Tag Archives: sketch

Pandora’s Recipe Box

Posted by Kerry McFall December 3, 2018

Christmas is upon us, time to make fudge and cutout cookies, so out comes the old recipe box.  ‘Dusty’ doesn’t do justice to the accumulation of oily residue and fingerprints and smudges on it as I wrestle it out of its position as honorary bookend on the cookbook shelf, resulting in the usual cascade of books and 3-ring binders off the shelf and onto the floor.  Dang.

sketch of wooden box and recipes

“Pandora’s Recipe Box,” mixed media by Kerry McFall

I pry up the lid of the box, and there is “Kerry from Dad 87” etched into the inside top with a woodburning tool.  He made it for me during his Woodworker Phase, one of many oak-and-walnut projects, including my pepper mill.  Utilitarian and one-of-a-kind, both my Dad and the box.

The box is packed so full that opening it makes me wonder what keeps all those cards and papers from literally jumping out.  The dividers, printed in my hand-writing on blue cardboard, are frayed and stained.  Given the accessibility of recipes via the Internet, this collection doesn’t get as much use as it did back in the day, so it’s been several years since I really paid any attention to it, but I’m on a mission: the fudge recipe on the back of the marshmallow crème jar just doesn’t look right.  Didn’t the marshmallow jar used to be way bigger?  Wasn’t it the large can of evaporated milk, not this itty bitty thing?  I need to find my old “original” recipe, THE recipe that actually results in creamy, delectable fudge.  As opposed to gooey chocolate sauce with walnuts sunk to the bottom…

As my fingers “walk” through the categories (two of my favorites are “Front Burner” and “Tea Treats”), I am remembering when I discovered the hard way that just because my mother gave me A recipe didn’t mean she had given me THE recipe.  I had tried for years to make Parker House Rolls during the holidays, but they were never as light and fluffy as hers, which I couldn’t understand because she had copied the recipe for me.  And then one day, she said smugly, “Well, I see you still can’t make them melt in your mouth like mine!” The light dawned.  I compared the two handwritten 3 x 5 cards.  She had written “1 package yeast” on my card, hers said “2 pkgs yeast.”  She had written “let rise” on mine, hers said “let rise, punch down, knead lightly, let rise again.”  Oh for crying out loud!

I put that memory behind me with a low growl, and finally coax out the recipe in Mom’s handwriting that says fudge.  And sure enough, the label on the jar is different in several places from this old yellow chunk of legal pad where she copied the recipe, so I’m going to have to call my sister-in-law.  She’s got Mom’s old originals now… but then I realize that squeezing the recipes back into the box is not going to happen unless I get rid of some of the never-used bulk.  In my head I hear the words to “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…” echoing: “…he’s probably going to want a glass of milk…”

But it can’t be helped, they just refuse to be jammed back into the box.  I start at the back.  There is the 3-hole-punch version – with hand-drawn X-rated illustrations – of “Fricasseed Boar Balls” from a once-young man who shall not be named… I’ve always thought this could be used to great advantage in a blackmail effort given his affinity for public office, so clearly that has to go back in the box!  There is a page of graph paper with a recipe for a potato casserole, in French, from someone named Devismes – nope, recycle.  But I wonder who that was?  Is that the family I stayed with on my first trip to France?  A double-folded card spells out a complex process for a casserole from the mother of the husband of my husband’s ex-girlfriend, with a sweet note at the end: “When you take the first bite, think of Ursula and Christmas 1993 in Corvallis”.  Aww, what a sweetheart.

And so it goes.  I find my long lost recipe for Hot Buttered Rum squirreled away under Vegetables.   There are pages and pages of typed gourmet entries (which means the main ingredient was cream of mushroom soup) from my Aunt Muriel, who loved to entertain – I never tried most of them so they go into the recycling, but a few are now family classics.  Most of the recipes are on 3 x 5 cards in the handwriting of the cooks who shared them with me, with unintentional samples of most of the ingredients spattered here and there – those are very hard to part with.  Ultimately I was able to recycle just enough so that I can close the box – but this little exercise was thought provoking.  When I google a recipe, it comes with no memories, fond or otherwise.  It comes with no evidence of little helpers in the kitchen with peanut butter on their fingers, no notes from friends, no reminders of co-workers who organized recipe exchanges, no clippings from ancient newspapers with ads on the back for honey at $.59.  It’s faster, yes, but it is SO not personal.

I wipe down the recipe box, and try not to think about how much shelf space I could regain if I took the time to sort through the cookbooks before I smash the books back into a row and wedge the box back on the shelf.  The fudge ingredients are calling my name…  I’ll save the cookbook shelf “weeding” for another Mouse and another cookie on another day.  Besides, I had to write about this while it was fresh in my head, and after I make the fudge I want to do a watercolor of all the ingredients and the recipe box… Time Flies!

(No surprise, finished the painting, still haven’t gotten around to the fudge or the cookies or the cookbook shelf.  What the hey – Christmas is still WEEKS away, right?)

Giving Thanks for Can Openers and Alley Fairies

sketch of coastline San Diego

“Pacific Beach Pier”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

We spent Thanksgiving in San Diego at Pacific Beach, where our children now live.  Pacific Beach is a small marvel, a colorful, vibrant place on a human scale that is a great place to sketch when it isn’t raining and windy.  You can almost afford to live there.  Just down the boardwalk a ways is La Jolla, also beautiful and vibrant but way upscale for members of the 99% like us.

We enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving foods (does anyone else call marshmallows, whipped cream, pineapple, and cherries a “salad”?) and traditional pastimes (watching and singing along to Muppet Christmas Carol while digesting turkey and salad), and I got traditionally teary-eyed when saying what I’m thankful for.   I’m still adding to my gratitude list, looking back on the day.

When it was time to make the “salad”, my daughter dug through a couple of kitchen drawers and came up with what was supposed to be a can opener for the pineapple cans…can mangler would have been a more accurate name for that particular implement.  It occurs to me now that I take my can opener for granted – I’ve had it for probably 40 years, still works like a charm.  It’s easy to forget that everybody doesn’t have one, at least not one that works, nor do they have any cans to open.

The mangling tool in question came from “the Alley Fairy” as they call her, who has designated a place by the dumpsters in the alley where vacationers and landlords toss the stuff they know is too good to throw away but they’re too busy/lazy to take it to GoodWill.  My kids are grateful to have a working microwave, four chairs, a desk, a spatula, and an a couple of fans courtesy of said fairy.  The fairy even left wine glasses the night before our feast (also what appeared to be a large cement cutting tool, which we left for someone else to figure out).

Now you might think that can openers are old-fashioned… nope.  Cans of sugar-baked beans and tuna and peaches make up the bulk of my Earthquake Emergency Food Supplies, because they’re edible without further intervention and will last a good long time.  Without a sturdy can opener, we couldn’t get to all that nutrition.  So I am grateful for my sturdy can opener, for my shelves of cans out in the garage, for my optimistic and loving kids and their creative acquisition methods, and for San Diego beaches where fairies dwell and the clouds part nearly every day making for gorgeous sunsets.

The gratitude list goes on, but I think I’m ready to focus on the next holidays now.

PelicanSketchX

Pelicans rarely fret about the holidays…

Sketch Crawl October 24, 2015

—That’s the joy of “crawling” for me – seeing what variety comes out of people’s hearts and minds as we all experience the same spots on the map in the same time frame. —

sketch of artist

“Oceanside Artist”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I was invited to lead a “Sketch Crawl” last weekend (Oct. 24) in the village of Oceanside, Oregon.  The term Sketch Crawl I think is an adaptation of Pub Crawl, the difference being that you’re not limited to pubs, but you do progress as a loosely-connected group as the day plays out, plying your art, eating, drinking and being merry.  It’s simply great fun!  And how does one lead a Sketch Crawl?  For this one, I shared a few of my sketchbooks, I showed a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up (mostly from Sketchbook Skool), I briefly demonstrated two of my favorite tools (china marker and waterbrush), and then we headed out to let the art happen.  Leading is less like an art lesson and more like a pep talk: “Afraid of that blank sketchbook page?  Try drawing a border first in pencil – and voila, you’ve started!  Or just splash on some watercolor in the basic shape of what you see…”

Tiny Oceanside (which is near Tillamook of Tillamook Cheese fame) offered a one-block strip of sketching opportunities, which included the Three Arch Inn (our launching point), the community center deck overlooking the surf, the Post Office, a fire station, and two restaurants. A few sandy steps down, and you were on the beach.  The “crawlers” included around two dozen folks, literally from ages 9 to 90, beginners to accomplished professionals, who came to enjoy the glorious weather (! yes!  in Oregon in October at the coast!!) and the company of other artists, even if they all weren’t quite sure what a Crawl is…

We spent the morning choosing a likely spot in the village, pitching our folding chairs and stools, and “arting”.   It was fun to spot the crawlers on the sidewalks and decks and beaches, and to look over their shoulders as they worked.  We re-grouped for lunch, most of us at the Blue Agate Café, then carpooled up the cliffs to Cape Meares.  It was breezy there, but we all found another couple of magnificent views to fall in love with.  Close to four o’clock, we returned to our starting point in the lobby of the Inn.  The Art Accelerated group who organized the event provided snacks and wine and tea and coffee, and I encouraged everyone to share the results of their efforts.

What accumulated on the floor of the Inn as we laid out our sketchbooks was exactly what I had hoped for: a wide range of styles, subjects, and media.  That’s the joy of “crawling” for me – seeing what variety comes out of people’s hearts and minds as we all experience the same spots on the map in the same time frame.  From houses on the hillside to morning glory blossoms, from the geologic marvels of the coastline to the ever-changing waves that sculpted them, each page was unique.  Each choice of color or tool reflected something about the artist and the day.  Judging from the glow on the faces of the participants, even the shy ones who protested they weren’t artists, it was clear that they were pleased to say they had been on a “sketch crawl”.

Too Hot – Vamanos to the Libraries!

When it’s NOT hot, which is pretty rare lately, this is how I spend my afternoons.  Working from my photos or a still life like this bowl of fruit from my neighbor, I sit at my dining room table and draw and paint, getting up at regular intervals to let my demented old cat in/out/in/out/in because she’s pretty sure I haven’t fed her lately, the full kibble dish in the kitchen notwithstanding…

But most days this summer, it’s just too hot.  So rather than fry, I put the kitty and her bowls out back under the fir tree, and pack up my Art Bag and go someplace cool.  This last week I went to three libraries and a wine bar:  OSU Valley Library is the largest and seems to be the one with the oldest art books; Corvallis downtown, by far the most populous; and LBCC, which was small but has an interesting assortment of art books.  I didn’t want to drag my heavy old computer along, so I grabbed a random book from whatever was on the shelves, flipped to an interesting page, and pulled out my paints.  Since school’s out and there weren’t any students around, nobody seemed to mind or even notice.

The portrait of the long-necked lady was inspired by a painting in a book (I wrote the credits on the page).  My sketching friends (mostly from Sketchbook Skool – it’s a great online community) and I have been discussing online the relative merits and various approaches to learning from the masters – this painting was shown in a black and white photograph, so it left lots of room for color interpretation.  The Ansel Adams portrait was from a black and white photo taken by one of his friends – another opportunity for interpretation.

After the LBCC library, we stopped to see the birdhouse I painted last spring for them – it really is a nice concept, with a little book inside where people passing by have written poems or drawn pictures.  It was shady there in the quad, but not cool, so on to Albany.  The wine bar was in a historic brick building that was lovely and air-conditioned to the “just right” mark on the thermometer.  We chose a table that had a good angle on a mirror.  Since I had my gear spread all over the table, it was difficult to finish unnoticed.  Our server put the word out, so I had several admirers, and the owner wanted a photo when I finished – very kind and flattering folks.

Maybe it will cool off and I’ll be able to focus this next week and finish the travel journal sketches from New England, but if it doesn’t, at least I know that I can always hole up in the libraries to beat the heat… I knew there was a good reason for all those taxes we pay!

Spring Baby: Atticus

 

sketch of lamb with quilt block borders

“Atticus Lamb”, mixed media copyright 2015 Kerry McFall, photo credit John Churchman

This is the third in my series of Lamb Portraits based on John Churchman’s photographs.  The first one was an experiment (see thumbnail below), the second a “proof of concept” (see “Cuter Than A Speckled Pup“), and this one is my favorite so far.  More lambs arrive almost weekly on John’s farm in Vermont, so this week I’ll try to finish #4 in the series!

painting of sheep with quilt border

“Sweet Pea”, mixed media copyright 2015 by Kerry McFall, photo credit to John Churchman

Atticus was done using a quick pencil placement sketch, ink, watercolor, china marker, and gel pens.  The quilt border features the traditional quilt pattern “Friendship Star”, which I have always loved – it seemed particularly fitting since John’s “Sweet Pea and Friends” Facebook page and upcoming children’s book has developed so many friends and fans!

My New Loves: Avocados and Peruvian Tapas!

sketch of avocado with decorative borders

“My New Love”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyight 2015

My daughter and her new Peruvian husband re-introduced me to avocados when they visited last month, and in addition to the tapas they taught me how to make (recipe below,) I made a few discoveries on my own that made me love avocados:

1.  If you only want to use part of the avocado for your sandwich, slice out a quarter or a half, then leave the skin on and the pit in, put it in a refrigerator container, and keep it cool.  It won’t turn brown – well, hardly at all, and you can easily slice that yucky edge off.

2.  You know how avocado slices slip right out the back of  your sandwich?  Make a paste instead of slices!  Just mash it in a small bowl with a fork, add mayonnaise if you want, then spread on the bread.  No slippery slimy fallout!  Just a very tasty, rich “guacamole” sandwich!

Now for the Recipe:

Mini Causa Bites

"Causa Bites"

“Causa Bites”

These are based on a traditional Peruvian dish  Causa Rellena, and I’m sure the way it’s presented in Peru is WAY spicier than my version, mostly because I couldn’t find any aji (yellow chile) peppers.  They are made with mashed yellow potatoes, seasoned with peppers and lime, which surround a center of chicken salad (they also use crab salad or tuna salad I’m told.)  It’s beautifully presented, garnished with olives, hard boiled eggs, and avocado.

You’ll need a simple open cookie cutter to shape them – you use it as a mold, pressing them in from the top, then slipping them out of the bottom.  The ones pictured are avocado-shaped because the only good cookie-cutter that my daughter could find in my jumbled collection was meant to be an Easter Egg shape.

Prep Time: 60 minutes +, depending on how fancy you want to get!  You can cook the potatoes and chicken the day before if desired.

Ingredients

  • 8 yellow potatoes (about 1 pound) – Yukon gold was what I used, they are quite sweet
  • 3 fresh yellow aji chile peppers (or not…)
  • 2 limes, one for juice, one for garnish
  •  2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
  • 2 gloves garlic
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or less)
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard (or not)
  • 2 ripe avocados, one cut into small chunks, one sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olives, pitted
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chilled and quartered
  • several sprigs of fresh parsley

Preparation

Cook the potatoes in salted water until soft.  Drain and cool, then peel each one by picking it up with both hands in the middle and twisting in opposite directions, like you’re going to open a plastic Easter egg.  This splits and loosens the peel and you should be able to slip it right off.  Mash the potatoes – you want them smooth but still “moldable” – and set aside.

If you decide to go Hot and Spicy:

  • You can just use a few drops of your favorite hot sauce, although any Peruvians in the crowd will raise their eyebrows… If you can find aji peppers, remove the seeds from the chili peppers and discard, then saute the peppers in vegetable oil with the garlic until softened. Place them in a food processor or blender, along with the juice of the 3 limes, and salt/pepper to taste.  Process until smooth. Stir lime/chile mixture into the mashed potatoes.
  • If you decide to stay with my Mild Gringo version, sauté the garlic in the vegetable oil until softened. I don’t have a blender, so I just mashed the garlic right in with the potatoes.  Add lime juice if desired.

Chill potatoes, uncovered for several hours or overnight.

Poach the chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt, pepper. (Poaching just means bring the water to a boil, add the chicken, then let it simmer for about 40 minutes or so until cooked through.)  Let it cool a bit, then shred the cooked chicken, and mix with the mayonnaise and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Chill.

To assemble mini causas:

Lightly grease the cookie cutter, and lay it on a square of waxed paper on your counter top.

Place about 1 tablespoon of mashed potato in the cookie cutter and gently flatten to fill the bottom of the cookie cutter shape.  Next press a layer of about 1 teaspoon of the chicken salad on top of the potatoes, then add a thin layer of avocado chunks, then add a final thin layer of potatoes. Carefully lift with a spatula and transfer to a serving plate, and press gently from the top to ease the little “sandwich” out of the mold.  Garnish each causa with a sprig of fresh parsley or half of an olive (I used kalamata).

Garnish the plate with the remaining avocado slices, lime slices, salted hard-boiled egg slices, and black olives. Chill until ready to serve.

Tip:  A pie server is a good way to transfer the causa bites from the serving plate onto your cocktail plate.

Vicarious Road Trip, Anyone?

Come on along!  The Wine Vault in Philomath is now showing my first-ever Sketchbook Exhibit!

montage of sketches and maps

Road Trip and Wine Tasting!

My sketchbooks/journals and my “art bag” have become my traveling studio as my husband and I have converted to a minimalist lifestyle.  We downsized in a big way, and have visited far-flung friends and family on several continents.  Now you can flip through four of my most recent sketchbooks at your leisure as you taste fine wines and relax at the Wine Vault.  The exhibit includes wine-related and travel-related wall art, and individual sketches illustrating some of our adventures.  Archival prints and greeting cards of my sketches are also available.  My work will be on display through June, 2015.

PLUS:  The Wine Vault has announced the release of a very special new vintage – check it out at http://www.gallerynouveau.biz/index.php/2015/05/bff-more-than-just-an-abbreviation/.

Wine Vault  www.winevault.biz/
hours: Saturdays and Sundays only 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.
1301 Main Street, Philomath, OR 97370

Cuter Than a Speckled Pup!

That was something my Dad used to say when his John Wayne sensibilities wouldn’t let him coo or fuss over a cute baby.   Appreciative, yet understated.  It was the 1960’s version of the “Cuteness Overload” comments we now see about cat videos…  Watching the arrivals of John Churchman’s spring lambs over the past few weeks in Vermont (please see https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sweet-Pea-Friends), I must say it’s quite accurate about the appeal of speckled babies of any kind!

sketch of speckled lamb

“Cuter Than a Speckled Pup”, mixed media by Kerry McFall based on photo by John Churchman

Eyes are always a challenge when doing “portraits”, but sheep eyes simply take the cake – their pupils are horizontal, and rectangular.  The area around the eyeball is much like other mammals, lovely fringed lashes, a bit of an eyelid (I think, although I’ve never been close enough or paid enough attention to actually see one blink come to think of it…), a smidgeon of eyeliner from all appearances.  BUT – that rectangle in the middle is quite unique.

Another challenge on this little fella was that the speckles were spattered all over his nose, making nostrils a bit awkward.  But the fun part about the various babies arriving in close order is noticing that each one really has a funky little face all its own, thus the Quilt Block Border.  Some have ears the size of Michigan, some have freckles, some actually smile!  I can’t remember if my “model” was Atticus, Speckles, or Freckles, but I suspect there are about 2,000 other people on Facebook who are sharing John’s farm adventures and can probably tell exactly which lamb he is!

Happy Pi Day – with Pie!

painting of pies

“Pie Social”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I just finished this a few weeks ago, painted from a photo by Charlyn Ellis of her Pie Social last November (2014).  You’d have to live under a rock to not know that today is “3/14/15”, (the beginning of the number PI), and after seeing all the bad pie/pi puns on social media, I just couldn’t resist posting a painting of PIES on PI DAY!  The big one up front must be Boston Cream Pie… looks tempting.

Life Passages: Cruel Shoes

My newly-wed daughter is home for a week.  The To Do list includes: apply for Creditcard at friendly local bank, find your sewing machine (garage? attic?), clean your junk out of the attic (especially shoes, art supplies, theater props, and prom dresses).

Being happily married means you can chuck the extreme shoes and get comfortable, at least chuck the ones that scream, “I’m in the mood to lacerate your insteps!”   And so we say goodbye to these Cruel Shoes, black suede, metal stilettos, with little rhinestones at the edges, and silvery flaps of satin at the heel and toe, kind of like wings… anybody interested?  Size 7 and a half…  The rest have gone to GoodWill, but I just had to draw these before she parts with them!

painting of metal stiletto heels

“Farewell, Cruel Shoes”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, copyright 2015