Friday, November 11, 2016

A Gratitude Break

Maybe there's a reason two great gratitude holidays closely follow our election day. We could certainly use a moment to be grateful, so I am very happy about today's MIX-Ability theme for Veteran's Day.

I think one thing everyone can actually agree on is gratitude for the generations of sacrifices that stretch behind us to touch the reality of living under a tyrant, and the millions of lives lived under a series of them in the years between.

Sometimes we just don't remember the difference between now and then and it's wonderful to take a day to do that.

I am grateful.

This was just a quick Schmincke Watercolor, with some Nuvo Drops on the poppies. They are really shiny and fun. The Grateful die is from Concord & 9th.

Before I went to Arizona I did a ton of research on brush cases. I've never had one I liked because none of them really protected the bristles well enough during the roughness of travel. I adore my Silver Brushes, and I didn't want anything to happen to them in my carryon. So I finally found one that has a little flap that protects them inside the case. Now I keep them in here at home as well. I also carried a few watercolor pencils in there for sketching while I was out and about. It has four compartments with flaps for your brushes and the case is plenty roomy enough for erasers, aquapainters, absorbers, etc. I love it.

Here's what the inside looks like.

I'm listening to the audio version of one of my favorite childhood books right now - A Wrinkle in Time.

The reading is great, and there's an intro by the author which is fantastic.

I had forgotten how dark that world was, and it's fascinating experiencing it again. I've always loved dystopian stories like this, and her view of it through the young characters is incredible. I won't give away what she says in the introduction, but I can tell you that it's true. This book presents quite differently when you are older. I highly recommend it.

I also made some tomato bisque today - this is one of my favorite soups when I go out to eat and I've tried for a decade to find a recipe I liked. Most of the ones I've tried just generally lack flavor. There was always something missing. This one today I love!! The original recipe I started with was Jeff Mauro's - I really like a lot of his recipes - but portions of that recipe are not ideal, so I made a few tweaks, and here they are.

JeffLydiaMauroFiedler's Tomato Bisque soup

Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained of their juices (I used San Marzano - no basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 shallots, quartered
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Dried or fresh thyme - 2-3 tsp to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp minced California garlic in a jar.
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons dry sherry
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 to 2 cups vegetable broth.
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the drained whole tomatoes, olive oil, light brown sugar, thyme carrots and shallots, and toss to coat. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Place just the carrots and shallots on a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until caramelized, about 30 - 45 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes catch up - about 30-35 minutes. The carrots take MUCH longer to cook - the original recipe leaves you with crunchy carrots. 

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add the butter and cook until foaming. Add the crushed red pepper and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the sherry. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the alcohol has cooked off, 1 to 2 minutes. This part is the key to the recipe. When that tomato paste cooks down into the sizzling butter, it's an amazing base for the soup.

Add the roasted vegetables, crushed tomatoes and 1 cup vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 - 30 minutes while you make a grilled cheese sandwich.

Add the heavy cream and use a Ninja or similar to blend it. The original recipe calls for a stick blender, which won't get the job done with the carrots. I don't like to have carrot pieces in my bisque so I like the Ninja better. Or you can puree the carrots and shallots after roasting, and then stick blend just the tomatoes at the end. Set aside the tomatoes while blending if you like a coarser texture on those. 

I found that it really didn't need much salt and pepper once in the pot. It's very rich and flavorful. It might be *the one*. Jeff's original recipe here.

FYI - as you can see below - my coupon code for the Arkon camera stand has increased to 20% for the duration of the holiday season - the extra 5% ends in January. So you might want to ask Santa for it.

Thank a veteran today. And have some soup. And enjoy the beginning of the holiday season. The rest of the year will be magical, I just know it.



  1. Lydia, this is BEAUTIFUL! My dad fought in WW2 and saw a lot of "action" (bad things). He's been gone for a long long time now, but of course he's on my mind all the time. In my journal a couple years ago, I found that poem about the poppy fields (In Flanders Fields) and printed it out and put it in my journal. Thanks for this lovely bit of art today! I love how you built dimension into it by flicking your red paint so it looks like poppies in the distance in addition to the ones you painted. I LOVE IT!

  2. I love this card Lydia ... the beautiful field of poppies, very powerful. I copied your soup and will give that a go too, I am in soup mode these days.

  3. Such a beautiful card, both your painting and the meaning behind the scene.

  4. Lovely card. You say it's simple, but maybe that's because you don't give yourself enough credit for developing uber-good watercoloring skills? Plus the card breathes - love the white (pale blue) space.

    BTW, many brushes are made from animal hair and aren't cruelty free. Some animals are shaved - maybe not so big a deal, depending on the animal. For others, especially from certain countries? RIP. For those for whom this matters - and we're all different - the good news is these days some brands of synthetic brushes are just as high quality, in case anyone is brush shopping in case your cat jumped up on the table, removed a brush from the holder, took it away and killed it. Well, one of my cats, anyway.


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