Thursday, September 30, 2010

Red Rose Tea

Take a few minutes and relax ...

When I sketch, I usually do a rough pencil outline, then ink in the lines and add details and color. But I think it sometimes makes my sketches look more controlled than I would like. So, for this little sketch I challenged myself to complete it in ten minutes, with no preliminary drawing. I did all the lines in 5-7 minutes, but adding the washes took more than the remaining three I had allotted myself, simply because it takes time for the paint to dry before I can add another color on top. Total time was probably 20 minutes.

Despite the wacky shape of the tea cup, I like the spontaneity and life of this painting. That's why sketching is so much fun - it doesn't have to be perfect. It's all about capturing the moment and enjoying the process.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tufted Slipcovers

I have an old swivel rocker in my workroom that I sit in when I have to do some hand sewing. I picked it up for a few dollars with the idea of slipcovering it. That was nine years ago! Can you believe I've been looking at that ugly old thing all this time? You know how it is - after awhile you just don't notice it; it's part of the scenery.

 Well, I finally got around to doing something about it. I found some pretty matelasse fabric that I just loved and decided to use a coordinating plaid for the buttons and welt. Looks a little better, doesn't it? I think it's really cute! It looks so homey and comfy.

I've developed a technique that allows tufted furniture to be slipcovered without sacrificing the style of the tufted back. The slipcover snaps in place over the original buttons to keep the inner back from becoming loose and baggy. The slipcover mimics the style of the original upholstery perfectly.

Matelasse is great for slipcovers. I prewash it before fabricating, and it exhibits very little shrinkage. The slipcovers are washable and come out of the washer looking like new.

Here's another cute matelasse slipcover - it's one of my favorites ...

This one also has the snap-on tufted back, but what makes it really pretty is the use of small ruffles in place of welt on the seam lines. I like the pleated skirt detail, too.

It took me nine years, but I finally got around to slipcovering that old, blue chair. Why did I wait so long? It only took a weekend, and now I get to enjoy it every day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sketches from Smith Mountain Lake, VA

I had such a busy summer, with Sara's wedding, and work, and gardening, but all summer long, I kept daydreaming about a day in September that Fred and I were going to fly off to Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, for four days of doing nothing but, well, ... nothing!

Yes, I, the type-A, work-all-the-time, always-busy, can't-sit-still person that I am, actually relaxed for four whole days. Our friends, Dawn and Fred, have a beautiful lakefront house with all the toys you could want at the lake, so we got to boat and jet ski to our heart's content, but most of our time was spent just hanging out.

I managed to fit in a few sketches here and there - they seem to capture the flavor of the place much more than photos do. I thought you might enjoy seeing the full sketchbook pages, and then some close-ups of the paintings.

Close-ups ....

I had a lot of fun doing this title page
Dawn and "the Freds" on the dock
A pretty view of the countryside near the lake

Dawn says this creamery has the best ice cream in THE WORLD!

We hiked at Smith Mountain Lake State Park and stopped to sketch this little island and bridge.
Good friends, a beautiful place, and the time to enjoy them both - that's a perfect vacation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Anna Valance

"Something simple," she said, "Nothing too elaborate or formal."  Hmmm. My client's kitchen and casual dining area definitely needed some window treatments to warm up the space and add a touch of color and style. But which treatment would be the best choice?


The Pate-Meadows Anna valance seemed like the perfect solution. It's a simplified version of the traditional swag and jabot, with less fullness and fewer pleats. I drew up a rendering for the customer's approval:

(The blue circles represent vintage blue plates which will be rehung after the valance is installed.)
We found a plaid seersucker that looked great in the room and coordinated nicely with the blue countertops, and we decided to use a solid blue fabric for the banding and ties rather than the rose shown in the rendering.

The holdbacks from "Curtains Up" were just the right size for the valance. The ties add a perky touch and the banding accents the interesting shape of the lower edge.

The dining area valance is a twin to the one over the kitchen sink.

These valances set just the right tone for the country setting and casual lifestyle that these clients enjoy. (And they're just so cute!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Enhancing A Great View with Window Treatments

I'm afraid I've fallen behind in posting window treatments the past few months, mostly because of my preoccupation with my daughter's wedding, but fall is here, and things are getting busier in the workroom, so you can expect lots of new custom home furnishings here soon. I plan to post some of my old favorites, too, for those of you who are new to my work.

To start off, I thought I'd share some photos of the valances and panels we installed last week in a home at Alpine Lake, a resort community in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia, about 90 miles from here.

Here's the "before" picture of the bare living room windows:

After meeting with the client and selecting some styles she liked, I drew up a few renderings in my Minutes Matter Studio program to give her some idea of what the treatments would look like on her windows. Here's the Morrison valance on the sliding doors:

It looks pretty good, but I thought I would try adding some banding on the lower edge to jazz it up a bit. Here's the smaller window with the extra detailing added:

Much better! That little accent gives the valance a nice, custom look.

The client needed to work with the existing furniture, and it was quite a challenge finding fabrics to coordinate with the mauve upholstery, but we found a pretty floral from Fabricade that fit the bill. Take a look at the results:

The depth of the valances was planned to fall just below the top of the doors, to allow easy access to the deck. The horns were self-lined with the floral fabric, and the entire treatment was lined with a substantial, high-quality, napped sateen lining. Napped sateen lining approximates the look and feel of a separate interlining without the extra cost in labor and materials.

The cascades (jabots) were lined with with the same deep rose fabric used for the valance banding.


Extending the drapery panels out onto the wall on the smaller window added much-needed width, helping to balance the broad expanse of the double sliders on the adjacent wall.

My client simply loves her new window treatments, and what's amazing is the way they have enhanced the woodland view from her windows. So many people hesitate to put anything on their windows, afraid that they will be covering their view. Photo spreads in high-end shelter magazines regularly show lavishly decorated rooms with pitifully bare windows. It makes me itch to put some fabric up on those walls!

Properly designed custom window treatments add warmth, color, texture, and beauty to a room, and they can make a great view even better! Would you hang the Mona Lisa in the Louvre without a frame on it? Window treatments are the perfect frame for a masterpiece view.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pierogies Like Mom Used to Make

Ah, homemade pierogies! Those plump little bundles of melty, cheesy joy! Comfort food in a dumpling! (You can probably tell how crazy I am about them by all the exclamation points I feel compelled to use when writing about them.) I love pierogies, and these homemade ones are so-o-o-o much better than those storebought wannabes. They may take a little time to make, but sometimes it's so worth it to invest that extra hour and make something really yummy and special for dinner.

This is basically my mom's recipe, although she never measures the potatoes and cheese for the filling, just makes a batch of mashed potatoes and adds some cheese and onion. She made these regularly for us when I was growing up, and she still treats me to homemade pierogies when I go to visit her. And they still put a smile on my face! Now, my own kids get excited when they come home, and I cook up a batch of pierogies as a special treat. And every time I make them I think, "Gee, that didn't take so long. Why don't I make them more often?" I hereby resolve to do just that!

Pierogies with Potato-Cheese Filling

Potato filling:
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 T. butter
2-4 T. milk
½ c. onion, chopped
2 c. cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Boil potatoes, then mash with butter and milk.
Sauté chopped onion in a bit of butter until golden.
Combine potatoes, onions, and cheese.  Mixture may be heated to melt the cheese, but it’s not really necessary.


1 egg, beaten
2 T. sour cream
½ c. milk
½ c. water
3 c. flour + extra for rolling out dough

Combine egg, sour cream, milk, and water. Add enough flour to make a dough that can be handled, about 3 cups. You don’t want it too sticky or too dry and crumbly. On a floured work surface, knead the dough for a minute or two until it’s smooth.

Roll the pierogi dough on a floured countertop to about 1/8” thick. Cut into squares approximately 4” x 4”.

Drop a tablespoon or two of potato filling in the center of each square. Fold over the dough and crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.

Boil the pierogies a few at a time in boiling water. I like to use a large, deep skillet. Gently move them around in the pan to prevent them from sticking to the bottom. They are done when they float to the top (about 3 minutes). Keep the heat turned up high to keep the water simmering as you add new pierogies.

Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and lay them on wax paper to dry awhile before sautéing.

Sauté the pierogies until golden brown on both sides. I use a combination of half butter and half canola oil, a tablespoon or two of each in a large skillet.

All done! The only problem with these pierogies is that you can't stop eating them once you start!

Recipe Notes:
- Most pierogi recipes call for using round circles of dough, but we've always made ours with squares. There's less re-rolling of the dough that way, and they taste just as good!
- I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough. After I fill the pierogies and crimp the edges, I usually trim to edges with the pizza cutter to tidy them up.
- I make my pierogies gluten free by using GF flour from Jules Gluten Free.
- Pierogies may be frozen before cooking, after boiling, or after sautéing. I usually freeze fully cooked leftovers in Ziploc bags.
- Some people serve pierogies with sour cream, much like potato pancakes, but we've always been pierogi purists and eat them unadorned.
- The chopped onions in the filling are optional. If you don't include them with the potatoes, it's nice to sauté some sliced onions and serve them on the side.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Custom Blog Artwork

When you start putting yourself out there, even just a little bit, you never know what might happen...

Starting a blog was a stretch for me - a little bit scary - but I figured the worst that could happen was that no one would read it, and the best that could happen was ...well, who knows? Sometimes not having a plan is the best plan. It leaves us open to serendipity. When we don't try to control things to the nth degree, surprisingly good things can come our way.

One of those good things that have popped up since starting the blog is that I've been given several opportunities to do custom artwork for people, as a result of their seeing my sketches here.

One day, out of the blue, I got an email from Amber Sachetta, co-owner of Madison Lane Interiors, a retail shop in Joplin, Missouri, asking me to do a watercolor painting of their building to use as a header on their blog. I happily agreed. They emailed me photos, I drew up some rough sketches, we agreed on a design, I did the final artwork, and, just yesterday, they posted their brand new blog header.  Pop on over and take a look - I'm so proud!
Original artwork (pen & ink line drawing plus watercolor) for blog header
It was challenging to work within the elongated space allowed for the header, but it forced me to be a little more creative. I incorporated the lines and squares from their business card into the design on the right side of the painting. That helped to balance the weight of the building on the left and repeat the accent colors of the potted plants, making it a more cohesive drawing.

When I emailed the finished artwork to Amber and Pam, I held my breath, waiting to hear what they thought. Was it what they wanted, what they had envisioned? Would they like it? Read the post on their blog to see.

Okay, I'll tell --- they LOVED it! Ah, that makes me so very happy. This is fun.

Anyone else need a new blog header? Hmmm? Well, maybe I should get to work on one for myself first!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Grab Those Moments

I turned from folding laundry the other day to talk to my buddy, Buckley, and almost squealed at how ADORABLE he looked, with his big beautiful head resting on his favorite old scruffy teddy bear. He was so drowsy that he actually stayed in place while I dashed to grab my camera. I snapped a picture to remember the moment, but decided later that day that I just had to do a watercolor sketch of the scene.

He may be a big dog with a commanding bark who guards our home from marauding deer and raccoons, but when it comes right down to it, he's a big ol' softy at heart.

Taking a little time to capture a sweet moment like this in my sketchbook takes effort. For years, I hardly took any time at all to do the things I really enjoyed. I always felt guilty when I wasn't working. Having my business here at home meant that there was always more work to be done. The only time I ever gave myself permission to relax was when I was away from home on vacation, or when I'd take a day and go to visit my mom.

But all that has changed in the past year or so. I've decided to stop playing the martyr and start enjoying myself more. I realized that I had a choice as to how I wanted to live my life. It was no one's fault but my own if I never took a break. I alone was responsible for the weariness and resentment that seemed to permeate my days.

So I've begun to take baby steps toward living a more balanced life. I do more things for myself. I take field trips to art galleries when a new show opens. I took a painting class last spring to try something new. I take an extra 20 minutes at lunchtime to read a book if I feel like it. I take time to make good a meal for my husband, and I let myself enjoy doing it, not treating it as just another chore that I have to squeeze into my already busy day. It's all about attitude. I walk Buckley every day, and actually meander without purpose and take the long way home. Once in awhile, I take a few minutes to sit in the woods and just listen to the sound of the wind in the trees and a chipmunk rustling through the leaves. It's the best way for me to talk to God.

I try to sketch several days a week - not aiming to produce great works of art, but just to capture a glimpse of my life, at a particular moment, on a particular day, in this place I call home. I've started doing all these little things to brighten my days and have more fun, and guess what - the world hasn't come to an end! I still get my work done. I enjoy the time I spend in the workroom more, because I don't resent being there. I'm rested and ready to work. Balance - that's what I'm learning. It's taken me awhile, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. At least I'm filling those sketchbooks, after 20 years of never picking up a brush. It feels good!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wedding Memories Sketch

After months of planning and eager anticipation, the day of our daughter Sara's wedding flew by all too quickly. It was a whirlwind of activity from the moment I awoke until my head hit the pillow that night! I hardly had a moment to catch my breath until I was in my seat in the front row, watching my sweet daughter smiling up at the man she was about to marry. It was a beautiful wedding, and, when we get the official wedding pictures from the photographer, I plan to write a big, long, excruciatingly detailed blog post all about it (for all you incurable romantics out there!) 

For now, I've commemorated the event on a page in my sketchbook. I wanted to remember all the unique little details that made the wedding such a perfect reflection of Sara. 

I had so much fun working on this sketch. Here are some close-up views of the individual drawings that fill the 9"x12" page, along with a brief explanation of each.

Each guest table had four votive candles in glass holders. The table number cards each had photos of Sara and Ian at that age - age 1 for table #1, etc. We had a guitarist for the ceremony and the first few hours of the reception. Great music with lots of variety - everyone loved it!

One of the prettiest things about the wedding was the flowers. We had centerpieces of vintage half gallon blue canning jars with huge blooms of pale blue hydrangeas. So simple, yet absolutely gorgeous! Overhead there were large white paper Japanese lanterns. Around the edges of the tent we had strings of white lights.

The wedding cake was decorated simply with rows of polka dots, and blue hydrangeas.

Glass jars filled with homemade cookies were 'favors for our guests. A large padded board covered with blue and white polka dot fabric was strung with white ribbon, and small envelopes with the escort cards inside were fastened to the ribbon with tiny clothespins. 

Signs along the driveway welcomed guests as they arrived at the wedding. The folding chairs set up for the ceremony were decorated with jars of blue hydrangeas and organza bows.

We had red wine from a local vineyard, along with a yummy muscato and two mixed drinks, one with the fun name of "Sweet Summer Lovin'". ("Hello, Mr. Bartender, I'd like some Sweet Summer Lovin', please.") In lieu of a traditional guest book, Sara designed a scrap book page that each guest filled out, with drawings, words of advice, and remembrances. Each child attending was given an individualized bag of goodies. Lacy fans helped the ladies to stay cool at the outdoor ceremony. The programs for the ceremony were tied with ribbons and matched the menus. Cards were placed in a pretty shabby-chic container.

Sara and Ian were married on a sunny summer afternoon in our front yard, under an arbor covered with flowers, surrounded by friends and family. What a happy day! These simple little sketches make me smile every time I look at them.
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