Frutta V

Frutta V
Maria's Best Selling Giclee Print to Date

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poetry Night Live!, Delaware's Poet Laureate & Delaware Made - Nov 30, 2010

Poetry Night Live!:  An artful event that signifies that Delaware Has Poets.
The Organization, Holly Branch of National Pen Women and Delaware's - Kent County Public Library sponsored a poetry event.   I, as the president, worked with our county Library since June to produce this literary event.  I was happy to introduce Jo Ann Balingit, Delaware's Poet Laureate, and Linda Blaskey, Delaware's great award winning poet, with achievements from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Jo Ann was appointed by our previous Governor.  It was interesting to learn about her job and why poetry is important to all of us.  It was a delightful evening with all poets bringing forth a story behind each poem, which makes the reading so personal.  Many participants signed up in advance to read their poetry.  It was a wonderful evening that we shall repeat. 

Maria Bessette, N Taylor Collins, K M Hammond, Linda Blaskey & Jo Ann Balingit
Poetry Night Live, Nov 16

I really appreciate the creativity of the writers who sometimes bare their soul to read their special compositions.  It is a wonderful way of expressing one's self.  Thank you to all writers and our community library in allowing us to focus on a very special creativity experience.

Jo Ann Balingit, Delaware's Poet Laureate
Poetry Night Live!
Dover, DE

The Pen Women are sponsoring more programs with Kent County Public Library in 2011. Stay tuned for great literary events for writers and the public. 

The Floorcloth Production Continues:  You might be aware of 2 demonstrations I have given regarding " Creating Floorcloths."  In keeping with a path that has been opened to me, I  will be showing and demonstrating this traditional craft several more times in the local area of Dover, DE.  Downtown Dover promotes artists and its mainstreet the first Friday of each month.  This Friday, December 3rd, I will fbe the featured artist and demonstrate this craft at Dover's "Delaware Made" Gift Shop".  A great place to purchase gifts and items made by Delaware Artisans and gifts with a Delaware theme.  Tom Smith is the shop owner and has a great business which has withstood the test of time. The quality of the items are great and Tom is a very personable business owner.  Hats off to this great Small Business.  See you there on Friday, December 3.  I will be working on a Delaware theme floorcloth complete with Blue Hens, Peach Blossoms, Lady Bugs and Holly Trees. There will be festive fair there and all over town. 

Maria Holding Her Original Stencil
Floorcloth Demonstration, Dover Art League

I have also committed to  demonstrate this craft at the Annual Farmers Christmas held at the Delaware Agricultural Museum on Saturday, December 4th, 2 - 6 pm.  It will be a great day with lots of activities for the family.  At night the Village will be lit and the buildings open to tour and see what the Christmas Village Life was all about.  Many crafts for kids, demonstrations for adults and light refreshments.  It was an annual event my sons, now in their late thirties loved to partake in "back in the day."

 If you are curious, yes we have a floorcloth production center at our home.  I love challenges and designing floorcloths gives me the chance to do just that.  I focus on traditional historical colors and adapt patterns that I like.  The sky is the limit and my basement studio is a testament to all that is possible in the creative life of an artist.  

Love to all & welcome December!

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Maria L B

Monday, November 22, 2010

18th Century Market Fair, Life in the Colonies, Tea and Women - Nov 23, 2010

Sorry for my delay in writing but I went back in time to the
18th Century Life in the Colonies: Conclusion -  The working middle class and merchants of the 18th century lead very challenging lives.  Maria, a 21st century lady, born in the 20th century also loves a challenge.  Why not portray a 18th century merchant, selling my wares of handmade laundry soaps, perfumed soaps and my sturdy and decorative oiled floorcloths?  Since I could only volunteer to play the part with the help of my husband, he agreed to play the  part of my 18th century merchant partner.  He will sell the soap wares with historical facts while I demonstrated how floorcloths were made along with educating the public with the history --- All in 18th century costumes.  This event, 18th Century Market Fair,  took place at the historical Green across from the Old State House, coordinated by the First State Historical Park and Director, Elaine Brenchly.  A cool crisp day with lots of sun, a merry and heavy crowd ascended upon The Green.  All persons attending  had great interest and asked many questions.  A non-stop day with not a single commercial display or entity, a relief to my 18th century soul.  The French Lacemaker, Monsieur LeFarceur de Villeverte,  put on quite a show.  Of course he was dressed and acted as a wealthy merchant, paying his lacemakers a mere pittance.  Many more merchants such as vintage hand tools made on a spring-pole lathe by Rick Schuman, Deborah Peterson's Pantry offered sweetmeats, spices, sugars & chocolates.  There were silhouette artists, weavers, spinners, quilters, blacksmiths and more.  What a grand day.

Maria With Her Mariners Floorcloth at the Market Fair

My Market Fair Merchant/Husband Selling Our Soap Products

Another great event, "Leaves, Beans & Lemons", presented at the John Dickinson Plantation, Dover, DE  on November 13 by Nancy Gardner.  Nancy is a member of the Historic Foodways Society of the Delaware Valley.  It was a "tea"lightful discussion of 18th century teas, coffee, and punches; and a demonstration of proper 18th century serving etiquette. Such interesting information regarding the tea service, serving tea, the history of tea, coffee and chocolate.  A great presentation that included how important women were to the food, beverage and industry of merchants.  A highly disregarded role of women at the time.  She provided a wealth of bibliography data and many references to good reading.
The Dickinson Mansion tours will feature a display of an eighteenth century tea setting with decorative foods prepared according to colonial recipes.

Also at the plantation were the preparation of tarts, cookies, roasted duck and other items cooked and baked in the open  hearth of the 17th century log home.  Dressed as 17th century kitchen help the guides were discussing meals of the time and preparing them at the same time.  All foods on display in the mansion are prepared in the log home.  What an interesting and hearth warming day.  My bonnet is off to the staff at "The Dickinson".   

Tea at the John Dickinson Plantation

There is more great heartwarming stories concerning my artful and historic research.

Stay Tuned!

Maria L B

Thursday, November 4, 2010

18th Century Floorcloths & Lye Soap - November 4, 2010

The Artful Life of Maria can be a little overwhelming even for Maria.  After a great trip to North Carolina to see my son and his family I was back on the artful track.  The next two days were spent at the Pen Women exhibit dismantling and awaiting artists who were to pick up their entries.  It was great talking with them and updating them on our future events.  I know I will see many of these great artists again.  Late yesterday I did squeeze in some time to create a batch of Heritage Market Lye Soap Bars.  Today I grated soap for my natural laundry soap and of course there is packaging and labeling yet to be done.

Delaware's 18th Century Market Fair, 1st State Heritage Park:  We are going  back to the 18th century this Saturday, Nov 6, to demonstrate creating floorcloths and peddling handmade soaps.  My husband and I will be dressed in period costumes of the working class mercantile folk.  Our town, Dover Delaware, has a central green area that forms a square with 17th & 18th century buildings, including the Old State House.  On one corner of the green is the Golden Fleece Tavern where it is said the Constitution was first ratified. This scene is also one of the Fall Market Fair that occurred in the 18th century.  Goods were sold and exchanged and entertainments of all sorts were offered on "The Green". 

Market Fair at The First State Heritage Park

Painted Floorcloths:  I was called on to participate in this event to demonstrate the 18th century art of making floorcloths.  That I will do using my own handmade stencil patterns and other various implements to show how these rugs were created using paints and methods of that time.  Basically the canvas cloths were stretched on a verticle frame, stiffened with starch and then ground smoother with pumice stone.  They were  painted to the edge of the fabric with many layers of oil based paints sometimes applied with a trowel.  The wealthy could import ground colors. Maple wood printing blocks were sometimes used with multiple colors. The final product was then varnished and would last at least 100 years.

Of course I will have a selection of my hand created floorcloths on display and one showing the steps I use to produce this work of art using current methods and paints.

Heritage Market Soaps:  Another 18th century product I will offer at the Market Fair is the natural lye soap, Heritage Market Lye Bar Soap (Anderson's Lye Bar Soap)  and Market Fair Laundry Soap.   The same natural lye soap is grated finely, washing soda and borax are added to make a low sudsing laundry soap.  Lye soap is still used and requested by many people today.  Said to be good for skin problems and poison ivy, it is all natural and unscented.

Soap making:  The basic differences in making today is the accurate scale to measure the fat (either vegetable shortening or lard)  and lye also called sodium hydroxide.  Until recent times a batch of ingredientes could result in soupy to hard soap because of pour calculations and the strength of the lye.  Lye was produced by steeping wood ashes and water, later straining out the ash.  Of course pigs and cows were slaughtered and their fat rendered and kept until there was  enough to use to make a large supply of soap.  The French and Italians conceived the idea of using olive oil to replace the rendered animal fat. 

4 Pence For Soap Bar:  That is what I will be selling my the 3 oz bars of Heritage Market Soap.  I thought it would be great to have all products in 18th century English prices.
I have also found that in the 18th century England a pound of perfumed soap cost 1 shilling.  Today 1 shilling would be equal to 6.7 pounds or $10.18 US dollars.  Consider the price of an average 3 oz bar of natural soap today cost at least  $5.00 without shipping. 

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Well I have lots more to do in my artful life before I go nighty, night.

Love to all!

Maria L B

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Little Lamb Painting and Poem - Shea Butter Cream Day - October 26, 2010

My Little Lamb Painting:  I am not sure what inspires artists.  Most of us are of a very romantic type.  Many visual artists are also writers and poets.  I take inspiration from many things.  Mostly the natural surroundings.  My mother always conveyed to us to notice the overlooked nut, leave, tree, flower or bird.  So my brother Peter, sister Kathy  and I always have looked above us, next to us and also far off in the distance to seek the overlooked beauty of our natural habitat.  Our mom knew a bird by its call and and insect by it special sound.  She not only educated us to those creatures and botanical wonders but also to her grandchildren.  She always answered all our questions with great patience.  My favorite is the question my son Jon Eric posed: " Why is the sky so high?"  Mother could have written a children's book and should have.

This brings me to my Little Lamb Painting and the poem I found to accompany it:  This was a great little painting to display at the Delaware Agricultural Museum Gift Shop.  It also was an inspiration for a Fiber Arts Festival at the Purnell Museum, Snow Hill, Md.  I have sold the original, but have giclee prints available.

"Meadow Lamb"  

The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, & bid thee feed
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, wooly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, & he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
                                                 Author Unknown

Shea Butter Cream:  Fall is here and winter is not far behind.  another artistic pleasure I spend time on is creating natural bath and beauty products.  I have developed a great body and face cream with a shea butter base.  A very popular compliment to the natural soaps I create, as both have natural shea butter included in the base.  This product has been a great seller at shows where I have a sample for the public to try.  i
Coastal Cottage Shea Butter Cream

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Night night to all especially "Little Lamb", Milicent & Jon Eric.


Maria L B 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Save all Pumpkins and Lets Save Soap Too - October 24, 2010

The Creative Pumpkin Can Also be Green:  

I personally love fall, as did my Mom,  because of the wonderful array of mums, the great red, orange and yellows colors produced by the trees and vegetation and also the aspect of creating a wonderful welcoming accent at our doorways.  I personally create a array of butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash, small pumpkins, and a large goose neck squash.  I plan to use all these items this fall in preparing great home style and healthy dishes.  The goose neck squash will be dried  and painted to be used as a bird feeder later on.

Maria's Welcoming Front Door Accent

Pumpkins are a true American vegetable, a favorite of the Aztec, Inca and Mayan people before becoming a staple of early European explorers and settlers in the New World. Pumpkins belong to the same family as gourds, melons and cucumbers. And, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, pumpkins are packed with beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that fights cancer.

While some particularly meaty varieties of pumpkins are specifically grown to be eaten (including Sweet Jack-be-Littles, Cheese Pumpkins, Sugar Pumpkins ), any commonly available pumpkin is perfectly edible. Best of all, at Halloween (and immediately after Halloween) you can usually buy pumpkins at more affordable prices. Why not pick up a couple extra just to eat?

If you're buying a pumpkin specifically for eating, the smaller ones are usually the best. If you're going to use it as a jack-o'-lantern as well, you can eat or freeze some of the pumpkin when you carve it, and then pickle the remaining rind when Halloween is over, provided that it's still in good shape.

And for those who use the pumpkin to carve, then place it on your step........don't throw it in the garbage, cut it it for your compost pile or at least place it in your garden or another spot for it to decay into natural matter. That also goes for the seeds you scoop out and don't roast.  Those seeds can produce a surprise pumpkin vine in your garden next year.

So, Here's How to Eat Your Jack-o-lantern:

Seeds First
Toasted pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack filled with zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper and protein. They're also great in salads, muffins, bread, and in other recipes as a nut substitute. Remove the seeds, rinse them in water to get rid of the stringy inner membrane, and dry them out a little on a towel. Flavor with coarse salt for a traditional taste, or let your imagination and spice rack run wild. Some options for flavoring designer seeds include: pumpkin pie spice; Cajun seasonings; ginger powder; garlic salt; curry powder; Tabasco; cinnamon; vinegar and salt. Once seasoned, bake the seeds on a lightly oiled cookie sheet (single layer thick) in a 250-degree oven for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Or, my preferred method is to cook them in a spray-oiled skillet over medium heat on the stove top, stirring and shaking  constantly. On the stove top, they'll be toasted nicely brown in only about five minutes. Store in air-tight containers.

Roasted and Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds

The Bessette's Stuffed Pumpkin will appear in my next blog.

Save the Soap:  What do you do with all those little bits of left over soap?  That is not a problem in my household.  Even the high end hotels are saving the soap left behind by customers to send to 3rd world countries. 

But as you may know by know I am in the "Soap Business", and often referred to as the "Soap Lady."  Soap in this household is not taken for granted.  As I produce all our soap using natural ingredients and labor over making, pouring into molds, curing and cutting our soap, it becomes a personal "thing".   I have several methods of using those discarded pieces.  One is to save the pieces and then place in my own natural fiber "soap saver bag."  Some I purchase and other bags I crochet by hand.  So all the soap pieces sort of mess together when moistened  and the bag is used to scrub up lots of lather for your bathing purposes.  These little bags are a sell out at most shows.  I am a great believer in using everything to its fullest potential, even though I was not brought up in the depression era.  There is alot to be said for our society wasting lot of items that still has a life.

Images of my Soap Saver Bags:

Bits of Soap and Sissal Soap Saver Bag

Maria's Hand Crochet Spa Cloth and Soap Saver Set

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Thanks for visiting and happy autumn.

Happy Birthday and Love to My Mom.

Maria L B


Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Fabric Stash and Hugs From the Past - October 21, 2010

My Fabric Stash:  Does anyone else have lots of fabric?  Maybe you purchased a great piece or remnant to create a dress, jacket, grandkids jp's, pillows, quilts, craft projects, upholstery, slipcovers, draperies, or ideas haunting you from the past.  Well that is me.  Along with many other creative mediums, fabric has been the standby since I was 10 years old and learned to sew on a treadle sewing machine.  A great Saturday was going to the fabric store with my Mom and going through all those pattern books.  Wow, we found the pattern, now it is on to the search every bolt in the store to finally choose the perfect fabric.  It took hours and hours.  Later in life I would do the same looking an choosing.  Off I would go to my little nest of a home and decide I could stay up all night and sew in order to wear my new outfit to work  or to that special occasion. 

More Fabric:  I have sorted through the fabric I now have on hand a few times in the past year.  Alot of the fabric brings back memories of projects created for the grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Too bad they grow so quickly.  I have fabric I purchased because I loved the patterns and colors.  I could write a chapter about my fiber arts era and the great wearable items I created and wear from time to time.  But I have no idea why I purchased some of the fabric.  Obviously at the time I had an creative idea. I do love fabric and I do love to sew.  It is like riding a bike, you never forget how to sew once you learn. 

Machine Stitched Handmade Vest (back)
 Original Design by Maria

Original Design Machine Stitched on
Handmade Vest
Front Side

More Creative Ideas Than Hours in the Day:  A few projects to finish before Kaitlyn's birthday (A felted shoulder bag with her initials) and a few other surprises for the grand kids that I can't disclose. But going though the fabric gave me inspiration to sell a few remnants on eBay and create a few projects for gift giving and home decorating. Oh does anyone have a need for new neat little pillows  with fringe and love?  I have a few to put on

My Social Network and Friends from Venice High School, Venice FLI recently tried to connect to some of my high school friends in Venice FL through Facebook.  It has been a great and heartwarming experience.  I have to talk about Shyla Thayler from Ft. Myers, FL.  Shyla and I walked home from Venice High School together, as she lived close by.  In her words:  "i loved your mom...after walking home from school she always gave you a hug and me... i think of that so very my folks never ever hugged.... i have always told people i wanted to be Italian because of you and your mom...LOL I love hugs.... " As she relayed to me via facebook, she never forgot my Moms hugs.  I cried like a baby when I read her words.  It was a great place to grow up and I still dearly love Venice FL.  When I visit, it is like going home. Shyla can we get together this winter? I hope my husband and I can spend a month there during the upcoming winter of 2011. 

Oh my gosh:  Can you see a Coastal Cottage Soap Shop in Venice FL?

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Nighty night and a special hug for Shyla,

Maria L B


Monday, October 18, 2010

Little Fields Painting & Art for Breast Cancer Awareness - October 18, 2010

"Little Fields Painting":  One of my favorite Daily Paintings has sold, "Little Fields of Kent County":  I talked earlier about creating my Daily Paintings; it is great but also sad when a favorite is sold and you part with it. One of my award winning paintings, "Fields of Kent County", would also be hard to part with.  It is of a glowing soy bean field on Rt 113 near Frederica DE.  Therefore I have had giclee prints produced from a few of my original paintings.  Brendan Buschi, of, has done a great job and has many artist clients throughout the east and north east coast.  I now offer the public archival prints of my original art at  affordable prices.

Back to "Little Fields":  As I was thinking about subject matter for Daily Painting landscapes I thought of "Fields of Kent County" and though what a great similar little painting it would make and of course I could produce it. A similar story occurred with my "Frutta" paintings.  There was "Frutta", it sold.  Then there was "Frutta 2", it sold.  "Frutta 3" sold, and also "Frutta 4".  But not "Frutta V" - my signature painting.  Giclee prints of "Frutta V" in two sizes are available.

Here are the two paintings, "Felds of Kent County" and "Little Fields":   and tell me what you think:
"Little Fields of Kent County"
Daily Painting

"Fields of Kent County"
Giclee Print

Art for Breast Cancer Awareness:  Needless to say that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.   I was contacted by the Delaware Coalition for Breast Cancer Awareness to be a vendor, selling my Coastal Cottage Soaps, at their Monster Mile Walk/Run on October 10.  All booth fees were donated to the cause as was an item to be sold by raffle that day.  And what a great day it turned out to be.  So many friendly faces, men, women, children, families who were there to support and/or walk or run the Monster Mile.  There was a second separate outstanding cause to walk for and support that day, Juvenile Diabetes.  I met several great artist that day and hope to keep connected with them through facebook and such. 

Pink Ribbon Helmet Stickers

Love to all and to all a good night,

Maria L B

Friday, October 15, 2010

Artist Reception - Food, Farm & Foliage Exhibit & My Catch Up Week - Oct 9-16, 2010

Great News Articles Help Tell the Story:  I was so pleased to have a feature article concerning the Holly Branch exhibit appear in our daily paper, The Delaware State News.  Photos and 2 full pages telling the story behind the exhibit really brought the National League of American Pen Women to Central and Southern Delaware.  Our mission is to promote the creative arts (visual arts, literature and music) and assist in continued professional development of like-minded artists.  All net proceeds from this exhibit will help provide for a scholarship for a deserving art student entering college in 2011.  Here is the Dover Post article for 10/5/2010:

Artist Reception for Food, Farm & Foliage Exhibit:  Occured on Oct 9 at the Delaware Agricultural Museum, Dover, DE and WAS GREAT.  A very well attended event, a success by all measures.  I was ultra happy, but very tired.  The exhibit of 58 works of art by 22 artists is amazing.  These artists represent all of Delmarva and a tribute to the beauty of rural landscape, our agricultural heritage and the food and other resources produced to sustain us.

Best of Show Award went to Betsy Greer of Wilmington for her oil painting, "Things Remembered".  Betsy is also the Diamond State Branch, American Pen Women President!  Her painting as described by our judge, Professor Roberta Tucci, is "a warm and inviting still-life painting in oil." Her other comments include:  Highly focused, realist views of familiar Delmarva landscapes are soundly represented with works such as “Bay Views”, a meticulously rendered watercolor painting by Tammy Kearney (of Seaford).
Also included in this highly diverse group exhibition are semi-abstract observations of homegrown agriculture, like the end-of-season farmed fields revealed in the energetic pastel painting, “The Last Crop”, by Trina Gardner (of Wilmington).

 "Things Remembered", Oil

Betsy Greer & Best of Show

I will bring you additional images of the award winners after I retake them with a tripod.

The Peoples Choice Awards will be placed on October 26.  The public has been voting for their favorites and will continue to have the opportunity to vote until October 23.  If you are within the Delaware area please visit the exhibition and cast your ballot.   We choose different categories for the public to vote by, not to conflict with the professional judges rulings.

Liberto's Art  - Dover Bay Health Exhibit  was changed by me this week adding my 8 "Daily Paintings" and removing a few to give the exhibit a fresh look.  So many visitors and employees stopped to talk and comment on my work.  That is a real boost to an artist and keeps us creating more works of art. 

Daily Recipes:  Believe me I have been cooking and baking, trying out  a few new recipes as usual.  I will be adding them in my next blogs.  My husband really likes the good old favorites that he enjoys.  But I grow tired of of the tried and true and love to experiment.  A great past time is looking through my many recipe books and researching recipes through the internetup ingredients in the frig, left overs or frozen meats and vegetables.  I (like Martha Stewart) probably have more condiments on hand than other ingredients.

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Night to All and to All a Good Night

Maria L B

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Daily Paintings & Cannoli Cheesecake - Oct 5, 2010

A Painting a Day, Is It Possible?  Why not!  Can Do!:  What a challenge, but what fun.  It is possible and I have started and completed a daily painting in my studio.  The challenge is staying focused and working quickly. I use small canvases and choose subject matter to create a series within that theme.  One advantage of painting small works is to be price the art affordably.  The customer can't say, "I really don't  have a place to hang this wonderful art."

Living is coastal Delaware with access to the sand and sea is a blessing, especially when choosing beach scenes to paint.  I am also fascinated with the many colors of sky and formations of clouds, dawn and dusk variations of color.  There are days I just drive and stop along the way to take photos of cloud formations, sky colorings and many other scenes we normally are to busy to focus on.

Here are two of my daily paintings:

                                             "Blue Sky Cloud"                    "Autumn Sky Beach"
  Two of Maria's Daily Paintings

Plein Air Painting:  Another similar quick style painting is Plein Air Painting:  Plein Air is a French phrase that translates "in the open air". Plein air is pronounced plan air or sometimes plane air. This term is used to describe artworks that have been created chiefly outdoors, rather than in the studio. Photo reference is not used.
The roots of plein air painting

Are found In 19th-century Europe John Constable and the Barbizon group near France. With the invention of portable pigments artists took their sketch books in hand and travelled outside to paint and draw nature on site. They're efforts combined laid the ground work for the Impressionist Giants, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Winslow Homer, Camille Pissarro, and John Singer Sargent. Who challenged and revolutionized the truth of the eye, form, light and color.

     Plein air's popularity has been aided by the development of easily portable painting equipment and materials

Plein Air Tuesday:  My friend Donna called to ask if I would like to travel off to the Easton, MD area to join one of the Plein Air-Easton Groups.  A location is previously arranged where artists will meet to paint on location as guests of the owner of the property.  Everyone paints from 9 am to noon then gathers together to compare and critique the art.  It is very interesting to see the the comparisons, compositions and painting technigues. 
     But on Tuesday morning we decided it was too wet, after 2 days of raiin.  After all we would probably end up with our ankles covered in mud.  Maybe next Tuesday???????????

Another Recipe from Weight Watchers & Maria:  If you love cannoli and cheesecake you will love this recipe.  Easy to create, but allow enough time for it to firm up.

No-Bake Cannoli Cheesecake

16 amaretti cookies, coarsely crushed
1/4 cup unblanched almonds, toasted and chopped
1 envelope unflavored geletin
1/3 cup cold water
1 (8 oz) pakage fat-free cream cheese
1 (15 oz) container part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup thawed fat-free whipped topping
1/3 cup mini simisweet chocolate (I used 1 square of baking chocolate grated)

Spray a 9 inch springform pan with nonstick spray.

Mix together the cookies and almonds.  Reserve 2 tablespoons.  Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the bottom of the pan.  (I added 2 tablespoons melted butter, pressed into the bottom of the pan and baked for 5 min at 375)

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small microwavable bowl, let set 5 min.  Microwave on high 45 seconds, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With an electric m ixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth.  Add the ricotta, sugar, yogurt, orange zest and vanilla beating until blended.  Beat in the gelatin.  Refrigerate the mixture 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Fold in the whipped topping and chocolate chips.  Spoon over the cookie mixture and smooth the top.  Refrigerate until set, at least 5 hours or up to overnight.  Sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons cookie mixture of top. Decorate with thin orange slices and mint.

Per serving:  1/12 of cake:  191 Cal, 4 Points
From:   Hit the Spot recipe book by WeightWatchers

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Another artful day comes to an end!

Best to all,

Maria L B

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Friday Art Opening, A Coastal Sunday, & Sea Glass Soap - Oct 1 to 3, 2010

Friday's Art Opening:  Our Delaware Biennial of American Pen Women Art Exhibit opened on Friday Night, Oct 1.  Just had to attend with a fellow member N.Taylor Collins.  Sort of like a girl's night out, we traveled 45 miles into the big city of Wilmington and arrived in good fashion.  Well received and in time for awards we chit-chatted with our partner members and discussed our partnership and events to be. We did not receive any awards but felt good about supporting our sister organization and the creativity of American Pen Women members.   Leaving with hunger bangs for a real meal we decided to venture to the Wilmington Riverfront and visit the Iron Hill Brewery.  After a small wait for a table we consumed a delicious meal refreshed for the ride back home.

"Maria's Tuscany"
Acrylic on Canvas

The Soap Shop and Sea Glass Soap:  An artist friend stopped by on Saturday and we caught up on the art scene and our desires to create.  One thing was realized; you need space to create.  And if you don't have adequate space you need to be really, really organized.  The ideal situation is to be able to spread out, work on your project, leave it untouched when you have to and go back to it later. To pack it up or move your project, painting or the like is unproductive.  I am fortunate to have a large space to do just that.  I can set up a still life, have references spread out, my paints, brushes and palette plus room to mat, frame, package and so much else.  I have room for my soap making supplies, props for art and craft shows and more.  Why would I ever want to move?  I am blessed!!!!!!!!

While catching up on the arts my friend purchased a few bars of my special Olive Oil Soaps.  She puts them in lingerie draws (and her husbands underwear drawer) instead of potpourri.  When she needs soap, she knows where to find it.  Which leads me to my Sea Glass Soap. 

After many trips to the Delaware Bay to collect real sea glass that has washed ashore I had a brainstorm.  Why not make simulated sea glass pieces of soap and  add to a bar of glycerin soap.  Dress the bar off with marine rope/string and add a few real pieces of sea glass to the package.  We produce a lightly scented and also an unscented bar.  This soap has been a real success and I have to share it with you:

Artsy Sea Glass Soap
by Maria's Soap Shop

Fall is Here:  It has been cloudy and raining most of the week. Rain is predicted for the next 3 days. The leaves are falling which makes it seem so much like winter in not too far away.  So today I  had a chance to work up a piece of my garden soil and plant butter crunch & salad bowl lettuces, and spinach.  Should have done it earlier but..............   I am awaiting the little sprouts of my seeds prior to cold weather.

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It has been an art filled weekend.

God Bless,

Maria LB

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Creating Natural Laundry Soap - Sept 29, 2010

Maria's Natural Laundry Soap:   I love all things green, eco friendly, natural and organic.  But who can create their own natural laundry soap and not pay those high prices?  Who also has just purchased a new low sudsing washer?  Since I produce the old time lye & lard soap many older customers request I can also create a laundry soap very similar to "Ivory Snow", but is 100 % pure.  Using grated soap, washing soda and borax powder, Coastal Cottage Soaps produces a great laundry soap without detergents and other additives.  I have been wanting to share this product with you:

Natural Laundry Soap Ingredients

Artful Images:    The Fine Art Exhibit is hung and on display.  The exhibit catalog listing is completed along with art identification cards which are display next to each painting.   The Show Looks Great!!  I can't wait for it to be judged by our art professional.   I am creating official ballots whereby all visitors can vote for their favorite pics for the People's Choice Awards.  Votes will be tallied and those awards will be presented on on Oct 26.

I wish you all visit the exhibit.  Here is a glimpse of the Food, Farm & Foliage Fine Art Exhibit, sponsored by the Holly Branch of American Pen Women, currently on display at the Delaware Agricultural Museum, Dover, DE.  Our fine artists are from across the Delmarva Peninsula.  The exhibit opens Friday, October 1.

Maria & her painting:   "Vegetables on a Windowsill"

N. Taylor Collins, past NLAPW Pres & Holly Branch Secretary
 and her painting:  "Fading"

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More to do tomorrow so we must part.  Until then,

Maria L B

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Greatful Sunday - Sept 26, 2010

A Greatful SundayA day of rest and reflection.  A cooler day means opening the windows, fresh air and fall is coming.  In fact a few leaves are falling.  I do love the outdoors, my backyard, my vegetable and herb garden.  I have tall zinnias planted around the outside of the garden.  I have watched the hummingbirds and butterrflies dance from flower to flower and know I am assisting them with their duty to pollinate.  I have continued to feed the birds all summer.  I usually don't summer feed as they have plenty of insects to eat.  It has been a dry summer with little natural matter for them to stay nourished.  I also have noticed the birds have left the ripening tomatoes alone (which seems to be a problem each summer.  Each morning  I also fill bird baths and large clay saucers for my friends and watch them drink and bathe themselves.

Memories of Mother:  Sweet memories of my mother, especially as Fall begins.  It was my mother's favorite season.  She truly was inspired by nature and the natural surroundings.  It was very apparent when spending time outdoors with her.  She observed and always pointed out small things that most people never noticed.  Mildred was also a great artist and reflected on nature through artist eyes as well.

My Teacup Bird FeedersI have created wonderful teacup feeders with copper posts using my collection of tea cups.  Very charming and can also be used as tea lights in the garden or along the path.

Maria's Tuscany Painting:  There is another art exhibit coming up quickly.  In fact the paintings are due tomorrow.  My eyes hit upon a framed Tuscan scene I painted a few years ago.  So I thought I would touch it up, and make a few changes since it was painted with acrylic paints.  I am now pleased with the outcome and hope others will enjoy it also.

"Maria's Tuscany" Painting (unframed)

Included in the Diamond State Branch Bienial Show at
Grace Gallery, Oct 1 - 31, 2010
Opening Reception, Wilmington Art Loop, 5:30 - 7 pm 

Creative Thoughts:  I saved the prose below a while ago.  The author is unknown.  Please read and reflect.

Creating the inner self
Discovering our creative side
Achieving creative talents, training and instruction’
Transforming our nest
Becoming one with our nest
Creative appearance, clothing and attitude
Becoming one with nature
Giving of one self, gifts and sharing talents
Preparing creative meals with artistic approach
Creative entertaining
Developing creative patterns and relationships
Art for art sake

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Maria L B


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Artful Life Continues - Sept 24, 2010

Another Great Day in the Artful World:  The Food, Farm & Foliage Exhibit is taking shape.  All  entries are in and they were juried today by a great artist with a great eye for composition and technique.  It was interesting to hear her comments and perspective on the exhibit in general. The personal comments relating to traveling the Delmarva Peninsula through the works of our artists is what is great about an exhibit with a theme relating to our place on earth.  I am most grateful to her commitment to assist us.

Back to the Studio:  Creating order out of, photographs, magazine references, backing materials, art books, hook eyes, wire and the like can be satisfying and necessary.  I still need to finish 4 paintings started this summer.  Sometimes it is good to go back to a painting after some time has passed to "see" your true work.  There are more art shows to enter and of course more challenges ahead.

Maria's Soap Shop:  Bathing or showering in a great natural olive oil soap is extraordinary.  Just think of the great lather, great scents from the essential oils and just knowing you are nourishing your skin and creating a healthy environment.  Take for instance my Peppermint Orange Olive Oil Soap. The aromatic mint and orange scent combines well together creating a fresh and refresh bar. Finely ground mint and orange peel is added to enhance your very own soap.  Great for males and females alike.  Step inside the Coastal Cottage Soap Shop:

Maria's Handcrafted 
Peppermint Orange Soap
visit her shop at

Back to the Oven:  A recipe for Buttermilk Sugar Cookies appeared in our local weekly paper.  I then thought of the Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies with the chocolate mint filling.  Maybe I could put the two together creating Maria's Milan Cookies (Milan is a Italy largest industrial town).  So I searched and found a great buttermilk sugar cookies on  I replaced mint chocolate chips for the chips in their icing.  Some cookies I did sandwich, but mostly just put icing on individual cookies.  Comments later from my husband after consuming the first of many was, these taste like the PF Milano Chocolate Mint Cookies!!  

Buttermilk Sugar Cookies
Cookie Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk\
Make cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter 2 large baking sheets.
Whisk together flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture, until smooth.
Drop level tablespoons of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are puffed and edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks.

Glaze:  1 cup   chocolate mint chips
              1/3 cup cream or half and half

Melt mint chips n a  heat proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from heat; whisk in cream in a low stream.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Spread glaze on the underside of half the cookies.  Sandwich with remaining cookies.  Or you can spread on the top of single cookies and not sandwich.

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My best to you all,

Maria L B

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Consider Them Finished - Sept 21, 2010

3 Finished Paintings - Seriously!  Up early the last few days and a good time to apply another layer of paints to speed up the process.  Working with oil paints can create a lengthy completion of a painting.  Although Plein Air Painters create paintings in one session, sometimes in 2 hours.  But of course the drying time of thick paints will be considerable.  I framed the art with 2 frames I had on hand and 1 that my husband had created for me out of the barn board.  Hook & eyes, wire, and a backing completes the painting, but does take more time. 

I did forget to take images of the completed and framed paintings. Today was the deadline to deliver entries for the Food, Farm & Foliage Art Exhibit.  So delivered they are and on time.  I will take photos to post to this blog during my next trip to the Delaware Agricultural Museum. Stay Tuned

More Artist Talk:  It was another great day for me.  It looks like the Holly Branch will have a successful exhibit.  The number of professional entries, by individual artists will fill the South Gallery. To accept art for the exhibit, meet the artists and discuss their many different art experiences keeps the juices flowing.  We all have information to exchange with other artists.  That is one thing that is great about coming together as artists.  It makes organizing an exhibit so worthwhile. 

My Olive Oil Handcrafted Soap:  Did you know I use all natural ingredients, such as olive oil, Castor oil, soy oil, coconut oil, sea salt, spring water and natural essential oils for fragrance?
My long lasting, moisturizing and extra foamy soap is great for your skin. We make bath soap for men & women, kid's fun soap, men's shaving soap & pumice hand soap, doggy soap, laundry soap and more.  We real soap cakes, tarts, muffins, etc.  Great for party favors, and gifts.  We have many repeat customers and a great inventory of soap creating a heavenly scent wherever you go in my home.  Please check out our site:  Shipping is currently free for any orders Below is an image of a group of our products.

Maria's Recipe Produced Today:

Apple-Oat Muffins

The shredded apple adds moisture to the muffins. You'll find that the batter fills the muffin cups more than most recipes, but it shouldn't overflow in the oven.

Yield:  1 dozen (serving size: 1 muffin)

2 cups shredded peeled McIntosh apple (about 3/4 pound) (I used chopped peeled Granny Smith)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) carton plain low-fat yogurt (I used light sour cream instead)
1 large egg
Cooking spray

CALORIES 190 (19% from fat); FAT 3.9g (sat 0.9g,mono 1.1g,poly 1.5g); IRON 1.5mg; CHOLESTEROL 20mg; CALCIUM 96mg; CARBOHYDRATE 34.6g; SODIUM 238mg; PROTEIN 4.5g; FIBER 1.9g

Maria's Apple Oat Muffins
Adapted from

Can't wait to have the muffins and fresh cantelope in the morning!

Sweet Dreams,

Maria L B



Preheat oven to 400°.
Place apple on paper towels; squeeze until barely moist. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour and next 6 ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk, oil, vanilla, yogurt, and egg; stir well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in apple.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.