Habichuelas con Dulce

If you want a Dominican to really make a sacrifice….ask him/her to give up “Habichuelas con Dulce” for Lent. This traditional sweet bean dessert is typical during this time. The custom is to prepare large quantities, enough to share with friends and family, especially during Holy week. What makes it even more special is that no “Habichuela con Dulce” is the same. Every version of the recipe comes with family history and secret ingredients. So I grew up loving the dessert but never dared to make it myself. Until last year……I figured I had baggage enough to give it a try.

Habichelas con dulce

And was so bold last week, that not only did I make the beans, I  decided to illustrate the recipe and submit it to one of my favorite websites.

“They Draw and Cook” created by Nate and Salli, two incredible illustrators. Their idea GENIUS! They provide a format…and you illustrate a recipe.  A contest turned into a book and a beautiful website filled with delicious recipes from around the world with amazing illustrations and designs. Visit them for more than a treat!

A Blank Canvas

Late August , 2000. after living in NY City for almost 14 years, I moved into our home at 1 Beechwood Road. The house, built in 1904, was a ranch like, circa 1960 remodeled structure, with blue bathrooms, lopsided, off center chandeliers  and a once white,  shaggy,  wall to wall carpet on the second floor. The kitchen was a combination of salvaged,  mixed-matched cabinets with a wagon wheel light fixture hanging over a crooked island on cracked, light blue and silver, checkered linoleum tiles.

Yet the house was perfect! The lighting was right, the rooms were open and spacious and the basement was unfinished. To me it was a blank canvas!

After removing the carpets and refinishing the floors, we moved in. Two years later, we finally tore down the master bathroom. I really couldn’t bear taking another shower in the cerulean built in tub. Unfortunately, for the first time, I also realized the time, money and patience needed to complete any project in this home. There is nothing straight about a  house that is 100 years old…

We managed to give the kitchen a facelift and redo the other two bathrooms. But shortly after, my magazine clippings, paint chips, job quotes were filed and the canvas was put aside.  My kitchen, the Viking stove I dreamed of, now seemed a lifetime away…..

That creative fire was dimmed, Life took over and my canvas was forgotten.

What inspired me to write this was something I read over the weekend. The Author was talking about savings. How putting money aside first before paying your bills would secure  savings…because the bills  no matter what, would always be paid. The author then went on to apply the same strategy with everything in life.  For example, taking  an hour of personal time everyday, in a busy schedule, even if it means hiring a babysitter. What is crucial is being consistent about it so that it works long term.

Which brings me once again to my kitchen. Last spring we had to decide whether to repair or replace our cabinets and counter after a valve leak caused water damage. My husband convinced me that this was our chance. Even though it was completely out of the budget, we should just go for it. We would find a way. I was hesitant at first, but that quickly grew into excitement. I pulled out my files, dusted the cobwebs off the canvas and was amazed how once again the creative light started to burn….my vision now extending to the living room,  dining room and the rest of the house. Seeing everything evolve brought out the sensitivity to color and design that had been dormant for years. Not only has the kitchen brought light into our house, it has also brought happiness, inspiration, hope and possibilities for the future. And the bills got paid.

The Viking stove was  cut out of the design . I traded it for a wonderful green counter ( the color of plantains).

IMG_2456

I love to start my days , sitting by my counter, sipping delicious coffee with my breakfast.

Sergiman vs Life

My son Sergi was born on Valentine’s day. He came two weeks ahead of time even though he was a scheduled cesarean. A true love child, an angel baby, round, cheeky, perfect. With a heart shaped birthmark on his left thigh….a postmark from the heavens……..

Being my first, I could see no wrong…or right for that matter. All I saw was a child who was slowly developing into a little character. To me milestones would be met in their own time. And even though he was two and could not put any words together, he could recognize the alphabet.

It became my battle with the world…..to see that this child…..even though all characteristics were pointing in one direction….was more.

After receiving every therapy listed in the book and being evaluated by numerous strangers and given an assortment of age appropriate tests, he exploded with an amazing vocabulary at three and a half.

Being an illustrator, working from home made everything that followed a little easier….however it has been an exhausting journey for all of us…especially Sergi.

Next year he will be going to middle school. And as he’s matured, he has become fully aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He has also learned to cope with his limitations, unconsciously compensating with his own strategies.

Over the years we discovered that his issues were due to the delay in his motor planning. We just recently found out the term for this is Dyspraxia. Sergi’s being of Language and gross motor. I never thought that finding a label to his struggles would give us all such a sense of relief, even though the treatments are vague and not much different than what we have been doing.

This discovery has given Sergi a new meaning and understanding of his  own learning abilities. “I learn differently.”, he now says.

Having this information has only confirmed what I’ve always known…..he’s my perfect.

fishman vs robofish

Sergi is an amazing draftsman with a passion for comics. He found  that drawing his answers was much easier  than writing a sentence. At first he was getting in trouble at school and sometimes at home. Until we realized it was his way of expression. We have now started to sketch little story boards to help him plan a paragraph, rather than writing notes. The challenge is to shorten his drawing time to give him more time for the written work. We are also building a visual dictionary/thesaurus to enrich his vocabulary so to improve his word retrieval.

His next project is to start a blog with his comics….25¢ per download 😉

Love in a Box

Boxes, baskets and special packaging are on my list of favorite things. I had so much fun with the Holiday Spice Cake Box, I decided to design another one for Valentine’s Day, using one of my greeting card illustrations.

The box is approximately 4 x 4 inches, perfect for a special Valentine’s cupcake! And if you are computer savvy, you can reduce it to any size.

Please know, I’m always an email away if you have any questions or problems with the PDF.

THE BOX:Cat and Mouse Love Box

Download the PDF below. For Printing you will need two sheets of medium to heavy weight paper 11 x 17 (tabloid size).  Adjust page settings if needed. Remember to align the printouts and stick them together before you score, fold and trim.

Cat and Mouse  Love Box PDF

Have fun and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Click Here to view more “Love Illustrations.”

Saturday Morning Art Classes

emily2

About 18 months ago I signed up for Saturday morning classes at the Art Student’s League in NYC. There was also a morning class for my son, conveniently, at the same time, so lessening the guilt of abandoning my whole family each weekend. We had an hour drive…the classes were from 9:00-12:30, after which, my husband and daughter would meet us to spend the rest of the day in the city. A pretty sweet arrangement!

The original idea was to take an acrylic painting class, after inheriting a lifetime supply of acrylic paint, illustration boards and brushes. I figured a painting class would be a good way to get me started. However, The League only offered oil painting on Saturdays and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. So instead I picked  pastel painting, to give me time to research the classes and teachers.

Not wanting to spend any extra money on this transitional class, I dug out my Rembrandts, last used 20 years ago, grabbed some drawing supplies, Canson paper and with Sergi in tow, started out our new adventure. I never expected Saturday morning to become the highlight of my week.

I Love everything about the Pastel class: Ellen, our super talented, soft spoken, teacher. The classmates, diverse in painting style, age and ethnicity. Rediscovering Pastels, drawing from a live model, forgetting about everything and letting the feeling of the moment guide my hand.  I understand why there are students who have been with Ellen for 10 years. I look forward to this time…even on the days when the drawing seems to elude me, or when I cannot see the color….I’m just happy to be there…learning and growing.

Then there is the Mommy and me aspect of the drive in. I treasure our breakfast on the go while listening to the radio. Having Sergi by himself, without Lili…..and being able to catch up on our conversations without distractions is priceless.

As of January the League has been having class group shows to showcase the student’s best work in each class. Last week it was our turn. Our wall looked awesome. Ellen selected my pastel of Emily.

Day 3: Very Merry Holiday Hop

This is day 3 of the Henry Glass Very Merry Holiday blog hop. I’m so happy to be a part of this group of talented individuals, with diverse styles, backgrounds and personalities. I am sharing this day with fellow illustrator Shelly Comiskey. We are the two non-quilting textile designers who are participating. So we may have something a little different to offer. Let me start with a little about Me, my Favorites, my Family Traditions.

I love baking…..I was eight the first time i made a box cake all by myself. The cake came out perfect. However using the left over batter as frosting was not a good idea……..at least not then…..the concept of cookie dough ice cream and chocolate cake batter coffee  was yet to be discovered.

But that little “fiasco” did not stop my kitchen creativity. And like Julie going through every recipe in Julia’s Bible….I made every single cake, cookie, dessert, candy or pie in  Mom’s Betty Crocker’s hard cover orange volume. And the variations!

So by the time I was in High School, I was running my own little baking business. I created a very special cake that took fruitcake off our family Christmas menu forever and  became my best seller. The family (and I have a big one…my dad had 20 siblings and mom 6) called it Wilma’s Christmas Cake. But last year I renamed it Forest Spice Cake for this illustration of the recipe.

The Holidays, as a child and now as an adult with my children, have always revolved around baking and food. Baking, decorating, packaging and then sharing with friends, family and clients.

My son Sergi makes Gingerbread people for his teachers and classmates every year. He has become quite the expert with the icing!

And just as important as the delicious treat is the presentation. I collect platters, plates, jars, old tins from tag sales, discount stores…anything to make the packaging part of the gift.

My Husband who enjoys photography helps create the family Holiday card. It’s a very fun and creative time of year, and I always feel like if there was more time or I had more hands,  I could do one more of the million ideas in my head.

The #1 favorite: Cookie Cutters. I have all shapes, sizes, metal, plastic, seasonal, everyday…..great for everything!

Forest Spice Cake Gift Box:

I designed a gift box perfect for packing Forest Spice Cupcakes. Another idea would be a mixture of the dry ingredients and the “just add” card with the things that are not in the box.

Download the PDF files below and print out the images on medium to heavy paper 11 x 17. Align the printouts and stick them together before you score, fold and trim.

Forest Spice Cake Box PDF
Have fun and keep hopping through the week. Check my previous post with the schedule and links to the different designers. And remember to visit the Henry Glass Blog  everyday for your chance to win the grand Holiday Prize!

The Henry Glass Very Merry Blog Hop

The fun has started with The Henry Glass Holiday Blog Hop. To get everyone in the spirit of creating and sharing, the Henry Glass textile designers on the day of their post will feature an easy project so stop by their blog to check them out.  Don’t forget to visit the Henry Glass Blog each day for a chance to win the Holiday grand prize….a huge bundle of fabrics and a giveaway from each designer. I’m thrilled to be a part of the fun!

November 11:
Linda Lum DeBono http://www.lindalumdebono.blogspot.com
Little Quilts http://www.littlequilts.blogspot.com/

November 12:
Dawn Heese http://www.dawnheesequilts.blogspot.com/
Jill Finley http://jillilystudio.blogspot.com/

November 13:
Shelly Comisky http://shellycomiskeydesigns.blogspot.com/
Wilma Sanchez https://racoonillustration.wordpress.com/

November 14:
Leanne Anderson http://thewholecountrycaboodle.blogspot.com/
Beth Logan http://artstuff.typepad.com/

November 15:
Kari Ramsey http://www.freshcutquilts.com/
Heather Mulder Peterson http://ankastreasures.wordpress.com/

November 16:
Brenda Pinnick  http://brendapinnick.com/topics/brenda-pinnick-blog/
Jana Nielson, http://www.izzyandivydesigns.com/?page_id=154

November 17:
Kim Diehl http://www.kimdiehl.com/
Lizzie B Cre8ive http://dreamlaughcreate.blogspot.com/