Surprise on my Porch

In September I took my first (and only since Covid) vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Traveling solo during a pandemic, I sought new experiences that were safe and uncrowded. The first was a pottery class at Fowler’s Clay Works, something I’d always wanted to try and I loved it!

My creation had to remain behind to cure, be glazed and fired. My expectation was to receive it after three months which would be mid December. To my surprise, it arrived on my front porch this morning. It’s so pretty and I flashed back to an especially fun and memorable day. I’m including photos and this link, https://spencesgirl.com/2020/09/26/tennessee-great-smoky-arts-crafts-community/ to my earlier post about the art classes I took in Gatlinburg if you’d like to check it out.

My first 24 tiles

I’ve been sharing my tile art through various social media accounts and garnering lots of positive feedback. One question (likely due to the number of posts) is “what’s the plan for these”? That’s a great question….for now I’ve been enjoying them displayed like this!

Creating beauty and focusing on art rather than the sadness, uncertainty and stress of 2020.
I pop in my AirPods, select my favorite playlist and start painting, like a spa day for my mind.

Fun with Painting

During my September trip to Tennessee I took a painting class introducing me to alcohol inks – and just like that I was hooked! These are paintings that I’ve done since returning home.

Sun Reflecting on Dewy Grass
Inside an Agate
Abstract
Abstract
Abstract
Morning Glory Leaves from my Garden
The view from my cabin in Wears Valley was my inspiration for this tile.

Tennessee – the Beauty of Storms in the Smoky Mountains

One of my favorite things is watching afternoon thunderstorms roll over the mountains. Protected by my covered deck, I watched one front move through Wears Valley followed thirty minutes later by another. The heavy downpours, booming thunder and crackling lightning set against the Smoky Mountains is magnificent to witness. As the storm passed, thick fog slowly blanketed the valley, making the mountains disappear before my eyes. The air cooled as mist enveloped my cabin. It seemed I was in a cloud.

First storm coming my way
The clouds and fog roll in
Mountains disappearing
Peace, tranquility and the beauty of nature.

Tennessee – Cades Cove

This yearling bear walked right next to my car. Thrilling!

There’s something about the Great Smoky Mountains that connects with my soul, a sense of peace that I crave. After rescheduling my May trip due to Covid-19 lockdowns, I made the trip this month and immersed myself in the beauty and calm of the Smokies.

One of the first things on my list was to drive the Cades Cove loop. It’s an eleven mile, one way, slow and scenic drive with a high likelihood of seeing wildlife. It never disappoints.

Tennessee – Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

If you’re traveling in the Smoky Mountains, I recommend driving the few winding miles outside of town to explore the galleries and create your own art, watch for this colorful sign!

On this trip I explored the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community for the first time, discovering a number of artists offering “Create Your Own” art.  Looking specifically for less crowded attractions, I found Fowler’s Clay Works and signed up for a pottery class, something I’ve always wanted to try. Owner Mike Fowler was friendly and welcoming. Our instructor Rachel was fun and knowledgeable, guiding myself and my classmates, three ladies from Florida celebrating their birthdays in the Smokies. Separated by distance and plexiglass, we each created a piece of pottery while laughing and sharing stories.  I fell in love with the cool, wet clay and the focus required to shape it into a wonderful memento of my trip. It will be fired, glazed and shipped in a few months. I can’t wait to see it!

On an “art high” after my pottery class, I drove on to explore other Create Your Own offerings and found Sparky’s Glassblowing. After a brief chat with Sparky I signed up for a class the following week.

When I arrived for my class, his lovely wife got me suited up in a leather apron and protective eyewear. She explained Sparky would be masked but that the extreme heat of the torch would protect me from any airborne germs and the glassblowing booth was surrounded by glass. To my amazement, I made a glass bear and two blown glass ornaments in the span of an hour. Sparky has a great teaching style – safe, encouraging and a clever sense of humor that reminded me of Spence. The class was a delight!

With time before my next class, I continued exploring the art route and came upon Firefly Glassworks. Up a steep one lane drive, it’s a “drop-in” (no classes) fused and dichroic glass studio and adjacent workshop. Owner, Nancy Huff, was knowledgeable and fun to chat with while I designed a ring dish using colorful pieces of mirrored and dichroic glass in an abstract pattern.

My final class was at A. Jann Peitso Art. For 2 1/2 hours I painted side by side with Jann, (both of us masked), creating our own unique paintings using Yupo paper and alcohol ink. It was a fascinating process and I fell in love with it. Jann, an artist in her 80’s, is a soft spoken southern lady, superb teacher and has a lovely gallery filled with her artwork. She closes the gallery during classes so there are no interruptions. By the time I left, I had a completed painting (including matting), a certificate from the class, list of materials and resources for future painting endeavors and a conversation that I won’t soon forget. I’ve already acquired the materials to continue my exploration with this medium, I’m hooked!

NOTE: The classes were extremely affordable and for those items that needed firing, shipping was included.

White Spinach Pizza

Years ago I came up with this deliciously satisfying meat-free recipe. I made it recently when Mom was staying with me, a favorite of hers.

Until 2020, I used a Boboli (or any pre-baked pizza crust) as the base making a full size pizza. Cooking for one inspired me to make flat-bread style pizzas using mini naan or pita bread; I love that they’re a perfect meal size for my appetite. The topping keeps well for up to two weeks so I can easily bake one for a lite lunch or dinner – and occasionally as a savory breakfast!

White Spinach Pizzamakes 1 large or 2 medium pizzas or 8-10 flatbreads

  • 8 oz frozen, chopped spinach – drained, liquid squeezed out
  • 24 oz ricotta (NOT fat-free)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 c shredded parmesan
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t coarse black pepper
  • shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
  • chopped peppers – a mix or red, yellow and orange
  • chopped red onion or shallot
  • mini naan, pita bread or pre-baked pizza crust
  • red pepper flakes – optional

Set the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the first 6 ingredients, set aside. Brush the crust with olive oil and place in an oven safe pan. (I use my cast iron skillet) Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, then remove it, flip the crust and spread on the spinach ricotta mixture, then add the peppers and onion followed by the shredded cheese and red pepper flakes. Bake for another 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted. Let it cool for a few minutes and enjoy!