Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Adding to My Collection

Are you an artist? Are you also an art collector? I am both, and I love collecting the art of others. Living in Florida, we are at the start of the outdoor art show season. For the next three months, we have a few choices each weekend of wonderful art shows to attend. I've been to many, but there was always one on my list that remained elusive, until now. Last weekend I went to the biggest of them all, the Las Olas Art Fair. This show goes straight down the closed-down Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale, with 300 artists. I've seen a few of the artists before, and bought some of their pieces. There were a lot of new ones too. Here are some trends I saw:

-- Not a lot of traditional oil painting, but the ones there were amazing.
-- Most of the pottery was Raku.
-- The jewelry at this show was top-notch. Jewelry booths didn't take over, though, like at a recent show where 56 of the 250 booths were jewelry.
-- Resin-coated paintings are really in. I saw about 10 artists who did that. I'm not sure I like it though. It gives such a shine to the piece, and I really like texture and being able to feel the texture of the painting. I guess growing up in Cocoa Beach, they just remind me of surfboards.
-- Mixed media paintings are developing a stronghold in major art shows, which is nice to see. I like the combination of paper with paint, and the addition of pencil and other media to the paint.
-- Blown glass is becoming more popular. I saw some amazing artists who are stretching the boundaries, including geometrics in blown glass by layering colored glass upon colored glass.

And finally, here is the piece that I got. It's hanging in the main room of my house so everyone can see it.

It is a long, pottery tube that could be used as a hanging vase. The artist's name is Tanya Tyree, and she is from Afton, Virginia. She explains that this piece is hand built, without the use of molds or templates. She adds original abstract drawings, it is glazed, and then raku fired. What I like most about this is all the different motifs -- house, sun, bird, trees -- and you see something new each time you look. The colors are great with my buttery-yellow wall and light blue and brown furniture.

You can see more of Tanya's art here.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What a Christmas Season

Want to hear something weird? When I was growing up, we didn't put up our tree until Christmas Eve. Of course, I didn't think that was weird. I loved it. In fact, when we were real young, Santa Claus put up the tree. Can you imagine the amazement when you woke up Christmas morning, and a tree was there, with all the presents? I loved that tradition. I think it came from my Dad's German mom. Anyway, I still am a little off with the rest of the world in having a tree up. I like to put it up around the 18th, and leave it up to around the 3rd. This year was different. We hosted my husband's family for Christmas on the 4th, so we needed to get the tree up early. His cousin came from England for Thanksgiving, and stayed a bit extra, so we wanted to get the Christmas celebration in before she left. So, for the first time ever, we put our tree up early. On December 1st. (We refused to do it in November.) Here we are putting the star at the top of the tree.

A week or so later, we visited Santa at the mall. My son was there, taking the picture. I didn't make him sit on Santa's lap this year. I think maybe I did last year. I should probably have made a rule that once he reached six feet tall, he wouldn't have to do the Santa thing.

Christmas in our house is actually a 3-day affair. Christmas Eve is exciting because of the preparations, Christmas Day is great, and then the 26th is great too because it's my son's birthday. For the past two years, we spent Christmas up north, giving the kids a wonderful snow vacation. This year, the kids really wanted to spend it all at home, and my husband had all those three days off, so it was great. We started by hosting 14 people for Christmas Eve dinner. It was 80 degrees during the day, so we were able to eat outside. What a fun night. Everyone brought a dish, so I didn't have to work too hard.

Here's what we woke up to Christmas morning.

And here it is about three seconds later. Well, maybe a little longer. My kids actually sleep in on Christmas. I know, all you parents whose kids wake up at 5 hate me right now. I woke up at 7, just because I couldn't sleep in if I tried. I had breakfast and read the paper, and at 8:00 my daughter finally woke up. We held her back until 8:30 when we let her wake up her brother.

We had Christmas dinner on the patio too. I was ambitious and made a ricotta/cranberry/pecan-stuffed turkey breast that was amazing, and a prosciutto/fontina/basil-stuffed flank steak on the grill. We ate so much, no one was interested in dessert. Now that's a feat!

The next day we celebrated Michael's 17th birthday. We took him down to a Brazilian restaurant where we could eat to our carnivore's delight.

We capped off the holiday season with a trip to visit my dad and brother in Cocoa Beach. My sister was visiting with her family from Virginia. We gave the kids a treat and surprised them with a limo ride. We took it out to dinner then drove around looking at Christmas lights. Here we are before we left.

And here's the craziness in the limo.

I hope you all had a great holiday season and are looking forward to a bright and merry new year.

P.S. It's no longer 80 degrees here. We woke up to 30 degrees on January 3.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Love to Bake

Have I told you that before? I really, really love to bake. If I'm stressed or out of sorts, baking is what brings me back. Of course, I love to eat what I make, but I love more to give it away. That's my thing. If you're recovering from being in the hospital, I'll bake you some cookies. Just had a baby? I'll bring you some muffins.

A few years back, we started a tradition of a Holiday Dessert Party. It started with everyone coming over for coffee one night before Christmas, and I would put out a big spread of desserts. It's evolved into a full party, where all the guests bring appetizers or drinks, and I still make all the desserts. I start baking the week before, and have so much fun making cookies, cakes, creme brulee, tarts. I always make my family's traditional cookies: pink spritz with peppermint; white spritz with lemon; and green spritz with peanut butter and almond. These are amazing and actually called Velvet Cookies. They really do melt in your mouth. I also make thumbprint cookies. My mom always put candied cherries in the middle, but I put chocolate chips or a dollop of raspberry jam.

For my husband's firefighter friends, I always make a Red Velvet Cake, although this year I made cupcakes. I also made vanilla cupcakes with ganache frosting. So simple, and so good. My favorite go-to recipe when I want to bring a dessert with a bit of "wow" to a party is my Caramel Macadamia Nut Bars. Those are to die for.

I've still got a few leftovers in the fridge. They're great for late at night. If you're interested in any of my recipes, let me know. I love to share.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Back to My Blog

I've been neglecting my blog, and all my readers, for awhile. Mostly it was because our computer was dropped, I had to get a new hard drive, and I lost all my photos that were located there. I just don't think a blog post is fun if it doesn't have a photo attached. I also took a much-needed vacation from the computer during Christmas. I didn't even check my email from December 20 through January 2! Since I work from my home, a lot of my work is generated by emails. I had a few hundred to go through, and now I'm updated. I took my computer to the geek-expert who easily regained my internet access. Then I spent the day re-loading all my programs, and the next day re-loading some photos. So I think I'm back in business now!

For the next few blog posts, I'll tell you about our holiday season. But for now, I'll show you a little culture. Have you seen any Shakespeare lately?

My son recently played Mercutio in Suncoast High School's production of Romeo & Juliet. Michael was the comic relief in an otherwise tragic play. He gets drunk at the ball, flails drunkenly with his sword, and then ultimately dies in a sword fight with Thibault. We thought the casting was a bit funny, not because Michael can't handle a comic role -- that's actually what he's best at -- but because at 6'3", it seemed odd that Michael was felled by a 5'6" Thibault.

Michael performed 7 times over 3 weeks, and I saw 4 of them. I can't wait to see what he does next!