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Blog Party: Easter Parade!

    1. blossoms from the crab apple tree in my backyard 2. My terra cotta Virgin Mary who reigns over the rosemary in the herb bed 3. Motivated lettuce springing up in the garden among the hollyhocks 4. Palm frond crosses from Palm Sunday 5. Cocoa in one of my favorite mugs, it shows a peasant couple sharing bread and says "He is risen" in Russian. Behind this is a handmade Easter card from Martha.

   Hello and good morning, my friends!
       And welcome to the Easter Parade! I'm so happy you've stopped by for the celebration today (and invite you to take part if you wish!) Today we are reaching the end of Holy Week and the season of Lent, and Easter Sunday will come tomorrow!
    Since Easter falls in March this year, it seems early. But things are starting to bloom and green up and there is still that same feeling of renewal in the air. Spring always seems to take my by pleasant surprise, and I am always so excited about it. Blue skies, flowers, birds...and a general sense of starting over and rebirth-- exactly what the Easter Season is about.

   In my garden the green fronds of an Easter Lily is starting to ruffle up out of the mulch. It seems to have really done some growing over the winter, this year's Lily is looking to be huge! It makes me smile though because I brought that Lily home from Easter during our first year with our church, the same Easter that we were all baptized at the Easter vigil. When it's blooms were spent, I cut it back and then planted it in the garden. So it is special to see that reminder, even years later, growing and blooming in the garden.

   And in celebration of the season, of faith, and wonderful things in general, I've got a bit of a treat for this stop in the Easter Parade! I've decided to give away a print from my painting "Preparing the Easter Basket" to one lucky winner who comments on this post. I'll leave the giveaway open til next Saturday, April 6.

   And of course all are welcome to join the Easter Parade in spirit or in blog! Below should be a linky tool where you can upload your link and a thumbnail image where people can click on it and be taken right to your post. Or, if you'd rather, leave your link here on this blog and people can come visit you that way. This is a good opportunity to go a'visitin' to other friends, old and new, across the world and see what they're celebrating for this Easter.

   Thanks so much for stopping in! Let the parade continue!~

Original Painting: Bedtime Story

   Last night I put the finishing touches on this painting, "Bedtime Story". I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out! I know I paint a lot of 'mother and child' paintings, and I thought it was about time to highlight the dads in folk art.
   Around here, Daddy is in charge of bedtime reading. It's his chance to get some daily quality time with the little miss after a long day of work. It's amazing now to see them together with her just on the cusp of being able to read the stories herself. I think one of the best things I've done for my daughter as a mother is to give her a great dad!

   There is a lot going on in this painting, many 'scenes within scenes' and lots of pattern. I know many like clean lines and start simplicity but alas, I don't seem to have a stark or simple bone in my body ;) I love a room and a scene that is busy with life and color-- cozy! And not too perfect to disturb. 
   One of the themes in this painting, aside from the familial one (but it sort of dovetails with that) is the concept of the divine and the ordinary.
   Icons share a wall with family photos. Nature peeks in to the domestic. Coffee cups sit beneath a candle lit in prayer. The mundane compliments the sacred, and the sacred compliments the mundane.

   I also like seeing how people's faith subtly inhabits their every day life. I paint a lot of Christian themes and relics in my paintings, mostly because that is what I know and can relate to most easily.
   But I am always curious about other people's faiths, and I love learning about other cultures and traditions. I think it's a shame when people refuse to listen to other points of view or faith concepts for fear that it means they are giving up their own beliefs. I've always found myself experiencing the opposite when learning about others. 
   Many times I can see recurring themes in other cultures or faiths that I can relate to, or points of contrast that only deepen my own beliefs. 
   I guess when it comes down to it, I love learning about different ways that people find joy and hope in the world. That's my mark of good faith. The good that it creates.

   And so....out of all these jumbled thoughts, scrambled in my folk art brain and mixed with family and a love of reading, this painting is what has been created. It was also the first time I painted a rag rug-- and I painted two! I'm pleased with how they turned out! :D

   Well, it is time for me to start the day. Lots to do and errands to run. If you like this painting and would like to give it a good home, it is now currently for sale in my etsy shop! Why don't you stop in and take a look?

Til next time,

Egg Gravy- a book review

  Good morning, friends!
     Today we have a special treat! My friend and fellow Scandiphile has written a little book review of Linda K. Hubalek's book "Egg Gravy", which is about wonderful foods eaten by Swedish settlers here on our very own prairie. You can see my review of Hubalek's first book, Butter in the Well, on the Scandinavian Folk blog. However, since I've fallen behind on updating that blog, I decided I'd share Winnie's review here on the Audrey Eclectic blog in honor of the Easter Parade.  Many thanks to Winnie for taking the time to be our reviewer!

Story by Winnie Nielsen

 Following the completion of Butter in the Well, by Linda A. Hubelek, I ordered two more books in the series of Swedish immigrant, Kajsa Swenson Runeberg. How did it all end? I had to know.
    Looking Back, provides us a diary account of the last week Kajsa, and husband Peter, lived on their beloved Homestead in Saline County , Kansas. From 1868 to 1919, Kajsa forged a life with her husbands Carl and then Peter in the wild untamed American prairie.
     Life was difficult at times and every victory was the result of hard and determined immigrant faith and strength. Homes and farms were built step by step with one success upon another. Everything was earned by hard work and sacrifice. But, one family soon turned into a community of Swedish families working and supporting each other in this new and exciting land so far away from Sweden.
   Now, fifty- one years later, Kajsa and Peter find themselves too old to continue the hard life of farming. They agree to sell their home and move to a smaller place in the city. Each day of the last week is spent lovingly reviewing every room and inch of the farm for the last time.      
    Remembering specific memories of their children and good times spent with family and friends filled the hours of packing and preparation to leave.
    Finally on Thursday, a big auction was held to sell the animals and farm equipment. It was a bittersweet day filled the complexities of seeing the farm parts sell and the memories of each precious piece. Strangers and neighbors gathered to look over what was available to see if they could use it on their farms now. It was a happy day and a sad day all combined in what seemed like such a few short hours. 

    How amazing it was to see decades of hard work and love disappear with the hammer of the auction gavel. At the same time, however, it was rewarding for both Kajsa and Peter as they knew it was time to move on.
   The next morning, Friday, was the last day on the farm. All of the animals had been sold but there were still the few basics from them in the icebox to make the perfect last farm breakfast.
    Kajsa writes in the book, “ Egg Gravy. It has always been our staple meal no matter how poor or rich we’ve been. We always had eggs, milk and a little flour.”

     The recipe for Egg Gravy is the first recipe described in the book Egg Gravy. The recipe is simple: 2 cups milk, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons flour, salt. Heat milk. Beat eggs, flour and a little milk. When milk is hot, pour and stir egg mixture into the milk. Cook until thick. Put on toast. Good served with bacon. One of the favorite staple breads was Oatmeal bread as oats were raised on the farm and used for both animal feed and grain for the family to eat.
     This recipe is part of a collection of other old Swedish favorites and home remedies used during the homesteading days. From canning recipes for such favorites as pickled eggs, pickles, sauerkraut, plums, cherries and native berries, Swedish women worked to preserve every delicious thing they could to feed their families for the long harsh winters. The book also provides recipes for creating some of their
favorite foods from Sweden using American ingredients. Lutefisk, pickled herring, and favorite sausages were just a few made in the old world style.
    Many of the recipes in Egg Gravy are dated and tell a part of the story of Kajsa’s life on the prairie. There are references to Christmas celebrations, recipes for cold remedies, and encounters with American Indians, and family celebrations.
    The recipe collection is a wonderful combination of authenticity and history. It is worth reading for a better view into how what was grown and raised, was turned into delicious and sustaining nutrition for these Swedish immigrant families.

      In keeping with the upcoming Easter Parade at Audrey Eclectic, I wanted to highlight the egg gravy recipe as a possible Easter morning or Easter week dish for the family. When researching Swedish and Norwegian Easter traditions, I learned that the usual Easter morning breakfast was celebrated with a smorgasbord of typical favorites: special fish dishes like pickled herring, salmon with scrambled eggs, favorite dark breads, and hard boiled eggs. Hard- boiled eggs? Now we are on to something I recognize!

   Both Swedish and Norwegian accounts list colored hard- boiled eggs as part of the breakfast offerings. In Norway, yellow is especially a Favorite color associated with Easter. The hard- boiled eggs reminded me of my Mother’s favorite family recipe using egg gravy AND left over eggs.

   While my mother was of German heritage, her recipe for egg gravy was quite similar to Kajsa’s. We had a large family and dyed 4 dozen hard boiled eggs every Saturday before Easter Sunday for the great family egg hunt in the afternoon following church and family dinner. The week after Easter, which was usually our Spring Break from school, Mom made her version of Egg Gravy to use up some of the left over eggs.

Here is the recipe that our family enjoyed every Easter week.

   Melt two tablespoons butter in a pan, add 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk together. Slowly add 2 cups of milk that had been heated and mix together to make a white sauce. Add salt to taste. Gently simmer until thickened. Peel and chop 4-6 hard- boiled eggs and add them to the thickened sauce. Heat through, taste again and season with more salt if needed. Spoon over toast and serve with some bacon
crumbled on the top.

   This recipe is so easy and makes a delicious breakfast or brunch. If you wanted to be more Scandinavian, you could use rye bread , oatmeal bread or dark wheat bread and serve it with some favorite fish dishes instead of bacon. 
   However, since Kajsa mentions using bacon with her egg gravy, I chose it to accompany this recipe. It
is delicious! I hope you will try it out this Easter with your family. Perhaps it will become your new Easter favorite , or go to meal anytime the kitchen larder is bare except for the bare essentials of milk, eggs, and flour.

Glad Pask!

And don't forget, we're having an internet-wide "Easter Parade" on Saturday! If you'd like to take part, feel free to write up an Easter blog post and come back here and link up with the parade! Then we can all go a-visitin' and see what everyone is up to for Easter!

Palm Sunday Blessings

   I don't know about you, but I'm always happy to find a reason to celebrate. That's why I love holidays, feast days, days of remembrance, all of the above. This Sunday is Palm Sunday and starts off Holy Week for  western Christians.  I've got a pocket full of palm crosses-- did you know that these fronds are what will be burned down to create the ashes for next Ashe Wednesday? A bit of trivia for you there ;)

   Anyhow-- I want to make this week special here at the Audrey Eclectic blog. Our friend Winnie has a special book review to share with us (if you're a fellow Scandinavia lover, you'll want to read it!) and I'm hoping to have some other treats here as well.

   And of course next Saturday will be our "Easter parade", so feel free to create an Easter themed post and connect it here on this blog with the linky tool I'm going to attach to my post.

   Most of all, just wishing you a good week-- no matter your faith or persuasion. I appreciate you coming here to visit me, and I look forward to chatting with you soon!


Original Painting: Picking Dinner

 As it always happens in early spring, I've been thinking about gardening and flowers and warm sunny days.
   Of course outside it's really just raw and wet and gray. A few Bradford Pear trees have bloomed, but other then that it's pretty pitiful looking outside.
  No matter, I have spring magazines and seed catalogs to ponder! And that's how this painting, "Picking Dinner" came to be.

   I've been thinking a lot lately about the type of scenes I want to paint and what I find interesting. What inspires me most are narrative scenes like this, where there is action going on and a story unfolding. 
   A mother and her two children go through their summer garden to choose what they'll have for dinner, beyond them is the flat prairie and a sod house, and beyond that a pasture of sheep. 
   It was also fun to paint the vegetables and put in some of my favorite summer flowers. And on days like this, it's nice to imagine warm sun on your face and the earth beneath your feet.
   But....at this point in time I know that's all just wishful thinking, isn't it? While it's just plain cold and yucky here, I know many of you-- even those of you in the UK are experiencing snowstorms! Bundle up and take care!
   Spring is coming, slowly but surely!

  Also, you can now find "Picking Dinner" for sale on etsy! I'm inspired to do more outdoorsy bright scenes. I shall return to my sketchbook---

   It seems like very slowly, the world is starting to wake up. We had some nice sunny days lately, although its cold and gray today and sleeting ice. Spring is a finicky season!
   I am also trying to get back to the painting table and creating some warm weather pieces. I got the Baker's Creek seed catalog a while back and it makes me yearn to plant, although that wont be possible for us just yet. Oh, this time of year I always get grand ideas about planting ;) then summer comes and it just gets so brutally hot. I dont want a good herb garden there. I miss fresh basil!
   Hope you and yours are doing well today!~

Easter Dream House

   The other day I picked up a copy of the magazine Cottages and Bungalows at the store, and was flipping through the pages while waiting in the school pick up line, when I stumbled upon the cutest-- I mean cutest-- cottage all decked out for Easter in all it's folk artsy glory. 
   I just fell totally in love with the design and decor of the place-- the amazing use of folk art, the touches of the divine, the whimsy, and also the balance of saturated color with expanses of white and neutral tones so that the all the folky color and pattern weren't too intense.

     You can also see photos of this house in an article online that I found-- it uses many of the same photographs (the above photos are from that site) and read a bit about the house yourself.
   The cottage is in England and was built sometime in the 18th century. And as a lover of pattern, red, and folk art style, I am definitely going to be keeping it in mind as I create a new space for us when we move this summer!

   Of course now that it's spring break, it's turned gray and cold here. Little Miss is spending the days at horse camp though, and I can't wait to hear about her adventures when I pick her up! Despite the blah weather, it's the perfect time to cuddle up with some magazines and books to come up with design inspiration-- and a good supply of chai tea (I'm super obsessed with Twining's french vanilla chai with honey and a dash of coffee creamer)

   Hope you're getting a great start to your week!~ Wishing us all warmer days ahead-

PS: I've added a new feature to the sidebar, the Audrey Eclectic Instagram feed! I started a new account just for this blog and business. You can follow along on instagram, or right here on the blog where you can view my photos in the sidebar.

St. Lucia Doll

   Several months ago I had the idea to create a large St. Lucia doll to put on my Swedish Christmas Tree. All decked out in her crown with candles and a beautiful embroidered skirt, I envisioned her to be like a pretty Christmas angel, but Swedish style.
   Well, things just got in the way of that plan-- what with shows, gift making, and all the rest. But, in a case of 'better late than never' I finally have finished little St. Lucia-- complete with curling sheep's wool hair, a crown with real candles (not that I'll light them...) and a wreath decorated with lace and gingerbread! Here she is:

   I'm so happy with how she turned out, she was worth the wait I think (as good things often are!) and I'm dreaming of an entire full-sized tree for my Swedish Christmas obsession next winter. But until then...I'm happy to watch the world slowly bud and green out.
   I do like the snugness and cozyness of winter, but when spring appears it's always a relief, isn't it? And Holy Week and Easter are just around the corner. I'm looking forward to it!~

   Hope you have a wonderful Friday and weekend!~
An extra early 'God Jul' to you ;)

Ready for Spring

   I don't know about you, but now that it's March, I am ready for spring! It's been pretty cold and gray here the last few days, but I am looking forward to warmer temperatures, flowers, and things just greening up in general!

    This past week has been full as well--- my little Miss turned 6, but before that she caught the bug going around at school and we weren't sure there'd be much partying! But she bounced back (what girl wouldn't, for cake?) and she was thrilled with the present we got her-- a week at 'horse camp' for spring break! 

   And speaking of spring, I was looking through some of my spring inspired paintings and thought these three in this post would be great for Easter and the season in general. The last piece, Madonna of the Blossoms, was actually the cover art for The Anglican Digest's winter issue!

   Also, I appreciate all your enthusiasm and well-wishes about the upcoming move! Thank you so, so much! You all know how much a move means to me. And I feel so grateful to be able to get an old house like I've always wanted! Can't wait to get settled, and get painting! We've still got a while until that all happens though :)

   Without a doubt, lots of good things are unfolding for 2013! I'm glad you're here to share them with!~

All paintings in this post are available as prints in my etsy shop!

Winner + new paintings

 Hi there!~ Hope you're having a great afternoon! It's warm and windy here, and feels so much like spring! I even changed to my 'spring purse' so hey, that must make it official, right? ;)

First things first, I do have a winner for the Jane Austen notecards giveaway! Congrats to Miss Bibliophile! You are my winner! I will be in contact to get your mailing info!~

Also, I'm slowly adding original works to my etsy shop now that the gallery show is over, and these three paintings are now looking for homes! Stop by and see if one is calling your name! :D


It all began with dishes....

   Earlier in the winter, we were lucky enough to inherit some things from my husband's grandmother. She decided to give away several family heirlooms she was keeping, and received some vintage crystal glasses as well as this amazing set of china, featuring roses and poppies, my favorite flowers!
   Will's grandma shared with me that she had bought this set of beautiful plates, tea cups, and serving pieces for her mother with her first paycheck when she became a teacher. I'm thinking that probably dates them back to the mid to late 1930s. They are so sweet and so lovely!
   The only problem, as I unpacked each little piece, was that I have no place to display them or even a cabinet to store them. This house is just so little and after 8 years of acquiring things and storing things, we are just plain out of space. So they went back into the newspaper and box they came in. But that's not the end of it.
   "What these need is a nice hutch. And a dining room. Which would mean another house entirely," I said to myself.

  And you know what? That seems to be about to come true!

   In what feels like a miracle, so many things have happened and fallen into place to make it possible for us to move. And we've already found a house we love, had our offer accepted, and as of yesterday, it stood up to inspection (rather well, actually!) and so our closing date is set. This opportunity has come from the help of lots of people-- from the neighbors who asked to buy our house (that in itself is a miracle!!) to being able to get our financing together quickly and have our dream of having an old house become a reality. Even though I tried to not get my hopes up and heart set, it seems to really be coming true. So stay tuned! Big changes ahead!

And of course, thanks to you too-- for your support, kind words, and purchasing of my art! You have made this possible as well! :D


PS: the giveaway for the Jane Austen postcard set ends at the end of the day today! Don't forget to enter!

Another Blog Party!~

   Since we all had a good time with the St. Lucia Blog Procession, I thought we might try another one for Easter! What do you think? I will try to get a linky tool going again and on the Saturday before Easter (March 30) we can begin our procession--- or rather, our Easter Parade!

  All you have to do to join is put on your virtual Easter bonnet and make up an Easter post, then come back here to link it to the linky tool as we did with the St. Lucia Procession. Let me know if you plan to join, and I will also link to your blog in my sidebar in anticipation of the event! Feel free to use the above graphic to promote our parade on your blog, facebook page, twitter, etc.

   Happy Spring, my friends! And a blessed Easter to you as well!~

New Prints Listed

Preparing the Easter Basket

The Dashwood Sisters

Anne Elliot

    Hello there! How've you been? It's been one busy whirlwind of a week for me! And on top of it all-- I've got some new prints in the shop! The art that was displayed at Shades of Brown is also back at home, and I've got a few things in the shop now, but have more to list as well.

   Now that it's March and it's positively warm outside, it feels like spring is really on its way. And this spring is going to be so, so exciting. I can't wait to tell you about it! :D