Friday, April 30, 2010

Feature Friday: Golly Bard

Today is all about one of my favorite watercolor artists on Etsy, shopowner Holly of GollyBard. She's a charming personality around Etsy and her work is sweet, nature-inspired and very identifiable in its uniqueness. I love seeing her work on the front page.

From her blog (a.k.a. the Drawing Room... I love that!):

"I am an artist. Just a regular girl with a slightly quirky style. I love to paint, draw, create things and dig in my garden. I live in Virginia with my husband and yellow labrador.

In case you are wondering, Golly Bard is a nonsense name. We are a family that is just crazy about nicknames and Golly Bard is one of many that my family has given me over the years!"

And from her Etsy profile:
"I have been painting and drawing in some manner or fashion since I can remember. I studied the fine art of printmaking, papermaking, and book arts. Though, I must admit, watercolor painting is my favorite medium, my first love. For me, watercolor is like greeting an old friend. When I haven’t picked up my brush for a while, there is no need for a polite exchange. It’s comfortable. We know each other. I may flirt with other materials, but I always return to watercolor. I suppose I always will.

My paintings are a jumbled mix of imagery, randomly inspired by anything and everything that I am infatuated with for the moment. Etsy has become my little incubator, a place where I spontaneously follow my stream of consciousness thinking on paper. The work I make has a quirky style. My current obsessions include: natural history, anatomy, things in jars, garden maps, weather systems, fashion, portraits, wallpaper, calligraphy and patterns."

I really love everything she has to offer... something about the textured objects surrounded by white space lends itself to the curious mind. It really has that natural history bent to it that makes you want to pull out your monocle and take a closer look. Simply fascinating! You can check out the GollyBard shop at Etsy or see her complete work on Flickr (I really love her log series, like this one).

*All images are Golly Bard © all rights reserved*

Thursday, April 22, 2010

From the Kitchen: Parmesan Smothered Tilapia

What a way to go, eh? Smothered in parmesan? Well, this recipe really is to die for. Or at least eat as a last meal. So. Darn. Good.

One day in Lent, a Friday to be exact, I was digging through my freezer for a meatless meal. Honestly, my hopes weren't high... after all, how long had those flash frozen tilapia fillets been in there? Too long to remember. But they had been good (if predictably bland) last time, so I pulled them out to thaw and jumped over to to search for a suitable recipe.

In short order, I decided on this one, and just used what I had around and added panko, my new favorite crunch factor. The prep and cooking were so fast we weren't actually ready to eat when they were done. Amazing. They smelled delicious and we dug into them much too quickly to even take a picture for the blog. So I made them again the next week, planning to photograph... but somehow they disappeared before I had the chance. So, having recently gotten more tilapia, I made them one day last week for dinner, again with nothing to show for it, and then again (tried the reduced fat version) for lunch several days ago and finally got a few pictures. And not a good ones either, but I wasn't going to wait for my delicious lunch to cool just so you can look at pretty pictures. I'm not that nice :) Nope, no fresh green brocolli on the side. Just lip-smacking creamy parmesan heaven topped with a light crunch and highly addictive properties. Seriously. You HAVE to try it. Unless you hate parmesan in which case I'll pity you for a second and then and eat your portion too.

Enough description... let's begin our oddyssey of culinary delights.

Parmesan Smothered Tilapia


6-8 4 oz tilapia fillets
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened (you can leave this out or reduce it if you're cutting calories)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (can use light mayo)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Panko-style bread crumbs


Turn on oven broiler to high. Mix all ingredients except tilapia and panko. Place tilapia (what would have been skin side up) in greased pan. Spray fish with cooking spray or rub with a little oil to aid browning. Cook for 3 minutes (or less) under high broiler. Remove from oven, flip fillets carefully, and cook another 3 minutes. Remove from oven and turn broiler to low. Spoon parmesan mixture over each fillet, covering thoroughly. Sprinkle each fillet with panko, and return to oven until bread crumbs are lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Eat!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Life in a Nutshell: Getting Grounded

I'm not talking about punishment. Rather, living in the here and now... making the very most of the one life I am privileged to live, making a difference for others, and enjoying the moments as they pass.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me." ~Erma Bombeck

We all know that work isn't everything, that we should be taking time to smell the roses and enjoy our children while they're still young and needy. It's true, but have you ever considered if you are actually doing it? Do you smell roses?

I've had a simultaneously depressing and hope-filled week. I'm trying to focus on what is it that ultimately will make my life worthwhile, when all is said and done. This week was unexpectedly dominated by corporal works of mercy... donating used clothing, taking meals to a family who has just had a new baby, attending a child's funeral, and making plans with a group to start new service projects for a local pregnancy counseling center and food bank. I think those things, the actions of giving yourself to make the world a better place, really enrich your own life in immeasurable ways. I'm so glad I was able to be involved in all those situations and use the particular talents I have. I am encouraged. I am grateful. I feel a little bit more successful.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of leave the world a better know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. - R.W. Emerson

Sunday, April 4, 2010

From the Kitchen: Divine Confections?

Happy Easter! I am out and about, visiting and eating and socializing and being jolly. I hope you also are enjoying today with your family and friends!

As you know by now, I love Jesus. And I like to bake. The next logical step?

Yep... Jesus the Cookie. What better way to show the kids the true meaning of Easter? Edible and educational. And the requisite angel to roll the stone away:

And Easter eggs, for fun. I figured if one turned out lumpy I could explain that it was the stone. Luckily, the ugly ones got eaten promptly so we didn't have to confront that possibility.

The kids all helped make the icing... I love to see kids in aprons! Eventually I had to send them on their merry way so I could actually reach the mixer, but they helped decorate the Easter egg cookies. Kids just don't appreciate fine piping when they see it... all they wanted were sprinkles shaped like butterflies. Ah well... maybe someday.

I had so much leftover icing, I decided to practice making royal icing flowers and leaves for an upcoming little girl birthday cake. They're not perfect, but they're not too bad either. I think I need to invest in some more tips and I should have thickened up the icing more, but over all I'm not at all unhappy about the outcome. Makes me want to take a cake decorating class in all that free time I have hiding around here somewhere...

Friday, April 2, 2010

From the Kitchen: Bagels in the Basement

Today is Good Friday. A day of fasting and abstinence from eating meat for all Roman Catholics between the ages of 18 and 60... so it feels a little wrong to be blogging about food. But it is amazing how much you think about food when you can only eat one regular-sized meal in the day.

Since we don't have an "upper room", traditionally, my family ate our last Lenten Friday meal in the basement, hiding like the disciples did on the day Jesus died. As children we loved it, and I just had to keep that tradition with my own kids. The dinner always consisted of finger foods... the unchanging essentials were dyed hardboiled Easter eggs, bagels, cheese, and fruit. Sometimes there was yogurt.

This year I decided to make my own bagels, inspired by my older sister who recently swore it was, in fact, possible to make delicious bagels in your own home. I tried not too long ago and successfully made bagels, albeit gummy and undercooked ones. This time, however, they turned out just right.

There are so so so many recipes for bagels out there, and I'm sure you could spend an eternity trying to find "the perfect recipe". In my humble opinion, the perfect recipe must be moist on the inside and crispy just on the outside and very flavorful. The recipe I used came from this glorious book, and I'd recommend it highly. Actual dough aside, the basics of bagel making are the same... make dough, shape it, boil it, dry it, bake it, eat it. That last part is my favorite, though the whole process is quite satisfying!

This year was a little departure from our usual basement dining routine, however. Early Easter this year means we're just getting into the warmer weather in Michigan, and it was so unexpectedly lovely outside that we just couldn't eat inside. We thoroughly enjoyed our simple dinner with some great friends, and I fully expect to keep making bagels for our Good Friday meal in the future, and many times in between!