A Spot of Tea

I never know where the inspiration for my daily drawings will come from. It could be a snippet of conversation with a friend or family member. It could be a new recipe I’ve seen on Food Network or it could be something that got mentioned on Facebook. And today’s entry is inspired by a Facebook post.

An old friend recently highlighted a site that features vintage teapots. I loved it because I used to have quite a collection of them.

However, when I downsized from my house to a small apartment, most of them had to go. I had to pick and choose what I could actually take with me to a more compact living space. But I did keep a few of my favorites.

This is a drawing of the few teapots I have left. Two are Hall collectibles, one is a Paragon from England and one is Bavarian china. They make me smile when I look at them.

teapots

Fortunately, I was able to keep more of my English teacup sets since they take up less room. Some of the ones I have are quite valuable so I can’t bear to part with them yet.

teacups

Preparing tea is not a fussy endeavor at all. It is pure pleasure. And I was reminded of that a couple years ago…

I was in Italy taking an art class and two of the other ladies there were from England. Several times a day they would have to break for a “cuppa.” Off they would go to the kitchen and plug in the electric kettle. In two minutes flat they would be sipping their refreshment and be renewed. I made a habit of joining them.

Needless to say, one of the first purchases I made when I got back home to Ohio was an electric kettle. What a wondrous thing! It heats up instantly and you can have the perfect cup of tea (or broth) in no time flat!

So, yes, I’ve given up coffee in favor of tea. I DO love coffee but it doesn’t love me. I save it for special occasions.

In the meantime, I enjoy trying out all kinds of tea.

Have a “spot” anyone?

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Doggie Love

I love dogs. But I can’t have one. Allergic.

And boy does that burn my biscuits!

We DID have dogs when my kids were growing up. It was hard for me to tolerate at times, allergy-wise, so I popped the pills, got the shots and suffered a lot of upper respiratory infections. I didn’t realize how sick that had made me until we didn’t have dogs anymore. But I enjoyed those four-legged characters. And my kids were always ga-ga about them.

So… a few years ago, when I was seriously feeling the effects of the empty nest, I decided I wanted a dog. A little one. I would be Paris Hilton toting my new best friend with me everywhere.

I did some research to determine the most hypoallergenic breeds. And of course I would get a rescue. No high-priced puppy mills for me!

As fate would have it, I met my dream canine. I had gone to a rescue facility to meet with a little maltese but there were other dogs there as well.

Sadly, the maltese only wanted to get away from me. We didn’t connect at all. But… a scruffy white poodle jumped in my lap and wouldn’t leave. He was twice the size I wanted… 11 pounds… so I kept putting him down and chasing after the maltese, who insisted on ignoring me.

The poodle swooned every time I looked at him. And if I acted the least bit inviting, he’d follow me until he could end up in my lap. He was just the right amount of polite-but-anxious-to-be-loved. Kinda like me.

The rescue ladies were watching surreptitiously. I think they knew what was going to happen.

And happen it did.

By the end of our one-hour play date, the maltese had dumped me and the poodle was mine. But the poodle wasn’t quite ready. If I wanted him, I would be given a few days to think about it. Then, if I confirmed, I could pay a very low fee to have the dog neutered and all shots brought up to date. I agreed.

A week later my daughter’s family drove me back up to get my new companion. I thought it would be fun for the grandkids to be part of the experience.

We loaded the poodle in the van and the kids were enthralled. All the way home we brainstormed about what to name him. We decided on Beaux – the French spelling of a rather French name for such a frenchy sort of dog. Perfect.

Then the love affair began. Beaux was house-trained within days and we were smitten with each other. Every day we would go out on the back porch and he would calmly let me comb him out. Even though poodles don’t shed heavily, I wanted to keep him clean as possible to make it easy on my allergies. He acted like I was doing him a favor!

And smart! My goodness that dog was smart. After just a few tries he would sit, stay, lie down, and even hop round in circles on his hind legs – to which I would exclaim “circus doggie!” and laugh in delight. He seemed to love to make me laugh.

In the house I had figured out where he might want to lay or sleep while I was gone and I bought color-coordinated towels to put in those locations. (It’s an artist thing…) Again, this was so I could wash them frequently and guard against the allergy effect. Beaux quickly learned where he was allowed to park himself.

All was going well until I woke up with hives one morning. I didn’t think too much of it because I am an allergy girl. You never know what will set me off.

But the hives didn’t go away.

After a few days I was getting short of breath. And I noticed it was worse after having contact with Beaux.

I can’t tell you the dread that came over me.

Finally I ended up in the hospital getting breathing treatments. I was devastated. I knew I couldn’t keep Beaux.

That was several years ago and I am still heartbroken about it. I had to return Beaux to the rescue group. My only consolation was that I DID help find him a new home – and I DID do a fundraiser to raise money for the rescue facility. But it was very hard emotionally because I made a connection with that animal that was one-of-a-kind.

Now I am not one who thinks pets are substitutes for children. However, they are the epitomy of unconditional love. They don’t care what you look like or what your opinions are or what has happened to you on any given day. They are there when you walk through the door and they think you are a genius for showing up once again! How great is that?

So I have a couple doggie sketches today. They aren’t great masterpieces… just quickie sketches done for a couple of journal pages.

Here’s Jamie’s Harlow, a cute little Boston…

Harlow

And here’s Abby. She belongs to my grand daughter Josey, who posed her a bit. Abby likes to nap in Josey’s bed, so Jo let Abby hug her favorite stuffed bear…

Abby

I know that most of my friends have their own doggie-loves. (Really, can you fully trust someone who doesn’t love dogs – even if they can’t have one?) So please go give your pooch a kiss and hug for me. Auntie Starr sends her love!

Moments to Savor

As I get older, I realize how important it is to store up really good memories.

Not that you want to live in the past. No. You just need to be able to call up better times when harder times come.

I’m not sure if I developed the “mental-savoring” habit because I’m an artist or if I’m just wired that way. But I’ve pretty much always done it.

When I find myself in a moment of bliss – which can be anything from watching my grandkids play to walking on a beach to noticing the first flowers of spring – I try to memorize it. I lock that image in my mind and tell myself… “I’m going to remember this now so I can enjoy it again later!”

And you never know when that will come in handy.

Last year I had to have several tests done by MRI – the giant clanking tube that makes you feel like you’re in a coffin. No wonder people are afraid of that thing! The fear of it alone can do you in.

So here’s what I did.

First, I said yes to the sedation. I love me some legal drugs when they are available.

Then I went through my memory bank and picked out what I would think about while sequestered like a sardine in a can. I chose Italy because I lived there for a few months a couple years ago.

It was scary getting ready. By the time I got earplugs, eye covering, padding all round my head and totally strapped down I was glad for the sedation. And I had decided that once I closed my eyes I wouldn’t open them again until it was over.

I took deep breaths as the table I was laying on slid me inward. I clutched my little panic ball, which they say you can squeeze if you need to get out, but not too tightly. What could be worse than panicking your way out of that machine only to get put back in again? Better to see it through the first time.

IMG_3034Soon I was back in Lucca in my mind’s eye. I walked down the cobbled streets looking in shop windows. I strolled past the butcher where I loved to get parma ham. The open air flower stand at the intersection was bright with all colors of blooms. And just round the corner was my favorite lunch place, Pizza Da Felice. I craved a slice from here almost every other day!

But just as I was about to bite into my imaginary pizza, a voice interrupted.. “Doing OK in there?”

It took me a second to reply, “yes, I’m fine.” And I rather resented the intrusion.

Anyway, I spent my hour in the “tube o’death” enjoying Italy all over again. And when I got back to my room I wasn’t stressed at all. Slept off the sedation like a baby.

And that’s the power of memories to savor. At least for me.

So today’s sketches are the quickie portrait kind. And I think they are typical of moments to savor.

First is the daughter of two of my high school chums. Ashley just had son number two and this delightful scene shows son number one giving his brother a warm welcome.

Ashley2

Second is a quirky version of a couple young friends of mine. Matt and Chelsea recently celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary. It looks to me like they drank a bottle of bubbly with dinner and got the giggles. I’m calling this one a Champagne Selfie. And I think everyone should enjoy their anniversary so much! (Congrats you two!!)

chelsea and Matt2

I know I am going on overlong here, but I want to say one more thing about savoring good moments…

As an artist, I’ve had the privilege of preserving a lot of them for friends, family and clients. Over the years I’ve done hundreds of portrait sketches. Some of kids, some of pets, some of mom or dad after they’re gone. And I can’t tell you the reactions I’ve gotten. Believe me, some of those are memorable for me!

One day, back in the era of answering machines, I came home to a message exclaiming breathily.. “Oh Starr! Oh Starr!” over and over. Yikes! Just as I was thinking it was some sort of obscene call, the caller identified herself. She had just received a gift from her husband – the portrait I did of her family. She was overjoyed and it made my day.

I’ve had more than one person tell me that if their house was burning down, the one thing they would grab on the way out the door was the painting or portrait I did for them. That’s mighty nice validation for me. And wonderful memory preservation for them.

And by the way… I did a pencil portrait of the pizzaola at da Felice as well as a sketch of their front entrance (shown above.) They hung it on the wall and wouldn’t let me pay for a slice again after that! That’s happiness to me!

So be aware of your own fleeting times of bliss. Recognize when they happen. Pay attention. Study them closely and link them to how you feel right then. Because later, when you need a boost, all you have to do is dream. You have precious moments to savor.

Blue and more…

Just posting a few sketches today.

First up, my friend’s dog Blue. Who happens to look a bit blue here!

Blue

Then Blue’s mom-pal, my friend Aimee. It’s always great to touch base with Aimee because she is a writer. I enjoy my writer friends because they are generally a curious and well-spoken bunch. And that makes for lively, interesting conversations. Aimee herself is a bit of a firecracker. Under that Marilyn Monroe hair lives a wicked wit… juxtaposed with a tender heart. I got out a different sketchbook to draw her because I wanted a smooth paper that would take crisp, clear color. I like how it turned out because Aimee herself is crisp, clear and colorful.

Aimee

Another writer friend is a former professional dancer. I’ve seen some of her dance photos and they are ethereal. Even though dancers are incredibly strong athletes, ballerinas seem to be part of a dream world to me. I always have the feeling they will scamper away like fairies and disappear if you try to reach out and touch them. Here’s Jennifer…

J Holmes

This sketch is of someone I don’t know. Jennifer posted it and I was mesmerized. Surely Andrea really is a butterfly…

Butterfly Ballerina

Did you notice in the ballerina sketches they barely even leave shadows on the ground? I’m telling you, they are not of this world!

So that’s the friends for today. And I’m about to switch gears. I recently tried a new shrimp recipe and it was so good I’ve got to go get some more shrimp. I think those ugly bugs are going to make their way into my daily sketchbook next…

My Warrior Nieces

Yesterday I blogged (and sketched) about two of my nieces with new adorable bambinos. I am glad to say they liked my sketches and I am pretty pleased with how my practice sketching is going.

Today, I want to share two more of my nieces in my sketchbook.

But this is a much different story.

These two, Jamie and Julie, have the last name of Wohrer. Pronounced “warrior.” And warriors they are.

Their mother had to leave them way too soon. She died of breast cancer when they were still teens at home. It was a crushing blow.

They had no choice but to live on, albeit with a huge piece of their heart missing.

Then, in the past few years, each has been diagnosed with MS – multiple sclerosis. They have an older sister, Beth, who has been diagnosed with MS as well.

That means that not one, not two, but all three daughters are struggling with MS.

Being the warriors they are, they each do what they can to raise money for the National MS Society. Right now, Jamie and Julie are at a fundraiser in Florida for this cause. Beth is not well enough to be there with them. Soon, Julie will do the Bike Ride for MS just like she did last year.

So here’s a sketch of my brave nieces… Jules is on the left and Jamie is on the right.

J&J FL MS

And as far as my sketching… I am thrilled with this one. What I am practicing on is doing QUICK sketches and I was able to knock this one out in about 15-20 minutes. It is rough, yes. But I’m not looking for refinement here. I’m working on expression in a very short time. That is hard for me because I’m so seldom able to achieve it.

Somehow, I think these girls’ dedication inspired me today.

And if you are inspired in any way, please go to Bike MS and make a small donation. You can type in either of the girls names… Julie Worher or Jamie Wohrer Rohr. I know the girls haven’t reached their goals and you really can make a difference for less than the price of one dinner out or a movie and some popcorn.

I’m off to do more sketching now. And sending much love to all three of my warrior nieces.

Tasty Little Cabbages

I don’t know about you, but I grew up without ever eating a lot of vegetables.

Canned corn or green beans was about it.

Although there was that one time when my mother served cauliflower – god knows where she even got it in 1960 – and we had one of those showdowns where I sat at the table refusing to eat. And I got it served to me all the next day until both I – and it – were totally done in. I shiver to think about that!

But these days I am a true cabbage lover. A skill I acquired all on my own.

And sometimes I even CRAVE cauliflower. How weird is that?

You see, over the years I’ve been exposed to foods – and ways of cooking them – that I never knew as a kid or young adult. And boy has my taste matured!

Sooo…

I was in the market the other day and picked up some Prince Edward Island Mussels. (That’s another thing I never even tasted until just a few years ago!) What a buy these were! I got a whole big mess of them for under three bucks and came home to look for mussel recipes.

Now I know I can do them in a garlic-wine sauce and slurp them up with a piece of good, fresh bread. But what are the possibilities?

Hmmmm. A quick internet search led me to a recipe by Michael Symon (of The Chew) called Mussels and Brussels. Wow… here he is frying off a bit of bacon, adding some thinly sliced garlic, then the mussels and wine to deglaze the pan. The final addition is some whole grain mustard, shaved brussels sprouts and freshly chopped parsley.

My mouth was watering just thinking about it!

So back to the store I went to pick up some brussels sprouts – and some crusty bread.

Lo and behold, the produce department had full STALKS of brussels sprouts newly imported from Mexico!

They were a dollar more than the small withered ones in the plastic bags ($2.99 vs $1.99) so I stood there and gazed at them for a while.

Doesn’t it make sense that they would be more fresh since they hadn’t even yet come off the stalk? Seemed so to me…

So I picked up a heavily-laden stalk to take home.

I kept thinking to myself… what a prize!

And when I checked out, the guy bagging the groceries held up the monstrous stalk and asked “what in the world is this?”

I simply replied, “brussels sprouts still on the stalk…” as though I buy them everyday. Of course I do…

So, I got them home and prepared to make the mussels and brussels.

But first I had to take the sprouts – stalk and all – and take a few photos to sketch from. Never should I eat something so interesting without recording it in my sketchbook!

Here’s the sketch of the lovely but unusual version of the vegetable… (unusual unless you’re a sprout farmer!)

b sprouts

And I did make the mussels and brussels a la Michael Symon. It was just ok. Good, but only ok. I think in the future I will stick to the tried and true mussels in wine spiked with garlic. You can’t go wrong with that.

Of course I still have a big ole stalk of brussels sprouts left to use up! I’ve found several recipes where you stick the whole thing in the oven after dousing it with some olive oil and salt. It is in the oven right now!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

And in case you’re wondering… it DID take me longer to DRAW these sprouts than to eat them! Still, I’ve developed a taste for these delicate little cabbages. How great is that?

The Eli Chronicles

The sketching continues.

And I am particularly interested in doing small portrait sketches right now. Not sure why.

So I asked a Facebook friend, a guy from my old hometown, to send me a few photos. He’s a rugged looking guy and I thought it would be fun to practice on him.

Now I don’t know anything about Eli personally, but you can sure get an impression of him from his photos.

Would you say he is a bit casual about authority figures? (Not disrespectful… just casual…)

Eli 3

Or somewhat laid back?

Eli 4

But I have a feeling he is a giant teddy bear on the inside…

Eli 1

Although a teddy bear wearing Harley goggles…

Eli 2

And who knows where he goes when he rides off into the sunset?

Eli back

A lean, mean mystery man. Surely he’s an Easy Rider who loves the road…

Thanks for the pics, Eli. That was fun!

And by the way – here’s the spreads in my sketchbooks. I got a couple nice pages chalked up.

Eli group 1

Eli group2P.S. I added a “follow” button to my blog here. Find it on the lower part of the right side of the page. So if you click on it to “follow” me you’ll get a notice when a new post goes up. That way you can look at it or not, or at least catch up when you have time. I also welcome comments, so feel free to chat. And don’t worry if I disappear from time to time – I can be pretty sporadic. But I do hope you’ll stay tuned!

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