Monday, December 20, 2010

That crazy, busy festive time of year

Whew! Big sigh. This weekend was my last craft show of the season — the MittenMade Holiday Craft Show at the Blue House Ann Arbor. I was thankful that it was close to home and so happy to see so many familiar faces. It felt like the bestest ever holiday party! 
I'm sorry I never did get to that soup recipe I mentioned last  week — it's a delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup from the Common Grill cookbook, but I just ran out of time. And now it will have to wait until at least next week, if not the new year. … I'm slowly climbing out of the pit that my office has become and will be back more regularly in the new year when things quiet down a little and leave me time for some serious cooking! The photo above is the current state of my work space. In the midst of all these shows and making, I got the new table seen above — over 9-feet long — that is crammed in the middle of everything. I haven't had time to clear out my old desk to make room, so it just went in the middle of it all and got piled on. So digging out isn't really even an exaggeration. Ah well… I'm very excited for the new huge work surface and it will all fall into place soon enough. 

I will try to post one more time this week before we head south to North Carolina for Christmas — thinking of you all and hope you're enjoying your holiday preparations!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Now I Can Say I Tried It: Persimmons

We're coming to the end of persimmon season — September through December, peaking in November — and I wanted to try one before it's too late. As the title of this post suggests, this was my first time tasting the brightly colored fruit. My association with persimmons is more from Japanese art than from flavor and I wanted to change that. I picked up two varieties at the co-op: Hachiya and Fuyu. 

The Hachiya is slightly acorn shaped and is best eaten when it is very ripe. Until it is fully ripened, it has an extremely bitter, astringent flavor. Once it is ripe, that bitterness has mellowed to a strong sweet flavor with a little bit of spice. You cut it in half and remove the core. The flesh can then be scooped out with a spoon. I really liked this texture and flavor.

The Fuyu is shaped more like a squat tomato than the Hachiya and has a crisper texture. It is slightly smaller and sweeter, too. I cut this one up into slices like an apple to eat it. I think next time I would remove the skin as it was a bit harder than I would like. Overall, I preferred the Hachiya.

For those of you newer readers, this is a bog feature that shows up every now and again. You can read about my experiences trying new foods like lychees, Ugli fruit, kumquats, and pea shoots.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cleveland Bazaar Bizarre Recap and Treats

Hello! After a busy weekend in Cleveland for the Bazaar Bizarre, I got to spend an extra night in the hotel with the snow and wind blustering outside. I'm slowly catching up this week and am finally here with an update… The show was a great collection of vendors and I spent Sunday night spreading my purchases around me on the bed in the hotel and soaking in their goodness. Here's a look:
This one is the absolute highlight. Nope, not a gift. This one is all for me. It's a beautiful silkscreen from the extremely talented duo that is The Bubble Process. I took several trips over to their display to ooh and aah and try to narrow down my purchasing choice. I truly wanted all of them. The color choices are magnificent and I just adore the quality of drawing and line work. I encourage you to have a look at their web site. Gorgeous work. Sigh…
The makers of this lovely bracelet were my neighbors at the show, Lew and Melissa of Whimsical Wonders out of Pittsburgh. They specialize in repurposing silver-plated silverware and simply could not be a nicer pair of folks. Isn't it fun?
One of my other table neighbors, Lindsay Knits, turned me on to this Cleveland-based chocolate company, Lilly. One word: addictive. This chocolate is so good. I can't make that clear enough. The ones I bought have bits of toffee in them and sea salt. Buy some. Now. 
And, of course, some super fun beer tags from my fellow Michigan road trippers, Perfect Laughter. Yay! 
 This sweet crabby crab mug from the sweet, smart Rough and Perfect
And, my parting shot… when I downloaded my photos today, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the one snap I took across the room (darn me, for not taking more!) includes a glimpse of Valerie Mayen of Project Runway fame. She was selling her Yellowcake wares just across the aisle from me. Fun! 

This barely touches on the level of talent at this show. Have a look through the vendor list for more, including some of my other favorites: Hero Design Studio, Holly Hue, Oddball Press, Grey Cardigan and Cleo Dee's.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Great Mittening of Ann Arbor 2010

There's some mittening going on around town. These sweet felt cutouts are sprinkled around Ann Arbor in the hopes of catching your eye for the upcoming MittenMade Holiday Craft Show at Blue House featuring artists and crafters from this great Mitten State. Saturday, December 18, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Save the date for all your last-minute holiday shopping needs!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Grandma's Coconut Icebox Cookies

These are the cookies I remember my grandma baking. I'm sure there were others, but these are the ones that stand out.  She was a world-class pie baker, but — sacrilege — I always preferred a good cookie over pie. These fit the bill perfectly and the recipe is incredibly easy. The hardest part may be finding canned coconut — and if you can't find it, no big deal. You can substitute the flaked, bagged kind. It has a bit less moisture content than canned, but will work fine. If you find the dough is just too dry to hold together, you can add just a small splash of coconut milk. 
Coconut Icebox Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies.

2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 4oz can of coconut, unsweetened
1 tsp vanilla
Generous pinch of salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Combine all the ingredients except powdered sugar and mix well. Divide dough in two equal parts. It will be quite crumbly and dry but as you press it together the butter will bind it together. Press and roll into two 2" diameter logs using wax paper as an aid in rolling. Wrap well in the waxed paper and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight. 
Preheat oven to 300ºF. Cut dough with a sharp knife into 1/4-inch slices and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges are just starting to brown. Remove to cooling rack. Place powdered sugar in bowl. Coat cookies in sugar while still warm — the powdered sugar won't stick if the cookies are cool, so roll them in it when they are just cool enough to handle.
These cookies just keep getting better over the next couple of days, so they can be prepared in advance. (Though I just had one warm from the oven and it was scrumptious!)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Detroit Urban Craft Fair 5

Whew! I'm still recovering from an amazing weekend at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair — what a fantastic experience with so many enthusiastic shoppers and such a supportive, warm environment. I got to see some of my favorite crafters and all-around awesome folks. Not to mention, the venue — the Fillmore Theater — was spectacular. I'm sad I didn't get a photo of the marquee with the DUCF in lights, but you can have a glimpse over on Bethany Louise's recap.
I remember coming to the DUCF at the Fillmore two years ago as a shopper. I had only been in Michigan for a few months and pretty much knew no one other than the boy. I borrowed his truck and drove into Detroit for my first time ever. There were snow flurries in the air and I incredibly was excited and thrilled to be attending a crafty event. 
I was immediately bowled over by the level and diversity of craft on display. I had no idea at the time that I would have the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful creative community. I came away so inspired that just two weeks later I opened an Etsy shop (yesterday was my two-year Etsy-versary!) and started to focus on drawing. I was still looking for a day job and quickly growing frustrated. I found some sense of peace and accomplishment in the drawing. I was also doing an awful lot of knitting and cooking and decided to share a little bit of all of this on this blog. 
So it was all the more exciting to drive up to the Fillmore this year as an active participant and to feel connected to  so many of the wonderful people who make, share and inspire me in so many ways. I feel so lucky to be here and to know all of you — thank you! And a big thank you to all of you lovely blog readers who give me support in more ways than you know!  
And last but not least — a special thank you to Amanda from the Dang Argyle for being my carpool buddy this weekend — you rock! 

I'll be back later in the week with a couple of tasty recipes: I'm thinking cookies and soup, yes? 

Friday, December 03, 2010

2011 Illustrated calendar

Twelve months of illustrated goodness is in the shop now! I'm very excited about this one. I've been wanting to do a calendar for several years now, and finally made 2011 the year. So here it is… printed on bright white linen card stock and secured with kitchen twine (to remind you of me in the kitchen!) 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Handmade ornaments with Blue House

After a busy craft show day Saturday, I was so happy to spend Sunday at the Blue House for an afternoon of festive ornament-making. There was a lovely group of about fifteen people participating, and with warm beverages in our hands and soothing music on the speakers we set to work on a variety of ornaments. They are all quite easy projects that you probably have the materials on hand for at home, many of them taking advantage of recycled/upcycled materials. I didn't try my hand at each, but these pictures are of the ones I made. Above left is a little bird made from bits of felted sweater and button eyes. He even sits on a twig branch, though that is camouflaged in this photo.  You could make these in any shape you want. I plan to make a few stars next.  
Next, is a very simplified ball ornament based on Japanese temari balls. These are usually ribbon and yarn wrapped around a styrofoam ball in very ornate patterns. We simplified the process and simply wrapped wadded up newspaper with yarn and stitched into it. You can adorn them any way you'd like — Siobhan, Blue House's owner, added an appliqued bird to hers. So cute.
Next we made paint chip orbs based on those from ReadyMadeI added some decoration by punching holes all over, and after it was assembled, Siobhan suggested using the ones with holes as shades for Christmas lights — how fun and easy! We used fewer sides in these, but when I got home I tried making one with the full 20 sides and loved how it looks. I used my stack of misprints as material and may have some of these on sale at DUCF this weekend. 
That's the beauty of Blue House — you often come away with new ideas that you can easily recreate at home from recycled materials. I wish I could show you how festive and sweet the decorations are there right now, but my camera went on the fritz that day.  Beyond the ornaments I came away with so many simple yet beautiful ideas I can't wait to try. Really, if you're near you should stop by and be inspired. And if not, keep on coming back here and I will share with you what I see and try!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Flint Handmade

Hello! I spent a great day in Flint this past weekend for the Flint Handmade Holiday Craft Market. Thanks to everyone who made it out — and if you couldn't get there, here's a peak. 
I got to admire a whole crew of monstas all day long with Frankenstitch Productions across the aisle from me. Stephanie is one talented lady with an incredible imagination. We traded and now Jungle Gym Jane and Nelson Sloth have a new home here in Ann Arbor. Aren't they sweet. Jane's head and tail wobble like crazy making her a really fun dancer. 
You might have noticed, too, that new little box to your right. I'm getting all fancy and started a real mailing list. I hope to send updates monthly, including special deals and discounts for subscribers. So give it a shot, join the list. And for those of you in the area, I look forward to seeing you at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair this Saturday and Sunday at the Fillmore!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday/Cyber Monday SALE

Now that the turkey is digested and you've started in on the turkey sandwiches, get in the holiday spirit without facing the mall crowds. Now through midnight on Monday, November 29th, I'm offering free shipping anywhere in the world in my shop on Etsy. Stock up on holiday cards, gift tags, stickers and more! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


When my parents visited in October, they brought with them a huge stash of loot to unload on me. Last year they retired to North Carolina and moved to a smaller house in the process. Leading up to the move — and ever since — I have been benefiting from their constant purging. I thought it would be fun to put together everything they gave me in one place. It all goes together so nicely and reminds me of the house I grew up in. In the back right is the metal kindling box that stood by the fireplace that my brothers and I had to keep filled. The brass kerosene lamp hung over our dining room table. The iron was always a doorstop somewhere in the house. You can see I also hit the mason jar jackpot and a stack of absolutely gorgeous books I really want to read. Included in that pile are the Man in the Iron Mask, The Scarlet Letter and A Tale of Two Cities which has especially gorgeous gold embossed design on its cover and spine. There is also a meat grinder I'm pretty sure my dad thought I would actually use, though it is coated in so much rust, I'm not sure I would ever be comfortable. And, last but not least, a canning jar lifter and old wooden crate for Remington ammunition. Score!

Monday, November 22, 2010

She's a pepper

This weekend was spectacular. I was on the road with Courtney Fischer headed to the Crafty Supermarket in Cincinnati (you can see Courtney's photos here). People were lined up outside the venue — an old school once abandoned, that was saved by the neighborhood — waiting to get in and the crowds were intense. Love the 'nati. And love my hostess. A Southerner at heart, she has a certain kind of hankering for Diet Dr. Pepper that some might call an addiction. I think it's just love. I decided to surprise her with some Diet Dr. Pepper cupcakes. Indeed. 
Dr. Pepper Cupcakes
Makes 24.

1 1/2 c. Dr Pepper Soda (one can)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 stick of salted butter
4 Tb cocoa powder 
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk

In a saucepan, combine Dr. Pepper, oil, butter and cocoa. Heat over medium heat while stirring. When it comes to a simmer, remove from heat. Make sure it is mixed well . 

Add the dry ingredients all at once, but don't over mix. In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk and eggs, and then add it to the rest of the mix. Stir well to combine. 

Fill cupcake liners more than 3/4 full. 

Bake at 350ºF for 13-16 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean (Add about five minutes if you are making a cake).
And then I went with this icing cause it was dang easy:

Chocolate Icing
1/4 cup butter
3 Tb cocoa
1/4 cup Dr. Pepper cola
1 box powdered sugar
Heat over medium heat: butter, Dr. Pepper and cocoa, stirring until well blended. Stir in powdered sugar. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spicy roasted cauliflower

My mother always says that cauliflower tastes better after there's been a hard frost. It's not something I ever questioned — or experimented with to find out. I simply believe her and wait to have it until I'm sure we've had a good number of frosty nights. By now, we certainly have in Michigan and I bought this beautiful head grown just down the road a ways. I pulled out a recipe from Serving up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman, a book I bought when I first joined a vegetable CSA and had started a little backyard garden and was overwhelmed with both the variety of new veggies in my box each week and the quantities of veg I was harvesting. The book is arranged in order of ripening during the harvest season and gives a bit of history of each vegetable, growing tips and then several recipes. 

This is addictive. It becomes somewhat caramelized and is packed with flavor. I dedicate it to my brother, who when asked by his third grade teacher to name his favorite vegetable, replied cauliflower. Yes, that's right. Third grade. Cauliflower.
Roasted Spiced Cauliflower
From Serving Up the Harvest
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head cauliflower (about 3 lbs.), cut into florets
Kosher or coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Lightly grease a large sheet pan (preferred) or large shallow roasting pan with oil. Combine the oil with the garlic salt, curry powder, cumin, cardamon, ginger, cayenne, and black pepper in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the cauliflower and toss to coat. Spread the cauliflower on the prepared pan in a single layer. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the florets are tender-crisp and browned. To serve, mound the florets on a serving platter and sprinkle with the kosher salt to taste. 


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Easy weeknight steak salad

This is such a busy time of year and with all the running around, it's easy to just grab something easy and unhealthy to eat for dinner or to order in. I type that all generic, like "it's easy for one to do such things," when what I really mean, is that's what I've been doing! This week I tried to come up with more of a plan for meals and this was an easy, quick weeknight salad that the boy and I both really enjoyed. I loved the strong flavor of sesame with just a hint of heat from the chili-garlic sauce.

Asian Steak and Mushroom Salad
From Bon Appetit, November 2010
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
4 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic sauce
1/8 teaspoon plus 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 12-ounce rib-eye steaks
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, quartered
8 cups mixed greens

Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil, minced ginger, chili-garlic sauce, and 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil in small bowl. Add cilantro and stir to blend. Set dressing aside.

Rub 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil over each side of each steak. Sprinkle steaks with salt, pepper, and toasted sesame seeds; press firmly to adhere. Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until browned, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer sautéed mushrooms to plate. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil to skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Add steaks; cook to desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to cutting board. Slice steaks. Toss mixed greens with dressing in large bowl; divide greens among plates. Top with steak slices and mushrooms and serve. 

I used strip steaks in a cast iron skillet which works beautifully. They needed to cook for much longer than recommended times above. And please excuse the night time, flash heavy photos — I decided it is better to share a good recipe with you than hold back because the photos are meh.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Small works for Microcosm

Last week I hinted at I project I was working on and today I want to show it to you. I sent off four pieces to be included in the show Microcosm celebrating the one-year anniversary of Fabricate, a store/gallery hybrid space in Cincinnati dedicated to unique art and handmade items. The store recently moved and the show is not only an anniversary celebration, but a grand reopening celebration. The exhibit is dedicated to small pieces — all 4x6 — and here's a look at my entries. 
These two were painted with a glazed acrylic technique that is very difficult to scan, so they look a bit blown out. But I think you get the idea. So if you live in Cincinnati, or are going to be in town next weekend for Crafty Supermarket (Saturday, November 20, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.), I encourage you to stop by the store and check it out! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Exquisite Package

by Julie Morstad
I received an exquisite package in the mail this week — The Exquisite Book that is. And it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Based on the Exquisite Corpse, a surrealist game developed in the 1920s in which a group of people work together to complete a drawing. One person begins a drawing on the top part of a piece of paper. That part of the paper is then turned down so just a very small portion of the drawing sticks out at the bottom. It is then passed on to the next person who continues the drawing, folding over their portion and passing it along again until the paper is filled. We used to play this game as kids. 

This book is a similarly collaborative project with 100 artists participating. Organized by Julia Rothman, Jenny Volvovski and Matt LaMothe, ten artists contributed to each of ten chapters and the book is assembled so that each chapter folds out in a continuous sheet. 

My photos don't do it justice, but that is as it should be because I encourage you to check it out for yourself. The project includes some of my very favorite artists and — even better — almost every image in the book is available to purchase as a print for $60. 

by Nick Dewar
The book is dedicated to Nick Dewar who passed away during the project.