Friday, December 21, 2007

luna scribbles

luna scribble earrings. pearl and silver

ah, there's a better look now. I have this friend that I got into the habit of making jewelry for. We met in college, when we were both terribly poor, and we had a habit (still do!) of having magical fun times together and making thoughtful gifts all on a shoestring budget. It is a relationship of poetry and appreciation of the small things, and her thoughtfulness and attention to detail warm my heart endlessly.

This autumn, for example, she sent me a care package. Instead of packing peanuts, she went to a favorite park where we used to take long walks and talk, and gathered coloured leaves from each tree along the path, and used those to cushion the package. I was smelling the leaves for weeks. Whey they finally got dry and crinkly and lost that damp "fall leafy" smell, I took them out and used them to mulch my garden, so that they can continue to feed and nurture my home and my life. (except the pine cones, which are joining the ranks of my holiday decor)

So I got into the habit of making jewelry for this woman because a.) it was fun, b.) I always found a way to express something I wanted to say and c.) I always keep my supply stash fairly well stocked. I started to wonder last year if it wasn't getting repetitive or boring or whatever, but when she told me brightly that she never buys jewelry anymore because she has artist friends that design and make pieces just for her, I was reassured. I had a hard time coming up with what I wanted to do this year.

I've never been able to justify the expense of these beautiful button pearls before, but I found some in a summer sale this August and snapped them up. They're creamy with a pinky iridescence and I love the soft, dewy-drippy texture of their surfaces. Inspiration hit at the last minute (just when I needed it) and yesterday, I broke out long lengths of sterling silver wire and started weaving around them. They make me think of many things: the moon, wholeness, birds' nests (and a certain home-finding nest charm!), weaving (and the re-woven yarn hanger on the stained glass), scribbles/doodles, etc. - which all felt so appropriate.

They're quite simple, but I think they're rather dramatic in their own way. I hope she likes them.

gift from the sea

I'm winging my way south!

Our local beach has some wickedly good beachcombing some days. When the tides get really exaggerated for a while, low tide will frequently drop to 1 or 2 feet below sea level. The trick is to get a very low tide occurring during the daylight hours, and then you're all set. I've found a couple of complete clam shells while I've been here, which has been terribly exciting.

I've been wanting to replace the drying, crackly animal's natural/muscular hinge with something more permanently flexible on dry land. This is my first experiment, so it remains to be seen how well it holds up: I made the hinge from some heavy copper wire (salvaged from a mirror that it framed) and used superglue to attach it. This one is a gift for a special friend that appreciates found objects and this kind of recycling/experimentation with nature. Fingers crossed that she likes it! (and that it holds up okay!)

I also decided to line the interior with purple velvet, so now it is like a pretty cushioned box:

... oh, and what's this inside? well, that's something for next time ...

it's nearly time!

fulled cashmere and purple velvet, with cotton embroidery and button eyes. What is he?

We leave tomorrow morning, on a 6:30 am flight to LAX. After a 3 hour stay at the LAX Grand Airport Waiting Area, we hop on Mexicana Air and we're off! I couldn't sort out why my tummy was upset this morning. True, our hosts KEPT FILLING my little cup with Shoju last night - jeez, guys, I'm a lightweight - and true I ate some new things (kimchi, anyone?), but it didn't seem right.

After dropping off three packages this am (one of which included this guy. Perhaps I'll get a better, full-body shot of him in his new home when he arrives. Does anyone get the joke?), I think I've sorted it out: this is kind of an intense break. Money's tight, but I'm flying up to Seattle in January, that's got me watching my budget very closely. I applied to a program that I very VERY much want to get into, and I'm terribly nervous (sent my application off today). I'm flying to Mexico (big excitement, but also worried about, for example, hiking in the jungle on my awful old beat-up knees). And finally, I have exams when I get back, so I will have to study while abroad and of course, I always get terribly worked up about exams. I also feel awful about leaving the kitty for so long. We've never left her this long before. We're wracked with guilt.

I took a deep breath and told myself I had to let go of some of these worries and I feel a little better. Still, there's a lot to do today before we're ready to go (the house is still messy and we haven't packed a thing!) so I'd better run. Apparently, there's an internet cafe down the street, so I am writing a couple more surprise-ruining posts (don't look, E!) now that I can just post quickly tomorrow morning and then perhaps from Mexico.

take care, everyone! Have a safe and happy holiday and we'll be back in the new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

spring comes early?

I have been working and working and working on this thing all through fall quarter and FINALLY, I tacked up the lining with a blind hem, and it's done! Well, maybe. the neckline, yoke seam, and hem are all trimmed in palestrina knots in pale blue. I think I may very well do the same to the armholes, just for consistency's sake.

So yes. here it is. My tribute to Jenny Gordy's inspiring jumpers. I bought this 100% wool navy suiting fabric for a song at, laundered it thrice (on hot water, oh the abuse!) to shrink/full it as much as I figured it would, thereby giving me a washable wool to work with, not to mention its lovely nubby organic texture. The yoke is self-lined, but the body (as I've sensitive skin and am prone to the "itchies") is lined with soft microfiber T shirt knit in a pale celadon that nearly matches the embroidery.

So, in short, I have a comfy-cozy pull on jumper that feels like something I want to sleep in. It looks darling with flats, I think, but I chose the wool so that, with thick tights, a long-sleeved henley, and some boots, I could don it in January for teaching days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Indulging in a bit of satisfying Finish What You Have work while enjoying A&E's five glorious hours of "Pride and Prejudice." (the darling boy scores BIG points for this gift!) This ostentatious hair ornament is inspired by the incredible work of Louise Black. Had I the money, I'd gladly buy one, but this little bit of frippery cost me all of $5 or $6 in materials: an ivory velvet poinsetta (some cast off from holiday seasons past, the plastic hair comb on its back and superglue).

I think it will look fabulous with some of the bright sailor/preppy styles that are popping up in stores now.

Here's how I did it (for those that might be curious):

the center of the rose is an ornament from an old dress that I bought at a garage sale to rip apart and use its components separately. It was missing some rhinestones, so I replaced them by supergluing pearls into the empty holes.

Then, I ripped apart the poinsetta and painted the petals a pale pink with darker reddish edges, using very watered-down acrylic paint. After the petals had dried, I arranged them and stitched them together, one at a time, adding the ornament at the center. I tucked many of the edges under to create a curled "rose petal" look, using a touch of superglue to affix the curled tips.

For the little flowers, I cut flower shapes out of a bit of fulled grey cashmere. I brushed both sides of the cutout with a mixture of water and tacky glue, allowing each side to dry before moving on. I then mixed some acrylic matte medium with some copper metallic pigment to make a shiny "copper paint," and polka-dotted the flowers. I stitched and gathered the cutouts to give them shape, then made a center with a brass head pin and a freshwater pearl. I put a bit of tacky glue on the front before pushing the pin through flush to the fabric, then put glue on the back and turned them all upside down to dry. I left the long ends of the brass pins sticking out the back, and covered them in superglue and stuck them in between the petals of the rose, letting it sit and dry.

For the lace, I used a bit of antique lace that I received from a friend's mother about 16 years ago. I painted it with watered-down acrylics in a deep amber yellow colour (over paper towels, so that all the excess moisture could be absorbed). When dry, I added the little bits of ivory lace, stitching them down. I then stitched the lace to the back of the flower and added the hair comb.

time consuming (many steps), but fairly simple!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

sweets for the sweet

I received some artisanal salts for my birthday, and wanted to try out some recipes using them right away. These are salted chocolate caramels that I found on epicurious, one of my favorite sites for food - and drink! - recipes. There were a lot of mixed reviews for these - it seems there are two or three points at which the recipe can take a drastic turn for the worse, though you won't necessarily know it until the end. So it's something of an adventure.

With that in mind, I only made a half batch (rather expecting to fail), but they turned out fantastic! Here are the changes I made:

Instead of 5.25 oz. of high quality bittersweet chocolate, I used 2.5 oz milk chocolate (a bar I received as a gift from a student) and 2.75 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate. Good flavour. I may try again with a high-quality bittersweet chocolate and see if there's any noticeable improvement.

I only had dark corn syrup, so as far as watching the sugar syrup "darken," I had to go with my gut and experiment. The original time to boil was 10 minutes. As I was doing a half batch and working in a cast-iron saute pan (more surface area), I reduced the time to about 6 minutes and called it good.

I only heated the chocolate and caramel mixture to about 223 degrees. They are quite firm, not too soft at all. I'm glad I didn't go any further, and I think 250 definitely would have been too hot.

Instead of 1.5 T butter (for a half batch), I used about .75. For the cream, I used Horizon Organic Heavy Whipping Cream, which was literally the thickest heavy cream I've ever seen - it almost held small peaks as I poured it into the cup measure. I agree that they are still a bit greasy (I might try a lighter cream next time); however, I plan to merely quickly blot the bottom/sides with paper towel before I wrap the individual caramels up. Otherwise, the flavour is smooth, buttery, rich. perfect.

I also added my (generous) sprinkling of red Hawaiian salt at the 5-min point. None to soon - the surface was already hardening. I patted mine gently to make sure it was pressed into the surface. Perhaps I'm just cheap, but I feel there's no sense wasting good artisanal salt.

Finally, I turned mine out and cut them into long strips after 45 min - and yes, I oiled my knife frequently. After another 15 to 30 minutes, I had cut all of the strips into individual rectangular candies - by the end, they were becoming so stiff that the tops were beginning to stretch/scar as I cut them, so I'd say the 1-hour-mark is probably a good time to cut if you want the tops to remain smooth, dark, and glossy.

some for you, some for me

I am beginning to quilt! (see near edge) I sure hope I'm doing this right. It's a 5' square lap quilt. Smaller than I'd hoped the final project would be, but let's face it. It's mid-December and I'm tired and quite a bit burnt out from this quarter. (gosh I hope my grades are okay) So it seems more important right now to try and enjoy the last bit of grading, tidying up the house before we leave (in six days, argh), while also getting my personal statement written and out.

Part of trying to enjoy this all-too-short and all-too-busy break has been forcibly slowing myself down and indulging in some fun little crafting for myself - accessories stuff, mostly. I have been consciously and purposefully engaged in rediscovering one of my best skills: my ability to make a thorough mess of a room. The living room is covered in neat tupperware storage boxes, their contents of beads, thread, lace, paint, glue, brushes, tools, etc. strewn everywhere. How liberating to stop cleaning and enjoy dirtying the place up for a change! And how nice to treat myself to some of my crafting.
Two of the three current projects in process are done (my Louise-Black-inspired hair ornament is coming together):

I fell in love with a red and pink baubly necklace at Anthropologie this summer, and this is the version I've finally made. The stones cost me a pretty penny to collect, but I'm afraid I'm not certain what all of them are. Some are carnelian, some are garnets, the tiny bright pink are coral, and I suspect that the large pale pink ones are some kind of agate. I don't normally wear big jewelry, but I am finding the bubblegum-ball-feel of this very fun.

Aha! My piece de resistance! I have been searching and SEARCHING for brooch frames! Who knew it would take so long to find one?

This has been something I've wanted to do since late summer. I finally found one at Antiques Alley yesterday and snapped it up (along with these white elbow-length leather gloves!) I know, I know, I'm a terrible nerd, but this makes me laugh ridiculously, and I plan to pin it neatly to a cardigan for my first day of teaching next quarter, just to see if my students notice. The embroidery is quite small - I sturdied the back by stitching it around a nickel - so they'll have to squint.

Friday, November 30, 2007

is it really the last day of November?

how are everyone's Christmas gifts coming along? This needs some ironing - it's been laying around while I made an intertwined border for it. The center pinwheel section only comprises a 2' square, so I'm adding some 6" borders of the dark green, then the border I made, and then who knows what else? I don't plan to make a full-size quilt, just a lap quilt, something cozy to throw over the back of a sofa and have around for naps.

It doesn't feel much like Christmas to me, which is making me rather sad. I suppose it's because I've been so busy with classes and being sick that I haven't really had time to think about anything else, much less get in a "mood" of any kind (other than tired or stressed!). But there's a light at the end of that tunnel and it's getting closer. I'm nearly halfway through both of my final papers, about to start diving into textual analysis, which is my favorite part because it's the easiest, it doesn't require digging through multiple texts for evidentiary support, and it's something I'm good at. So! I'm off to do some of those final bits of research and then I'd like to get through all of the textual analysis for one of the papers today.

Monday is my birthday and I have this goofy desire to hunt down a tiny tiara and war it all day. I teach on Mondays, and for some reason, I can't seem to resist making a fool of myself in front of my students.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

we all scream for dumplings

I had a roommate once who swore that living with my boyfriend and I made her gain weight. We cooked every night and the food was so good that she was overeating, she said. So she joined Weight Watchers and started working out, and as part of her program, she brought home a Weight Watchers cookbook. Normally, we would have been snide (who knows, we may have been at the time, I can't remember), but curiosity got the best of us - we wanted to know what Weight Watchers food looked like. Here's the thing. That little cookbook had some dynamite recipes. Unfortunately, when we went our separate ways, we lost those little gems - that is, until a friend sent us a Colorado cookbook one year. Inside, we found the same recipe for one of our favorite quickie meals from the lost cookbook.

Anyhow, we lost track of this one again, somehow we hadn't made it in more than a year when Cass rediscovered it. Holy cow it's good - warm, comforting, and yet really light. I think it'll be just the thing for the upcoming post-Turkey week. I sometimes add a second bag of spinach to the broth and skip the salad for the night.

Herb Dumplings and Spinach in Broth

1 c flour
1 1/2 Tbl minced fresh herbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 ts salt
1 1/2 tsp shortening
1/2 c. milk (or soy milk)
6 c. vegetable broth (I use Trader Joe's boxed vegetable broth)
4 c. fresh baby spinach (I use one - or two! - bags of Trader Joe's baby spinach)

combine the flour, herbs, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well. Cut in the shortening until crumbly. Add the milk and stir with a wooden spoon until mixed. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 1 minutes. Pat the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Cut into 32 pieces.

Bring the broth to a simmer in a stockpot. add the dough pieces. Cook, covered, for 10-13 minutes; do not remove lid until the dumplings are cooked through. Fold in the spinach with a heatproof rubber spatula. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.


still here! just busy!

hi, hi, sorry there! So busy these days - reading, writing papers, preparing presentations, and then there was that Thanksgiving dinner I made and now a tree and oh my goodness!

My work is done for the day, though, so let's see if I can't put a double dose out tonight. First off, some helpful links per your question, Jess: I honestly don't remember where I learned to embroider. I must have seen it in a craft book somewhere. All I know is that I learned the basic stitches a long time ago.

That said, here are two resources for getting started:

Adorn Blog has somewhat helpful images showing eight basic stitches at

However, the far more comprehensive (and beautifully explained) Stitch School over at Primrose Design will probably be more help. Have a look, Janet gives detailed instructions and step-by-step photos. Her website is and Stitch School posts are linked in the right column.

In fact, I am currently embroidering the blue wool jumper that I made last month (shown above) with the Palestrina Stitch that I learned from Janet!

hope this helps!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

God bless charley horses.

brillo de treviso, ricotta salata, Beecher's honey hazelnut crackers, pear and hazelnut pate

It would seem I'm a bit low on calcium. My calves are finely-tuned calcium-measuring machines, yes they are. But why am I telling you this? Well, in the delicious pursuit of pain management, I tried a new cheese and a new fruit accompaniment tonight. I highly recommend both, but it's the cheese I really want to tell you about. Now, I've had a handful of wine-cured/soaked cheeses, and I'm a huge fan of Drunken Goat, but I've never had a wine-soaked cheese actually smell and taste rather winey. Brillo de Treviso (Italy, cow's milk, on the soft side) is incredible! It smells like a very yeasty red wine (or like wine and freshly baked bread, the yeast smell is that strong). And the flavour? Smooth, yeasty, and fruity. It's like wine-and-cheese all in one bite. Holy cow, go track some down and charley-horse, begone!

In other news, I have been racking up foodie and sewing things to share with you! I'm going to spread it out over several days. I hope you won't mind, but it makes me feel better when I can post a little more regularly, and I'm so busy, it helps to rack up images to post. Anyhow, the sewing projects are partly selfless and partly selfISH sewing, which I can show you more of.

But for tonight, let's talk food. Here's a yummy salad I played around with the other day. The good news is, all of these ingredients are available at Trader Joe's!


Persimmon and Avocado Salad

1 fuyu persimmon
1/2 avocado
red and green oak lettuce (I used two small heads for a large salad)
raw pecan pieces
honey or agave nectar
1 Tbl olive oil (approx)
1/2 Tbl Champagne vinegar (trader joe's orange muscat champagne vinegar)
1/2 Tbl orange juice
salt and pepper

Cut persimmon in half. Drizzle lightly with honey (or agave nectar) and broil for about 10 minutes until slightly softened. Cut into chunks.

Meanwhile, make dressing: mix olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, and salt and pepper to taste together in a glass or jar with a fork. Adjust oil/vinegar balance to taste.

Slice the flesh of half an avocado into thin slices/chunks

Coarsely chop lettuce.

Toss lettuce, avocado, and persimmon chunks in a bowl. Pour 1 Tbl dressing over and toss by hand. If necessary, add more dressing to taste. Sprinkle about 1 oz of pecan pieces over the top and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

five things

Liz of be present, be here has invited all interested parties to name five good things. It's been another one of those helluvaweek this week, and after an evening out that was marred somewhat by intense, stabbing eyestrain-induced headaches, I think I could use a little positive reflection.

1.) Cassidy. I almost put a pic of him up, but I don't know if he'd want me to. This guy is my favorite person in the whole wide world. He keeps me grounded, he makes me laugh, he shows me daily that he loves me. He's a real catch, this one.

2.) My new assignment. I dare not elaborate too much, at least, not until the letters are signed and it's all official. Suffice to say, a huge weight is potentially off my shoulders for next quarter.

3.) My friends. Something I love about growing older has been building a community of the amazing, talented, intelligent, charming folks I meet. My friends are incredible people. One of them took this amazing photo last summer.

4.) My work is done for the night. I could do more, but heck. My eyes are strained. No reason to read in this dim light. Oh, plus, we need more light. Which equals lamps. Yay, we can get lamps this weekend! Required shopping!

5.)I'm going to either a.) go sew or b.) watch The Queen - do note: this will not count as eyestrain. =)

Monday, November 5, 2007

a good morning

begins with tea and its various accoutrements. I finally broke in the teapot Joel (Cassidy's dad) gave me last year with a pot of honey-pear last weekend, and books.

I like tea. That is all.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

happy halloween!

last weekend we had a pumpkin carving party. We had some 15 (more?) people, and 11 carved pumpkins at the end. I made a feast, we stuffed ourselves, and got to carving. I think the best part of the evening was being told, "This is so disgustingly cute, it really shouldn't be this much fun."

So there you have it. Proud to be bringing the joy back to graduate students and young professionals everywhere. That's right, people, it's time to kick back, risk looking silly, and enjoy yourselves!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

forward thinking

my sewing machine died two days ago with an utterly dramatic sparking plug and fantastic running pell-mell (despite the pedal being untouched). Truly, I don't think Sarah Bernhardt could have done it better.

I'm in the process of shopping for a Singer. My last was a New Home, and 15 years old now. We could rewire the plug, but it's been through a lot of abuse, clacks loudly and frequently gets tired (at which point, all sewing is DONE for the day, as it will just snarl thread, snap bobbins, and chew fabrics when it is out of sorts), so I think it may just be time to move on to my next relationship.

In the meantime, however, I'm still trying to work on solstice gifts, in order to bank time for that lap quilt I'm really hoping to finish on time. Here's what I did tonight: amythests knotted on cotton cord, silk ribbon ties, with a vintage silver leaf charm and some sparkly bobbles just for fun. I really like this one, the stones feel large enough to be embracing a bold/primitivist/earthy trend, and the feather is perfect for my intended recipient. I think this would be particularly lovely next spring, with a crisp white - or better, black - blouse.

Anyhow, I hope she likes it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I set a place for you

dear family (parents, brother, cass, cass's family and girlfriends C, E, N, K, L - am I forgetting anyone?):

tonight I had planned a special dinner, an entree I last made in Seattle. I consider this dish special because - according to the NW Best Places Cookbook, from whence it is drawn - the chef who created it dreamt it up on a sunny beach in Hawaii while feeling homesick for her native British Columbia (to whence she has since returned). It's a northwest dish at heart, and tonight I made it for the first time since leaving the great wet north, feeling great sympathy for the homesick Canadian when she first came up with it.

Somehow, Santa Barbara and I are in synch tonight - the night of all nights that I cook my homage to home - as the patchy clouds this morning built up, greyed out, and broke rain upon us by evening. Rain! Even now, I hear the cars outside and the familiar wet sound of water on the pavement as they drive along. We are at the end of harvest, the time of cornucopia, the time of thanksgiving, and I am so grateful for all of you.

So tonight, I set a place for you, wishing we could all be together, feasting, keeping merry and warm against a cold, dark, and wet exterior. I poured you a lovely glass of Kenneth Volk's Negrette, all blackberry-licious and wonderful. I made you a salad of fennel and mushrooms, marinated in balsamic and garlic, and served over endive and arugula. And finally, I brought you a chicken breast coated in mustard and fresh herbs from the garden with a crunchy coating of chopped hazelnuts, swimming in a blackberry-raspberry sauce.

Berries, mushrooms, hazlenuts, red wine. On a northwestern evening, wishing we all could be there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


our newest little friend, who was driven inward by the coldish nights (and perhaps the coyotes?) to seek comfort among the macadamias and walnuts in the cupboard. We have to keep an eye on her to keep her out of trouble!

I'm so inspired by the great work of Lisa Congdon, that I thought it would be fun to use up some of the scraps from my coat for a project like this (plus purple velvet and grey cashmere). This was a total blast, and it was nice to work on something small for a change - I've been able to put time in over several evenings, when I'm too tired to read anymore, and it's satisfying my creative needs just fine.

I hope her future owner likes her when she turns up this holiday season! For now, we just have to keep the cat away, as Zaha is convinced this toy must be meant for her.

Monday, October 8, 2007

the perfect study partner

when you're sick, that is. Yes, I'm talking about soup. Good, old-fashioned, soup. Sunday morning witnessed bread-baking (oatmeal-bulghur, one of my favorites for its crunchy bits of bulghur, comforting oats, and fantastic crust), two stocks, and a soup from one of those stocks. Above is early in my morning - the bread rising in the background, and the mushroom stock for this week's risotto simmering away. It was just so pretty with the red onions and the fresh sage from the garden.

I do love to get up early on a Sunday morning and make stocks and bread. The stocks warm the house up (I also like to pretend that there's a need for this. Oh, I can't wait for winter, I miss my foggy mornings) so the bread can rise, and Cass always wakes up (eventually/finally) to ask, "Hey, what smells so good?" It's like a nice big house hug. And hugs of all types are nice when one is sniffly and sore-throated and head-achey and generally feeling rather pessimistic about the near future.

I had some vegetables I had to use up yesterday, so I thought I'd share an experiment that turned out delicious: potato-mustard soup. It was more like creamed mustard greens when I was done, but still - Cass and I devoured all of the small pot in one sitting.

Stock: Simmer about 8 c water with vegetables (1 red onion, peeled and cut into six wedges; two garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife; about 4-6 oz baby carrots) and herbs (I used a good 5-6 inch sprig of rosemary, two smaller sprigs of marjoram, and several small sprigs of thyme). Cook until about 4-6 c. of liquid remain. Strain out vegetables and herbs and set aside.

In same pot (sans stock), saute one shallot, chopped, and one red onion, chopped, with thyme and 2 Tbl (approx) of olive oil until onions/shallots are softened, about 5-7 min over medium heat. Return strained broth to pan and add 4 small potatoes (baby red potatoes, small yukon gold, peruvian purple, whatever you've got), chopped, to the pan. Simmer until potatoes are softened, about 20 min.

Pour soup base into blender and puree. Set aside.

Rinse soup pan and fill with water. Bring to a boil. Add one bunch mustard greens, stems removed, and boil for about 10-15 min or until a bright green (the longer you boil, the softer the flavour, but the lower the nutrients!).

Drain mustard greens and chop. Return chopped greens to pan with pureed soup base, add several good pinches (or shakes, in my case!) of crushed red pepper, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve with parmesan if your doctor hasn't put you on a 30-day no-dairy sensitivity test diet (rats). I can vouch that it's darn good without, too!

enjoy over homework, and regain energy and pep for the rest of your day!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Miss Beautiful Wonderful

Miss Beautiful Wonderful. Oilbar on canvas. 30 X 40. 2007.

Well, that certainly took longer than I'd expected. Foolish me, I thought at first that animals would be less work than people. With all that fur? I know, funny, right? What on earth made me so presumptuous? Maybe it's this lovely head-butting/nuzzling type thing that Zaha is doing to my arm right now - it inspires confidence in the best way. Poor darling, I had a bad day and she hasn't had nearly enough snuggle time as a result. So this is how I finished my summer. Having put this up on the wall, I feel justified and satisfied with the work I did, which is a pleasant and new feeling.

Those of you who read one of my all-time favorite blogs (and daily dose of cheer) will recognize this image, and will know how the events of this summer changed my feelings about it. I had this long personal thing written out, but somehow it felt thoughtless, like I was making this all about me. Suffice to say, the reactions I get to Miss Beautiful Wonderful are surprising, if only because they are exactly what my reaction was when this shot was first posted on Posie. In some respects, I feel like I failed to capture my sadness in painting this, but in other ways, I feel that to impose my sadness on this would have been a crime. So I like that it has a life and meaning of its own - because I won't always look at this and feel sad, and so I wouldn't want it to be sad forever - and I like that it conveys its own unique life independent of my tumultuous emotions at the other end of the oilbar.

This was painted entirely to Sarah McLachlan's I Will Remember You for the obvious overtones of goodbyes, but also for the gentle reminder that all things must grow, change, leave - and though partings are painful, we ought not to weep forever for what is lost, but eventually to recall with joy the times we passed together.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

radio silence

sorry about that. I've been trying to really finish this history book, get another painting done, complete the most important parts of my summer to-do list, all while continuing to step up my exercise program (three days of yoga a week, darn my lazy self, DO IT), and de-stress because - for some reason - everyone around me keeps telling me that I'm stressed out. The really disconcerting thing here is that I don't *feel* like I'm stressed out. Which either means I'm giving off some weird vibes that should be corrected, or else I'm actually fairly stressed and I can't even notice it. I worry that the latter has great potential for truth, because Cassidy has this awful little habit of being right about these sorts of observations, darn him and his psychology degree.

So yes. But in the meantime (this weekend, and perhaps further), I've been grounded completely because the back pain I've been having finally drove me to a chiropractor. I have a long appt. for Monday (in which I really hope to get some serious adjustment, there wasn't much today and I am disappointed). However, today's initial visit produced a diagnosis of a sprained secrum which has resulted in standard sprain treatment: icing, wrapping (don't get me started on this secrum belt I have to wear 6 hours a day), and of course, not moving. Which pretty much translates to, lie around all day. It's only Saturday and I'm insanely bored. AND I'm not working on those things I really needed to get done, which is doing nothing for this elusive stress level I seem to be transmitting.

argh. So. A quick peek at something I completed a couple weeks ago, before I head back to bed to - what else? - lie down while icing my secrum some more. I fell in LOVE with a Natalia Barilli piece I saw in my September Lucky magazine (under the "Best New Designers" feature): a leather-wrapped pearl necklace. Since I had scrap leather, leather needles, and an old faux-pearl necklace (from my 8th grade graduation 13 years ago, no less) on hand, I simply tore the old necklace apart, restrung, covered the pearls, and covered the original clasp with a leather bow. Neat! We'll see how well it holds up - there are a LOT of holes in this leather and it's under considerable pressure, given how tightly I wrapped the pearls - but at least I didn't drop $300 on the sucker.

alright. I'm feeling that lower back start to burn, so I'm off to silence the beast. Hopefully, it won't take me so long to post again. Trust me, there are plenty of projects a'brewing.

take care!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

the poet

the poet. oilbar and pencil on canvas. 30x40". 2007.

Isn't it amazing what a bit of raw umber will do? final photo. I like to let them dry on the wall - that way, I can finally put the easel away and reclaim some floor space.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

an afternoon

Okay, I had some black/blue/white background laid in - and brief pencil outlines - but at 2:30 today I started in on this. About 5 or 6 hours later, done. Nice little digression from the big piece I'm working on. I made it from a still taken from a production (8 Life Lessons from Mort and Mindy) that a friend of mine directed this spring in a new play festival. It had some positively beautiful staging elements, including this scene at the end - where Mindy and Death are both dead in a white pool of salt, with a deep blue light surrounding them. My friend had asked me if I would consider painting a scene from her play as she had so many really poignant shots, and I really liked this one - but I didn't tell her anything about it. Instead, I managed to get HER to run the errand to get the board (tee hee) that I worked on, then worked in secret. I demanded she come over and play games tonight and wasn't she surprised to learn we'd really invited her so that I could give it to her? I nailed a hanger on the back of the board, so it's all set.
"Mort and Mindy" (for lack of a better title), Oilbar, pencil, and acrylic on unfinished board, 12X15 (I think? I forgot to check.)


some things are coming together around here. And I say, it's about time! This is - obviously - the finished coat that I've been working on. It took me a while to finish as I was nervous about doing the buttonholes, nervous about cutting into it to shorten the sleeves, take up the hem, tame the collar. I'm happy to report that I'm completely satisfied with the end product. I opted to skip pockets, but we'll see if I stick with that. I have about a half yard of this wool/cashmere coating left, so I could definitely add some if I decide that's necessary, but for now I'm of the mind that they would just really interrupt the lines.

here's a close-up of those buttons. I did splurge a bit on the buttons, as I've come to realize that quality trims and details really add a lot to a garment. Plus, with the gift of these three yards of coating, I wasn't spending much overall on what turned out to be a really nice item. Thanks to my brother - the first person in my family to take my fabric request on my birthday wishlist seriously. Thanks, David!!
Almost done with that painting that's been driving me crazy. This week. I keep saying that, I know, but this time I really believe it. This week. Summer's rolling to a close soon - I'm meeting the chair next week to talk about my diagnostic exams and continued thesis prep while he's in Europe for fall quarter, and buying the book on play analysis that I want to read before I TA a class on it this fall, etc - and it's nice to see more of my personal projects come together with it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

as summer wanes, a summer treat

Not that summer really ever wanes in Santa Barbara, but I did awake this morning to a remarkably darker bedroom (this is a good thing. Normally, the blinding light and heat of the summer sun wakes me unpleasantly). It would seem the sun's southward movement has earned us some respite: it has to rise over a taller bit of the hills that flank this narrow valley before breaking into our morning routine, which means we're getting less of that intense white light (and really, 7am is too early for that!) and more lovely sunrise colours. I love waking at sunrise. I also love it when this doesn't necessitate getting up too early. =)

In other news, I FINALLY tried out my first summer pudding. Isn't it gorgeous? Oh, and so delicious. We ate a quarter of it last night, and that was with restraint. This dessert captured my imagination in middle school when I saw a recipe in a friend's mother's magazine of Victorian living (yes, I've always been a bit attracted to fussiness). For a kid with allergies to eggs, dairy, and fat, summer pudding offers a solution to the cravings of the sweet tooth (if you don't serve it with whipped cream, of course): it is, essentially, 8 cups of barely cooked berries (just five minutes with some sugar and the juice and zest of one lemon, to get the juices of the berries going) which are layered with bread in bowl or pan, weighted, and refrigerated for 8 hours. That's really it. I could eat this all day. In fact, in the heat of high summer, I often survive on berries and water-rich vegetables during the daylight hours, as it seems to be the easiest thing on my poor stomach.

Next time, I think I'll reduce the 3/4 c. of sugar to 1/2 or even 3/8. Not that I don't love the flavour - it is, spot on, perfect and completely addictive - but I think I would feel less guilty about eating it all day long if it was a bit less sweet. I also think this would be a fantastic birthday cake for a child's party. Fewer refined sugars, and plenty sweet and fresh. I can't wait to have a slice later today.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

before I go

heading out on vacation early tomorrow morning (we're leaving at 6 or 7am-ish?), but my recent silence hasn't been due to forgetfulness! I've been busy - but mostly with schoolwork reading. Before I go, however, I have a few pretty moments from late to share - and a work in progress. But not that painting, it's driving me nuts.

The Zaca fire is raging to the north, threatening homes and landmarks like Cold Spring Tavern. Some days, it snows ash and the light turns orange and the very air smells like burning. This was one of those days.

the strange sleeping habits of the Cassidy. =) He spent a morning balancing a stiff pillow on the narrow edge. We're still not sure how he did this, but I dashed for the camera ... and it fell about a minute later.

a healthy garden has insects, right? A big ol cricket or katydid or something showed up one day on the lemon verbena. He was so neat I had to stop my yoga practice and snap a shot.

my healthy garden has also attracted little frogs! I first saw this brown-spotty guy hanging out on my jasmine a week or ten days ago. This morning, I found a little green one and a brown-spotted one on the leaves of a neighbouring sage plant. This soil used to be rock hard and completely bone-dry. These days, it's mulched, composted, watered, healthy, and apparently, attracting friends. hurray!

and finally, I haven't just been working on my thesis reading. I found a use at long last for the 3 yards of cashmere-wool coating that my brother David gave me last year for my birthday. This - yes, this - is the work in progress: I still need a few more buttons, and to do some hem work and add pockets. But really, that's not too much. Thanks to the cover of Anthropologie's August catalogue for the inspiration!
well, I still have packing and cleaning to do, and maybe even some furniture moving, cos we're doing a major room swap, and I wanted to get one more piece of the puzzle in place before we leave. We'll be heading up the coast to Ashland for three days of food and plays with my family, and then another trip down the coast. I'm going to see Big Sur and the Redwoods for the first time in my life! Hurray! =) Though we are seriously having trouble with the prospect of leaving the kitten for five days. *sigh* poor thing. We are sure going to miss her.
well, all for now. Safe travels if you - like me - are on the road next week! cheers!

Monday, July 30, 2007

my submission

I'm shooting for Girlfriend of the Year - or so it would seem! I needed an excuse to get out of the house, and bringing the boy his lunch at work seemed like an excellent excuse to see him and get some exercise.

So how's this for a bicycle-delivered lunch? We have a warm roasted pear stuffed with gorgonzola and broiled to gooey-ness, alongside lamb's lettuce and baby greens dressed with a balsamic shallot vinagrette and freshly crisped bacon. And because he feared that would not be quite enough to get him through the day, in the back is a tupperware of vegan (no eggs!) yam-sage gnocchi simply dressed in some olive oil and herbs from the garden.

Now, before you get the impression that this was a lot of work, the salad is leftover from last night - I just had to rewarm the pear, toss fresh greens in leftover vinagrette, and brown some bacon. The gnocchi is from a huge batch we made about two weeks ago. We froze leftovers and then bagged them up in individual portions so that we could have instant dinner whenever we needed.

By the time I'd put it all together, I was heartily wishing I hadn't been such a pig and insisted on eating my leftover pear last night - as dessert with my pinot noir. Oh well. We'll definitely be making this salad again, especially when autumn arrives. And just for you, here's the recipe below:

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Bacon:
Pears (1/2 pear per salad), cut in half, cores removed
1-2 Tbl. butter
Gorgonzola cheese (figure 1/2 oz - max - per salad)
Greens - arugula, lamb's lettuce, spring mix, whatever you like! (we even included some romaine last night!) - two generous handfuls per salad
Bacon, 1-2 slices per salad.

For Shallot-Balsamic Vinagrette:
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinager
1 medium shallot, minced very fine (use a food processor if you'd like)
2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cut bacon into bite-sized chunks, and brown over med-low heat in a heavy saucepan, about 15-20 min. Drain on paper towels when done to remove excess oil.

While bacon is cooking, melt butter in another heavy saucepan. Add pears, cut side down, and cook over medium heat until browned, about 10-15 min. When pears are brown, place on a baking sheet or roasting pan, cut side up. Sprinkle pears with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake until tender - times vary, ours only took 5-10 min.

Meanwhile, make vinagrette: whisk all ingredients together in a mason jar or tall glass until combined and thick.

When pears are tender, remove from oven. Turn on broiler. Stuff approximately 1/2 oz of gorgonzola cheese into the hole from each pear's core. Place pears under broiler until cheese is melty - approximately 2-3 min.

To serve, place greens in a large bowl. Add 1 - 2 Tbl. dressing and toss by hand to coat. Use more dressing only if needed - this will keep the salad light and the flavour of the greens will come through. Add bacon bits and toss again. Place one pear half on each plate and mound greens beside it.

this recipe only slightly adapted from Gordon Hammersley's "Bistro Cooking at Home," perhaps my all-time very most favorite cookbook ever.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

happy, happy birthday, baby!

Cassidy turned 28 on Friday. I spent the week fussing over cake ideas and cake-decorating schemes - that is, until he shut me down! "Don't worry about it," he said, "they'll have a cake for me at work. They always have cake for people on their birthday." And re: a party? "Eh, let's just have a quiet year this year," he said.

Well, thought I, a reprieve! And I laid the matter to rest.

You know how the story goes: the gal who usually arranges the cakes wasn't there. No one knew it was his birthday. No cake. And Friday night was quiet, and I think he was surprised to find himself missing the usual celebration. "I think I'm starting to understand what it was like for you," he reflected - referencing my constant loneliness my first few years in Seattle, when putting myself through school left me bereft of any sort of social life.

Poor guy! So Saturday night (had to wait for the day's heat to pass), I whipped up his favorite cake. I have made this cake for his birthday something like 4 or 5 years running now, and I have to say, this is the best chocolate cake recipe I've ever found. I'm not actually very particular to cake at all - but this one, this one is the exception. This is actually a very pared-down version: just one layer, no fancy decorating. But I frosted it - per his request - with Irish Cream buttercream frosting, and sang him a happy birthday as I brought it out.

"You're the first one to sing it!" he smiled. We each had a very thin slice - then he had two more! - and dang, if it wasn't every bit as good as I remember. =)

happy, happy birthday Cassidy! I wish you many more - cakes, that is.

The Perfect Chocolate Cake

Irish Cream Buttercream (note: I found this a little TOO buttery, so I nearly doubled the Irish Cream and added extra confectioner's sugar until the consistency was right)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

fall wardrobe #3: eyelet blouse


well. this is fall-wear in Santa Barbara, sure. ;) I've had this eyelet forever - it was given to me by a friend back when I was first on my own and couldn't afford things like fabric for fun sewing projects. I didn't want to use it until I had the perfect summer project, and so here I am, six years later, finally putting it to use.


the details: top designed and pattern drafted by myself, of course. Yoke is lined. Top of yoke is trimmed with ivory mesh net, bottom is trimmed with red stitching detail. Yoke, hem, armholes, etc. etc. are trimmed with red bias binding that I made from some red-and-white quilting cotton. Top ties at the neck in the back with the same binding, stitched closed. Binding is also used as flat (not corded) piping along yoke edge. Body is unlined and somewhat sheer, so I do have to wear a top under it. Small pleats shape it at the yoke, and it has a shirttail hem.

experiments with self-timer

Saturday, July 14, 2007

fall wardrobe #2: the print shirt

I also like to call it my "loud shirt," because the colour combination of bright pink, plum, warm brown, dark green, greige, and black is ... well, loud. To me, anyhow. Plus, I find the print slightly jarring, with all those sharp angles. However, this top was basically cheap as free to make. The fabric was something (along with 5 yards of navy silk dupioni) that my mother scored for me at a Habitat for Humanity "garage" sale years ago. I never knew what to do with this print - which is, I think, poly or nylon to boot! - until I was suddenly inspired by the rage of pattern and bright colour right now. It is getting votes of "very Marc Jacobs" over at craftster. I'm quite flattered, though I admit I don't get the reference - which season/collection?

The details: top is empire seamed with a gathered bust, and bottom is cut on the bias for stretch and nice drapey movement.Puff sleeves are gathered along the top of the shoulder, but slit over the top of the arm. The underside is gathered into cotton twill tape that ties the slit closed over the arm, creating an adjustable, somewhat open "puff sleeve." Top closes with a side zip and hook. Pattern is original - drafted on my dressform. Length of twill-tape ties at neck is TBD.

next up: either I try and use up some eyelet (approx 1 yd), or 2 yds of striped silk or I recon a blue silk shirt. The recon may come first, as I've been putting off doing something with it for ages, and I'm trying to get through old projects first these days. I'm welcoming any suggestions re: the eyelet in particular. I know I want to do a blouse, but what? Some kind of gathered, yoked top, maybe? I was thinking if I could find some vintage crocheted lace for the yoke and line it?

Friday, July 13, 2007


Genesis. 30 x 30. Oilbar and pencil on canvas. 2007.

after skipping a free trip to Knott's Berry Farm (as a chaperone) in order to read and paint yesterday, and getting up and painting all morning, I have accomplished the dubious: finishing this today. I honestly didn't think that I would, and I'm really pleased both that I finished, and with how it turned out. I think I learned a lot during this. I wish I could go back and do some parts over, only ... I don't want to touch it. My fingers are pretty stiff and I need a shower, as I didn't get one this morning, owing to the need to finish. I'm behind on my reading goal for the week, but oh well, can't win 'em all, can you? And seeing as it will be 10-14 days before this is ready to travel and be photographed, I have plenty of time to read while it cures.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

garden update

fuschia begonia shelters under a shady rosemary
I bought some new plants yesterday, as I've been working toward filling in the few gaps in the inside bed. I ended up getting some things I hadn't planned on - azure blue germander, 1 gallon pots for $2.50 each! - and as a result, I expanded my border bed out front today. Wow, what a difference soil-building makes! The uncomposted soil took a couple hours to excavate. No matter - it's composted now. I don't know that the condo association allows us to alter our front beds ... but I'm out of planting space, so I see myself doing this again before too long.

the interior bed - the light here is so harsh, it's hard to get a decent picture, so let me tell you: chives in the foreground are in a pot, the bed is planted with tuscan blue rosemary (3), thyme-leafed fuschia (2), begonia fuschia (4), mint (2), parade rose (1), mexican heather (2), and some cockscomb and moss rose.
my lemon verbena is floppy; it needs to be staked. Chives in a pot, and behind, the newly expanded bed: cockscombs, moss roses, and an azure-blue germander. I'm thinking of shaping these lovelies into standards, just for fun. Further back: a little glimpse of rosemary, a lot of pineapple sage, and the briefest peek of lavendar.

from the far side of the bed: newley planted rosemary (tiny! it'll grow!), cockscomb and moss roses, a dusty culinary sage, the second germander, then loads of pineapple sage and lavendars (purple alyssum peeks underneath), with jasmine climbing in the corner.

I finally packed the chives into a pot. Zaha found them immediately and began snacking. I may have to move them back out, I don't know how long they'll last if she eats them at this rate.

a final shot. Azure blue germander, moss rose, cockscomb, pineapple sage, and lavendar.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

watermelon gazpacho

apologies for the blurry picture! This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart. All measurements are "ish," so feel free to fiddle. The result is wonderful: a light, fresh, pink-and-green (Lily Pulitzer forever!) concoction of refreshingly cool with a hit of spice that keeps you lapping up the juice. Enjoy!
approx 6.5 c. peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped watermelon, plus 1 cup finely chopped.
2/3 - 3/4 c. cranberry juice
1 c. chopped cucumber - I used 2/3 of an English cuke (a bit more than a cup)
1 c. chopped celery
1 red bell pepper, seeded, de-ribbed, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/3 c. packed fresh mint leaves, minced
1/3 c. packed fresh parsley, minced
juice of one lime
2 - 3 Tbl sherry vinegar
1 Tbl jalepeno pepper, minced (I used one seeded, deribbed jalepeno. It turned out pretty hot.)
combine 6.5 (approx) roughly chopped watermelon and the cranberry juice in a blender. puree until smooth. Press through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Discard pulp. You should have about 4-5 c. juice.
Add remaining ingredients to watermelon-cranberry juice: additional finely chopped watermelon, cucumber, celery, red bell pepper, red onion, mint, parsley, lime, sherry vinegar, and jalepeno. Stir to combine, seal with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Allow at least one hour to marinate; the more the better.