Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Postcards from the Lake: Road Trip, Alpenfest, Friends and Family

A little rain, a little sun. Sun is wonderful for outdoors, rain and gloom means road trips, reading, writing. I'll start with the road trips.

Last week I made a couple of trips north to the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area. The first was for an art fair where I did a bit of damage. The second was to enjoy lunch with my friend Susan who moved north about a year ago.

And a mighty fine lunch it was!

Of course, when I'm in the area, I have to go by the gingerbread houses and interesting homes in the Bay View area.

This area is so pretty, older homes. It reminds me a great deal of Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, but the homes are spaced farther apart and over a different (hillier) terrain. But both were founded originally as camp areas for religious organizations (in Bay View's case, the Methodists.)

I need to go back and do another post on this area, walking more within but these pics were from as I was driving by in traffic that was stop and go.

Summer in the north is filled with loads of color, like kayaks...

...and carnivals!

It's Alpenfest time in Gaylord. I can't say it's my favorite event of the year but I can say it is colorful!

The midway always attracts loads of people, and they were out on this particular evening. The day had been rainy and dreary but it was dry enough to enjoy all the carnival fun.

Alpenfest is Gaylord's summer festival. Everyone dresses in Alpine clothes, there are outdoor summer concerts, a very long parade and a usually very bad air/craft fair (or crapht fair, in this case). You might find a good vendor but they are few and far between. At least for me. But the kids love the midway!

I even got Rick to Alpenfest! And Rick avoids stuff like this like the plague!

I confess, we weren't into the knobby knee contest or the prettiest ankle contest. But it was fun to hang out on the only sunny day of the festival and enjoy watching the rides.

This carnival organ was also pretty cool and played a non-stop repertoire of carnival music to add to the ambience.

We even caught some of the parade. I don't envy this woman who had to carry around the Alphorn and then play on it. (Family lore: I believe my uncle was part of the group from Gaylord who brought back the Alphorn for the first Alpenfest 50-something years ago!)

Despite all the cars, bands and floats (and a plethora of queen candidates), the parade is the longest parade in the world. (I really think Macy's might be shorter.) And on a day with sun like that, especially after a gloomy, rainy week, we headed back to the cottage.

One other thing on Alpenfest, which has the worst art and crapht fair in the world (I know I said that before but it bears repeating), is that someone makes a bundle selling these little Alpenbloom crowns that loads of people wear for $25.

I bring this up because the best part of the week was that for most of it Mark and Katie were here. Mark is my cousin's oldest son and I love it when he and Katie come to the lake! And Katie made her own crown from some faux flowers at the cottage for free.

No fleas on Katie! Life is good this summer!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Le Baguette

Oh, those baguettes. When I think of my time in Paris, I think of walking to the boulangerie a few blocks from my friend's apartment each morning, standing in line by cases of pastry, to get a fresh baguette to take along for the day's activities.

Our boulangerie was called "Victor's" on Rue Rambuteau. The cases were packed with wonderful delights but the fresh bread and the tartines were simply the best.

Victor's wasn't the only boulangerie in Paris, of course. There are many more famous and others more charming. We stopped here to pick up something for a later picnic at Place des Vosges.

Nothing like a picnic with soft, delicious cheese and that baguette with the perfect crust! (I enjoyed another picnic on the Seine, no less, with a great baguette playing a major role!)

And the obligatory bottle of a perfect Medoc to go with it!

My resident bread baker, Rick, took a baguette class a few years ago at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor and came back making wonderful baguettes. But he was able to cut his time down significantly -- and still make a baguette that was far better than any you get in any shop here using the recipe that Paul Hollywood shared on the Great British Baking Show masterclasses.

It's remarkably easy and really tastes fabulous. (American bakers, please note that Paul uses grams and weight of ingredients so a reliable scale might be in order or check conversion tables!)

Sharing this with Paris In July and Dreaming of France when links become available. You'll find loads of links to French-themed topics including books, movies, travel and more!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Water Coloring

I've been concentrating on watercolor again this summer and I figured I'd best do an update. The good, the bad and the ugly. (Yes, I did show some of these before but I wanted to make a so-far, so-good collection here, so just blow by the ones that are familiar!)

Most of these are on regular watercolor paper (Arches) (as opposed to the two Strathmore 140# card stock) using (mostly) Windsor-Newton/Cotman watercolors, along with Prima Tropicals and a bit of Grumbacher.

I've found that when I put a mat around a painting it gives it better definition and looks more finished. Here is before...

...and after.

This is Jack, my friend Judy's dog. I know the mouth looks wonky but that's exactly how his mouth was in the photo.

See? Well, close. I think I see how I can touch that up a little and lighten up the upper "lip."

The buoys are from a photo from Martha's  Vineyard. I think it is a little busy. But I love the color.

And this is a Martha's Vineyard cottage from Oak Bluffs. Now, this is the beginning of it. And it's also the spot where it could have gone all wrong with the upper story and the gingerbread on the roof.

But I think I got it, all those tiny shingles -- at least more or less. I still have trouble converting the shadows in photos to the paint.

I thought I'd get started on some Christmas card designs. Here's one, a holiday wreath. (The snowman? Not so good!)

And here is Lizzie. The first photo, below, is before she was completed.

See what adding the catch-light in the eyes and whiskers can do? And a bit more depth of color.

A birthday card...

...and the toughest one.

I think I nailed him pretty well, although in real life, the skin tones are a little light, but I'm a bit dicey on trying to lay on another layer of color.  And his chin is a little bit too long. But getting there!

I leave you with a note of thanks...

...for checking out the progress!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Postcards from the Lake: Summer Days, Summer Sunsets

It's quiet here at the lake. During the week many of the summer people head home, the boat traffic on the lake calms down (though the wind has ramped up for much of the week) and I find myself "home alone," missing the sunrises and loving the sunsets.

Yes, this is exactly how it looked.

Rick left Sunday. I drove him about halfway so he could do the ride home in only a day (and enjoy more time at the lake).

I'm very comfortable alone at the lake. When you grow up an only child you get used to being alone. But I find that I miss the guy! I miss the conversation (Lizzie thinks she talks back but it's just noise!) and just hanging out, whether it is dinner on the porch or a game of Scrabble.

(I was especially excited because I not only won but won big on our last game and that rarely happens. Of course, Rick started out ahead and then he got this hand. Which is a lot like the one I had in the game before. (I'm know unquiver isn't a word -- quivered or quivering would work -- but I gave it to him because by that time I figured there was no way he'd catch up!)

Our week up here together was both good, with friend visits, and productive. Last year we had foundation work done on the house and they tore out the walkway.

Thank you Rick! The new one is in and looks good -- just have to do a little more fill dirt and then our neighbor said he'd take the big dirt pile away!

So, home alone -- what to do? Well, the first thing is to welcome friends to lunch!

Do you know the indie group Lord Huron? This is Lord Huron's mom and dad! They're fans!  Here's some interesting music trivia! The Lord's dad, John Schneider (a writer himself) just reported on his blog that “The Night We Met,” a song from the band’s second album, has gone gold. In modern terms that means that the song hit 500,000 “units” in the U.S. Each unit is equal to one paid download or 150 streams.
Below I'll share the taco salad recipe I did. It's easy and very good. My childhood friend Linda brought one to dinner last week and this is basically her recipe, though I have a feeling it changes with every cook!

I've been reading a little. OK, a lot. Finished a good Joyce Maynard book (Thanks, Esme!) and another shortie on the Queen. Now I'm reading one I'm embarrassed to say I got for someone else and I promise to send it. But I had to read it first! Next up, I'm torn between an Anne Perry mystery or another Charles Todd with his WWI nurse Bess Crawford.

I tend to my little garden, which I brought up from home and so happy I did. That fresh basil and dill makes everything I cook taste tons better. Lizzie is liking her cat grass and nip, too!

I'm really glad I brought these along. The bright flowers just give me cheer and the herbs make everything taste so much better!

And some painting. Here are a few of the most recent. Not without flaw but it's good to get back into the swing of it all.


I realize how much I don't paint when I'm home and I also realize how much more I am inspired and motivated to do it here.

Is it the setting? Certainly a quiet day on the porch is pleasant.

But somehow I think it's the freedom of just being able to do some, go do something else, leave it out and return.

Either way, rediscovering my watercolor palette has been a joy.

Just as long as I get things off the porch before the sky that look like this opens up!

So, I leave you with a smiling face -- a boy on his bike...

...and another sunset.

Just because.

And now for that taco salad "recipe." Brown one pound of burger and add the taco seasoning packet of your choice, following directions on the back of the packet. Shred or tear into small pieces lettuce and add the following (your choice -- this is a typical Jeanie dump-recipe): red, yellow or green pepper (I used red and yellow); diced tomatoes or halved cherry/grape tomatoes; green onion; purple onion; banana pepper; cilantro if you have it or like it; a handful or two (or three) of shredded cheddar cheese; anything else you feel like cutting up that fits. Cut two avocados and put in lime juice (don't add to salad till ready to toss).

When ready to serve, toss in the seasoned beef, avocado and dorito chips. I used about 1/3 of the bag but it all depends on the size of your salad. Dress with a Catalina dressing -- I used Zesty and Tangy Catalina but French would work too. And I added a little Louisiana hot sauce because I like it spicy!

Serve with extra chips and salsa. (It keeps well but the chips in the salad to get soft. Still tastes great and it's also good in taco shells as leftovers.) Sangria is nice, too! (Mae suggested adding in the chips at the end when serving and if I hadn't been making a big bowl of it I would have done that. If you're just doing it for family, I'd recommend it. Mae also noted the lack of sour cream. It doesn't really need it but since I serve it with a dollop of salsa, adding some sour cream and/or guac would be tasty!)

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