Sunday, June 8, 2014

ZAZZLE Dazzle!

The studio has delved into new projects, thanks to the opportunities provided by ZAZZLE and my new ZAZZLE store! It's been a blast creating these new pieces that allow you to wear my work while letting me explore the equine in new ways! You'll appreciate the quality of the items, and I hope you enjoy the vibrancy and distinctiveness of the designssomewhat tribal, always colorful and definitely unique. You won't find these designs anywhere else!

I'll be creating more designs and new pieces over the coming year, offering a wide variety for you to choose from for your own wardrobe or as gifts, but for now check out the 2014 Spring Collection of MinkModeTM!

Sporty Tees

Elegant Tees

Casual Tees

Assorted Styles



Look for new designs over the coming months, plastered on all sorts of new items! It's Mink mania! Let me color up your life!


Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Day At Devon...And Then Some

For my Bachelorette Party in 2000, I was whisked away by three longtime buddies for a weekend of wine and wackery in Napa, California. It was such a blast that it became a tradition that we four regroup for a Lost Weekend once a year, each at a different location. And this year we decided to take in the prestigious Devon Horse Show in Devon, PA since the four of us are lifelong horsecrazy girls. Started in 1896, Devon is the largest and oldest multibreed horse show in America, and it's been on my Bucket List for ages. And seriously, what better way to check it off than with my bodacious, pugnacious pony posse?

We had Grandstand tickets for Friday, allowing us to enjoy everything from Roadster Ponies to FiveGaited Saddlebreds to Coaching classes to Stadium Jumping. For a horse–lover, it was truly a smorgasbord! And for an artist like me, it was gleaming, snorting parade of redunkulous awesome! 

The Saddlebred is a distinctive American breed, bred to be stately, easygaited, intelligent and tractable. They're naturally highheaded and highstepping, and many have an additional fourth and fifth gait, the Slow Gait and the Rack, respectively, the latter which is very fast and thrilling!

Another lovely Saddlebred—this breed is known for its presence and charisma, as you can see here.

It was so cool to see Kathleen at work! She's a very talented sculptor who imbues her pieces with lots of energy and life.

Stadium Jumping is a popular sport, albeit very dangerous! Those jumps are much bigger in life than they look in the photo, easily almost as tall as I am and about three feet apart. And that's a 17hh stallion! Isn't he handsome?

Devon is one of the biggest and most prestigious competitions for driving in the world, and we were lucky to have a whopping eleven brilliant coaches competing from around the world! In this class, the driver must maneuver his team and coach through the course laid out by a series of paired cones without knocking the oranges off the topand there are lots of tight turns and expert strategy involved. If they do, they're penalized points which counts against them in the placings. Essentially, this is the Stadium Jumping equivalent of driving. Getting four horses to the same level of schooling and working together as a team, while keeping them sound, healthy and happy, is essentially an art form in itself.

Guy McLean was also there from Australia, demonstrating his horsemanship skills. One of his horses, Nugget, is a Breyer horse, too! And yesthat's a horse under there!

To keep us fed, Kay prepared a fantastic homemade brunch and picnic lunch—complete with champagne! A cheese and paté starter then delicious dill and cream shrimp, a delish tomato and feta salad, and one of my favorite pasta dishes, The 5Ps: pasta, pesto, parmesan, peas and pine nuts! I porked out! We definitely dined in style between classes, sipping our bubbly and leisurely taking in the equine beauty around us, discussing which entries we liked most. It was seriously marvy. 

It was one of those totally perfect days—so thank you Kay, Steph, and Laurie! And I took a ton of reference photos for sculpture and my howto books, since the variety of breeds and riding disciplines was so impressive.

All the hoofed lovelies were positively exquisite and meticulously turned–outI don't think I've ever seen so many impressive, imported Sporthorses in my life! Such handsome creatures! The Budweiser Clydesdales were there, too, in all their massive, charming goodness. They're about 72" (183cm) at the shoulder and weigh between 1,800-2,300 lbs (816-1,043kg)! Yes, they are big! It was so cool to see that giant hitch maneuver in the ring, with the thundering thumpthumpthump of their dinner platesized hooves. I also got to see Kladrubers for the first time—white grey, regal beauties, living masterpieces. And Friesians! Those highstepping, black beauties who prance right out of a dream! They were all uunbelievably splendid, and incredibly inspirational for clay. Heaven on the hoof.

There were also the Saddlebreds. Now I've never seen them in person, let alone in action, and, boy—was I floored. I'm still blown away to tell the truth. I've had a Saddlebred stallion sculpture in the works for some time now, but he's really big, much larger than 1:9 scale. Depicting the older, original archetype in barefeet and natural tail, I was forced to put him on the backburner when the economy took a downturn due to higher costs induced by his size. But now he's been reinvigorated with new energy thanks to Devon! Being able to study and admire the real thing in person has really helped me with this piece, and I gotta saymore Saddlebreds will definitely be coming out of the studio! WOW. 

It was a long, wonderful day and we got back at midnight, thoroughly satiated on equine goodness, and me very much inspired for the studio. We all slept well that night. Now since we had a couple of extra days, we decided to do another of our favorite activities—be ridiculous while we watch some favorite movies, and just laugh until our sides split. Mystery Science Theater and Monty Python were definitely on the roster, and we were introduced to Wreck it Ralph, which instantly got absorbed into our lexicon.

Now I hate zombies because I think they make stupid monsters as far as monsters go, but I fell in love with the "Wreck It" zombie during the BadAnon Meeting. "GOOD! BAD! YOU MUST LOVE YOU!" became my tagline for the weekend. And the girls would ask, "Do you have your hatchets?" to which I'd answer, "Aaaaaaaaaghhhhh!", armflinging and all. And for the record, Steph bears an uncanny resemblance to Calhoun—which is awesome.

Sidenote: This being a fiveday trip, Fate would have Laurie forget to pack extra pants! All she had were the pants she wore on the plane and a Fred Flintstone–esque dress. That's it. I kid you not. Don't ask why, it's just easier to accept it. Oddly enough, however, as I was packing for the trip, the Universe insisted that I pack twice as many pants than I would ever need for five days. I can't explain it—it just was a strange compulsion, much like carving Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes. And we were all grateful.

But it didn't end there! OK—backstory time…for years, Laurie and Kay have been exchanging vintage cookbooks and recipes. Not the good ones, mind you. Oh no no no no. NO. I'm talking about the ones where various forms of unspeakable foodstuffs are entombed in gelatin and molded into jiggling nightmares. You know, that scary stuff from the 50s and 60s. That colorful, creepshow cuisine that killed off any sense of culinary decency our parents and grandparents otherwise might have had. Yeahthose cookbooks. 

And so Kay diabolically hosted a Regrettable Food Weekend, squarely aiming things at us that should never be combined, let alone draped in Jell–O. It was truly a dryheaving, regrettable roundtable of gastric gourmangeddon. An abomination to all things from gourmet to greasy spoon to even gas station burritos.

I now totally understand why liquor and cigarettes dominated the social scene those days: you needed the really strong stuff just to get this gelatinous sludge down your gullet!

Kay, of course, documented the whole escapade with photos and incisive descriptions on her Facebook page for everyone's sadistic enjoyment. People followed along and posted comments as they watched us suffer and sputter our way through the malformed menu—and I gotta say that as questionable the experience was, we had a riotous good time! Let it not be said we won't suffer for a laugh! So if you're interested in hosting the same form of tantalizing torture on your loved ones, you can find some of these rancid recipes by Googling "regrettable food," or through this or this. Bon Appétit. And consider yourself forewarned.

But it wasn't all bad! As is traditional for our weekend, we indulge in every culinary hedonism possible, being the devout foodies we are. To that end, Kay's husband, Gary, graciously treated us to one of the very best meals I've ever mowed down at Bar Ferdinand, a Spanish tapas bar. Everything was brilliant, though my personal favorites were the cheese and apple foam "pops," the offthecharts paella, and a lobster and roe cream dip, which I pretty much scarfed down all by myself. No remorse. We liked the place so much, in fact, that we returned a couple days later, and gorged on the best mussels I've ever had in my entire lifeholy smokes, they were good! And there were these braised short ribs with roasted cauliflower that I know would have sent Ham over the moon in sheer euphoria. If ever there was His Dish, that was it. 

It was a good sign, I must admit, that the bar was based on Ferdinand the Bull, which still remains one of my favorite kids books. The story, the illustrations, and the idea of this big, hulking mass who seems scary on the outside, but is really a misunderstood sweet, gentle soul on the inside has captivated me since childhood. Heck, it's no surprise I married Hamhe is Ferdinand the Bull!

But it didn't end there! We were lucky enough to have Gary make us his famous crab cakes. Now I've heard of these spoken in reverent, hushed tones for years. They are the stuff of legend, of tall tales that grow taller every year. Now unlike Jim Gaffigan (who was also infused into our weekend hilarity), I'm a seafood junkie—and I'm freakishly obsessive about shellfish, in particular. So I've consumed just about every kind of crab cake across the country, and long maintained that the overall quality of a chef's seafood prowess can be determined simply by their clam chowder or crab cake. These dishes are sneakingly difficult to make well, and so the better they are, the more likely delicious the rest of the seafood menu.

And so it was that after biting into my first GaryCrabbyCake, I instantly understood its legendary status. Do you remember that moment when Anton Ego first bites into Remy's ratatouille? Yeahthat was me. It was the single best crab cake I'd ever had, let alone one of the best things I've ever chowed down! Served with melted lemon butter, it was pure ambrosia. So thank you twice over, Gary! You rock!

On our last day, the Regrettable Food Roulette continued with Banana Day, and it was just as heinous as you'd expect. And given how I hate bananas, the nasty was ramped up to Barfcon 1. But for the afternoon, Kay and Steph had a surprise activity planned! All Laurie and I knew was to pack clothes that could be stained, which was an intriguing prospect!

Again, Kay packed a picnic with chips and fresh, homemade mango salsa, plus two bottles of lovely cabernet: Turnbull and Clos du Val. After a cab ride into Center City, we discover we'll be playing at Painting With A Twist, a franchise operation that combines painting and partying! They supply all the materials and instruction, and you get to bring your fun, food, and vino. There were twenty of us in the class, and everyone was fun and the instructors were fabulous! 

Our target painting was of a Bird of Paradise flower with a colorful background, as the instructor led us through the process one step at a time. Think of it as a cooking class, but with pigments, brushes, and a canvas. But…well…I didn't want to paint that…and happily I didn't have to. Because what's also cool about this class is that they let you paint whatever you wantjust as long as you have fun! So I decided on another subject, one of which I'm especially fond

Now I haven't painted flatwork in nearly twenty years. We were using acrylic paint with two big, wonky brushes"Big Daddy" and "Little Daddy"six colors, and about an hour and fortyfive minutes to work. I totally winged it. Oddly enough though, painting Godzilla not only came easily, but was a blast. I suspect that beautiful cabs, scrumptious mangoes, and maniac friends are an ideal combination! With the big reveal, the whole class and the instructors loved him…heck, one of the instructors begged to buy him. But nothing doing! Ham called dibs, and we're going to frame him and hang him in our front room. On the way home, a gal in the airport and two guys on my planes also wanted to buy him! But who doesn't love Godzilla!? What's not to love!? LOOK at 'im!

So here's the gang with their super cool paintings! We joked that Kay served as the "control group" since she followed the instructions exactly. And despite not being an artist, her painting was very well doneclean colors and lines with meticulous brushwork. That speaks well of the experience me thinks!

Laurie took a different route, creating a variation on the theme to great effect. It's moody, wistful, and a bit contemplative, and beautifully detailed. 

Steph took a completely different route, since she interpreted her background as more oceanic. If you look closely, you can see her peekaboo fish cleverly hidden in the pigmentit's a really cool effect! 

Throughout the weekend, we enjoyed all the wines and champagnes Kay had carefully selected based on our previous trips, and we ventured down memory lane with each bottle. Bottle after bottle. Oy. But each one was delectable, and attached to so many great memories! And we definitely added more this year. Incredible friends. Incredible food. Incredible libations. Incredible weather. Incredible experiences. Trollopfest 2014 was a smash hit, and though it'll be hard to top, I suspect we'll have a great time trying in 2015, our 15th anniversary! 

Thank you again, Kay, Steph and Laurie for another brilliant time! Totally "Turbotastic!" I miss you already so much, and can't wait for next year! Each of you is totally A Dynamite Gal!

"All right, ladies, the kitten whispers and tickle fights stop now!" ~ Sergeant Calhoun, WreckIt Ralph

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