Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I{HEART}ART: Inspiration: Sparrow
"Eye on the Sparrow" by Tina C. Wells

It was my last chance to paint pumpkins for the year, and, well, sometimes I can’t help but add a little bird into my paintings. The sparrow “flew” onto the canvas and then the song “His eye is on the Sparrow” came to me. The lyrics of this song fill me with gratitude as Thanksgiving is just days away. Don’t know the song? Google Lauren Hill singing it on YouTube. 

“I sing because I’m happy,
 I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me.”

SIMPLY CREATIVE: Succulent Centerpieces

Here in Southern California, we are not blessed with the beautiful changing of the seasons, the explosion of color that happens in the fall, ushering in the barren neutral tones of winter. It’s rhythmic and lovely. (Lest you think I am complaining, it is supposed to be 72 on Thanksgiving, and we are setting up a table by my sister-in-law’s pool. You can’t have everything). 

The four years that my sister and her family lived in Michigan, we celebrated Thanksgiving there each year. It was my job to decorate. The women in my family are still rolling their eyes and talking about how they were inside peeling potatoes and ironing tablecloths while I was gathering leaves, branches, acorns, etc. to adorn the table. Ok, so it’s true. My point is that there was a plethora of autumn nature to work with. Here, there is the occasional liquid amber, but our fall foliage just looks different. I have created two fall centerpieces, so-cal style, using succulents as the base, and adding citrus and pyracantha berries. The wonderful thing about this is that these were assembled from what I found outside. The pots with the citrus were made for my mom using clippings from her succulents and fruit from her trees (above). The smaller pots I put together with clippings from outside, succulents and red pyracantha berries, for small centerpieces for a charity event (www.shedances.org). 

After the event, I discarded the berries, allowed the pots to take root and begin to grow. This holiday season, I will add back fresh berry sprigs and give as small gifts, or as a part of gift baskets. For more detailed information about planting succulent clippings, see an earlier post: http://winsomewren.blogspot.com/2012/06/tiered-succulents-project-it-sounds-c.html 

RECIPE: Annette’s Autumn Salad

My sister created this amazing salad, and I must share it with you. 

Apple Cinnamon Goat Cheese log, sliced (Trader Joe’s)*
Honey Crisp Apple, thinly sliced
Toasted Walnuts
Pomegranate Seeds
2 parts Olive Oil
1 part Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Add ingredients in proportions you like. If plating for guests, toss arugula in dressing and then arrange other ingredients over top.
*You may have trouble getting your hands on this TJ cheese- it’s been sold out repeatedly. To substitute, cook chopped, peeled apples (granny smith) in cinnamon sugar. Cool, then roll/press into a log of goat cheese. The cheese is key in this salad, and it great all by itself as well!

Annette's Fall Salad

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Count your blessings and tell the ones you love how grateful you are for them. XO 

Grateful for these cuties!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I{HEART}ART: Inspiration: October!

October, by far, my favorite month of the year. Here in Southern California, it is not as dramatically beautiful as other parts of the country. But the gentle cooling in the weather, subtle changes in the shadows, and colors are welcome. I love pulling out my fall decor, visiting Oma’s Pumpkin Patch with my kiddos, putting mounds of colorful pumpkins in my front yard, making carmel apples, and other fall treats. I have created at least a dozen pumpkin paintings over the years. Some have been purchased by clients, some given as gifts, and sometimes, like yesterday, a friend will call and say, “Can I borrow a pumpkin painting for the season?” It makes me happy to have someone enjoying the art  in their home. This pumpkin painting is the one I have chosen to hang in my living room this year. It is one of the first I painted, and I have always liked the slightly spooky black and red background.
Genevieve at Oma's Pumpkin Patch
Not in CA! My Dad took this beautiful photo in Michigan this month

SIMPLY CREATIVE: Halloween Party!

I enjoy Halloween for the fun factor... kids dressed as their favorite character, excitedly running through the neighborhood collecting candy, and enjoying time with friends and neighbors. I can live without gore and horror; so I do up the fun, and skip the scary. We have a fun, safe neighborhood to trick-or-treat in, and always invite friends to join us. The adults have decided to join the costume party as well. 

It is a great time to build community. Your neighbors are already coming to your house with their kids...so have a mini party in your front yard, perhaps with hot cider.
The Bradbury Pumpkins- Love it!

Halloween Brew for Kids

Last year, I started a new tradition of making “brew” on the porch for the kids. I mixed up Sprite and pineapple juice with scoops of green sherbet to look swamp-like, set the punch bowl inside a larger container full of dry ice (purchased that day at the grocery store). We placed it on the porch and the kids came out to watch as I added water to the dry ice making it smoke. Then, I ladled out the brew to a line of costumed cuties. 

For adults, a fun, and slightly wicked brew can be made:

Wicked Brew
1 part Midori Melon (which turns the brew green!)
1 part Vodka
2 parts Pineapple juice 

RECIPE: Apple BBQ Chicken

Halloween afternoon is busy with getting the kids ready in their costumes. This year I am making the main dish for dinner ahead, so that it is one less thing I have to do. This is an easy, make-ahead crowd pleaser.


Boneless skinless chicken thighs
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Apples, peeled and sliced
BBQ sauce
Grated cheddar cheese

Layer chicken in a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Layer on top bacon, apples, BBQ sauce, cheese

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 30-45 minutes covered. Cook 10 more minutes uncovered.

One Last Note:

My boy turns 10 tomorrow!!! 
Happy Birthday, Kenny! Love that boy!

Monday, September 23, 2013

I{HEART}ART: Inspiration: Downtown!
"Eighth Avenue" by Tina C. Wells
This doesn’t look like downtown San Diego, does it? This past week I was on a project that took me downtown to this historic home. Surrounded on every side by condos and high rises, somehow this old house survived. Built nearly a century ago around 1920, this property has a lovely courtyard, large lawn, old gnarly pepper trees, and a separate craftsman-style casita. It has been completely renovated and updated and is currently on the market. In the process of renovation, the exterior, consisting of large handmade clay blocks, was in bad shape and had been painted. The goal in renovation had been to bring the house up to modern standards without loosing the original historical context. Unfortunately, paint alone on the exterior did not accomplish this. That’s how I became part of the project; I was hired to bring back an aged look to the clay blocks on the entire exterior. 

Old gnarly pepper tree

The historic El Cortez can be seen over the roofline 

View from the street...a passerby would never guess what lies behind the gate.


AFTER (notice the "91" etched in the original clay)

Interior designer, Sandra Vila (www.sandravila.com), did a wonderful job making the home current and comfortable, but with a nod to the historical past. I was particularly taken with the beautiful tiles that are in the bathrooms and kitchen that reflect early California, and give personality to the space.

Side note... While working downtown, James and I headed to our San Diego favorite: Cafe Chloe: French cafe, sidewalk tables, delicious food, interesting wines. Love it! Corner of 9th and G. 

RECIPE: Cheese Plate

Yesterday was officially the first day of Autumn. As the weather cools down, the gatherings move from outdoors in. Invite some friends over and ask everyone to bring a drink and appetizer... it’s the easiest party to host, casual and fun. One of my favorites is the Cheese Plate. 

My cheese plate is a little messy, but in the best way possible. I start with at least 3 cheeses that are quite different from one another. I often choose a few that are my favorites and then throw a new one I’d like to try into the mix (cut smaller amounts from large blocks). After arranging the cheeses on the platter, I add handfuls of several kinds of nuts and dried fruits in between. My last key ingredient is a small dish of honey for guests to drizzle onto a bite of cheese. The platter should set out about 30 minutes before your guests arrive so the cheese is room temperature. Place a cheese knife out and separately a basket of crackers or bread. These ingredients are a little expensive, but if you have several parties, like during the holidays, there will be enough to make about 3 platters. 

What’s on this plate?

Goat cheese
Double Gloucester Cotswold Cheese with Chives
Dutch Gouda
White Cheddar
Brie with Wild Mushrooms

Spiced Pecans
Marcona Almonds with Rosemary

Golden Raisins
Dried Cranberries

Almondina biscuits 
Raw Honey
Sprigs of Rosemary

*note: Trader Joe’s is a great place to pick up a great variety of nuts and cheeses at good price!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I{HEART}ART: Inspiration: Spoon!
"Silver Spoon" by Tina C. Wells
After 14 years, I am redesigning my home. It all started with a flood...and one thing led to another. I found myself re-envisioning, repainting, and recreating. I will bring you along on this journey as I progress. Our first step has been to paint. I've left my warm buttery walls and ventured down the cool sleek path of gray. I love an element of surprise, something a little funky or unexpected, so several large painted silver pieces have been added to my cozy kitchen (cozy is a nice way of saying ridiculously small). And if I can't have a silver spoon in my mouth, then how about on my wall.

SIMPLY CREATIVE: Specialty Paint Finish

A few months back I published a post on the bountiful produce at Hillside Ranch. Today I am showcasing a specialty finish I did in the powder room there. The old french toile wallpaper was removed and the walls were painted a tomato red. Over the red, I applied a pearlescent paint that had a golden overtone, with a little water based glaze mixed in. I applied the entire finish with a large brush, stroking in all different directions so as to not create a pattern. The red base shone through with a golden glaze over the top. The finishing touch was to add a stencil, a very light, translucent application, randomly placed in balance around the small room. I wanted to share the lovely effect with you. 

The next specialty finish is in a very small office/nook. The client wanted something lively in the small space and decided on a metallic teal. The space is vibrant and a little bit sassy!

Want to try this yourself? I could write a book on my 20 years of experience with specialty finishes and glazes... so instead I will give you a few guidelines and say, “EXPERIMENT!” (or call me- I’d be happy to apply a specialty finish for you!). This is a water-based metallic finish, just one technique of many that I have done over the years. 

If you are a San Diego resident, Modern Masters Metallic Paint can be purchased at Bayside Paint, off Moreno Blvd. Dunn Edwards carries a smaller selection of this paint as well. Start with an eggshell or low sheen paint finish (not flat), and keep in mind that the paint color you choose can come through depending on your application. If applying as a glaze, thin 1/4 with water based glaze (Benjamin Moore) and ‘haphazardly’ brush on, stroking in different directions. If you are going for an opaque metallic sheen, buy the Modern Masters roller and follow the directions they give. I applied this finish with the special roller in my sister’s living room in a champagne tone with gorgeous results. The final product was a subtle luster, very elegant.

RECIPE: Carlson Iced Tea
Sweet tea infused with lemon and mint

This was my grandmother’s recipe, originating in New York. It was at every poolside summer gathering...a family favorite. It is Oh-So-Refreshing on a hot day (and slightly addictive). 

3 quarts water
3-4 black tea bags
5 3-inch sprigs of fresh mint (a handful)
1/2 cup honey
6 oz frozen lemonade concentrate (1/2 can), defrosted
Several lemon slices

Boil 3 quarts of water in a large kettle. Turn off heat and add 3-4 black tea bags (I use 4 as I like the tea strong). Steep 20 minutes, then remove without squeezing the bag. Add fresh mint sprigs, steep 5 minutes. Add honey and stir until completely melted. Add lemonade concentrate and several slices of lemon. Allow to cool completely (several hours) and then remove lemon and  mint. Transfer to a pitcher(s) and refrigerate. To serve to guests, pour over ice and garnish with fresh mint sprigs and fresh lemon slice.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I{HEART}ART}: Inspiration: Sierra Creatures

I have been here at Tahoe for nearly two weeks. From our deck, the noisy Jay squawks on and on, and occasionally gets brave and hops about the porch. Squirrels and chipmunks bustle about, around the trees. 
I have a confession...I didn’t pack my art supplies. This is not like me, because I feel a little lost without my brushes at hand.  But, life was busy and crazy before we left and feeling the need to pack light, I thought I’d be ok without. Ah, no. The problem is that I am on the west shore of Lake Tahoe...there is not a Blick Art, Aaron Bros., Michael’s, not even a local art supply that I could find. The closest is in Reno or Carson, both an hour away. I’m not doing that. So, I found a few little art supplies in the pharmacy (LOL)- poster board, glue, small paint set, and terribly cheap brushes. I'm sure all of these were designed for elementary school kids. Good enough for a little fun with mixed medium, paint, and collage. So above, i'm just having a little fun...  

JOURNEY: Lake Tahoe

I look forward to this all year...two weeks in the High Sierra, on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. It is so very restful. This is in part because I am at home here. We have rented the same spot on the lake since I was a little girl. The familiarity fills me with ease; the beauty fills me with awe; the fresh pine, lake air is sweet and fragrant. After a few days, my antsy-need-to go-and-do settles down and I feel the freedom to sit and soak it all in. Better yet, is to take it in from the water, on the boat. The lake, mountains, trees, etc. are all wonderful, but the best part is enjoying it with those I love.

Several years ago, James and I restored an Old Town wooden canoe. We love shoreline cruises in the morning and evening when the lake gets calm and glassy. A few days ago, we packed up a couple of cinnamon rolls and thermos of coffee for a picnic in the canoe. So different from the speed boat, the canoe is slow and quiet. It is amazing to gaze down into Tahoe’s exceptionally clear water. The colors are fantastic...shades ranging from emerald, teal, and turquoise, to deep ultra-marine and cobalt. I can’t get enough. This particular morning, we watched a sea plane circle several times to plot out his landing, and quietly spied an exquisite wooden Hacker-Craft speed off from one of the gorgeous estates lining the shore. We sat quietly talking, watching the birds and boats, fingers lightly splashing the cool waters, sipping our coffee and nibbling on decadent cinnamon rolls. A rare and memorable morning indeed.

I love restaurant recommendations from friends when visiting somewhere new...so here are a few of my favorites for future reference:
Sunnyside: quintessential Tahoe, deck on the lake (I had dinner there the night I got engaged 15 years ago, so it is near and dear to my heart).  I really like the more casual, less expensive, bar side menu.
Fire Sign Cafe:  great outdoor deck in a wooded setting, with the best breakfast in the world, seriously.
West Shore Cafe: great deck on the lake, upscale menu items...fantastic!
Garwoods:  beautiful north shore deck, on the lake.  Go for their signature rum punch slushy on Wednesdays when they are 1/2 price.  Then, take a stroll over to the big warehouse of Sierra Boat Co. to see some of the beautiful wooden boats Lake Tahoe is famous for.
The Bridgetender:  on the Truckee River, burgers, brew, and lots of charm.
Christy Hill:  If you want an excellent dinner out with fabulous lake views, this is the spot.
Tahoe House:  Great homemade pastries and coffees.  Worth the wait in line.

For more Tahoe favorites, click here for a previous post:

RECIPE: Cinnamon Rolls, doctored

OK, I’ll be honest...I was skeptical about Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. But then I tasted these rolls, deliciously doctored up, and I’m a fan! This recipe is from our cousin Kathy. My mom made this for all of us on vacation, a little splurge. 
Easy and delicious.

You probably aren't going canoeing with them, but I do recommend packing up a thermos of coffee and cinnamon rolls and having an early morning picnic somewhere- park, trail, beach, etc.

2 refrigerated tubes Pillsbury Grands cinnamon rolls
Arrange in 9x13 pan, 4 down center and 3 on each side
Whisk together 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Pour over rolls
Bake 35 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven
Cool 10 minutes in pan, then loosen edges with a knife and turn pan upside down onto a platter.
Serve warm and enjoy!