Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Monday, May 30, 2011

Best EVER Banana Muffins

I do hope you had a great weekend.  Along with finally mowing the overgrown dandelion patch formerly known as my lawn, I worked on some wood grained doors for St. John-Assumption Church, the little old 1883 Catholic church you have seen featured on here a few times.  Coming up, I'll be doing some painted glass windows there, which should photo nicely, but today's doors just look like oak doors, which is what is great about them, but not an exciting photo op.  Admittedly, banana muffins aren't exactly photogenic either, but in this case, substance makes up for beauty.

Best Ever Banana Muffins and Mayan Black Onyx coffee...Elevenses never tasted sooooo good!
 Now, if you make muffins a part of a nutritious breakfast, click off of here right now, and go find the recipe from Diet For A Small Planet for power muffins, from back in the '70s.  There is absolutely no way you can pretend these are fine nutrition.  These are banana cupcakes without frosting, and believe me, they don't need it!  These are a celebration of the marriage of butter and brown sugar...preferably with eleven other people at the party.

1/2 cup butter, creamed with
1 scant cup brown sugar, then blend in
2 eggs and
3 very ripe mashed bananas.

Stir in:
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 tsp cinnamon, optional and
1-2 tsp vanilla, also optional

Then add:
1 cup oats, quick for fluffs, regular for chewiness
1 cup flour

Butter a 12 cup muffin tin.  I mean it.  No papers for these, and no margarine.  Butter.  Spoon batter into tins, and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, more or less...when they are done, they are golden brown, and begin to pull away from the edges of the pan.  When they are overdone, the smoke detector goes off.  When they are done perfectly, they will have a lovely slightly crunchy outside for the first several hours after baking.  After that, they lose their crunch, but the buttery banana flavor deepens. 

Disclaimer:  This blog's author accepts no responsibility for user's consumption of multiple muffins, and any unfortunate effects.  Do not eat while driving or operating heavy equipment, as falling crumbs may be distracting.  Do not combine with other foods containing large quantities of butter, as unfortunate side and backside effects may occur over an extended period.  Bake responsibly.

If you bake them, I will come...Actually, if you want a free estimate on my painting services, I will come, but I won't turn down banana muffins, if you really want to entice me.  See my website for my full portfolio, and all the info on how to hire me to create the home of your dreams...theartofthehome.com

Friday, May 27, 2011

For the love of leopard

I don't know what it is about leopard that draws me to it.  I don't have a particular fascination with the live animal.  I'm not the kind of gal to wear animal print stilettos, or carry a designer faux skin purse, though come to think of it, I did sew my last purse primarily from my favorite leopard upholstery.  I think I like the way it's such a natural rugged thing, and yet pairs beautifully with gilded shiny baubles.  Kind of a bridge between peeling paint and crystal candle sticks...the kind of pattern on a tee shirt that can almost make hiking boots elegant.  Okay, maybe that's giving it too much clout.  Here are a few snaps of leopards I have known and loved...or painted, at any rate:
With its damaged veneer top, and missing its edge trim, this little table was a perfect candidate for painting.  The fact that it was nearly free at a garage sale was a bonus worth purring about.

The wild child chair started out to be all giraffe, but I got bored with that by the time I finished the legs.  This little table was requested by a client after she saw mine.  The color pallet was tweaked to suit her home.
Check out more painted furniture on my website, theartofthehome.com.

Painting your own?  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.  If I know the answer, it's yours!  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Furniture gone wild

Why pick just one pattern?
This sweet little cabinet was a perfectly lovely Shaker style china hutch that a friend consigned, back when I had a boutique, here at Belle Ami.  The price was nice, but though it had a lot of lookers, it was always the wrong color, the wrong width, or somehow just not quite right, so after a couple of years, I decided to try giving it a paint job.  Its background color suggested the leopard, and the rest of the pattern and embellishment took off from there.

Leopard spots and gilded wood ornament are practically neutrals around this place.
This got a lot more people talking about it, and the piece actually caused some marital discord between a beautiful blonde woman with a heavy accent, and her Ken Doll American husband.  She was absolutely in love with everything about it, and he, in an unmistakeably upper class voice, declared it tasteless.  She quite obviously thought him stupid beyond words, but unlike most American women, made no apology to me for his rudeness.  Not that I mind.  As a decorator, it is my job to interpret such a range of styles for clients, I am never offended if someones taste doesn't match my own (heck, half the time, even my taste doesn't match my own!...?), and as a woman with a bit of experience in the marriage department, I never want anyone to apologize for the actions of their spouse.  Interestingly, the tiff ended with a derisive snort and an eye roll from her, accompanied by a little head-shake-flip-of-the-hair sort of thing, and then a change of topic.  Poof!  All lovey and fine, just like that.

The martini glasses are usually overflowing with candy...
They picked out a pair of painted glasses instead, similarly embellished, but apparently of a size that made them not so vulgar.  Because some of the Russian women from here in town had also expressed a strong interest in the cabinet, I wondered if there might be a cultural trend with the style of it, so while she was paying, I mentioned her accent, and politely asked where she was from.  She invited me to guess, but I know that I'm absolute crap at this.  She looked a bit like my friend PJ, whose mother is Slovenian, but having never heard a Slovenian accent, and fearing the snort and eyeroll thing, which like a typical American woman I would be crushed by, I confessed to not yet being a world traveller. 

I have clients who keep those huge curvy glass apothecary jars on their counters, filled with candy, and I love the happy abundant look of it, but I have neither the room for them, nor the desire to feed that much sugar to the Artgirls, who presumably would know why out of six glasses, only two still have candy... :)
 "I'm from Yugoslavia." she said, in a voice that said this was clearly obvious, and she took her parcel and the arm of her man and left without another word.  I'm still not sure if she was offended, or if this was just a culturally normal way to end a conversation.  I guess when I become a world traveller, I'll find out for myself, and find out also what it is about my style that attracts so many Russian and Central and Eastern European admirers to my more heavily embellished pieces, and surprisingly, to this blog.  I know this gets translated into a few languages (scary, considering I write how I talk, so I gotta wonder about the slang and colloquialisms!), and photos get picked up on Google images from around the globe, so if you are reading this from somewhere outside the US, and know the answers to my musings, please comment below.

If you are in the US, I will happily paint and embellish the furniture you own.  Check the website, theartofthehome.com, for examples of other pieces and styles, and all the info on how to hire me.

If you are doing this on your own and run into questions or difficulties, feel free to email me.  I'm happy to share what I know.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's green and white and fresh as clover?

Before:  Boring Builder Oak. 
Kemerie's new kitchen cabinets!  Except they aren't new.  They just have new paint, and a few added details.  The whole kitchen will be on my website as soon as the new knobs are chosen, and the room is dressed.  For now, these snaps show the feature cabinet, which is my new favorite thing I've ever done.

After:  Cabinets are painted off white, with an umber glaze.  The pantry has been embellished and given the same umber-glazed sage green, as the peninsula.

What do you get when you marry an old headboard to a candle sconce, and trim it with dentil moulding?  A cabinet crown, of course. Click picture for close-up, click again for details.

This is my very favorite part.  The bees are stenciled on with joint compound, allowed to dry, then their details were carved in.  The laurel wreaths are piped joint compound, using a pastry bag.  Click for close-ups, click again for details.

Lucky for us, the clients left for the week, so we could easily commandeer all three garage stalls.  There were at least 26 doors and 21 drawers, but I might have forgotten a few.  Lucky for me, I wasn't working alone on this.

Meet Paul Romleski, from Buckets of Color.  This doesn't show his adorable face, or his wife Peggy who works with him, but it does show you why I love him.  This man will do whatever it takes to get the job done to the highest standard of excellence-even if it requires all but crawling inside the breadbox to fix issues with the original carpentry, so rubbing edges won't ruin new paint.  He also shows up when he says he will, cleans up after himself, and never leaves a drip, spatter, or smudge.  He isn't the cheapest, but nobody matches his quality, so he's the only plain painter I ever recommend.
Another customized pantry cabinet is featured on the "furniture and cabinets" page on my website, theartofthehome.comClick this link to see that, and all the info on how to hire me to totally transform your kitchen (or any other room in your home).

If you want to try this yourself, but need a little info on how I did it, do feel welcone to email me.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lunch of the week: herbed chicken salad

I would show you pictures tonight of the beautiful glazed cabinets I'm creating for a client, but they aren't done yet, so not very photogenic.  The only creative thing I've done here at home this week is fix lunches to take to work, so here's the recipe for my newest version of chicken salad.

Everything is approximate-it's sandwich filling, just wing it.

Per serving you need:
  • 1/3-1/2 cup diced, cooked chicken
  • 1/4 of a tomato, diced
  • 4-5 chives, chopped
  • 6-8 shredded fresh mint leaves, yup, mint leaves, trust me
  • a couple drops of mustard
  • a little mayonnaise
  • 1 10 inch tortilla
  • 1 large lettuce leaf
Mix the first six ingredients.  Lay lettuce on top of tortilla, pile filling on lettuce leaf, roll up.  Eat quickly before all the juicy filling finds it's way past the lettuce leaf and soaks the tortilla.  This sandwich travels pretty well wrapped in plastic wrap, if you go really light on the mayo.  You won't miss the moisture, as the tomato does the trick.

I hope you have a great weekend.  If you are in Belle Plaine late morning through midday on Saturday, you can stop in at Mystic Journey to meet Jordan author Cat Isles, who will be there signing her new children's book, Faces, Who Are We?

Speaking of Cat, Mark your calendar for June 25 and 26, which is the Jordan Art Festival.  Cat and her husband Steve were headed out to put the signs up around Jordan today.  At least that was the plan. They said the rain wouldn't deter them and in fact, it would make the ground softer for digging post holes.  Sure.  I'm thinkin' that painting about a million cabinet doors might have been a boring way to spend my day, but at least it was dry!  Check back Monday night for photos of that project.

If you want custom painted cabinets for your kitchen, check my website for photos and all the info on how to hire me. theartofthehome.com

If you want to do it yourself, feel free to email me with any questions.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Keepin' it all out in the open...

Ribbons, trims and yarn make scrumptious eye candy, when stored in plain sight.
I have a need to have the things I love where I can see them.  I need to have the art materials and supplies I collect visible and accessible.  I pretty much live my life in full view on this blog, and in all matters of emotion, I'm known to wear my heart on my sleeve, so as you can imagine, with all that stuff in plain sight, life could get pretty messy.

Fortunately, I'm a born organizer.  Shelves and cubbies and bins, oh my!  Thankfully, over the years, I've refined my own style of organizing, and relaxed it to a passion, rather than an obsession, or worse, a procrastination technique.

Tiny bottles filled with small treasures fill the windowsill of my art studio.  Painting the lids black keeps the look as cohesive as possible.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to organize: 
  • I've found it's worth it, if you have the skills or the funds, to build shelving to fit the stuff you need to store, especially in work spaces. 
  • I know I need to store things in clear containers, and I like glass better than plastic, so I watch yard sales and thrift shops for glass candy jars to store all kinds of small items in, and save smaller glass bottles from spices and condiments for the really tiny things.   
  • I need certain files kept out of the drawer, and rectangular "planters", from the silk flower section of craft and department stores keep them corralled and vertical, as well as portable.
  • I use the sweater compartments in my closet to store my folded t-shirts, so I can pull the one I want without digging down through a drawer to find it.
  • I hang all my pants, not just dress pants, but sweats and paint pants too, so I can easily grab what I wear most often.
  • In order to keep pretty things from being useless clutter, I repurpose things like sugar bowls for pencil holders, a bud vase to hold my toothbrush, and a cup from my childhood tea set is a chain-pull for the kitchen light.

Often-used files are easy to access and easy to move around, when stored upright in a small metal planter box.
Keeping everything out in the open makes life so much easier.  Shoving things in a closet, be they feelings or posessions, to be sorted some other day, just creates a cloud over the future.  It's just not worth it to live with an impending avalanche, nor to tuck all the good stuff away for a special day.  Of course, not everyone will appreciate your stuff, but it's your home, your life, and those who don't connect? Well...

I can't claim to be a professional organizer, but if you want a pretty backdrop to enhance the life you've organized for yourself, check my website to view my portfolio, and get the info on how to hire me.  theartofthehome.com

If you have a comment, feel free to leave it below, by clicking "comments", or you are welcome to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Wedding Season...

Need an officiant? Need a location for a smaller wedding?  Get ahold of my friend Cindy atmarionsplace.com (do click this link!)for a beautifully unique experience.

Need a gift to take to a wedding?  Pick up a set of glasses at a home wares store, (or hit the thrift store for a set that may have never been used-hold them up to the light to check for scratches), then stop at your local craft store for Pebeo Porcelaine paints (their "Vidrio" ones for glass are way too sheer), and give this a try:

Stained glass patterned wine glasses make beautiful wedding gifts
The process for this is fairly simple, but it is time-consuming, so you can't start it the day before. The paint is dishwasher proof, but you have to let it cure 24 hours, then bake it, and that's after you spend an hour or so on each one. You can copy what I did, or to make it more personal, check out a few stained glass books from the library. You will find everything from simple mod geometrics to elaborate scenes, so no matter what the couple is into, this gift will fit.

Along with jars of whatever colors you want, you will find Pebeo makes tubes of cloisonne paint, and you will want one or two of these in black, for the outlines. Also pick up one of those little plastic pallets with six or eight divots to hold paint. This stuff dries quickly, and working from the jar will cause it to thicken.

Any stained glass book will be full of patterns you can adapt to glassware.
Make sure the glasses are squeaky clean, and if you are using patterns from a book, make photocopies small enough to slip inside the glass. Now, you're ready for some fun. Put on some good music, or an audio book, and settle in.

My technique for these is to do all the outlines first, starting with the top borders, then the motifs, then the filler lines.  Let that dry to the touch, giving your hand a rest, then go back and fill in the colors.  The outlining takes a bit of practice, and you might want to do some straight and curved lines just on paper first, to get a feel for how much pressure to use, and how fast to move the tube.  It's trickier when you get to the glass, until you get the feel of it, but remember, you can wipe off wobbly lines while wet, and if you really need to redo, you can soak it off even if it's dry, as long as you haven't baked it yet.

Stylized flowers are a timeless motif.
If you love them, but don't want to do them yourself, I will take commissions for these, at $45 apiece, but if it's for a wedding officiated by Cindy Faus Heimerl, or an event at Marion's Place, the price is $30 apiece. Again, they can be any color and any theme, so tell me about the lucky recipients, and I'll help you come up with the perfect design.  Email for more info dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  Of course, if you are doing them yourself, and run into questions, email me and ask.  Really, I love helping people do creative things themselves.

Of course, you can always give the newlyweds a really extravagant gift, with a certificate for my services to decorate the nest they'll be sharing.  Check out my website theartofthehome.com to view my portfolio, and all the info on how to hire me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Words to Treasure

My friend Cat Isles, bridgingtheuniverse.com  (do click this link!), is writing a book about correspondence.  The old fashioned kind that arrives in an envelope, with a stamp.  She has asked people she knows to write about what it means to them to receive cards and letters in the mail.  Here's what I've come up with, so far...

What's in your treasure chest?
Some of my most treasured keepsakes are cards and letters.  I keep most of them in a ribbon-tied box.  There's a hand painted card from my Grandma Norma, with a yellow warbler, sent as a Valentine, and another she did of Grandpa clamming at South Bay.  There are letters from childhood friends who moved away, or who I met at summer camp and never saw again, and postcards from friends whose parents took them to exotic places like Disneyland and Yosemite, for vacation.  The envelopes bear addresses I've nearly forgotten were mine, and postmarks from all across the country.

My favorite is a letter from my grandpa Eddy.  He was a prolific letter writer- to his siblings, his congressman, and probably every president during his lifetime.  He wrote this precious letter to me during the spring of my junior year of high school.  After filling me in on the weather in Coos Bay, the activities in the harbour, and the fishing conditions, he got into a ramble about my job hunt, and my older brothers' various self-employment schemes.  Grandad said he was all in favor of a fella owning his own business, in fact he and Grandma had owned three (they owned Chuck's Seafood Cannery during my childhood).

He went on to write that as a young man, when he worked as a logger, he had an idea for salvaging the thinner logs, which were being left behind by the big companies, when they clear-cut a forest.  He described in great detail how he thought he could peel and trim them on site to sell for house logs.  ..."but I seemed to lack the nerve to start.  Gosh, Dawn, I don't know why I'm telling you that." he wrote.

Grandpa died the following autumn, kindly leaving me a collection of silver ingots, and eight place settings of Liberty Blue china.  I passed the china to another family member a few years back, and after much thought, I recently sold the silver.  In honor of Grandma, I bought a nice portfolio for my decorative paint samples, and some long wished for French mural paints.  First, however, I had a pendant made to wear every day.  It's a pearl on a gold oyster shell, reminding me of the real treasures they left me:  a belief in the value of my talents, an appreciation for the beauty of everyday things, and with this letter, the reminder of the absolute importance of having the courage to follow my dreams... pearls of great price that create my heaven on earth.

Email is nice, efficient, better than nothing, but will someone read it again in thirty years, when the words might mean more than you ever expected? 

Check out my website theartofthehome.com, to see my online portfoio, and get all the info on how to hire me.  Then, while I paint your walls, you can curl up with a cup of tea and write letters to the ones you love.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This Rocks

Faux stone planter from foam shipping box.
I'm not sure why they originally invited me to join the local garden club.  I'm guessing they hadn't yet spotted my fabulous ability to grow mammoth sized dandelions, and I think my love of creeping Charlie as a ground cover would, if it was possible, get me booted by some of the members (I saw the looks of horror on certain faces when I said I like the little blue flowers), but I've endeared myself to them.  My defense of weeds, and my sense of humor are probably not amusing to everyone, but sending the email reminders every month wins me points, as does teaching garden themed craft projects a couple of times a year.

T.C. helps Mary 2  assemble her bench
Last night we did two projects.  TC helped several of the members make the bench featured a couple of weeks back on the Easter Monday post, and I taught a faux stone planter class.  The original directions came from the Scottish Rock Garden Society, though I tweaked them a bit.

Round up a few supplies
First, go skulk around the back door of a nearby fish market, awaiting the arrival of the catch of the day, and ask for an empty foam box or two.  You might want to buy some fish for dinner while you're there.  If you live in a small rural town in the Midwest, about as far from the ocean and big city fish distributors as one can get on this planet, call one of your friends who has a ranch, and ask if they have any of the foam boxes that animal vaccines are shipped in.  You can get them from your veterinarian, too, but they will be smaller.  Store-bought foam coolers don't work, as they are thinner, and not compressed as densely, so they will crumble.

You will also need a heat gun.  The bigger kind used for paint removal works quickest, but the little ones sold for use with embossing inks in the scrapbooking section of the craft store will do the trick.

The other tool you need is a serrated knife, like a steak knife.  I was scolded for using my good ones last night, instead of getting some from the thrift store.  Um, that's where I bought my good ones.  Look, it's soft foam, and they are steak knives that might get used twice a year in my house, so I'm not really worried.  Of course, my priorities are skewed toward the pursuit of creativity, as evidenced by the overflow from my art studio spilling across my antique dining room table, and the paint brushes piled in my dish drainer.

Recycle junk styro by releasing toxic fumes into the air...hmmm.
To begin, holding the box over a trash can, take the steak knife, and cut the top edge jagged, then scrape the sides to break up the smooth surface, gouging in a bit here and there.  Dust off the crumbs.  "Drill" a drainage hole with the knife tip into the bottom of the box.  This may be a good moment to pull out the shop vac.  If you've never cut up Styrofoam, you'll discover what I mean when you get to this point. :)
Now, go outside for the heat part, because the fumes are toxic.  You need to run the heat gun over the entire surface.  This will melt it and create realistic rocky texture.  Some foam seems to melt kind of beady, but once you have melted it all over, you brush off everything loose, so you will still have a good result.

Smoosh on the paint.
 Finally, paint it.  We used Benjamin Moore maintenance coating, which is an exterior paint designed to stick to metal.  It bonds pretty aggressively to all kinds of things (including your hands).  Ask your local paint supplier for their version of this (check the oops bin!).  Being as it's foam, and will only last a season or two anyway, you can probably get by with using any paint you have on hand.  I have a "temporary" sign that I painted with artists acrylics that has stood up to the elements for three years, now. 

Some members used a black base, and smooshed dabs of gray and white on top to create a similar look to the sample at the top of this post.  Others used a tan base and smooshed on dabs of brown and white, for a more limestone look.  You do this wet-on-wet, all with the same brush.  Don't be fussy or fancy, because the less perfect you try to make it, the more natural it will look.  Don't forget to paint a few inches down the inside of the box.  Let 'er dry and bring on the plants!

So, once again, I have maintained my membership in the garden club.  This is a good thing, as my newest endeavor is to turn my front yard, which has the only shade in downtown Belle Plaine, into a public-welcome pocket park.  Never mind that I'm absolutely not a true gardener.  Never mind that my budget for this is just about zero.  I know a good dozen gardeners with perennials to divide, and some of them will even take pity on me and help out, if only to prevent me from sneaking in creeping Charlie.  Watch for photos later this summer.

As always, if you have questions, feel free to email me dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  If you want to hire me to paint something lovely in your home, check out my website at theartofthehome.com.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Time to Head to the Lake...or not

I don't often paint outdoor murals.  Mostly because I sell my services as an interior decorator, rather than as a  muralist, so I don't often get asked.  The owner of this modest little bungalow happened into a shop I shared space in, back when I lived in Minneapolis proper.  She had just had a swimming pool installed in her back yard, in hopes of creating a cool hangout spot for her soon-to-be teen-aged son, and his friends.  She wanted to paint some scenery on the back of the house, and maybe add some wooden cut-outs around the deck, to create atmosphere.  Just beyond their back yard was a pretty strip of forested bike trail, so the idea was to create a Minnesota North Woods feel.

Minnesota North Woods Mural 2004, Dawn-Marie deLara.  (Panel 3 of 3) Click on picture to enlarge, click again for close-up.
 It was going to be a simple thing, with a few trees on the back of the garage, maybe a bit of a lake scene, and a few more trees on the back of the house.  The client primed her old steel siding with metal primer, and gave it a base coat the color of the sky on a particularly perfect afternoon, and then I started.

conifer forest close-up

It kind of took on a life of it's own.  The more I painted, the more I got sucked into it, and realizing there was no way I could stick to her budget if I kept adding detail, I asked if she would mind if I worked on it off and on through the summer.  Lots more detail, at no additional charge, if she didn't mind it not being finished anywhere near the original deadline.

Panel #1 of three, Minnesota North Woods Mural, Dawn-Marie deLara 2004
There's lots of detail on the shoreline to the left, so click to enlarge, click again for close-up.
It just happens sometimes.  The artwork tells me what it wants to be, and if I fight it, it will fight back.  Lucky for me, this client happens to be an art lover, and not only was she delighted to give me all the time I needed, she added a very hefty (and very unexpected)"tip" to the final check.  She insists it's worth it, when she sits out on her back patio, gazing across the lake, at her cabin in the woods, or floats in the pool, with the real sky melding into the painted one. 

Snag close-up

The mural, by the way, is painted entirely with exterior latex house paint, from Diamond Vogel.  Their very high quality metal primer was used, after thoroughly washing the siding.  The base colors for sky and shore were mixed at the store, but for the art, I bought the pastel and deep tone bases, then used professional tints to create the colors I needed.  Nearly seven years and countless hailstorms later, it is as vivid as the day it was painted, and has only suffered two nicks, when the rain gutters were changed.

So as you make your summer plans, remember, with a little imagination, lakefront property might be more affordable than you thought, and with no need to fill the gas tank to get there...hmmmmm

Info on how to commission me to create your dream get-away is on my website theartofthehome.com.

If you want to paint something like this yourself, most of the critical info is included above, but email me if you have questions.  I'm happy to share what I know.  dawnmariedelaragmail.com

Friday, May 6, 2011

Escape Fantasy

What kind of house would your inner sprite live in? 

The day my friend Lisa (lisaspencerstudio.com) asked me this question, I was having "get in my truck and drive till it runs out of gas or highway" fantasies, so here's is what I came up with:

It's perfect for plein air painting excursions, or cross country mural jobs.  Click to enlarge either photo, click again for details.

This little baby is equipped with a pencil-post loft bed, demitasse cup and saucer table, spool-stools, and ribbon radials.
Happily, the stress that caused the "drive to the ends of the earth" fantasy is cleared up, but I still think I would someday like a fabulously painted trailer to pull behind my van for far-from-home mural jobs.  I guess it probably won't have the ribbon radials.

Not in the Minneapolis area, but like my work?  "Have brush, will travel"  Check the website for info on how to hire me.  theartofthehome.com.

Creating your fantasy home on your own?  If you have a question you think I might be able to answer, please feel free to ask.  Really.  I don't mind.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Marvelous Minty Mojitos

Usually by Mother's Day weekend, you can expect the lilacs to be in full bloom, and the mint to be up and running rampant through the garden.  This year, Minnesota winter has hung on so long (we actually spotted snow flakes on Saturday, but tried to pretend they were gnats), that the lilacs barely have buds, my daffodils haven't even bloomed, and the mint is behaving very timid for an avowed garden thug.  Still, it's May, and that means it's time for mojitos.

Minty Mojitos on the front porch...can summer be far away?

Mojitos are traditionally Cuban, and before anyone in the U.S. called 'em mojitos, they were known as rum coolers.  Remember those?  Ha!  Your age is showing, now.  Whatever you call them, they are a refreshing way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (don't be a purist, Mexico is a melting pot of cultures, too...my blue eyes come from my Mexican grandaddy), Mother's Day, or whatever else you might be celebrating this week.  Bartenders typically use sugar or simple syrup to sweeten these, but I happen to be quite fond of honey, and think it sets off the flavor of  lime, so that's how I mix them. 

In case you aren't a honey aficionado, I should mention that you need a strongly flavored local honey to get real flavor, as the grocery store stuff, like most mass marketed things, looks pretty, but lacks substance.  Grocery store honey tends to be basic clover honey from mega producers, and has about enough character to add mild interest to an afternoon cup of Lipton tea.  Visit your local farmers market, though, and you will likely find honey from regional single sources, or wildflower blends, and they usually give free samples.  The packaging may not be flashy, but the flavor will be full bodied, and worth the bother to search out.  If you can't find a honey you love there, check food co-ops and whole foods stores, or you can always go online.

Enough words!  Let's get down to business:
10-12 mint leaves
mint sprig
2 oz lime juice
1/4 of a lime, cut in two lengthwise wedges
2 T honey
2 oz light rum
club soda or plain water

Drop the mint leaves into a tall glass, squirt in about 2 tablespoons of honey, and add about 2 tablespoons of the hottest tap water you can get.  Before it cools, crush the mint against the glass with a spoon, bruising the leaves, and dissolving the honey.  Drop in one lime wedge, and crush it, too.  If you happen to have a muddler, or a stone pestle (congratulations on being a real chef, or a real drinker), this is easier, but a spoon or the back of a solid ice cream scooper works, too.  You can skip the hot water, but it helps release the oils from the mint and the lime rind (which you washed first, right?), and helps the honey mix in better.

Now, add the rum, fill the glass with ice, and top with either plain water or club soda, and garnish with the mint sprig, and the other lime wedge, squeezed a bit.  For any non-drinkers in the crowd, this is very fine without the rum, too.

Whatever you celebrate this week, I truly wish you joy, and hope you have a fabulous time with people you love. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Coming Home

Buying Belle Ami, this lovely old house, meant moving forty miles south of the cities, twenty miles south of the outer ring of suburbs.  I'm a good driver, but I don't love driving, and I really don't love driving at night.  Except sometimes.  Sometimes, coming home through the dark, I am reminded of childhood trips, which always ended in coming home through the dark.

Though Dad was pretty particular about seat belts, I was usually allowed to ride home laying in the back of the van, on the floor.  Being the end of some adventure, all of us kids were tuckered out, either dozing, or lost in our own thoughts, and Mom was usually asleep in the front passenger seat.  We shot through the night in our isolated pod, occasionally meeting another set of headlights, slowing to navigate the winding curves of mountain highways, and pausing at junctions, with a crunching of tires on the gravely pavement.

I would lie quietly in the back, watching the stars that glittered through the tops of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine trees.  As we neared town, the treetops disappeared, and I knew our location by the sound the tires made on certain spots, or the dip and sway of certain curves.  Then there was the quick dip of the echoing underpass that took us beneath the train track, followed by a soft ka-thunk-ka-thunk, that meant we were curving onto Main Street.  Soon, we would turn the last corner, and as we roused ourselves to gather armfuls of stuff, Dad would recite the last lines of an old nursery rhyme, saying "Home again, home again, jiggety-jig".

Those last quiet, almost ritualistic, miles were such a perfect and comforting transition from the adventure of the day.  Time to replay the best parts, figure out the reason for the tiff with the cousin, mull over the prospect of the next visit, and just peacefully wind down, so that by the time we turned into the alley, all was settled, and I was ready to just be home.  Ready to be embraced by the familiar smell of wood stove and old house, the squeak of the stairs as we made our way up to our bedrooms, the chill of the sheets and the heavy cotton-scented coziness of one of Grandma's old quilts.

I seldom get back to Mom and Dads' place, but coming home to Belle often has the same feel, even if it's just coming home from a day of work, and not some grand adventure.  Though I am in the driver's seat now, with my eyes on the road rather than the tree tops, I still know the rhythm of the last ten miles in my bones...the curving hill up to Jordan, where the speed limit drops, the final stoplight there, then on past the Apple Barn, where the frost cracks play a steady tattoo of ka-thunks, then a rise, a drop, and a slight veer to the right, and up and around to the stop sign.  I've made my way back through the dark, in my little pod of isolation, sorting my thoughts about the day, arriving home, just ready to be here.  It's a different old house smell, without woodsmoke, and the stairs have their own voice, but the sheets are still icy, and Grandma's old quilt is still heavy and warm.

I think I'll go tuck in there now.  I hope wherever you travel in your life, you have a peaceful home you love to return to.  If it doesn't yet exist in your world, may you know where to find it in your heart.  Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!

p.s.  In answer to Friday's question...at least three days.  There's no need to know the maximum, I'm sure.