Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Going Green in Italy!

Scooter in Cortona
While visiting Italy it seemed like everything was brighter more vibrant and full of beautiful color.  It could be that the day I left Iowa it was 76 degrees grey and drizzling out.  I was inspired by all of the amazing colors in nature and have tried to bring that into my glass work once I returned home. If you've been reading my blog for some time now you'll remember last year when I started to lose my color inspiration and went outdoors to find something fresh, like these gorgeous flowers!

Well "Going Green" in Italy wasn't me trying to save the planet...but trying to get out, and get images of new flowers, colors, and interesting things to inspire...enjoy.

Pink Bunch in Venice at the Glass Expo
Yellow in Cortona.
Purple Pokey.
Tree with glass jewels at the Glass Expo.
Cactus and Red Poppy at Hotel in Cortona.
Basket of flowers in Rome.
Purple and white and everything nice!
Perfectly Pink!
At the Street Race in Florence.
Vines over a hotel entrance in Rome.
Outside the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice.
Fuchsia in Rome.
Stair Steps in Cortona.
Flowers along the water in Murano.
Wild Red Poppies in Cortona.
Wall Flowers...
My favorite the "Crazy Flower" in Cortona.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mask Maker, Mask Maker, Make me a Mask!

While in Venice, Italy we wandered through the narrow cobble stone streets to find the Mask Maker's shop tucked away in a quiet corner. Once there and through the large hand carved wooden door, the room expanded into a vaulted ceiling with masks galore dangling from the rafters. If you lack an affinity for clowns this would not be the place for you...

We all got settled in our seats and waited for instruction to begin. The process was simple, the mask base was pre-made in numerous shapes and styles. We selected what style we wanted, the metallic under coat for it to be sprayed (instead of foiled - due to time constraints) and then picked the colors we wanted to paint and our designs were up to our imaginations.  After all the painting was complete we had our choice of glitter colors to add dimension to the masks.

Amazing sketches on the studio walls.

Cheese kids!
I selected a feminine mask with some flare above the right eyebrow. I was in the mood for turquoise because of the shirt I was sporting that day, and a few polka-dots seemed like a great decision. Lets get started:
Blank Canvas

Silver Metallic Undertones
Paint, Paint, Paint.
Polka-Dots...I think so!

Paint was taking a little time to dry...
Almost there!
Before I added the final touches to my mask it needed a bit of time to dry.  It seemed like the perfect opportunity to sneak around and look at all the other people's work! Some examples are below:

I love how different each mask is!

Why soooo serious.....?

So many great ideas with different styles and colors - awesome work! A few pictures of my finished mask follow - stay tuned for more from my trip to Italy!

So much fun! :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Veggies and Rice and Everything Nice!

I've been going through pictures from my trip and putting together an Italian food blog, however in the process I made one of my favorite healthy recipes - so I thought I'd share.  This "Veggies and Rice and everything Nice" meal is about the easiest thing on the planet to make,  it comes out looking like you've labored in the kitchen for hours - which makes the people who eat it appreciate you THAT much more :). Did I mention it tastes amazing!? Now you'll notice from the pictures I've done a great job of keeping the images cropped in tight to hide the mess I tend to make in the kitchen! I may not be a tidy cook but thats what dogs (I mean brooms) are for ;)!

Ingredients you'll need:

Fat Free Italian Dressing (get the no name brand and save 2 bucks - $1.99)!
"Rice Sides" Herb and Butter Packaged Rice (Walmart $1.00)
Veggies of your liking I chose : Sliced Baby Portabella Mushrooms, Peppers, Red Onions, Broccoli, and Zucchini. (about $5.00 for all of these)
Seasoning to taste (I recommend Mrs Dash)

Total cost for 2 Meals = $8.00

To start you will take your Portabella Mushrooms and put them in the skillet. Cover with about a 1/4 cup of FF italian Dressing. I don't use any oil or butter when I cook the FF dressing will keep the mushrooms moist enough so they don't burn. You'll want to stir them around for about 5 minutes on a medium heat. While the mushrooms are cooking get your water boiling for the rice.

Follow the VERY SIMPLE instructions on the rice bag.  It should only take 7 minutes to cook and then it will be just the right temperature when your veggies are complete.  If the rice you use calls for any additional oil leave it out. Water is all you need to cook rice.

Now that your rice is off and running, get your knife and start chopping! Start with veggies that have less of a water content and will take longer to cook such as broccoli.  Slice the zucchini thin enough that it will get tender, cut strips of peppers after taking the seeds out, and finish with the red onions for a bit of sweetness.

Once all the veggies are added to the skillet add about 1/4 cup additional FF Italian Dressing to the mix. Turn the heat to medium/high and continue to move the veggies around in the skillet so they brown and dont burn.  Now the fun part - seasoning!

All of my friends always ask how I make veggies taste so good.  Well the trick is - seasoning! I'm a vegetarian so I consume a TON of veggies - if they tasted bland I wouldn't know what to eat.  A good rule of thumb to go by is this : IF YOU LIKE THE WAY THE SPICE SMELLS, YOU'LL LIKE THE WAY IT TASTES. Don't be afraid to experiment you'll get it wrong sometimes but once you figure out what you like, you'll be golden! My go to spices are as follows:

Tomato Basil and Garlic by Mrs Dash (this line has some amazing seasonings)
Sea salt
Dried Basil

Generously cover the veggies in the skillet the spices you choose. Go heavy on the spice because it will mild out as you cook. If at any point your veggies start to get a bit dry add more FF dressing to the skillet and continue to move the veggies around.

Oh - look at that! Your rice is done. Take it off the burner and allow it to firm up while it cools. Your veggies should be making a sauce at this point and be simmering on the stove top. Like this:

Wow - I'm getting hungry just looking at this post! The awesome thing about not using oil is that none of this meal feels heavy or tastes greasy.  The FF italian dressing actually starts to caramelize as you near the end of the veggie cooking.  Your heat should still be at Medium to High and you'll start to see the veggies stick a bit to the bottom of the pan and brown. If the veggies are done you should have a film around the edges of the skillet from the veggie juice and FF dressing making the sauce. Let the veggies cool for about 5 minutes and once done serve!

While the rice is still hot, press it into a 3/4 measuring cup to form it into these awesome rice cups.  Makes the meal look that much more professional! :) Garnish with pieces of veggies on top and your meal is complete.  For more ideas for meals check out my sister's blog : Cheesecake Yum! Next time I post a recipe it's going to be my WORLD FAMOUS pizza on the grill! I know you'll be waiting with drool dripping down your mouths!