Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Experiment with Egg Tempera

"If I hadn't taken up painting, I would have raised's all art."
Grandma Moses

I agree. Finding the same beauty in a clucking hen that you would in a great painting is one of the joys of life. I've been fortunate to enjoy both painting and raising chickens. My two sweet hens pictured here produce a lot of eggs - A LOT of eggs. All summer long we get about a dozen a week. That's more than enough for a family of three, so besides what we eat and give away, I got the idea to make egg tempera paint, the type of paint used in the days of ye olde knights and damsels. Which led to my next idea - to attempt a medieval-like painting (emphasis on LIKE, since I don't quite know what I'm doing). But I've never let that stop me.

I sent away for some pigments and did some research on how to make the egg tempera emulsion. I found this site to be very helpful: All the Strange Hours
Gosh, I love that name...

The recipe I used was recommended for beginners: pigment, egg yolk, and distilled water.

I found from experience that it is best to use all of what you mix in one day. On day two, it will smell revolting. A week later, you could kill someone with it (or it smells as if you did!).

This is a small section of a painting that I'm currently working on. It's in its very early stages. I took my inspiration from a French stained-glass window from the 12th century.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Guest artist

In this house live some very talented and dear friends. One in particular - Mary - is quite a gifted young lady, and I asked her permission to feature her as a guest artist on Curious Acorn.

Isn't this beautiful? A few months ago, Mary gave this as a gift to our family. She admired this prayer that she had seen in a church bulletin and reproduced it in handwritten italic. I love the illuminated style of the initial letter. In an age of scanners and copiers, I appreciate the time and patience it must have taken to make something so lovely.

This is the family's art studio. Many exquisite creations have come out of this room.

I was happy to receive a mini-lesson from my young friend.

Mary also made this charming box. It's an example of Pennsylvania German folk art using milk paint. Their mother Joan taught her and her sisters this technique. Joan is a woman of many talents. I hope to feature her and her work in an upcoming post.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fyri's Cake, or using up the apples

I absolutely love this cookbook. Not only does it have delightful recipes, but it has beautiful, clear, and instructional photos throughout. Any seasoned baker would find Swedish Cakes and Cookies most enjoyable, yet this book would not be intimidating to the beginner. I made Fyri's cake, also known as Apple Sponge cake. Who knew something so pretty could be so easy to bake.

Oh my gosh, the inside color of the Hidden Rose heirloom apple just kills me...

This and a pot of tea - a perfect autumn afternoon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Orchardist

It's been a privilege for my husband and I to meet and get to know Wayne and Toni Myers, the owners and operators of Faith Orchards, in Douglassville, PA. They remind me of Tolkien's Samwise Gamgee and his wife Rosie--humble, quiet, salt of the earth world-changers. The orchard is an amazing place to visit, and unique in that they grow over 70 kinds of apples, some of the most interesting being the heirloom varieties, such as the Roxbury Russet c.1640, perhaps the oldest named apple in the US. I also learned of the Esopus Spitzenberg c.1790, reportedly Thomas Jefferson's favorite; and Ashmeade's Kernel c.1720 from England, my favorite, especially with peanut butter and bacon on toast. Trust me - it's good.

Wayne is so knowledgeable about the history of the apples he grows, and hospitably slices one open for you as he tells of its origins. Last February, he taught us how to graft an apple tree. As we were leaving, his wife gave us a large bouquet of pussy willows from her garden. Not only are they generous to their customers, but all of their profits go to various missions throughout the world.

A delicious slice of "Hidden Rose", yellow-skinned with gorgeous pink streaks on the inside.

So hard to choose...

Some of the apples go into making the best all natural cider we've ever tasted.

Thanks, Wayne and Toni. We'll be back soon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Holy smoke, I look like Old Mother Hubbard, but I love this picture because of the fire. Look at those sparks flying up the chimney. What does Job say - "As sparks fly upward, so is man born unto trouble..." Anyway, there is a much younger looking woman under those five layers of 18th century garb (ha ha, vain, I know). I do love wearing this clothing, right down to the shift and stays. These clothes have a particular weight that feels heavy yet quite comfortable. Sometimes I wish I could be like Tasha Tudor and dress like this all the time. However, I don't live on a private acreage farm somewhere in Vermont where I can't be seen - I already get enough quizzical looks and hard stares from neighbors as I walk to my car on work days. Once I was in a minor fender-bender on my way home from work. It wasn't the accident, but what the police officer would think, that concerned me ("OK, Martha Washington, outta the car...let's see you walk the line..."). But I suppose they've seen it all because he didn't flinch.

Here's the makings of a colonial cake. That day I was setting up to teach a class from the inner city. They are my favorite students to work with. They are so attentive and have so many questions; for many of them it is the first time they have actually been to the "country". Just seeing birds in a tree excites them, let alone the other farm animals. It makes me grateful for what I have.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

28 Years and Counting

Yesterday, my dear husband and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary. We began our celebratory adventure by enjoying a ride through the countryside on the 19th Century Limited, an old steam engine train.

First class tickets promised a cup of coffee and a "ride in Victorian splendor". Hyperbole? Perhaps, but the interior of the train was pretty, and the scenery was beautiful.
The tickets were a bit pricey for a 45-minute ride, but the sting was taken out when the conductor announced that the money goes to a land trust to preserve and protect the surrounding farms. We were glad to hear that, because so much of the open space is being bought up by developers to build yet another hideous shopping center. Historically, this area was one of the original land grants made by William Penn in 1712. Among the settlers in this area, named Paradise, were French Huguenots who had fled the regime of Louis XIV.

"Look out the window, folks," said the conductor. "Three hundred years ago, this was the American frontier".

Later that afternoon, my husband gave me a present!

Yes, some women can be charmed with a rolling pin for an anniversary gift - especially one that looks like this...

So she can make gingerbread that looks like this...

We ended our day with a trip to the theatre to see Jane Campion's Bright Star, the love story of poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. Each frame of the film was like a 19th century painting, and the story was sad but wonderful. We loved every minute of it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Edible Art

Over the weekend my husband and I, along with some friends, visited a little cafe called The Springerle House in Strasburg, PA. These gorgeous little works of art are made on the premises. I could have stared at them for hours. The leaflet that came with the biscuits said that the molds used to make these "came to Lancaster County around 1710 and are among the most treasured possessions of the Pennsylvania German immigrants". I bought some and kept them for nearly a week before I could bring myself to actually eat one. They are not only beautiful, but delicious, especially with a cup of tea. By the way, the shop had a great selection of looseleaf teas as well. If you ever visit the little town of Strasburg, this is a place not to miss.

Here's a close-up of just a few of the many "picture cookies" that The Springerle House has to offer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Reaping Time

Sunshine in Wonderland was a 25 cent lucky find at a thrift shop. Inside this book are beautiful vintage black and white photos of people and places in Norway.

I was especially captured by this photo, titled "Reaping Time", by a photographer named Eidem. So much of this picture was inspiring to me: her reaching gesture, the expression on her face, and the light and shadows. There's just something in it that speaks of the labor and fruitfulness, the joys and sorrows of life.

I made a small detail painting in oils from this image. It's a bit rough, but for now I like it that way. I may develop it more sometime in the future. The reach... what am I reaching for? The One who watches over me. Taking hold of that for which God has taken hold of me. Reach - the word we encourage our children by, hoping they will go farther than we ever could, chasing after things of eternal value.

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart". Gal 6:9

Friday, October 2, 2009


O Miss Crabtree, if only you had been my teacher at elementary school, I would have never hated it. Instead we had Mrs. M-, who ranted on about communism, and how we would all grow up to be tractor drivers in potato fields; who would confiscate anything you dropped on her classroom floor and make you buy it back; and would arbitrarily whack with a metal ruler any student who happened to irritate her that day. But I'm not bitter....

I also would have liked Miss Read from the Village School, who kept boiled sweets in the handwork cupboard of her classroom, and was kind to all of her students, even the troublesome ones.

OK, reeling it back in now. I found this beautiful teachers art instructor book (circa 1938) in a local antique store. The retro cover design caught my eye. It only cost me a few dollars. Swell!

The inside is full of vintage illustrations and projects, or 'handwork' as the book refers to it, for teacher to guide her students in their creative endeavors. I use the word 'her' as the book does - were all teachers 'she' in the thirties?

I can just imagine Miss Crabtree or Miss Read decorating the sand-table with this scene.

I took this book to the local Kinkos and made some copies on good card stock. I'm really enjoying watercoloring these figures and am planning to make a little tableau with them--for the grandchild, of course...*cough*


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