Friday, January 07, 2011

Hello, Friday!

Might I recommend a splurge for this fine, fine snowy weekend? Jolly Pumpkin's Oro de Calabaza, a strong golden ale, unfiltered and aged in oak barrels very close by in Dexter, MI. Mmmmm… happy weekend!!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Vivian Maier: Extraordinary street photographer

Isn't it funny where life leads you? When I first graduated from college, I moved to New York and worked for the Aperture Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to promoting photography. I was primarily interested in its role as a publisher, but quickly found myself fascinated by photography, wanting to learn more. I enrolled in a documentary photography class at Cooper Union focusing on New York at night — it was such fun. I continued to take classes at night and absorb as much info as I could from my talented coworkers. This experience eventually led me back to school (though I eventually changed my focus to illustration). I was reminded of all this last night by a post on Twitter by Nan Lawson. She linked to a video about street photographer Vivian Maier
Have you read about — or seen the work of —Vivian Maier yet? She was an extraordinarily talented street photographer working in Chicago from the 1950s to the 1990s whose work was virtually unknown until recently. A box of her photo negatives was purchased at an auction by a young man in Chicago, John Maloof, in 2007. Over time he realized what a skilled eye the photographer had and sought out — and purchased — as much of her work as he could find: more than 100,000 negatives. He began to research her life and piece together her story — and it is fascinating. Below is a piece that aired on Chicago Tonight that shares more of that story and images:

 The Chicago Cultural Center is hosting an exhibition of her work through April 3. You can help support the making of a documentary about this remarkable photographer — and see more stunning examples of her street photography — over at Kickstarter.
It makes me want to dig out some of those photos I took so long ago. Maybe I'll share a few here next week. It also makes me want to break out the film camera and hit the streets!  I hope you enjoy reading Vivian's story and looking at her photography as much as I do.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

DIY gifts: Screenprinting with stencils

This Christmas I was committed to making many of my gifts by hand. The project I had the most fun with was for my brother Matthew. He lives in a loft-style apartment and has way too many empty walls (despite being extremely loyal to his sister and showing off many of my paintings, both current and dating back to my art school days!) 

I've been drooling over the projects in Lena Corwin's Printing By Hand book for a long time and knew I wanted to try some kind of silkscreen project. She also covers stamping and freezer and contact paper stencils. I had originally pictured doing a set of nine canvases all equal in size to hang in a 3x3 grid. But since I didn't get to this one until the day before we were leaving town, that was a bit ambitious and I made do with what I could find. I picked up some frames from the ReUse Center and then camped out at Blue House for the day so I wouldn't be distracted the computer. It was such fun! I was just kind of winging it with the design and cut stencils by hand. (Since I didn't finish until late, I didn't get a chance to take better photos at home.) 

So, if you're looking for inspiration for a creative project, I would check out this book, or spend a little time at Blue House this year!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Over the holidays, the boy and I met up with his family for a meal at The Common Grill in Chelsea, MI. He and his sisters all worked there at some point in their teens, so it is a bit of a tradition for them to go there for special occasions. I certainly can't object because the menu is fantastic with especially great fish selections. Eating there reminded me of a delicious soup I made from their cookbook last winter. It is perfect for this time of year when we all tend to recommit to eating healthier and packing in more veggies, all while staying cozy and warm. This is soup is loaded with vegetables and the topping truly makes it shine. You may be tempted to skip that step, but it is the thing that makes this recipe really special and only takes about five minutes.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Makes 2 quarts.
1 1/2 Tb olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1/2 large red pepper, diced
1/2 large yellow pepper, diced
1 Poblano chili pepper, diced
1 tsp fresh oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tb kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 28-oz can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
5 cups chicken stock
1 lb. chicken, cooked and diced

6 6" corn tortillas

Cheese Topping
3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tsp cilantro, chopped
2 tsp lemon zest

Heat olive oil over medium heat in heavy pot or dutch oven. Add red onion and cook until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more. Stir in carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Thoroughly mix in peppers, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. 

Stir in tomatoes and chicken stock. Turn up until until just begins to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes. Add diced chicken and continue cooking for 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, cut tortillas into thin strips with scissors. Heat 1 Tb olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute strips until crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to paper towel to drain. 

Prepare cheese topping by combining three ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well. 

Serve soup topped with a sprinkle of the cheese topping and fried tortilla strips.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Look Back at 2010

Like so many of you, in the last week or so I have been reflecting on the year past and thinking about goals for the new year. I just spent the morning reading back through my blog entries from the past year. It's so nice to have this as a record and reminder of the year gone by. One of the funnier things is that on January 1, 2010, I wrote that I was very sorry to not have told you that I would be away from the blog for so long and had expected to post during the holidays, etc, etc… it seems I don't change much, as I wanted to write the same thing today! So I am warning you — and perhaps more importantly, me — that this year, 2011, I won't be posting during the week before Christmas or New Years! While I'm still working out my other goals moving forward, I thought today we could take a look back.

Over the course of 2010, I shared 57 recipes here on the blog. I would like to create a recipe index this year, but in the meantime I thought I would list my ten favorites from 2010 in the order they appeared throughout the year. The bacon, cheddar and chive biscuits were, hands down, the most popular post I made last year — I wonder what it will be this year!


I tried many new flavors in 2010, too, in a feature called "Now I Can  Say I Tried It." Kumquats were my favorite new find and I have been anxiously scouring the grocery these days on the lookout since they are in season now. Perhaps this year I'll expand this feature beyond food and include new activities I would like to try, like cross-country skiing or kayaking by moonlight.

You may have noticed in the right-hand column, the list of books I'm currently reading. My three favorites from 2010 are:

So that's about it for today. Thank you so much for reading along with me. I hope you all had a happy, festive launch into this new year and I look forward to another year of cooking, craft shows and more. I always welcome your comments, suggestions and feedback. Happy New Year, readers!