Sunday, February 12, 2017

Two New (Very Different) Pieces of Art

A few weekends ago, my husband and I ran some errands downtown. He needed to buy some guitar strings and then we popped into a local bakery for coffee and a pastry (Paul says they have the best pastries in town; I have to take his word for it, sadly, since I cannot eat wheat). On our way back to the car, we ducked into an art gallery for a look around. few weekends ago, my husband and I ran some errands downtown -- he needed to buy some guitar strings at a guitar shop, then we grabbed coffee and a pastry at an excellent bakery (alas, I have to take Paul's word that this bakery has the best pastries since I can't indulge in baked goods). On our way back to the car, we popped into an art gallery for a look around.

There on the wall was a piece of art that caught our attention. We've admired this artist's work before. In fact, we almost purchased one of his paintings about a year ago; now I'm glad we didn't because I like this painting even more. Entitled '57 Buick, it is a mixed media piece with an epoxy coating, which gives it a very shiny finish. The detail is exquisite. The artist describes it as pop art in a realist style. Both Paul and I love classic cars, so the subject appealed to us right off the bat. We hung it in the living room between the dining room French doors and the hallway.

In the close-up below, the reflection on the left side of the painting is from the window behind me when I took the photo. I love how the artist captured so much detail, including reflections in the chrome fender. This painting is from a photograph and in the reflection you can see the image of the photographer, just above the tail pipe.

The other piece of art we added to our home is the complete opposite of the piece above, and it has an interesting story. We were in an upscale antiques store one Saturday -- most of the art was way out of our price range -- when we spied an old photo in an old oak frame. We asked to take a closer look and that's when the shop owner told us that the photo was likely taken by a famous photographer, but he couldn't prove it because the work wasn't signed. The photo was a landscape, and wasn't very attractive in our opinion, plus there was a discoloration right down the center of it that bothered us. Paul and I loved the frame, however, and the antiques dealer was willing to separate the two. We paid $40 for the frame, and he kept the photo.

Then we had to find something to go in the frame. The dealer has drawer after drawer and book after book full of old etchings, prints and drawings in various styles and subject matters. After about an hour of flipping through numerous binders of artwork, we landed on the piece above, a monotype by A.H. Bicknell (1837-1915). The "A.H." stands for Albion Harris. You can learn a little about him here

The print wasn't in good condition with its lower right corner missing, which you can see above, so the dealer lowered his price to $20. We took the print and the frame to our local framer, and for $25 he mounted the print to some mat board and put a new back on the frame. We hung this piece in our hallway, which doesn't have picture molding so a nail had to be used. It's always a bit scary putting a nail into a plaster wall, but thankfully it went smoothly.

So these are our two new -- and very different -- pieces of art. Sometimes I will stop to consider whether the art will blend well with our decor, but usually we buy what we love. We prefer a more eclectic look anyway.

Do you choose artwork based on the decorating style in your home and what will "go" best with your color scheme? Or do you buy what you love?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Spinach-artichoke Dip

I'm late posting this. I meant to share it prior to the Super Bowl as a game day snack. But as I mentioned in my last post, the week leading up to the game was a busy one and left me with no time to put together a food post. 

I ended up making this spinach-artichoke dip on Super Bowl Sunday and we enjoyed it while watching the pre-game show. Then we had vegetarian tacos for dinner during the game. I will be posting about the veggie "ground beef" product I recently discovered. It's very good and will very likely become a staple in our freezer.  

Spinach-artichoke Dip

1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, quartered, in water, rinsed and drained
4 oz. reduced-fact cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 small clove of garlic, chopped (be sure to use a small clove, otherwise the dip will be too garlicky)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, sliced
1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1) Place half the artichokes in a food processor; add cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne pepper and 3 tablespoons water. Process until smooth.

2) Add scallions, remaining artichokes, spinach and a few pinches of coarse salt. Pulse briefly. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with fresh veggies, potato chips and tortilla chips. To store, cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

What I'm Reading

Hello, there. I had the best of intentions last week to share a new recipe for spinach-artichoke dip pre-Super Bowl, but work was brutal last week and I didn't have the energy or time to create a new food post. So instead, I'll share with you a couple of books I'm reading. One of my 2017 goals is to read more. This can be a challenging goal for me because reading in the afternoon or evening typically puts me to sleep. Reading in the morning doesn't (except for the fact that my eyes can't focus yet!), but only the weekends are conducive for morning reading and even then, I have too many things on my to-do list to lounge around reading.

I frequently borrow books from the library, so there's pressure to finish a book by the due date. One of the books I'm reading, America's First Daughter, is a popular best-seller, and I had to put my name on a wait list for it. This also means I cannot renew it. I figure that if I read about 40 pages each night, I should finish it by the due date. 

Only recently have I come to the realization that my favorite genre is historical fiction. America's First Daughter is about Martha Patsy Jefferson and her relationship with her father, Thomas Jefferson. During his lifetime, Jefferson wrote more than 18,000 letters -- that's hard to imagine! Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, the authors of the novel, framed the story through these letters.

Other works of historical fiction I've enjoyed reading include All the Light We Cannot See; Year of Wonders; and Girl with a Pearl Earring. What type of book do you most enjoy reading?

For my birthday in January, a dear friend gave me a copy of A Man Called Ove written by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. It's about a grumpy man who lives a life of routine until some new neighbors move in. I just learned it was made into a movie that is up for an Academy Award for best foreign language film (clearly I don't keep up with the latest pop culture). I watched the trailer; it looks great! I've added it to my Netflix queue.

Speaking of films, have you seen Fences? My husband and I were blow away by it. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington gave amazing performances, and I am pulling for them to win Oscars. The supporting cast was fantastic, too. I'm glad the movie has received such acclaim.

Another movie I hope to see in the theater is La La Land. I am a fan of both Ryan Gosling (such a cutie!) and Emma Stone. The film looks like fun.

Have you read any great books or seen any great movies lately you'd like to recommend? I love hearing why people like (or don't like) a work of art, so feel free to share your suggestions here. Enjoy your weekend, and thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow!

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