Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fantastic and Easy Vietnamese Salad

I love Vietnamese salads. I mean, I really love them. I rarely order anything else when we go to our local Vietnamese restaurant Lele. Lele is on Hilltop and has a Gig Harbor spot too. The Gig Harbor one is a lot more fancy, but we like our little hole-in-the-wall on MLK just fine.

I think a lot of people shy away from Vietnamese salad on the menu because, well, it sounds so boring, frankly. Boring and healthy. And it is pretty darn healthy, but it is so delicious. There is really no excuse not to be making it at home more often. It consists mostly of fresh vegetables so you can adapt easily with whatever you have on hand.

Also, this recipe is with pork tenderloin but you can modify it to use any meat (or no meat) if you choose. I know there is at least one non-pork eater that reads this blog; just ignore the pork part and substitute grilled chicken or shrimp!

Vietnamese Salad with Pork Tenderloin

For the meat:
1 medium pork tenderloin
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons chopped ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
hot sauce (optional)

For the salad:
1/4 pound thin rice noodles, soaked in boiling water (take pot off burner once you add noodles) for 20-30 minutes to soften.
1 cup shredded or chopped carrots, soaked in rice vinegar with a little sugar
2 cups shredded lettuce
handful chopped cilantro
handful chopped mint (if you have it, it is a nice touch)
1 or 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
3 green onions, fine chopped
salted peanuts

Nuoc Cham for the dressing:
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce
3 Tablespoons fish sauce*
3 Tablespoons lime juice
2-3 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons sugar
*note on fish sauce: DO NOT SKIP! It will mellow out with sugar and lime juice. It adds a special tangy loveliness that is special to this dish and many Southeast Asian dishes.

Mix all the dressing ingredients and set aside.

Boil water to soak your rice noodles. You can also completely skip the noodles and just serve it on rice or shredded lettuce.

Rinse and pat dry your pork. Trim if desired. Place in pan with sides. Try to use the smallest pan it will fit in. Combine garlic, ginger, and brown sugar and moisten with hot sauce until you have a nice paste. You can use water only if you want, but honestly, it isn't that hot. Spread garlic/ginger paste on top of pork and add a little water to the bottom of the pan.
Note: I usually double my recipe when I make it because we love the leftovers!Cook in 375 oven for 20 minutes, turning it once halfway through. You can add more water if sauce starts to burn. You may need to cook it longer, depending on the size of your tenderloin. I like to cook it to 145 or 150 degrees and then I tent it with foil and let it rest 5-10 minutes and the temperature will go up and the juices will redistribute and it will be perfect.

While your pork (or whatever meat you have chosen) is cooking, prep and arrange shredded lettuce, carrots, cilantro, mint, tomatoes, green onions, and peanuts on a platter. I like to let my guests choose their veggies. You can also add cucumber and sprouts too.

Once pork is cooked and rested, slice diagonally. Start with noodles in the bottom of your bowl. Add lettuce and then the rest of the veggies. Top off with meat, peanuts, and green onions. You can add the meat juices/sauce from the pan ont top as well. Pour a healthy amount of Nuoc Cham onto salad. Enjoy!

The next day, I was out of noodles, so I just made a giant salad.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Birdie Jewelry

I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on my wire bird ornaments and sculptures I have been making but I have been trying to come up with some new ideas on what to do with them.

I made a couple smaller ones the other day, thinking I would make a mobile. But then as I was thinking about what to wear to our wine tasting party yesterday, I decided to turn one into a necklace. I posted him on RavenMeetsCrow this morning.
I like it with the black top. And I always like big chunky, ethnic jewelry but this is a little bit of a modern twist. I am going to make some more this afternoon.

UPDATE: My friend Ann rushed to Etsy and bought this necklace lickety-split! So I am busy making new necklaces tonight to put up on Etsy tomorrow. Thank you, Ann!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wine Pundits Booklets

I am very excited because tonight is our monthly wine tasting with our Tacoma Wine Pundits Group. One of our favorite wine bars, Pour at Four, is putting together a special tasting of Italian wines just for us and 21 people have signed up.

We started this wine group almost a year ago, so I decided to commemorate with a little wine tasting booklet. I would like to make this an ongoing tradition, with a new booklet every year.

It's a simple book. I made all of the illustrations a quarter size of a standard 8.5" x 11" page. The new printer I just got from my dad (when he updated to an even fancier printer) is also a photocopier and I thought that would be perfect to use for making my first booklet.

So I just photocopied everything, cut, folded, and stapled. It took me a little bit to figure out what order I wanted the pages to be in and how to print them so they would be double sided and all facing the proper directions. I couldn't find my bone folder so I just used the back of a spoon to fold the pages.

A couple of the pages got a little chopped by the photocopier but all in all I am very pleased with the way it turned out. Not too shabby for my first zine, now I want to make more!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wind Chimes and Pinwheels

I am going to be working in the art studio at the Museum of Glass for the next few months for their Art of Science program and have been working on some prototypes this week for potential projects. Groups of students will be taking part in the curriculum and will have a tour of the museum, get a chance to watch the work in the hot shop, and stop in the studio for some hands on artwork.

The theme is the Sound of Glass, but they talk a lot about waves--like sound waves and I thought waves like wind and the wind that you make when you blow on something were good avenues to explore.

I really enjoyed making the wind chimes out of the washers, but I have a feeling they might really like the pinwheels, cause let's face it, pinwheels are neat. But harder to get them to spin than you think! (Especially on a budget!)
A lot of pinwheel templates are all over the internet and I am still exploring the best way to make them. I'm about to go to a meeting where they'll pick the ones they like. I'll show you the final projects when I am done with them!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Balancing Act: Working From Home

Working from home always sounds exciting when you tell people that is what you do. It's not so exciting when you get distracted by laundry, dishes, pets, playing video games, gardening, blog "research", looking up new jogging routes, cooking,....I could go on and on.

I usually need to make myself a to-do list every single day with the ABSOLUTELY MUST GET DONE at the top of the list and the less important things towards the bottom. It is too easy, however, to make a really simple list and then mark it all off and then feel good for the day's work. You have to make it realistic, but challenging. Nobody is going to make, photograph, organize, or market my art but me, myself, and I.

I am about to face new workplace challenges in the coming months as my husband just gave notice at his work today because he is going to be starting a new job, working from home. Which is wonderful in many, many ways, of course--I would much rather have him work from home than commute to Seattle! (It was looking like he was going to have to start doing that at the end of the year.)

What I didn't realize until I started to really think about it is that I like my alone time. Will he expect me to make lunch for him every day? Worse, will I automatically rearrange my day to make him lunch? Will we distract one another? When I first started working from home, I would go a little stir crazy with no one to talk to. Luckily, our offices are on different floors and my art studio is behind the house. I asked a friend of mine that is in the same situation (she a ceramic artist, he a web designer) what advice she had and she said, "Don't talk to each other."

I am looking forward to us both being at home, but I know it might get tricky. Any suggestions or advice?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beef Sauerkraut Soup and Buckwheat Bread Sticks

It's been raining a lot here in Tacoma. I mean, well, it is January in the Pacific Northwest after all. And gray skies and unending rain in January in Washington is like blue sky sunshine and warmth in Arizona. So it really shouldn't come as a surprise, but every year nearly every Western-Washingtonian suffers from collective brain-freeze and wonders, why is it raining so much? That's why it's so green here, people. Without rain, we would be a desert. Our sump pump has been running around the clock and the unending drizzle puts me into a hearty soup making frenzy.

It was especially hard last week when it rained 5 days straight and I didn't have hot water so I couldn't do dishes. But now the hot water is back and I am a soup making machine once again.

I am not going to give you the recipes here, but I will give you the links from where I got them. For once, I didn't even tweak the recipes. They were both new to me so I wanted to try them as written.

The Beef Sauerkraut Stew I stumbled upon when I was looking for green bean recipes. (I have no idea why, since it contains no green beans!) It's from Kalyn's Kitchen and I guess she specializes in the South Beach diet--I don't know what the South Beach diet is, but this soup looked awfully good. Don't be turned off by the sauerkraut; it adds a crunch and salty goodness. Very straightforward and easy to make. And so delicious. I think a lot of kids would like this soup. I finished it with a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions. I think next time I might try making it with ground turkey and add some spice.

The Buckwheat Cheese Bread Sticks I found while browsing the appetizer recipes at 101 Cookbooks. This is a fun cooking blog with lots of beautiful photos. They are super easy to make as well and she had great instructions. I love when my food comes out looking exactly like the recipe photos. Don't they look like little twigs?

I made these Friday night for us as a tester before making them again yesterday to take to a party. OK, in truth, we went to a Bunco party. Have any of you heard of or played Bunco? It is truly a crazy, crazy game. It's a simple dice game but 16 people were playing at four different tables and you had to keep switching tables a lot. Trevor and I had never played before (ok, it is luck based, no skill involved) but we won 2 of the 4 prizes! But I don't think I've ever heard people scream like that before. And 10 or so of them were related, so they were especially belligerent to each other. I think I was having a little PTSD after my car accident last week with everyone screaming and yelling. Also, I wasn't really drinking last night and you always notice how obnoxious drunk people are when you are the sober one! But the best thing about it was that you switched seats and partners every round and so you ended up talking to every person at the party. Today I am looking forward to some quiet art time by myself!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hot Water, Car Accidents, and Earthquakes

It's been a rough week for a lot of people. I was feeling annoyed without a hot water heater this week. And then on Wednesday, a woman rear-ended me as I stopped my car at a pedestrian crossing. Ouch. But I think the people of Haiti have a lot more to worry about than me. Sort of puts your life into perspective, doesn't it? We have the luxury of calling someone to come over and replace the hot water heater and the woman that hit my car has insurance. It might annoy me, but it is not a tragedy. It's not even that interesting, really, so now for something completely different.

Two things I have been working on this week.
1) My Fatbook pages for Artfest are evolving. I painted the backgrounds last week and this week I cut out a linoleum stamp of a goose and a banner. Below is the general idea, but I am going to use black ink and add a gold egg and some more writing at the bottom.

I plan on cutting each one of these out by hand. I see a DVD or two and many Exacto blades in my future...

I use water based inks and a piece of granite tile for rolling out the ink.
2) My husband and I started a wine group on Facebook last February and it has been a big success. We have 35 members and have a wine tasting every month at a different venue. This month is the largest ever, with 23 people signed up. (!) To commemorate our group, I decided to make a little zine for each member to hand out at next week's tasting.

I have illustrated all of the pages and now I am working on photocopying them all. The photocopying is turning out to be a little tricky, lining up the fronts to the backs, but I have a week to figure it all out.

Please consider donating to relief organizations that are working in Haiti. World Vision is a good one based in Washington State or of course the Red Cross. Thanks and hope you have a good weekend!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Completed, Refinished Sideboard!

When we remodeled our kitchen 20 months ago I had planned from the get go on buying a sideboard. We took out quite a few cupboards and I knew we would need the extra space. I was mostly interested in a mid-century modern type of sideboard, but the $1200 and up prices kept holding me back considering how much we already spent on the rest of the remodel. Every once in a while, I would half-heartedly scour Craig's List in hopes of finding one, but no go.

Finally, my dad had heard enough of my struggles and offered me a built-in sideboard he had ripped out of a 1905 building he was turning into condos. It was slightly beat up, it had no top, and it most definitely NOT mid-century modern, but it was free.

I thought about it for 4 or 5 months, wondering how I should alter it. Should I strip it and re-stain or paint it? Should I get Paperstone or marble for the top of it?

I finally realized that I needed to make sure we really liked it before investing a lot of money in it. So I cleaned it with T.S.P. and that took off a surprising amount of dirt and random paint. Then I changed out all the wooden knobs with some black metal knobs and gave the whole thing a good polish with Pledge. Finally, I bought a nice piece of birch plywood, had Home Depot cut it to fit, sanded it and stained it with a black satin stain with a protective coat to boot.

The completed project. All in all, it cost about $70 for the wood, the stain, the knobs, and cleaning supplies. Not bad considering I barely used the cleaning supplies and have over half the wood left.
What you don't see in the picture is the modern metal and glass wine rack to the left of the sideboard. But I can deal with this for a while. Space to put my napkins, cakeplate, random bowls and serving platters, how did I live so long without a sideboard?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tankless Hot Water Heaters and Half-Marathons

Well, I've done it now. I am officially signed up to run the Tacoma City Half Marathon on May 2nd! On my way to completing what I consider my most challenging item on my List of 36 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 37. I was actually going to be a wimp and start with the 5K in May and run the Gig Harbor to Tacoma half marathon in August, but peer pressure works wonders on me sometimes. It looks like there is going to be a gang of 7 or 8 of us (including my husband) all running so we can inspire and push each other in the coming weeks. This month I am focusing more on aerobics/weight training with just a little running and then come February, I will drop the weight training to only 2 days a week and focus on running 4 to 5 days a week. I am excited. Most of the people running are also in our wine group so when we all finish we can celebrate together with something fancy.
That paragraph just got me all excited and worked up but now I am grounded again, thinking about our tankless hot water heater. Think of a tankless hot water heater as a giant insta-hot for your house. Instead of keeping water heated all day long, these just heat the water when you want it. They use a lot of electricity when you turn on the hot water, but overall you end up using much less electricity than a standard hot water tank. They are considered to be very eco-friendly and as a bonus they take up about as much room as an extra large shoebox.

The only problem is, they are fairly new to the market and have only been on people's radar in the U.S. for the past 5 years or so. The models out there are not always perfect and hardly any plumbers have worked on them and the parts are not easily available.

So, yesterday when the hot water in my shower started to get very cold very fast, I knew I was in for an ordeal. We've had our Bosch tankless AE-125 for about 20 months and after doing some quick reading online, it seems like you hit the 18 month mark with these babies and parts start to fail. But I am not giving up on our tankless yet. I love the space saved in our laundry room. After a few calls and a few "We don't carry the parts or work on tankless water heaters we haven't installed" I finally found a plumbing company that said "No problem! We'll be out in 3 hours." So now I am waiting for the guy to show up. I'll let you know how it goes. Luckily, we have friends and family that all live 2 miles or less from us, so we'll be able to take showers this weekend if it gets ugly.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fatbook Procrastination

You know when you have a giant list of things to do and then instead of doing that list, you suddenly find much more important things to take care of?

For example, me, this morning, I decided instead of getting to work on my Fatbook pages for Artfest (which really need to be done), I absolutely had to organize all of my blog photos. Granted, this had to be done too; I have thousands of photos I have taken for my blog and they need to be sorted by year and month so it is easy to find photos when I need them. In the end, it only took me about 45 minutes. So now I need to think of something else to do instead of my Fatbook. Maybe I will take out the compost and vacuum the living room.

What is a Fatbook page? Well, I am attending a sort of art retreat, getaway, workshop conference, what-have-you in Port Townsend called Artfest in the first week of March. This is a pretty popular event, this year being the 11th and my first time going. (There are spots still open. It costs about $700 including all food and lodging.) I joined a Yahoo group all about Artfest and discovered that there was this project I could be a part of, a Fatbook.

Fatbooks are books where each artist creates an embellished page based on a theme (52 times for 52 books) and sends them off to the Fatbook organizer who ring binds them and then you get one at the event that contains your page plus 49 other artists. The other two go to the hosts creating the event. It is really a fabulous takeaway with all of these artists' work and their contact info on it-- I am super excited about it.

The theme this year is Fairy Tales and I have had a hard time with this theme. I am not really into faeries or princesses. (I know, I know, I could make an ogre or something.) Last year's theme was Sea Monsters and I am sad I missed out on that one. After long deliberation, I am focusing on the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg. I started by painting the backgrounds and then I made a stencil to create rays. Next I am going to make a lino-cut of said goose to stamp on card stock that will be cut out and glued on top of the rays. Then I am going to make some sort of banner to put across the top. I want to figure out how to incorporate some wire too. It's fun making them, but you don't realize how many pages 52 really is until you run out of space to set them to dry!

OK, no more procrastination, I only have a month to finish these babies!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

36 Things: Master the Application of Liquid Liner

Some of you may have noticed it has been a little while since I posted any news of my 36 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 37, but it is not because I have not been idly sitting by, letting my list go to waste. Some of the items take a little while to put together or figure out.

For example,

I have planted garlic and shallots but I can't consider that done until I have harvested them.

Trevor bought us dance lessons for my birthday (yes, way back in October) and we are going to start taking them this month.

I just had the highest bid in an online auction for a package of 5 Yoga classes, so I will be starting those as soon as I work up the gumption. That might take another month or two.

I have been working out my new business plan.

And I have been practicing my eyeliner application techniques to much success. I was never really big on wearing eyeliner in the past and I think that had something to do with my wearing contacts: whenever my eyes watered, my eyeliner would run all over the place or simply disappear. Well, two things happened that have changed all that.

One, I bought new contact lenses and rarely have any problems with them now.

Two, I discovered MAC's Fluidline Gel Liner:
I went to a MAC counter a few months ago and had a little chat and makeover with one of the makeup experts there and she was the one that showed me the Fluidline. It lasts forever and I find it very easy to control. If I mess up, I just wipe it off and start over. The makeup salesperson did recommend a wedge brush as the easiest way to apply it and I did spend $20 on said wedge brush but I have since discovered I do much, much better with a $2.99 tiny fine-tipped brush I bought at Fred Meyer's.

Then I bought some eye makeup remover pads and started watching YouTube videos for makeup application and had a lot of fun!

This is one of my favorite girls showing her makeup tips on YouTube. Her name is Camila and she is a rockabilly gal from Brazil. The best thing about her videos is that she puts them in fast forward and provides notes as it goes along.

Now, after a few months of steady eyeliner trial and errors, I feel like I can safely mark this down as completed! Here is my fancy, New Year's Eve eyeliner application.

Boy, we had a lot of fun on New Year's--hope you did too! I just want to show off my completed hat. I think the jewel pin made it work.