Monday, July 30, 2012

A Rose for Grief

I lost a cousin this week to cancer.  It had been many years since I'd seen Jason but his uniqueness, his passion and his perspective will remain well honored in my memory.

As cousins grow they sometimes drift off in their own direction and we loose contact, but the connections are somehow never severed.


The distance between me and my homeland is vast at times like this, so I can do little more than send my love and heart across the ocean to my family back home.

I dedicate this twinkling rose to my Aunt Gillian who is grieving the loss of her second child to cancer, and to her two surviving children, Alinta and Adam, with families of their own.  Their brother was loved, by none more than his son.  A young child who will grow up without his father.

It's a melancholy day as I wrap my own children in my arms with insurmountable gratitude for everything they are, and I think of my own siblings and wish we were all together on the same continent.

Never forget to tell them that you love them.

Thanks for checking in. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

After the Rain

Apparently 75% of the continental US is officially in a drought.  This is particularly sad for the Heartland where I live.  I've never seen the mid summer lawns and corn fields anything but shimmering brilliant green, and right now, they are course, brown, and thirsty.  The ramifications of this dry and dusty summer will be felt for years to come in the form of food shortages and high prices. 

The beautiful garden I inherited in my new home is suffering terribly, but what can I do? What I can't do is set a sprinkler on the lawn.  Well, it's not that I can't, it's that I won't.  You see, I'm Australian, and as such, am only too familiar with drought.  My homeland has recently emerged from one of the worst droughts in history and the disciplines of water conservation are still forefront in my mind.

Water is something that far too many people take for granted. Fresh water is a precious commodity and the effects of long term drought are only really understood if you've seen or lived it. I remember taking showers while standing in a huge bucket to catch the water. We'd set a timer for 5 minutes and try to finish before it went off, and then empty the bucket onto the garden. We'd do laundry once a week and only flush the loo if it yellow!! 

Most homes in the southern part of Australia are engineered with rainwater tanks and gray water catchment, which maneuvers the water from kitchen's, laundry's, and bathrooms out onto the garden.  For so long, sprinlkers were illegal under water restriction law, as was washing a car. And guess what?  Everyone is Australia was OK.  People eventually re-calibrated their perspective on gardens and water usage and effective water conversation became an embedded part of the Australian way of life. Even now, after the drought, most people still remain excessively conscious of water conservation.

Now for Australia, that's saying something.  Learning to shed the habits and preferences of a very English way of life has been difficult for us, especially in times of drought.  Learning to live more within the harmony of the unique Australian environment as the indigenous Australians have done for centuries before us, is something that is now widely embraced, and beautiful to behold.

These lessons can be well headed by other countries now facing the prospects of crushing long term drought and fresh water shortages.  Not the least, the USA.  I see too many people around me taking fresh water for granted.  The waste is so sad, especially when I see sprinklers so carelessly set, they are flooding water onto the roads and sidewalks, and down the drains.  I sometimes want to scream at people..."look at what you've got, stop wasting it or it won't last forever!!".

So, this week has seen a huge line of storm cells make their way east across the US, culminating is some frightening storms and tornadoes in parts of the East where they just don't experience that kind of thing.  Here in the mid-west, we are very used to super-cell storms and tornadoes, they're a part of our everyday lives, and we're generally well prepared!  But for the east, it's something very frightening.

The rain from this recent storm, albeit brief, was a very welcome relief.  I woke yesterday morning to a garden that was literally singing and twinkling in gratitude. Of course, I rushed out with my camera and the result is another bookmark to add to my collection.

This one was done in flat watercolor and Twinkling H2O's, in honor of the shimmering drops of joy that were resting all over the flowers. The rain has gone now, and the heat and dry has returned.  But still, I urge everyone to think twice about how you use water, and where possible, save!

Thanks for checking in. xx

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Artists Cook

There's something about summertime that makes me want to step back and allow a certain degree of simplicity to take over my kitchen.  Produce is abundant at this time of year, and cool food is the favorite every night meal in my house.

Summertime salads are one of my favorite lazy days cuisines.  When artists prepare salads, not only do they do interesting things with combinations of fruit and vegetables, but presentation has to be unique.  The perfect platter or bowl only enhances the sweet/savory flavors floating over your palette. 

This Asparagus & Orange Salad is a summertime gem.  You can substitute mandarins for the oranges, but make sure you only lightly cook the asparagus.  The cool crispness of the asparagus, coupled with the succulent juiciness of the orange is the perfect companion for grilled seafood or steak.

Goat's cheese is another of my summertime favorites and I cook with it a lot.  When tossed into this salad it melts into a creamy dressing, or if you prefer, you can crumble the goats cheese over the top and sprinkle it with cracked black pepper just before serving.

Asparagus Orange Salad

2 cups thin asparagus spears
1 1/2 cups watercress or spring mix 
1/2 small red onion
1 orange, cut into segments
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablesppon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup soft goat's cheese

Cook the asparagus in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, or until just tender. Rinse under cold water to cool, then combine with the watercress, red onion and orange segments on a serving dish.

Combine the orange juice, orange zest, sugar, red wine vinegar and poppy seeds in a jug.  Whisk in the oil with a fork until combined and drizzle over the salad.  Crumble the goat's cheese over the salad and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Summertime is an inspiration for me, and this salad makes life easy breezy with a splash of zing.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Coming up, I'll be introducing you to some of the wonderful artists who have agreed to be regular contributors to this series.  They'll be sharing their own culinary secrets along with some of their fabulous culinary art. We'll also be having some great giveaways in the weeks to come, so stay tuned.

Thanks for checking in. xx

Monday, July 23, 2012

Whatever Happened to Natural?

Real natural beauty never goes out of fashion.  That's what I've been telling my daughter lately.  Not that, at six years old, self image is an issue for her, but I want her to know that her natural beauty is what makes her "HER",  just as she is. 

She has an exquisite head of hair, long, thick, curly, tinged with honey and roses. The kind of hair I prayed for as a kid growing up. But of course, at six, she hates it.  That will never change!  And that's as far as her physical self-awareness goes at this stage.

She starts a new school this fall, it's much bigger than her last one and I worry for her.  At six, she will be so much younger than her second grade class mates.  It was one of our biggest concerns when they wanted to accelerate her through Kindergarten and Grade One last year.  Now I worry more than ever about her self-esteem, peer pressure, her lack of maturity, all of those things.  I wish I could go to school with her, just to protect and guide her. 

At some point, we have to let our kids step into the world on their own, but she has always seemed so fragile to me. Maybe it's because I'm her mother??  I'm sure every young daughter seems fragile to their mothers but I just want her to stay little forever, wrapped up in my arms, snuggling on my lap, reading a fairy tale. 

How do we explain to our kids that natural beauty is the most beautiful.  What lies within them, what  shines through their eyes is what makes them beautiful. Their spirit, empathy, and kindness, is far more important that their dress size or hair color.

Is true natural beauty on the brink of extinction?  Our children are bombarded with images of men and women who are pumped up, excessively trained, reduced, starved, bleached, nipped, tucked, waxed, sculpted, covered up, uncovered, recolored, remodeled, and perfected beyond recognition. 

How can they take the concept of natural and innate beauty as meaningful if all they see is the exact opposite? How do we encourage our young daughters to honor their own natural beauty when all around them is the results of highly manufactured, very expensive make-overs? 

If there is an answer to this question, please share. It seems I'm going to need to be prepared with a head full of good advice far sooner than I expected.

So, this journal page was done in Tombow water-soluble markers and pen & ink.  I love these pens when I'm sitting in front of the TV, out and about, or just doodling as I ponder the complex and uncertain future my kids face. 

Thanks for checking in. xx

Friday, July 20, 2012

Beauty Rose

Value your instinct for beauty.
Take time to look deeply into whatever nourishes you.
Create small touches of beauty wherever you are.

~Stephanie Dowrick

As I was sitting at the dining room table yesterday, coloring and painting with my two children, my six year old asked me the question, "Mom, why is there art?"  It struck me as such a philosophical question for a six year old. But then, in a world where our children are so over-programmed, rushed from one activity to the next, it makes sense that the process of slowing down and creating, simply for the sake of creating, would raise an awareness in her.

I only had one clear answer for her...Art makes the world beautiful!  

Of course, this simple little question triggered an avalanche of thoughts in me, and I could take this post in a number of different directions; over programming children, a fast and competitive world, driving ourselves toward higher paying jobs, the politics of funding for the arts etc. etc.  But I found myself focusing on what I see as the necessity of art.  Without realizing it, looking at something beautiful, like art, has a very calming, positive effect on our minds and bodies.  Although I have no research to back it up, I believe instinctively that beautiful art, and beauty in general reduces stress, improves our mood, and helps relax.

If looking at beauty can have such a positive affect on our mind and bodies, then what does that say for creating beauty? The process of carefully and gently creating something of beauty, whatever it is, is more profound that anyone can imagine.  I know I become very aware of my state when I am deeply moved by something beautiful.  But my question is, are we allowing our children to discover their own source of beauty, or are we trying to program that into them based on our our bias??  I believe we need to teach our children to honor their own sense of what beauty is, help them embrace it as a part of who they are.

But the real issue for me here is not so much about what beauty is, as it is about taking the time to recognize it, appreciate it, even create it.  I could go on for hours about the biggest issue of the 21st Century being the lack of time.  Everything happens in fast forward and so much of what is important gets left behind...including the appreciation of simple beauty.

I believe so strongly in the importance of slowing down, emptying our minds, and stopping to smell the roses. I believe that quiet creativity and reflection should be a part of every child's day. I also believe that art and artists (in whatever form) are as important to the beauty and balance of this world as sunlight and air.  

So this rose, which is the second in a series of four I am calling "Beauty Roses", is a study of twinkling color.  You can see the first rose here.  It is on 5"x5" watercolor paper and lovingly created using Twinkling H2O's.  The white space of the design allows me to create tone and depth using the mica properties in these beautiful watercolor paints.  

Mastering Twinks, my online class that teaches you all about luminescent watercolor technique using these beautiful pots of shimmering watercolor, begins on July 26th.  There is still time to register, and Joggles give a 10% discount to class participants on all their materials purchased through  For more information, or to register, click here.

Thanks for checking in. xx