Archive | July, 2012

Doggie Duo – Of Medication

29 Jul

That old hide-the-pill-in-cream-cheese trick is so old school. Peanut butter is passé. Goopy, stinky wet dog food? Pfft.

What a recovering dog needs is something luxurious. Something tempting. Something Michelin-star worthy.

Like this:

Okay, maybe not Michelin. But let’s be frank: when is the next time your dog is going to waltz into Joel Robuchon’s latest establishment?

Draya (my little pit) is recovering from a tooth extraction and lipoma removal. She’s getting a little sick of plain old wet food and rice. So we decided to get creative with a few of her favorite things.

What we have here is a Medication Duo: Tramadol-banana and Amoxicillin-strawberry quenelles atop apple fans, with peanut butter-honey kisses and Beneful dust.

(My quenelles could use a bit of work – but in my defense, banana is hard to quenelle!)

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New Paper Cut Card

27 Jul

I’ll just keep this short and sweet:

Here is a card that I made for my friend.

It took me 4 tries to figure out that I had to cut to the left of the fold (spatial reasoning fail).

As you can see, I’m still learning to cut the curves (lithium shakes don’t help).

It’s backed with watercolored and ironed tracing paper.

I hope she loves it.

New Weapon In the Paper Cutting Arsenal

23 Jul

I have several favorite tools that I use in my paper cuts – my two favorites are the swivel-headed X-Acto, and the retractable X-Acto. I know a lot of artists prefer to use a knife with a #11 blade, but I find those harder to control and harder to keep sharp (although you can sharpen them with a knife sharpener). I also have favorite pencils and papers, and so on.

But now I also have these:

Do you recognize them? Here’s a close-up:

I had never seen these before… until the day I stopped into Sally Beauty Supply for some hair goop. And there they were, beckoning to me from the manicure rack. They are sanding sticks, and they are a mere 39 cents each. And they are awesome because, however sharp or swivelly your blade is, your paper cuts will always have some jagged edges, especially in the curves.

The sticks are small, smaller than a pencil, and they fit perfectly into all kinds of swirls and curves. As long as you aren’t using tissue paper, they take the rough edges right off. (When you’ve been doing this with a tiny roll of uncooperative sandpaper for a while, you will see how miraculous these are. )

Did I mention how cheap they are? Love that.

My Mother’s Mixer

18 Jul

I love my  mom, but she was a terrible cook. It’s not really her fault – she grew up in a tiny town in New Hampshire, rather poor and practically in charge of parenting four siblings. That’s on top of going to school and working. She grew up on Salmon P. Wiggle (canned fish on top of saltines with a white sauce). Oatmeal. Maple “syrup” (water and sugar with maple extract). Canned peas, for cripes sake!

So it’s not surprising that this carried over into our home, where she was dealing with two kids and a very time-consuming teaching job. Creativity didn’t factor into her meals at all – though she did make sure we never, ever had to eat a canned vegetable (unless you count cream of mushroom soup). So, just about every week we had cube steak and mashed potatoes, tuna casserole (not too far from her mother’s Salmon P. Wiggle), some kind of oven-baked chicken and pork chops smothered in cream of something-or-other soup. On Sunday we might have London broil and broccoli with Velveeta. She only baked on birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I’m still not terribly certain she enjoyed it.

And then, in 1993, like Moses coming down the mountain, so came the Food Network.

She.Loved.It.

She never quite got into Giada, but she did love Ina Garten. I’m not sure what it was that enraptured her so completely, but there it is. She had been pretty tentative about trying new recipes, and then she met these scones. I’m not sure what she loved more – the scones themselves, or the fact that we all loved them so much. When my dad gifted her a Kitchenaid one Christmas, it was on.

A few weeks ago I emailed my dad to see if he still had the mixer. He did have it, and he shipped it to me – along with every single attachment he could find (including things I still haven’t identified).

It’s beautiful.

I am so in love. I’ve been coveting one of these for at least a decade, while making do with weak little hand mixers.

I cleaned it all off and set it up, and then got started on my first dish: Ina Garten’s cranberry-orange scones.

I savored every last second, from the measuring of ingredients to just watching the paddle spin to the feeling of the dough in my hands, reliving all those moments with my mom in the kitchen, even after she had to do it from her zippy power chair.

The dough is so lovely and sticky – and we will all just ignore the fact that it contains 3/4 of a pound of butter (after all, there is fruit).

Aren’t they gorgeous? (I just said that to you in my Ina Garten voice.) They are so flaky, and buttery, and they have the tiniest crust of sugar on top. You should make them. My mom would love to compare notes someday.

Project Graveyard

13 Jul

This is basically how my creative process works: I get completely enamored and obsessed with an idea. Usually it’s something a little out of my depth and complicated/time consuming. So I start with great gusto, only to set the project aside, because a new one has already caught my eye. Those projects gather dust for a time, and then maybe I start them again.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So prepare yourselves, because I am about to reveal the results of my sloth.

Project 1


I started this behemoth almost two years ago, while we were still in Florida. This is meant to be a shelving unit comprised of different sized boxes. So I brought it to Vegas, and then it sat in the garage for a year. Then I dragged it out and painted some stuff. And now it’s sitting, just like this, in the middle of the kitchen.

Project 2

This is a vintage train case that was in pretty shabby (yes, shabbier than this) condition. I dug it out of the back room of this weird guy’s antiques/junk shop. He didn’t even know he had it, and sold it to me for basically nothing. However, no amount of cleaning could get the grime off the outside and the “satin” inside needed replacing – but there was a lovely little mirror with cool corner details. I got as far as pulling out the insides so that I could make templates for a new lining. I sanded the hardware down to get rid of the rust, and I even bought new fabric for the inside. Then I painted on a layer of gesso and…. Well, you can see. This also happens to be sitting in a pile of studio crap that I have yet to sort.

Project 3

This is the sisal mat I began this spring. I got all those coils made and then realized the smell of tar wasn’t ever going to come out, and I wouldn’t be able to use it in the house. I ordered the new, untreated sisal, and promptly left it in the pile.

Project 4

Two guesses where this project is currently living. Screw it, you only need one. The gnomes have nothing to do with the project, in case you are wondering. I found this awesome vintage table at a Goodwill in Florida for $5. You can see it’s not in perfect condition – some of the brass caps are missing from the legs, and it’s definitely been dinged a bit. The idea was to paint it an amazing, intense robin’s egg blue, then adhere an image to it, so it would have a really graphic feel to it. Maybe it will be done by Christmas. Maybe.

Project 5

Another Goodwill find (there is actually a companion suitcase in the garage). I can’t even remember what I was going to use this for, only that I was going to make a dog bed out of the other one.

These are not the only projects in my graveyard, but five is enough to put out there, right? You don’t need to see the rest of my humiliation. But oh, please tell me I am not the only one who does this!

Crystallized Ginger in 4 Steps

10 Jul

This is not a cooking blog.

But! I do love to cook, and I love to take photos and I definitely consider the food world art. So, it all fits, right?

One of my very most favorite things in the world is crystallized ginger. I love the texture of the sugar crystals scratching my tongue, the chewy-gummy-but-sometimes-crisp texture and that delicious, delicious heat. It’s like eating a hot pepper, except… good.

I use it in the frosting on my carrot cakes, in truffles for gifts and sometimes in granola. But, I rarely have it on hand, because it is so expensive to buy.

Then I thought, “Why is it so expensive? It’s just sugar and ginger!” You can’t even justify any kind of labor costs with this stuff. It takes about two hours start to finish – more if you soak your ginger longer. And for most of that time, you aren’t even doing anything!

I took pictures the last time I made a batch, so you could see how it’s done:

Step 1: Slice your ginger into thin pieces – 1/8″ or less is my preference, and I always use my cheap little mandolin to do it, because cutting all that with a knife takes forever. Special Hint: Hit up your local Asian market for your ginger. You can get 2-3 pounds of ginger for the cost of one big knot at the grocery store.

Step 2: All your ginger slices are going to go in a small saucepan with a simple syrup. The simple syrup is super… simple. Use a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, dissolve it over medium-high heat. Let it come to a slight simmer before you put the ginger in, and then keep it at the barely simmering point for the rest of the time. If you want to add a little vanilla or lime zest, this is a good time to do so. You can mostly just leave this alone, uncovered – just peep at it every now and then and give it a good stir to distribute the ginger. Most recipes say you only have to simmer for 20 minutes – and that’s fine – but the longer you simmer, the more delicious it will be. I usually go for 2 hours or so. When you are ready, take it off the heat and let everything cool down before you mess with it.

Step 3: The next step is to dry out the slices. You’ll need at least one decent sized cooking rack. Don’t even think about trying to dry these things on foil or parchment – they will stick and you will have a total ginger disaster. Strain the mixture over a bowl – do not let all that gorgeous ginger-infused syrup go to waste! Then just pluck out the pieces of ginger and lay them on your rack. I usually let mine dry for a few hours, and sometimes even overnight. You’ll know they are ready when they are just slightly sticky and bendy.

Step 4: Once everything is dry, toss the ginger with some sugar. I usually just dump some sugar in the bowl, and toss everything around until well coated. Then I leave it in the bowl for further drying, for a day or two. All that’s left to do is package your ginger in an airtight container (I store mine in the freezer). It will keep almost indefinitely. And there’s nothing like slipping your hand into the freezer for what feels like a completely decadent treat.

Paper Cut in Progress…

3 Jul

… in other words, I promise that I’m actually working on something. Just a little something, but my brain has been churning around ideas for some much larger somethings.

It’s just a little card for a very dear friend who was recently hit by a car (and by hit, I mean smashed). She’ll be in rehab for a long time, which means lots of chances to create art for her!

And I have not forgotten her furbabies – the dogs will be getting a tin of peanut butter biscuits shortly. I am still working out what to make for the cats – I have a feeling tuna treats won’t ship well from Vegas to Boston!