10 January 2013

The Garden Gate

Tuesday my new garden gate went up. I haven't had one for awhile (the old one rotted and fell to pieces, after 60 years' use), which is the main factor on which I blame my burglary--I made it just too easy. So now I am making it hard--the height of the gate is above my head, and there will be a padlock to secure it when I am not at home.

I really dislike the way things are going--I've lived in this house in this neighborhood for more than 30 years, and for most of those years I would leave the house with a window open for ventilation and the back door ajar so my cats could go out and enjoy the day on the screened-in patio. No more; now it's padlocks and alarm systems, and after 30 years of feeling secure in my "castle," I jump at every noise, inspect the reason for the neighbor dog's bark, and leave a light on 24-7. It's a sad commentary. Also, it makes me feel OLD and curmudgeonly to be talking in this vein (no, I didn't use the phrase "the good old days," but that's the gist, isn't it?).

So here's a photo of my new gate--it's a beauty. Weather-proof, rust-proof, attractive, and secure. And below it is a painting I made about 10 years ago of the old gate, when it was aged, flaked and rusted, but still hanging. Not as nice as the new one, that's for sure, but what it symbolized was infinitely more precious.

08 January 2013

From Life

I feel like I do too much drawing and painting from photos and not from life. I do make sure to make my paintings from photos I have taken myself, when at all possible, because the discrimination of the artist's eye is just as present when deciding what to photograph as it is when deciding what to include or exclude when drawing or painting, and I think it shows when an artist is painting from someone else's view of the world. (Although I have found reference photos from online for objects to which I have no direct access, when I am making a painting that requires research!)

So today, which was a variable weather day--chilly and cloudy, with the sun only peeping--I was tempted, when I decided to paint a clump of narcissus (narcissi?) from my garden, to take a photograph of them and then go into the nice warm house to draw them. But instead, since the sun had come out and warmed things up a bit, I found a nice big plastic bag to sit on (it rained last night), and went out into my yard to draw them in situ. (Also, I remembered Nina Johansson's stories from Stockholm about frozen ink, fingerless gloves, and sitting in the car in the rain for hours to capture a cityscape, and felt ashamed of my California wimpiness!)

This activity, of course, resulted in lots of curious attention from the stray cats who call my yard their home. If only they would sit still long enough for me to draw them! but they are young and energetic and in constant motion--like a statue for just enough time to make a few lines on the page, and then bolting off across the yard, or flopping down to roll on their backs in the dirt, or butting into my paintbrush hand at some crucial moment. It's hard enough to capture them on film. I tried for a few spontaneous drawings and gave up, afterwards turning my attention to a couple of blessedly stationary lemons hanging just above my head where I was sitting to draw the paperwhites.

I owe today's efforts to the "Journaling Lifestyle" chapter of Cathy Johnson's book, Artist's Journal Workshop, which reminded me to find time, make time, develop a habit, work anywhere, work fast, and use your journal as a learning tool. Thanks for the inspiration.

07 January 2013


If you are a family of five and you decided to make my Bonanza Beans recipe (see previous New Year's post), then that pot of beans is history. But if you are a single person, like I am, after you have eaten beans for three nights in a row and there is still half a kettle left, you are wondering, WHAT am I going to do with all these BEANS? Here's your answer...


4 cups very juicy cooked and seasoned beans (especially pinto or kidney)
2 cups cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 quart buttermilk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup butter

Grease a 9x13 pan. Better yet, use a 10x14 (trust me, you do NOT want this to overflow on you as you put it into the oven--been there, done that, rued the day as my oven caught on fire and my house filled with smoke!).

Heat the beans until they are quite hot, and pour them into the pan.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Mix the cornmeal, baking, soda, and salt together in a small bowl.

Melt the butter and combine it with the buttermilk and beaten eggs in a large bowl and stir.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones until smooth. Pour them over the hot beans. Bake on the top rack of your oven until the bread is a rich golden color and the sides of the corn bread pull away from the sides of the pan. This takes about 30 minutes.

Now, this dish serves 8-10 people, so you could either:
1. Plan to use your leftovers for a potluck dish with a large group later in the week;
2. Freeze half and take the other half for lunch for a couple of days;
3. Give some to your neighbors.

So, the idea of using up the leftovers in a thrifty manner isn't exactly realized by this--but you do have something different to eat, made from those beans!

Note for future reference: Next time I make this, I will use the same amount of beans (4 cups), but only use half of the rest of the recipe. I was hoping for more of a bean-based dish with a bread topping (a southern, vegetarian version of shepherd's pie?), but instead got a pan of moist cornbread with beans dispersed through it here and there.

By the way, let me properly attribute this recipe: Laurel's Kitchen, A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery and Nutrition, by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey, page 262. My cooking bible for many years.