Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I{HEART}ART: Inspiration: Mammoth!

"Winter" by Tina C. Wells, Acrylic on canvas
This icy cold scene was created in anticipation of SKIING! My annual Mammoth ski trip with my Dad, sister, and uncle is coming up. Can't wait! I am a big fan of the Eastern Sierra mountains. And Mammoth is the quintessential high Sierra town.

JOURNEY: Eastern Sierra, Mammoth
Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort
The Eastern Sierra mountains stole my heart long ago.  I'm not sure exactly when it happened, as I have been journeying there since early childhood. Every winter, our family would make the 7 hr. trek from San Diego to Mammoth Mountain to hit the slopes; and several months later, in the summer, we would make it again for a quick overnight on our way to Lake Tahoe.

The rugged Owens Valley; along hwy 395 
After the first 2 hours of smoggy So Cal traffic, it starts to get interesting.  The Mojave Desert is sparse and bland, except for the Joshua trees that are so strange and cool.  In the summer, it can be 110 in the desert, or more, but this past July was a treat, 85 and showers.  Have you ever smelled the desert in the rain?  It will awaken your soul...rich, full of sage and wildness. As you wind your way up to Red Mountain, you wonder where in the world you are.  Strange shacks and abandoned cars, and void of people.  Honestly, I've never seen a living soul there.  As you continue along highway 395, there's the first glimpse of the Eastern Sierra mountains, dry and brown, the valley below heaped with huge piles of black volcanic rock.  The colors are earthy, umbers, ochres, sienna and grey-green sage.  Lone Pine is next; the tiny town at the base of Mount Whitney, tallest mountain in the continental U.S.  This town, as well as the other bumps in the road along Highway 395 has a vibe of days gone past, old fashioned, western, rugged, yet charming.  As you look up to the west, you see the craggy peaks of "the 3 Sisters" and Mt. Whitney. Amazing.  Traveling along, the road is dotted with old western ranches, cattle of all colors and beautiful horses.  There are so many old abandoned cottages, country stores, old mines, gas stations, made of stone and wood, boarded up and dilapidated, much like the imaginary "Radiator Springs" from the movie "Cars."  They are the fingerprints left behind of a time gone by.  The road is also full of historical markers and sites to visit.  Someday I want to go slow and stop along the way, have lunch at the Ranch House Cafe (that always seems to be busy), stop at the historical sites, walk the streets of the little town of Big Pine, and visit the Ancient Bristlecone Forest.  Someday I will. But not this trip; I have some serious skiing to get to.

Along Hwy 395 in the Eastern Sierra 

As I journey further into the Sierra, the scenery is rich, purple glacier formed mountains, deep, rich green trees, large rocks and caves, streams and meadows.  When I finally reach Mammoth and step out of the car, the scent of the pines and the cold mountain air is overwhelming.  Suddenly, I am 8 years old.  This is all so deeply ingrained in me.  I am awed. 

Have I mentioned that I absolutely love Mammoth?  It is some kind of weird California mix of rustic and glam with its old mountain town feel, juxtaposed to the new up scale Village with its boutiques and restaurants.  We are old school, though, and we have a tradition- dinner at Tamarack.  One word: FANTASTIC!  The old lodge from the 20's sits on the glacier Twin Lakes.  It is amazingly beautiful with ancient pines, caves, a waterfall.  If that weren't enough, the lodge has a tiny dining room overlooking the lake with about 10 tables, and incredible cuisine.  Last night I had white sea bass with saffron, coconut milk and cherries, wonderful wine, and finished with a trio sampling of homemade gelatos.  A delicious meal shared with people I adore makes for a memorable evening.

Skiing with "Wooly"

View from the Top at Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain is such a large resort that you can ski all day without going down the same run twice, if you like. There is something there for every level of skier.  My Dad has been skiing Mammoth since the 60's.  He and his brother CLIMBED to the top of the cornice, before there was a chair lift, to sign a book encased in a metal box, and then ski down! While I am not a snow boarder, those guys seemed to be lovin' it too. My new favorite is the lodge and visitor center at the TOP. The gondola will take you all the way from the Village up to the top at over 12,000 feet in elevation. There you can experience an amazing view of those rugged, craggy, snow covered peaks, all nice and warm inside with your lunch. For those who are not willing to ski down the black diamond runs at the top, you can take the gondola back down. But I am with the hard-core viking skiers and we ski down! It's a rush!
Top of Mammoth, over 12,000 feet in elevation
After an amazing, sunny day of skiing, we are ready for apres ski! A little wine and cheese back at the condo, and then we have reservations at the restaurant at Convict Lake. Leave Mammoth and head south on 395 for 5 minutes follow the signs to Convict Lake, yet another glacier formed beauty. The restaurant serves an upscale intercontinental cuisine that is not to be missed. Love it.

Convict Lake, Summer
 A few more restaurant favorites:

Tamarack Lodge (description above)
The Restaurant at Convict Lake (description above)
Giovanni's Pizza: a locals favorite with great pizza and pasta
Nevado's: excellent food, upscale yet casual
Skadi: good, interesting food, upscale yet casual 

Mammoth in the summer is a great "base camp" for exploring the whole area. 

Twin Lakes in the Summer, Mammoth

                 Life-like sculpture in the new Village          Tamarack Lodge, Mammoth, CA
An ancient beauty


There was going to be a party at school, and I was asked to bring cupcakes. “Of course!” I said. Always a good opportunity to try something fun with cupcakes, right? So, I took out the “Hello Cupcake” cookbook (by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson), full of adorable ideas for kids cupcakes. I read through the directions for the penguins and decided it looked easy enough to try. It was easy...BUT time consuming, especially when making 24 of them! Then, the issue of transportation...let’s just say that my 9 year old, who is clearly smarter than me, said “next time, maybe you should make these for a party at home, so we won’t have to take them in the car.” Good advice. I survived, and so did most the penguins; the delight on the kiddos faces was worth all the effort. I will close saying this: this is a fun, easy, slightly time consuming project; if you make about 8 of them for a party at your house, you’ll be glad you did. Perfect for January!

For 8 penguins:
8 white cake cupcakes in white liners 
4 plain or chocolate mini donuts, sliced in half like a bagel
8 glazed or plain donut holes
16 oz vanilla frosting
16 oz dark chocolate frosting
black food coloring (Michael’s has it)
4 marshmallows
8 thin chocolate cookies (I used Oreos pulled apart, but Famous Chocolate Wafers are better)
4 yellow Starburst candy squares
16 mini chocolate chips
gummy fish or small colored fish candies

Use vanilla frosting as GLUE to hold this together: 

Place in freezer for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, tint the chocolate frosting black, microwave approximately 30 seconds, stir frequently.

Hold cupcake liner and dip frozen cupcake in black, warm frosting, coated to the edge of the liner. Set back upright. This gives the penguin the black shiny glaze.

To decorate the penguin, see diagram. It is easiest to do this in an assembly line.

For remaining 4 cupcakes, white frosting with coconut has a snow-like effect; add chunks of blue rock candy for “iceberg” cupcakes.

Enjoy the happy faces of the kiddos when they see these perky penguins!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I{HEART}ART: Inspiration: WHIMSY 

"Fantastic Ride" by Tina C. Wells, mixed media on canvas
January needed a little whimsy. Several months back, I started painting photo collages (see below). I am now putting together a collection to hang together. My goal is 12 paintings; they are small, only 10"x 10", but hung together will fill a good size space. I started this piece with a base coat of turquoise paint, then added newsprint (with mod podge) and painted over top a bit. I then added the elephant and balloons, and the photo of my kiddos. Finally, a little photo touch up with paint.  

Monday, January 21, 2013


Long ago, I learned the value of “paint jeans,” or more specifically, work clothes. In my teens, I first started selling my work (craftier back then), and spent a good deal of time painting. Rule #1 has always been that I put on my ‘paint clothes’ before I dive into any project, even a small one. Worrying I might stain my clothes held me back from fully immersing myself into the art. I get messy! My paint jeans form over time as I often brush off a color onto them to start with a new color. It’s funny that if I run an errand in them, I am often asked where I bought my cool jeans. HA! If you are going to get more creative this year, make yourself a fun pair of paint jeans. I was in desperate need of a new pair, so the last painting I did was very colorful and I intentionally brushed and spattered color on the denim as I went. This is fun! You don’t need to paint anything in particular, just pull out a canvas and start playing around with color (you can always paint over it). Your newly decorated jeans are great for any messy project from painting to gardening to spaghetti sauce...or out and about.

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18, 2013

I{HEART}ART: Inspiration: Citrus!

"CITRUS" by Tina C. Wells, Acrylic on canvas

In Southern California, this is the time of year that navel oranges are hanging low on the trees. My parents have a handful of orange trees, and I grew up with their delicious sweet/tart fruit, and freshly squeezed juice. One tree, let alone several, has more fruit than a family could eat, so they have always shared with friends and neighbors. The warm citrus colors are so inviting on a winter day.

SIMPLY CREATIVE: Chevron Stripe Buckets

Easy to make Chevron Striped Buckets

Before the holidays, some friends and I decided to share homemade gifts for Christmas. It was a lovely idea, but the holidays got so busy, that we decided to postpone our gathering and gifts for a January New Year celebration. And by some wonderful twist of fate, we were blessed with a rare, warm, clear January day, and we sat outside eating brunch in short sleeves in 75 degree weather. Ahhh...

My gift to my friends was oranges, from the Carlson trees, in hand painted buckets. I keep a lookout for inexpensive containers, and had found these metal buckets a few months back. Primed, and painted with a chevron design, these containers made a splash.


Supplies: Metal container, Spray primer for metal, low adhesive mask tape, acrylic craft paint, spray Varathane

1. Tape off the areas not to be painted. Spray metal with a metal primer spraypaint. (available at paint/ home improvement/ craft stores) Allow to dry completely.
 2. Measure the base of your container and create a low, flat triangle template out of paper. Trace 4 times evenly around base, leaving 2+ inches in between each.
3. Lightly apply low adhesive (usually green in color)  1” tape along the triangles to create chevron stripes. Keep repeating to the top of the container.
4. Paint stripes in alternating colors between tape. Allow to dry completely.
5. Spray or coat with Varathane (water-based clear sealer available at paint/ home improvement stores)

RECIPE: Grand Marnier Oranges

Grand Marnier Oranges- Light and Delicous- Perfect for January!

While this recipe is still dessert, it fits in better with my New Years resolutions than some kind of decadent pastry. It is a perfect sweet, light ending to a special dinner, or a great addition to a brunch. Because my parents have always had orange trees, my mother has been making this as long as I can remember. It is delightful! 

6 medium size oranges, peeled and sliced horizontally into circular slices
1/4 cup + 1 TBS Grand Marnier liqueur (orange liqueur)
1/4 cup orange marmalade (a more bitter marmalade, vs. sweet, is preferable)
1 TBS orange juice (collected from the oranges as you slice)
Optional: small topping of sour cream and mint sprig (I looked questioningly at my mom when she said she serves it this way, but then I tried it- Oh Yes!)

Grand Marnier Oranges
Slice oranges and place in a shallow dish, such as a pie pan. Separately mix marmalade, liqueur, and orange juice; then spoon over the oranges. Marinade at least 30 minutes, but you can marinade overnight as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I{HEART}ART: Inspiration: WORDS

"Art of the Word" Original Art by Tina C. Wells

This painting was born out of a desire to live better in 2013. The words collaged on the background of the painting are inspirational to me. My brushes beckon me to to play in the paints, be creative. I hope 2013 will be filled with these words from the book of Romans, and that I will make time and space for new and expanding creativity. 

This piece is fairly large, 24"x 36". I have been experimenting with collage and mixed medium over the last few months. I have perfectionistic tendencies, and I wanted to pull back from these and keep this painting loose and a little messy. I have a way to go in this area, but it's a start. 

The process: I haphazardly painted the background in a limited palette of colors. I then printed out the writings I wanted to use in a variety of different fonts and sizes. The paper was then torn and wrinkled; I coated the back of the paper with Mod Podge (available at craft stores) and applied it to the canvas, adding more to the top, then brushed over the paper with thin coats of paint from my background colors. Last, I painted the brushes in the jar over the top. In some spots the words show through the brushes, and the wrinkles add texture. Best of all...it was really fun! 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Not much space required for this starter, or travel art kit

Get Creative This Year
When I get into conversations with people about being creative, I often get a list of things that stand in their way. The reasons are valid, but if you want to add creative time and space to your life, it is not going to magically happen; you need a plan. This piece is about painting, but the same principles apply to crafting, writing, photography, music, sewing, cooking, DIY projects, etc. 

Obstacles. Feeling blocked or uninspired?  This often happens when I have 37 other things running through my mind, which doesn’t leave space and focus for even a small creative project. A wonderful book that I often recommend is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. A helpful exercise she recommends is spending a few minutes clearing your head through the power of writing. When I lead art workshops, we always start our session spending 5 minutes with a sheet of paper and a pen. Each person then writes down anything and everything on their mind, a mental laundry list. The things that need to come out are all those TO-DO items, how you are feeling, the misunderstanding you had with someone yesterday, a prayer, a complaint, excitements, difficulties, etc. Get it out! The things on the paper are private. You can keep the paper or throw it away, whatever is most helpful. Once your head is a bit more clear, you can be present in your creative project. Seek inspiration in a change of scene, a favorite magazine, or toss around ideas with a friend. JUST DO IT! You are practicing, playing, experimenting... don’t worry if it’s not a masterpiece. Have fun and enjoy the process.  

Time. It’s tough, I know. None of us seem to have enough of it. If engaging in more creative projects is a priority for you, then you might have to schedule it the way you would a doctor’s appointment and make the necessary arrangements to keep the appointment. I have two friends who get together once a month and do something creative, often a project from Pinterest. I love this, as they are able to spend time together, catch up, and share creativity. I often get up early and paint a little before the madness of the day begins. It’s all about what works for you.

Space. Here in Southern California, space is expensive. Square footage is at a premium. My house is small and it seems every last corner accounted for. A few years back, I finally convinced my husband that our car didn’t need its own bedroom, and that our garage could really benefit our family as a workspace, and playroom. This has changed our lives. We inherited some furniture, a TV and DVD player, and bought a rug. We can have a group of kids over and they have a spot to watch a movie, play games, do crafts, eat snacks, and be loud! Better still, my large easel, and box of paints and brushes also have a permanent home. They are set up 24/7, ready for me to work. If I only have an hour to paint, I don’t have to spend 20 minutes of it setting up. Yes, I do share my studio space with dolls and legos, but that’s OK; it works. Do I dream of having my own beautiful studio? Of course, and maybe one day I will...but until then I will be content with the space I have. I have found myself waiting for the time when I will feel inspired, have more space, move to that new house, have more time in my schedule, etc. I realize that my dreams will pass me by if I wait for the ideal circumstances, so I am trying to move forward with what I have today.

Art Kit
Back in my 20’s, I never went anywhere without a mini paint set, pencils, and a small pad of art paper. New places inspire me, and I would often sit for half an hour and do a quick sketch or painting. Somewhere along the path of marriage and motherhood, this wonderful practice got lost. A few months back, I was fortunate enough to take a quick trip to Santa Barbara with my sister. She was working, so I had a day to myself and remembered my old practice of plein air painting. I decided to put together a travel paint kit to bring with me. 

If you are just getting started, and short on time and space, this art pack may be the perfect starter kit. It is small enough to squeeze its way into one of your cupboards. It is easy to take out, set up on a table (a small folding table is ideal), and use for a quick project. It is easily cleaned up and put back away. 

Necessary items*:

Basket or container 
5 paint brushes, various sizes (brush case is a good idea)
Small canvases, boards or stretched
Water container
Palette for mixing colors (a disposable plastic plate works well)
Small drop cloth 
Paints -small tubes of acrylic artist colors, or small jars of acrylic gloss craft paint (the less expensive choice, and fine if you are just starting)
Colors: red, blue, yellow, green, violet, orange, brown, black, white
A more technical list of colors: Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Medium Red, Violet or Magenta, Medium Yellow, Light Green, Phthalo Green, Medium Orange, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, White, Black

*All items are available at Michael’s, or art supply stores

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Metamorphosis is the Greek word for transformation. Mariposa (Spanish for butterfly) undergoes complete metamorphosis as she changes from a squishy caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly. 

The new year is here...full of resolutions, full of ideas of how to do life a little better. For me, that always includes healthier living and new commitment to being actively creative. I hope in the next days and weeks to stir up some inspiration for both.

Mediterranean Layer Dip
(adapted from Midwest Living)

Mediterranean Layer Dip

I am addicted to this appetizer that my sister frequently makes. It is fresh, and healthy, and full of flavor...winning combination!

16 oz Hummus (I like Mediterranean Hummus from Trader Joe’s)
8 oz Tapenade (Trader Joe’s again, refrigerated section)
2 cups shredded fresh spinach 
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onion

Combine together and set aside:
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped cucumber (I like persian cucumbers)
3 TBS snipped flat leaf parsley
4 tsp snipped fresh mint leaves
2+ tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Assemble just before serving:
Spread hummus on a 12 inch serving platter; arrange spinach over hummus, leaving a 1 inch border of hummus. Spread tapenade over spinach, leaving a 1 inch border of spinach. Drain excess liquid from tomato mixture (discard liquid) and spoon mix over tapenade, leaving a 1 inch border of tapenade. Sprinkle feta and green onions over top. Serve with pita chips.