Archive for January, 2010

Open Studios

Posted by laura on Jan 14 2010 | Fun, Making

stilllifesetup

For a long time now I’ve been wanting to host a kind of open studios at our house for kids to come over and make art after school. Turns out some of my friends who have kids in Honey’s grade were interested in the same thing. I finally got my act together and we had our first meeting last week.

stilllifecharcoal

It was a very basic still life session with charcoal. I started them out with quick studies, which are unbelievably challenging to many kids, particularly 4th graders – there’s a real drive to work super slowly, small and detailed, barely looking at the subject.

We also explored the material – charcoal is pretty fantastic stuff when it comes to range in line quality, tone and texture, as well as its ability to end up absolutely everywhere.

charcoals

We also touched on the concept of negative space – just trying to explore different ways of looking at what we’re drawing. Check out this terrific chair study:

E's chair

Pretty great, eh? I’m still figuring out the balance between instruction and freedom – too teachy and it’s overbearing, but I know from experience that too open-ended and it’s chaotic. I think it might come down to a brief time where I lay out a basic concept or two, and then we all work away together.

Here’s the thing: I think there’s something to be said for kids and adults engaging in art together. Not just kids being taught or watched by adults, but observing, working, exploring side by side. Making art (or music, or dance, or poetry…) can be a risky business, and I think it’s exciting to take those chances together.

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Friends and Food

Posted by laura on Jan 12 2010 | Holiday, Tasty

I took a few photos of our refrigerator yesterday. I’m not normally compelled to document the major appliances in my life, but here’s a quick look at what came over me:

fridge

We love all the holiday cards and photos that we get from our family and our friends, and they usually end up stuck all over the house in a happy jumble. This year I decided that I wanted to have that happy jumble right where I’d see it all the time, so as the cards arrived we popped them up on the fridge. Of course, we still ended up with other cards on our bulletin board and on the desk, but I just love seeing as many as possible all grouped together. It reminds me of the wall of photos that Mum always kept over the desk in our kitchen. It was a magnet and a talking point. It’s wonderful to have all these friends looking out at us as we go about the day.

Here’s something else I’m excited about. I finally got a new beater for my trusty kitchenaid mixer! The original one was just a bit tired.newbeaters

I haven’t put the new one to work yet, but it won’t be long. In other cooking news, I tried out a new method for baking dinner rolls.

breadrolls

This one’s from the King Arthur cookbook – it’s the basic hearth bread (although I made a honey wheat version for a bit more nutritional punch), which you let rise a couple of times and then bake in muffin tins. I used a tray of ice cubes on the bottom oven rack for steam to give a nice crunchy shell to the rolls. Everybody liked them, but I still think I like the traditional roll shape more – I think I’ll go back to that next time. I also tried a cheese cracker recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Are you reading that blog? If not, just go – get out of here! Terrific writing, beautiful recipes, and gorgeous photos. What are you still doing here?

crackers

Now I’m embarrassed to even show you this photo of my crackers, because just wait till you see the ones over at Smitten Kitchen. Well, you might laugh at these just a little bit, then. It’s ok, I’m laughing too. I’m laughing with my mouth full of these amazing, insanely delicious crackers. You should make them too.

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HESS

Posted by laura on Jan 09 2010 | Awesome, Fun

hess1

Our Beautiful Aunt Mary and Uncle Dick gave Hot Wheels a new HESS race car for Christmas. It’s actually better than a race car, if that’s even possible. It’s a race car with a smaller race car inside it. A nested race car. He has been spending many a happy hour since, getting the race cars acquainted with the truck that he received last year. It’s going so well, they’re already on to stunts. They’ve perfected a moving transfer of the smaller race car from truck to big race car. It rocks.

Thank you, Dick and Mary!!!!

hess3hess2hess4

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The Way it Should Be

Posted by laura on Jan 08 2010 | Tasty

cocoa

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Random Holiday Notes

Posted by laura on Jan 07 2010 | Holiday, Making, Uncategorized

gingerbread-houses

Christmas Eve gingerbread house construction at Sherri and Rik’s house

There’s something about all those small bowls filled with twisted red vines, ruby red hots, sparkling sugar gumdrops… it’s a story, a fairy tale. We had such a beautiful Christmas Eve, warm and bright, with amazing friends.

christmas-boats

Holiday boats

Every December, we make sure we take a night drive to look at the holiday lights. It’s particularly fun when you live near water.

marshmallows1

Marshmallows

Don’t believe me?

marshmallows2

Yup, homemade! Right until about a month ago, I never even imagined that you could just up and make marshmallows. Here’s a confession – I don’t even like marshmallows all that much. The taste, that is. I’m nuts about their shape and powdery softness – they’re gorgeous. But the only way I can eat them is perfectly toasted and squashed between graham crackers and chocolate. (You could probably make just about anything taste good with that method.) These were really fun to make, though, and the kids ate them for me so that was a win-win.

santa-bags

Santa Bags

It wouldn’t be a proper Christmas without one crazy 11th hour project on my part. This year, it was making bags to leave out for Santa (we’re all about saving Santa some time on a busy night). So there I was, two nights before Christmas, whipping up random bags out of old shirts, pajamas, dresses, you name it. The good news? They’re super fast to make, they work, and Christmas morning cleanup is a snap!

christmas-morning

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Happy New Year!

Posted by laura on Jan 06 2010 | Holiday, Tasty, Uncategorized

Resolution #1: Stop ignoring blog.

Holidays are the best and worst times to have a blog. They’re overflowing with all the kinds of activities I like most, which means I have plenty to talk about but no time in which to say it. We were a whirlwind of seasonal festivities. My lists had lists.

Now that the wrapping paper has settled a bit, I’ll put up a few posts with highlights and nonsense from the past couple of weeks.

CHRISTMAS COOKIES

Say no more, right?

double-chocolate

Double chocolates (some with sea salt for an extra bit of happiness).

gingersnaps

Gingersnaps

ginger-trees

Ginger trees (Hot Wheels helped me ice these with white icing and sparkling sugar to look like they had snow on them, and then we stood them all over a chocolate cake with white frosting sprinkled with coconut to make a woodsy scene. Lesson learned: ginger and chocolate? YUM.)

cutting-cookies

Christmas cookies in process.

christmas-cookies

Christmas cookies in action. And upside down. And on a plate. And in a house. This is fast becoming the Dr Seuss cookie edition.

Absent on photo day:

- massive chocolate chips

- meringues

Let me tell you a quick story about those meringues, actually. They were my Christmas Miracle Cookies. (You’d think if they were that significant, I’d have gotten a photo of them, but no.) I’ve been having bad meringue karma around here. For years, I made them without a thought. Just whipped them up when necessary and never had a problem. Lately, I haven’t been able to make them work; I’ve been cursed by the sticky meringue gods and every attempt has been a flop. Or a glop, if you were to try them.

So when I found myself the night before Christmas Eve with three egg whites and no plan for them, I thought, “Don’t do it, Laura. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.” But it was Christmas, by gum, and I was armed with my new Baker’s Illustrated cookbook. I followed the instructions to a T. The meringues actually held their form while I attempted to shape them into little trees (for the aforementioned cake tableau). I baked them super slow, and didn’t open the oven until it had been off for about 5 hours. I tasted them… sticky. Rrrgh. I went to bed Scroogily.

The next morning I complained to Tom that yet again, I messed up the meringue and didn’t know how. “Where are they?” he asked. “In the oven. I’m not talking to them.” Tom pulled them out. “They look good!” he said hopefully. “That’s what they want you to think.” I grumbled. He snapped one in half.

He snapped one in half. It snapped!! It was dry, and light, and just right – cue the choir, people, we have liftoff! What’s Christmas without a (albeit very very small) miracle?

Here’s a shot of the table from our Christmas Day open house:

christmas-table

Holy potato chips, Batman! That’s a big bowl. I didn’t realize how huge it looked. Of course, they were gone in a heartbeat, leaving that poor glass jar of celery and carrots to wonder if they’d every be asked to dance. Seriously, though, I don’t know why I ever bother with celery. Does anyone eat it? We put it out just to feel noble, I think.

What you can’t see, on the very edge of the table, is the ricotta pie. Oh yes, I did it, and it isn’t even Easter! (For those of you who’ve never heard about Lena’s Ricotta Pie, you can check it out here.) We never used to get this treat on a non-Easter day, but I broke that tradition wide open, I tell ya. A couple of our guests asked me what was in “the giant pop tart,” which momentarily offended my childhood sensibilities, but then I was forced to admit the resemblance. Poor pie.

I hope you also had a wonderful holiday filled with sweets and relaxation. Hmmm, that said, it looks like celery might just have its day, after all!

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