Sketching and Cooking

I found this fun website of artists illustrating recipes. I entered a contest where the artist illustrates one ingredient used in three simple recipes. I got my entry in twenty minutes before the deadline. I’d like to have you think this is unusual for me. Here is my entry:

Carrots Times Three

                                                             Carrots Times Three

Our family loves carrots and Alaska’s are fabulous.

Illustrating recipes is so much fun. In fact, I’m planning on creating twelve of these and giving them to my daughters-in-law for Christmas using Blurb or some other site that prints books. That might mean I need to plan ahead a bit. Maybe a little more than twenty minutes. Please feel free to print this for your own use, but please, don’t share, post, or sell the image. Share this blog site all you want.

More Facebook Friends sketches coming. I’m looking at a photo of the most lovely farm. It’s almost finished.

Here is the website with the contest: They Draw And Cook

Sketching with a Policeman, a Biker, and a Friend

I’ve been asked to take part in a sketching project originating in South Africa. People from around the world are joining me to sketch every day in August in this sketch pack they sent. The owner of an art supply store in Cape Town, called ArtSource, invited me and I had to say yes. At the end of the month, we all will send our little packet back to her and they will be on display and for sale for the month of October. I’m posting my sketches daily on Facebook if you would like to follow me there. I’ll post here every week as I don’t want to overload your inbox.

Day 1 web

Our deck is going crazy with nasturtiums!

Our deck is going crazy with nasturtiums!

My guitar waiting patiently for me to stop sketching and play.

My guitar waiting patiently for me to stop sketching and play.

Palmer with the mountains as a backdrop.

Palmer with the mountains as a backdrop.

Most of the time while I’m sketching people just walk on by, but when I sketched the little scene of Palmer, above, a policeman, a biker, and a friend stopped to visit. The policeman wanted to tell me about his sister who paints, the biker thought I had a flat tire and stopped to help, almost deafening me as he went by (twice) on his motorcycle, and the friend was happy to just visit. The pastoral vibe in the sketch came from somewhere, but not from the atmosphere around me.

Day 5 web

I’m having a hard time not sketching just flowers because they are just amazing this year with our record heat.

I made a wonderful pizza on the grill last week and a peach galette. Maybe I’ll sneak in a post with those recipes for a change of pace. Food is always a good idea and it has been awhile since I’ve let you in my kitchen.

Sketching With Twigs and Feathers

I joined an online group of 125 sketchers from around the world. One of the challenges was to look for unique angles so I walked around our house and found this view of our deck and greenhouse.

Deck Sketch

One person in the group made an exquisite sketch using a chop stick and another using a twig. Here is a sketch of King Mountain Lodge near where we live. I used a genuine alder twig dipped in ink. It gives a nice variety of thin and thick lines. Holding an open pot of ink is a little scary and I was sure I would sneeze and have ink everywhere. This was a quick little sketch of about twenty minutes.

King Mountain Lodge

While walking the golf course with my husband, I picked up a Canada goose feather to use as a dip pen too. Because it was Canadian, I thought it would be more cooperative, but it created a scary mixture of blobs and scratches more suitable for an ink blot test than a realistic sketch.

We’ve had record heat in Alaska which makes glaciers melt, causing the rivers to rise. I sat between the Matanuska River and the highway and sketched this tributary flowing from the Chugach Mountains into the river.

Chugach Mts

There are groups who get together to sketch around the world and it looks like so much fun. I’ve been organizing a group called Drawn to Palmer and we are planning to meet every month. It will be exciting to spend time with other sketchers and see different perspectives of other artists. During our last meetup, I sketched the Palmer Visitors Center in Palmer, Alaska. They have such a beautiful garden with Pioneer Peak in the background. I’m envious that they can grow foxgloves with just a bit warmer climate.

Palmer Visitors Center

Preserving Herbs to Enjoy When the Snow Flies

Frost has killed about everything but kale and calendula in my garden. The roses and some herbs are able to survive in the unheated greenhouse, but soon the roses will have to go into the shop and remain dormant until late April and the herbs will die. The fresh herbs will be sorely missed, but I’ve found a way to enjoy them all winter. Drying them is a good option, but so much of the flavor is lost. Give this a try to see how much more flavor you get from your herbs.

Gather herbs and place leaves, without stems, in a food processor, blender, or tall jar for using a stick blender. I used a stick blender. Add about a half cup of olive oil for a quart of loose herbs.

Gather your herbs, whether a single variety or a blend and check for bugs. If they have bugs, soak them in lukewarm salt water for about five minutes and rinse and dry gently between layers of towel. Remove the leaves and place in either a blender, food processor, or a tall, narrow jar to use a stick blender. Add olive oil-enough to make a thick liquid when it is all blended. I add a little fresh lemon juice to keep the color bright, but you don’t have to. It is better to use too much oil than not enough.

You will have a beautiful, pungent, green, thick liquid.

I pour about a third of a cup into a snack size zip-lock bag. Label it and freeze it flat. When you want to use it, just open up the bag and break off a piece. Stir it into soup, casseroles, pasta, salad dressing…you name it! Enjoy the fragrance and flavor, especially when it is dark and cold this winter.

Freeze the bags so they lie flat and thin.

Sketching the Fleeting Fall Alaska Days

September in Alaska can be beautiful. We have had a few days that were spectacular with blue skies shining on snow-capped mountains and the foothills a brilliant red with their covering of alpine bearberry and blueberry leaves.  One day I stopped to sketch at Eureka summit on the Glennallen Highway. The spruce trees are so scrawny and gray, but their summer is only a few weeks long and their roots have only a few inches of soil from which to gather nutrients before they hit permafrost. It is amazing they grow at all. All too soon snow will blanket them until May.

Our deck was so pretty this summer. I took the photo below on August 31. Since then, we have had several frosts which made the plants look very sad. Now, everything is stored away for next year. Sniff, sniff…

Turning Tomatoes into Sunshine

My greenhouse produced lots of tomatoes this summer. Unfortunately, the variety I chose and our cool summer didn’t give them very much flavor.   You can get flavorless tomatoes to taste like they were grown in hot sunshine. Here’s how:

Cut up tomatoes and put them on a baking sheet with high edges, unless you don’t mind your house filling with smoke, then use a flat one and leave the windows open and alert the neighbors that your house isn’t on fire. Cut up some onions, garlic and some herbs (I used basil, rosemary and marjoram) and sprinkle with kosher salt and olive oil.

Place in a 350 degree oven. Every couple of hours stir them up a bit. They are finished when they look leathery with some blackened bits. This will take about four to six hours, depending on the moisture level in the tomatoes

Allow them to cool a bit and scoop them into a food processor or blender. I add more fresh herbs at this point. Blend til it is the texture you like.

Use this as an amazing sauce for pizza or all things Italian. I freeze mine and taste sunshine all winter long.

Sketching the End of Summer

Here in Alaska the leaves are beginning to turn and the air smells of autumn now. I’ve been happily sketching on our deck and in the neighborhood. It feels so good to get out and enjoy the mountain air. I hope you get a chance to do the same. Below are some sketches from my sketchbook and at the bottom are some links to artists’ blogs whose sketches are so inspiring to me. The link at the bottom is full of resources if you catch the sketchbook bug.

Morning Glories painted on my deck.

Matanuska Glacier

Grasses where I walk

Sketchbook Challenge

Summer has been peculiar in Alaska this year. It feels as if we’ve had three Springs and four Falls in just two months. Fresh snow on the mountains one day causes flooding from the melting snow the next.

Today was rainy so I picked some flowers from my garden and sketched on the deck until rain forced me back in. This is part of the Sketchbook Challenge I started a few weeks ago.

An Invasion of Rhubarb and a Recipe

My rhubarb plants are in a class by themselves. If you give them an inch, they will take over the whole yard. The plants are four feet tall and six feet wide with leaves two feet across and stalks are almost five inches around.  I’ve divided them several times in the seven years they have lived here. Their diminutive parents live a controlled life in a neighbor’s yard and I have a friend who has managed to grow bonsai rhubarb; the stalks are the size of a pencil with leaves like baby mittens.

I read about rhubarb and discovered “rhubarb is a heavy feeder”. My rhubarb could qualify for “Over-Eaters Anonymous”. You might think that I have heaped fertilizer and water on them, but I haven’t. They just grow…and grow. The lower leaves end up in the compost, but a couple of times a summer I’ll make a rhubarb custard pie. One of my favorite recipes is for Rhubarb Nectar. Let me know if you make it. I’m happy to share if you would like some stalks, or a plant…or two.