30 November 2009

project: build an awesome fort

Have you seen Where the Wild Things Are? Or at least read the book?

The book has always been a favorite of mine, and I saw the film last month. In the film Max makes these killer forts (in the snow, in his bedroom, with the wild things), and I was reminded of how much fun it was to make blanket forts and as a kid (and snow forts, but there's no snow yet)... and I decided that even though I'm no longer a kid (late 20s = no longer a kid... right?), I still want to make an AWESOME FORT.

Project worthy? MOST DEFINITELY.

[ completed project ]

29 November 2009

completion: handmade cards

[ original assignment ]

Well, I ended up designing a very time-consuming card for my newest card set, so I didn't get more than one design done this week (also didn't help that this week was cut a bit short with the holiday), but I did finish ten of these beauties, so I'd say that's something.

I'll post new designs as they come to fruition in the coming weeks.

[ more handmade cards ]

28 November 2009

side project: weekend fotos

My mom volunteers with her local Historical Society, and last week was tasked with setting up mannequins in their little log cabin for the holiday season. She cooked up a whole scenario that included the mother mannequin and her two daughters sneaking into the bedroom to wake the sleeping father Christmas morning with a hot Swedish breakfast. She took me to see it this weekend, but the cabin was locked when we stopped by, so I had to resort to peeking through the windows.

27 November 2009

side project: coffee custard meringue pie

For Thanksgiving I decided to finally try out a recipe that I've been drooling over for months now, from my The World Encyclopedia of Coffee (by Mary Banks, Christine McFadden, Catherine Atkinson) book. The photo in the book, um, looks much more scrumptious than mine.

This recipe nearly KICKED MY ASS. Really: I ended up making the pastry twice (because I was distracted and left it in the oven faaaar too long), and the filling twice (because I was distracted by my ruined crust enough to not pay attention to the British names for ingredients). Before starting this, I figured the meringue would be the hardest part, since it was my first time ever making meringue. I was wrong. The meringue was the only part of the recipe I didn't have to do over. In the end, though, the thing came out just fine, and tasted lovely. Recipe below.

Notes for you American bakers:*
cornflour = corn starch
icing sugar = powdered sugar/confectioners sugar
caster sugar = substitute regular white, granulated sugar
demerara sugar = raw sugar

* And if any of you European bakers need the measurements in metric, let me know; the recipe gave the conversions.

Crunchy Topped Coffee Meringue Pie

Pastry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
6 tbsp butter
1 egg yolk
finely grated rind of 1/2 orange
1 tbsp orange juice

Filling ingredients:
2 tbsp ground coffee
1 1/2 cups milk
4 tbsp cornflour
1/2 cup caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp butter

Meringue ingredients:
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 skinned hazelnuts
1 tbsp demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk, orange rind and juice and mix to a firm dough. Wrap in clear film and chill for 20 minutes. Roll out and use to line a 9in loose-based fluted flan tin [note: I just used a regular pie pan]. Cover with clear film and chill for 30 minutes.

Prick the pastry all over, line with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes, removing the paper and beans for the last 5 minutes. Turn the oven to 325ºF.

To make the filling, put the coffee in a bowl. Heat 1 cup of the milk until near-boiling and pour over the coffee. Leave to infuse for 4 minutes, then strain. Blend the cornflour and sugar with the remaining milk in a pan and whisk in the coffee-flavoured milk.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until thickened. Remove from the heat.

Beat the egg yolks. Stir in a little of the hot coffee mixture into the egg yolks, then add to the remaining coffee mixture with the butter. Cook the filling over a low heat for 3-4 minutes, until very thick. Pour into the pastry case.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Whisk in the caster sugar a spoonful at a time.

Spoon the meringue over the filling and spread right to the edge of the pastry, swirling into peaks. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and demerara sugar and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Serve warm, or cool on a wire rack and serve cold.

Tip: The pastry case can be made up to 36 hours in advance, but once filled and baked the pie should be eaten on the day of making.

23 November 2009

project: handmade cards

I hand-make greeting cards for gifts and other purposes (a few examples below), and this week my project is to get a head start on holiday gifts by making a bunch of card sets. Onward!

[ completed project ]

22 November 2009

completion: second kitchen painting painted

[ original assignment ]

Greetings. I'm not truly finished with the painting, but from here on out it's just tweaks. Was able to fill in the lettering (with white) and a few other tweaks today; will have to continue refining the letters and other things (like the eggplant stems... man, I'm struggling with them...) throughout this next week, after it dries more. I'll keep you posted. Back tomorrow mit dem nächsten Projekt. That's right, ich spreche Deutsch.*

*Actually, not really. This is all I remember from German class (to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain"):

Ich bin Ausländer und sprechen nicht gut Deutsch!
Ich bin Ausländer und sprechen nicht gut Deutsch!
Bitte langsam, bitte langsam, bitte sprechen sie doch langsam,
Ich bin Ausländer und sprechen nicht gut Deutsch!

I think my German teacher would be proud.

[ kitchen partner ]

19 November 2009

sneak peek: second kitchen painting

[ original assignment ]

I'm working on it! Photographic proof!

Did the base colors last night, but can't do much more until the oils dry a bit. Quite obvious what one of the subjects is, but can you guess the second?? Stay tuned...

[ completed project ]

16 November 2009

project: second painting for my kitchen

Hello, Monday.

In light of my failed attempt to design a t-shirt last week, I think I should perhaps regroup, and save the second attempt (because I will design one at some point) for a future week. Or maybe I'll just get a sudden urge to design it one random mid-week night, and it will end up being a side project. We'll see. Anyway. Back to this week.

Remember that kitchen painting I did in September? I need a second painting to pair it with on my wall. Because two is always better than one, right? Absolutely. Except maybe if you're talking about how many noses you have on your face. That would just be weird.

[ sneak peek ]
[ completed project ]

15 November 2009

completion: tee, not designed

[ original assignment ]

Welp, I failed. Utterly and completely. You know how I said I was going to design a t-shirt this week? I didn't. I did nothing but procrastinate in the design department, and it's Sunday night and time to face the fact that I am not going to deliver on this one, this week.


I am not completely empty-handed, however. While I was procrastinating in all things tees, I was a bit more productive in the kitchen (which possibly contributed to my failure to do anything else... ). Today I made a butternut squash pie. Behold:

Recipe here (I substituted butternut squash for canned pumpkin) from Betty Crocker:

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie (9-inch pie)

2 eggs
1 can (1 pound) pumpkin (2 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 2/3 cups evaporated milk or light cream

Heat oven to 425°. Prepare pastry. Beat egg(s) slightly with rotary beater; beat in remaining ingredients. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan. Bake 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Bake 45 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. If desired, serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Note: Try the "cousin" to this favorite pie by substituting mashed cooked squash or sweet potatoes for the pumpkin.


Standard Pastry (8- or 9-inch one-crust pie)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening or 1/3 cup lard
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Measure flour and salt into bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until all flour is moistened and dough almost cleans side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons water can be added if needed).

Gather dough into ball; shape into flattened round on lightly floured cloth-covered board. With floured stockinet-covered rolling pin, roll dough 2 inches larger than inverted pie pan. Fold pastry into quarters; unfold and ease into pan.

Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of pan. Fold and roll pastry under, even with pan; flute. Fill and bake as directed in recipe.

10 November 2009

side project: carrot cake muffins

I'm still working on the tee design this week, of course, but tonight also tried out a new carrot muffin recipe. They're pretty tasty. Recipe (from Cooking Pleasures magazine) is below, although I didn't have milk or whole wheat flour, so substituted pineapple juice and regular flour, and I skipped the raisins. Not a huge raisin fan.

Carrot Cake Muffins

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 400˚F. Line muffin pan with paper liners or spray bottom of muffin cups with cooking spray. Whisk brown sugar, oil, eggs and almond extract in medium bowl until well-blended.

Combine flour, wheat germ, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. Stir in raisins and coconut. Stir into egg mixture; fold in carrots, walnuts, pineapple and milk. (Batter will be very thick but shouldn’t be dry.)

Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until tops are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins

09 November 2009

project: design a t-shirt

Monday salutations. Ever heard of Threadless? If not, then consider this your lesson for the day: Threadless is a site that sells awesome t-shirts, but more importantly, is a site where you can submit your own design, with the possibility of it being printed and sold if it's, well, awesome enough.

Anyway, I've been a devoted purchaser for a while, but this week will mark a new Threadless interaction for me: I've decided to finally act on the regular "it would be fun to submit something someday" whisper-in-the-back-of-my-head-everytime-I-visit-the-site THIS WEEK. Project on.

[ completed project ]

08 November 2009

completion: photo a day, day seven

[ original assignment ]

Day Seven. A view from my kitchen floor. I thought my photo from yesterday needed a companion, so here it is.

Well, that's all folks. A week's worth of photos ended. Be back tomorrow with the next project.

[ Day One ]
[ Day Two ]
[ Day Three ]
[ Day Four ]
[ Day Five ]
[ Day Five *bonus* ]
[ Day Six ]

07 November 2009

photo a day, day six

[ original assignment ]

There are a few things that I dislike about my rented apartment, but one thing I do not dislike, and in fact, love, is my retro Morton-cabinet-slash-kitchen-sink.

Day Six! One day left! Not sure I want to quit this project.

[ Day Seven ]

photo a day, day five *bonus!*

[ original assignment ]

Well dear reader, I did it. I went out after midnight to get this here post up just for you. And not only that, I gave you not one bonus photo, but two. I know, I know, it's almost too generous. Don't say I never did anything for you.

Granted, I realize it starts getting dark these days before 5 pm, so technically I could have gone out earlier, but it's much more fun (and more dramatic to blog about) to go out in the middle of the night when the streets are empty of everyone but yourself. Plus in the middle of certain nights of the week you get the additional reward of baked-good aromas (the "Open" sign in the window doesn't lie - they were indeed there, baking away).

[ Day Six ]

06 November 2009

photo a day, day five

[ original assignment ]

Day Five. The stairwell leading down to the street from my apartment. On my way out the door this morning, I noticed the light coming in through the curtain and pulled out my camera. And then was ten minutes late to work. Oops.

But wait, there's more! I liked this photo too much to not post it as today's shot, but there's still a possibility that I'll go out into the night with my camera later on. Because I just know that you readers (all zero of you*) have been breathlessly waiting all week for a night shot. That's right folks, stay at the edge of your seat, because a BONUS photo just might be posted in the wee hours of the night. Golly gee whiz!

*which means if I punk out, no one but me will know. mwahaha!

[ BONUS ! (aren't you special?) ]

05 November 2009

photo a day, day four

[ original assignment ]

Day Four. More vegetation today. Gorgeous weather! Made me glad to have an excuse (searching for this photo, of course) to walk about during lunch today.

Hmm. So far I've managed to have neither gotten up early to shoot, nor do any night/indoor shots as I had predicted at the beginning. Maybe I'll have to try a few night shots tomorrow just for kicks. We'll see. (Notice how I'm not offering to get up early just for kicks.)

[ Day Five ]

04 November 2009

photo a day, day three

[ original assignment ]

Cloudy day today, and a bit chilly walking around on my lunch break with the camera. Found some plants (perhaps baby trees?) growing in the gutter of a building that amused me. Day Three complete.

[ Day Four ]

03 November 2009

photo a day, day two

[ original assignment ]

Day Two.

Spent some time today walking around in parking lots during my lunch break. Some interesting found objects (notable: a skull candy bag left over from this weekend), but I ultimately decided I liked this line study best.

[ Day Three ]

02 November 2009

photo a day, day one

[ original assignment ]

Day One. This is in an alley a few blocks from my apartment; a spot I've had my eye on for a while.

As I suspected, the sun had already set by the time I got outside with my camera tonight, but I was early enough to catch the remaining light... and while my shots were much grainier (do we still call it grain if it's digital?) than they would otherwise be, I was still able to get some keepers.

[ Day Two ]

project: photo a day

Hello, hello! It's Monday again already, and time for my next project announcement. Here 'tis: In an effort to be proactive about dusting my camera off, I am going to post a photo every day this week (including this coming Sunday, since this blog is apparently European in nature, and starts its weeks on Mondays instead of Sundays). Each photo I post will have been taken that day. I'm resolved not to cheat!

I'm setting myself up for a bit of a challenge with this one - most of the photos I like to take are outdoors in daylight, but since I have a full-time job and this is getting late in the year, my hours of daylit freetime are limited. So that means I'll either be going out early before work to get shots, or I'll be exploring night shots and indoor scenes.

Oh, and today's the first day, so look for the first photo tonight.

[ Day One ]
[ Day Two ]
[ Day Three ]
[ Day Four ]
[ Day Five ]
[ Day Five *bonus* ]
[ Day Six ]
[ Day Seven ]

01 November 2009

completion: poem written, at long last

[ original assignment ]

It's late Sunday afternoon, and I'm only just getting around to posting my poem. I did write a rough poem as early as Tuesday (about the neighbor I've never met, incidentally), but have been tinkering with it ever since -- and not been able to come up with anything satisfactory out of it.

On Monday I thought, "Oh, I'll write a poem this week!" Riiiight. I most certainly didn't take into account just how hard it is to write something that's not corny or pointless.

Anyway, the poem I worked on all week wasn't working, and then today in desperation, I sat down and spat out a little quick thing just to get the juices flowing... and that little quick thing is better than anything I would be able to get out of the other thing. So here's my poem, composed in five minutes. It's untitled. (Hard enough to write the damn thing... I have to come up with a title, too?!)

Untitled, 11.1.09

I dreamt last night that I was in a coma
and you found out
and came back to sit by my bed
every day and all night
I woke from the coma and saw you there
you opened your mouth to say something

but I woke from the dream
my throat ached

so I kept my eyes closed
and even though I knew it was preposterous
and would never happen
you coming back I mean
although the coma part is unlikely too
I pretended I was still asleep
and finished the dream