Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Greetings

Furby:  the ghost of xmas-past

Biz as Santa cookie

Biz posing in front of our tree

Bizzi says, "Get this stupid hat off me!  Now!"

So sorry it has been awhile since my last post.
A fun visit from my dear friend, Billie, and other friends in from out-of-town have kept me hopping, but in a perfect and fun way!
Here it is, 12/23, and I'm thrilled.
My 3 daughters are all finally here, even though the weather in the northeast delayed my oldest for 48 hours.
There is nothing better than seeing my entire family at the dinner table.

Two years ago Tim spent a massive amount of time transferring all our old VHS, S-VHS, and hi-8 video tapes onto hard drives.  The wonderful thing about it is that, in addition to assuring that the events have been conserved on a more reliable format, we are now watching them!  We took an amazing amount of video over the years and have never actually SEEN it.  Now it is very accessible and we love to spend time watching the old birthday parties, family gatherings, and school performances.
The girls moved the sofas a bit to accommodate better viewing and we watching many of them last night.  It was such fun!

I've been working on new cloth for several pieces at home and Art Cloth Studios.  Jane and I spent an afternoon together working on our separate projects last week, and we nearly froze!  My print paste was so chilly it looked more like jello than thickened dye.  Once I have some batched/washed cloth I'll post some images.

I have much to be thankful for during this holiday season.  I have such a wonderful family.  We all have our health and we enjoy being together.  I have the most amazing friends a woman could possibly hope for.  I have adopted them all as my "extended/chosen" family.  Someone told me that girlfriends are the family you get to choose, and I have chosen well.

I wish a peaceful, safe, low-stress holiday season for each and every one of you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Birthday celebration & more cookin

What a treat to have one of my daughters here at home on her 25th birthday!  This is the first year that we have celebrated her day together since she left home for college in 2003.  Yesterday I asked her what she wanted for her birthday breakfast (always in bed on your birthday) and dinner, as well as what type of cake.  She had been looking through my cookbooks (Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Kitchen") and picked out a cake recipe.  She decided she wanted to try baking bread for the first time, too.

Breakfast in bed!
While Bizzi stands guard, she is served a veggie/cheese omelet,
fruit scone and apple butter, milk, and a fresh-picked satsuma orange

Her father made coffee and brought it up to her

we used  both golden and red beets for the cake.
Later, we roasted the greens and made a warm salad for dinner

She scrapes the vanilla beans from the pod
creating a wonderful aroma!

using a spoon to chop fresh ginger

Let me go on record to say that a ricer does NOT work well for cooked beets.
This was my idea, and it was a bad one.  We resorted to the food processor soon after this shot.
Think fake murder scene........

here are the finished baked goods

A birthday celebrant's serving is always on the red plate, and it blends pretty well, doesn't it?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Humility and Abundance

Let me tell you about my day.  Keep in mind it is only 2 pm, but it has been amazing already.
I arose early (for me, anyway) this Saturday morning, threw on some yoga togs and my coat and went to Spectrum for a class.  After the wonderful hour of yoga I drove to the Pearl Farmer's market and got some gorgeous veggies, some lavender "stuff", and some freshly pressed olive oil from a local grower.

When I returned home I was greeted by our little dog, and it was clear that she knew if was "coffee time".  She loves CT because she knows that Tim and I will do one of two things:  sit outside and bask in the sun on the patio or retreat to the inside of the cabana.  Either way, she enjoys having us outside with her.  This day, it was inside the cabana as the temperature was still pretty cold, even with the bright sunshine.  Tim makes the world's best coffee and today was no exception.  I drank my coffee and mused about my disappointing attempt to prevent frostbite in my garden.  It made me sad to think about how lovely it all was yesterday and how I wanted it to be beautiful for our upcoming house guests and my daughters, who live in the northeast,  and will soon be home for the holidays.  Oh well.  I forgot that the elements are the real boss of the garden...

While I was still thinking about all this, several things happened.  The first was opening and reading Virginial Spiegel's new book, "Wild at the Edges:  Inspiration from a Creative Life", self-published on Blurb.  I recommend this lovely little book to everyone, artist or not.  Virginia and her sister travel to the Boundary Waters and spend 10 days twice a year canoeing, hiking, camping, journaling, photographing & drawing, and reconnecting.  Just the two of them in the middle of a vast wilderness.
Think about that for a minute.  Then go to Blurb and purchase one of these lovelies for yourself.  I can't decide what is more beautiful:  the words or the photography.  Virginia's thoughts, poetry, and her visual sensibility resonate deeply within me.   I see my garden as a metaphor for my life:  it gives me joy, beauty, the occasional sorrow (hello hard frost!), and a continual cycle of renewal.  Just like life.  Just like art.  Is there really a separation of these things?
Here is the cover of the book

A sample of the beautiful words and images of Virginia's book....

Virginia writes about the Beauty in the Details, looking and really seeing, working in a series and finding the joy & passion that comes with digging deep and exploring the meaning of an idea in a body of work.
Here is where you can order a copy of her book:

All these thoughts were rolling around inside me as I went back into the house.  Just as Tim was preparing to leave for work he spied some packages on our front porch and brought them inside.  Ahhh.
More "Santa boxes", and I started wondering if it was one of my eBay acquisitions, or just what had arrived.  I looked at the return address on the first one, and was startled to see my stepmother's name.  What was this about?  I have a reasonable relationship with her but we don't communicate regularly, other than the annual holiday letter and maybe a couple other exchanges through the year.  I tore open the box and literally gasped for air:  inside were pieces of memorabilia that I had never seen before.
My father was a Naval Aviator in World War II.  I knew about it, but not too much:  he never talked about it.  Some guys talk a lot about their experiences of the war.  Not my father.
Out of the box came a lovely 11x14 hand-tinted portrait of my young father in his navy uniform.  Two boxes emerged:  The Distinguished Flying Cross and The Air Medal.

inside were his wings and a couple of his ribbons.
I know there are more, but I don't know where they are.
The wool shoulder epaulets are all that remain of his uniform.

Rex J Tucker

I lost my father suddenly in February, 1980.  He had been a diabetic for 30 years but you would never have guessed it:  he was a healthful, active man.  His death was unexpected and too soon:  he was only 58 years old.  Next February will mark the 30th anniversary of his death.  I always miss him, but I've had  a lot of time to get used to his absence.  Today, when I opened that box, my loss was fresh and painful again.  I don't know any other way to put it.  I stood in my kitchen and cried out loud and for a long time.  I can't remember when I felt such a deep stab of mourning for him.  It has been a very long time, indeed.  It is time to pick up the phone and call my step-mother.  I need to thank her for giving me a few morsels of my father.  I needed them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Toasting the spices & chilis for the curry mixture
(it went thru the food processor later)

my laptop sitting next to the cooktop so I can view the
one of the recipes

I sure had a lot of veggies to prep

I cooked two new recipes tonight, and they were both good:  saag paneer and lamb curry.
I found the saag recipe on the Food Network website.  My lamb recipe is in one of my low-carb cookbooks.  The best discovery was the ingredient list for the curry spice.  I wish I could create a "smell-o-vision" link to my jar of newly created curry spice because it is amazing.  Nothing like toasting the spices a bit to really draw out the flavor.  Once toasted everything got thrown into the mini food-processor and ground to a fine powder.  I used it in both dishes.  Yum.

Here's the saag paneer recipe in case anyone wants it (worth it for the curry powder alone):

2 pounds fresh baby spinach, washed and stems trimmed
1/4 cup ghee, recipe follows
1/2 pound cubed paneer cheese
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder, recipe follows
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, toss in the spinach and blanch for 1 minute until very tender. Dump the spinach into a colander and press firmly with the back of a spoon to extract as much water as possible, set aside.
Heat the ghee in a deep skillet over medium-high flame. Add the cubed paneer and fry for a couple of minutes until light brown on all sides, gently turning to avoid breaking up the cubes. Remove the cheese from the skillet and set aside.
Return the skillet to the heat and sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger; cook and stir for about 5 minutes until soft. Sprinkle the mixture with the curry powder; continue to stir to marry the flavors, about 1 minute. Fold in the chopped spinach and give everything a good toss. Shut off the heat and stir the buttermilk and yogurt into the spinach to incorporate. The mixture should be creamy and somewhat thick. Gently fold in the fried paneer cubes, season with salt, to taste, and serve with steamed basmati rice and/or flat bread.

1 pound unsalted butter

Put the butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, swirl the pot around to ensure that it melts slowly and does not sizzle or brown. Increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is covered with foam, stir gently and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Gently simmer, uncovered, and undisturbed for 45 minutes, until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown and the butter on top is transparent. Strain the ghee through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth. The ghee should be perfectly clear and smell nutty; pour into a glass jar and seal tightly.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Curry Powder:
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 dried red chiles, broken in pieces, seeds discarded
1 tablespoon turmeric

Toast the whole spices (coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, mustard, cardamom and peppercorns) and the chiles in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan often to prevent them from burning. Toast for a couple of minutes until the spices smell fragrant. In a clean coffee grinder, grind the toasted spices together to a fine powder. Add the turmeric and give it another quick buzz to combine. Use the spice blend immediately, or store in a sealed jar for as long as 1 month.
Yield: about 1/2 cup