Drawing Process: “Tree of Life”

There’s no better way to cap off a stressful Monday than with a soothing drawing session. With the holidays just around the corner, I’ve got 11 art requests (and counting!) to perfect and complete by Christmas week. Looks like I’ve got some quality art studio time ahead of me. Hey, I don’t hate it! Just an excuse to do what I love.

Project #1 on my list is an 11 x 14 canvas ink drawing of the tree of life. I created a smaller version of this tree a few months ago, so I fortunately have a basis to go off of. Although, no painting is every truly alike, which always adds a little excitement to the creative process!

Here is a little sneak peak of the beginning stages…

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“Tree of Life” – 11 x 14 Canvas, Sharpie Ink Drawing

For any inquiries, please visit my Facebook page: The Blank Canvas Company.

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Peanut Butter Banana & Nutella Marshmallow “Sandwich”

This ooey-gooey dessert sandwich will make your taste buds tingle. It’s everything you want in a dessert, but healthified! By using just 1-2 tablespoons of these delicious spreads, you’ll get the chocolate peanut butter taste that you’re craving without feeling like you’ve completely jumped off the healthy eating bandwagon. Remember – everything is okay is moderation!

nutellabanana

Ingredients

2 slices Ezekiel bread
1 – 1.5 tablespoons Nutella
1 banana, sliced thin
2 tablespoons Teddy’s flax peanut butter
1/2 – 3/4 cups mini marshmallows
Non-stick butter spray to coat the pan

What you will need

A large stove-top pan or griddle
Spatula

Directions

1. Heat your stove to medium-high heat and coat pan or griddle with non-stick butter spray. Slice Ezekiel bread in halves diagonally, forming 4 triangle-shaped halves. Place bread slices on griddle. Cook until slightly browned, then flip over and cook until other side is slightly browned. While bread is cooking, cut banana into thin pieces.
2. Remove bread from heat. Spread a thin layer of Nutella on 2 of your bread slices. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on your remaining two slices.
3. Place banana slices on the peanut butter slices, then place a single layer of mini marshmallows on the same 2 slices. Cover each of these 2 halves with your Nutella slices, making each Nutella slice 2 the top of your sandwich half. Press down on the top piece of bread slowly so it will become molded into the rest of the sandwich. This will help the sandwich stay together while it continues to cook.
4. Put your sandwich back on the pan or griddle. Cook for about 2 minutes, then very carefully flip each half of sandwich over so the other side can cook. When the marshmallows seem fully melted and your bread is full browned, remove from heat.
5. Enjoy your dessert sandwich with a tall glass of skim milk!

Easy & Delicious Baked Apple Crisp

I love experimenting with apples, especially during the fall when they are in season & extra juicy. Shockingly enough, I have never baked any sort of apple dessert, although it’s been on my baking bucket list for quite some time now. My company’s annual potluck Thanksgiving luncheon this week was the perfect excuse to take my first crack at homemade apple crisp.

Because this autumn-inspired dessert is new to me, I followed Tastes Better From Scratch‘s easy and extremely tasty apple crisp recipe. Since I am baking for 50+ people, I doubled the recipe. Always better to have leftovers, right? Turns out this dish was so delicious that my co-workers (myself included) demolished it, along with the gallon of vanilla ice cream I brought for topping. For my hips’ sake, it’s probably a good thing that I won’t have this crispy goodness at my disposal the rest of the week.

apple crisp

Ingredients

Crumb topping
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup Quaker old fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup soft unsalted butter, diced into small chunks
Dash of salt

Apple filling
3-4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thin
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons milk (I used skim milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of salt

What you will need

A medium-sized bowl
A small bowl
8×8 pan
A fork (for mixing)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a medium size bowl combine the crumb topping ingredients with a fork or pastry blender until it resembles small crumbs. Refrigerate while you prepare the apple filling.
3. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and flour until well blended. Add lemon juice, milk and vanilla and stir well. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pour butter mixture over apples and toss to coat.
4. Pour apple mixture into an 8×8-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and top is set.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm with cold vanilla ice cream.

Motivation Monday: Disheartening Disease

Aliana Fichera
10-years-old

Aliana2

This beautiful little 10-year-old and her courageously supportive family are a constant reminder to me of the importance positivity and unconditional love.

Flashback: A girl with a dream

I met Ali three summers ago at the pool I used to lifeguard at. She was a nervous little pipsqueak who could barely make it across the width of the pool without feeling out of breath. She came in each morning determined to pass the swim test so she could play with the “big kids” in the deep end, although we all knew she was not quite strong enough to keep herself afloat. Regardless of how tired she was or how defeated she felt, she tried her luck at the swim test every single day of the summer.

Flash forward: Finding her dream team

Three years later, her persistence has finally paid off. Aliana has not only passed the swim test (multiple times, might I add), but is now a confident (and super fast) swimmer. She has recently joined her town’s competitive swim team and has also been granted an incredible opportunity through Team Impact to be an honorary member of the Wesleyan college swim team. Did I mention she’s 10? Sufficiently impressed.

See, one thing I failed to mention is that Ali suffers from an exhausting immune disorder called common variable immunodeficiency, which impairs her immune system. Each month, she receives a daylong infusion which fills her little body with healthy human immunoglobulin cells. She has had to undergo 23 infusions on her journey thus far.

The diagnosis of a chronic disease is a terrifying nightmare for anyone, especially a child. But Ali is a spitfire who, with the help of her support system, is willing to brave it all. She won’t let anything, especially an immune disorder, get in the way of her dreams and ambitions. It’s children like Aliana that should inspire us to wake up every day and refuse to let fear drive our every move.

Be the change

I encourage you to let Aliana’s story have an impact on the way you go about your day. Share her story & consider donating to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the non-profit organization that keeps Aliana healthy and feeling like the world is always at her finger tips.

To read more about Team Impact and Aliana’s induction to the Wesleyan swim team, click here.


“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
– Plato

Blogs I love: Getting Inspired

Call me nerdy, but I choose to spend my lunch breaks (and a lot of my down time) discovering ways to get my creative juices flowing. As a Marketing professional with a niche for writing, I am always looking to other bloggers for new found inspiration for my design projects, recipes, and, of course, for my day-to-day life.

My weakness? Design and DIY blogs. I can’t get enough of them! It’s amazing how creative people can be. There are a few blogs I check daily (Cupcakes and Cashmere and Lauren Conrad being two of my favorites), but I’m always on the look out for new & interesting finds!

This week’s discoveries:

1. The Crafted Life (DIY, Crafts, Interior Design)

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2. Essie Button (Beauty, DIY, Fashion, Food, Lifestyle)

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3. Vintage Revivals (DIY, Crafts, Interior Design)

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4. Protein Treats By Nicolette (Baking & Cooking)

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5. Baked Bree (Baking & Cooking)

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Maximize your down time this weekend by checking out these talented bloggers for yourself. Happy weekend.

Sweet Potato Walnut Oatmeal

Vegetables for breakfast? Who would have thought these decadent (and delicious) A.M. oats could be so good. The combination of vanilla almond milk and sweet potato is sure to awaken your morning sweet tooth and give you the energy boost you need to get your day started off on the right foot!

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Ingredients

1 medium sweet potato, peeled & cut in bite-size pieces
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Nature’s Promise almond butter
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

What you will need

Large microwavable bowl
Peeler
Large pan
Spatula
Mixing spoon

Directions

1. Mix milk and oatmeal in a large bowl.
2. Microwave mixture on high for 5 minutes. While it is cooking, peel the skin off your sweet potato and chop it into bite-size pieces.
3. Add sweet potato chunks and olive oil to your large pan. Cook on medium-high until brown, stirring frequently. Before removing from heat, add walnuts to pan and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
3. Remove mixture from microwave and stir. Microwave for 3 1/2 minutes. Remove and stir. Microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and stir.
4. Immediately stir almond butter into your milk and oatmeal mixture. Then, add your sweet potato and walnuts. Stir one last time, then serve.

Garlic Spinach & Mushroom Sauté

Can you really ever have too much garlic? It’s not possible! This sauteed garlic-y goodness will add great taste (and color) to any meat dish, or shine as a stand alone side.

sauteedveggies

Ingredients

1 package sliced mushrooms
1/3 bag spinach
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon Italian spaghetti seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic salt

What you will need

A large pan
A spatula

Directions

1. Cook mushrooms, spinach, onion, and olive oil on the stove at medium-high heat, stirring frequently
2. When onion becomes translucent and spinach is fully cooked, add garlic, spaghetti seasoning, and garlic salt. Mix well with spatula.
3. After about 2 minutes, remove from heat. Place garlic veggies atop grilled chicken, cooked quinoa, or brown rice, or serve as a side dish.

Tea Time

tea

With November in full swing and the temperatures slowly dropping, my tea tin is back in business. My big tea-drinking secret: Whenever I enjoy a cup of green or mint tea, I indulge in a mini York peppermint patty. It’s a 50 calorie candy kick I just cannot resist.

Benefits of tea

– Jump starts the metabolism
– Helps with hydration
– Provides a caffeine kick (unless, of course, you prefer de-caffeinated tea)

My favorites

Bigelow Peppermint Herb Tea
Lipton Green Tea
Tazo Chai
– Tazo Cocoa Mint Maté
– Tazo Zen

My tiny tip

To boost your energy levels for the day ahead, pour yourself a cup of green tea each morning right when you wake up. Your body and mind will reap the benefits.