The Great Spice Challenge

  • Food + Drawing

    I don't know why it took me so long to start drawing food. I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to combine my two interests somehow. In the last eight months, I've done lots of food drawings, beginning back in October with my Inktober recipes. I wanted to illustrate for someone other than myself, so I reached out to friends who have a coffee business. I'm working on a series of illustrations for different methods of brewing coffee. It's so much fun for me, and I find it satisfying to be working for "clients" other than myself.  

  • Chickens

    These chickens were modeled on my own chickens, Duck and Cluck. I took an online class from Anita Lehman through Carla Sonheim's website that was a very thoughtful look at composition. Sometimes it's nice to get back to basics and see how structure influences outcome. And, on a side note, it's been nice to have fresh eggs to eat and use in baked goods!

  • A New (Old) Way of Working

    I don't know why it took so long for me to go back to making collage and mixed media pieces. Maybe I didn't think they were "serious" enough, or I forgot how much fun it was for me to work this way, or maybe I just forgot how to do it. Recently, I found some fruit that I painted simply on canvas paper. I took out cheap, thin acrylics, poured green and yellow on top, and pushed the paint around the paper. After it dried, I tore out the fruit and saved them for a collage. That's where my playing around with fruit bowls began the other day. For a slight change of pace, I took a yellow piece of painted paper and turned it into a French press. I've mainly been using really smushy media, like a soft pencil, conte crayons, and Faber Castell gelatos. These collaged pieces really feel like me, and I'm loving all the color!

  • New Things!

    I'm test driving some new products at the market this Saturday. It's so much fun to play with color and shape on functional bags and totes. I like the simplicity of playing with fabric, paint, and potatoes. Yes, potatoes! That's what I used to make my stamps......and, they're compostable!

  • Stretching

    I decided to challenge myself with an online course, Explore Florals, taught by Victoria Johnson. It was three weeks of design briefs, each focusing on a different way to think about florals, with an accompanying palette. It was harder than I thought to get out of my own way of doing things and try something new. Just like life, I suppose.

  • Creative Thinking


    I am so thrilled to have my very first drawn illustration in the current issue of UPPERCASE Magazine! 

    I drew this on Thanksgiving, 2017. We decided to stay home and celebrate, just the three of us. I wanted my daughter to feel like that even though we weren't going anywhere, it was going to be a special day. So, I let her pick the drinks!

  • Pushing Forward

    I'm trying to remember this and to boldly learn new things without getting bogged down by self doubt. It's hard!

  • Plugging Away

    I'm trying to enjoy the quiet stillness of winter. We've had lots of snow (and snow days) and rain, which has made for long weeks of nasty weather. I'm drawing daily and I can see myself steadily improving. 

  • Winter

    above image—not winter

    Winter is not my favorite season. It's cold, it's dark, it's icy....but with those restrictions comes permission to quiet your mind, think, make. It's the season when I have the most time. My daughter is in preschool, and farmers' markets are few and far between. It allows me to focus on my art and on all the other little projects that I think about during the summer. This year I'm stretching and taking Make Art That Sells, an online course from art agent Lilla Rogers. So far, I feel out of my element, which I'm taking as a good sign. Growth comes in fits and starts, and it isn't always comfortable.

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The Great Spice Challenge


I really appreciate challenges that have limitations. It’s proof of what you can make with a length of rope, a piece of wood, and a slice of American cheese. Currently, I have accepted the challenge to use fresh whole spices in new, surprising ways. Marx Foods offered free whole spices to bloggers willing to test and come up with recipes and interesting uses. It’s a marketing scheme, but certainly one that is mutually beneficial.

Last week, I received the sweetest box in the mail full of tiny sample bags. Most are quite familiar, but there are a few that I’ve never used in their whole form (annatto seed) or that I’ve never thought much about using on an everyday basis (fennel pollen, whole star anise), and some that are old familiar friends that I never tire of seeing or using (whole Tahitian vanilla beans, Tellicherry peppercorns).

Although I am a strong believer in using whole spices, freshly ground, it is not always practical when you get home from work and want to eat immediately. I was finally inspired to invest in a small, manual spice grinder. I have a mortar and pestle, which I’ve used with variable success, and a coffee grinder that I would never consider using for spices (I don’t believe that a piece of stale bread would really get rid of the remnants and not ruin our beloved brew). I found an inexpensive model at the local kitchen store, half the price of a well-designed Swiss model, but with similar features including a ceramic mechanism. It has a little enclosed container to catch the freshly ground spices, which is a huge plus (and the Swiss Miss did not). I tested it immediately and it easily ground allspice berries to a fine, feathery powder unlike my mortar and pestle, where any round spices would jump out onto the floor. Annatto seed proved especially taxing to my white marble mortar and pestle, finally turning the waxy seeds (with the addition of olive oil) into a vibrant brick-red paste that had no intention of washing off anything, including my hands and now orange mortar and pestle. Now that I am correctly equipped with a spice grinder, I am ready – let the Spice Games begin!