Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

© Ellen Blonder
I had to reach way back in the archives for this one, a card I did for Carolyn Bean years ago. It's pen and ink, airbrush and watercolor. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Red Leaf

© Ellen Blonder
Something in colored pencil from the sketchbook. I can't get enough of fall leaves this year.


© Ellen Blonder
My friend Roney brought me a beautiful bouquet of cosmos last week, and I thought they were worth a colored pencil sketch. Thanks, dear Roney!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sycamore Leaf

© Ellen Blonder
More fall: I'm trying to look down more when I walk around this season. I saw this the other day, with a beautiful range of color all in the same sycamore leaf. I drew it in colored pencil in my sketchbook today.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Leaf - Final

© Ellen Blonder
This used nine different colors of pencils, even though it looks monochromatic. Happy Fall!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall Leaf 2

© Ellen Blonder
I do like this paper's sturdiness as I layer the colored pencils with more and more pressure.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fall Leaf 1

© Ellen Blonder
I'm trying to pay more attention to what's right in front of me, and yesterday it was fall leaves. Summer flew by, and I didn't get a chance to try this new paper, sold by Canson for drawing comics. I'm checking out the paper to see how it takes colored pencil.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Abutilon Water Color-Final

© Ellen Blonder
Finally done. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Abutilon Watercolor-Days 4 and 5

© Ellen Blonder
I forget what a difference a new brush makes; working out details of the flowers is so much easier when I can lay down a clean line. It has been so long since I last worked on this that the old flowers have shriveled and a new crop is newly budding.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Abutilon Watercolor-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
Not a lot of time to paint lately, so I'm glad I snapped some photo reference shots. The actual flowers are long gone.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Abutilon Watercolor 2

© Ellen Blonder
Starting to layer color on color.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Abutilon Watercolor 1

© Ellen Blonder
I'm working from a photo I took when this abutilon plant was full of flowers. Here's the first day's outlines, barely filled in with watercolor underpainting.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Abutilon 1

© Ellen Blonder
Some dear friends brought a gift of an abutilon plant when they visited earlier this month. I sketched the flowers in my sketchbook, trying to capture the tangerine shades and rich green leaves with colored pencil, and with more than a little frustration. I'll try watercolors next, before I find the perfect place to plant it in the garden.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Silly Break

Love potatoes? This one is the first I've seen that loves you back. I know, silly, but I've never seen one like this before.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Italian Pastries

© Ellen Blonder
I was going through my Italy trip notebook from 2004, and came across this page of sketches of pastries we ate in Rome, Sorrento and Capri. Ah, to have any of those now. Just in case you can't read my scribbles, they include eclairs, a pine nut tart, chocolate cruller, big sugar doughnut, buttery anise rings, chocolate biscotti, cornetto, light custart cruller, ricotta tartlet, cherry tart, dense fruit and nut cookie, budin di riso (rice pudding in a tart shell), apricot tart, dark chocolate with hazelnuts, (more) eclairs (chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, caffe), light coffee eclair, lemon cake, chocolate eclair, pine nut tart (again), brutti-buoni (ugly-good), strawberry mousse tart, and sfogliatelle (a multi-layered, custard-filled bit of heaven).

Yes, we ate them all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chinese Almond Cookies

© Ellen Blonder, illustration from 
Every Grain of Rice: A Taste of Our Chinese Childhood in America

I spoke at the Mill Valley Public Library last night about my cookbook Every Grain of Rice, and followed up with a pile of almond cookies from a recipe in the book. The recipe, from my father's sister, was originally made with lard, which few people used anymore. For the book, we listed vegetable shortening--Crisco, really. I was thinking about how recipes evolve. This batch was made with organic, non-hydrogenated shortening from Whole Foods Market, which certainly was not available way back when.
Here's the recipe. Please attribute it to the book if you copy it. Enjoy!:
1 cup vegetable shortening (or lard)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
36 blanched almonds
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
With an electric beater, cream together the shortening and sugar until fluffy. Crack the egg into a small bowl, beat it well with a fork, and reserve 1 tablespoonful. Beat the rest of the egg and the vanilla and almond extracts into the sugar mixture until well combined.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda onta a piece of wax paper. Add to the creamed mixture and stur until just blended. The dough will be crumbly but should hold together when squeezed in a ball.
Form the dough into 32 to 36 balls, each about 1 inch in diameter. Place them 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Press a blanched almond into the center of each ball. The edges of thedough will crack slightly. With your fingertips or a small pastry brush, brush the tops of the cookies lightly with the reserved beaten egg.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. With a spatula, remove the cookies to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spider Lily-Finally Done

© Ellen Blonder
I've made the background tone brighter, added the center details to the flowers, and can finally say I'm done. This painting took way longer than I anticipated because of other things going on.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Spider Lily-Back to Work

© Ellen Blonder
 After a long break, I'm finally getting back to painting. It's hard to get back the feeling for this, but it does feel good to be painting again. Changes are subtle, but I've been refining the leaves and flowers.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spider Lily-Day 13

© Ellen Blonder
The background has been darkened. Now I can get back to working on details in the flowers and do a bit more to the leaves.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Everything Cookies

Sometimes a girl just needs a cookie. I can't always decide what kind, and sometimes I  want everything. I call these my "Everything Cookies"

For the love of the combination of ginger, coconut, chocolate and macadamia nuts in a chewy cookie, I experimented with this several times here on Kauai. I found some intriguing coconut oil (Dr. Bronner's) and coconut flour (Bob's Red Mill), and wanted to use them together. 

This recipe results in a somewhat cakey cookie unless the eggs are very large, so I may try it next with a tablespoon or two of ginger juice squeezed from microplane-grated fresh ginger. I might also increase the coconut oil by one to two tablespoons.


Yield: 3 ½ dozen cookies

½ cup coconut oil, room temperature
¼ cup canola oil
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup oatmeal
½ cup coconut flour
½ cup flaked coconut
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts, lightly roasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
2/3 cup chocolate chips, preferably mini-chips

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil, canola oil and sugars. Add the eggs and mix until well blended.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, oatmeal and coconut flour. Add to the oil mixture. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix until well blended.

Drop by rounded tablespoons one inch apart on baking sheets. Lightly press on each mound with your fingers to flatten it slightly.

Bake on a center rack of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. When slightly cooled, remove from parchment and cool completely on a rack.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spider Lily-Day 12

© Ellen Blonder
After weeks of dark skies and stormy weather, daylight is finally good enough to work at shading more of the whites in the flowers and untangle some of the petals. Now I wonder if the background will need to go darker again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spider Lily-Day 11

© Ellen Blonder
I've slowly been working on the white flowers catch as catch can. Busy week, hard to focus. I'll probably have to go darker to make the whitest whites pop. This still looks way too flat.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spider Lily-Days 9 and 10

© Ellen Blonder
I'm toning down the whites to create some depth in the flowers. The leaves need more details, but I want to hold off until the flowers are more finished.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spider Lily-Day 8

© Ellen Blonder
The leaves just weren't right, so I studied the spider lily's growth patterns on the plant downstairs and also looked at some photos I took last year. It isn't often that I have to paint out and rearrange things this far into the painting, but I do feel better about this. I shouldn't have been so hasty, beginning painting before this was worked out.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spider Lily-Day 7

© Ellen Blonder
The background color was too much in the middle range; I spent most of the day darkening it. Now the white flowers stand out more and the leaves feel more grounded. There's still much work to do.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spider Lily-Days 5 and 6

© Ellen Blonder
It's harder to paint large areas than small ones with graduated shades. This doesn't look like much for two day's effort.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Valentine's Day Post Script

Foodie break to describe Valentine's Day dinner a few days ago. Since going veggie, it has been harder finding interesting food when going out on Kauai. We cancelled our fancy dinner plans when I discovered the vegetarian tasting menu would be pea soup or salad and (ho hum) mushroom risotto for $55 per person. Instead, we drove up to Duane's Ono-Char Burgers in Anahola. They'll make vegetarian Boca burgers in any of their styles, so I had that version of my old favorite, the Island Girl and my husband Nick had the Boca teriyaki burger. 
We then drove back south to park at Kealia Beach*, to chow down while we watched the surfers. Turned out to be a great Valentine's Day.
(*Kealia, by the way, is now on the cinematic map, being the spot where George Clooney turns inland to his view his family's pristine property in The Descendants.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spider Lily-Day 4

© Ellen Blonder
You won't see much difference after a day's work, unless you look at the very center of the painting, where all the flower stems come together.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spider Lily-Day 3

© Ellen Blonder
In order to make the white highlights on white flowers stand out, I'll need to darken all the whites, and yet try to keep them from looking muddy or dead. I think these may look bad for a while until they start looking better again.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Great Valentine's Day Blog Hop

© Ellen Blonder
Chris Chun inspired a handful of fellow artists and me to take part in his first ever Valentine's Day Blog Hop, and you can see the wonderful and varied results on his blog. For an extra treat, "hop" to the other artists' websites/blogs:

My painting is actually derived from older posts, but recolored in the spirit of the day, because it's a beautiful thing when two hearts find each other in the jungle out there. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Spider Lily-Day 2

© Ellen Blonder
I just laid in the greens roughly so I could see the composition better. The challenge in this will be painting white flowers that look white, not muddy, but not flat, either.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Spider Lily-Day 1

© Ellen Blonder
I'm finally starting a new acrylic painting, after a long break. This is a white spider lily, on a 20 x 24-inch canvas board.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


© Ellen Blonder
They're a bit raucous, but also amusing to look at, with superhero yellow eyepatches to match their yellow legs and beaks. They're also the most skittish of beggars, always flying away at my approach when other birds hold their ground to see what crumbs I scatter. These sketches are from some photos I took on a morning walk in Kauai. They'd never stay still long enough for detailed drawings like these.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sharing the Joy of Books

Today, I have to share the stop-motion video made by my son-in-law Sean Ohlenkamp, with the assistance of my daughter Lisa and about 25 volunteers. The video was shot over four all-night sessions while the Toronto bookstore, Type, was closed. Many hours of editing followed. I hope you--and book lovers everywhere--will enjoy this.