Purple Irises in Watercolor

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Single Purple Iris Watercolor Loose 8 x 10

Purple Irises in Watercolor.

Continuing on my kick of violet and crimson and gold
and thinking floral…
and thinking Spring… (it continues to be in the 60’s and sunny here this crazy February of Spring in Western Pennsylvania!)

I created a couple iris paintings.

They are both very different, but I kinda love them both.

I painted these on Sunday after dinner on what was such a beautiful sunny, warm day.

I have to admit I gave purple irises a try on Saturday (in the midst of “construction” work on another project in the house).

I painted four or five different versions.  They were all terrible!

I hate days like that.  It makes me feel like I’ve “lost it.”   Not to say I’m anything magnificent in the whole big world of amazing watercolor artists.  But I’ve finally come to a place where I feel like I have some bit of my own style and can often appreciate the beauty in some of my work.

When I did this first one, I was so pleased.  I felt like I finally achieved what I was going for.

I thought I’d try another version, and I like it too.   In fact, I can’t decide between the two.  I wish the photos better represented what they look like – or maybe it ‘s just me, but they look so much better in real life.

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Single Violet Iris Loose Watercolor 8 x 10

Wishing you a day filled with simple little victories and moments to feel good about yourself!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Yellow & Green Grilled Chicken Spring Mix Salad

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Yellow & Green Grilled Chicken & Spring Mix Salad.

They say it is important to balance colors in our diet.

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I love to make salads from whatever I can find in the fridge and pantry – especially at lunch time – when it is only me, and I can make it whatever way I want!

I often make a large batch of grilled chicken during the week so I can have leftovers for salads and snacks.

I love mixing veggies and proteins and fruits and nuts in a beautiful, colorful meal.

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This yellow and green salad just “happened.”  I had not planned it to be yellow and green, but when it ended it up that way, I marveled at it’s beauty as well as it’s deliciousness.

For this “springy” lunch time salad in the middle of February – when the temperatures in our part of the world have been more spring-like than wintry – I found myself topping a bed of Spring Mix greens with beautiful yellows.

Enjoying yellows and greens not only in my salad, but in the air here in Mars in this beautiful stretch of Spring in February.

Yellow & Green Grilled Chicken & Spring Mix Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mixed greens -Spring Mix
  • 1/4 cup sliced Vidalia sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Handful of golden raisins
  • 1 grilled chicken breast, sliced
  • Balsamic Viniagrette Dressing
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Place Spring Mix salad greens in large salad bowl.

Add onion, tomatoes, shredded cheese, golden raisins and chicken.  A handful of walnuts and/or pumpkin or sunflower seeds  would be great too!

Drizzle with Balsamic Viniagrette and a dash of salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Why?

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Why do I feel the most sad
when it is the brightest most beautiful day?
Some time has passed and life goes on,
but why does my heart not feel better?

Why does the sound that I used to love
of the trains blowing their horns in the distance and echoing through the hills
haunt me so much
that I sometimes want to scream “Shut Up!”

Why do the melodious wind chimes
that sing in the breeze
make me so sad and sometimes mad
that I had to put them away for a while.

Why did you have to take your life
on the day we used to celebrate
the life of another so dear to us
whose life was also ended too soon?

Why – on a most beautiful day in February – the month of your birth,
when it should be cold and snowy and blustery,
did I sit in the sunshine… in bare feet… and short sleeves…
and mourn this beautiful gift you were missing that I know you would have loved?

Why did we often let long periods of time pass
when we didn’t see each other or talk
when I knew you were there and that you loved me,
and I know you knew I loved you too?

But now you are gone,
and now I think of you every day,
and I miss you every day…
and I wish things could be different.

With love always from your sister,
Jodi

Friends – I usually try to keep my blog upbeat and encouraging, but I really felt the need to share that even in the best of days and times and all the blessings in life, there are still times of grief and sadness.  We can’t ignore it.  Grief is something we all must face when we love.  When we love someone and lose them, it hurts deeply.  But it is still worth it to love and bear the hurt, for what would life be like without the love?  To grieve means you have loved.  And to love and lose is far greater than to have never loved at all.

I also want to thank a dear friend, who somehow always seems to know the right time and right thing to say.   This dear friend – out of the blue and from far away – sent me a text telling me he was thinking of me and my brother when he heard a song, and he thought I should listen to it as it could be my brother’s parting song.  If you care to listen, this is the song he recommended to me: “Go Rest High On That Mountain

Smack in the Middle of Winter

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Smack in the Middle of Winter

The sunrise was beautiful
that mid-February day
when Charlie and I went
on an early morning walk.

And the sun just shone brighter,
and the sky turned bluer,
and the air grew warmer,
until it reached a sunny 68 degrees!

A record was set that caused
the robins to sing and the breeze to gently whisper.
It encouraged the daffodils to pop out of the ground,
and the earth smelled like Spring.

Charlie snoozed on the porch,
and we opened the window
while we painted and pounded
wearing light t-shirts.

It was a beautiful Spring day…
smack in the middle of winter.

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Watercolor Impressions & Expressions of Friendship in Violet & Crimson & Gold

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Violet & Gold Muted Abstract Watercolor 8 x 10

Watercolor Impressions & Expressions of Friendship in Violet & Crimson & Gold.

I had fun splashing in watercolor a few evenings this week after Couples Camp last weekend when my sweet Bubby told me she wanted my Illusion watercolor painting, but she also wanted a couple more paintings to complement it for a grouping in her dining room.

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Violet Floral Illusion Watercolor 8×10

Bubby is not really a floral girl (so she says), but she also has my Very Variegated Violet painting hanging in her home.  😉

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Violet Crimson Gold Abstract Drips Watercolor 8×10

She is obviously a “purple girl!”  She also loves more abstract art.

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Violet Crimson Gold Abstract Pinwheel Flower Watercolor 8×10

So these are some choices I’ve presented to her to choose from – or not…  Either way, I had fun expressing my love of her through impressions in art.

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Daniel Smith Quinacridone PurpleQuinacridone Violet, Opera Rose, Quinacridone Gold, Arches 140 lb Cold Press Watercolor Paper

Feel free to check out more at McKinneyX2Designs

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup.

Does anything warm you up more wonderfully on cold winter days than a steamy, creamy bowl of soup?

I made this yummy creamy, cheesy cauliflower soup one day this past week, and we absolutely loved it.

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When hubby, who typically prefers to eat lunch out during the work week, asked for a serving to take for lunch the next day, I knew I had a real winner on hand!

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It is chock full of delicious vegetables simmered in broth and then creamed by adding an easy cheesy roux and blending a bit.  You could completely cream it if you like, but I like to cream about half and leave plenty of hearty chunks of the cauliflower, celery, carrots and sweet red peppers.

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Fresh thyme really adds a fabulous fragrance and taste, and hot sauce is a great way to kick it up just a bit!

Imagine serving this with some crusty french or chewy ciabatta bread to dunk in it or alongside a sandwich or salad.

Hope you’ll give it a try, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:creamy-cauliflower-soup-4

  • I head cauliflower, broken into florets (5-6 cups)
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped thyme
  • 3 cups chicken broth (I made from water and 3 tsp. chicken base)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • Dash of salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups half and half or milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese (do not use pre-grated)
  • 2 tsp Cholula Hot Sauce (or you can use Sriracha or your favorite or none)

Directions:

  • Combine all vegetables, thyme, and chicken broth in a large pot.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter, then add flour, salt and pepper to create a roux.  Whisk half and half in slowly.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook and continue whisking for 2 minutes until thickened and smooth.  Turn heat off and stir in shredded cheese until melted.  Add hot sauce (if desired).
  • Pour creamy cheese mixture into vegetables and broth.  Stir until completely combined.
  • Puree to desired consistency using Immersion Blender leaving chunks of vegetables, but creating a creamy texture.
  • Ladle into bowls to serve.  

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Tart with Oreo Cookie Crust

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Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Tart with Cookie Crust (No Bake).

You may recall seeing this dessert I made for our Valentine’s Couple Camp Party.  I promised then that I would share the recipe.

I have to tell you… this dessert is not only beautiful and elegant looking, it is so simple, uses only five basic ingredients, and is possibly the most luscious chocolate dessert I have EVER tasted.  And I’m really not exaggerating.  I absolutely loved this tart!

I typically make dessert, but just taste enough to know it is okay to serve.  This one, however… I not only had the evening of our party, I ate the last leftover slice!

I am certain I will make this tart again.. and again.  It is a great dessert for ANY occasion, any season, anybody.  I would take this to a summer picnic.  I would make this for a birthday “cake.”  I would make this for a Christmas dinner dessert.  I would make this for ANY reason.

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I originally came across this recipe posted by Mary at HomeisWheretheBoatis, and I only tweaked it slightly.  Thanks for sharing Mary!

I so hope you will give this a try, and I cannot wait to hear how you like it!

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Tart with Oreo Cookie Crust (No Bake)

Ingredients:chocolate-strawberry-tart-valentines-day-couples-camp-dessert

  • 1 pkg. Oreo Cookies (approx. 32 cookies)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 12 oz. of Your Favorite Chocolate (I used Baker’s German Sweet)
  • 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
  • Strawberries

Directions:

  • Place Oreo cookies in a gallon size Ziploc bag.  Then place entire bag in another bag to double (so you can crush them without making a mess!)  Crush Oreo cookies using a heavy rolling pin, your hands, or whatever way you prefer to smash them fine enough to make a crust from.  (The original recipe calls for pulsing them in a food processor, so feel free to do that if you have one.)  
  • Pour melted butter into the bag.  Zip to close again and  completely incorporate the cookie crumbs and butter using your hands.  Pour crumb and butter mixture into an 11″ tart pan.  Pat onto bottom and up sides of tart pan.  Refrigerate to firm up for one hour before preparing and adding filling.
  • To make filling, break up chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl.  Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small sauce pan.  As soon as it boils, pour over chocolate.  Let sit for a couple minutes to soften the chocolate, then slowly whisk until until smooth and fully incorporated.  Pour into chilled, firm crust.  Refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight.
  • Garnish with strawberries (red raspberries would amazing too if you prefer!).  Drizzle melted chocolate over all if desired.  I also sprinkled just a tiny bit of sea salt flakes, which gave it an amazing, but subtle taste burst.  And then – any cookie crust crumbs that fall off when you remove the tart bottom from the sides of the pan can be thrown on top too. 

Enjoy!  I know you will!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Who has more fun than Grandmas?

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Who has more fun than Grandmas?

Playing dress up
with tutus and bows
and lipstick kisses
in the morning.

Trips to the grocery store
in the afternoon
being caught singing in the aisles
about cucumbers and strawberries and tomatoes and cream.

And in between…
there’s dancing and bouncing
and tickling and giggling
and cuddling and snuggling.

Nobody has more fun
than Grandmas!
(at least not this one) 

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

Love & Valentine’s Day

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Love & Valentine’s Day

When I was a young girl
and dreamed about love,
it was dreamy and romantic
and dizzying and sweep-away, fairy tale-like.

Now that I’m not such a young girl,
but a woman who has loved
and who has also been loved
for many more years than not…

I know that love
is not just a feeling.
It is an action…  It is a verb.
It is a choice, and it is a decision.

It is giving just as much as receiving.
It is safe, and it is secure.
It is not always dreamy and romantic and dizzying,
but it is so much more.

So from the once 16-year old girl
who fell for that 20-year old boy,
I’m so thankful for your love,
and I love you more now than then.

Happy 38th Valentine’s Day!
May we have that many more.

Love,
Me

A Valentine Couples Camp Party

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This past weekend, a gang of our bestie couple friends got together to celebrate love and friendship.

My McHendy “sister,’ Jill, and I collaborated to plan what we called “Valentine’s Couple Camp.”

Those of you that have been hanging around here at TheCreativeLifeinBetween for a while might remember our first Couple Camp Weekend Retreat that I posted about here.

Unfortunately, we missed a year… I guess weddings, babies, life… got us too involved.  But when Jill called a couple weeks ago and said we should do another Couples Camp for Valentine’s Day, I was all in and offered to host at our home.

And so we did.

Bubby and Glenn were assigned appetizers, and boy did they rock the theme!  Check out all the ways you can make food into hearts!

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I created a special “Love Potion” cocktail to toast the beginning of our time together.  I mixed 1/3 Grand Marnier Signature Collection No. 2 Raspberry Peach with 2/3 champagne and garnished with a fresh red raspberry.  Yum!

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Jill is our illustrious “camp” activities director.  After a silly group photo,

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Jill and I sent the rest of the gang to the bar, while we laid out the all the materials for everyone to create their own “Love Shack” out of chocolate graham crackers and candy (a Valentine gingerbread house of sorts).  Everyone was given a flag to name their Love Shack and 20 pennies to distribute into shot glasses after everyone finished and presented their masterpieces to vote on the best.

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We had some serious creativity going on.  Check it out!

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Hubby made his into “Camp Happy Beginning” reminiscent of the early days of love and not having much but feeling like everything is a rainbow …. or something like that… if you can imagine…

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Mary made hers into “Mary’s Cozy Cottage” decorated with a comfy couch and chairs and a big colorful outdoor patio…

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I was much busier laughing and taking pictures under the guise of “hosting” to focus too much on mine, but came up with this pretty lame “McKinney Love Shack.”

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Bubby lovingly created the “McKinney B&B.”

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and her Glenn created “Glen’s Gang Bang Getaway.”  No explanation here.  You can use your own imagination.

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Jim cracked us up with his creation. Simple, but with a funny and politically-inspired statement.  His “American” themed love shack had three characters involved…  “I’m a Russian” on his way to the love shack, “Himalyan” in the love shack, and “He’s a Finnish” leaving the love shack…

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Jill’s was a fabulous “Jill’s Sweet Shack” with a candy paved lane.

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But Todd stole the show with his outhouse-themed love shack complete with cut out crescent moon doors.

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We assigned Mary the entree knowing she would make all of our tummies happy, and she did not disappoint!  In fact, we were so into her amazing stuffed shells, meatballs and spare ribs in homemade Italian sauce, I forgot to photograph it!  Thankfully, she left a few for us to enjoy for dinner the next day, so I took a quick photo of our leftovers.  Which, by the way, tasted just as magnificent!  Thanks Mar!

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I made a simple salad and sliced up some fresh bread to accompany Mary’s entree,

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and we gave another toast to friendship!

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I had fun preparing for our guests by tidying up the guest rooms,

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including a quick convert of the nursery with an air mattress bed,

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and placing heart-shaped Dove Red Velvet Chocolates on pillows.

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I set the table with red plates and chocolate heart treats…

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and even little heart shaped spoons!

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Aren’t they adorable!

I was assigned dessert,  so a chocolating I went.  You already know about my chocolate-dipped wafer cookies and Ultimate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies which I had out, but I also made a bouquet of chocolate-dipped strawberries,

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and the most amazing and simple No Bake Chocolate Ganache Cookie Crust Tart I saw on another blog.

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I’ll share this recipe soon.  It is seriously amazing and uses only a couple simple ingredients!

We talked the guys into playing Couples Scattegories and had fun staying up late drinking and talking until later than any of us ever stay up.

Hubby made omelets to order the next morning after we all awoke… later than we usually get up.

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What a joy to have such wonderful friends to share time and our home with!

And quoting Jill from last time, I once again share:

“I recommend that all of our friends coordinate a Couple’s Camp weekend. Great fun. Lots of laughter. Many life stories shared. And the realization that life long friends and connections are priceless! So go make some memories!”

Thanks for the memories dear friends!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi