Yummy Stuffed Pumpkin Appetizer Recipe!

It’s nearly Thanksgiving! Here’s one of my fave recipes that combines two of life’s most delicious things… pumpkins and cheese.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. Pumpkin - cap removed (but not tossed!), seeded and cleared of strings

  • 1/4 lb. cheese - mix gruyere, emmenthaler, cheddar (or your fave melty cheeses)

  • 1/4 lb. cubed stale/dry bread (cut into 0.5” chunks)

  • 2-4 minced garlic cloves

  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • salt & pepper to taste (and any seasonings or herbs you love)

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Art Bench Project

This past summer I received a grant to paint a bench on the Cocoa Village riverfront as part of the Art Beatz Community Art Project. Here is my step-by-step process.

0) my design proposal & the unpainted bench

 the bench before any work

the bench before any work

 the proposal

the proposal

 STEP 1

STEP 1

1) sand and prime the bench

Try to sand the wood to a smooth surface, remove debris, and as much rust as possible before priming. Prime with an exterior primer. I used Kilz Exterior white primer. As you can see in the next step, I also used a canvas drop-cloth. It's handy for keeping the cement clean and catching drips.

2) basecoat

 STEP 2

STEP 2

For this step, I used a mix of primer again with the real paint for the wood portion. I wanted to be sure the paint would adhere. For the metal parts of the bench, I lightly sanded the primer coat and painted directly onto the armrests and metal support bar underneath using Behr exterior paint.

3) background color and elements

I painted a thorough coat of the background color at full strength. I added the contrasting background elements (the green tufts of grass).

The green paint was not opaque so it took several coats to get full coverage over the yellow base coat.

Every one of these coats of paint took at least a day to do! I suggest whatever paint you decide to use if you're doing a bench, to make sure it can withstand some rain just in case you have to pack up quickly. The summer weather in Florida varies from 90F+ heat to tropical storm... so the amount of progress on each day varied with the weather.

 STEP 3

STEP 3

 STEP 4

STEP 4

4) Transfer the concept onto the bench. I used black chalk because I knew it would wash off. If I had had charcoal, I would have used that instead. After sketching on the basic forms and overall placement, I added the bigger inner shapes. I do the details in paint.

 STEP 5

STEP 5

Despite the heat and rain, I was really charmed by my view. What a beautiful view of the Indian River!

5) After finalizing the shapes, I added details and painted multiple coats on any parts that were not looking opaque. The orange paint, for example, was not opaque. Between every coat and step, I would re-use the caution tape to warn visitors that there was wet paint. If you paint a public bench, I urge you to let people know by using cones or some kind of caution tape. Note: make sure the printed side of the tape is not touching your paint. It will transfer the black ink onto your surface. The heat is that strong!

 STEP 6

STEP 6

The final step is to seal the deal. Literally. Seal the bench using your most trusted clear non-yellowing spray. I used two coats of varnish (Minwax Helmsman Spar Varnish spray) and roughly 2-3 coats of the clear coat provided by the Art Beatz committee (Rustoleum Automotive Enamel in clear). The spray takes a bit to dry and it's tricky to stop people from sitting. I only taped the center of the bench so I would spray the center first, then do the sides so the center would be dry enough by the time I was ready to go.

Image gallery above.

And that's it! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and you find it helpful. If you have had great success with a different clear coat, we'd love to hear about it! If you'd like to sponsor an art bench, let the Cocoa Village Art Beatz committee know. Any business can sponsor a bench, and they're always looking for local businesses to sponsor them.

Are you working on any public art projects? I'd love to hear about them!

WWTS: Writing with the Stars & Thank You

It's only summer, but already this year I have a lot to be thankful for. Back in February, I was very fortunate to win a spot with a mentor in the Writing With the Stars program organized by Tara Luebbe of Becky Tara Books site and author of Shark Nate-O and I Am Famous. 

The incredibly generous and fabulous mentor that decided to take me on was Brianne Farley  (pronounced /BREE-ehn/ rhymes with 'Ian'). She'd never met me before, but took a chance on me and was my mentor earlier this year. Brianne's got a wry sense of humor and was the perfect match. If you're not familiar with her work, you can see her quirk-tastical illustrations in her author-illustrated books Secret Tree Fort, Ike's Incredible Ink and also in the Charlotte the Scientist series (by author Camille Andros).

The Goal: create a kidlit friendly portfolio to exhibit at my regional SCBWI conference in Orlando this past June. Brianne had an excellent plan which I set about executing.

This is something I know about myself - I need accountability by way of a deadline or art direction. It's hard for me to work on projects strictly for portfolio purposes. I'm very pragmatic so it feels too indulgent, so the WWTS program gave me the opportunity to have an accountability mentor.

I learned in a studio environment, and worked in studios, but these days I work from home. I miss having that rapport with other artists and designers. Getting that outside perspective is absolutely critical to getting out of my own head and so Brianne was a great guiding force to bounce ideas off of. She guided me with regularly scheduled critiques and I managed to make the most of the experience to create these portfolio pieces...

THANK YOU, BRIANNE!!

 2 panel narrative

2 panel narrative

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