Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Winsome Wednesday! September 26, 2012

September 23, 2012

I{HEART}ART:  Inspiration: APPLES

Apple picking in Michigan inspired an entire series of paintings:

Apples with a Bee, art by Tina C. Wells

Apples in a Basket, art by Tina C. Wells

Golden Apples, art by Tina C. Wells

Red Apples, art by Tina C. Wells

Apples on Blue, art by Tina C. Wells

JOURNEY: Welcoming Autumn in Michigan

It is officially fall. In Southern California, we have no idea Autumn has arrived; we are still busy chasing our endless romance with Summer, that often lasts well into October. This week I am visiting the family cabin near Lake Michigan, and I am well aware that truly, it is Fall. Red and orange leaves have started to make an appearance on the trees, and there is a crispness in the air.  

We made it for apple picking in the nick of time. At Crane’s Farm, the last day to pick was Sunday. Golden Delicious was all that was left on the trees; we wandered through the vast orchard, trying to linger and enjoy the moment, but it went all too quickly as our kiddos anxiously filled our bag with fruit. The best apples were at the top, so James held the kids over his head to reach the high ones. After picking apples, we stopped at Crane’s Pantry for their homemade apple cider doughnuts and fudge sauce (add vanilla ice cream and apple slices...mmm). 

Crane's Apple Farm
The log cabin is on a beautiful little lake with lots of wildlife, beautiful swans, turkeys, deer, and big black squirrels (native to the area). Many different trees are daily showing more color. I am always taken with the bits of nature all around me...fallen leaves, acorns, verdant green moss, and fallen branches. The sights and sounds of this place are so different from my surroundings in the West. 

Beautiful fall colors reflecting on the lake

Apparently, there is a garden gnome  living in the tree by the lake!

We are in the charming, artsy town of Saugatuck, perfectly situated on the Kalamazoo River. Full of art galleries, little shops and cafes, Saugatuck is dedicated to art in many forms. The children's park in town has colorful public art sculptures. Love it!

Bits of nature gathered during a walk in the woods were then glued onto a small wood frame with a hot glue gun:

"A Walk in the Woods" 
collected bits of nature

A small painting was also conceived...

Woodland Finds, art by Tina C. Wells

RECIPE: Apple Crisp

Truly, the key is good, tart apples in season. We used local Michigan McIntosh apples with excellent results. 

This recipe is from a good family friend, Kathy, who visited the cabin and made her special treat to share. My mom has been making it ever since, and yesterday showed me. 

Apple Crisp

10-12 medium apples (tart) depending on size, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1tsp (+) pumpkin pie spice (which is a combo of ginger, nutmeg, and a little allspice)
1/3 cup flour
4 TBS butter, melted

1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar 
1 stick (8 TBSP) butter melted
optional: pecans or walnuts chopped

Mix dry ingredients and toss with apples in a large bowl. Spray 9x13 dish with cooking spray and add apple mixture evenly. Drizzle melted butter over apples. Prepare topping by mixing together and then using hands to evenly distribute over top of apples.

Bake 350 preheated oven, 55-65 minutes. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Winsome Wednesday- 9/19/12 Montecito, CA

I{HEART}ART:  Inspiration: OCEAN

I do love the ocean. Below are a few coastal themed pieces I have painted...
"Garden by the Sea" art by Tina C. Wells
"Montecito Coast" art by Tina C. Wells
"Dolphins at Play" children's mural, art by Tina C. Wells
"Starfish" art by Tina C. Wells
"Seahorse" art by Tina C. Wells
JOURNEY: Montecito, CA

September is one of the best months of the year. The weather is warm, sometimes too warm, and the crowds have gone home. There are a few more days of summer to be enjoyed (officially, fall equinox is September 22). I was fortunate enough to visit one of my favorite spots this week, and soak in a little time at the coast.  My sister and I took a quick trip to Montecito, the lovely little coastal village, just below Santa Barbara. I suppose it is my favorite spot because of the years of wonderful memories at Westmont College, (my alma mater), nestled back in the foothills of the Santa Ynez mountains. 
Montecito Coast
Channel Drive, Montecito
agave and bougainvillea
agave by the sea
The Montecito coastline is gorgeous. Standing at the wall at Butterfly Beach, the landscape is layered with beauty, the ocean speckled with the Channel Islands, the famous
spanish Biltmore with its terra cotta roofs, Santa Ynez mountains behind, giant palms, towering eucalyptus trees, agave, bougainvillea, roses, and succulents galore. This morning I had a rare treat; as I was on my ritual morning run (so happy to have a change of scenery) I approached the Biltmore wall and noticed everyone was looking out into the water, where a pod of dolphins were making their way through the surf. They looked close enough to touch. Magical. 
photo by Peter Nijenhuis

After my run, I walked to Jeannine’s Bakery where the coffee and homemade pastries are divine (not to forget the best ever eggs benedict, but I am saving that for tomorrow). Morning complete.

I took a drive up to Westmont, a small, Christian liberal arts college. The drive takes you through the hills of Montecito, thick with old majestic trees and magnificent estates. A flood of remembrances runs through me and take me back to the years I spent here.  Sunlight and shadows, natural stone walls, the rich mountains, curly wrought iron gates; it is an exceptionally beautiful place. Better still are the deep and lasting friendships that were made here.
Westmont College, Kerwood Courtyard
Westmont College, Italian Fountain
Before I get lost in sentiment and long strolls down memory lane, I want to tell you about a few of my favorites in Montecito, should you ever venture up the coast. There are several options of where to stay. We have chosen the more economical path at the Coast Village Inn. It is small, cottage-like inn with adequate rooms, but the best part is the location. While it is not the Four Seasons Biltmore with its divine oceanfront setting, the Coast Village Inn is located right in the heart of the coastal village of Montecito (vs. the upper village on East Valley Road), where there are great cafes and shops, and a five minute walk to the beach. If you are looking for something a step up, the Montecito Inn down the street is very charming, with a very good restaurant, and colorful history. 
Seahorse sign in Montecito
Coastal Village of Montecito
Coast Village Inn, Montecito

OK, let’s talk food. I already mentioned Jeannine’s Bakery, but here are few others:

Cava: oozing with charm; delicious and interesting food from south of the border
Los Arroyos: lovely patio, good Mexican fare
Montecito Cafe (at the Montecito Inn): fresh fish and steaks, well priced.  Save room for the Coconut Cake- to die for!
Tre Lune: fresh, fantastic Italian food (I have heard they have a great breakfast too).
Upper Village: 
Pierre LaFond: Market, coffees, pastries, deli. Diet tomorrow and have a Farm Cake today (dark chocolate and cream cheese muffin).
Plow and Angel: Appetizers, drinks, and more, in a cozy setting, located at the San Ysidro Ranch (where the Kennedy’s honeymooned).
Tre Lune, Montecito
And that is just Montecito...don’t get me started on Santa Barbara...that will have to be another post.

FEATURE: Coastal Chic Pillows, by Huckleberry Living
My very talented friend Kristin Rinehart of Huckleberry Living, Designer of Fine Spaces, has created a line of decorative pillows. They are being featured in several boutiques, and also available directly from Huckleberry Living.  Each pillow cover (removable and washable) features coastal chic fabric over a poly/down blend pillow. Two styles, available in 2 sizes.
Sea Life Pillow by Huckleberry Living
Ocean Coral Pillows by Huckleberry Living
Ocean Coral Pillows, by Huckleberry Living
Large 24” Pillow: $125-
Medium 20” Pillow $95-
Contact Kristin for inquiry or purchase at:, or 619.481.0227  

I love specialty wrapping. I hate it when I run out of time and grab the nearest gift bag and tissue. This was a birthday gift for my cousin, and the wrapping was inexpensive and easy. I used white butcher paper to wrap the box, burlap “ribbon” from Michael’s, a sprig of rosemary from my garden, and a drop of glue-gun glue to attach the shell to the top. I found the scalloped tag in a multipack in the Michael’s $ bins, added the painted initial and attached it with some brown raffia. 

RECIPES: Hot Crab Dip
Easy, crowd pleasing, hot crab dip appetizer:
8 oz crab meat, drained (fresh, frozen, or canned)
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
4 TBL chopped onion
1 tsp horseradish
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 TBS milk
Mix together and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes
Serve with crostinis or crackers

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Winsome Wednesday 9/12/12

I HEART{ART}:  Inspiration:  Baby, Oh Baby!

“Elephant Love” 24”x24” Acrylic on canvas
This lovable elephant was painted for my niece, Tori’s nursery. My sister found a fantastic bedding set for the nursery, and that set the tone for everything.  From there, she and I chose colors for the walls (from her hospital bed...more about that below); three walls would be grey, and an accent wall in a deep rose. An amazing rug with a huge heart in all of her chosen colors was then added to the mix.  The color scheme and the heart rug then led to the idea for the painting. 

I have painted many nurseries and kids rooms, and I must say that it is so much fun.  I love the wit and whimsy that can be in a child’s room. Below is another nursery, that has grown with age. This was originally painted for my cousin Joshua, but several years later, their family adopted a baby girl (Amanda) from Africa. I remember Heather’s call to me, “Is there anything we can do to Joshua’s murals to turn it into a girl’s room?” As you can see in the photos below, the monkeys are now “dressed up,” and flowers, bows, and other pink touches were added.

The last featured nursery art is a triptych I painted for my sweet friend Kristen, who was pregnant with boy #3, to be named London. I knew she had a wild animal theme in his room, and I couldn’t stop thinking LONDON ZOO...

RECIPES: Coconut Cream Cheese Cupcakes

My niece, Tori, just turned one! My sister had a delicious spread of hearty appetizers for the family that was gathered to celebrate the wondrous first year. She asked if I would make Coconut Cream Cheese Cupcakes for the occasion. But of course...

OK, so, I cheat...I use a box mix.  I do, however, doctor it up.  In fact, I highly recommend the cookbook called “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn.  She has lots of recipe twists for the average box mix.  

For the cupcakes, I used a basic white cake mix, following the package directions, except substituting milk for water.  I cooked them in pretty silver liners in a cupcake pan, but reduced the heat to 325 and cooked them a minute or two less than the given range on the box (example, the box said 18-22 minutes, but I checked them with a toothpick at 16 minutes, and ended up taking them out at 17).  This is a little trick I learned from my friend Kristen.  When the cupcakes are slightly under baked, they are moist and better. 

The frosting is what really makes these cupcakes sing! 

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (8 TBS) butter, at room temperature
3 3/4 powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp coconut extract
(Sweetened Flake Coconut for the top)

Mix cream cheese and butter until combined.  Add powdered sugar a little at a time until well incorporated.  Add coconut extract and mix on medium speed 1 minute, until fluffy.  

I put the cooled cupcakes in the freezer for 1 hour and then frosted them (so much easier to frost frozen cupcakes).  After frosting each one, I dipped the top into a bowl of sweet flaked coconut. I added a small bunch of pink hydrangeas from my sister’s garden for a final touch, and then layered them on a tiered dish.  

Best enjoyed with a glass of champagne!

SIMPLY CREATIVE: Baby’s 1st Birthday, Favors

As I write this segment, it is hard to believe that one year ago today, my sister was in the hospital, and had been for a month.  Twelve weeks before her due date she was put on hospital bedrest, with hopes she could stay there as long as possible before her November due date.  Many women in this position only last a few days, but my persistent sister made it four weeks. There is a huge difference for a preemie born 8 weeks early, versus twelve. The short end of a long story is that tomorrow is Tori’s birthday, and you can’t even imagine that this beautiful, big, bubbly baby could have been a preemie at all.  Her formal name is Victoria Grace, and she is indeed victorious through God’s grace.  
Tori, the Belle of the Ball in her party dress
Annette and Andrew, Tori’s parents, decided to have a family baby dedication facilitated by a close friend who is a pastor. We also celebrated her first miraculous year of life, her first birthday.  Annette chose a color scheme of pink, magenta, and turquoise.  She took an adorable photo of Tori (all dressed up in her color scheme), and glued it to some specialty note cards she had found with elephants on them. I added her full name under her picture in my best fancy hand. During her pregnancy, Annette had put together a compilation of songs for Tori. She decided this would be a great gift to give everyone at the dedication. This is a bit of a trademark for her and she’s very good at it; she’s been ‘mixing music’ since high school. We put the CDs in the note card envelopes and attached the note card to the magenta envelopes with a turquoise ribbon.

And a good time was had by all...