Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Cure for the Gray Winter Funk

Recently I left the beautiful bay area in order to go to this place:

to see this:

and this:
I had a lovely time snugging my delicious little niece and waiting on my sister hand and foot, the time went by so quickly and then I had to kiss them both goodbye.

When I arrived home I found the German P. (P.=physicist) half dead with the winter funks and a horrible cold. Since I know his eating habits (potato chips+beer+chocolate+wine=dinner) whenever I'm not around I knew that in order to nurse him back to health, I would have to make this on the double and order him to eat half a pot full:

What is that bowl full of deliciousness, you ask? It's my tasty Ginger Chicken Soup, guaranteed to lift that grayish-orange winter funk (or at the very least chip away a little bit of it, I promise).

Winter Funk Banisher Ginger Chicken Soup

the goods:

1 big soup pot worth of chicken or vegetable stock
2 chicken breasts (skinless)
2 small sweet potatoes (I like to mix it up using one white and one orange one), peeled and diced into small chunks
1 small parsnip, peeled and diced
1/2 white onion diced
1/4 head of Napa Cabbage, chopped (I like Napa, it is milder and cooks faster than white cabbage. Chinese cabbage is also okay for this recipe.)
2 good handfuls of spinach
1 carrot, diced
2 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and diced into tiny pieces
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
a bunch of red pepper flakes
a dash of soy sauce (or tamari)
a pinch of sugar
fresh pasta cooked al dente (or any dried pasta cooked and rinsed)

the deal:

1) Saute onion on medium low in a little bit of olive oil in a big soup pot. Add carrots and ginger, and cook for 2 or 3 more minutes.
2) Add stock, dried cilantro, pepper, soy sauce. Bring to a simmer.
3) Add diced sweet potatoes.
4) While soup is simmering, cook noodles. Set aside.
5) In a heavy pan (I like cast iron), heat a little bit of oil till it is pretty hot and brown chicken breasts on both sides, add a little bit of water to pan and cover with a lid. Simmer/steam until chicken is done all the way through. Remove from pan to plate or cutting board and shred with two forks.
6) Add parsnip to pot, simmer for 3-4 minutes.
7) Tear spinach into smaller pieces directly into the pot along with the cabbage, let simmer until cabbage is wilted.
8) Stir in chicken and noodles. Add salt and a tad of sugar to taste.

While you are cooking feel free to adjust the amount of liquid in the pot by adding more stock, or even water. I like to reserve a little bit of the water that I used to cook the pasta to thin the soup. I even added the liquid from the chicken pan when the chicken was done cooking. This would also be a good veggie soup! Just substitute the chicken for a can of white beans (drained and rinsed).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm Very Unhappy with Harbor Freight

Today I spent time in the car (....I've discovered that I don't really like to drive, in fact I despise it!) to get to Harbor Freight in order to buy the item that is pictured above. I am planning on using those pointy things to make these:

So I did some research looking for the nearest location, printed out my directions and with some trepidation set out to drive the 20 miles on 237E and 880N, take the Lowry exit, turn on a street that begins with C and try to find the destination in a crowded strip mall (always a joy!). But I made it, and I found the last box of those beautiful pointy babies in the whole store. I opened the badly battered box to discover that the 1/8 transfer punch was missing. I was disappointed but had come to terms and decided to buy it anyway. Ha ha! Fat chance! They wouldn't sell it to me. So I came away empty handed. Except for these things:

Thank you At&T rebate card!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

This One's for Auntie Kellie

What I Did All Last Week

(excuse the hair. no one but those under the age of 20 look good first thing in the morning.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Beautiful Bodi Baby with Beani! (an alliteration, with still life)

I'm an auntie! And my niece-ette is a deliciously scrumptious piece of babycake! Babycake! I could eat it all day. We are hoping she might have red hair, there isn't much of it but it seems sort of reddish...cross your fingers. My lovely (and also scrumptious) sister looks wonderful despite the sleepless nights, perhaps having a baby isn't so bad afterall....

Bodi-kins is such a little sweetie-peetie in the morning that sometimes Jonna brings her in to wake me up and we commune for a little bit. Is there anything sweeter than communing with a little being that is brand spanking new? I think not.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Black Bean Soup!

But I would just like to share a recipe of my own devising that has now made its way into my sister's kitchen as well as my own as a tasty and quick dinner staple (quick because most of it comes out of a can, fresh substitutes could also be used, of course. It's great to make your own beans from dried, but sooooo time consuming!). It's so nice to have come up with my own recipe and that someday my grandchildren will say: "Do you remember Nana-bean's black bean soup? It sure was tasty". Or something of that sort, hopefully. Of course it could be more like: "Hey Timmy, do you remember that awful sludge that Granny-bean made us eat? I sure am glad she's dead." Who knows?

Nana-bean's Black Bean Soup

the goods:
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 can sweet corn, drained
1/2 can black olives (if you so desire)
1 small can of fire roasted green chilies (if you want, they are not hot and readily available at the grocery store)
2 cups veg or chicken stock
1tsp. cumin (this is just an estimate, could be more, could be less)
1/2tsp. chili powder
1/2tsp dried coriander flakes (aka dried cilantro)
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2tsp. sugar
salt to taste
juice of one small lime (if in doubt, add a little at a time)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

the deal:

1. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a large soup pot. Cook onion over medium heat until slightly translucent. Add chopped garlic and stir until fragrant.
2. Add beans, tomatoes, chilies, and stock to pot. Add spices now and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Feel free to add more stock or water if soup is looking a little too thick.
3. Add corn and olives and simmer to warm through.
4. Turn heat on low and add chopped cilantro and lime juice, season to taste with salt and a tad bit of sugar (trust me! just a little bit of sugar will make everything taste better. I would recommend no more than 1/2tsp.)
5. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and some extra cilantro on top. Great with corn chips or over rice.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Goodwill Renovation Finally Complete!

This is what it looked like when I bought it. This is what it looks like now:

I stripped off the old paint with a citrus paint stripper. It was messy and smelly and I had to use scotch brite to get the most stubborn paint off. Then I did a somewhat desultory job of sanding the surface smooth. A few days later I used a tinted stain to get the nice green color. After that had dried, I used a water based paint to paint the white accents and then covered the whole thing with a satin finish varnish to finish it off. I wish I had thought to take a picture before I covered the thing in books, but I think you can still get the picture. I love it!

My Pug Has a Rough Life

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

sugar high!

I love carving pumpkins! They make me laugh. I carved the first four (Starting at the top middle then going counter clockwise) and Andreas carved the upper far right one. I wish I could have jack-o-lanterns on the porch all year long. It's not cold enough here to even keep them a few weeks. The screaming pumpkin was the first to go, disintegrating into a pile of oozy mush, and then the others started to cave in at the mouth like old people without dentures. Sadly, we had to throw them out this weekend...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hail the Conquering Hero!

doot doot doot doo doo doot doo doo! Nnn nnn nnn nn n n n nnnn nnn!

I'm very excited! Gunter is pretty forlorn, however. His man, McCain lost big time and he's heartbroken. As a values voter, Gunter was holding out hope that Palin would become president. hehehehe!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gunter Gets a Gold Star for Behavior

Exhibit A:

Because the German dislikes dog hair in the bedroom, Gunter is banned even from entering. He takes his banishment quite well, but he still likes to get a good view of the action (as I speak I can hear him lingering in the hallway, snuffling, and waiting for me to get out of bed.), so he sits right in the door way. We don't even have to tell him, he stops and sits there all by himself. A for outstanding!

Monday, October 20, 2008

petit déjeuner sans compagnons

The German, at times, likes to go on climbing trips without me. This gives me the opportunity to have something besides toast for breakfast!

1) Chop up some almonds very fine
2) Cook up a little bit of oatmeal
3) Mix oatmeal, almonds, spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove) with instant pancake mix (krusteaz honey wheat is my favorite) with water until you reach the desired consistency.


4) Top with some thick plain yogurt and raspberry preserves.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gunter's Heroic Battle with a Feather

I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goodwill Bonaza!

I wouldn't normally post twice in as many days, but I just had to write about my Goodwill shopping adventure. I had originally intended to buy a lamp at the Goodwill for the spare bedroom. We have a friend coming that will be staying with us for about a month and I wanted to be sure that the room was comfortable for him. I hate it when there are no smaller lamps to light a room. Overhead lighting at night is so depressing. But I didn't manage to find a lamp there...I bought that later at Target. But I did find these:

Wonderful blue Ball jars with glass lids that are held secure by wire, a nice ceramic jar with a lid (which is now in our fridge, protecting our extensive collection of cheese. My man loves his cheese!), and a lovely serving platter.

When I first saw this platter, it was piled under a bunch of other junk and it was not shiny. It was black and horrible, with strange yellow streaks under the glass dishes. But I dug it out from under the other stuff, and looked on the bottom, and sure enough there was a little blue enamel tag in the center that said: "Kent Silversmiths, Fine Silversmithing since 1875". Of course it's not that old, but it is silver! I brought it home and polished it up and it turned out beautiful.

Now what, you might be asking, is all of this stuff sitting on? What might that cute little table look like? And is it new?

It is new! Or, rather, it's new to me! I walked into the store and this was the first thing I saw. It's solid wood with a cream colored paint that has seen better days, the drawer needs to to be glued and there is a hunk of wood missing from the bottom shelf (you can't really see it at all), but it is lovely! And solid and the trim is in gold paint! I want to strip this old paint off and repaint it, but I'm not sure what colors I should use. Fire engine red with white trim? Ocean blue with yellow trim? Yellow with blue trim? Beige with black trim? White with silver trim? The possibilities are endless! But I can't decide. Suggestions would be much appreciated. I plan on using it (actually, I am using it already) as my bedside table. I'm in looooooove with this little table.

Monday, October 13, 2008


“Insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result… We can’t

solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

--Albert Einstein

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Wonderful World of Etsy

Sometimes I get tired of big commercial stores telling me what to buy. I get tired of buying stuff that was made in China. I want to buy things that are made by an actual person! I want to return to the days when things were made by hand and when you bought something you knew the person you were buying from. I want to support an actual individual with my purchase, not line the pockets of shareholders, while the workers get paid minimum wage. And I finally found a place where I can do that! At least for some stuff. I'm sure some of you out there have already heard of Etsy, but I'm a relative newcomer to this wonderful world of handmade goodness. I can't say enough good stuff about this place. It really gives me the feeling of an alternate world, one where a person with a steaming mug of spiced cider can wander around a big marketplace, perusing little market stands filled with creative beautiful items. It's really special...I know I sound a little cheesy right now, but it's so inspiring to see people making beautiful, unique things. It's comforting to know that there are people out there that don't spend their lives at the mall and watching television. My latest purchase is this:
This is handmade charcoal soap, a face serum made from squalane, and a wonderful perfume rolly ball stick purchased from ZajaNatural on Etsy. They arrived in the mail with a complimentary slice of lovely smelling hand soap and an extra piece of charcoal soap (since the big bar needed to cure for a few more weeks...soap needs to cure, who knew?!). I love the soap, it's creamy and wonderful and doesn't dry my skin, and the serum is also just what I had been needing. Squalane is super similar to the oil that the body produces naturally so it absorbs really well. I have just been adding a few drops to my regular lotions/creams for my face. Love it. The perfume roller ball is super cute, but I'm not sure if I like the smell. It's sweet and nice, but it reminds me a little bit of the smell from the strawberry short cake dolls from my childhood. Do you remember those dolls? But I haven't given up! I'm going to try this next:

The Cacao and Blue Agave Scent Cocktail! It sounds really nice. I would recommend this seller. Her soaps are super nice, her customer service is wonderful, and her prices are reasonable.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Dinner Comfort Food

It is finally getting "cold" here. It's not really cold, but it's not hot anymore. Yesterday was especially nice. I had the doors open while I napped on the couch in the sun with Gunter and the breeze just had that particular fall smell to it. I can't define it, but as I lay there drifting images of hand knit sweaters, and tall boots, piles of leaves, pumpkins and canned pears floated through my mind. Strange imagery. After A. came home, Gunter and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. The sun was still shining and there was just the tiniest nip in the air. (Really, the tiniest...imperceptible really. I think I'm just so eager for fall that I feel it!) When I came home, I started reading Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food. It's nice, but a little too preachy for me. I love the slow food movement, and buying organic, but I just can't get into reading someone telling me I should and shouldn't be doing. I just want recipes and ideas. It did get me into the mood to cook though, and last night I made a nice chicken noodle soup and baked apples with caramel sauce and ice cream. It was heavenly.

Bean's Simple Fall Chicken Soup
  1. one pot full of chicken broth
  2. half an onion (diced)
  3. one stalk of celery (diced)
  4. one carrot (diced)
  5. one sweet potato (diced)
  6. one can of tomatoes, drained
  7. handful of your favorite pasta
  8. crushed red pepper
  9. fresh or dried sage
  10. fresh Italian parsley
  11. cracked black pepper
  12. salt
  13. sugar
I made the broth ahead of time and froze it. I had roasted a chicken and after we had eaten it with a nice cabbage salad and roasted potatoes (and had chicken salad the next day, wrapped in lettuce leaves), I made my stock with the the bones and the little bit of meat that was left. I did an unusual stock, inspired by my favorite Vietnamese soup, pho.

For the broth:

put the chicken bones into a large heavy pot, add water to cover. Add to the pot:
  1. a couple star anise (these are shaped like little stars and taste a little like licorice)
  2. a few cloves
  3. sliced garlic
  4. slices of fresh ginger
  5. one stalk of lemon grass
  6. plenty of crushed red pepper
  7. dried cilantro
Simmer all ingredients until you think the broth tastes good. Skim the nasty stuff off the top as you go along. After it's done and cooled, take out the bones and pick off any chicken meat. Pour the broth through a fine meshed sieve to get the bits and pieces out. You should now have a nice, relatively clear broth. Salt to taste and add meat.

I froze mine, and then defrosted it on the stove in the pot that I was cooking my soup in. That is why I had to cook my onions, carrots, and celery in a separate pan. But if you are using fresh stock, just begin with the veggies in your big pot.

For the Soup:

Begin by pouring a little bit of olive oil into the pot, cook onions, carrots and celery on medium to low heat until fragrant and onions are slightly translucent. Add stock, tomatoes and red pepper. Simmer for a bit and then add your sweet potato. Simmer until potato is tender. Meanwhile, cook pasta in separate pot until done (should still be slightly al dente). Drain and add to soup. Turn down the heat on the soup and add minced up sage and parsley. Taste broth. If it is lacking something, add a little bit of salt, taste again. Still not tasting mmm mmm good? Try adding a tiny bit of sugar.

Bean's Wonderful Marvelously Tasty Fall Baked Apples

  1. Baking Apples (or any nice crispy apple you like)
  2. Butter
  3. Raisins
  4. Cinnamon and Nutmeg
  5. Pinch of Salt
  6. Brown Sugar
  7. A Dash of Lemon Juice
  8. A Tiny Bit of Half and Half or Heavy Cream

Begin by coring the apples and peeling a strip of skin off from around the middle of the apple. Mix together raisins, sugar, salt, and spices. Fill the centers of the apples with the mixture. Set apples into a deep baking dish with a lid. Add a little bit of water to the dish, just enough to cover the bottom. Put a pat of butter on top of each apple. Bake in a 35o degree oven for 30 or so minute. When the apples are tender, remove to individual serving dishes. Drain baking dish into a small sauce pan, simmer on high until mixture has thickened, let cool and add a bit of cream. If the cream seperates, turn heat back on and whisk until smooth. Let cool and add a dash of lemon juice. Serve apples with vanilla ice cream with sauce drizzled over the top.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I'm Going To Be An Auntie

Auntie Bean. Doesn't that have a nice ring to it?

This is my niece:

And this is my nephew:

Are they not cute?! Of course they are at varying states of doneness, but I can already tell.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Weekend Adventure

This weekend, like most weekends, was spent driving all over California in pursuit of doing something other than being in the town we live in. We were unusually successful. After dinner with some friends Friday night, we left Saturday morning (late and in a hurried, unplanned fashion...also par for the course). After running back to the house to grab the leash for Gunter, we were on our way. We ended up camping at Pismo Beach. Which was, unbeknownst to us, the site of a atv rally. It was like camping on the highway. A highway that was packed with people drinking bud outside of their RVs. It wasn't the most peaceful night. We couldn't even hear the ocean over the fire crackers.

As you can see from my expression, I was feeling a little bit rough. I swear I didn't sleep a wink. I was so damp and uncomfortable.
Gunter was very concerned about my wellbeing, as you can tell.

A view of the road.

Gunter loved every minute of it.

But before the night devolved into a damp and loud debacle we had a wonderful time walking around the pier eating candied apples and then we had dinner at this little place called the Old Vienna. They were having an Oktoberfest event so we drank a beer out of a huge (huge!) mug and we ate schnitzel and pretzels with mustard and had a good time. After our (my) sleepless night we went to the cutest little cafe called the Honeymoon Cafe. It was all Hawaiian and laid back with Jack Johnson on the radio and pancakes and bacon being grilled outside on a big stone grill . I discovered my new favortite caffiene drink...a chai latte with a shot of espresso! Try it.

We then meandered up the coast, stopping in little towns for more candied apples and saltwater taffy.

And stopped to see the elephant seals. But it wasn't the right time of year to see the huge males fighting, we are going back in January. This time we only saw the juveniles, who were still pretty impressively big.

Then we had lunch at this cute little place.

After lunch and the elephant seals we drove up the coast stopping for picture opportunities.

The German Physicist.

All and all, it was a good time, except for the sleepless night. I slept like a rock sunday night.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pug Snuggle Season Has Begun

It's finally really fall here...if any place that has palm trees can really have a fall. But since we live near the pacific ocean, sometimes in the morning the sky is gray and overcast and the air is a little chilly. It does actually get cold here, but not until later in the year. I love cold weather and I love the leaves all over the ground, and I love the fact that my pug becomes a super snuggle-bug during the winter months.

For the last month or so I have been trying to get some love from Gunter, but he inevitably pulls away and prances out to the yard to lay in the sunshine. But! Today it was cold and he was forced to take shelter on my stomach for his mid-morning nap. I even managed to pull a blanket over us! Yay! Pug snuggle season has begun!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quite Possibly the Best Food Combination Ever

Quark, for those unfamiliar with it, is a soft, white, and tangy cheese. It reminds me of yogurt cheese, or labne. This delicious product can be spread on toast, or used in place of sour cream. It's lovely. Especially on toast with Nutella slathered on top. Delish! Scrum-diddly-umptious! I make mine in an unorthodox way, according to my German boyfriend, who insists that the quark should be on top of the nutella, and not the nutella on top of the quark. I don't think it makes any difference. If you want to have dessert for breakfast, try this combo (any way you want to).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Squid and the Birthday Cake

I love cake. And I have a passing fancy for squids. Squids and cakes seemed to be a natural combination to me. Or maybe I was just hungry for cake and calamari.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Full Moon Weirdness

Does the moon affect you? It does me. Every time I'm feeling antsy and crazy and just generally dissatisfied for a few days running it turns out to be around the full moon. It's pretty rough. Yesterday I was so deep in a gray-blue funk that even my yoga class, pho for dinner, followed by gelato and a few chapters out of James and the Giant Peach(Read to me by my wonderful boyfriend! English is his second language but he is just so good at reading aloud!) did nothing for me. I went to sleep at nine-thirty-ish but felt worlds better this morning.

Everything I work on seems to take for-ever. I've been working on this squid drawing for a long while now, and I'm only now starting to get it finished.

Perhaps I should have made it a wedding cake. I still can afterwards in photoshop I suppose.

Since I've been on alot I've noticed a distinct artistic style that seems to be pretty popular. I can't quite define it however, it's sort of like creepy children's book illustration. The defining characteristics are little creatures/people, animal costumes, animals in costumes, disconnected objects, and a certain muted palette. Lots of muted and/or flat colors and deliberate naiveté
. I love it all, I'm just curious as to how this style developed.

Is it an asian influenced thing? The style reminds me of cute Japanese things (but at the same time also of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are ).
Jason Sho Green also seems to fall into this category. It also reminds me a little of Takashi Murakami's art if it had been whitewashed. Aya Takano, one of my favorite artists, is also floating on the periphery of this style.

Anyhow, I find it interesting.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Very Merry Un-birthday to you!

I've finally started on my squid and cake picture. Aaron Brothers had a big sale so I picked up some nice bristol pads for half off. It was fabulous. Lovely thick paper that will take ink beautifully. The paper is actually white, not tan. I took this in the living room, so the light was a little orange. Haven't decided whether or not to put candles on the cake.