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Refreshing the Spirit

There is something about the magical beauty of Spring: the flowers, returning songbirds, the sunshine that makes me appreciate art even more. I know I should be out in the beauty, but like, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, I often find myself in my room, composing. Taking a break from one of my marathon sessions, I decided to do a little surfing…virtual style and ran across some new artworks from one of my favorite artists that caught my imagination.

portrait in blue

Zan's Got the Blues1

The intensity of the subjects’ gaze; the creative palette just drew me in. It seems clear from her artwork, Alix “Zan” is fascinated by what lies behind the curtain. And in the case of people and animals, so much can be read in the eyes.

Alix even has a series called Windows of the Soul which shows in their eyes a reflection of what the subject is viewing. An example can be seen in the pencil sketch entitled Monica’s Dog.

Pencil portrait of beagle

Monica's dog

Currently living in Arizona, Alix frequently paints desert landscapes and portraits of many of her native American friends.

portrait of young girl in blue

Zan's Got the Blues2

Once in a while, though you can see hints of her origins in the rolling hills of Virginia in a rare snow scene

Snow Scene

Winter Home

or a study of water lilies. A link to her site is under Artwork on the sidebar.

Pink Water Lilies

Escape to Summer

Neptune Sculpture

Neptune

A steady diet of ice, frigid winds and gray days was making me frantic for a taste of Spring. Any excuse to head south, even if its only a little south, sounded like the escape I needed. For me, the excuse was a family excursion to a Dart Tournament held in Virginia Beach. My two sons pitted themselves against international competitors, while I explored the beachfront for the promise of good times to come.

The boardwalk in Virginia Beach is not really a boardwalk, its made of concrete. It is three miles long and sports not only shops and restaurants, but in the high season jugglers and entertainers. If you are more inclined to see the sights while sitting down, you can rent a bike for one or two or more.

boys digging in the sand

Treasure Hunters

If you are the less energetic type, you may enjoy wandering in the sand collecting memories in the form of shells and sea glass and the sound of the waves on the shore.

Or follow the lead of a few adventurous souls who donned  wetsuits and paddled their boards out in search  of a good wave to ride to shore.

There is a website which has a list of things to do, and places to see in Virginia Beach and the environs. They even have a calendar of events which offers an activity for every taste from blues fests to horseback riding, art shows and beer festivals.

One of my favorite attractions is Neptune’s Park. It not only captures me with the awe-inspiring sculpture of the old man of the sea, but in summer offers concerts and events.

Photos courtesy of Michael Abell

The Heart of the Matter

valentine hearts joinedThere are numerous legends about the origins of Valentine’s Day, some going back as far as the Third Century. Most of the storytellers admit that the truth of the matter can never be proven. But there is something true about this holiday that is more important than how it started. The concept of dedicating a special day to express love has survived the test of time.

Most of us can remember the little paper hearts we received and gave in grade school; the God-awful candy hearts with pleas of “Be my Valentine” carved into their chalky center; the satin covered boxes filled with chocolates. Sometimes the occasion was marked with champagne and even jewelry. This holiday gives us the opportunity to tell spouses, lovers, children, friends and family that they hold a special place in our heart.

While cards, candlelight dinners, chocolate and champagne are a great way to say “I love you”, there are fun alternatives…and one I can think of that doesn’t fight the New Year’s Resolution to lose a few pounds.

Send a singing Valentine. Mason Dixon Chorus is a local barbershop association that will serenade your loved one for a $40 fee. They bring a card and stuffed teddy bear and sing two songs (you can make requests).

barbershop quartet and fan

Mom enjoying her serenade

I was so delighted with their performance for my Mom two years ago, I booked them again.

I would love to hear about the special ways all of you celebrate this unique day. Please share your stories in my comment section. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Indoor Sports

Robert Byrne is reputed to have said, “Winter is nature’s way of saying ‘Up yours’”. My sentiments, exactly.

During the icy gray days that follow the holidays, I look for ways to amuse myself indoors. There can be no better venue to amuse oneself than a place that displays art, while serving fine food and drinks. Last Saturday, I was treated to a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The Cellar Door in Frederick, Maryland opened an art show that included three of our local artists; Karen Peacock, Sonia Gadra and Bev Reidinger.

Picture of artist Karen Peacock in front of her work

Karen, a fan and her work

The opening was due to begin at 2 p.m. As usual, I arrived unfashionably early, and though much of the artwork was already hung, none of the artists had arrived yet.

The wait staff was extremely gracious and rustled me up a bracing cup of pomegranate tea. Eager to see the assembled works I meandered around, enjoying the marriage of creativity and mixed media.

Before long, I was joined by other art lovers, and the artists themselves. The art show will be open through February. There will be a price list available for those who want to bring a special piece home.

Homemade mixed media artwork

Homemade by Karen Peacock

I was particularly taken with a mixed media artwork by Karen Peacock, called Homemade. Unfortunately, the price list had not yet arrived, so I will need to make another visit to see if I can juggle being a patron of the arts after the damages done to my bank account by the gift-giving and gatherings of Christmas.

Hopefully, another art lover will not have snatched it up before I return.

Painting of Lilacs by Sonia Gadra

Lilacs by Sonia Gadra

Truth be told, I would like to be able to take home two of the paintings I saw. Sonia Gadra’s Lilacs transported me to fair weather and peach coolers on the veranda.

The Cellar Door is located at 5 East Church Street downstairs in the space that used to house The Brown Pelican. There is parking on the street and it is only a half a block from one of Frederick’s convenient parking garages.

Sonia Gadra and her artworks

Sonia Gadra and her works

The menu incorporates a whimsy that offers fish tacos on the light fare menu and New Zealand Lamb Chops prepared  with goat’s cheese, mushrooms and sherry, served with seasonal veggies and horseradish mash as an entree.

This is a one-stop opportunity to feed your senses while avoiding winter weather. And if you do buy one of the artworks I have my heart set on, be kind enough to comment on my site to let me know how much you are enjoying it in your home along with an invitation to visit it there.

Its The Time of Year

Vaulted Christmas Scene

Sigfus.Sigmundsson's Christmas: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigfus/3104218219/

And Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

There is something magical about this season. Whether you honor the birth of Christ or are caught up in the “goodwill to men” spirit, chances are there is something about Christmas that puts a little spring in your step.

For me, its the carols; instant antidepressants borne on musical notes. Of course, there are those who would say its the savory smells; foods that are family favorites, reserved for this special time of year. And there are others who would say its the carefully wrapped presents under the shining tree.

Whatever it is, it gives us the excuse to put aside the drudgery of every day life, and for a brief time surrender to the thrill  of neighborhoods sculpted in garlands of  lights; or feel the embrace of family and friends who visit from near and far. This season fans the flame of hope that there is a Santa Claus, that wishes do come true and that Peace on Earth is not just a fairy tale. God bless us, every one!

figgy pudding

Figgy Pudding

Figgy Pudding

1 cup suet (healthier alternative would be coconut oil)

1 cup sugar

3 large egg yolks

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons rum

1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped

1 pound dried figs, ground or finely chopped

 

Grated peel of 1 lemon and 1 orange

1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 large egg whites, stiffly beaten

 

Grease a two-quart mold.
Cream  butter and shortening together. Gradually add sugar, egg yolks, milk, extract, apple, figs, lemon and orange peel. Add next 6 ingredients, mixing well. Fold stiffly beaten egg whites into mixture.
Pour into two-quart buttered bowl  or mold and place into large shallow pan and steam for four hours.

 

Custard Sauce

2 cups milk
1 large egg
3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
In saucepan, scald milk and allow to cool.
Mix together remaining ingredients, except for butter. Add to cooled milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, mixing well.

 

The Stained Glass Crab

Photo courtesy of Scottobear's Flickr page
Callinectes sapidus douglassi

Photo courtesy of Scottobear’s Flickr.com account

 Thumbs up to Jackie and John Douglass of Shady Side, Md, who had the whimsy, and considerable talent to construct a five foot high, ten foot wide stained glass crab. It is named Callinectis sapidus douglassi and weighs in at 400 pounds.

It was commissioned by Anne Arundel County as a tribute to one of the Chesapeake Bay’s attractions, the blue crab. It has slowed more than a few tourists to a crawl as they traverse BWI (Baltimore-Washington International Airport) and has even made a visit to Baltimore’s sister city in China.

If you want to come face to face with a real blue crab, check out Sandy Point State Park in Anne Arundel county where they have a fishing and crabbing pier. Or you could visit one of the outstanding seafood restaurants in the area.

If your interests lean  more toward home cooking, ice your beer, chill your Chardonay and try the delicious recipe below.

 

 

And Other Southern Comforts

This site is dedicated to living well. There is nothing so irritating to your neighbors as seeing a silly grin on your face, and having no explanation for it. They are not sure whether you are having a chuckle at their expense or have won the lottery. In either case, they are unlikely to share your joy. Your good fortune is just a cruel reminder that once again, the good luck fairy has passed them by.

Of course, there may be some gentle folks among you who have no desire to frustrate those who live on their lane…and for them, I say living well is its own reward…and give it time; you will develop a taste for cantankerousness.

There just comes a time when it seems right to do all those things you thought you would do one day, like going to Europe, or watching other people with more bravado than brains rollerblading. It only takes one well-placed acorn to witness airborne spectacles not seen since Evil Kneivel hung up his bike.

It is for this reason that I do most of my outdoor calisthenics right on the front porch in my rocking chair. I am following doctor’s orders and neighborhood gossip in one fell swoop.


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