Last fall a fantastic chef named Joel Serra out of Barcelona discovered my art through an Instagram post. (Those #hashtags actually work!) Joel’s company Papalosophy “combines food, art, technology and nature to create the new and unexpected.” Papalosophy also “launches chef brands and collaborates with food creatives to produce spectacular gourmet content and events.” The result was a unique and fun food/art collab that gave me the opportunity to paint an octopus, pomegranates, carrots and even sketch a portrait of Joel’s penchant for unique neckwear! I hope you’ll check out the recipe and accompanying illustrations currently featured here on his blog!
Oh hey Tusk… newish Middle Eastern foodie chic eatery. I shared a dinner with a friend at your uber-cool Miami Vice colored dining room one night a few months ago. It was really good. In fact, it was mind-glowingly good. I actually typed mind-blowingly, but the auto correct changed it appropriately. I walked out with a glow. I can honestly say it was the best hummus I’ve ever eaten. Creamy, rich…sublime. Every part of the dinner was beyond my expectations. Then my sister told me that Tusk does brunch on the weekends. WHAT??!! My lovely friend Jackie came into town a few weeks later and asked me to pick a good brunch spot. DONE.
I love drawing food for a variety of reasons. I love eating. I love the vast variety of delicious food that Portland has to offer. Food is incredibly interesting visually. It has unique shapes, textures and details that make it terribly fun to render. When I travel I find myself drawing large sweeping landscapes, but when I document food I get to delve into the close-up intricacies of a dish. This type of sketching is an amazing exercise in observation. I generally like to draw ‘plein air’ or live, but with food, I understandably want to eat it. So the iPhone comes out and I get to look like a Millennial as I snap a few shots of my food. The one factor, however, that makes all the difference for a food illustrator, is, of course, presentation.
So, when Tusk served us their Lamama Moroccan Breakfast in a bevy of gorgeous ceramic dishes, the illustrator in me did a happy dance. Not only was the food the perfect blend of savory and sweet, the presentation was pure artistry. And, by the way, the coffee was fantastic. ( I mean, hey, it’s Portland…it has to be.)
I know you might doubt that a Middle Eastern restaurant can satisfy your brunch cravings, but trust me… they can. You might have an hour wait on a evening to sample their dinner fare, but Portland foodies haven’t discovered this brunch yet. And yet is the operative word. So high-tail it over there, and if there isn’t a line out the door… do your own happy dance.
Spring feels like it’s arrived in Portland! Ok, at least it does on the oh so occasional sunny afternoon in between Oregon’s version of monsoon rains. Cherry blossoms float through the air, and if you are lucky enough to walk down the right street, a delicate smell of jasmine will drift over you, forcing you to stop and retrace your steps to find the source. Even as we celebrate the birth of a new season, winter feels like it hasn’t been informed to loosen its grip. Most everyone I know has been under the weather with a horrible bug that’s been gripping the city bringing an endless litany of coughing and nose blowing. I got smacked down twice as I also somehow acquired strep throat. One of the lovely things about being self-employed is that I could continue to work on my book in between naps, even though my throat looked like the latest version of the movie Aliens. Stretchy pants and hot tea were imperatives, so I thought I’d share my take on tea in the UK which will be featured in my book about Iona:
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, I was always a coffee girl. I had no idea how much power tea has in the UK. A cup of tea (a cuppa) seems to be the solution to every problem in Great Britain.
Feeling cold? How about a cuppa? Feeling tired? A cuppa will perk you right up! Bad breakup? A cuppa will make you feel better. Bored? Make a cuppa… at least then you will have something to do. And if you’re making one, make me one too.
When I was on Iona in February, not one single hotel or cafe was open. When I returned in November the Argyll Hotel on the waterfront offered lunch and tea from 10- 2, Wednesday through Saturday. All of us at the hostel would plan our days around ‘going into town’ and lunching at the Argyll. The real treat, however, was when one ordered a scone and tea. Thick clotted cream and jam were served with a buttery, flaky scone the size of a fist. It is a true test of character not to gobble the whole thing down while you wait for your tea to steep. I am a fan of rich black, Scottish tea with cream and honey added. The afternoons that I treated myself to the full spread were few, but etched in my mind. Even now that I’m back in the states, I still prefer a cuppa in the morning. A big mug of Earl Grey creamy with almond milk is my favorite. I turn on the electric kettle if I’m feeling cold, or tired, or heartbroken or even bored. Nothing but a cuppa will do.
I have had a long, long relationship with brunch. It has been a very satisfying, filling and faithful relationship, which as many of us can attest to, can be incredibly rare these days. One of the things that I missed the most while traveling was the fantastic brunch spreads that pretty much every Portland restaurant has on their menu. If a restaurant doesn’t have at least a weekend brunch, it’s a good bet that it probably won’t last long. In the winter of 2015, I started documenting my brunch experiences. I wrote about some of my favorites such as Broder, Olympia Provisions, Country Cat and Accanto. Then I got distracted with working on publishing my first book for several months, after which I decided to leave the country for a long spell.
Last Saturday, I met two dear friends, Lori and Leigh, at Tasty n Alder for a much needed get together. These lovely ladies worked with me at Columbia Sportswear and I hadn’t had a chance to see them since coming back to town. After we consumed five (yes five) amazing dishes, I decided the ‘Art of Brunch’ needed, nay, begged to be revived. Tasty n Alder is one of a group of fabulous restaurants in Portland that are the creation of Toro Bravo restaurateur chef John Gorham and all dishes are intended to be shared tapas style. I have been to Tasty n Sons for brunch many times, but this was my first experience at Tasty n Alder, and obviously, it was delicious enough to merit the aforementioned revival. Yes, there was about an hour wait, but they kindly take your phone number to call you when your table is ready. Heart Coffee across the street does a booming business on the weekends solely due to the patience of brunch-goers sipping their coffee while they wait for a table. I admit, I sipped my latte while I waited. It was a double coffee morning.
Literally every dish at Tasty n Alder could be rhapsodized over. I, in fact, think that the Potatoes Bravas with the accompanying over-easy egg gracing the top are truly the best I’ve ever eaten; crispy and flavorful with sauce baked into each bite, with a kick-ass aioli that is rich and garlicky. This is quite a statement considering the fact that I have lived in Spain and eaten Bravas from such diverse places as tiny northern towns to thriving and vibrant food meccas such as Madrid and Barcelona. Toro Bravo, which was Gorham’s first restaurant in Portland, is classic Spanish cuisine with a twist, so it isn’t surprising that they unarguably nail every Spanish dish they put on the table. The dish that did surprise me was the above pictured ‘Bim Bop’ Bacon and Eggs “Stir Like Crazy.” This spin on the traditional Korean-style bibimbap was served in a blazing hot iron pot with an egg cracked over the top of vegetables such as carrots, spinach, kimchee and bean sprouts combined with a chili pepper paste. The ‘bacon’ is actually sweet grilled Korean pork belly and when you ‘Stir Like Crazy’ to mix the egg into the dish you discover the bottom layer of mouth-watering crusty rice that really makes all the flavors and textures come together perfectly. If you are going to wait in line to eat a brunch dish, then wait for this one.
I’ll be honest. Some things that are quintessentially Portland feel overdone and a bit comical after being gone for awhile: giant wooly beards on every 30-something male, the hipster uniform worn by every ‘serious’ barista, and the penchant for very uncomfortable butt-numbing but aesthetically pleasing wooden benches in 90 percent of coffee shops are but to name a few. Brunch, however, still shines bright. Brunch brings friends together over delicious meals, and brunch gives everyone a reason to get out of bed at a reasonable hour on a weekend. Brunch also provides some loose parameters for the mind-blowing food talent in this town to try their hand at traditional favorites, as well as shaking things up with new ideas and unexpected fusion dishes. Yes, brunch IS quintessentially Portland, and I will always be a fan, where ever on the planet I happen to be at the time.
THIS JUST IN! I’m very excited to share that the article I wrote about Casa Lestón as well as my interview are now posted on the Delicooks site! Delicooks is a foodie website based out of Barcelona so I am hopeful for some much needed exposure for my food illustrations! If you are interested in reading the English versions of each of the articles – I have included them below!
Casa Lestón: the oldest restaurant in Galicia turns 100 next year
Morriña is a Gallego word that describes a very particular kind of homesickness. La morriña can be described as a deep longing for the land of one’s birth. When I first heard this word it was used to describe the sentiment that Gallegos immigrate, but after a time, they always want to return home. I don’t know if this is 100 percent true, but I have nary a drop of Gallego blood and Galicia continually draws me back to the Northwest corner of Spain. I have become enamoured of its history, its landscapes and of course, its food. Many people first discover the beauty of Galicia when they walk the Camino de Santiago.
I was one such person, as my sister and I completed our own Camino in 2013. I had lived in Sevilla for a year in college, but knew next to nothing of Galicia. As we drew closer to the end of our journey, I was continually surprised and delighted by my lush surroundings and the variety of the terrain we passed through. After reaching Santiago, many pilgrims continue walking to the coastal town of Finisterre. They celebrate reaching ‘the end of the world’ at the well known lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic ocean. If you ever have the chance to sit on these rocks and gaze out over the endless horizon and ever changing blue spread of ocean, you will understand what a magical place it is.
The last town on the Camino before reaching Finisterre is the tiny village of Sardiñiero. Only a few meters away from the shell marked path is the doorway to a restaurant called Casa Lestón. Most pilgrims walk right by it, their eyes fixed on reaching their intended destination. If they do, they miss experiencing something very special.
Casa Lestón is the oldest restaurant in Galicia. It is celebrating its 100 year anniversary in 2017 and preparations are already underway to mark such a noteworthy occasion. When Manuel Marcote Lestón decided to open a small supermarket and restaurant in his hometown in 1917, I wonder if he had any idea of the legacy he would leave. The restaurant has always been a family business, and four generations of his descendants have now been part of its extensive history. Although Manuel’s son Bautista silhouette is etched on the windows overlooking the street, Alberto, his great-grandson, is the current face of Casa Lestón. I had a chance to visit the restaurant for the first time with my friend Cheri after we walked the Camino to Finisterre last August. We enjoyed sitting in the spacious outdoor patio, sipping white wine as a cool breeze tempered the heat of the afternoon. I chatted with Alberto about his quintessential family restaurant and how it first began a century ago.
At the end of the 1800’s, Alberto’s great grandfather had immigrated to Argentina. He did well in business, but returned every four to five years to Galicia. Even though Manuel wanted his wife Maria to come with him to South America, she refused to leave Sardiñeiro. Manuel’s eventual decision to return home permanently in 1915 to build a home and a business might have been due to his wife’s stubbornness, but Alberto thinks it was la morriña. Galicia called him back.
In the year 1920, the main road along the coast was built directly in front of Casa Lestón, just as Manuel had predicted. His savvy location choice enabled the business to grow and after his death in 1940, Maria and Bautista, continued running the restaurant and market. When tourism began to arrive in the 60’s, Casa Lestón started to function exclusively as a restaurant and began operating much as it does today.
The interior of the building has a vintage feel, but with a fresh face lift from a recent renovation this past year. In the bar area light grey walls form the perfect backdrop for large arrangements of black and white photos all in matching crisp white frames. Sepia snapshots of the family and community provide a unique glimpse into the history of Sardiñeiro and its inhabitants. In the dining room large and small canvases of original art grace the walls. Alberto’s younger siblings, Julio and Palmira, are among the artists featured.
In the evening we had the chance to try some of the restaurant’s specialties. Casa Lestón is known for its unique tortilla. Classic Spanish tortilla is made with eggs and potatoes, but I had never eaten a tortilla made with eggs, onion, red pepper and razor clams before. No potatoes! It was delicious! Thinking of the combination of the sweetness of the red pepper and the briny texture of the fresh clams makes my mouth water.
Galica is well known for its array of tempting seafood and Casa Lestón does not disappoint. The second plate I was served was their famous Calamares in su tinta (squid in it’s own ink). I had never tried this dish before and Cheri was rather intimidated by the whole prospect. You can order the calamares served with potatoes or rice and we opted for rice. The rich dark sauce complimented the juicy squid perfectly and we finished off the plate in no time. We also sampled their succulent Pulpo á feria which is octopus tentacles boiled and then sliced into small round medallions, topped with smoked paprika. This traditional dish is very popular in Galicia and graces most restaurant menus.
I spoke to Alberto about the ingredients in his dishes and learned that 90 percent are from local providers, farms and fisherman. If the ingredient is not in season, the final dish does not go on the menu. I had the chance to peek behind the scenes in the kitchen and was able to see the fresh seafood being prepared for the night’s menu. The stunning octopus caught my eye and I decided to sketch it.
The kitchen also revealed a big crate of pimientos de Padrón. Padrón is a small town to the south of Santiago that has become famous for their tasty green peppers. These bite sized peppers are seared at a high heat in olive oil and served with coarse grain sea salt. They have become my favorite Spanish tapa. Every so often, you will realise mid-chew that you have stumbled upon the rare hot pepper in the batch and it can be a bit startling. The peppers at Casa Lestón were delectable; salty and perfectly cooked. We munched away with abandon and did not find a single spicy one in the mix. I drew them in their original state, so I could capture the vivid shades of green and smooth texture with my paint.
As we enjoyed our meal, I watched the locals eat and drink around the marble topped wood bar. There was an easy, intimate feel as wine was ordered and steaming plates of food were served. At Casa Lestón, guests are not just clients; they are treated as family. Alberto shared with me he feels he has “the most beautiful job in the world.” Watching him interact with staff and clients in the restaurant, it’s easy to believe. It’s clear Casa Lestón is an integral part of the life and community of Sardiñeiro. Alberto’s great-grandfather didn’t just leave his family a business; he left them a vibrant and thriving way of life.
As you make plans for travel in 2017, be sure to put Sardiñeiro on your list. At Casa Lestón you’ll get a chance to celebrate 100 years of history, eat some delectable food and probably make a few new friends. The only downside is that once you leave Galicia, you may encounter la morriña. I am confident it’s worth the risk.
How did you become an illustrator?
Art has always been a part of my life but until just a few years ago, it was something I only did very occasionally. After going through a difficult divorce, I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago in 2013. During my 800 kilometre journey, I documented each day in my journal with ink and paints. It was the first time I had been creative every day and it was a revelation to me. Through the process of publishing these drawings in my first book “The Art of Walking,” I realised that I wanted to leave my corporate job to travel and pursue illustration full time.
How do you define your style?
Whimsical is the word other people use when describing the style of my paintings. I love color and I adore crosshatching and both are used without restraint in my work. When I paint I want my shapes and textures to evoke the feel and energy of a place or an object rather than communicate the exact technical details of perspective or reality. I really enjoy drawing ‘plein aire’ and have cultivated a drawing process that allows me to capture the main elements of a scene very quickly. I can then finish the painting at a later time, which works well when I am in the midst of travel or hiking…or eating!
What things inspire your work?
Travel, food and being outdoors are the things that inspire my work the most. I love seeing new places and especially experiencing different cultures. I carry my pens and miniature watercolour kit everywhere I go so I can draw anywhere I am. I am interested in capturing small intricate details just as much as large sweeping cityscapes. I have been traveling and living in Spain, Portugal, France, England and Scotland for the past year and it has been an incredible, rich time of learning and evolving as an artist. I blog every week and have come to enjoy the process of writing just as much as illustration. I delight in telling stories and feel honoured when I get the chance to to share someone else’s story through word and image. My article on Delicooks this month on Casa Lestón is the perfect example of that.
How did the Camino de Santiago inspire you to create a book?
When I walked the Camino de Santiago, it was the first time I created art in a journal format. I found myself delighting in the process of creating rather than worrying about the end product. I couldn’t wait for the end of the day when I could sit down to draw. A year and a half after walking the Camino, I realised I wanted to share these drawings as a body of work and complete the journey that had started years prior in the midst of my divorce. When I began to share my book with family and friends, it was so inspiring to find that many people, even those that hadn’t walked the Camino, could relate to my story and found joy and encouragement in my drawings and journal excerpts.
Why is there so little illustration in the kitchen in general, in recipes or in books?
I think in the past, people wanted to see exactly how their recipe was supposed to turn out, and therefore, photography was the ideal vehicle to communicate the end result. In the past few years, we have began to embrace the maker culture more and more. ‘Handmade’ is back in vogue and as a result, art and illustration is also being appreciated in a fresh way. In the world of ‘the kitchen’ this creates a need for new ways to represent food and recipes. As illustrators we can be playful and fun, differentiating an article or a book with a unique point of view or stylistic representation.
What do enjoy most about your work?
When I slow down to draw, I find that every object, especially things that most people view as ordinary, become extraordinary. Drawing teaches me to be in the present moment and to notice and truly see the beauty that is around me. I think that is why I like drawing food so much. We rarely notice the intricacies of something as simple as a red pepper or an onion. Illustrating food gives me a deeper appreciation for these ‘ordinary things’ and that appreciation translates to gratitude, which I think is the key to experiencing joy in life.
Indispensable ingredients for your life:
Pen, paints and journal
Red lipstick and red wine
Walking shoes and passport
Open eyes and heart
Confidence and character
Grace and gratitude
The best moment of the day….
It depends on the day, but I am a huge fan of sitting down at a table with a dear friend enjoying a glass of wine and a delicious meal. Sharing good food and good conversation fuels my life.
I leave Santiago in just a few days. I am ready. These 6 months in Spain have been rich. I leave with my heart as full as my book of drawings. As I take Cheri to my favourite spots around the city and say goodbye to the new friends I’ve made, I want to take it all in. I want to let all of the flavor and textures of these experiences marinate and mix together and seep deep into my memory. The memory of our trip to Finisterre is the freshest on my mind as Cheri and I just returned to Santiago just yesterday. It was such a treat to walk to the ‘end of the world’ for the second time and to share the journey with a new pilgrim. It is always fun to see a treasured experience through someone else’s eyes and it was especially potent to see it through Cheri’s. She is one of my friends that has cultivated the ability to be fully present to an experience, no matter the circumstances.
When we set out last Friday I had just learned that Cheri was walking for the very first time with a backpack. With this new bit of information, I decided to divide our walk into five days rather than the typical four, or even three, so that we could both enjoy our time on the Camino. For anyone, even the experienced hiker, the first few days of a Camino can be a brutal awakening to the impact of long distance walking. This was no exception. Cheri persisted, however, and finished the 87 kilometers to Finisterre despite aching, throbbing feet, a swollen and angry ankle and scorching August temperatures that made 15 kilometers seem like 30. I had never hiked in such intense heat either, and over the course of the first three days, it began to take its toll. The last two days, thankfully, brought cool breezes, thick morning fog and a welcome wet dew that clung to our hair and eyelashes as we walked through lush green forests steeped in pungent eucalyptus scents. We talked about life and God and what the next stretches of our own personal Caminos might look like. We sang songs and invented new ones and laughed until we cried over the silliest of things. We found fellowship with beautiful Italians and joyful Germans and we experienced the kindness of strangers again and again. Cheri got to taste the sweetness of the Camino for the first time and I got to revel in the blessing of experiencing it once more.
After our time in Finisterre, I had two days set aside to do an interview and some research for an article I am writing and illustrating. This article came about as a result of my trip to Barcelona this past June. When I visited Barcelona, I had two main goals in mind: one was to see Pentatonix live (which was FANTASTIC!) and the other was to connect with an amazing food photographer named Becky Lawton. Becky is a friend and business associate of the man that hosted me in Barcelona. Robin graciously introduced us over email, and during my stay I was able to visit her beautiful light infused studio nestled in the heart of Barcelona. We sipped Lady Grey in the spacious, bright kitchen and talked about…well…food. I was able to pick her brain regarding the business world of food and in my case, specifically food illustration. Becky is originally from the UK but has lived in Barcelona for fifteen years. She has a huge network of connections as a result of her many years in the business and is also the founder of a Spanish foodie website called Delicooks that she established in 2009.
Delicooks “offers solutions for creating recipes, books and websites as well as blog delicacies. It also has other professional services such as food photography, catering business advice, editorial production as well as cookery courses and corporate design.” Through our email correspondence I had proposed writing an article for Delicooks to gain some exposure for my food illustrations. I love painting and documenting my travels, but I especially enjoy drawing food. I feel that it has definite commercial appeal and possibilities as I start to try to carve out my niche in the vast world of illustration. Becky loved the idea and after checking out my portfolio, she agreed to meet with me. Over our second cup of tea, she offered to interview me for their site as well as feature my yet to be written article. The interview would be released at the same time as the article and would help direct visitors to my work. Becky gave me complete freedom to write about anything Spanish food related that I wanted. What fun! I began to ponder what I wanted to write and draw…
During my time exhibiting at the Parador, I would occasionally have coffee with Julio, the director of the hotel, and I remembered that his family owned a restaurant in Sardiñeiro, a small town just outside of Finisterre. This isn’t just any Spanish restaurant, but is, in fact, the oldest restaurant in the entire region of Galicia! After questioning Julio, I learned that Casa Lestón is actually turning 100 years old in 2017 and the family has begun to plan how to celebrate such a momentous occasion. What a fabulous story and subject for my article! I began to brainstorm how I could spend some time at Casa Lestón…
As a result, after walking 87 kilometres to Finisterre, Cheri and I found ourselves wined and dined in the tiny pueblo of Sardiñeiro. We were treated to a lovely hotel room attached to the restaurant and in between eating and interviewing, were able to sun ourselves on the irresistible beach just across the road. I drew my view of the coastline as I sat on the sand overlooking the bay. My shade of turquoise paint does not do justice to the actual colour of the water at all. It was dazzling.
As I write this blog I am anxious to get started on my article! I will be sure to post a link to an English version when my work goes live on the Delicooks site. Until my next post, I hope you have the chance to share an intimate experience with a dear friend, invent a silly song, eat some delicious food and perhaps see the deepest shade of cerulean blue that you have ever laid eyes on.
2015 started with forgiveness. I was driving in Colorado on a crisp day in the first week of the year and I was praying. I had been praying for many months to finally, truly, feel forgiveness towards my ex-husband. I can’t tell you exactly why that moment in the car, with the Rockies filling up the windshield, was the moment, but it was. I felt peace flood my entire being and all I wanted to send him was peace. It had been almost exactly 3 years since our last conversation. The weight was gone. It was the start of a good year.
As I spend my last few days in France I am continually struck by the beauty of simple things and the goodness that every day brings. Kindness, blue skies, warm fires – even the whimsical beauty of macaroon cookies lined up on a tray. I was sketching this afternoon thinking about writing my first post of the New Year and inevitably I began to think about the ways in which we humans process this new beginning; this fresh start.
I think many of us reflect on the past year and we ponder what we didn’t do, or perhaps the goals we failed to accomplish. My friend Tom said to me a few months ago that we need to stop regretting and start celebrating. We need to learn how to celebrate the steps we do take; the things we do accomplish. So, with that in mind, I am going to celebrate what I did this past year and the movement I made towards life and light and wholeness.
I accomplished a huge goal in 2015. I decided last December that I would publish my book of Camino drawings in June (from my trip walking the Camino Francés in 2013). I worked for 6 months to compile my writing and design the final book layout. On June 9th, 2 years to the day that Lissa and I entered Santiago, I threw a huge party. My book, “The Art of Walking: An Illustrated Journey on the Camino de Santiago”, was finished.
I worked with the non-profit HALO and poet Graham Murtaugh to put together a unique fund raiser and art show. This show, Ordinary Time, is a project I am extremely proud of. Not only did it raise money for HALO, but it brought together word and image in a presentation that celebrated collaboration and creativity.
At the end of July I was unexpectedly laid off. After 2 years of dreaming about leaving my corporate gig, I welcomed God’s kick in the butt and I jumped. I sold all my possessions and I flew to Europe in early September with only a backpack and my walking shoes and a vague idea of what I was doing. I knew I wanted to travel and draw more and that felt like enough of a road map to start. I decided to walk over 600 kilometers from Lisbon, Portugal to Santiago, Spain on the Camino Portugués. Then I met my same (wise) friend Tom in Santiago and we walked an additional 80 kilometres to Muxia and Finisterre. After returning to Santiago I connected with some amazing people, including the director of the Parador hotel. I will return to Spain in the spring to have a show at the Parador in Santiago featuring the art from my book. I have blogged about my physical and emotional journey, documenting my travels with words and drawings all along the way.
As I look back at all that happened this year, I am blown away.
2015, I celebrate all the colors that you brought into my life. I savor the sweetness that was unexpected and acknowledge the sorrow that wasn’t. It’s been a year of learning that I am still healing, but stronger than I was before. It’s been a year of being alone and learning how to move through the loneliness. It’s been a year of longing and leaping and dreaming and adventuring. It’s been a year of less control and more joy; less fear and more hope. It’s been a year of learning how to trust God, and in doing so, trust myself. It’s been a year of letting go, and in return receiving incredible, tangible, overflowing, crazy, in your face grace.
2016, I don’t know exactly what you have in store, but I will step into each day you offer me with gratitude. I welcome your simple, stunning and whimsical beauty and expect good things. I greet you with wide open arms and my face turned towards the light.
It’s been raining here in England. It’s been raining a lot. I am holed up in a cozy apartment about 25 minutes outside the city centre in Halifax in West Yorkshire thanks to the generosity of friends I met on the Camino, Sheila and Jimmy. I don’t have wifi in the house so I have enjoyed a brisk 25 minute walk down to Caffe Nero (England’s Starbucks) where I nurse an Americano and hunker down to write emails and hopefully discover where I might spend the winter months. (Somehow lattes are not the equivalent of my favourite cafe con leche in Spain.) The people here are so nice. When I order a drink or ask any question everyone calls me ‘love.’ They say “Do you want it for here, love?” or “Do you need a bag, love?” It’s rather delightful. I feel cared for, in some strange way.
I am looking into some work possibilities in the Hebrides, which are the islands off the coast of Scotland. Sounds cold, yes? I need to toughen up if I am headed there in January. I’ll keep you posted when I know more.
I have been hoping the wee sun would appear on my weather app on my iPhone but ’tis not to be. I am heading to York (only about an hour away by train) in a few days and then up to Newcastle and onto Bamburg Castle in Northumberland. I was planning to head onto to Edinburgh but I think I will be spending some time there when I return to the UK in January. I will be wearing my waterproof breathable rain jacket over my newly purchased warm insulating jacket so I should survive. At least I won’t be fighting the crowds. Ha!
Yesterday Sheila’s sweet sister, Lyn, took me to a small winter festival in Haworth, which is a village about 20 minutes away from Halifax. They celebrate the arrival of the holiday season with a little parade of music and costumed locals who let Christmas (Santa) into the village with a ceremony at the gate in front of the church. The town was the epitome of ‘quaint’ and ‘English.’ The Bronte family lived here and their family vault is located beneath one of the pillars in the small but very beautiful church. The large windows of stained glass were stunning and even more impressive due to the modest size of the building. We wandered in and out of the tiny and well appointed shops to avoid the moody weather and ended up in a small tea shop. I ordered a pot of Yorkshire tea, of course, and we both opted for the warm scones served with clotted cream and jam. My English heritage is apparent in my love of English tea and this was no exception. Black tea is always better with milk, in my opinion, and it complimented the crumbly thick scones perfectly. The toppings are served on the side so one can smear the clotted cream (which is the consistency of a smooth cream cheese) and jam on with abandon. Delicious! The warmth of the shop after the cold damp of the afternoon was lovely and after filling our bellies we felt much better.
I have been loving cooking my own meals and watching bad television for a few days. Ok, more than a few days. I wash my clothes whenever I want, and have been sleeping in every day. The shower is big and very posh and it doesn’t have a timer! (The showers in the albergues would many times be on a very short timer, turning off just as you got the shampoo in your hair.) The bed has a big fluffy duvet and no footboard! I can stretch all 6’3″ of me out without angling my body to fit. It is heaven. It has been so luxurious and I am so thankful to have my own digs for a few weeks. It was a bit strange to be on my own for the Thanksgiving holiday, but I made my own feast of mashed potatoes and roast chicken with sautéed mushrooms and brussel sprouts. Yummy! I think I watched CSI: Miami that night. (They love CSI here and have a station that pretty much plays all the versions non-stop.)
I thought a lot about my family and friends and all the celebrations happening in the states. I loved seeing your photos and stories on Facebook. I am so thankful for all of you and your support. As I have shared what is happening regarding my art opportunities your excitement and encouragement mean so much. Please know that.
Well, I’m closing Caffe Nero down as usual. Hope you had a great holiday weekend, loves.
ps: I now have a fantastic Anker phone charger. It’s uberfast and holds 2.5 charges and arrived from Amazon UK in 2 days. Thank you everyone who chimed in with great information after my last post!
I am very excited to announce that my Broder postcards will be for sale at Broder Nord next week!
Broder’s oysters served on the half shell are the subject of my last postcard, which is a Broder Nord signature evening dish. These delicious oysters are provided by the Hama Hama Oyster Company and are absolutely divine served with Champagne Mignonette.
If you have been waiting for some news of my travels, I have been in Madrid with friends over the weekend and have not drawn anything. Instead, I have been busy eating traditional Spanish fare like chorizo and queso and drinking vino tinto. I have been speaking Spanish since my arrival Thursday evening and I feel like my brain is going to melt. I picture myself as a giant sponge trying to suck in all the knowledge I can. I can carry on conversations marginally well and understand most of what I hear if the speaker is kind and pronounces their words carefully for the extranjera (the foreign girl). Words and phrases are emerging from the dark recesses of my mind and it is immensely satisfying when I remember how to conjugate a verb once in a while!
I leave for Portugal tomorrow morning to head for Lisbon where I intend to spend a few days before I start to walk the Camino Portugués. I have reorganized my backpack and sorted out what I am leaving here and what I am taking. It hasn’t really sunk in that I am here. I have to remind myself that I am not catching a plane in a few days to return to my old apartment, my old job … my old life.
I am very anxious to do some drawing. I hear the beaches in Lisbon are beautiful. I think a few days on the sand are in order and will be a perfect place to pull out my pen. I am leaving my computer here in Madrid because it weighs too much to carry on the Camino. Consequently, my posts will be mostly art and less words until I finish my walk. Be patient with me as I navigate blogging on my phone. Thank you for coming on this journey with me!
Broder postcard illustration #3. Aebleskivers. These Danish pancakes are small round doughnuts that are truly my favorite sweet breakfast treat in Portland. Served with lingonberry jam and lemon curd in a beautiful blue ceramic dish, your tastebuds and your eyes get a chance to feast! I usually buy one dish to share and then wish I’d gotten one for just myself.
Next up, a Broder afternoon signature dish: oysters!