Av and I got a Maroon Pack of cheeses from MSU this week!
Inside is a wheel of vallagret, an edam "cannon ball", a cheddar block, and a stone crock of cheddar spread. We tried a little tiny bit of each of the cheeses. The edam is a little nutty, the cheddar is a really nice cheddar, the vallagret (which I've never had before) tastes like a cousin of Swiss, and the cheddar spread makes a nice meltable dip. They were all really good.
Besides Mississippi State making cheese, they also sell ice cream, muscadine juice, peanuts, and peanut butter. I know Clemson makes a blue cheese...I wonder what other schools make products like these...
Today I'm realizing that I should have put what year the trip was that I wrote about yesterday! Loxie had her babies in December of 2000. But first, here's the proud daddy, Bagel (who is half dachshund and half Black Lab. yes.):
...and here is the super-proud mommy, Lox, who is 100% (registered) dachshund:
Doesn't she have a pretty face? I think it looks like she's got a big smile in this pic:
...and here is Tsimmes now! Tsimmy was the only puppy that we kept of the litter (I worked at the time with a company that had over a hundred employees, so Av and I were lucky enough to have lots of people wanting to adopt our sweeties):
Isn't he just a cutie!?
Av and I went with Suzanne, Darlene, and Bibby tonight to see:
...and it was wonderful! The father was played by Tom Bosley ('Happy Days') and the mother was played by Michael Learned (Olivia, on 'The Waltons'). It was a really nice production - we had great seats, too! - and of course the best part was enjoying it with our friends.
I would really like to go back to NYC some time and see 'The Color Purple' and Av would like to see 'Spamalot'. The last time we were in New York, we went a day or two before we were supposed to leave from JFK for a trip to Israel, so we'd have just a little time for Av to show me some of Manhattan. We had a lovely supper at Ben Benson's, which is his daddy's favorite place for steaks, and went to Broadway, to the Minskoff Theatre to see Saturday Night Fever being performed (I loved that movie when I was little!). I would have loved to have splurged and stay at the Ritz-Carlton or the St. Regis or..., but we decided that since it was just one night that we would save a little money and stay at the Best Western Hospitality House (which was the first time either of us had paid over $300/night for a hotel). It was okay - the best part about it was its central location, so we walked everywhere and went to galleries and a *real* deli, visited the giant Sephora shop by Times Square, saw the ice rink at Rockefeller Square, and all sorts of other things.
The really neat thing about that trip was that when we got off the plane at home, we got a phone call that our dog Lox was in labor (we kept Bagel and Lox at the vet while we were gone) - I rushed to the vet's office where they were giving her a c-section, and I got to see them take the little sweet puppies out of Loxie's tummy!
Six sweet puppies!
This is a pic from my visit to Black Belt Treasures in March of this year - today, they were on the front cover of the Bham News in a really nice article about how they're doing, and how they're trying to get more people to visit their website (because...I guess for one thing, it's lovely to drive out to Camden to shop, but on the other hand, it's a bit far out for a lot of people).
One of the things that really surprised me was that the article mentioned that it made $177,000 in its first year and paid $138,000 of that back to its artists. Most of the time, galleries have a 50/50 or 40/60 share with their artists, but by those figures, Black Belt Treasures is giving their artists a 78% share of the selling cost of their items!
I am still loving what we got there, including a wisteria piece that I'm using as a place for books - and they have more wisteria and split oak baskets on their website. There are some Charlie Lucas pieces, too. There's a ton that's not on the website, and I'd really-really-really like to get back there -and- to the Rural Heritage Center in Thomaston (they have all kinds of items by Alabama artists there, too - like Jerry Brown pottery and pine needle baskets and quilts and music boxes) before the holidays!
(this is the Alabama Rural Heritage Center in Thomaston)
At the last knitting group, I started this scarf - it's Karabella Cosmos that I got half-off at Serendipity Needleworks in Tuscaloosa! I really like this yarn, because with all it has going on (shiny, eyelash yarn plus little fabric flags) it can be knit by itself and look great...whereas I usually knit *at least* two different things together when I make a scarf. I'm knitting this one on size 17 needles.
This is a pic of the detail:
...AND, last night, Leslie brought me a scarf she made for me (along with some yummy fried turkey and other goodies!) - this is two different yarns knit together - the solid green is Feza in Fiesta #323 and the pink & green is Crystal Palace in Popcorn #432. She knit this on size 13 needles. I **love** pink and green so this is perfect, plus all the different-length fringe she made makes it even more fun!! Thanks Leslie!! Mwah!
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving - we sure did!
We always have Thanksgiving at Av's mom & dad's house, and I always get to make the desserts. This year, I made the hot fudge pie I made last year, and that was a *huge* hit. I made a pecan pie, and one of my favorite treats - strawberry pretzel salad. I think I've been making strawberry pretzel salad since high school, but there are a lot of people who have never heard of it before. Even though it's called a "salad," it's really a dessert. For anybody that likes the combination of salty and sweet, it's really, really good.
1 regular bag of pretzels (I think they are 9 ozs)
3/4 c. melted butter
3 tbsp sugar plus 3/4 cup sugar
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
1 container (8 oz) Cool Whip
2 3-oz boxes of strawberry Jell-o
2 cups boiling water
frozen strawberries - you can use one bag or container, or two if you're wild about them!
First, take the container of pretzels and crush them until they make nice, small pieces (you can hit them with a rolling pin, or just whatever!). Combine the pretzels with the 3 tbsp sugar, and all the melted butter into a large bowl. Mix well, then spread into a 9x13 pan (I love to use my pretty green Fire King pan, and it's 8x8 I think, so I have a bit of the pretzel mix left over). Place the pan in a 400* oven for 8-9 minutes. Take it out and let the pretzel mixture cool.
While the pretzels are cooling, I add the cream cheese, Cool Whip, and the 3/4 cup sugar to my KitchenAid bowl. I had that mix until it was completely lump-free.
Once the pretzels are room-temperature, take a spatula and cover that layer with the cream cheese layer. The trick here is to get the cream cheese layer to be solid - that is, when you pour the jell-o over this later, you want to make sure there are no tiny spaces in the sides of the pan where the jell-o can seep into the bottom layer (which is disappointing later, because the pretzels get soggy!). Once this layer is spread out well, I put the pan into the refrigerator.
Next, I boil the 2 cups of water in a tea kettle, and add it to the 2 packages of jell-o, in a large bowl. That needs to be stirred for a couple of minutes so that all the jell-o is dissolved. After about 20 minutes of resting time, I add my frozen strawberries. Almost instantly, the jell-o starts looking like it will be setting soon.
I take a soup ladle and spread the strawberry mixture all over the top of the pan.
After just an hour or two in the refrigerator, it's set (but I always make this the night before just in case...):
Wishing you and your family a very happy and sweet Thanksgiving
(These are pics of the paperwhites that I started back on October 13th!)
I'm not sure what, why, or really exactly when, but Project Alabama has closed. I got an email today that Natalie Chanin, PA's founder, is starting something new called Alabama Chanin. The email describes the new project as:
"limited edition clothing and jewelry, February 2007 - NYC...a book featuring projects, sewing tips and tales from the stitching front...a line of home furnishings and textiles."
The old PA website isn't really working (just a front page now) and doing a quick search, the only mention I found was in Atlanta's Creative Loafing, saying in an article dated 11.01.06 "...such as the ones made by Project Alabama (which closed shop just before the show's opening)."
I wish Natalie the best of luck...and hope the seamstresses that worked on PA are doing well or can retain their jobs with her somehow if they like. What Natalie did with PA - showing at NY Fashion Week and extolling the virtues of domestic (Alabama) hand-sewing everywhere - was so good...for everybody. Hopefully Alabama Chanin will be something even more exciting and successful!
Guess what!!?? Mastercard contacted me, and I just signed a contract to allow them use of my picture of an Acme Oyster House po boy for a promotion they're doing with Peyton Manning! It turns out, a po boy from Acme is Peyton's favorite thing to eat...so Mastercard is going to use it on their priceless.com website! They're supposed to send me the link when the spot they're using it for is complete, so I will let everyone know!
I've also been contacted by a music company about using one of my juke joint pics for the cover of a blues CD they're issuing next year! How neat is that?! Yay!
I think the Alabama Shakespeare Festival started when I was in middle or high school, and I remember us going on field trips to Montgomery to see Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet, and Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill.
Seeing these shows, along with "Shakespeare Made Easy" books (where the left-hand side of the page is in Shakespearean English and the right-hand side is a translation in modern English) are probably the only ways I ever was able to really 'get' Shakespeare!
One of the great things about the ASF is that while they do fantastic productions of Shakespeare, they don't do Shakespeare plays exclusively. Since high school, I've been back several times...my favorite was when we went about four years ago to see The Last Night of Ballyhoo by Alfred Uhry. This year, Av and I are season ticket holders, and I am really looking forward to Disney's Beauty and the Beast (which we're going to see this coming weekend!), James and the Giant Peach, Death of a Salesman, and most of all...Gee's Bend!! Yes!!
Gee's Bend is being performed from January 19 - February 11th, and the ASF website describes it this way:
The first reading of Gee's Bend at ASF's 2006 Southern Writers' Project played to a packed house and rousing standing ovation. This epic but intimate tale spanning 50 years of the 20th century follows the lives of Sadie Pettway and the women of Gee's Bend, Alabama who create magnificent quilts, and while doing so, sing hauntingly beautiful gospel melodies. As the decades pass, Sadie endures an abusive marriage, racial indignities and the hardships of the working poor to emerge as a great artist and greatly admired human being.I can't wait!
Another thing that I think will be lots of fun is what the ASF calls their "Armchair Auction" - it's January 28th, and they sell props and other items that were used in the productions (see at the bottom of this page)!
I had to run into Target for a minute the other day, and saw these beautiful lace paper cutouts (which I think are really Tyvek) and knew right away that Target had collaborated with Tord Boontje (who I love for his blossom chandelier and garland lights, like at Moss) for the holidays.
When I got home, I looked it up, and Tord actually did a whole line, called "Studio Tord Boontje for Target". On his website, he says:
We are pleased to announce this collaboration with Target for Christmas 2006, our largest scale project to date.
The collaboration includes 35 products including tableware, party decorations, consumables and Christmas decorations, all as Studio Tord Boontje for Target.
Further we have designed the Christmas store environment for all 1,500 stores, packaging design and art-direction for all communication, including catalogues and 5 TV commercials.
Products will be available from 2 November until just after New Year in all Target stores. Limited time only.
On the Target website, they only show tableware, but they must be continuing to introduce more of the line, because Tord's website shows (and mentions) not only the tableware but the decorations, etc...including a beautiful white garland, which I am definitely going to get for my Christmas-celebrating friends!
We went back to Target last night to see if our local store had the Studio line in stock, and they had the dinnerware...
I bought a tray (it's plastic, so it will be perfect for outdoor get-togethers), a set of four supper plates and a set of four dessert plates, and four glasses.
We have been watching the *very best* movies on Netflix lately...last week we saw:
Sketches of Frank Gehry, which was really good. I had wanted to know more about his creativity, and how he models the first versions of his designs (lovely metallic-colored stiff paper). Gehry designed the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum in Biloxi which is dedicated to the pottery of George Ohr...I can't wait until it is completed (it got LOTS of damage during Katrina, when it was being constructed). There's a pic of Gehry's design for the museum here.
We also watched The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a documentary about an artist and incredible music-writer and performer. It's sad (he suffers from mental illness) and happy and wonderful and absolutely amazing.
Over the weekend, we watched The Highwaymen: Florida's Outsider Artists which is a documentary about a group of artists from Ft. Pierce who, under the leadership of Alfred Hare, were taught to make art - in other words, I got the sense that these were people who were recruited to learn to make art - they didn't start out as artists. Together, the group painted tens of thousands of paintings which they sold individually at office buildings and out of their cars, etc. The art they produced isn't highbrow, and it originally sold for something like $35, but there's a renewed interest in it now, and it's going for hundreds and thousands of dollars (like here on eBay). I thought the movie was good, but just for myself, I wouldn't categorize this group as "outsider artists".
On Sunday, I watched The Natural History of the Chicken, which was an hour-long documentary by PBS. It was so great (really!)!
For a very long time now, I have wanted to have a very small group of little, sweet bantam hens in the backyard (bantams are the small, almost novelty-version of regular chickens, and since they're hens, they're quiet and of course lay pretty little eggs!). I think I really got serious about learning more about them when Martha Stewart started featuring her Araucana hens in her magazine (there's an article here on her website about her chicken coop) several years ago. The Araucana hens are the ones who lay those beautiful colored eggs - they're called the "Easter Egg chickens"!
The documentary very briefly (and very non-preachy) touched on hens that are being raised for production egg-laying, and the environment they live in. I won't go into it here, but it was heartbreaking!
When I was in high school, I was a vegetarian my Senior year, and my term paper was on vegetarianism (I was an octo-lacto vegetarian, meaning I didn't eat meat but still would have eggs and milk). I stopped being a vegetarian sometime during my first or second year of college, but it was a good experience for me, I think. This documentary sort-of 'hit on' those memories of my research on how production animals are treated, and I promised myself right then that I will not buy another egg grown in those conditions.
The thing that makes this even easier for me is that my neighborhood grocery store (which is very small and is geared more towards upscale, specialty, and organic foods) carries free-range, organically-raised eggs. The organic farm that we receive a box of fruit and vegetables from each week also supplies us with a dozen of their eggs most weeks, too. I guess I probably haven't bought a dozen eggs from a "regular" grocery store in a long time - but I'm making the intention that I will not buy anything other than eggs from happy little free-range, organic hens from now on.
In the October issue of Body + Soul Magazine (another Martha magazine), they mention a website called eatwellguide.org, and that website is great because you can put in your zip code and search within a certain number of miles from your home for suppliers and growers of sustainably-raised milk, eggs, and meat. Chances are, if you're interested in this kind of thing too, you can find something not too far from where you live.
Av and I are on the cusp of making a commitment to only buying organic, free-range meat so I've been doing a lot of research on this subject lately (more on that, probably, later). We've already switched over to drinking milk exclusively from Wright Dairy in Alexandria because they're local and they don't use growth hormones...and we've been out to their farm often and seen their cows - they're not kept in big pens - they're out in the sunshine munching on grass. The milk is pasteurized but not homogenized - so it tastes like "real milk" too. Yum!
Next on our Netflix queue is Martha Stewart Holidays: Thanksgiving, and The Muppets Take Manhattan. Can you believe Av has never seen it??
Everyday Food has a special "Collectible Cookie Edition" issue out right now, which doesn't come as part of the regular subscription. It's got recipes for 51 different cookies (and bars) inside, and all of them look really good!
Last night, I made the recipe for 'Butter Pecan Cookies' which is #12 on their list. Av thought they were really good - not AMAZING, but really good (he's the authority on cookies. He likes anything chocolate, and cookies).
The recipe for the butter pecan cookies is on the Everyday Food website, here.
Here's how I made them (very slightly different).
Ingredients (this makes 12 cookies):
1 cup pecans (toasted for 5-6 minutes at 350*), then chopped into fine bits and larger pieces
1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar plus enough to roll the dough pieces in later
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
good dash of salt
1 c. flour (I like White Lily)
Once the pecans were toasted (halves placed on a parchment-covered baking sheet, in the oven for 5-6 minutes at 350*), I processed them in a small chopper until there were both fine bits and larger pieces. I like it that way so that there are tiny pieces of pecans throughout the cookie plus bigger pieces to bite into.
In the KitchenAid, I beat together the butter and sugar until it was light in color and consistency (about a minute or so), then added the vanilla, salt, and flour (added slowly).
Once it all comes together, place in a bowl, then pinch off enough for each round so that you'll be making 12 cookies.
Place each round in a little bowl with some sugar at the bottom and roll around gently:
Place the rounds on a parchment-covered cookie sheet, spaced well apart (although these really don't spread out much so you could crowd them a bit more than I did here). Make sure that if you decide to use the same cookie sheet you used to toast the pecans that the cookie sheet is 100% cooled off first (otherwise, you're really cooking and melting the dough at a different temp than the 350* oven you'll be putting it in).
After 15-18 minutes, they're done!
I took my camera over to my friend Suzanne's home and took some pictures of her *amazing* pottery.
She makes these planters that look like woodpiles:
...and all kinds of vases and sculpture pieces:
Are you wondering, like me, why the heck she hasn't shown her work to galleries???
She makes these small swatches to see how different textures and glazes will come out of the kiln. Wouldn't these be great on necklaces, or cutting them differently so that they would fit around household switches and outlets?
I am crazy about everything she makes...so talented!
A couple of years ago, I volunteered to do the welcome bags for a convention, and decided to make little souveniers to put in each bag. I took a bottlecap, printed out a little logo for the convention, glued that on, decorated around the edges, poured clear resin on top to seal it and make it nice and shiny:
I hot-glued a magnet on the back and put it in a little mesh packet with pretty ribbon, and everybody loved them!
I've made these pretty often with different designs - the other day, I found Hello Kitty scrapbook paper at one of the craft shops, and decided to make some with those. I've also got Elvis, Ernie from Sesame Street, and others on my refrigerator!
All it takes is paper (either scrapbook paper with a pretty design, or a magazine cutout, or something you design and print...), bottlecaps, a hole-punch (I use 1/2" diameter because that gives plenty of room for the decoration around the edges), Sobo glue (or any other good glue that dries clear), glitter and other little decorations like tiny beads and sequins, EnviroTex Lite, a disposable cup and stirrer for the EnviroTex Lite, and hot glue & magnets or thumbtacks:
I cut out the paper, then take the Sobo glue and glue the circles to the bottom of the underside of the bottlecap and let that dry overnight:
The next day, I got out all my glitter and tiny beads and sequins:
I draw a circle around the inside of each of the caps with my glitter glue, then I push in little tiny sequins or beads or just whatever! I love the little pink hearts on these Hello Kitty ones!
I let the glue glitter dry (usually overnight again), then I take a disposable cup and fork and mix together the EnviroTex Lite. It's a half-and-half solution between the hardener and the resin that come in the box:
I just pour the Envirotex over the design on the bottlecap (not all the way to the top, but just enough to cover the glitter and everything). When you pour the resin in the bottlecap, you'll be able to see little tiny air bubbles. The way to make those pop is just to blow on them - hard! It works perfectly.
After about three-four days, they're dry (Envirotex says they'll try in a couple of days but I guess because of the high humidity here, I've never had them dry in less than three or four, sometimes five days)! I just hot-glue a magnet or a thumbtack to the back, and they're ready!
One of the things about watching shows like Martha is that for *weeks already* she has been talking about the cooler weather and the Fall colors up north. It's so wonderful to finally have the daytime temperatures drop into the 70s here!
Last week, I noticed that all the beautiful Autumn colors are really showing! The trees in our front yard are turning all different colors of gold and rust...
I love crunching through them in the yard and the driveway...
It rained earlier this week and that made even more leaves come down. These leaves were bunched up at the end of our street from our neighbors' trees: