Happy First Day of Autumn


Autumn Tree Watercolor 5 x 7 140lb Fabriano Artistico

For the past few days,
I’ve so wanted to create an Autumn landscape scene…

The colors… the leaves… the trees… the beauty.

each time I “TRIED” too hard,
I ended up scrapping what I created.

Then, the other night,
I just decided to do a single tree,
and I kinda like how it turned out.

10 minutes…
of relaxation
and joy
and contentment.

Sometime I have to step back and quit trying so hard to create the next “masterpiece” and simply enjoy the process.
It seems that is when the magic happens.

It’s similar to how I used to hate Fall –
mainly because it meant kids were going back to school…. summer was over… winter was coming..
and I completely missed the real beauty and pleasure Fall itself has to offer.

Enjoy the “present!”
Cherish the moments.
All the little moments…
of life

Happy Autumn…
Happy Fall
Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Cheers & Hugs,


Percy the Panda


Percy the Panda Watercolor 9 x11 on 140lb Fabriano Artistico

My recent imaginary watercolor safari adventure took a detour to cruise across the Indian ocean to the bamboo forests of China to visit the beautiful endangered giant pandas.  After all, only about 1,600 live in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature  (with another hundred or so living in zoos around the world.)  Definitely worth the 8,000+ mile trip – wouldn’t you say?

Today, I present Percy the Panda.

Percy LOVES bamboo.  In fact, he munches on it about 12 hours a day.  As much as he loves bamboo, however, it is sadly low in nutrients, so he also feasts on protein-rich rodents, fish, insects and birds.

Percy, like most giant pandas, is a loner.   Apparently, giant pandas dislike being around other pandas so much, they have a heightened sense of smell that lets them know when another panda is nearby so it can be avoided.   And, if another panda gets too close, the two will end up swatting and growling or biting each other.    The only time pandas seek each other out is during mating season.

On average, a giant panda’s territory is about 1.9 square miles (5 square kilometers). To mark their territory, giant pandas secrete a waxy scent marker.  Other giant pandas are able to discern the sex, age, reproductive condition, and social status from this scent marker.  Must be some smell!

I was itching to play with some tubes of Daniel Smith Primatek pigments I acquired a while back that are made from natural minerals and semi-precious gemstones, and have amazing granulating effects.  Percy is made from genuine Hematite, Mayan Blue, Jadeite, and a touch of Quinacridone Rose.

I really enjoyed “visiting” with Percy and learning more about him and his friends.

Where will this adventure lead next?  Your guess is as good as mine!

Cheers & Hugs,


Giant Panda facts from:  http://www.livescience.com/27335-giant-pandas.html





New Lighter Chicken Parmesan


Our little garden is just bursting with tomatoes this time of year, and the little cherry tomatoes are so juicy and sweet and delicious and plentiful that I wanted to use them creatively in a recipe instead of the usual simple throwing of them into our dinner salad.

I also have a really healthy crop of fresh basil.


Anyone that’s been around thecreativelifeinbetween.com for more than a minute likely knows I LOVE chicken for dinner and am always looking for new, creative ways to prepare it.

So last night, I decided to try a newer, lightened-up version of the classic chicken parmesan recipe that is typically dipped in milk and egg wash, rolled in bread crumbs and fried in oil before topping it with cheese and baking it.

For this recipe, I marinaded the chicken in buttermilk – a great tip for making baked (or fried) chicken moist and tender – and then simply topped it with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano instead of rolling it in bread crumbs.

I’ve said it before, and many of you know this well, but there really is no substitute for the real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  Powdered cheese in a green plastic container will not do.   Other cheeses called “Parmesan” will not do.  The real deal –  Parmigiano-Reggiano is worth the spend (even if you have to skimp somewhere else – like that Starbucks latte or the pricey bottle of red wine).  Nothing can compare to the sharp, complex, fruity/nutty, strong savory flavor and slightly gritty texture of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Inferior versions can impart a bitter taste, so if you think you do not like “Parmesan” cheese, because you ate the powdered stuff from the green plastic container as a kid, please give the real “parmesan” a try!  You won’t regret it.


I then roasted it along with lots of sweet, juicy marinated tomatoes with tons of fresh garlic and basil and healthy extra virgin olive oil.


We ate ours over whole grain thin spaghetti and a tossed fresh green salad.  It was divine!

Don’t expect it to taste like the familiar fried version soaked in sauce (which is quite yummy in moderation!), but allow yourself to enjoy the fresh, lighter flavors of this wonderful winner, winner of a chicken dinner!  (You knew I had to say it – right?!)


Here is my recipe, which is adapted from one I found on Epicurious.  Hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how you like it.

New Lighter Chicken Parmesan


  • 3 lbs boneless chicken breasts and thighs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can easily make by adding 1 Tbsp vinegar to 1 cup milk)
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 8 oz. fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced


Wash and prepare chicken.  If chicken breasts are thick, cut them in half horizontally so they will cook faster and more evenly.  Marinade chicken in buttermilk for a minimum of 2 hours or up to overnight in an airtight container or large Ziploc bag.

Whisk together olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, and salt.  Pour over tomatoes and stir.  Let marinade a couple hours if time allows.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Remove chicken from buttermilk marinade and place on a baking stone or dish with sides that will fit all pieces evenly without overlapping.  Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pat to press into chicken.  Spoon marinated tomatoes in between chicken pieces pouring remaining oil marinade over top.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes until chicken is cooked, cheese begins to brown, and tomatoes begin to bubble and brown.  Add a slice of Mozzarella cheese on top of each piece of chicken, and return to oven for approximately 5 minutes until the Mozzarella is browned and bubbly.

Serve over whole wheat or regular pasta or by itself with a fresh green salad.


Cheers & Hugs,

Rise, Shine, Kick Butt


This weekend, I:

  • sipped coffee before the sun rose from a beautiful surprise mug I found in my mailbox filled with “hugs” from one of the sweetest girls in the world
  • was an Assistant to an awesome DJ (that happens to be my first-born son), and took requests for songs I’ve never heard of, but danced in my seat to
  • sewed something pink and soft and secret that I can’t wait to share
  • sampled yummy wedding brunch food for one of the cutest couples in the universe
  • enjoyed a Pittsburgh Steelers victory and Fantasy Football lead
  • painted too many things that went in the trash while indulging in the Entertainment Network’s Red Carpet special for the Emmy’s
  • received a surprise phone call from a sweet friend I haven’t talked to in a while
  • watched the Emmy’s while sipping red wine
  • felt extremely grateful.

Now it’s Monday.
Time to Rise, Shine, and Kick Butt!

Cheers & Hugs,


Chocolate-Covered Cookie Butter-Stuffed Oreos



O. M. G!  Have you tried the new Oreo Thins yet?  If there is one store bought cookie I love, it is Nabisco’s Oreo.  There’s really nothing like them.

I rarely buy them, but I have been curious about the new Oreo Thins I’ve been hearing about.  Double Stufs are DIVINE, so how are the Thins?

I needn’t wonder long, because when I saw an incredible idea for Cookie Butter Stuffed Oreos from Ruthanne, the incredibly creative baker at Easybaked, I knew I had to try them.

And they are AMAZING!


But who stops at amazing, when you can make them doubly amazing by topping them with a scoop of cookie butter…


placing another on top of that…




and covering with chocolate?!


I was dying to try them, but knew we didn’t need a batch of these around the house for the three of us.  So when my son Nick was heading over to celebrate his future father-in-law’s birthday yesterday, I asked if I could make them for him to take over for a little birthday gift.

He offered to help, so I gave him the jobs of “hand model” and sampler to assure they were okay to send.


He approved!

I filled a little pint-sized red berry basket with a dozen, wrapped it in clear cellophane and tied with some raffia to send on it’s way.


And now we only have to worry about having eight of these decadent little buggers around to taunt us with their amazingness!

Such a fun treat!  I hope you’ll give them a try.  And for more cuteness, check out Ruthanne’s Emoji Oreo Pops!    I’m kinda tempted!!   😉

Chocolate Covered Cookie Butter Stuffed Oreos



Place 20 Oreo Thins Cookies on a cookie sheet.  Top each cookie with a teaspoon-sized scoop of cookie butter.  Press a second Oreo Thin on top to make a sandwich.  Freeze for approximately 30 minutes.

Melt Candy Melts in microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until chocolate is melted and smooth.  (It took mine about 3 increments.)

Take 3-4 cookies out of the freezer at a time, and carefully dip – one at a time – in the melted chocolate.  Use a fork to tap excess off, and slide the bottom of the cookie along the edge of the bowl to remove excess.  Set on parchment or wax paper to harden.

Add sprinkles (if desired) before chocolate hardens, or drizzle with white or contrasting chocolate after it hardens.


Cheers & Hugs,

The Happy Flower



As an artist, I’d choose the thing that’s beautiful more than the one that’s true.”

Laurie Anderson, Composer, Singer, and Performance Artist

Sunflowers are happy flowers – aren’t they?
They are sunny and bright and cheerful.

I painted this version of a sunflower – that may not really look like a sunflower to you – but I fell in love with.  And I rarely say that about my own art, so it is super exciting for me.

It is 11×14 and painted on the most glorious Fabriano Artistico 300lb “Soft” paper that is so cottony soft and buttery, I love to just feel it!

When I came upon this quote by Laurie Anderson, it so resonated with my feelings about art.  I would choose beautiful over true too.

I choose to paint what I love and feel is beautiful over an exact likeness.  I can take a photo if I want an exact likeness. (And I do so admire artists who can create exact likeness with paint and brushes – don’t get me wrong – it’s just not where I find my joy – at least right now.)  But to create a feeling of beauty, that is what I choose to love about painting.

Happy Day!

Cheers & Hugs,

Cinnamon Pie Crust Leaves


I consider myself a pretty good pie baker.
But we all have “those days” – eh?

This past Sunday, I decided to bake a cherry pie.  It’s been quite a while since I got my hands on tart red cherries, so when I found some in the frozen food section at our local supermarket recently, I swooped them up with all good intentions of baking a surprise cherry pie for my guys.  Sunday, especially with Fall approaching, is always a good time to have dessert as a special treat.


The simple recipe I found online in a quick search called for using cornstarch as the “thickener.”  I typically use flour, but found a box of cornstarch in the back of my spice cabinet and decided to follow the recipe and use it.

I prepared the pie and baked it (10 minutes longer than the recipe called for because the filling was not bubbling out of the slits on top yet – and Grandma always told me a pie is never done until it bubbles over).  I decided it had to be done, so removed it from the oven, cooled it, and looked forward to serving it to my guys who had been working hard chopping and splitting and stacking wood in preparation for Fall and winter fires.

Well – the pie filling just didn’t thicken.  My guys ate their whole slices like champs, even though they were more like cherry soup topped with crust and vanilla ice cream.

I had a major cherry pie FLOP!

I’m glad I also followed Grandma’s guidance and made cinnamon pie crust treats with the leftover dough that wasn’t needed on the pie.  Grandma typically just cut the leftover dough into strips, brushed with milk, sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, and baked until brown.  I had fun cutting mine out into maple and oak leaves with cookie cutters to make them a little fancier.

The cinnamon pie crust leaves didn’t make it to the next day.  Glad something turned out right!

Does cornstarch go bad?  Does it loose its “thickening” ability?  I must admit it wasn’t sealed very airtight, and what I used was at the very end of the box.  Or did I just not bake the pie long enough?  I actually put it back in the oven for 15 more minutes after serving the two pieces to my guys wondering if it might thicken up.  No luck.

I guess we all have “those days” right?!

Cherry Hugs,

Watercolor Landscaping



I have really grown to have great respect for landscape, seascape, naturescape, and plein air watercolor artists!  I find these scenes very challenging, but often get the itch to try.

Most attempts have been less than stellar, but I keep trying.

One of my favorite watercolor artist bloggers, Debi Riley, recently shared a simple monochromatic landscape that was so striking in a blog post she called, “Start Easy (and don’t poke the bear).  I had to give it a try.

I mainly used Raw Sienna in various tones using the simple design Debi created.  I couldn’t resist adding a bit of Burnt Sienna and Quinacridone Gold and having it resemble Autumn (with some falling leaves made from my unavoidable “Jodi splatters,” but this was a great step  in building landscape confidence.

Doing this one gave me the confidence to give landscape another try.

This time I followed the style and tutelage of Terry Harrison, an amazing watercolor artist from the UK I recently discovered through the ArtistNetwork.tv site.

Country Lane Late Summer Landscape Watercolor 11x14 Artistico

Country Lane Late Summer Landscape Watercolor 11×14 Artistico

I had fun painting the rolling hills and trying a different way with trees using more of a stippling effect.  I really didn’t have the right  brush and subbed a scrubber instead – not quite the effect I wanted, but confidence-building nonetheless.  I am fascinated with what a difference adding shadows makes too.

I may not be a pro at this yet, but I am up for the challenge, and I am going to keep on landscaping!  Watercolor that is.  I’ll leave the tree pruning, mulching, and grass-cutting to hubby.  As long as I provide a cold iced tea every once in a while, there are cookies in the freezer, and I bake a pie now and then, I think I can get away with it…

Happy Landscaping – whichever kind you prefer!

Cheers & Hugs,