencil marks.

Here is the final piece. I forgot to take photos along the way this time. I was really into it and realized when I was almost done that I never took any photos as it progressed. This took me about two hours start to finish. Usually when I paint I do a little bit, take a break, look at it, come back to do a little more…. With this one I sat beginning to end and just painted with no break. Didn’t mean to… just got really into it. 

Rudbeckia maxima

One thing I really like about this painting is that it only has four colors – blue, green, yellow, grey. By using fewer colors it visually makes each color pop and seem more important/bold. 

Liz

Fresh, Homemade Guacamole

Mmmmmm… I love me some homemade guacamole. As a dip or a topping… you can’t go wrong. The combination of fresh flavors is delicious in any season.

I gave a sneak peek yesterday of my guacamole in the recipe for Carnitas tacos. If it got your mouth watering then here we go, let’s dig in.

Carnitas tacos with fresh guacamole

Guacamole

  • 4 medium OR 3 large avocados
  • ⅓ cup red onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Juice of ½ a lime

Core, scoop and mash avocados with a fork in a large bowl.

Note: I mention 3-4 avocados because it depends on what type/size avocados you are using. You can use either 4 Hass avocados which tend to be a little smaller, or 3 Florida avocados that tend to be larger.

Mince onion and garlic very fine. Chop cilantro to medium fine. Add all to bowl. Add salt and stir well.

six simple ingredients…. one delicious dip

Juice ½ lime over the whole thing and stir well again.

Fresh and delicious. Serve with chips, vegetables or as a topping.

Note: Fresh guacamole will turn brown as the avocados oxidize due to exposure to air. (Apples do the same thing…) If this happens you can just stir the guacamole to freshen the color. Another way to avoid this (especially if you are going to use the next day) is to press plastic wrap firmly over the surface. If the guacamole does not touch the air it will not brown.

ready for dipping

Enjoy!

Liz