Thursday, January 29, 2009

Surprise!



Omg. What mystery, what suspense! Who, who, who sent The Bean this blue woolen rabbit???
It arrived today with no note besides the card from the etsy seller who made it!
It makes me grin ear to ear and I am filled with suspense trying to track down the thoughtful genius who sent it our way...



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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

winter still, and little joys.



First off, aren't ice patterns just lovely? I really mean it. I'm not being sarcastic in an I-wish-spring-would-come already kind of way. Sure, it's been cold here for a long time...sure, this has been my first winter with consistently negative temperatures, and sure, there's been snow on the ground since October, but I am still appreciating some of the more aesthetic qualities of the cold.

Like when dusk falls and the fresh snow twinkles as if it's laced with crystal.
Like when the snow is packed just so and it makes that pleasing crunchy squish sound under your feet.
Like when ice crystals form into delicate patterns like little gifts on your cold kitchen window pane in the morning.
They look kind of like lithe ice birds, (or fairies, i guess) don't they?




Meanwhile, again not a baking blog, but I did make very my first 100% white flour (gasp!) loaf today. Per the Peter Reinhart thing.
White flour isn't near as tasty in my opinion, but certainly it's supple and slack and smooth and nice to dough around with.



And lastly, as this is purely a picture day, here are some pretty potatoes cut up as prep for dinner tonight. A vagabond flock that I gathered at the Dane Winter Market. Creamy butter yellow, startling deep purple, mottled plum. So satisfying when your little daily tasks are pleasing to the senses, too.


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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just an update for my (very few) peeps

As the snow falls and we hole up with soups and bread and books, I thought I'd go all personal and wax on about a few things that are going on for us in this brand new year.

A is taking a writing class. It just started yesterday, and runs every other wednesday for a semester. He's working on 2 stories. One is a collection of interrelated shorts about characters who share the same apt building in Rochester. It's called Blossom Towers (the name of the building) and involves a few maintenance guys, a couple cantankerous nosy ladies, a young woman raising twins on her own, and various other sundry characters and how they relate. A lot of the interactions take place on brief but telling elevator rides between the 8 floors.
The other story is about a young boy and his summers spent along the Maine coast with his grandfather. There are interspersing of the boys' dream life with his real days of nature observations and interactions.
A has been really diligent about writing since we moved. He's amped up his weekend morning writing to everyday morning writing. He gets up at 6am and spends an hour tick-tacking at this very keyboard I'm writing on now. (The pink in my cheeks is either pregnancy hormones or beaming pride.)

Also, I can't remember if I've mentioned it, but I joined an art board for a local community center. We (there are 5 of us) are putting together a show currently and will be in charge of putting together shows for the next year or two with a focus on local artists. I'm finding it really fun to sort through submitted work, choose favorites, discuss work with other board members, and eventually (we do the first install next week) meet with the artists and help them realize their show in a gallery space. I think it will be rewarding; and I have to say I really like being on this side of things.

In other Nurturing-Creative-Interests news I just signed on to be "test baker" for Peter Reinhart's next book. (P.R. of the aforementioned cinnamon bread post). He's kind of a big deal bread man, and apparently when he works on a new book he puts out a call to home baker types and gets them to test recipes for him and give him feedback so he can make tweaks before his book goes to print. I think there will be something like 200 home bakers testing things for him. This time I'll be one too.

To close this personal update-y post, I thought I'd share this blog I found and have been enjoying reading: it's personal too (but much more succinct that what you just read) and can be kind of poetic in it's sparse pictures and few words. It's called habit.

Happy late January.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mami Wata, two unexpected finds, and a feather.

Last week I finally made it over to the Chazen Art Museum, which is here in Madison and part of the UW.
They had an exhibit called "Mami Wata" on that I wanted to see: it was a showcase featuring various depictions of the Water Goddess within a few different cultures. The focus was primarily on West African depictions, but they also had a few pieces that were Indian in origin (related to the Nagas, I guess? Though there wasn't any information about that on the walls) and also Mami Wata manifested as Santa Ana in some depictions from the Americas.
Mami Wata is apparently quite a polarizing force. Some see her as a powerful goddess that will bring you wealth, prosperity and luck, but if your cross her, Watch Out. There was one painting in particular of a man who seduces (or is seduced by) Mami Wata along a shoreline. Mami Wata sheds her mermaid tail, they make love, and he is afterwards blessed with fortune. But when Mami Wata sees that the man gets caught up in material possessions (there is a panel of the man with a house, car, etc), she kills him the next time he visits her.
Mami Wata seems to be a manifestation of the fierce feminine: she'll give and take in equally dramatic measures. Many depictions seemed to accept this as part of Mami Wata's inherent power and divinity. Others, (and this is where the polarizing part comes in), see her as a manifestation of the 'devil'. She is often depicted as a mermaid, but just as often as a woman with a snake- a kind of evil dominatrix type. Some paintings in the exhibit focused upon that dark sexuality and presented it as something to be feared. There was one painting of a monk in robes in the water warning people of the mermaid, another where someone was dousing Mami Wata with a fire hose.
Even more interesting was when I got to the pieces from the Americas/Caribbean: one in particular was a video from either Haiti or Santo Domingo where a woman was video taped being possessed by a Mami Wata-like snake goddess: the woman was writhing in a chair and spitting her tongue out. She was videotaped next to her altar of plastic catholic-merging-'primitive' icons and candles.


I wish I had pictures of that exhibit to share, but alas, no photography allowed in Mami Wata. So, though completely different, I want to share 2 unexpected finds, also from the Chazen. Before I got to Mami Wata, I walked a little through the permanent collection and saw these two gems. They're by really famous artists but I'd never seen them before:



Grant Wood! You know, the "American Gothic" guy? I have to admit I never looked much deeper into his other work, but really immediately liked this painting. The woman's expression is hard to read; she's holding a plum and a spring chick.



And then this one. I go back and forth on how I feel about Ms. O'Keefe, but I definitely like this simple still life of turkey feathers. Maybe I just like feathers. Case in point:


I'm trying to dress up my maternity clothes with a little funny applique. A felt blue jay feather.

Meanwhile the snow keeps falling and a new exhibit is slated to go up at the Chazen soon.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

baking again





This is not a baking blog, but I'm going to link to one. Peter Reinhart is a bubbly cauldron baker scientist, and can be fun to read. My sister gave me his Whole Grain Breads book for my birthday last year, and that's where the recipe for this bread comes from.

I kind of went on a baking hiatus after my sourdough starter kicked the bucket in November. But the other day I started feeling wistful and was jonsin' for some cinnamon raisin bread. Cinnamon Raisin bread with toasted walnuts, really. And the reason it became blog worthy because this is the most satisfying loaf of bread that I've made in a long time.

For awhile, weekly bread just became One-Of-Those-Things-That-Needed-To-Be-Done, like doing the laundry or making sure you had an appropriate stash of toilet paper on hand. I certainly still liked making bread, but I'll admit there were parts of it that had become somewhat chore-ish. When I first started baking a few years ago I couldn't wait for the bread too cool: I wanted to open it up and see if it had risen evenly inside, or discover how dense the crumb was, and of course I wanted to taste it. But over time, I started doubling the recipes and freezing a loaf, and even refrained from slicing into it for hours, days. Then it got to where I wouldn't eat much of it. It would disappear into A's PB and J sandwiches, and that was just fine by me. Maybe I'd make toast now and again if there wasn't any yogurt around for breakfast, but I was much less allured.

Then I took a break. And I'm not saying I'm ready to go back to Never-Bringing-Store-Bought-Bread-Into-The-House, but I am really satisfied with this loaf. Best toasted, with butter or cream cheese.
Want the recipe?


update: recipe in the comments :)
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Friday, January 02, 2009

sharing busy december






Still can't post all the makin' (it's not done being given), but here is a a taste:

Top left: satiny bag of sea shell treasures for a certain 5 year old who has been dreaming of Florida this winter
Middle top: gag gift for my high heel/pink/bling obsessed sister, a little watercolor of one of her favorite spikes
Top right: some hand-carved stamp cards: the first features a hasselblad camera and magic wand, the second has high heels and a cocktail glass (for sis again)
Lower left: owl sillouette felt wall hanging for brother, weighted with smudge stick sage I grew a few years ago and had saved (on the left there's a needle point my great grandmother made for me when I was new in the world...)
Middle bottom: date pinwheels for my grandfather from his mom's old recipe
Middle right: gigantic bib made from a towel for one particularly drooly babe
Lower right: more cards, these ones were for my mother: a quilting hoop and needle and thread

Happy 2009!!!
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