Thursday, June 23, 2011


Five Pears
James Aponovich, oil on canvas, 2011

This is the summer of theme shows. James and I currently have have paintings included in an exhibition
From the Garden to the Kitchen
at the George Marshall Store Gallery in York Village, Maine.

Chili Peppers
Elizabeth Johansson, oil on canvas, 2011

Mary Harding, gallery director states,
" The theme of From the Garden to the Kitchen speaks to the landscape, the cultivation of fruits and vegetables, the inspiration of cooks and chefs and the gathering of friends to enjoy the bounty."

As artists, we found working on paintings for this exhibition of particular interest because it brought together our interests in gardening and cooking. When James completed the painting Five Pears, the perfectly ripe pears became a luxurious dessert of
poached pears with a creme anglaise!

This exhibition includes the work of thirty artists. James and I each have two paintings included in the show.
The gallery is housed in a charming historic building on the York River and is part of the Museums of Old York.
This is Part I of a two-part exhibition . Part I, June 4- July 10, 2011

We hope you have an opportunity to visit the gallery!

For additional information

Friday, June 17, 2011

IT IS ALL ABOUT THE PEONIES.... Exits and Entrances

The entrance. The blossoms are ahead but this is my favorite time in the peony garden. True, it is about the possibilities of bloom and color that await here, but more it about the beautiful and simple form the peony bush takes on in early June. The young blossoms rolled tight atop their sturdy stems are playful looking with skirts of deep green leaves.

James and I had a neighbor in Maine that we were fond of. This neighbor, Don,
grew only three plants, peonies, lilacs and wisteria, with wondrous results. During June it was not unusual to go out our back door and find a bouquet of peonies filling a bucket!
It was with Don in mind that we planted our peony walk. I too wanted to be able to fill buckets with armfuls of peonies!

Peonies have a long history. Greek mythology gives us the botanical name Paeonia. The story goes that Paeon, a student of the revered god of medicine Asclepius, surpassed his teacher in skill.
The old story. Well, the jealous Asclepius attempted to do away with Paeon but Zeus stepped in turning Paeon into a flower to save him. The flower was the peony. So the story goes.

During the T'ang Dynasty (618-906) peonies commanded such high prices that they were found in the gardens of the Imperial Palace and placed under Imperial protection. The peony was used in Traditional Chinese medicine, believed to have healing properties. (This of course reminds us of the Paeon/ Asclepius myth.) The beauty of this flower captured the attention of Chinese artists and was used an a image in paintings, woodblocks and porcelains.

In 19th century Europe the peony became popularized in gardens and painted by artists such as Renoir and Fantin-Latour, and Pissaro.

And certainly not to be overlooked, here in the 21st Century in the studio right next to mine. James (Aponovich) paints flowers from our garden as they come into bloom. Peonies of course, are being cut and brought into his studio now. There will be more about this later on his blog

As days pass, those round buds unfurl and the peonies begin to show their colors until they are fully open revealing themselves and their intricate petals and centers. Then I wonder, possibly this is my favorite part of their show. The fragrant ones are beguiling.

With the lavender tuning from a blue haze to full flower the garden completes itself for this moment. The two make a lovely couple. For a few days they will share this garden, but soon the robust flowering of the peonies will come to an end . An end
for this season leaving the lavender to take the spotlight.

When James & I began collecting peonies we searched out places that featured peonies.
We first looked for heirloom varieties, then added others just because we liked them!
We also sought to have varieties that were early, mid-season and late to extend the season.

We bought several from Countryman Peony Farm in Northfield, VT, where they taught us to buy peonies with "good habit", meaning strong in stem and good form. Here at Countryman we were introduced to 'intersectional' peonies and now have a few of those in our garden. The intersectional peony was developed in the Tokyo in the 1940's by Toi chi Itoh. These colorful plants are a cross betwee a tree peony P.x. suffruticosa with a herbaceous peony.

Uncanoonuc Perennials in Goffstown, NH also provides a nice variety of peonies.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Looking through the cookbook section at the local bookstore, I noticed a trend towards cookbooks that are media personality driven. Then my eye caught a glimpse of something interesting. One book stood out from the crowd, and I was eager to buy it and bring it home to our kitchen.
This found treasure is At Elizabeth David's Table.

James and I were given a book by Elizabeth David about 15 years ago and spent some time with it, but since a move we can no longer find it. Still packed away in a box somewhere is my guess.
Elizabeth David was preparing and savoring real food in France and Italy when people I knew had meals often containing canned peas, canned soup, white bread and orange- colored American cheese slices. The worst
for me was when the hallmark of Sunday dinner the mashed potato was replaced with the boxed "instant" version.
It was the likes of Elizabeth David followed by James Beard and Julia Child that began to change how we shop for food, cook & dine.

Farmer's Markets have made it possible to purchase marvelous ingredients all season long including fresh eggs, greens, artisanal cheeses, and farm raised meats.
In our own garden we have eight large raised beds where we grow a wide variety of vegetables. We find ourselves growing larger quantities of herbs as our use of them in the kitchen increases. Cutting herbs for the omelette I found that a charming and fragrant bouquet was in my hand, it is now in a vase on the kitchen counter. Flowers from our gardens also fill vases throughout the house and often are subjects for paintings.
These are the things that fill our lives and bring us joy. We are fortunate to be able to step out the back door to gather herbs from the kitchen garden. A handful of fresh tarragon or a few leaves of basil to add to a sauce or a salad creates an immediate connection to what we grow in the garden and what we cook in our kitchen. Time spend in the garden and kitchen is time well spend.
We do not follow the "it's too much work" mantra when it comes to garden or kitchen!

Last evening as I read Elizabeth David's essay on omelettes I knew what
tomorrow's lunch would be.
James had brought home fresh eggs from the Farmer's Market and growing in the herb garden are chives, tarragon, parsley, chervil and thyme.
An omelette is a prized lunch here and now with a few new ideas provided by Ms. David, it will be heavenly. The simplicity of an omelette requires the finest ingredients and attention to detail.
Starting, as she suggests, with a warm ( not hot) pan, and stirring the eggs rather than beating them. Our 3 or 4 egg omelette is readied for the pan.
The flavor of the egg should be the star. We choose to add a moderate amount of finely chopped chives, parsley and tarragon to the center before folding the omelette, letting it cook a bit more than carefully plating it.
Elizabeth David tops the omelette with a knob of butter. Perfect. Added flavor and lovely sheen.
A sprinkle of herbs on top give clue to the additions.
Absolutely simple.
Absolutely devine.

If this were dinner we would have a salad of lightly dressed mixed greens and certainly a glass of wine.

Our herb & vegetable garden will add a bounty of ingredients to our summer kitchen and beyond.

The book referred to:
At Elizabeth David's Table
Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom

( preface by Ruth Reichl)
Harper Collins Books

James is at week 11 is this odyssey of 52 weeks 52 paintings.
Check out this week's post Sant' Anna Pears
An inspirational trip to Tuscany to see the frescos at Abbazia Monte Oliveto Maggiore
and Sant' Anna in Camprena.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Quiet Walk in the Garden

Walking out the front door into this cool and breezy early June morning I am consumed with the fragrance of lilac. It's presence in the garden is commanding. Time stops for the moment. My senses are overcome with the scent of the lilac filling the garden air.

It is time for a quiet walk through the gardens. Walk with me but you promise not to make a sound.
Look, listen and remember to breathe.

The end of the walk .......for today.