Friday, November 27, 2009

Craft Project: Place Card Holders

Hello and happy day after Thanksgiving! Today is my 100th posting! I want to thank everyone who likes to read what I have to say! Now onto my Thanksgiving craft project.

With seven people at table for Thanksgiving, I wanted to make sure everyone was seated next to people I know they would like to talk to but I had to come up with place card holders about an hour before the guests arrived. All you need is some 20 gauge wire, some nippers and needle nose pliers and some wine corks. We have a lot of corks.

For each setting you will need a 9 inch piece of wire. Use 1 1/2 inches of one end to create a small spiral:

Do this for all of the wire you will need.

Next, wrap wire around cork:

Fasten it with a twist or two. I used my pliers to make it nice and tight:

Then spiral the left over wire in a larger spiral. I liked facing the spirals in the same direction.

Use your pliers to separate the spirals so you can slip your cards into them.

Easy place card holders! I was thinking it would be fun to embellish them with buttons or paper flowers, but I ran out of time. I spent a lot of time on the paper leaf streams I hung above the table and left no time for the place cards.

I am always trying to think of new ways to reuse wine corks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Heart the Pioneer Woman

I am in love. No really, in love with The Pioneer Woman. I have been reading her blog for a while--she seems to be sort of a wonder-woman: 4 kids, lives on a ranch, horses, cooking, photography, home schooling, and now she wrote this cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks and is on a big book tour and number one on the New York Times advice book list.

And I just won one of her giveaways! That is, a roasting pan, a cast iron skillet, and a Wusthof knife! (I was just thinking this morning to buy a new iron skillet to try the Skillet Apple Pie discussed on Morning Edition) Her giveaways make my giveaways look like cheap-inside-a-box-of-candy giveaways.

This woman is popular. She has tens of thousands of readers. She inspires me to have an ambitious blog like hers. (Having 4 children however, not so much.)

Her recipes are so mouthwatering delicious. I have made her Hot Crash Potatoes countless times.

Thank you, Ree, you will forever be in my heart of hearts and on my blogroll!

San Francisco Photo Journal

A few random photos from San Francisco without the boring usual suspects. Above, a stuffed giraffe at the Academy of Sciences.

A watercolor painting by a naturalist on a boat sometime in the 1800's to capture the colors of the tropical fish before they fade away:

Tiny part of a huge mural in the Mission district:

Another mural, this one in front of a private residence, very cool and weird but I like the little red bird the best.

Foucault's pendulum at the Academy of Sciences. Proves the world is rotating. I happened to see it knock over one of the markers. It was very exciting and the crowd oohed appropriately. Read here for more info.
One of the brazen squirrels in the Golden Gate park botanical garden. I especially like his shadow.

View from our hotel window at the Westin of the Marriott. The last evening in San Francisco we went to the top of that hotel to the Sky Bar or whatever it was called. It is in that giant half circle. It was like the emperor's chamber on the Death Star. At the bottom of the photo you can see a weird pyramid like room poking up; that is part of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. I went in that strange room and it was all white inside.

A delicious gingerbread pancake at Zazie's on Cole street.
Bicycle polo players in the Mission district. We had to wait 25 minutes for the J train and this kept us entertained. The players were very serious about their game.
A fabulous, creepy shop on Haight called Loved to Death. Lots of stuffed birds and bones and antique prints. I was in heaven and bought one of these urchin shells and some of the teeny tiny seastars on the left. I want to try and suspend the stars in resin. I also bought an antique fish engraving to go with the one we bought in London.

Street team dancers at Haight street and Cole. Capoeira: n. An Afro-Brazilian dance form that incorporates self-defense maneuvers. I guess they teach classes. It looked fun. And they were singing and clapping on the outside ring while 2 or 3 members danced.

Self-portrait sans flash in hotel room.
Trevor at breakfast at the Canteen.

Trevor insisted on a photo of this since at his work he is always talking to his team about "adding value" to their product. (Developer speak.) But the more I look at this photo, the more I like the abstract idea of it.
If you visit San Francisco, I highly recommend getting the consecutive day MUNI pass that let's you ride all the trains, buses, and cable cars in the city. It took me a day or so to figure it all out, but it was well worth it as we got all over the city and saw a lot more than the little shopping/museum district downtown.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More on "Serious" Art in San Francisco, plus Food, Glorious Food

When I last left off, I had been talking about the Museum of Modern Art. The day before, I went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum to see the art of Maurice Sendak.

I admit I was a bit hesitant about going to the CJM. I am not religious at all (atheist, in fact) and I was worried it was going to be heavy on issues I really didn't want to think about on vacation. I know that sounds shallow, but I can't be all things for all people.

I thought I was just going to look at kid's art, but it turns out that Maurice Sendak is very "serious." His work is heavily influenced by growing up in New York, but the Holocaust casts a long shadow as well, as he lost several aunts and uncles and cousins. The museum did a fabulous job breaking down his influences and themes and the fact that he always had an "other story" hiding behind the main thread of his stories. It was wonderful to get to see his final drawings and sketches and dummy books up close. The details in his ink and watercolor illustrations are astounding. Quite a few listening stations were set up where there was video of Sendak discussing his work methods and inspirations, but I never got to hear any of them as school children were visiting the museum en masse and those cheeky monkeys were constantly hogging the earphones.

Food, Glorious Food

OK, enough with the art in San Francisco. On to the food. The glorious food. I have to do a big shout out to blog reader Cyndi who sent me a page long email detailing places to go and where to eat. It was from her that I discovered Tartine Bakery and La Mar.

Tartine Bakery is a fabulous, funky bakery in the Mission District. I had a "Croque Monsieur"--an open face sandwich with smoked Niman Ranch ham and gruyere and bechamel sauce and oh, man, was that delicious.

La Mar is a swanky Peruvian import down on the waterfront (Pier 1 1/2) To start we had a skirt steak skewer and shellfish and fish empanadas. We asked our waiter for the stinkiest Ribero Del Duero wine they had and then he recommended for dinner the short ribs to go with the wine. We have a new term for delicious meat falling apart and melting in your mouth: Meat Butter. This was Meat Butter at its finest.

I was plagued most of the trip by awful blisters from wearing my new shoes too long and so the second night we were there I only wanted to go to a restaurant near the hotel. Looking online for a wine bar downtown, I found First Crush. Their website is cheesy with animation and music and a little over the top but the wine flights looked good so we went to eat in their bar. I am glad we did. The bartender was helpful and on top of it. The Red Vines Flight with Tempranillo, Barbera, and Zinfandel (all CA wines) was delicious and stinky, the way I like my red wine. And the food, oh, the bar food there is fantastic. Mac and cheese with lobster and topped with panko. Beet and jicama salad with pistachio puree and goat cheese. Pasilla peppers stuffed with cheese and fried and served with creme fraiche. My mouth is watering thinking about it.

I also have to take a moment to mention Regalito, a little Mexican eatery I stumbled upon in the Mission District. This is not your typical greasy Mexican food. This is based on Mexican market food: an open kitchen with the food prepared from scratch before your eyes. We started with tortilla soup and were excited about our entrees when the waiter came with "bad" news. He said my 1/2 chicken was not going to be ready for at least 15 minutes. Did I want to order something different instead? I said no, we'll wait- But how about you bring us some of that tasty made-from-scratch guacamole I see everyone eating? Drinking wine, eating guacamole, why would I care about a few extra minutes? The food was delicious, the chicken perfect, and Trevor ordered more Meat Butter: slow roasted pork. But the most amazing thing was that at the end of the meal, the owner/chef Thomas wouldn't let us pay for our entrees since the food was so slow!!!! (That called for extra exclamation points.) How is THAT for service? We were perfectly happy chatting and eating and drinking. What a good chef. If we lived in San Fran, I would go to Regalito all the time! And you could tell there were a lot of regulars in the restaurant as they waved at the chef or stopped to talk to him when they came in.

So if you live in or visit San Francisco anytime soon, please visit Chef Thomas at Regalitos!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Meditations on "Serious" Art in San Francisco

OK, the first part of today I was out in a crazy strong downpour of wind and cats and dogs and the kitchen sink. Now that I am back from brunch and museum visiting, it is sunny in a happy blue sky with wisps of clouds outside my hotel window. I wondered if I was dreaming, but I just checked my coat and it is still damp two hours later.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed looking at too much "serious" art. Along with walking around in a museum watching other people try to look like they understand what they are observing. It's a lot of brain power to think critically and look at image after image and to try and get anything out of it that you will remember two months from now. Also, with my degree being in art, a whole lot of seriousness has been pounded into me and I have to stop and make an effort to think about why I like a piece versus why I should like a piece.

I try to only go to one museum a day when I am on trips. I had been unconsciously avoiding the Museum of Modern Art here in San Francisco the last three days because it fits into "serious" museum category all too easily. (So does the Contemporary Jewish Museum, which I saw yesterday, and which I will get to later.)

The main star at MOMA right now is a big Richard Avedon retrospective. If you don't recognize his name, you will certainly recognize his work. I liked looking at his photos quite a bit. I wish they had on more on how he took his photos. I don't fancy myself a photographer, so it was easy to just enjoy the pieces.

But in the galleries next door to the Avedon exhibit were two rooms dedicated to the video installations of Candice Breitz. Here is where I found my bliss.

I think I want to be a video installation artist. No, seriously, the last three or four major contemporary art museums I have been in all featured some sort of video art and I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame, like peanut butter to chocolate, like a cliche to blog writing....
Anyways, this South African artist (I think she lives in Berlin) understands that people relate to pop culture, whether it is music or movies or what have you, and she incorporates known entities into new experiences. Yech, I am sounding like art speak, sorry, let me just explain my favorite of her two pieces.

It's a big dark room with 25 screens of 25 different people, larger than life. Working class people who are devoted Lennon fans (they had to fill out a questionnaire to prove it) singing John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band. The whole album. But there is no music. They all were filmed separately and they all had little earphones in their ears but all you can hear is their singing and clapping and humming. And the speakers are correctly placed under each one so you can pick out the different voices. It is stunning. And it made me so happy.

You can see snippets of her videos on her website and even download them. They are cool to look at online (I just now spent 20 minutes there when I was getting the link, it is irresistible to me) but I have to say, it is much cooler in person. If you go to her website, check out the installation with people singing to Madonna called Queen. There's also a Michael Jackson one (King) that I found a little harder to watch.

I was going to add a book review to this and talk about the Contemporary Jewish Museum, but this is a long post so that will just have to wait.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Handmade Visual Journals and Sketchbook

I am not a visual journal type of gal. When I took the online stencil class this year many of the students (and the teacher as well) were focused on creating visual journals. I focused more on making little bits of original art.

I have signed up for ARTSFEST 2010 and the woman who organizes the whole shebang, Teesha Moore, is a HUGE fan of visual journals and even makes her own journals from scratch.

Now this really intrigued me. She takes a sheet of 22" x 30" watercolor paper, rips it up, folds it up and ties it up and ta-da! she has a little notebook, ready to fill up with her creations. If you head over to Teesha's Circus and look in the November Archive, she has posted 10 or more videos about making her journals.

I made one immediately after I first watched those videos a couple weeks ago and started collaging and painting the pages just as she showed and then I just, well.....stopped.

I realized it wasn't my style at all. I don't know if I will finish it. I have no photos of it as yet, but I did start a new sketchbook right before I left for San Francisco.

I have just started a couple of pages with pen and ink:

I am not sure if I will add color or text or collage, but I do know that now I am VERY inspired by what I have seen so far while here so I am sure the pages are going to be filled up with seahorses, like the art deco seahorse railing I saw at the Academy of Sciences:
(If you peek through the railing on the left, you can see the albino alligator in the swamp below, but I was focused on the railing)

or maybe a whole page dedicated to the brazen squirrels that surrounded me at the botanical garden, chittering and squawking and demanding food:

Focused on having fun with my new sketchbook!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bay Area, Here I Am

This is my third trip to San Francisco. As an adult. (I think I came here once when I was a kid, but that doesn't count.) The last two times we stayed with friends, which was wonderful and they took us to all of their local haunts. This time I am staying in a hotel downtown and I am excited about seeing the city, via public transit. I am armed with a bunch of recommendations from blog readers and friends and I am already in possession of a 7-day muni/bus pass. Awesome. Only $24 and I can get anywhere I want.

We weren't even downtown a full hour yesterday before we jumped on bus #6 (plenty of body odor and packed bodies) and headed to Haight street to go to the Fluevog store. There is a Fluevog store in Seattle, but this is more fun. (If you've never heard of Fluevogs, get thyself to their shop or website immediately.) It was only shop we went into on Haight. I could have bought 5 pairs if my budget allowed, they are all so lovely. Mission accomplished, each a new pair of shoes in hand, we went for a snack at a cute little cafe/bar, Reverie, up on Cole Street and recommended by the woman who sold me my shoes. I wish I had taken a photo of the grilled chicken kabob plate we shared--I forgot. We were so hungry, blogging slipped my mind. When I am hungry, everything else takes a back seat.

My new shoes:

By the time we made it back to the hotel, we decided to just finish up the night quietly in the hotel bar and I remembered to take some photos.

The bar had a fabulous round room with orange/red leather seating and red wall paper and this lovely red chandelier in a gold painted dome. That's where we ate the deep fried pork balls, or as I mentioned on Facebook, the DEAD fried pork meatballs. Same thing really.

I had a bellini (champagne and peach puree) and Trevor had a a glass of Dolcetto.
But then I switched to a glass of Nebbiolo and I was happy, happy, joy, joy. I am going to try and find a nice wine bar for us to go tonight. I am thinking we should do a little California taste test.

But first, I am off to the Academy of Sciences. Trevor is at his developer conference, poor man--when we got in the elevator last night a guy was wearing a JAVA t-shirt, and Trevor announced, "we are in the land of the geeks now." I think he really meant "we are with our people."

See you later!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Time For A Giveaway

OK, I have posted up a couple of other websites' giveaways and now it is time for my own giveaway!

As a celebration of the studio tours and getting my new work up on ETSY, I will be giving away 2 packs of my wine bottle gift tags to 1 lucky winner.

All you have to do is post a comment to this post. That's all and you will be entered ONCE.

If you post my post on your blog (feel free to use a picture) and then tell me about it in the comments section, then you will get THREE entries.

Got that? So it's 8 gift tags to one lucky winner.
Giveaway closes at midnight on Monday, November 30th.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Limited Edition Prints

I have two new prints up on ETSY! 6" x 8" on archival matte paper.

The original paintings are ink, watercolor, and gouache. And they would make great thank you presents or hostess gifts!
A friend who just saw them for the first time at the studio tour said, 'This doesn't look like your work at all!' which surprised me since I think of myself first and foremost a person who draws and then paints, sculpts, and mosaics second. I sketch and draw every day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Edamame-Spinach Soup

My husband woke up this morning with a cold. Between his cold, the rain, and the busy weekend I just had, I decided a yummy, simple soup was in order to get the week off to a nice, stress-free start.

I just saw this Edamame-mixed veggie soup recipe a couple days ago on Shelterrific. They had modified their recipe from the Edamame soup on 101 Cookbooks. And here is my variation, because I can't cook anything the way is says to in a recipe!

Edamame-Spinach Soup

1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, small diced
1 medium baking potato, peeled and small diced
1-2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1- 12 oz. package frozen, shelled edamame, thawed
1- 12 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3-4 Tablespoons half and half
salt and pepper

Garnish: fried onions and toasted sesame oil (or olive oil)

Heat oil over medium heat and add chopped onion and potato. Stir frequently--it will brown the bottom of your pan, but no worries!-cook for 5-6 minutes.

Add paprika, red pepper flakes, and smashed garlic (I like to leave the cloves whole so they don't burn). Cook for an additional one or two minutes, stirring frequently and then add your edamame, chopped spinach, and vegetable broth. Bring to a low boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until you can easily smash a piece of potato with the back of your spoon.

Add yogurt and half and half and stir in well. Puree in food processor or use an immersion blender. (This is my favorite kitchen tool!) Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a swizzle of your favorite flavored oil and top with fried onions.
The variations on this type of soup are really quite endless.

Studio Tours

Wow, I made it through the studio tour weekend in one piece! I had about 50 people visiting the studio.

It is a lot of fun to have everyone come and see all of your work, but it is pretty exhausting and now I have to clean up and get my studio back as a functioning studio. Our TV room and my office in the house have become my de facto work spaces and are very messy right now.

I had a lot of my ETSY things out for sale to see how well they would do. I thought I would do a little test-marketing, and ended up selling one or two of everything, so that gives me hope!

I had a pet rock making station. Here is Ann working on her masterpiece.

It is hard to pass up an opportunity to play with googly eyes.
I have been having a lot of fun with the shrinky dink jewelry and have now expanded into keychains.

The only thing disappointing about being on the studio tour is that I don't get to see all of the other artist's studios.