Inspiration, Continuation, and Gustatation*

In The Studio, Just for Fun

*yup, that one’s made up, artistic liberties if you will!


It’s Friday, folks: we made it through another week and hopefully everyone rocked their week as well as I did mine! Granted, it may have started slow but we are finishing up with a bang. Let’s talk about the awesome that’s going on over here, and then I want to here about your awesome as well!

Have you ever heard of a Random Road Trip? Basically it’s where you grab your gear, get in the car, and head out with no destination in mind. Maybe you flip a coin to decide whether to go left or right, or you drive on way until you need to refill the tank. The only rule is that the journey is the destination.

I’ve never been brave enough (yet!) to try a random road trip myself, but sometimes when I’m working in the Abyss I find it’s cousin: art without a cause. You have no idea where you’re headed, and there’s a good chance you’re gonna run out of gas before you get somewhere recognizable, but  you keep on arting along until some end comes your way. That’s kinda how it felt to use Kiala Givehand’s Mixed Media Inspiration Deck to create an art journal page. The results of this experiment are now available over on (preview below).


detail shot of my art journal page…

I started with no plan, just those 8 cards, but I really love the way this page turned out. The main lesson I took away from it? Watercolors can cover a multitude of sins and marry the strangest bedfellows in the process. I really must get out the paints and brushes more often!

And speaking of painting, one of the things I accomplished behind-the-scenes this week was creating a sample board for the Gingerbread Dollhouse. Yes, it’s staying pink and hopefully the neighbors won’t revolt, but such is life and such is the direction we’re going!



More on what went into the color choices in a future Gingerbread Diaries update, but for now that’ll give you an idea (of course, with everyone’s monitors being different, who knows exactly what you’re seeing above, lol).

An opportunity arose this week which I just couldn’t dream of saying no to. A friend of mine is coming up on her first wedding anniversary and she wanted something special to gift her husband. A bit of batting ideas around among friends and she’s graciously let me be the the pen to her vision.


Sneak peak of a work-in-progress–just a corner of the sketch, here.

As much as I enjoy creating business-related illustrations, those intended as personal gifts are some of the most fun to work on because you get to know the subject or recipient even better, and that comes through in the work. Once it’s finished and been gifted I’ll be sure to share the finished artwork. It’ll also make a great piece for my portfolio (which is sorely in need of an update); if you want to talk about order a commission, feel free to click on the Hire Me or Contact links at the top of the page.

Finally, to answer my made-up word in the title, this week’s favorite food is the Brie Bites from Trader Joe’s. Little 2-3 bite-rounds of soft-ripened Brie that I can toss in my lunch bag in the morning and they’re perfectly softened in time for my mid-afternoon snack, currently being enjoyed with a Cara Cara orange.

This weekend I’m looking forward to seeing the house progress in person, continuing our search for the best Chinese food in Thomasville, and a belated Mother’s Day tradition of the local Parade of Homes tour and dinner out with Mom.

What have you been enjoying this week?

Fueling the Trader Joe’s Desire


While Todd and I consider ourselves firmly in the omnivore camp, we dabble with flexitarianism from time to time, too. And with the recent announcement that a Trader Joe’s is coming to our town (date TBA, but you can bet I’m checking out that shopping center every time I drive by), I was particularly excited to get my hands (and sticky notes) on The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Kris Holechek Peters.

The I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook by Kris Holechek Peters

The book aims to make the best use of the TJ’s-branded consumables and just whet my appetite even more for one of their shops opening its doors not 5 minutes from my home (under 2 if I catch the lights just right). Of course, without one nearby, I had to concentrate on the recipes that didn’t depend on branded items as much as general staples, and we still managed to give the book a fair shot.

4 dinners cooked from the I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook

(apologies for the photo quality–my computer ate all but some thumbnails of this week)

(top left) The first recipe I just had to try was the Hawaiian BBQ Sandwich. Using chickpeas for protein and pineapple along with a Kansas City-Style barbecue sauce sounded pretty genius. Unfortunately it was very tough to eat as a sandwich–knife and fork recommended. The flavor was good, though, so I think if I make these again I’ll puree or at least partially mash some of the chickpeas to help the insides stay together. The Sweet Brussels Sprouts Saute, on the other hand, was quite good with its dried cranberries and shredded apple adding a nice hint of sweetness to the very pronounced flavor of the Brussels sprouts.

(top right) Tuesday night saw our favorite recipe of the book, hands down: the Roasted Carrot Risotto totally fulfilled the image that name planted in my head. Smooth and creamy and that extra depth of flavor from roasting the carrots just made it a perfect meal for a lackluster Tuesday. To go with it, I used the Snap Cashew Crunch recipe from the same chapter and just eliminated the “serve over rice” bit to make it a bright green counterpoint side to the rich risotto.

(bottom left) Wednesday night is game night for Todd, and that means a quick supper is needed before he has to dash out the door. These Sweet and Sunny Flatbreads from the appetizer chapter made great main-dish open-faced sandwiches and really did come together rapid-fire. I served them up with the Apple Mallow Sweet Potato bake I told you about, and it made for a colorful and tasty plate.

(bottom right) Vegetable soups tend to be hit-or-miss in my book; so often they end up too watery for my taste. The Herbed Veggie Stew was surprisingly tasty, rich and hearty with two types of potatoes, beans, and plenty of fresh herbs (hence the name). All it needed was a side of biscuits and it was a perfect supper for the dark and dreary day we were having.

Banana Cinnamon Rolls from the I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook

Our final dip into the book gave us these delectable Banana Cinnamon Rolls that featured bananas both in the filling as well as in the yeast dough. They were delicious with or without the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting Peters suggests topping them with. Intended as breakfast, we served them as dessert when we had company for dinner Sunday night, then had the rest of the pan as morning snacks during the week.

As the author is a vegan blogger and cookbook author, I learned quite a bit in the opening sections about ingredient selections for special diets. For instance, did you know that it’s possible for sugar to be non-vegan?! Go figure! Peters is also careful to offer vegan variation notes with each recipe, along with frequent gluten-free tips, as well.

I did have a couple of small quibbles with some of the instructions–often it would read to heat the oil over medium-low heat and then saute. You can’t really saute at medium-low, you need high heat for that cooking method, so that’s a little misleading for beginner cooks. Also, the instructions for the risotto were to add the stock 1 cup at a time and I’ve found that you get the best benefit by only adding half a cup or less at a time.

But those were small quibbles compared to the delight of the variety of recipes included in this book. I still have plenty of sticky notes for recipes we couldn’t fit into the week I cooked from The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook that I’m looking to try. Especially once our local store opens!


I received a copy of The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook for purpose of review. The images and opinions above are entirely my own.