Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Watercolor Workshop at Davis & Blevins Gallery with Randy Meador

I recently went to a watercolor workshop in Saint Jo, Texas.  Though I usually paint with acrylic paints, I was persuaded to attend this workshop because it boasted to be beneficial to painters of all media and highly entertaining as well. 

So off I went in late October to North Texas-

Watercolorist, Randy Meador, taught this non-traditional watercolor workshop for 22 attendees at Donna Howell-Sickles church studio in Saint Jo.  
He's a consummate cowboy artist as you can see by his Western attire.

But his pioneering attitude towards his art is authentic and endearing.  Though he asserts he taught himself watercolor through books, he practiced and practiced until he was able to reproduce and achieve his desired effect.

His easy demeanor, affable nature and his natural "I know I'm easy on the eyes" charm, make this workshop a winner no matter what kind of artist you are!

Randy Meador

In medicine we have PEARLS - the nuggets of "can't forget wisdom"


Here's Randy's watercolor pearls:

  • let the pigments float and "do their thing" in the water - this gives a distinctly non-painterly technique.
      • NO WHITE paint!  
        • * if you need a white area - don't watercolor on it and let the paper show through OR watch Randy take out his enormous Bowie knife and scrape off a highlight on an earring or an eye!
  • start with your lightest areas or "rooms" on your painting or sketch
  • creating these "rooms" on my sketch was quite helpful to give an area to let the watercolor happen (stand with folded arms)
  • mix "buckets" of paint on your pallet before beginning your work - these buckets are within your pallet and should have perhaps two colors - that you are allowing to blend at their free will
  • use a mop approach with a large soft brush
  • work top down and do not go back into your watercolor area with your brush/mop
  • leaving one layer of watercolor allows the luminosity of the pigments to shine
  • he makes his pictures pop with a contrasting intense background of ivory black and Prussian blue - warning: this inky background requires a lot of pigment!
  • "watercoloring" is accomplished when we walk away, fold our arms and let our paint dry before returning to the paint - so Randy likes to have several paintings going at once.
  • don't be afraid to RUIN your painting!  That's right - mess it up, ruin it - right at the start.  This takes the pressure off of trying to perfect something - because you CAN'T CONTROL WATERCOLOR - this isn't painting.  Let it go, let it be watercolor.
Randy's watercolor pallette

Randy's unique approach to watercolor is... 


Brave and forthright but mysterious at the same time.  

No two sketches, paintings or watercolors are identical - each has their own energy because he is free to let the watercolor do the work.  No painting here.  This is about a controlled relinquishment of design and painting, which is probably the toughest part of this workshop for many.

The impish grin


His work has a compelling vibrancy and light that is unmistakably his own.  Look at his work and you will see it.  Clearly after listening to him, I saw that this was achieved with much study, practice and hard work on his part.  (Afterall, that is usually how one attains greatness.)  


But I'm always in search of some shortcuts to fabulousness - so I went to this workshop.


It was a success for me - because I had no bad habits to lose (in watercolor).  No techniques or skills to depart from.  I felt free to try his suggested technique and be ok - if I did nothing more than make a mess on some fairly costly watercolor paper (which I did).  And now I will practice mixing colors, and making washes and reserving highlights at home in my Camp Effie Art Studio.


Best of all - I left with that "I must go home and make this happen" feeling.



1- Beginning - Randy does light room first
2 - Next - he adds a darker room
3 - Inky contrast added to make it pop

















Other fabulous bonuses:

Seeing Donna Howell-Sickles, her gallery, her studio again!  She is such a pulled together lady and an incredible artist - visiting her studio is an inspiring privilege.

Donna and me
Wine at Arche Vineyard
New friends

Low carb cheeseboard at Arche Vineyard
Longhorn in progress

Workshop participants hard at work

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Camp Effie Art Studio

Young Nutmeg

Everything Bagel on red - acrylic


Goat selfies

Okay, let's get it out in the open - I love goats.  

They are expressive, intelligent pets and provide us hours of entertainment with their antics.

We take lots of pictures of our goats - as many of you may take pictures of your dog, cat or grandchild.

My goats got a selfie stick!!!!

Goat selfies happened!

Yellow goat - acrylic

Whitey goat on blue - acylic

And I started painting goat selfies recently and it turned into an obsession with those goofy faces, innocent smiles and horizontal eyes. 

Follow me and my goats on Instagram: 



I love pictures of goats and enjoy hearing about goats who are loved and pampered.  Please feel free to share your goat pictures.

Whitey Goat reaching for a tree - acrylic

Monday, October 17, 2016

Angola Prison Rodeo

50th anniversary Angola Prison Rodeo

My visit to the 18,000 acre prison farm and the spectacle of the Angola Prison Rodeo billed as the "wildest show in the South" where inmates get airborne.

The oldest operating prison rodeo in America runs every Sunday in October and one Sunday in April and features the Angola Rough Riders, corny rodeo clown jokes and the raw energy of bull riders, trick riders, inmate pinball and chariot racing.

This is classic showmanship, raw theater in a unique art form.  But politically correct it is NOT and many of those rodeo clown jokes are not respectful to women!  So BEWARE!

Angola Prison Rodeo and inmates competing in bull dogging, wild cow milking, bust out and bareback riding.  The rodeo wraps up with their version of "guts & glory" where inmates struggle to grab a red chip from the forehead of a Brahmin bull to earn themselves a $500 prize.  The day we went - two inmates shared the final prize after a group of ten inmates tackled the bull and held him down while they grabbed the "chip" proving rodeo is a team event.

The Angola Rough Riders.

Rodeo wrangler prepares to rope a steer

   The history here is deep and sometimes dark - this recent article references the watch tower at Angola at the new African American museum.

Though we did not get to visit the Angola museum this time we hope to in the future.

Event:  Wild Horse Race
My husband getting his hog fix.
Did I mention the food?!  Inmate groups sell all manner of fair type food to raise money for their organizations - prices are reasonable and lines are short.

There's cracklins, boudin, barbecued shrimp, sweet tea and ice cream.  And if that's not enough for you, and it wasn't for my husband, try the TRIPLE HOG SANDWICH featuring ham, barbeque pulled pork, bacon and grilled onions on an onion roll.  You only live once!

We enjoyed the (free) ferry ride across the Mississippi river in our car - neat experience the movement of the river in such a quiet format and seeing what prison employees experience daily as they commute to work from the north side of the penitentiary.

View from the ferry boat ride across Mississippi River
 There's also plants for sale here- yes, plants grown at the prison's greenhouse - a big selection, too!

Many come for the arts and crafts. (A $10 ticket if you are not attending the rodeo.) Paintings, leather belts, etched wood, wood crafts, and inmate crafted furniture are popular choices.  You will see many families arriving in their pick up trucks pulling trailers who are clearly ready to shop!

Angola Prison Rodeo LSU fan selfie.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Low Carb Manti Turkish Meat Dumplings in Tomato Butter Sauce

Low Carb Manti with Yogurt Sauce and Tomato Butter Sauce

I found this recipe for Turkish Manti on the Food & Wine site and decided to try converting it to a low carb meal.  It worked!

We found it so delicious even my son, who is not on low carb diet, found this keto converted meal delectable.

This savory meat dish has just the right balance of acid and fat from the tomato and yogurt.  I used ground beef for the meat filling (and meatballs) but I'm sure ground lamb or ground pork would be tasty as well.

It is a multi step recipe - but quite doable - and well worth the effort!

Admittedly this is a stock photo- we ate ours before taking pics
Make the dough first, then the meat filling and the two sauces.


1 cup plus almond flour, plus more for dusting
2 tbsp coconut flour 
1 egg 
5 tblsp water or as much as needed to make dough form into a ball
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 

Combine all the dough ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined.  It will form a moist dough.  Form it into a ball with your hands.  Traditional recipes with regular flour have you kneading it on a floured board- but I found this was unnecessary with the almond flour.  Let the ball of dough rest in the bowl where you prepare the meat filling.

Meat Mixture

1/2 pound ground beef
1 small onion, grated
3 tblsp minced parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients for the meat mixture in a bowl and mix well.  Mixture will be stiff- best to finish the mixing process with your hands.

Yogurt Sauce

1 c. Greek yogurt 
(keep in mind that any yogurt can be made into "greek style" by simply straining it and letting some of the water drain out.) note: I used Bulgarian yogurt because it is lower carbs- plus I just really like it.
1-2 cloves of finely grated garlic (depending on your taste for garlic choose 1 or 2)
Kosher salt to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to plate.

Tomato Butter Sauce

4 tblsp unsalted butter
2 tblsp tomato sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
Dried mint and Aleppo pepper, for garnish *note:

*note:  I did not have dried mint and Aleppo pepper on hand. I substituted tarragon and ancho chili powder - putting just a light dusting across each bowl as I served it.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in tomato sauce 
and paprika and keep warm.

Preparing the dumpling dough and meat filling:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

On a lightly floured work surface, pat out the dough to roughly1/16 inch thick. (You will probably not get this soft low carb dough to go that thin - but do the best you can.) Cut the dough into 2-inch squares. 
1/2 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each square. To form the manti, fold the dough over the filling to form a triangle; press the edges together to seal. Transfer the manti to a slightly greased baking sheet.

Bake the manti dumplings on baking sheet in 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.  Yes, the meat cooks inside the dumplings!

note:  Traditional recipes boil the manti - but I found that my almond flour dough disintegrated in the boiling water.  So I worked out a wonderful compromise.  I baked the manti then made the remaining meat mixture -because I had extra- into small meatballs (1 scant tblsp each) and boiled them in salted boiling water.  I served these meatballs alongside the manti - and they were terrific.  

Boil meatballs in salted water as above- they will rise to the top of the boiling water when done - about 5-8 minutes depending on size.

Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and serve in a shallow bowl with the baked manti, spoon on the yogurt sauce and swirl in the warm tomato butter sauce and garnish with a sprinkle of tarragon and chili powder or dried mint and Aleppo pepper if you have access to it.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Low carb Keto Chicken Tacos

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos with Kale Slaw and Homemade Low Carb Tortillas

We started a ketogenic diet about 8 weeks ago.  And though we love the weight loss results, we have been challenged to cook no carb dinner entrees that seemed well rounded and left us feeling like we had more than just meat.

Then we put together these slow-cooker chicken Low carb tacos with a kale slaw.  And they were dynamite!

Even rivaled the full-on carb tacos at Lloyd Taco Factory in Buffalo that we love so much in our carb gobbling days.

So here's the 3 part recipe -


(don't be intimidated - slow cooker does the work for you and then it's just last minute prep.)

        slow cooker chicken

        kale slaw

        homemade no carb tortillas


Slow Cooker Chicken (adapted from West African Chicken Stew in Ketoclarity)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 medium onion diced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water or more as needed
1/4 cup of almond butter (no sugar added)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Minced parsley (sprinkle)
optional butter - if desired for added fat

1.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and brown over medium high heat in the coconut oil.  (This can be done on stove top or in your slow cooker on high heat.)  Brown the chicken on both sides - about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a platter.

2.  In same pot (your slow cooker), cook onion and ginger until soft - about 5-7 minutes.  Then add garlic, cayenne, bay leaf and cinnamon and cook for about a minute to enhance the spice flavors.  Add tomatoes and water- stirring.  Place chicken into this sauce (which is in your slow cooker) and set your slow cooker on low-medium - which depending on your style of slow cooker is usually in the 4-6 hr range.  Note: you may increase your water as this cooks to make sure you have plenty of sauce developing.

Kale Slaw

Fresh kale
Cider vinegar
Drizzle of olive oil or coconut oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Squeeze of a 1/2 lemon
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes to desired heat

1.  Wash, devein kale and pat dry. (I make extra of this easy slaw - as it basically goes with everything.)  Roughly chop or julienne the kale into ribbons.

2.  Toss kale with the vinegar, oil, lemon juice.  Season to taste with the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

No Carb Tortilla Wrap

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp of almond milk or non dairy milk of choice
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup Coconut flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp dried egg whites or protein powder
4-6 egg whites (depending on size of eggs and desired consistency of the batter
water as needed to achieve crepe like consistency

Combine milk and lemon juice and set aside.
Sift together dry ingredients.  Add milk mixture and egg whites and whisk well.  Allow to site for 5-10 minutes to thicken.  Adjust thickness of batter with water.

Preheat a crepe pan or 8 inch skillet over medium heat.  Coat pan with non stick cooking spray or a smear of coconut oil.  Then cook 1/4 cup of batter in crepe pan as you would a crepe - for about 1 minute until set - loosen edges gently with a spatula and flip over.  Cook for 1 minute.  Remove to a warm plate and repeat with remaining batter.
(You can adjust the size of your crepe/wraps as you desire.)  We made small ones in the photo.


Put your individual wraps together by spooning in your shredded slow cooker chicken, kale slaw into your no carb tortilla wrap and spooning on some of the juices from the chicken on top.

Garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro or parsley and fresh lime wedges.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Low Carb Blueberry Pancake Topping

Blueberry Lemon Walnut Topping for Low Carb Pancakes

So on our low carb/no carb ketogenic diet we love our butter but miss the syrup for our pancakes.

Pancakes you said!!! On a low carb diet!?  YES!
Found this great recipe for low carb pancakes made with coconut flour that cooks up really well.

The All Day I Dream about Food blog is my new go to source for terrific low carb recipes.

Then I came up with this fast and easy topping that will make you forget about the syrup you are missing!

Blueberry Lemon Walnut Topping


1/2 cup blueberries

Fresh lemon (about 1/2 small lemon)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Sprinkle of liquid artificial sweetener of your choice (I use sucralose or generic Splenda or Swerve

Combine all ingredients in small bowl, mix gently to combine and let stand a few minutes while you assemble and butter your low carb pancakes.
Serves 2


Of course, this could be easily repurposed (love to repurpose) in a non low carb diet by simply substituting a scant sprinkle of sugar or agave syrup instead of the Splenda.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Woodford Bourbon Distillery Tour

If you are ever driving through Kentucky, take the time to visit the Woodford Reserve distillery for a walk back in time and some delicious smells and tastes.

Their casks are stored in original stone buildings - a cool and pleasant walk during a hot summer tour!

The tour concludes with a delicious sampling of their different aged bourbons paired with some wonderful chocolate!  Definitely worth the price of admission.  Plus you get a real bourbon education here.

The entrance hall/gift shop area is a lovely structure with fireplaces, luxurious seating areas and many visual treats.

Bourbon flight post tour with chocolates

Woodford Reserve

casks stored in historic stone building