Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Year’s Wishes

Happy New Year!  In about seven hours, that is, at least if you live where I live.  2011, though not always pretty, was definitely a year of some amazing things.  If I was going to assign a word for 2011 it would be “growth” – there were a lot of changes and I learned a lot about myself, through all the ups and downs.  2012 will hold more of the same, I’m sure.  Things will get hard again, and then they’ll get better – there is no wholly perfect year, but it can still be a good one!

In 2012 I hope you…

Stay healthy – your health is your greatest gift.

Love a lot of people.

Find enjoyment and excitement at least a little bit every day.

Keep learning, keep exploring, keep trying new things – challenge yourself at every turn!

Become more and more the person you want to be.

I love you.  I really do.  See you next year!

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Chromatic Typewriter

I am in near-constant awe of people’s innovation.  If I’m perfectly honest, I have a lot of technical ability when it comes to art, but not as much inspiration (perhaps from a belief I have nothing of value to say as a working class white girl – I feel self-conscious and fraudulent when it comes to the “message”) and even less patience to execute certain things.  I know, I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to creating…

But back on topic.  There are a lot of other very ingenious, artistic people out there.  One of them is Tyree Callahan, creator of the Chromatic Typewriter.

Callahan replaced the ink pads of this 1937 Underwood Standard typewriter with colored paint pads, and the letter keys became a color guide.  The result, which he submitted to the 2012 West Collects West Prize competition, is a machine that allows you to type out abstract pictures.

I personally find this piece so intriguing because it’s a really interesting combination of machinery – automation – and art.  Of course we’re all familiar with the pop art/mass production phenomenon of the 60’s, and this is an odd blend of handmade and machine-made production techniques.  Of course you can’t mass produce anything with the typewriter, so I suppose it’s not on the exact same level of automated art, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition nonetheless.

And the resulting “paintings” – so far mostly abstractions of landscapes – have an ethereal, misty, watercolor-esqe feel to them.  Of course I bet you can do a whole heck of a lot more with such a machine, especially considering what artists like Keira Rathbone have accomplished using a plain old black-and-white lettered typewriter.

Are you inspired yet?

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End of 2011 Updates and 2012 Resolutions

Hey there.  I don’t really have any cool new projects or recipes right now, I just figured I’d say hi since I’m pushing ten days since my last post.

Of course the holidays happened, and of course I cooked for Christmas.  In our family we don’t really do a sit-down Christmas dinner, we just make a lot of appetizers and finger foods and graze all day.  And I do mean ALL DAY.  I’m pretty sure I consumed like a week’s worth of calories…and there are still leftovers.  So what did I contribute to the menu?

Only the caramelized onion dip was a new recipe, and I pretty much followed it as it is…and it was super tasty!  Plus it’s a lot healthier than regular dip, since I used nonfat Greek yogurt (lots of protein).  And like I said, I had a ton of leftovers afterward, which has forced me to be creative in how I can use them in healthy ways (after two days of eating peanut brittle, cream cheese canapes and pecan pie, I’ve vowed to be really super healthy this week).  My favorite repurposing has been to put loads of the tomato bruschetta topping on a spinach salad and garnish it with a little goat cheese – so good!

So now that I’m done with holiday cooking, my time has been mostly spent crafting, watching reruns of Project Runway online, hiking (see the pic of Saint Mary’s Glacier below) and thinking up new blog posts.  On the lineup: friendship bracelets, apron-sewing, spicy gingerbread cookies (when I work through the TON of gingersnaps I got from various people for Christmas…I guess my love of ginger cookies is notorious), leather tassel necklaces, garlands…there’s so much I want to do!

Oh!  And I almost forgot to post the pictures of my cookie-baking adventures with my friend Ashley!  We made sugar cookies based off a sour cream recipe her family uses, but I don’t want to post the recipe because we (SHE) accidentally doubled the butter so I don’t know how the original cookies taste.  The ones we wound up with were tasty though, not to sweet and ind of shortbready – they went nicely with the homemade buttercream. We had so much fun making silly shapes and using lots of color!

So…there’s that.  Now we have new year’s to look forward to.  I’m not really a big fan of new year’s resolutions – after all, if you want to make a change, why not start today?  But I have to admit it provides a convenient mental time frame for making committed changes.  When I make them they’re never things I want to accomplish, but more reminders of the mindset I want to have in the coming year.  For 2012 my new year’s resolutions are:

  1. Be present and mindful – live in the moment, do away with fear and worry, appreciate my life more.
  2. Don’t let fear hold me back – follow my passions and take risks.
  3. Show people love and compassion at all times.
  4. Break the cycle of samsara.  This is the Buddhist notion of the cycle of suffering, and a lot of it is linked to desire and attachment and repetitive behaviors that we continue to engage in despite the fact that they’ve only been destructive in the past.  I need to remember that “one more time” will only keep me in samsara, so I have to be committed to breaking patterns and making change.

I know it sounds kind of wishy-washy, but it’s not about sticking to something or failing at something, it’s about practicing the kind of life I want to live.  It’s a reminder to strive for these things in the coming year.  And if I’m sincere about what I want then they’ll be successful.  What are your new year’s resolutions?

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Bourbon Caramels

If you know me, you know I love two things: booze and sugar.  Actually I love more than these two things.  I love kittens and art history and swing dancing and Arrested Development, among others.  But booze and sugar rank pretty high up there.  Usually this takes the form of me trying some combination of beer and baked goods, but today it’s come to me (and you!) as bourbon and caramel.  Yum.

These candies are super easy to make, festive for the holidays and wonderfully delicious.  You can substitute a lot of different flavors if bourbon isn’t really your thing (which would beg the question, why on earth do you not like bourbon??) – try vanilla, orange extract and orange zest, maple, etc. etc.  As always, you should play and experiment!  But me, I like my bourbon.

Bourbon Caramels (adapted from Sophisticated Pie)

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons bourbon (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
  • pecans to taste, toasted and chopped

Prepare an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish by lining it with thoroughly buttered parchment paper.

Mix the first six ingredients (all but the bourbon and nuts) in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling, stirring frequently.  Once boiling, insert a candy thermometer and reduce the heat to medium.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 245 degrees.

I’d actually never made candy before this (though I’ve watched my mom make her ultra-secret peanut brittle for years), so I was surprised at how quickly the pot boiled and, subsequently, how long it took for the pot to reach 245 degrees (a temperature between soft ball and soft crack stage for candy).  Don’t be discouraged!  It’ll start out looking like this…

Then once it’s boiling it’ll be thin and really effervescent like boiling water…

But later, as the temperature nears what it’s supposed to be, it’ll become thicker and almost foamy looking.  I think it took me like 20 minutes to reach this stage.

When the thermometer reads 245 degrees, remove the pot from the heat and gently stir in your bourbon (or other flavoring) and nuts, if you want them in the caramel.  Make sure the temperature doesn’t get above 250 degrees, to keep the caramels really soft.  When your add-ins are incorporated, pour the caramel into your prepared dish.

I noticed that I didn’t have enough caramel to really fill the baking dish and still maintain a good thickness, so I simply lifted up one end of the parchment paper and kind of folded it where I wanted it to make my caramel about a half inch thick.  The butter made the caramel easy to move on the paper, and the stiffness of both the candy and the paper made it easy to adjust the size of my finished product.

This is where you’re supposed to sprinkle on your chopped nuts, if you so desire, but I found that even with very warm caramel the nuts ultimately didn’t stick very well.  You can remedy this by either mixing the nuts in the caramel or putting a layer down in the pan before you pour in the candy…or you can just make due.  You can also sprinkle more coarse salt onto the caramels if you want.

Let the candy set and cool for a couple hours before cutting.  I popped mine into the fridge for about a half hour to make it that much easier, then I used a sharp knife to cut bite-sized pieces.

It turns out wrapping the caramels was the most time-consuming part of this.  You can use parchment paper, wax paper, foil or plastic wrap, but I found none of these stayed closed very effectively on their own (even when I tried sealing the plastic wrap with a lighter…all I did was burn my fingers.  And actually I didn’t try foil, I didn’t think that’d be very attractive).  I found the best solution was to cut a small square of plastic wrap and put it inside a larger square of parchment paper, then twist the ends carefully and tightly in the direction of the fold.

Of course you could also just layer them between parchment paper in an airtight container, or dip them in chocolate (melted with a little bit of oil).  I liked the old-fashioned look of wrapped paper though.  And then you’re done!  You just made candy! They’ll keep for a few days on their own, and I’d tell you how to store them longer but they’ll probably be gone by then anyway.  Now don’t you feel fancy?

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Remaking Art

Oh. My. God.  This site is so cool I’ve been reduced to speaking in shallow colloquialisms because I can’t even express my excitement right now.  OMG people!

It’s always been a (very) secret ambition of mine to pose for a remake of a classic piece of art, whether as a photograph or a painting.  It must be a popular desire because BOOOOOOOM has gotten a ton of submissions for their incredible Remake project, which does just that.

I’m so impressed by people’s creativity and ingenuity with this project.  The submissions range from literal, down-to-the-exact-detail remakes:

To more loose interpretations and approximations of the works:

(Photos, from top: Remake of Draper’s “Pot Pourri” by Tania Brassesco and Lazlo Passi Norberto, and original; remake of Mondrian’s “Composition in Red, Blue and Yellow” by Katie Jackson, and original; remake of Velasquez’s “Las Meninas” by Natalie Pereira, and original.)

I think it’d be really interesting to find out why people chose to recreate the pieces they did.  Do they have an affinity for the piece or the artist?  Do they identify with the subject?  Maybe it just seemed like the easiest one to stage.  I love that people from all over have reimagined these pieces and, in the most literal sense of the term, inserted themselves into the art.  I respect the time and effort put into the literal recreations, and I’m fascinated by how people have reinterpreted the approximations.  They’re all beautifully done and I applaud the participants.

As for me, modeling for an art project IS on my 24 before 25 list.  I’ve always secretly wanted to do a Manet…maybe “Bar at the Folies-Bergere.”  So who wants to get to work??

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Adventures in Partygoing: Spiced Nuts and Sweet Potato Falafel

The Non-Denominational Winter Holiday Party Season is upon us!  Time to don the sparkles and velvet, kiss under the mistletoe and get blitzed (Blitzened?) on hot toddies.  And, of course, make fancy-pants appetizers to impress your friends and family.

I’ve already given you a great party guest food idea here: goat cheese crostini served with fig compote or tomato bruschetta topping.  It’s fairly easy and a definite crowd pleaser.  But I’ve already made that for one of Christine’s parties, and I needed to try something new for the holidays.  Something savory and something sweet. The solution was spiced candied nuts and sweet potato “falafel”.

Actually, to be honest, the original solution was cookies and sweet potato falafel.  Except, as you may recall, Christine is gluten intolerant, so I tried to adapt a maple-spice cookie recipe to be gluten-free.  And guess what?  They were AWFUL.  I must not be adept enough at baking sans wheat, because all I could taste was the powdery, gritty, chemical-y flavors of xanthan gum and frankenflour.  I even tried overwhelming the cookies with a  ginger-and-cinnamon-laden glaze, to no reward.  Oh well.  They’re still in my freezer if anyone has a death wish and wants to eat them.

But thankfully spiced nuts are a pretty straightforward endeavor and I was able to recover my sweet-and-savory contributions.  I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen as an inspiration, but I adapted it pretty heavily.  And I really like what I came up with:

Spiced Nuts

  • 3/4 pound total of raw walnuts and pecans (half and half)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (plus an extra drizzle if you want!)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sugar
  • 2 heaping tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • dash of cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, blend your sugars and spices well.  See where I spilled the allspice all over my counter?  Also, secret: I didn’t have any cayenne, so I added a dash of chili powder instead.  I know it has garlic and other spices mixed in it, but it worked just fine.  Next, in a large bowl, whisk your egg white, water and maple syrup until frothy but not stiff.

Add your nuts to the egg mixture and stir until coated.  Then pour in the sugar and spice mixture and toss until well combined.

Spread on a foil-lined AND greased baking sheet (as in, grease or spray the foil) and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Stir once or twice; the coating will become light and foamy, but you still don’t want any nuts glued to your pan.  Stir them again when you take them out of the oven so they don’t adhere to the foil as they cool.  And there you have it!

For the next recipe, I didn’t play with it very much because I was so unfamiliar with the flavors.  Chickpea flour?  Coriander?  I’m pretty sure I’ve never cooked with coriander before in my life.  I got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks, and it turned out to be a winner just the way it is.  It’s also pretty healthy, with protein-rich garbanzo/chickpea flour and vitamin-heavy sweet potatoes, and it’s not fried like traditional falafel.  In fact it’s not much like traditional falafel at all, it’s more like a baked croquette of sorts.  Or something.  Anyway it was delicious.  The only thing I’d recommend changing is I’d serve it with spicy chipotle ketchup…maybe I’ll make these again for Christmas and try this recipe?

Baked Sweet Potato “Falafel”

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes*
  • scant cup of chickpea flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped (it’ll be more like a cup once chopped)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2-1 teaspoon, I’d say)
  • olive oil
  • sesame seeds
*The original recipe only calls for two potatoes, but I got over two dozen 1-inch falafel with more potatoes, plus I think the chickpea flour would be too starchy and overwhelming with only two potatoes.

Peel your sweet potatoes and cut them in half lenghtwise (or, if they’re really big like that one in back, cut them in quarters).  Place cut-side up in a glass baking dish with about a  half inch of water in it, and rub the tops with olive oil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.  Once cooled (I ran mine under cold water to expedite the process), chop and place in a bowl for mashing.  Turn the oven down to 375.

I kind of ran the knife through the bowl and started a rough mash before I added the rest of the ingredients.  When you feel the potato pieces are small enough to mash, add the chickpea flour, garlic, cilantro, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, lemon and a splash of olive oil and mash all the ingredients together until pretty much smooth.

It took me a while, considering I don’t have a real potato masher so I was just using a fork, but eventually I got it to look something like this.  It’s okay if there are a few little chunks of potato left, just make sure you get the big pieces and all the ingredients are well incorporated.  Add a little more olive oil if the mixture seems dry.  Here is where 101 Cookbooks says to refrigerate the mixture to allow it to firm up, but I didn’t have to do that at all, so I started making the falafel right away (my mix was a little thicker than the consistency of mashed potatoes and not watery at all.  This might vary depending on the water content of your sweet potatoes, but this is why I think using less potatoes would make the chickpea flour overwhelming.)

Use two spoons to form the mixture into balls about one inch across, quenelle-style (or close to it – nothing’s perfect).  Place them on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until the tops look toasty and golden (my tops didn’t get too toasty but the falafel set and the bottoms were beginning to brown – still delicious).

Then…serve!  Everyone at the party loved them as is, but like I said, I think they’d be amazing with some homemade spicy chipotle ketchup.  I’ll post that recipe if I try it.  Fun fact: did you know chipotles are just smoked jalapenos?  I’ve gone almost my whole life thinking chipotles were a unique type of pepper.  You learn something new every day.

Keep learning, keep playing!

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24 Before 25

Before you say anything: yes, I know it’s trendy.  No, I don’t care.

It seems like every blogger and her mom is doing a ___ before ___ list, a list of goals you want to accomplish before your next birthday.  But you know what?  It’s a great idea.  Bucket lists give you too much time to slack off.  Resolutions never last past a month.  But these lists give you specific things to accomplish within a specific period of time – and who wants to celebrate their next birthday knowing they didn’t complete their list?  Now that’s motivation.

For me, I have a good chunk of time to complete my list; my birthday is July 3, so I have about seven months.  It seems like too long, but at the rate I’m going, I might need it.  I made the goals big though, so I need to start now!  So, in no particular order:

24 Before 25

  1. Try rock climbing (indoor or out)
  2. Take swing/Lindy Hop lessons
  3. Finish Gravity’s Rainbow and House of Leaves (both started!)
  4. Meditate at least once a week (starting NOW)
  5. Paint a (finished) picture
  6. Become proficient in sign language
  7. Make a pie
  8. Sew an article of clothing
  9. Try an outdoor winter sport (this is the only one I’m not looking forward to)
  10. Be able to stand up on a slackline
  11. Learn the rules of football and watch a whole game
  12. Write letters of thanks or appreciation to a dozen people
  13. Volunteer (anywhere!)
  14. Go a month without eating high fructose corn syrup
  15. Get a business license
  16. Visit one of the following: Salvation Mountain, Portland, and/or Yellowstone
  17. Read a book in French
  18. Write to a pen pal in another country
  19. Take photos with the Minolta
  20. Learn to knit
  21. Model for an art class or project
  22. Buy stock
  23. Learn Spanish
  24. Celebrate an unfamiliar holiday

So…I think it’s a good list.  I like it.  I’m excited.  Let’s go!

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