Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bourbon Sugar Cookies

I've been working as a freelance illustrator/designer for some months now. I love it and I love that I have more time to cook and bake. It's Derby time again here in the Bluegrass and in celebration, I tinkered with a basic sugar cookie recipe to add the smoky flavor of bourbon. The texture of this cookie is spectacular and the soft center really brings out the hint of Kentucky's signature whiskey. I've included the measurements of some of the ingredients required if you choose to make plain cookies without the bourbon.

Bourbon Sugar Cookies


3 cups all-purpose flour (2 3/4 without bourbon)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar (1 1/2 without bourbon)
1 shot quality bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl , pour the bourbon over the sugar and let sit for a few minutes. The longer the sugar melds with bourbon, the stronger the flavor will be. I also covered the bowl during this time to cut down on the escape of vapor. Next, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets. (I used parchment. I think it keeps the bottoms of the cookies from getting too brown.)

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Cookies will puff up during baking and fall with cracked tops upon cooling. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to fully cool on wire racks.

Happy Derby everyone!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Thanksgiving: 2013

I haven't been as diligent about posting here in the past year or so. Not for the lack of ideas, I assure you, but rather, the lack of energy. My life wasn't what I wanted. I had hit my 10 year mark as a professional designer and I was certainly not where I had envisioned when it came to my career. I was doing what I thought I had to do, working where I wasn't happy and really wasn't respected. I didn't think I had any other option as beggars for the scant jobs can't be choosers. I was sure money was the only thing of importance, happiness and health be damned. I felt pinned, painted in a corner, hopeless. I had let everyone down, especially myself.

One day, a Twitter friend pointed me in the direction of Zen Pencils. I wasn't sure what it was by the name, but when I landed there, the first thing I saw was this comic. I admit, I had tears in my eyes when I got to the bottom. I got a number of things from this comic. One: you should never let go of what you feel in your soul, the thing that drives you and comes naturally. Two: high acclaim is amazing, but even when it doesn't come, you're making a difference.

I scrolled through the comics that day, not all of them, but quite a few. I felt better, but I was still torn. A crossroads was up ahead and I had to make a decision. Do I keep doing what brought home a paycheck (and made me a shell of a human) or do I do what I NEED to do? A bit later, this comic was published and though it wasn't the singular factor in my decision, it certainly helped. About a month later, I resigned my full-time position to become a freelance illustrator.

I'm thankful for a lot of things this year. I'm so blessed to have a family and a husband who support me. I'm glad to have had the experiences of the past few years as they (though it seemed they were doing the opposite) made me see my true value as a creative and a person. I'm thankful for the new friends and relationships (Kentucky for Kentucky, I'm looking at you) I've gained this year and of course, the exposure I've gotten because of them. I do truly love being an illustrator and this opportunity, though not an easy road, is far better than the road I was travelling.

As I sit down with my family for Thanksgiving this year, I'll see every experience large and small as precious and inspirational. So I would like to thank Zen Pencils for what I know is not a rare occurrence. Serendipity led me to what I needed to see and without this illustrator and his own journey, those sights wouldn't be there. I leave you to your holiday with a few lines from another one of my sources of creative fire, Level Up from Vienna Teng. Happy Thanksgiving for the rest of forever.

"If you are afraid, come forth.
If you are alone, come forth now.
Everybody here has loved and lost,
so level up and love again.

Call it any name you need.
Call it your 2.0, your rebirth, whatever –
So long as you can feel it all,
so long as all your doors are flung wide.
Call it your day #1 in the rest of forever."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pumpkin, Turkey, & Tomato Soup

It's that time of year, when everything is pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. Amid the lattes and muffins, there skulks a more intriguing prospect—at least for me—the recipes for savory pumpkin dishes. Recently, I made up a pot of soup using this pumpkin chili recipe as a springboard. I wanted something lighter, more along the lines of a white chili, but with tomatoes. This soup has a sage and smoke flavor (like sausage) and a bisque-type consistency. It combines two fall staples, turkey and pumpkin, into a hearty, healthy soup that's perfect for lunch or anytime!

Tomato, Turkey, and Pumpkin Soup

1 to 1.5 lbs ground turkey
1 – 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained
2 – 14 oz cans (or 1 28oz can pumpkin puree
2 – 28 oz cans tomatoes (1 crushed and 1 diced)
4 cups chicken broth (I used Swanson low sodium)
1 large onion, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1.5 tsp coarse sea salt
.5 tsp fennel seed
2 to 2.5 tsp dried sage
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
.5 tsp smoked chipotle pepper
.5 tsp dried basil
.5 tsp or a few dashes of liquid smoke
1 large bay leaf


  1. Brown turkey in a large soup pot on medium heat.
  2. Transfer meat to a separate bowl and saute onion, diced green pepper, diced poblano pepper, and garlic until translucent and caramelized. Deglaze the pan with a little stock if necessary. (I like to use black coffee.) Reduce heat a little and reintroduce the turkey.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes, pumpkin, and beans.
  4. With a mortar and pestle, crush the coarse salt with the fennel seed until ground fine. Add the sage, black pepper, chipotle pepper, and basil; grind again. Add this mixture to the liquid with the bay leaf and liquid smoke.
  5. Simmer on low heat for an hour or so, stirring occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. The soup will be somewhat creamy.
Serve with some light cheese if you like, perhaps fresh grated Parmesan or a little fontina. Popcorn would make a fun side, but the soup is fine on its own. Leftover turkey could be used instead of ground turkey. Toss the meat in with the onions and pepper and make sure everything is warm and evenly seasoned.

Friday, July 5, 2013

How Do You Measure A Year

"What makes the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes? Lots of things, and it may take months or years for wish to come true, but it's far more likely to happen when you care so much about a wish that you'll do all you can to make it happen." - Fred Rogers
For those who wonder why my posts have been so sparse in recent months, let this be the answer. Every day for the last 365 days I have shared a snapshot of creativity with the world. I've researched, sketched, and written a years worth of mini history lessons and posted them on my Facebook page, never missing a day. I amassed over 60 Photoshop files alone with this project, filled with drawings and factoids. Over these past twelve months, there have been times when I wanted to stop. I would have two or three other projects in the works, my day job stressing me out, but I kept going. As I look back on what some may not see as much of an accomplishment, I see just how far I've come. If there's one thing a year-long project will do, it's show you just what the word 'commitment' means in your life.

A Year of Art & Design History
Digital sketches © Rachael Sinclair
Researching these people, objects, structures, and creations has taught me much about where we've been as inspired creatures and where we may go in the future. There has been beauty pulled from darkness and depression, invention pulled from necessity, and awe-struck breath pulled from the lungs of the world over the centuries. Art, music, literature, architecture, craft: these things give us the basic energy we need to soldier on. Without the creativity the arts bring us, we would not know the forms that lie waiting in a slab of marble, the colors hiding in an unpainted canvas, or the way a certain chord or line of prose can bring tears to our eyes.

The milestones as they appeared on my Facebook page.
It's been an amazing journey into history and into my own determination. I've tried new styles and picked up a few bits of trivia. Pearl Buck said, "If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday." I encourage you to delve into the history of what inspires you. Learn the ins and outs, ups and downs. Strike up a kinship with the past and you will never spend another tomorrow alone.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Idea Seeds: Lily of the Valley

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. -Luke 12:27

Photo sourced from Wikipedia
The Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is the flower of the month of May and this installments Idea Seed. It sports thick, striated leaves and soft, bell-shaped flowers distributed on a swooping stem. A woodland plant in the cooler climates and mountains, the highly poisonous lily flowers in late spring. The flowers, white with a tinge of green, have a sweet smell.

The Christian tradition at times refers to the lily of the valley as Our Lady's tears or Mary's tears. This stems from the legend that the flower sprang from the Virgin's tears at the Crucifixion. It is a popular flower for weddings and has a symbolic meaning of sweetness, humility, and return to happiness.

Are you inspired by the forms and colors of a certain flower? The silky bells of the lily of the valley carry a delicate femininity. They conjure the image of a fresh bouquet of wildflowers on an antique kitchen table, the promise of spring, and the song of birds.

Flora and fauna have long been a source of inspirations for artists, musicians, and poets. The lily of the valley has an amazing combination of textures and colors. I encourage you to take heed of the flowers you encounter, stop and smell the roses as it were. What you find may bring you the next great masterwork.

Lily of the Valley
Original vector illustration © Rachael Sinclair
Available for purchase HERE

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Something for the Fans

I'm a little bit of a nerd. Geek. Fangirl? I have lots of things that bring me joy and movies and television factor into that quite a bit. Hey, they're creative too! Recently, I've been trying to perfect a new digital drawing technique. It's been lots of fun and gave me a couple of great piece ripe for fan convention season. These pieces sprang from the desire to have something of my own for a few stars to sign at the upcoming FandomFest.

First up, we have the Man They Call Jayne. I wanted to portray Firefly and Serenity's Jayne Cobb in startled readiness, but I wasn't finding the right image. What's a fangirl to do? Well, I made it up. With a lot of imagination and posing in the mirror, I finally had my Jayne, complete with damaged calm.
The Man They Call Jayne
Original illustration © Rachael Sinclair

Next came the Enigmatic Dr. Scully. The X-Files has been a love of mine since the first episode in 1993. Scully's loyalty to her partner was admirable, even when she was jet lagged and covered in unknown substances.

The Enigmatic Dr. Scully
Original illustration © Rachael Sinclair

Each of these pieces are available for purchase on my Society6 store. The print quality is quite good and I've left great spaces for celebrity signatures. If you're off to a convention soon, I hope it's amazing. Just remember, everything you love, the things that influence you, they were once someone's simple idea. Go out and create. You never know where it will go!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Idea Seeds: Tractors

You can find them on the roads of rural America, often a line of traffic trailing. They're chugging along in the fields, left to rust next to old barns, and shined up for shows. They pull our parade floats and help plant, tend, and harvest not only our food, but our imagination. Tractors, especially 'vintage' tractors, are a wealth of nostalgia and design and that's why they're the feature of this Idea Seeds.

Some shallow research uncovers a vast world of color, design, and function. Tractors began as steam engines working in pairs. Now, a large piece of technologically advanced farm machinery can cost more than a house. These mainstays of the 'modern' farm are an indispensable part of crop production.

Images sourced from Wikipedia
Since these implements took over where horses left off, there have been a large number of manufacturers. There aren't quite as many today as in years past, but that's what makes vintage tractors so much fun. The colors are varied and vibrant, the forms utilitarian, but geometric and beautiful. 

What do you think when you see an old tractor? Do you envision a farmer, perched familiarly atop the metal beast, the sun in his eyes, with a field of corn in his wake? Perhaps you see an easy-going farm dog napping in the shade of an old row-crop. Maybe you focus on the design of the machine, its lines and graphic quality. And it just could be that you see generations of history in every layer of peeling paint.

I invite you to look into the world of farm machinery. Start with the old stuff (as it is oftentimes more visually pleasing) and settle in for quite a ride. You may not go over 20 miles an hour, but the inspiration you cultivate can certainly take you places.

Vintage Tractors
Original vector illustrations © Rachael Sinclair
Available for purchase HERE