Monday, February 28, 2005

Sugar highs

I think it's been established that I like to cook, and since I also enjoy being an artist, one of my favorite ways to combine these two things is with dessert. Recently Carrie over at Knit-Whit posted a picture of the Valentine's day cookie gifts I made for our chick posse, and I've been known to create similar cookies as the season and holiday dictates. Carrie insisted I give her a lesson and we've scheduled some time in my kitchen classroom so I can teach her my secrets with Easter cookies.
A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to play around with cake decorating, mostly because I had seen some outrageous cakes (for outrageous prices) online and on TV and I was inspired to try a new medium that I felt had a lot of creative possibilities. Conveniently enough, around the same time, one of my relatives was also being subjected to a suprise 30th birthday and I was put in charge of the table decorations. I needed to come up with something inexpensive since there were going to be 10+ tables and the budget was tight, but I also wanted something really cool to make the event special for my lovely cousin. What I ended up doing was a series of minature cakes that looked great as centerpieces and would be recyclable as dessert later in the evening. It was a huge hit. The cakes were a whimsical conversation starter and everyone loved them, including the guest of honor. Many people couldn't believe they were cake and they were even more suprised when it was discovered they tasted good too. In total I think I baked and decorated fourteen trial-size masterpieces over the course of two weeks. (Good thing I have a spare freezer.) The time investment was a little crazy but I had a great time doing it, I learned a lot and I got to give a fun, creative gift that made someone happy. Here's some shots of a few of my favorites:
The Orange and Green Ribbon cake

The Horizontal Stripe cake

The Garden with White Picket Fence cake

The White Pearlesecent Star cake

The Present cake (complete with edible tag)

After fourteen cakes I was practically a pro and since then I've found a few other excuses to create edible art...more pictures tomorrow! I'm really looking forward to my new kitchen and having a commercial-size convection oven so I can expand my capabilities.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Pizza night

My oldest and dearest kitty Josie Boo has really been struggling the last few days so we wanted to stay close to home and keep her company while she's still around to soak up the pets and snuggles. It's been really difficult and sad, so cooking up a little gourmet pizza last night was a welcome distraction. I've been craving sun dried tomatos lately and that became my jumping off point for ingredient selection. I sent SO to the store with a list and one of the extras that caught his eye was another box of the baby sweet peppers we enjoyed in our curry the other night. Of course I had to have mushrooms :) I also sliced up some calabrese sausage for him as a gourmet substitute to pepperoni.

I tried a different pizza dough recipe, this one from the newish Gourmet Magazine cookbook, and it was fairly good but not my favorite. It did make itself into super thinness easier than some.

Pizza number one was thin crusted calabrese, sweetpepper and mozzarella for SO that he gobbled up before I got a pic.
Number two was sun dried tomato, sweet pepper, baby portobella mushroom and goat cheese for me,

and number three was a thicker-crusted pesto based half mushroom medley for lefover snacks which I snapped a picure of before it got into the oven.

We washed everything down with a yummy bottle of wine, a toast to Josie Boo, and a couple of movies.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Are we there yet?

It's starting to feel more and more like spring is nudging it's way in around here, and as a result, I'm getting antsy about our ongoing homebuilding project. While progress hasn't been made over the winter to the extent I would have hoped, things are creeping along and I'm looking forward to getting to the finished point with the actual structure because I feel like that's when it's really going to look and feel like something.
Here's what it looks like now:

That's the southeast corner of what will eventually be a two-story living room that walks out to a patio. On the left side of the photo is the master bedroom which will also have patio access and in the corner between these two walls will be the spiral stair for access to roof decks on two levels.
I wish we could just jump ahead to the finish line and move in. Building a new home has been as much an exercize in patience as anything else for me, with the added caveat being that I, as GC, have accepted responsibility for the timeline so I have no one to blame except myself when things don't move ahead as quickly as I'd like. Sigh. Plus, I'm really just in this for the fun parts, i.e., the interior designing and the selfish desire to control every detail of what the acutal space will be like, inside and out. This is not to say that I'm not interested in the more functional aspects of building a house, but I'm rather over the endless phone calls, sourcing, discussing, driving and muddy boots part of it all at this point. I want to play with sinks and faucets and lighting and countertops and cabinets and paint colors now, damnit.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Crafting hangover

We had a lovely CraftyCHIX evening. The BBQ pork sandwiches were yummy and the company couldn't have been nicer. With my typical sugar-junkie thinking, the best part of the meal, of course, was dessert...

Thanks to Carrie for the fabulous shots of some big, chewy Molasses cookies. I'm enjoying one of the leftovers as I type. The recipe is from my ancient Betty Crocker cookbook and I substituted butter for shortening (duh!) along with a few other secret tweaks. On a side note, my edition of the BC cookbook is older than me and has a helpful hints section that is pretty hilarious. It's also full of really crazy 60's era recipes. Amen for the American food revolution of subsequent decaces.

It was a diverse night for craft of choice (COC). Carrie was working on what I can only surmise is a craft invented by someone who wanted to design the most complex, most detailed, most labor intensive project ever and was obviously on some kind of drug. Perhaps we'll get a glimpse of the FO over at Knit-Whit soon. Our friend Susan was casting on for a cute felted purse, and Donna made a beautiful sterling, peridot and amethyst toggle necklace. Here's where I was on my Color on Color scarf before last night:

I did manage to make some progress, and I have about six rows left in section 13. Now that there's a few more colors in the mix, I like it a little better. I'll post more pics as soon as I get the numerous ends woven in.

Not much on the agenda for the weekend. I really want to see My Architect: A Son's Journey, which I spied on DVD last weekend but that got vetoed in lieu of SO's pick. I might just have a little crafting and cooking up my sleeve somewhere as well...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

After the show

In the interest of those of you who TiVo'd, I'll just say that last nights finale of Project Runway could not have turned out better and my celebration meal was not in vain. The outcome was exactly as I was predicting and hoping for. Even better, did anyone catch the "wanna be a contestant on the NEXT season of Project Runway"? That's right, it said NEXT. WHOOHOO!

I had to make a quick grocery run for dinner ingredients, and these little babies ended up in my basket because they were just too cute to pass up

They're trial size little sweet peppers and they were YUM. I ended up using them in the Kerala Golden Curry. Here's a shot of mies en place, including the evenings' cocktail of choice, the Mojito, which happens to be my main summer standby. I chose Mojitos over wine mainly because the limes at the grocery store were as big as softballs (really) and looked fresh and enticing.

And a not so flattering shot of the finished dish

It really looked a lot better in person. I used extra wide flat rice noodles which I have to say would not get my vote again over rice. There's just a certin way that rice soaks up all the coconutty, spicy goodness that noodles cannot. Anyway, SO and I both thought it was delicious.

So, I'm hosting CraftyCHIX tonight, my bi-weekly eat and create event. I always try and pick a menu with ease of preparation and service in mind, and tonight it's Pork Barbeque sandwiches with jojo potatos. I have the pork in my crock pot and it's already smelling delicious. I'm making this slaw recipe, instead of the one that goes with the pork BBQ recipe since it got better reviews, so I also made the required Carolina Red Barbeque Sauce. I reserved a half cup of this sauce for the slaw and poured the rest into the crock pot with the pork shoulder. I'm crock pot-braising instead of BBQing since it is still winter here, it happens to be snowing today, and the idea of tending a grill all day was less than thrilling. Boo.
Hopefully I'll remember to snap a few pics tonight of everyone's craft project since getting to see what everyone is working on is half the fun of getting together. I'm going to attempt to acutally make some progress on my Color on Color scarf.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I'm holding my breath for tonights' season finale of Project Runway. Two hours of love.
All I can say is that if Wendy Pepper wins, I'm going to need some kind of therapy. In fact, I might need some kind of therapy just to be able to put up with her for two hours without losing my mind. I really don't like the chick.
On a human level, I have to admit I do find it a little sad, (but not too sad to still be funny in a malicious sort of way) the insane amount of crap WP has gotten. On the other hand, she really did ask for it. Let her crash and burn be a reminder to anyone aspiring to reality TV. Either get your head shit straight ahead of time, i.e. evolve beyond the psyche of a 12 year old, or play nice. Copping the omnicient power bitch attitude on national TV when you have nothing real to back it up with is a bad, bad idea. So, WP, may this be the episode that delivers you into obscurity. You're an idoit.

I think I'll make some curry to celebrate what I hope will be a satisfying outcome.

Kerala Golden Curry
recipe by JD Fratzke, former chef at Chino Latino, Mpls. MN

2T. Ghee
3 Shallots, julienned
2T minced garlic
3T minced ginger
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 1/2T Madras curry powder
2 1/2 shrimp stock
1/3 c. fresh lime juice
3c. thick coconut milk
2T. fish sauce
1T raw sugar

Heat ghee to near smoking in stock pot over medium heat. Add shallots, sweat breifly and then add garlic, ginger and jalapeno. When garlic begins to brown, quickly add curry powder, stirring constantly so as not to scorch the spices or veggies. When curry becomes aromatic, reduce heat to medium-low, de-glaze pot with lime juice, allow to cook down, add shrimp stock and bring to a boil.
When shrimp stock mixture has reduced by about a third, add coconut milk. When coconut milk begins to boil, drizzle in the fish sauce and stir in the sugar. Taste and adjust for salt by adding more fish sauce or for sweetness by adding more sugar.
Strain sauce before serving.

The recipe calls for serving over Tilapia but I'm going to use shrimp and serve it with rice noodles. Now for the wine...

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Love/Not Love

I thought I'd start with a follow-up to yesterday's love your 70's rambler post with some pictures of the floor:

It's Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT) and was extremely inexpensive (but very labor intensive because of the circles). I love it. There's something about a crazy, colored floor that just makes me happy, and I think a small room like a bathroom is an ideal palette for such a floor. As a rule I believe neutral is better for major components of decorating because I have a tendency to get sick of stuff quickly and I wouldn't want to be decorating around a blue and purple floor in my living room for the next 10 or 15 years. In the bathroom a little craziness works because I don't spend a great deal of time there. Plus it's a smaller space and therefore less of an investment in materials.

Anyway, here's some more Things I love: the short list...

  • Michel Cluizel Noir au Cafe chocolate
  • Silpats and Orkas
  • Microplanes
  • commercial sheet pans
  • expertly made small handbags and leather goods
  • expensive shoes, especially stilettos. It's 80% of the reason I was a Sex in the City fan. The other 20% was the outfits.
  • MAC
  • the Pacific Coast Feather Company's Down Around Pillow. Changed my life.
  • functional beauty
  • my homemade chocolate chip cookies with toasted almonds. talk nice and I'll tell you my secret recipe.
  • my homemade Tiramisu...again, talk nice.
  • Dupioni silk in bright colors
  • Nike running shoes...I know, I know, that whole child labor thing makes this so unPC but still...
  • obsessive attention to detail
  • Extra fine point Sharpies. The multi-colored 24 pack made me squeal in the asile at OfficeMax, really.
  • Lance Armstrong. It's a blond thing.
  • my Chantal tea kettle. It whistles like a harmonica.
  • French press coffee. Drinking a carafe now....
  • Battered, deep fried mushrooms with horseradish sauce. Not breaded and not Ranch. Yuk.

    Things that should not exist: just the highlights...

  • Wallpaper borders.
  • wine for "Decorating"
  • Silk flowers in colors that don't exist in nature...or maybe just silk flowers.
  • Emeril
  • chopped garlic in a jar
  • collagen injected lips: frightening examples here
  • Emeril
  • Buells
  • printed fleece
  • neighborhoods that are a sea of beige vinyl siding and three styles of house
  • Red Heart yarn, although I do admit to acutally buying some to make the Hallowig
  • "Vanilla" Haagen Daas. I don't know what they did to it, but it's not vanilla anymore

  • I love faucets more than shoes

    During the time we've lived in our current house, I've pretty much done a top to bottom facelift and made a lot of changes that I think make a 70's rambler about as pleasant as it can be without spending a fortune. When we moved in it was truly like stepping into a bad 70's movie set. There were brown and yellow crocheted lace curtains on the windows and wallpaper on one wall of every room in weird pastel abstract patterns. The living room was peach and the house numbers were painted six feet tall on the garage door in brown and yellow. Makes you wonder who came up with that great idea and what drug they were on.

    One of the things that desperately needed help was the upstairs bathroom. The gold flecked formica countertop and rust stained sink just didn't do it for me. Sourcing materials locally left a lot to be desired in the cool, fun category and it was during this adventure that I ran across Lavabo, a UK based fixture supply house that has some amazing things. I found a sink and faucet that was far more interesting than anything I found in the US at the time and a lot less expensive.
    Here's what it looks like installed:

    Although the exchange rate is pretty ugly at present, there's some great stuff to had from the UK via the internet. Although I see more and more good, American designed and produced fixtures we've still got a long way to go when it comes to cool as the norm.

    The counter is a glass mosaic I made using the by-products of my stained glass work. Originally I had decided on a really cool tranlucent solid surface material but the quote I got for just a 48" countertop was insanely expensive. Since it's always my goal to maintain a sensible budget when it comes to interiors, I looked around for a cheaper alternative and found it right in the next room. As it turned out, I liked the result a lot more than what I was contemplating spending a fortune on and I think it has a lot more personality.
    I did all the fabrication, installation and plumbing myself.

    Saturday, February 19, 2005

    Chilly Saturday

    It's back to being ugly cold here which means the weekend is shaping up to be an indoor party again. Boo. Fortuately we picked up a couple of DVD's for watching while we're swaddled in blankets.
    I still haven't knit a stitch on my Color on Color scarf, but there's potential today. The problem is that I really don't care much for the section I'm working on so it's just an exercize in following the directions and lamenting about the bajillion ends I'm going to have to weave in because of all the color changes. Anyway, it's somewhat tedious going at the moment.
    In the mean time, I thought I'd post a before and after of one of the other things that's been keeping me warm this winter.

    and post felting:

    These are the "Felted (Fulled) Mittens" by Nancy Lindberg. I used Brown Sheep Nature Spun yarn with a little eyelash knit into a few rows of stockinette to make the cuff. I love anything felted. I even want to make some felted placemats one of these days.

    I think maybe knitting makes me appreciate winter just a little in that it gives me cause to wear all kinds of handmade cute warm stuff. I have to admit it would be a little more challenging to find suitable projects if I lived in a warm climate. Either that or it would force me to become proficient at knitting tank tops that acutally fit and look nice.

    I'm getting the itch to bake some bread and since the weather is cooperating, I just may have something yummy to show tomorrow.

    See ya then.

    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    Power tools

    I love it when my interests intersect. Apparently I am not the only one who knows knitting is the bomb.

    I found this little tidbit at Core 77, one of the places I visit to feed my design addiction.
    I love unique custom designed knitted objects (although I'm not sure what one would do with a knitted skull). My friend Carrie designed and knit a felted IPod cozy that almost makes me want to get an IPod.

    It's the weekend. YAY! I've been craving Thai food all week and I think I'll grab Anumberoneguy and take him for a bite tonight. There's a little hole in the wall restaurant near us that is far and away our most visited, most favorite dining destination. We're really going to miss running over for a quick weeknight dinner when we move across town. I do have a plan, however. For the last year, I've had this little beauty stashed away in the garage:

    I've been dissapointed with home cooked wok food so many times that I finally just gave up. Wimpy residential ranges just don't crank out the BTU's you need for wok success. More than any other goodie, I'm ridiculously excited about having this thing in my new house. We'll probably be eating stir-fry every night for a year. Plus it makes a really cool noise when it's on which I guess is why it's called a jet burner.

    Wednesday night knit and nosh

    I got together with a couple of friends last night for a little kniting and noshing. I made the yummiest Ham, Swiss and Mushroom sandwiches.The recipe is for an open-face style sandwich but I made them with two bread slices and toasted them in my Pannini maker. It's defnitely a keeper of a recipe...delicious and casual but a little special, too. I used baby Portobella mushrooms which have tons more flavor and put regular white button mushrooms to shame. Sauteed mushrooms pretty much fall into the same category as bacon for me...anything with that in it just has to be good.

    I've been working on the "Color on Color Scarf" by Kathryn Alexander from the book Scarf Style. Although it's not a difficult pattern at all, I've had to tink twice in section 13 because I've failed to read the directions thoroughly and forgotten some rows. Boo. I haven't been working on it much lately because I've been sidetracked by getting my new laptop up and running with Gentoo Linux but it's coming along little by little and I'll post some picures soon.
    In the mean time, here's a picture of a recently finished object, the Wavy Scarf, from Knitty.

    The pattern calls for Cascade 220, which I adore, especially for felting, but I used an Alpaca because having wool next to my neck would have made me too itchy. The result is a little narrower, but I really like it and it's OSO soft.

    I've been waiting on the UPS guy today who happens to be arriving as I type. He's bringing me my Valentines Day gift to myself, a new Wusthof Santoku knife. Happy chopping :)

    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    News Flash!!

    WhooHoooo!! I just heard that Lance Armstrong is going to participate in the Tour de France again this year! I'm so pysched, as previously he had suggested he would take this year off and I couldn't imagine what I would do with myself for those first three weeks in July without him. Read more details here:


    As I've mentioned, one of my major obsessions is motorcycles. I've been riding for 17 years and I can't imagine a life without bikes. I currently own a 2001 Aprilia RSV Mille R in yellow (of course!), that I ride on the street, and a 2003 Kawasaki 636 for the track. I'm also a sometimes gearhead, which is almost a necessity when you own and ride multiple bikes. I like digging into bike maintenence almost as much as I like digging into a nice meal.
    During the summer, I spend most weekends riding at the track. Here's a pic of me on my former track bike, an Aprilia RS250.
    Track photo RS250
    This was one of my most favorite bikes ever, and an absolute blast on the track.
    Track riding is a serious addiction and I'm hooked. I started doing trackdays about five years ago and it's a habit that pretty much rules our lives in the summer. We've even designed an indoor motorcycle showroom and workshop into our new house.
    My friend Carrie recently had a dream that I won $125 million dollars. If that really happened, I think I'd buy bikes before anything else.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2005

    Project Grande

    I forgot to take pictures of last nights Valentine feast, but the menu included Ham, Gruyere and Irish Cheddar paninni on Pumpernickel Rye and a heart shaped molten chocolate cake for two with vanilla ice cream. It was delish.
    Now that you're hungry...Happy Tuesday.

    Allow me to introduce what will eventually contain my dream kitchen (minus the wood fired pizza oven), along with a whole bunch of other really neato stuff:

    Just over a year ago SO and I decided we wanted to create something really cool for ourselves instead of just ogling over stuff we saw on TV and in my favorite magazine DWELL
    We had also been discussing moving for a while and decided it was time to make something happen, so we decided set our sights on building a new house. You can read more about the entire process, from start to eventual finish and beyond, here.

    I can safely say this is far and away the largest undertaking ever for me, so big that it's equal parts scary and fun. I designed the house myself based around two of my (and our) favorite things, cooking and motorcycles, and I'm also acting as our General Contractor for it's construction. Ultimately I look at this as one big art project that we've commissioned for ourselves and it's undoubtedly been the opportunity of a lifetime. More than just building a house, I feel that this project reminds us on a daily basis that we're in charge of what we get out of this life and that we're responsible for making things happen, for better or worse. I hope that once we're warm an snug in our cool new abode that it serves to keep that thought front center in our minds and pushes us to pursue even greater goals. I'll keep you posted :)

    Monday, February 14, 2005

    Ode to Spain weekend

    Our Saturday shopping venture became more elaborate than I anticipated, so I ended up putting together a quick Tapas meal for us out of some of the yummy things I gathered throughout the day.
    The selection included roasted red peppers and portobello mushrooms, Arbequina Spanish and Gordal Greek olives, Calabrese sausage, Herb salami, fresh fruit, Garroxta cheese(an aged Spanish goat cheese), another Spanish goat cheese called "Drunken Goat", Prima Donna Gouda (not Spanish but one of our faves), a nice bottle of Vino Tinto and a great Baguette. That's Josie Boo eyeing the spread in the background.
    Sunday night I made the Churrasco Pork Tenderloin:

    I served it over brown rice with a salad of organic greens with lime-honey vinagrette. The real star of this show, however was a fabulous bottle of wine, a Mencia from Dominio De Tares in Bierzo, Spain. It was SO yummy!
    Both meals were delicious but the Tapas was my favorite since I'm crazy about snack-style meals. There's nothing better than little bits of lots of tasty stuff.

    Oh yea, Happy Valentines Day!! I'll have some pics of the delicious "favorite things" meal I'm planning as a special treat for A-number-one-guy tonight.
    Happy cooking

    Sunday, February 13, 2005


    I was planning on posting a few pics of our fabulous food weekend, but that will have to wait while I take a few days to get up to speed with the new laptop that was a suprise (and OSO fabulous) Valentine's Day gift from my darling guy.
    So, as if the suprise that I was to embark on a new hardware shopping spree wasn't good of the stops we made was at S*m's Club because I had spied a really neato looking Sharp Actius laptop a few weeks ago that I needed to check out. Great design, but alas, not worth the $$ just for good looks (gasp..did I really just say that?) Anyway as we were walking in, I was accosted with a view of a most unsightly butt. One of the entity-unto-itself jumbo kinds with full cellulite dimpling shown off great glory by tight khakis. Yuck.
    So, I look away from that horror and right at the face of the spouse of said butt, who I just happened to recognize as my eXXXX boyfriend from way back when. He looked extremely unhappy, and my brief but somehow telling glimpse into his life in that moment made me thankful for so much. I could feel the bad chi two shopping carts' width away.
    Did I mention my darling guy? Getting a glimpse of what could have been was a little bizarre, and I just can't keep myself from silently cheering that A.) my ass is SO not even close to being that big, in fact I'm a veritable hottie in comparison, and B.) I had the wisdom to realize, even in my post adolescent stupor, that there were better things in store for me and my life than living in rednecksville and growing a huge ass and a couple of mangy kids. Amen.
    That little event seriously made my day, week and maybe month. Call me catty if you must.
    Anyway, back to food tomorrow. Tonight it's definitely some smoochies for my sweetie for being the amazing man that he is, and for understanding that even though I don't need him to prove his love to me with extravgant gifts, I sure like it when he does.

    Saturday, February 12, 2005

    Next stop: Food

    I am a food fanatic. I love to cook and I love to eat. My obsession with cooking tends to wax and wane, and today it's in overdrive. I've been thinking about what to cook for dinner since about five minutes after I got up this morning. I'm also craving a great glass or two of wine, and I'm sure I'll have no problem turning the gathering and preparation of tonight's, (or maybe tomorrow nights, depending on how involved things become) meal into a day-long affair. Is it crazy that the thought of making a trip to a really great grocery store and shopping for a bottle of wine will make for a "fun" Saturday?
    So far, I'm leaning towards Pork Tenderloin Churrascowith Aji Amarillo-Pineapple Salsa.
    Can you say YUM?? And it's the perfect excuse to use some of the Pimenton de la Vera, i.e. smoked Spanish Paprika that was my one and only purchase during last springs' motorcycle tour of Spain. It's definitely one of those flavor-memories that instantly transports me back to that time and place. Like a mini vacation for the mouth.
    I guess I'm going to have to start taking pictures of food I cook. That is a little frightening.

    Friday, February 11, 2005

    I'll start with what I consider to be one of my signature pieces. This is a stained glass panel I designed and built because I wanted something beautiful for myself. I was also interested in experimenting with unconventional design and construction methods in stained glass and exploring the limits of what is possible. It currently resides in my living room. The panel is 48" x 36" and took me about three months to complete.
    I have to admit that I have a love-hate relationship with stained glass as a medium. It can be technically difficult and has an extremely diverse palette, two things I really enjoy about it, yet I feel as an art form it's been corrupted by the pervasiveness of bad "craft"...ugly and clunky stuff that's made by the needlepoint-on-plastic-canvas crowd and by work done with subject matter that's completely out of context for the medium. In my experience, stained glass to most people means gold plated angel suncatchers sold at church bazaars, Winnie the Pooh window panels and those bad lampshades at TGI Friday's. UGH!
    Rants aside, I love the contradiction of creating something flowing and exotic out of a hard, unforgiving material like glass.

    Neptunes Dream
    There's a great slide show at The International Guild of Glass Artists that has some interesting work done by glass artists of all varieties.

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