Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Sculpture Series

Photo provided by C.A. Crandall

Ripple, by artist Barbara Baer, is an aluminum and poly carbonate structure sitting 6' tall.  Baer uses a fascination with spatial design and interaction of materials and light to create this dynamic sculpture.  The forms were developed to contrast a geometric silhouette against an organic one.  The sculpture has the interesting quality of looking quite different from varying angles.  It certainly adds color and brightness to an otherwise dull city street corner.

Baer's sculpture sits on the north west corner of Public Road and Emma Street in Old Town Lafayette.  For more information about Lafayette's Art on the Street Sculpture Walk, visit the city's website. This piece, a part of the Art On the Street Sculpture Walk is available for purchase, $5,000.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy Rally Day - and trivia ad nauseum....

I found this sweet postcard invitation for Rally Day

What is Rally Day?  I asked myself. A quick check of Google and Wikipedia, found many possible answers. One source says Rally Day is a "warm-hearted homecoming when friends greet one another again," after Labor Day. There are girl scout rally days, church rally days and legislative rally days. Many car clubs use Rally Day to signify a car show - Rally Day in Wiltsire, England brings 10,000 people together to celebrate rally cars
The real Rally Day began at Smith College in 1876 as a celebration of George Washington's birthday. Over the years the celebration has included speeches, awards, performances, music from the glee club, square dancing, carnivals, formal teas, and dinners. This year's Rally Day is today, February 23.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. You probably know all the good stuff he did from your American History courses, but did you know he was a high school drop out and never went to college. He never learned Latin, Greek or any foreign language, like his contemporaries. He married late in life, at the ripe old age of 27 and was the happy step-father to Martha's two children.

While Martha was devoted to George, she was a less willing first-lady and is quoted as saying "I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from..."

Two year's after his departure from office, George fell ill with pneumonia. The pneumonia probably isn't what killed him, though. Most likely, the doctor's prescribed treatment of blood-letting and doses of Mercury Chloride did him in.

But his legacy as the Father of our Country is what we celebrate on Rally Day. Don't forget to put on your Rally Day hats, and send out your Rally Day cards. Be sure to bake yourself a Martha Washington cake (see recipe below) and celebrate Rally Day!

And certainly, don't forget what Martha said:
I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.
                                                                                             -Martha Washington

Happy Rally Day!

Martha Washington's Great Cake
(One of Mrs. Washington's favorite recipes- I love how this is written, what about bake times and temps and how big of a pan do you need to accommodate 40 eggs and 4 pounds of butter and sugar?!?!)

Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work'd. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.

(Although Postcardy pointed out on Postcards, Etc. that my postcard is most likely for a children's Sunday School Rally, I still like all the interesting stuff I dug up. Check out Postcardy for some more George Washington facts.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day

Art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another land,
but part of the present life of all living and creating peoples.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Vintage photo on an antique postcard.  No notation of the location.

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

I often look for just the right words for a collage or art piece.  I found these two comments about art by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Somehow they seem appropriate on this Presidents' Day.  The photo - I was just struck by the beauty of the arches, the contrast of light and dark, and the mystery of the door at the end.  Maybe this card and one of these quotations will end up on one of my collages.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Recipe - Birthday Cake

I made have made some extra work for myself this year.  I made a "silent" vow to not use boxed cake mixes.  hmmmm.  A challenge, certainly.  Not that I have anything against Betty or Duncan, but I do find that the cakes can be a little boring, a bit too airy if you're getting fancy with carving (as one might do with two girls in the house), and certainly predictable with the 1 cup of oil and three eggs.  I thought, there have to be better options for the modern cook. 
The request was yellow cake and chocolate frosting.  Sounds easy enough.  I turned to the trusty Internet to find a recipe.  I found one for "Best Yellow Layer Cake" at Smitten Kitchen.  I have found other recipes at this site with great success.  This was one to try.
I got out the trusty Kitchen Aid and got to mixing.

Smitten Kitchen's Best Yellow Layer Cake
(adapted from and reprinted following Smitten Kitchen's guidelines.)
Makes two 9-inch round cake layers

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray or butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment, as she recommends.  I recently ran out of parchment - it's on the grocery list - so I used the old spay and flour method with good results.
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl (yes LARGE), beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer (here's where the Kitchen Aid came it) at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beat well and scrape down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, add buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three or four batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Pour batter equally into cake pan, then tap pan on counter several times to remove air bubbles. Bake  at 350 degrees until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then loosen cake from pan and invert onto rack. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

Cooked Chocolate Frosting

The frosting I used I found last year from Country Living.  It reminds me of my Grandmother's frosting, a bit like buttercream, but not as heavy.  It has a silky, smooth texture and is not too sweet.
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 ounce) of dark chocolate or white chocolate
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa, (for white chocolate frosting, omit cocoa)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons flour, and 1⁄8 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  This will take several minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.

Melt 8 ounces of dark chocolate or white chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave. Be careful not to scorch it. Set aside to cool.

Beat 1 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, and 2 tablespoons cocoa (for white chocolate frosting, omit cocoa) together until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled chocolate and add milk mixture and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (dark chocolate frosting only) until smooth and fluffy.

The Result
The baked layers were sunken a bit in the middle.  I am sure there is a reasonable explanation for that: the humidity was wrong, or the altitude, or I didn't sift the flour well enough, or the cartwheels I did in the kitchen while baking sunk the middles.  Baking is still a bit of a mystery to me.
My handy dandy solution is to trim the cake a bit, then I spread the bottom cake with a layer of raspberry jam, and then frosting.  A nice and sweet surprise. 
The birthday girl liked the cake.  We all liked the cake.  It did seem a little dense, that's what I was looking for, right?  Yes, I bought the cake flour, maybe the plus 2T was more than I needed.  But, I didn't sift.  I never do.  Is it reall that important?
It was not too sweet, but had a great "yellow cake" flavor. 
I love this frosting.  I started using it last year, when I banned tub frosting from the house.  It can even perk up box mix cupcakes.  The white chocolate version is my favorite.
This is definately a cake I will make again.  And a frosting I will make again.
If you decide to ditch the box cakes, these are two worthwhile recipes to try.

I've linked to Full Plate Thursday and Foodie Friday.  and Sweet Tooth Friday.  Check them out for some more great recipes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Treats

Sometimes Valentine's Day misses the mark.  In fact, often it is so much about the commercialism of the sticky pink and red hearts, the gooey candy that ends up in the trash can, and the roses that die all too soon.  Sometimes cupid doesn't shoot straight.
This year was just right. 

I had lunch with my husband at the Boulder bistro Salt.  He had a day off so we took advantage of a daytime date and went for a grown-up lunch.  It's amazing how many grown-ups go out to lunch!  I may have to consider that more often.  The only distraction were the two preschool aged children at the next table.  They were running that show, if you know what I mean.  But the food and service were wonderful.  I had a lovely bowl of mussels, and my husband, true to form, had Tom's Burger and fries.  We even had a table visit from the chef, Bradford Heap, the famed Boulder restaurateur.

Then we stopped at Shamane's Bake Shoppe to pick up some after dinner treats for the girls.  Shamane's is located in an out of the way spot in Boulder, but not off the beaten path.  It's just a few blocks from the intersection of Valmont Road and Foothills Parkway.  It is worth the little trek into the back of the business park to find her.  As former pastry chef at Boulder's Flagstaff House, Brasserie 1010 (one of my favorites), and The Mediterranean Restaurants, you can imagine that the quality of her craft is superior.   

Known for her beautiful wedding and special events cakes, Shamane's shop has so much more to offer.  She offers homemade quiche, soups and hand crafted sandwiches, as well as tasty pastries to take home.  What struck me as we stood in line to order was how she responded to the couple in front of us.  They walked in and ordered a linzer torte.  She had none in her case and they had not pre-ordered.  Remember, it was Valentine's Day, and the place was filled with customers, and she said, "I can have one ready by 3 today, will that be soon enough?"  Wow!  Can you imagine any other baker, on a very busy day, ready to accommodate so quickly? 

The petit fours and meringues that we brought home were the perfect end to our day - the girls enjoyed them.  Not too big, not too sweet, and just the right amount of Valentine's fuss.
I hope yours was just as good.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Art with Hearts - continuing collage

I have been working on collage a lot these days.  I have been exploring texture and combination... using found objects and creating objects to use.  I love incorporating words and quotations in my work, must be my English teacher background.

I recently hung this one in my black and white bathroom.  Although not totally black and white, this piece has undertones of tan and green.  I use a math flashcard, a printed ornament, and a vintage filling station receipt.  The black and white heart is elevated by painted foam core.  The entire piece is mounted on a flat canvas and framed in an old recycled frame.  I love the vintage feel of the piece and the peace that the uniformity of color brings.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Art with Hearts - another collage

"An understanding heart warms all that are graced with its presence."
 Another collage with a prominent heart, paper mounted on foam core to add elevation.  The piece is on a flat canvas, but I didn't like the flat look, so I built a box from scrap wood and placed that behind the canvas.  I painted the wood to mimic the design on the paper.  I also used metal objects, shiny red brads, a Chinese fortune, and a wooden piece with the words "care more"

Side view - showing you my handi-work with the painted wood behind the canvas.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Sculpture Series

Supernova, by Eric Ober is a 300 pound steel sculture.  This larger sculpture measurs 6'6" x 3'6" x 2' and sits in the courtyard at the corner of Public Road and Emma Street.

Photo courtesy C.A. Crandall
Ober uses his skills as a mechanical engineer to create sculptures that captivate the eye and appear to defy the bounds of physics.  He takes concepts and dreams and turns them into sculptural form.  This sculpture has the added distinction of being kinetic.  The large circle swings when gently pushed - and continues movement for a long time.  It is a contemplative piece with it's Zen like form.
For more information about Lafayette's Art on the Street Sculpture Walk, visit the city's website. This piece, a part of the Art On the Street Sculpture Walk is available for purchase, $5,000.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Another Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Dear Friend!

Two fabulous birthdays in one week - plus Valentine's Day right around the corner!  What a busy week!
Have a happy Friday!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Art with Hearts

One of my favorite collages.

Those who don't do anything, never make mistakes.
I love this mixed media collage I made.  I used a vintage letter, handmade papers and lots of layers.  I used a paint wash and sealed the whole thing with Mod Podge.  Foam core elevates the paper covered heart.  The vintage buttons are tied on with bits of thread.  The sentiment of the quotation is nice, too.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Project - Collage Freebie

Are you making Valentine's Cards this year?  I wish I was, but what a busy week... and my studio is too cold with our temperatures below freezing again.  I always have the best intentions to make cards and mail them out.  Another year, perhaps. 
This is one of my fun, quirky images - from a vintage postcard.  They look a little awkward, don't they?

It would be a cute one to use in a collage or on a card, the postmark on the front reduces its collectible value, but makes it more interesting in a piece of art.  This one is vintage, but was mailed to me in the 80's. To borrow this image for your own art or craft usage, right click and save to your computer. Personal use only, please. Feel free to use it for your collages and Valentine's cards. 
For more post cards, check out my other blog: Postcards, etc.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Sculpture Series

Early Peas, by Thomas Starr, is a sweet, little bronze sculpture.
Photo courtesy of C.A. Crandall
This sculpture is a tribute to his father who had a bountiful vegetable garden.  Starr's work uses figures and faces to explore emotions and tell stories.  This sculpture measures 2'8"x11"x9.5" and weighs 75 pounds.   Although small in size, this sculpture is filled with contemplation and thought.  It sits on the corner of Public Road and Cannon Street, in front of Cannon Mine Coffee House. 
Part of the 2010-2011 Art on the Street, this artwork is available for purchase for $5,400.  For more information about Lafayette's Art on the Street Sculpture Walk, visit the city's website.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Recipe - Roasted Winter Vegetables and Soup

This week's recipe is a bonus - two recipes in one.  The first part of this recipe would be a great winter side dish.  The second is a hearty, rich soup.  I made the soup this week for my book club.  I never served the vegetables as a side, but they sure looked delicious. ( From Ina Garten's Family Style Cookbook.)
I made a few small modifications from the original recipe.  I added a few cloves of garlic and 3 shallots to the roasting pans, and then blended these into the soup.  I also added about 1/2 t cayenne pepper to the soup, to balance the sweetness.

Roasted Winter Vegetables
1 pound carrots, peeled
1 pound parsnips, peeled
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 small butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and seeded
3-4 cloves garlic (optional)
2-3 shallots, in half (optional)
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, and butternut squash in 1- to 1 1/4-inch cubes. All the vegetables will shrink while baking, so don't cut them too small. 

Place all the cut vegetables in a single layer on 2 sheet pans. Drizzle them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender, turning once with a metal spatula.
Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste, and serve hot.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

6-8 cups chicken stock (look for one with no MSG and low sodium, or make your own)
Roasted Winter Vegetables, recipe above
Cayenne pepper (optional, to taste)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In small batches, coarsely puree the roasted vegetables and the chicken stock in a blender or food processor. (Be careful not to puree hot liquids in a blender, you could have a kitchen disaster!)  Pour the soup back into the pot, and season, to taste. Thin with more chicken stock and reheat. The soup should be thick but not like a vegetable puree, so add more chicken stock and/or water until it's the consistency you like.

This was a terrific soup.  Rich and thick, sweet with a hint of spice from the black pepper and cayenne.  I served the soup with Brioche Croutons (from the same cookbook) and a crisp winter salad.  It was the perfect book club meal.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Artist - Matthew Doubek (part 2)

This week I told you about local artist Matt Doubek.  I couldn't fit all I wanted to share into one post, so here's more on Matt.
(Photo courtesy Matt Doubek - from his facebook page.)
Matt's art encompasses painting, drawing, graphics, illustration, and collage.  He utilizes satire, whimsy and skill into his pieces. 

A work in progress for Every Good Cowboy (show at the Pirate Gallery)
 Not only does he make art for the walls, he makes creative installations and furniture items as we.  You can see this table as part of an installation at the Denver Art Museum's interactive display on the second floor. 

My girls were excited to see Matt's work at a recent trip to the Denver Art Museum.
 "His work is famous!"
Along with his friend and fellow artist Sam Mobley, Matt is opening a two man show of their take on Western Art.  It's sure to be filled with humor, whimsy and fun, along with great talent and skill.  To view more of Matt's work, check out the Pirate Gallery in Denver this month. 
The elusive Western Jackalope, photo courtesy Matt Doubek
(Oh - if you're looking for my Friday recipe, it will be posted later today)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Menu for Book Club

I love cooking.  I also love planning.  So, the natural marriage of these two is menu planning. I love planning menus.
A little thought into a menu can go a long way towards making your night as a host(ess) and your guest's night in your home so much more comfortable and relaxed.
This week, I am hosting book club.  We have been together for three years.  There are seven of us.  Things to keep in mind as I plan the evening.  Our standard is that the hostess makes appetizers and a dessert, while the rest of the group brings wine.  Usually the appetizers are on the substantial side, we're not talking a bowl of Cheetos for these ladies.  Sometimes, if the book merits, there is a full blown dinner in the works.  My Life in France, Hindi Bindi Club, and Heat resulted in fabulous and elaborate dinners. 
This month we read Comfort Food, by Kate Jacobs.  We'd read another of Jacob's books before, Friday Night Knitting Club.  That one had recipes included.  This one, the book about food, does not.  We do not have a "Book Club Rule" that states the food has to match the book.  In most cases it does not.  In most cases it would be too difficult. 
Tonight, however, I want comfort food.  Perhaps it's our sub-zero weather.  Perhaps it's that cozy feeling that comes with curling up to read a good chick lit book.  To plan the menu, I started thinking of my favorite comfort foods.  Warm soup, hot dips, gooey fruity desserts.

I recently received two Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks.  I absolutely love them.  And since the main character of Comfort Food, Gus, reminds me of Ina Garten, I turned to these books to search for recipes for my menu.  In her cookbooks, Garten offers sage advice for planning and hosting.  Choose items you can make ahead of time.  Make things that will appeal to all your guests.  Keep it simple and good.  She is a wise woman.
For a soup, I chose Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup.  It's a thick, rich looking soup, without a drop of cream, so it's on the lighter side, right?  To balance the sweetness that will be in the soup, I chose a crisp salad with sharp flavors, Endive with Stilton and Walnuts.  Rounding out the meal, I am making Rosemary Polenta Triangles.  I want to start and finish the meal with something warm.  Let's start with the tried and true Hot Artichoke Dip (add some chopped spinach to make it different). And for a finale, this Caramel Pear Cake looks divine.

The Menu:
Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip
2 kinds of cheese
Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup with Homemade Brioche Croutons
Winter Greens Salad with Stilton and Walnuts
Rosemary Polenta Triangles
Caramel Pear Cake with Homemade Spiced Whipped Cream

What I learned in my reading and planning:
  • keep it simple. (I am showing HUGE restraint in only making one appetizer - I tend to follow the "more is better" motto.)
  • make as much as you can ahead of time.
  • use flavors that appeal to a lot of people.
  • cook with what's in season.
  • choose flavors that complement the others. 
  • also incorporate a culinary variety - salty, sweet, creamy, smooth, crunchy, acidic, spicy.
  • repeat flavors to create harmony in the menu.  But don't go overboard.  (I added some rosemary to the croutons to echo the rosemary in the polenta, but I am not also making rosemary artichoke dip, rosemary squash soup and rosemary pear cake.)
I am breaking one big rule:  don't try out new recipes on a special event.  I have four new recipes on board for tonight.  But, who better to try out something new, than your girlfriends?  I will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Artist - Matthew Doubek

Mannequin hands creeping across the tops of the fluorescent lights at Matt Doubek's studio.
My daughter and I took a field trip to visit local artist Matt Doubek at his studio.  The studio, an unassuming, converted garage in the heart of Louisville, is jam packed with art supplies and collage materials and inspiration.  A veritable heaven for a pack-rat like myself and my 9 year-old.  I gave her the camera and she started snapping photos.  (So interesting to see what caught her eye.)
My purpose for going to Matt's studio was two-fold.  First, I wanted some inspiration and advice for my own collage work.  Second, I wanted my daughter to see a working artist in his element.  We were both thrilled with what we found.  It was a bonus that Matt was prepping for his upcoming show at the Pirate Gallery in Denver.
The studio itself is filled with pieces of past work, like this one:
There are sketches, scraps, and bits of inspiration everywhere you look:
He had several works in progress, the painting hanging against the cinder block wall, had some additional embellishments from his daughter, which Matt readily incorporates into his work:
And this sketch was waiting patiently on one of his work tables.  I can't wait to see what he does with it:

Matthew Doubek and Samuel Mobley's show Every Good Cowboy opens at the Pirate Gallery on February 4 and runs until February 20. 
Hope to see you there!