menu: vegetarian cookout

eggplant spread with pita bread


hoegaarden white ale


grilled asparagus

skewers of tofu, kohlrabi, eggplant, zucchini and sweet pepper
brushed with parsley oil and grilled

macaroni salad
from the fannie farmer cookbook

double this recipe, even for a small meal


rhubarb bundt cake

watermelon slices

Our friends Windy and Derek hosted a wonderful vegetarian barbecue party over Memorial Day weekend. In a year I have only done five (now six!) of these "menu" posts, because it's not every day I have an occasion to create one. The menu for this get together was so nice, and so special in that it was so satisfying and so delicious and healthy, that I had to share it. This is also the fourth out of the six "menu" posts that include Windy and Derek. What's up with that? We like to eat together, and to try to impress each other with our cooking, what can I say!

Our two contributions were the delicious summer corn salad from 101 Cookbooks (on Windy's suggestion, but you know I love me some 101 Cookbooks), and the inimitable, AMAZING Bloody Mary tomato salad that was floating all over the interwebs this past week from Running With Tweezers. It was beautiful in this meal, and I made it again the next night for dinner, where it was damn, damn good again. I am loaded up on vitamin C, for sure.

Some random shots from the day and the meal:

 If you can't tell how grey and cold out it was from this shot of corn.....

.....then this should convince you.

David and I were color coordinated, he in his wool shirt and me in my lower-back-pain-inducing wedges.

 This is the Bloody Mary salad. You serve it on a bed of sliced blue cheese. I'm going to
go grab my leftovers right now. True vegetarians note, this recipe includes Worcestershire
sauce, which contains anchovies. Soy sauce is the recommended substitute.

We were in and out of clouds for most of the meal, plus I'm only just learning
how to drive my new used camera, so admittedly this photo is shamefully framed
and lit. This is the whole incredible spread though. So energizing.

Digging in.

 Two of everything.

Unless you're serving more than six or eight adults, you don't need to double up the corn salad recipe. This was wonderful, and will be even more wonderful with sweeter corn later in the season, but there was a lot left over from the double batch. And I know at least David and I had thirds of this!

Under the trees. We've been here before.

Oliver was the oldest little one there. He and his sister do so well at grownup
soirées (she typed proudly). He stinks at sharing though!

I like my "menu" series. It's really helpful to me to go back and look at them to remember the things I know how to cook. Am I the only one who blanks out when someone asks me to bring something to a party, or when I need to bring a meal to someone (especially one with dietary restrictions)? It has become a good little data base for me. Also, a nice reminder of social times for when times get a little less social around here. It comes in waves like that, you know?


just because



The worst lighting. But I had to mark the year anniversary of starting this blog with these photos, taken exactly a year apart. Just because.


donut pan idea no. 62: seed bombs

Oh yeah, baby. I'm feeling ballistic today. No snarky comments over at Apartment Therapy are going to stop me from rolling out more donuts. Stella and I are ripping this set of donut pans a new one. 

Here we go. DONUT-SHAPED SEED BOMBS. The seed bomb is as ubiquitous as the chalkboard wall (guilty!), but Stella thought this one up and it was fun, and it's done! We handed them out at a get-together this past weekend and used a few ourselves.

We followed this recipe, more or less. We used the art clay out of fear of over-baking the soil in the sterilization process and ending up with duds. By using the air-dry clay you can skip the oven and just use the sun. Of course it would've been fun to bake them, and possibly more in the spirit of the donut pans, but this was a fun way to get our hands (very) dirty.

Five parts air-dry clay, one part native seeds, one part compost, water to loosen things.

If you don't have compost, maybe you can "borrow" a little from a neighbor or friend like we did. 

Mix it all up, and loosen enough with a little bit of water to be able to work it a little better. Form into donuts in the pans, cleaning up the edges the best you can. We sprinkled the tops with more seeds just for fun.

We left ours in the sun to dry for a few days, then brought them inside, gently pried them out of the donut pans, and dried them upside down for a day on a cooling rack. They are designed to eventually come apart when wet, but it's nice to give them away dry.

I can't imagine how all the seeds in here won't strangle each other once they get going, but imagine finding a little ring of wildflowers. Like maybe in the park, or the Panhandle more specifically, where we left a few last week on the way to school. I hope they work!


memorial day 2012

My father's private practice sign.

Memorial Day. My father wasn't a soldier, but he was enlisted during the Korean War, and worked for years and years as a civil engineer at an airbase in New Hampshire, now closed. I could say a lot about my dad right now, but today is not for him. I do miss him and his spartan style.

Both my grandfathers and my great uncle were military men. My grandfather Bill passed away last year, my grandfather Norman passed away almost forty years ago. I wrote about Bill here and Norman here. They thankfully survived their tours of duty, so today is not for them, but I am thankful to them for all they gave, as well as for all that their wives sacrificed. 

It is awkward to write words of thank you on Memorial Day to people who have suffered and died that one has never met, without sounding sentimental and self centered (at least, it is for me). I just wanted to say that I take this day seriously and that I am truly thankful to any person at any capacity who has given their life, their mental health, or even their pinky finger for their country. I hope they are all remembered personally in as many ways and by as many people as they deserve to be. Any more than that and I'm am just going to sound sentimental.


round up: a week of inanimate objects

The kids and I were licking spoons of this while it cooled.

While Pinterest was filling up with my crayon donuts, an Apartment Therapy feature
on them had some lively, snarky commentary. Check it out here. It was ridiculous!

 Oliver is anything but inanimate, but the balloons are. I grabbed them off a light
pole after a street festival. He calls it the sea urchin-monster.

I took an hour with Oliver in front of Sesame Street to get out my old watercolor gear and start a little something. I didn't get anywhere, but the act of doing that and the fact that I have space in my life to try meant a lot to me.

These postage stamps from Sweden are so pretty. Our USPS pine cone and juniper
stamps are my favorite, but these take the cake.

David and I spent our once-a-year twelve hour stretch without the kids last weekend. We had breakfast at the wonderful farm:table. We saw The Dictator, which we loved. We made a "stroll, talk, drink, snack, thrift and repeat" tour of the Mission. Highlight: Mission Cheese. Disappointment: Hog and Rocks, but not too disappointing, because there was marrow and toast!

Never met one we didn't like.

One more of this guy, for now.

Here's the before shot on my twice-yearly art/cookware cabinet cleanup. Seriously out of hand.

Total mess. I cleaned this before Christmas and this is what it looked like a week ago. Disaster.

But check this out. This is how we're rolling into summer vacation. We're ready to bake, to paint, to draw, to make more piñata eggs and try to start my Etsy shop. We are SORTED!

It's awesome! Except I forgot to leave an area for completed artwork. I guess that's what our art wall is for.

And finally, I've been complaining about not having a camera since the day I started this blog, almost a full year ago. I bought this one off of a friend. It's heavily used and was heavily discounted. I need a lot of practice and to get out of the habit of picking up my phone when I want to photograph something, but I am super lucky to have worked out this deal.

(Note: This photo still taken with my phone.) 

Today is the last day of school. I am SO excited. We all are. I've mentioned before, this will probably be the last summer I spend completely unfettered to any sort of work, and we will make the most of it like we did last summer. Like last summer, I'll be posting a whole lot of adventures, and even more days just staying home and keeping warm and hanging out. It's crazy to think I've been doing this a year now! It's been lots of fun, and it's so special to be able to look back on some of the highlights of our life over the last year. It's such a great record of how much Oliver and Stella have grown, and how much things change (and stay the same) in just a year. And I've met so many nice people through it, so thank you for reading. :)


brilliant projects heretofore unpublished: new spaces

Long, long ago when I was a scrappy, crazy and hopeful student of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I took a class called "New Spaces" offered by Reinhold Martin, then professor of architecture, now noted author and associate professor at the Columbia GSD. The class took a deep look at how installations and art can alter and create new spaces. I'm not surprised I can't remember much of the program, the reading was abstruse and ethereal. And to be honest, back then I put 95% of my energy into my studio work, very little into anything else (thank goodness they came up with "Math For Architects", a geometry-based mathematics course, providing us with math credits we could finish with our eyes closed at our primarily engineering school). I should dig out the readings. Like many things in architecture school, they will probably serve me well in terms of thinking outside the box.

I do remember who took the class, and that it was talky and fun. I remember a twenty minute long conversation regarding the word "jejune". The final for the class was a competition, to design an installation or intervention anywhere within the School of Architecture building that would create "new space". There was a small budget to work with. After presenting our designs to the class, we voted on which one we would build and install as a group.

Mike, Erika and yours truly. Probably taken at 3:00 a.m. This is old school architecture, people!

The installation I designed with my dear, DEAR friends Mike Stesney and Erika Zekos won. Actually, it got second place to our brilliant friend Nancy's design, which was something like a giant fish tank hovering at the end of a hallway in the building over the staff mailbox area. But who knows how to build a fish tank, and what if it leaked? So, ours "won".

Thirty steel studs, two 2 x 10s, a fluorescent tube light, two eye-hooks and some other nuts and bolts were put together to create our installation. The canted wall of steel studs altered the space by light, by a little bit of imposition, and even by making associations with the materials. Steel studs as finished surface, and side by side. Not common. The stamped cutouts in the faces of the studs, which let light through, looked to me like little skulls, which lent a bit of humor to it.

I believe the installation stayed up for several years inside our architecture school but is gone now. I've always loved looking at these photos and remembering this project. Also, remembering that no matter how much I hated redrawing this by hand over and over until we had the angle off the wall that we desired, I'm glad that we did it by hand. We just missed the age of computer aided design and drafting in the classroom and studio when we graduated, and I'll always be grateful for that. Old school architecture, people.

You've also got to see this. Shedding Light. This is an incredible project/installation that Erika went on to do a few years ago, lighting the inside of an old tobacco barn in the winter of 2010. It is in no way derived from our New Spaces installation all those years ago, but there is a small aesthetic similarity in the light and the gaps. As I told Erika recently, if I had pulled off a project like this, I would consider it the pinnacle of my design and art career and would feel free to hang up my pencil. The project is incredible on so many levels, and so is Erika. Please check it out!


gutter garden update

Just wanted to show off the gutter garden. It's been less than a month since we refilled it with soil and planted it, and it's doing wonderfully. I think, unfortunately, its success has a lot to do with a neighbor's tree that was removed a year or two ago. We're getting a lot more light in that area.

 The garden today.

The garden almost a month ago.

I'm so happy we planted nasturtium. It grows like a weed. Is it a weed? And it's really pretty. We've got radish and zinnia seedlings fighting with each other. If neither starts to flourish in the next few weeks I'll move the strawberries I bought last week from a window box up into the seedling spots.

We picked a colander full of different lettuces and a few nasturtium flowers to have with dinner tonight. My neighbor Paul and I were talking about how to prune the lettuce leaves so the plants keep producing more, plucking from the outside in. I hope that works! It's really, really lovely for this family who so desperately wants a real garden to be able to gaze out at that tiny bit of our own green in the morning. It gives me personally such a calming moment when I glimpse it. 

Nasturtiums on the cover of Plants and Their Application to Ornament by Eugéne Grasset.
I've always been fascinated with how the stem of a nasturtium leaf meets the leaf close to
the center, not at the edge of the leaf. And I love botanicals. Have you seen mine here

Our neighbor "Backyard Richard" threw up some lemons from his tree for us
while we were back there today. Nice!

Many moons ago I lived north of Albuquerque, NM in a town called Bernalillo in the tiniest two room shack. I spent most of my meager architectural intern salary on gardening. I lived literally in the middle of the desert, so I dug furrows into the sand, filled them with store-bought soil, and planted rows and rows of corn. I loved growing corn. Have you ever eaten corn within an hour of it being picked? There's nothing sweeter or more delicious. So good. 

The crazy and sad thing about the year I grew that corn is that there was a plague of grasshoppers that came through in swarms soon after my first ears started maturing. They mowed the crop down in a matter of a week. Like, sawed them down. Never seen anything like it.

Anyway, I'd love to try it again when we get a chance. Being back there today reminded me of how much fun it is to grow food (and what a money pit gardening can be)!

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