Art in the Kitchen

2 easy-to-make and delicious appetizers

Appetizers are my favorite! I love to make, serve and enjoy them. Sometimes I make an entire meal of appetizers, which is a lot of fun. Perfect for any occasion.

These recipes are easy to make and suitable in any season. Great served with bread or crackers or to accompany meats or seafood.

white-bean-spread

white bean spread

1 15-ounce can cannellini, or great northern beans
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon dried thyme (even better if you have fresh thyme)
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Drain and rinse beans. Mash beans (a pastry blender works great!) in a bowl until slightly chunky. Add lemon juice, yogurt, olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue mashing until creamy and well incorporated. Garnish with more thyme if desired.

red-pepper-spread

red pepper walnut spread

1 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Place the walnuts, red peppers and lemon in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse 5 to 6 times until mixed but still a bit chunky. Add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Garnish with more chopped walnuts if desired.

 

 

Find more easy to make and delicious recipes in my cookbook.

Appetizers and small dishes

Over 30 easy to make vegetarian recipes
Plan your next gathering. With ease. $9

 

 

BONUS!

Get a checklist of everything you need for ALL the recipes, including pantry staples and fresh ingredients. Convenient to take along to the market.

 

 


 

Flowers in the attic.

Flowersintheattic

Utopia.

Bells on the front door welcomed customers into the tiny space. Cozy, with carpets layered on top of each other, covering and cushioning the floor. Inviting. Every inch of the small space devoted to showcasing jewelry and artifacts.

Not one empty spot.

Shallow glass cases displayed silver, gold, and enamel jewelry. There were bracelets, rings, necklaces, and pendants, some adorned with colorful semi-precious stones. Endless varieties from all over the world exploding with beauty and art and history.

A magical store like no other I’ve ever seen.

One look, or even two or three, was never enough to spot all the amazing and affordable treasures. Everything positioned close to each other with the surface of a shelf hardly showing. It was the perfect place to buy gifts, and I could never resist adding to my own collection. Most of the inventory was vintage, from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and so on.

And now it’s gone. Closed. Just like that.

It was like a museum and store in one. Besides jewelry, there were vintage housewares. So many beautiful things to choose from! Among them, little silver spoons, antique etched glasses, vases, teacups, and linens.

Like Mary Poppins’ bottomless bag.

Except that it was a store. There was a mysterious back room hidden by a thick curtain, or maybe a rug, used as a curtain. Who knows what was back there. Maybe Iris Apfel was hiding out?

I once wanted to buy a pin. I looked in the cases. And looked again.

Then a little cardboard box appeared in front of me from somewhere behind the counter.

It was old and covered in a gold floral patterned paper. There was an assortment of pins inside, each in its own tiny plastic bag with it’s own tiny price tag attached. Nothing fancy and all under $10. I was in costume jewelry heaven.

There were velvet-lined trays upon trays of pins and rings and bracelets all sorted by type or era. I can close my eyes and picture their contents. Sigh.

Memories.

I visited the store many times with one of my closest friends. As old friends we have a comfortable banter. Think Lucy and Ethel. Laverne and Shirley. Tina and Amy. Thelma and Louise (well, maybe not them.)

We often amused the owner.

I’m sure he was especially happy since we always bought something. ALWAYS.

“Look at this bracelet. Try it on.”
“I LOVE that! You should get it.”
“Maybe. What else is there?” Oh look at this one!”
“Yeah. I don’t know. I like the other one better.”
“Look at this necklace. That would look great on you.”
“Yeah. But enough with those necklaces. I always wear that type. I should get something longer.”
“Did you see this one? Try it on.”
“What do you think? Um. Maybe. Not sure. Can I try it?”
“Remember that bracelet you got last time? This would look great with that.”
“Yeah, maybe. But I like this one …”
“I’m sorry. Could I just see that ring? NO. That one. Third one from the left.”
“That’s nice.”
“I LOVE that! Don’t you?”

And so on.

Sigh.

I’m going to miss that.

Premonition.

Just this week, my friend was visiting. I said to her, “You know that store will close some day. The guy is older and there doesn’t seem to be anyone to take over.” That was Monday. The store was never open on Mondays.

Tuesday, I went there to buy a gift and the store was gone.

Empty. Deserted. Sad.

All that beauty gone. Disappeared. No notice. No sign in the window. Nothing.

I was on the phone almost immediately.

“Hi. I have some terrible news.” [First I made sure she knew it wasn’t HORRIBLE. I didn’t want to scare her.]

“What? What’s the matter?”
“The store closed.”

She knew right away what I was talking about.

“You predicted it!”

Imagine the conversation, if you will. I’ll spare you the details of the cursing and carrying on. Oh. The drama.

“What are we going to do?”

There’s nothing similar.

Because it was not just a store. It was a place to make memories with a dear friend. A place to buy gifts for others. A place that inspired me for my own art. A place to learn about different types of jewelry. Even a museum could not have the variety of jewelry and artifacts crammed into such a small space.

Inquiries.

My friend called the store number. A recording something like this:

“We still have all our inventory. If you have an inquiry, please leave a message. We will have more information at the beginning of the year.”

Maybe there will be a new store. There’s hope.

In the meantime, where’s the inventory? Is all that glorious stock in a storage facility, or maybe in the basement, or in a spare bedroom? Is it in the attic?

Are the flowers in the attic?

The flower picture was taken a couple of months before closing. I’m so happy now to have it!

 

 

 

 

I’ve been dead wrong about Halloween.

halloween-birds

Halloween was fun when I was a kid. When my kids were little, Halloween was an adventure! Zany creativity took over the house. (But that’s not what I’m wrong about.)

Having an artist for a mother (me!) meant we made costumes.

A red monster with horns (a little red devil?), a wizard, and a cowboy. Several pirate versions, and a mad scientist with colorful bugs sewn on a lab coat, for my son. As for my daughter, witches, a cowgirl, a “fancy” lady, a hippie, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. All cute stuff.

Many involved sewing and in the case of the wizard, painting. First I made a robe with blue satin fabric. Then stayed up half the night painting moons and stars all over it. Let me tell you, blue satin fabric is NOT like canvas. Paint doesn’t want to stay on it.

To complicate things, I added glitter before the paint dried. There was a conical hat to top it off. Phew. I’m exhausted just writing about it. Did I mention that I was eight months pregnant?

Eight years later, Laura Ingalls Wilder wore a long skirt with a ruffled hem. And layers of petticoats. Enough said.

We set a special Halloween table and made Halloween desserts. We painted a face on a pumpkin or two. Carving isn’t my thing.

There was even a party or two. A haunted house in the hallway with black crepe paper hanging from the ceiling. The sounds of screaming and giggling girls. Skull-shaped pizza and ghost sugar cookies.

It was great fun!

 

Confession.

I stopped enjoying Halloween when my kids got older. Now I buy candy at the last minute. I never decorate. Maybe a tiny naked pumpkin on the porch. If I think of it. My dog barks every time the doorbell rings. Some children don’t even bother saying, “trick or treat.” Sure, many are adorable, with good manners. And that’s sweet. I love to see them in their costumes. It’s all about the kids and making them happy.

Isn’t it?

Halloween is now a “holiday.” But it’s not an official holiday. It’s business. People spend over seven billion dollars per year on costumes, candy, and decorations. Seven billion! Even dogs are dressing up now. (Not mine.)

All this time, I thought adults had taken over Halloween and made it into a “holiday.”

I was wrong. So wrong.

It’s the children who took over.

I googled to research this post. And learned that Halloween originates in Celtic paganism. The Celts believed that ghosts of the dead mingled with the living once a year. They offered treats and sacrifices so the dead would be happy and leave them alone. Creepy.

Fast forward a few hundred years.

More googling. Images this time. Vintage Halloween costumes. Adults (and children) dressed in the oddest and creepiest costumes I have ever seen. Strange scenes enough to give you nightmares. Copyright laws scare me too much (boo!) so that I’m not posting any of the images here. If you’re curious, google images of vintage Halloween costumes. But don’t do it right before bedtime.

I’m warning you.

 

 

 

 

Coconut crazy

Coconut seems to be everywhere lately.
It’s a fashionable flavor. An “it” ingredient.

Coconut crazy

Coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut water, coconut flour, and coconut flakes. There’s a lot of debate about its health benefits all over the internet. I say it’s not good to overdo anything. Moderation is the key for me.

Recently for a dinner party, I made dessert. But I wanted something more. Another taste.

And I wanted it to be coconut.

So I made a regular old vanilla pudding but I coconut-ized the hell out of it, with coconut milk and dried coconut. I didn’t know it would work, but I already had the baklava so it was worth the risk. I had no idea if coconut milk would be an adequate substitute for cow’s milk. It worked!

It was quick and easy to make. And everyone loved it. So if you’re coconut crazy, here’s the recipe.

Coconut pudding

adapted from an old McCall’s recipe, “Vanilla Blanc Mange,” circa 1965
(6 servings)
2 1/4 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar (scant)
pinch salt
1/2 cup dried coconut flakes
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a small saucepan, heat 2 cups coconut milk over low heat just until bubbles form around edge of pan.
2. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, sugar and salt with remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk. Mix well.
3. Stir coconut flakes into hot milk. Then gradually stir in cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, over low heat. Boil for 1 minute, stirring, until thickened.
4. Remove from heat and stir in extracts.

Pour into serving dishes or glasses. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate until well chilled.
Garnish with berries or shaved chocolate. Enjoy!

(Next time, I may try rum instead of the extracts.)

 

 

How thinking about art made going to the dentist less unpleasant.

Is there anyone who enjoys going to the dentist for anything other than a cleaning?

Going-to-the-dentist

My sweet little Heidi looks “ferocious,” but she won’t be going to the dentist!

After the novocaine

I think of things to pass the time. I decorate, sketch a painting in my head, and write stories, which I’ll never remember even though I pretend I will.

You get the idea. I try to distract myself and not focus on what’s going on inside my mouth.

I try to block the awful noise of the drill.

In the middle of my recent, not-so-bad-this-time visit, I thought: Wait, my dentist is an artist. This is her art. Her artistry. Her creativity.

She’s sculpting in there, choosing a shade to match the rest of my teeth, aligning my bite, and smoothing everything out.

My mouth is her canvas. The dental implements are her “brushes.”

Silly? Maybe. Did it help pass the time and make the visit a little less uncomfortable? Yes. Whatever it takes.

After the final rinse

I told my dentist that she’s an artist. She agreed and was so happy. I meant it.

Imagine if a dentist fixed a cavity or slapped on a crown and didn’t pay any attention to how it fit or matched the rest of your teeth.

We don’t want Picasso’s cubist period in there. Definitely not.

So I’m thrilled that my dentist is an artist who pays attention to her craft.

 

 

 

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

When an artist creates work and doesn’t show it, is it art?

If a tree falls in a forest

 

 

What good is art if the artist doesn’t share it?

  • A chef creates a delicious dish. What’s the point if the dish just sits on the table and no one eats it?
  • A writer writes a book. It’s not published and no one reads it. What’s the point?
  • A jeweler designs a gorgeous necklace and it’s never worn. That’s just sad.

If artists didn’t share, museums would be empty and there would be no galleries. Everything would be plain. Imagine every item of clothing plain. Every dish, every napkin, every rug, every chair, every truck, everything — plain. No jewelry, no high fashion, no movies, nothing. Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but you get the idea.

Boring.

Art is the artist’s gift to the world.

Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Children draw something. Anything. And are eager to show it off. They are proud of their creations.

Is it enough to remain an artist?

I’m lucky that art stayed with me. It’s the biggest part of me. And who I am.  But I make art and don’t always show it. Sure, friends see my artwork. Some of it. The pieces I choose to prop up on furniture around the house. But that’s about it. It’s time to change that. I’m not saying I’ll share everything. Hell no. There are many experiments in every studio, after all. No one wants to see the painting that turned to mud. Or the oil-painted flower cut in half because I was careless with my scissors. But sharing a curated collection. Definitely.

 

Art is a solitary profession, sometimes exasperating, but also often euphoric. Sharing when it brings the artist joy will bring others happiness as well.

Isn’t that the point?

 

 

 

 

The Art of the Armenian Alphabet

Celebrating the Art of the Armenian Alphabet

In 405 AD, Mesrob Mashdots, a monk, theologian and linguist (artist and genius!) established the Armenian alphabet, translating the language into written form. What an undertaking it must have been!

The language gave Armenians their cultural and religious identity. It gave them the means to survive as a people, despite efforts to destroy them, again and again.

The art of the Armenian alphabet

My old pencil and ink rendering of the alphabet

 

The alphabet originated with 36 letters. Later, in the middle ages, two characters were added. It’s curious that after reciting the first 36, one says, “and,” before finishing up with the last two letters!

I can still recite the alphabet, which I learned as a child. But speaking my own language is becoming increasingly difficult. Older people who speak the language so beautifully, and correctly, are leaving us.

And reading and writing? That’s another story. It’s hard to explain, but for instance, there’s a soft “k” sound, and a hard “k” sound. Same goes for a “t.” So which one do you use? And the complexity doesn’t stop there. There are letters for different sounds and combinations of sounds. Correct spelling seems impossible.

The art of the Armenian alphabet

My name (Ani) in Armenian. And the font’s name happens to be “Ani” too

A work of art.

This alphabet, an ancient and beautiful work of art, represents the language and the rich, artful, and haunting heritage of the Armenian people.

 

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Cultivation

Inspiration

Where does inspiration come from? What influences us? Why are we drawn (I guess that’s a pun!) to certain subjects? And why do we save certain things?

Recently, I decided to reread some books in my personal library. And I’ve kept a few beloved books from childhood. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron is one of them. A literary treasure on my bookshelf. From long-ago grade school.

Why did I save that book and only a few others? I must have read a variety of books. The imaginative fantasy of the science fiction story spoke to my creative side. I was in a homemade rocket ship with two boys, going to the mushroom planet. It was an adventure. A “wonderful” one.

mushroom cultivationCreativity

Sometimes, creativity eludes even the most creative people. When this happens to me, I look to the past. I tinker. I look at old notebooks from long ago to see what inspired me then. I look within. I look at my old artwork and writing. See what’s on my bookshelves and in my cabinets. I explore the familiar. And then my creativity returns and I can get back to it. (Going for a walk helps too!)

Mushroom cultivation

I love to draw and paint mushrooms. When I saw this book again recently, I decided that it must be the reason why. One reason anyway. It makes sense. What else can it be?

So thank you Eleanor Cameron (1912–1996) for writing this wonderful book. A work of art. And thank you to Robert Henneberger (1921–1999) for the charming artwork on the cover and throughout. The pages in my book are yellow with age and falling out. But that makes it even more precious to me.

Art is everywhere. All around. We just have to find it.

 

 

 

 

Smiley face

Art that became an icon.

I’ve always loved the original Smiley. This simple face I loved so much growing up became a huge world-wide icon. And it all started with a small job for a commercial artist.

The State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts needed to boost employee morale. So they hired Harvey Ball to design an image for a button. Ball’s fee? $45.00. Not bad for ten minutes of work in 1963.

That was the end of Harvey Ball’s participation.

But Smiley was born. And soon became a global pop culture sensation. A world without smiley faces is impossible to imagine, isn’t it?

Smiley face

Smiley face puts a smile on my face.

The original Smiley has a crooked smile and oval eyes, one larger than the other. Imperfect and endearing. These are my original Smiley pins saved from the 1970s. They’re tiny. Just about the size of a nickel and two dimes. Even smaller than dimes. They are art. The art of the Smiley face.

I think Smiley is the ancestor of   : )  and   ; )  and of all the smiley faces we add to our texts and social media posts. What do you think?

Smiley face. Born in 1963 and still going strong in different forms over 50 years later. Google it. It’s a fascinating story. And you might enjoy this entertaining and award-winning documentary podcast all about Smiley:  http://bit.ly/1816nM5

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Valentine Cards

A “blast from the past.”

I’m sentimental. And so I’ve kept a few things. Random things. (Luckily, not everything.)

These are my vintage valentine cards. Old? Yes. (Let’s not discuss exactly how old!)
Charming? Definitely. Funny? Yes. Art? Of course.

vintage-valentine-cards
“I’m hunting for you, Valentine!”

“I’ve been looking for a Valentine like you — why not string along with me?”

“If I looked through the whole universe, I’d never find a nicer Valentine.”

“Just whizzing by to say — have a happy Valentine’s day!”

And my favorite: “You suit my palette, Valentine!”

It’s not likely that I thought these quite as charming while in Mrs. Rooney’s third grade class. Because back then, they were commonplace. Nothing exciting. No big deal. Maybe even a little embarrassing in some cases? Now they are my little treasures of printed paper. Delightful reminders of an innocent time.

Why I saved cards from third grade only is a mystery. What happened to the first, second, fourth, and fifth grade cards? I’ll never know. But I’m grateful that I have these vintage valentine cards to inspire me.

I can just imagine artists drawing and coloring these in a Mad Men-esque studio, one after another. Copywriters adding the words. Bosses putting in their two cents. And off to the printers. Art for masses of children.

Vintage valentine cards.

Art and charm from the past.

 

 

 

 

Why shoveling snow this week reminded me of creating art.

Imagine over two feet of snow.

Why shoveling snow this week reminded me of creating art

Now imagine a huge plow going down the street. Two feet of snow becomes three-or maybe four feet, a mountain at the end of your driveway. You’re blocked in. No way out. And the snow is heavy. Piled up. And there’s nowhere to put it.

So a shovelful at a time, you carry it and add it to the nearest snow bank. Little by little, in freezing temperatures, you make a dent in the pile. It’s cold, so you take breaks to warm up. Maybe have a cup of tea.

You go back outside and move more shovelfuls of snow. Finally the pile disappears. And your car is free!

Until the plow passes by again. And you have a new pile to overcome.

 

Imagine a blank paper or canvas.

Why shoveling snow this week reminded me of creating art

You have pencils, tubes of paint, brushes, some water, and inspiration needed to create your work of art. You’ve begun. No way out. And the blank paper or canvas is challenging you. Daring you to imagine where the art is going. It’s still in your head. In your heart.

So a stroke at a time, layer by layer, it builds up. Little by little, in the studio, you make something out of nothing. It’s intense; so you take breaks to wash your brushes, sharpen your pencils. Maybe have a cup of tea.

You go back and add more strokes, more paint. Finally the blank paper or canvas disappears. Your vision is out of your head and created!

Until inspiration strikes again. And you have a new blank paper or canvas to overcome.

 

 

 

 

Perfume Bottles

Change

When we moved to a smaller place, after a long time in a house, I had to get rid of a ton of things we didn’t need. Literally. Two garage sales. Old tins? Bye bye. Disney videos? (Yes, videos.) Gone. Furniture? Craigslist. Clothing? Goodwill. Boxes and boxes of miscellaneous “stuff” donated. On and on.

It seemed like a never-ending, 4-month ordeal.

But some things I could never say goodbye to. Some things have memories. And have to stay with me until the end. (A little morbid sounding, but true.)

On the shelf

Why did these beautiful little perfume bottles stay with me? Why do they sit on my shelf?

Perfume-bottles

Memories

My father, back in the day, brought my mother and me an assortment of miniature perfume bottles when he came home from a trip. He had a knack for picking the best ones. And they were French. Always. The ones on the left, Cabochard and Bleu de France, were mine. The ones on the right were my mother’s. I loved Bleu de France so much that on another trip, he brought me a big bottle. I still have it and use it sparingly. I just stopped mid-sentence to put a dab under my nose so I can smell it while writing!

He’s gone now. But when I look at my little perfume bottles, I think of my father giving us these tiny perfume bottles and smiling. He was a big man and he picked out these charming little perfumes just for us. No garage sale tag for these babies. No way.

Little works of art

Each little bottle is a work of art. Someone designed every detail of each bottle. Each is a special design for its brand, with a unique shape, distinct fonts and logos. (As a designer and artist, I totally get how this is not an easy task!) An expert perfumer formulated the scent. A little cap sits on top of each to seal in the special fragrance. They are not merely bottles, but works of art. Perfect little works of art.

And so they sit. On my shelf. Little old bottles. Art. History. Their own, and mine.

Look around

Little bits of art and design. Charming. Inspiring. Memorable. Even a tiny bottle has a design. An art to it. Reminding me that art is all around us. Even a small piece of glass can have beauty and meaning if you just look for it. If you think about it. If you appreciate it.

Look around. What do you see? What do you have that recalls a special time? A day. A moment. Or a special person in your life.

Enjoy your memories. And create new ones. It’s what life is made of.