Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

How do you like my party hat? This just took me all afternoon to make and the dining room looks like a hurricane blew by.

So I still have to get ready to go out but I'll get more photos once we get this party started! We are going to get something to eat and then hit up First Night in downtown Tacoma and then either go to Pour at Four for the New Year or mini golf. hmmm....too many choices!

Hope you have a safe and happy new year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Eve's Eve White Elephant Party

We're off tonight to a pre-funk New Year's Eve party and it is a white elephant party to boot!

Everybody has to bring a gift and a potluck dish and as this is me and my husband we're talking about, it was up to me to find two items suitably awful for a white elephant and wrap them. I wanted to go a little unconventional. I mean, really, who do you know that wraps gifts in kitty litter boxes? (On a bizarre side note, we save all the buckets the cat litter comes in and use them to haul things in the garden. We have started a trend--one of our neighbors is doing it now too.) Other note, that is a photocopy of my octopus drawing on the packaging--I am keeping the original!

Also, I was specifically told to only bring one dish, but I can't help myself. I think there must be a clinical name for someone who has to feed people.

So I made Thai Peanut Sauce Noodle Salad:
And Moo Munch:
Some people call it Puppy Chow or Reindeer Crunch if served at the holidays. I just started calling it Moo Munch, no idea why.

We also have a bottle of Pink (rose) Prosecco to take that we had been saving to take over to my dad's at Christmas and then completely forgot about until a day or two ago. Can't wait to try it!
Moo Munch

7 cups Crispex cereal
1 12 oz. bag chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. (half box) powdered sugar

Put cereal in largest bowl you have.

Melt chocolate in double boiler. Once melted, mix in peanut butter and vanilla and remove from heat. Pour on top of Crispex and mix well until all the cereal is coated.

Sift sugar in batches over mixture and toss carefully until all the pieces are coated.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hitting the Links

Being the holiday season and all, I have been doing a lot of online browsing the past couple of weeks. Not that I bought anything, mind you; Trevor and I don't exchange gifts at the holidays. More than a few friends have made faces at me when I've said this--"Don't you want him to get you something?" Um, not really if it is just because he thinks he has to. We do exchange a gift on our anniversary and birthdays--I love gift giving, just not at Christmas for some reason. Also, I have a serious problem when I walk into a store packed with shoppers all fiend-ing with consumerism. It makes me turn heel and walk away as fast as possible. So instead, I like to spend the holidays cooking big dinners and wine tasting with friends and seeing movies and laying under the covers with the cats.

Of course this doesn't mean at all that I don't covet beautiful items or want to buy them. I just don't like the cheap stuff you find at the mall or Target or any other chain store. Echh.

In the spirit of just enjoying beautiful and well made items, here are a few of my favorite things.

  • I think I could easily live inside a Marimekko Concept store.
  • Local Tacoma artist Chandler O'Leary is making some really gorgeous work.
  • This Lulu Guinness purse I long for is on sale!!!
  • I own four pair of Fluevogs. I never tire of them!
  • You might now her better as Marion in the Indiana Jones movies, but Karen Allen is an amazing fiber artist.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homemade Gift: Horseradish

My dad is a big fan of horseradish. I like to eat horseradish too, especially in mashed potatoes. So I wondered how hard it is, really, to make your own horseradish. Turns out it is pretty easy once you find a grocery store that actually sells the root and once you get over the $7 per pound price. I bought way too much root and ended up freezing about a third of it.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a perennial root in the same family as wasabi. This makes sense as the heat burns in your nose and makes your eyes water in just the same way. The horseradish plant can grow to be 5 feet tall and the root which this tasty condiment comes from has almost no smell.

The spiciness and pungent odors occur once you cut into the root and the enzymes in the plant quickly break down the glucose compounds into mustard oil. Crazy, I know. You have to mix the cut up horseradish immediately with vinegar or it will keep breaking down and become brown and bland and nasty bitter.

Homemade Horseradish

1 cup peeled, chopped horseradish root
3/4 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Blend in food processor. I alternated with pulsing and scraping the sides of the processor with a spatula to get the mix nice and creamy. Be careful when you open the processor. The air in your kitchen becomes deadly! My nose felt like all the hairs had been stripped from the inside of it!

Divide into jars and pass out to all your friends since it will take you months to get through the 1/2 cup you kept for yourself. That big jar in front is for my dad.

To cut the heat so you can enjoy the flavor, mix horseradish with mayonnaise and throw in some capers. I served this on the steak sandwiches I made tonight for Christmas Eve dinner. Recipe for steak sandwich to follow shortly.

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Random Garden and Art and Pig

Things making me happy right now, this second:

a) My winter garden is puttering along.

My shallots are just starting to introduce themselves.

My leeks seem to be thriving, despite their beat up appearance.

Garlic, oh garlic, so many wondrous, magical things we will be doing together in a season or so!

b)My latest sketchbook drawing:

Big plans for the rest of this page.
c)My whole hog project:

Soon I am going to be embarking on a journey to cook a whole pig. Not all at once mind you, but bit by bit, learning new recipes and sharing my adventures. My friend Greg is going to be helping me on this one. I am thinking of practical things, like where are we going to store this whole animal? (albeit cut up already by the butcher) and Greg is thinking of crazy things, like how soon can we make head cheese? It will be a good match. Not sure if it will be on this blog or a separate one. More info coming soon.

What makes you happy right now?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Red Velvet Cake Balls with Hot Fudge Glaze

Warning: This posting has an unusually high amount of photos of cake and frosting and chocolate. Reading this post may cause you to run to the store to buy ingredients to make cake.

I have been having a lot of fun playing around with the Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook these last couple of weeks. She doesn't have many vegetable dishes; it is mostly meat and dessert--the two most important things really. She has a fabulous Red Velvet cake recipe that I made as cupcakes last week for our holiday wine tasting party, but I noticed they didn't all get eaten. While that was fine since I ate the rest myself over the next couple of days, I was troubled because it seemed like even as cupcakes the portions were just too big for a potluck dinner party that had a couple dozen other fabulous dishes.

And then I discovered Bakerella while browsing through the Pioneer Woman website. Turns out they are blogging buddies and that Bakerella specializes in making bite sized cake balls. Only Bakerella's recipe was using cake out of a box (which makes me shudder, maybe because I grew up with cake from a box) and canned frosting. (Sorry, Bakerella, you rock, but canned frosting does not.) So I put two and two together and made RED VELVET CAKE BALLS WITH HOT FUDGE GLAZE!

Start by creaming 1 cup of room temperature butter with 1 3/4 cups sugar.

In a separate bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. PW said to use cake flour but I have used normal all purpose to great success.

In yet another separate, but small, bowl, blend together 2 large eggs, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar.

Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk/egg mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix in each addition thoroughly before adding the next addition.

In a small bowl mix a 1 oz. container of red food coloring with 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa. For some reason, I was out of my mind and put in 3 Tablespoons cocoa. It became sort of a paste, but in the end it worked out fine.

Add red cocoa paste to batter.

Become mesmerized as it turns your whole bowl into a striking crimson.


Now PW said to divide the batter between two 10" cake rounds sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. I only own 8" cake pans so I improvised and used the rest of the batter to make a few cupcakes as well. Pop in the oven at 350 F for 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the cake pans you used. Use the old toothpick in the batter to check if it is done. (Toothpick clean=done)

Next, allow to cool for 15 minutes or so before becoming impatient and turning cake rounds out of cooling racks to finish cooling. It's okay if it breaks because once it is cool, you crumble the cake with your fingers into large bowl.

While cake is cooling, make the cream cheese frosting to hold the balls together. (The recipe I am showing is a half recipe from PW. If you want to keep those red velvet rounds for a two-layer cake or cupcakes, double this next part.)

With your hand held mixer (since your upright is probably still dirty), blend 3/4 stick room temperature butter with 3/4 of 8 oz. package neufchatel cheese. Then add a big pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and gradually add up to 1/2 box of powdered sugar. Try to resist licking the beaters. Yum.

Frost your cupcakes you made on the side if need be and then plop the rest of the frosting in with your crumbled cake.
Make sure your hands are washed or consider wearing surgical gloves because this next part is messy. Mix and mix and mix crumbled cake with frosting until you have a nice, Playdoh like consistency.

Form cakes into balls, approximately 1" in diameter. I think the smaller the better works here.

Place on wax or parchment paper on a cookie sheet and stick a toothpick into each ball. Then put in fridge for a couple of hours. I was in a BIG hurry to get these done for an art opening last night, and I was making jalapeno poppers at the same time, so I threw them in the freezer for about 40 minutes and that worked just fine.

When your little cake balls are sufficiently cooled, take out of fridge (or freezer) and set up a little assembly line. Set up two plates with cooling racks placed on top of them. Leave a space between those and your cookie sheet full of cake balls to allow for your hot fudge glaze.

Make your Hot Fudge Glaze. In a double boiler melt 6 (1 oz.) squares of Baker's unsweetened chocolate along with 3 Tablespoons of butter. Once melted, and while still over heat, blend in 1 1/2 cups of sugar, superfine is best so that it melts in quickly. Then stir in 1/2 cup half and half and one teaspoon vanilla. (If you want the glaze a little runnier, you can add another Tablespoon or two of half and half.)

Move entire double boiler (top with chocolate and bottom with hot water) over to in between the cake balls and the cooling racks. Don't forget a hot pad! If you just take the pan with the chocolate, it will cool to quickly and then you have to heat it up again.

After trial and error, I found the best way to coat the treats was to use a spoon to pour the chocolate glaze over the tops of the balls and then dip the ball in the chocolate to get the bottom coated. Place on cooling rack to set.
Don't they look irresistible?

Towards the end I got the ingenious idea to grind sea salt over the tops of them. Now THAT is really delicious. I am happy to report that not a single RED VELVET CAKE BALL was left at the end of the night. Success!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lie Like a Rug

Our whole house made up of old, beat up wood floors or tile and we only have one rug and it is in the living room. It is a boring, green sisal rug I bought at World Market a few years back, which was an upgrade over the boring IKEA rag rug it was replacing.

Sisal is not a good material to have around when you have cats in the house. Our cats took one look at that rug and said "Wooooeeeeee!" and have been scratching it, sliding on it, and generally tangling with it ever since.

The lovely woman that cuts my hair, Anna, suggested FLOR carpet squares one day to me when I was complaining about my rug situation. FLOR has a carpet called House Pet that is specifically meant for high traffic pets areas. Well, I filed that away somewhere in my brain for the last year and finally thought about it again last week.

Flor has a lovely website and has, it seems, a million different patterns to chose from. Most of the carpet tiles are 19.7" x 19.7" and you can mix and match until you find the exact blend you want. Then you attach them together with these little round stickers. The nicest thing about Flor squares is that you don't need to put a rug mat under them and they are easy to wash and you can send them back to the manufacturer for recycling if you ever tire of them.

I looked through their online catalog and ordered five tiles. You can order cheaper 6" x 6" tiles as samples, but I wanted to see something a little larger. The plain gray and charcoal tiles are the House Pet and they are pretty industrial and don't go with our decor very well. I could see them in a family room or laundry room or a modern loft. The pink striped one seems to be a favorite of people who have seen these samples so far but if you look up above in the photo I took from the Flor website, it would be too busy in even our eclectic decor. But I think the real reason I am turned off from it is that it looks a little too IKEA for me.

I put the samples out on the floor and the cats started walking all over them.
I am leaning towards the pewter Mod Zebra. Funky, with a good nod towards our weird ethnic world look --I am thinking a poor man's version of Out of Africa with our leather chairs and couch and my ethnic jewelry collection on the wall mixed with the zebra. You can't see it in the photo, but I have a cow skull on the wall too.

I asked Trevor which was his favorite before telling him mine and he said zebra, first, followed by the stripe. So at least we agree. But I could always mix up the stripe with some solids. They also have a green stripe that might be a better blend. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Wish I Thought of That: Coloring Book Dress

Sometimes you run across something and you think, ah, why didn't I think of that?

That is exactly how I felt when I saw this color-in-yourself dress by Michiel Schuurman.

It is a little on the gimmicky side, but I absolutely love it. The price is a bit steep at 25o British pounds, so it will just stay on my wish list, but it looks like a cute dress style on top of being a clever idea.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I Heart Weiner Dogs

I have spent most of my adult life thinking I am a cat person. I grew up with both cats and dogs but my sister was the one in dog 4-H, so I never connected myself as the owner of our dogs. I have had something like 11 cats. I like cats. They are generally pretty smart, they can look out for themselves, and they like to sit on your lap when you are reading or sitting at the computer.

I just went through the list, starting with the earliest--keep in mind that I did not make up all of these names, and sometimes I was going through an unfortunate phase--

-Snoopy, a Siamese, I think my brother named him
-Paddy Paws, an orange and white that I named from some cheesy kitten book I owned
-Morgan Fair Cat, a gray Persian mix, and it was my mother who came up with that doozy
-Gato, an all orange cat, not sure if it was my sister or brother who came up with that
-Charlie, a big black and white, I named him, he is my all time favorite cat
-Kiefer, a tiny orange and white and yes, me thinks I was in the middle of my Lost Boys phase
-Ivan, a sweet, sweet tabby I owned when I lived in Ballard
-Kramer, another sweet tabby, named after watching Seinfeld one night

Current cats:
-Mr. Moneypenny, a runty black and white stray that I was originally told was a female, so originally he was "Miss Moneypenny" but the name suits him.
-Vincent, a big fat tabby, was also a stray, now a contender for "Biggest Loser" whenever they decide to adapt it for pets.
-Sack Cat, my husband's gray and white kitty. Name received after she liked to be swung around in shopping bags as a kitten.

However, over the last couple of years, I have started to have dog yearnings. Serious dog yearnings. Like how some women get all excited when they see babies, only for me, it is dachshunds. I grew up with a Corgi, so maybe I am biased towards sausage shaped dogs. But put me in front of a dachshund and I lose all rational thought. Is it those short, stumpy legs, those pointy noses and tails, those floppy ears? I think it might be the floppy ears.

My husband is not so much a dog person and is trying at all costs to keep me from getting one. In desperation he came up with the idea that we at least cannot get a dog until one of our three cats moves on to that big kitty cat-box in the sky. Two of our cats are over 11 years old, so there is hope that I might get some canine love before I turn 40 (4 years from now) but that is probably doubtful. Cats can live forever just to spite you. (One of our friends has a cat that just turned 21!)

I have channeled my dog desires through my art, painting dachshund after dachshund after dachshund. I think a lot of people see my art and assume I own one. Now I am becoming one of those crazy dog ladies without even owning one! Friends have started giving me dachshund themed gifts. Last year my mom gave us an anniversary card with two dachshunds on it and also gave Trevor a dachshund calendar for Christmas. (I thought it was funny, he didn't so much.)

And last Saturday at our big holiday wine tasting party, my friend Ann brought me a pin in the shape of a dachshund. The coolest thing about it is that it is fused glass combined with antique typewriter parts!

You can find lots more typewriter/fused glass art over at My Typo's.

And look soon at my Etsy shop for prints of "Gimpy"--the dachshund with the cone collar.

Until I find myself the proud owner of a dachshund, I will just have to keep channeling my desires into my art. That's healthy, right?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Decorations

I am taking a quick break from cooking, cleaning, and decorating the house for our wine tasting group's party tonight. I have been having a little too much fun making decorations and could possibly run out of time to put them all up.

I am trying to decorate on the cheap this year, only with tissue paper, string, and wire. I've made tissue paper flowers and also covered a styrofoam ball with the flowers.

I've also cut strips of cardstock and then stapled them together to make these teardrop shapes. Then I made a simple metal armature/mobile like thing to hang them all from.

I made about 4 times the amount you see here. Not sure if I will get to using them all for this party, but I like the retro look about them.

Oops! Less than 2 hours and the guests will be here! I gotta go!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Online Auction Fundraiser for Fallen Police Officers

If you don't live in Washington state, you still might have heard of the murder of 4 police officers nearly two weeks ago. I won't get into the grizzly details. It is too disturbing for words.

The silver lining to this is that many, many people are finding ways to donate to a fund set up for the officer's families. One of them is Tacoma shop owner Sonja of Sonja's Clothes to Live In who has set up (along with help from the ever lovely and helpful Heather) a online auction, with 100% of the proceeds going to this fund.

I have donated two pieces to this auction. Please consider bidding. If you live out of state or country, I am sure shipping can be easily arranged.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In Color

I am so glad I added color to this.
Now to keep filling in all of the other pages!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Wreath

UPDATE: Be sure to check out my newest holiday wreath and tutorial: How to Make a Coffee Filter Wreath!

I am not someone overly fond of tacky, commercialized holiday decorations. But I do love things like strings of lights, paper streamers, and wreaths.

I have been thinking about ways to use corks since I made little place card holders for Thanksgiving with corks and wire. We have a lot of corks in our house. Wine is our alcohol of choice, we host a lot of wine tasting parties, and a lot of our friends give us their corks. So we have a lot.

We are hosting another wine tasting party this weekend, so I put two and two together and came up with a wreath of corks!

I started with some 16 gauge wire and made a big circle and wrapped extra wire around it to provide stability as well as places to tie more wire onto. If I made another one, I would probably wrap even more wire as the weight of the corks can warp the shape of the circle.

I used 24 gauge wire to wrap around the corks and made little strands of 3 or 4 corks. I discovered you have to double wrap each cork or they can easily fall out of the loops.

I found it was easier to stay on task by having the new Star Trek playing in the background to distract me. That Zachary Quinto is a cutie.
After wrapping and wrapping and wrapping for a couple of hours, I deemed it complete! I could have probably finished it sooner, but I kept looking up to watch those pesky Romulans and stunned Vulcans.

I think it would be easy to just keep adding. But you have to make it to scale with your door.

I am also working on a wreath made out of buttons and beads. That one has a lot more work to go. Maybe I will finish it by New Year's.