Saturday, January 29, 2011


Someone in our house left a little something in my purse. Stuffed possum...don't leave home without it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

culinary resolutions 2011

eat more cheese
I always keep a list of things I'd like to cook (and there are several cooking goals on my Life List), but this year I thought I'd make a list of culinary resolutions, a la the guys from The Bitten Word.

As I was jotting my resolutions down, I found myself writing Eat more cheese. Wait a minute... It wasn't intentional and by eat more cheese, I don't mean stuffing my face with cheddar all day. The resolution was actually inspired by the Wine & Cheese Party we hosted for New Year's Eve. I had so much fun looking at all the international cheeses at the store and even more fun eating really good cheese at the party. So what I really mean is Eat more (new/exotic/delicious) cheeses. Especially during the summer, I can see Larry and I sitting at the picnic table in our backyard, sharing a bottle of wine and a hunk of good cheese. (And if he has anything to say about it, also a hunk of grilled meat.)
2010_06_05 d
Anyway, without further ado, here are my Culinary Resolutions for 2011. (Note: Most of them are working against my personal resolution to eliminate my fat ass in 2011. I mean seriously, Rachel, Make Cinnamon Rolls? Did you not see that commercial a few years ago with the girl and her cinnamon bun butt???)

1. Make pretzels, bagels, donuts, ravioli, cinnamon rolls, crepes, and ketchup from scratch.
Evidently, I'm planning on an all-carb diet in 2011? Yikes. I'll blame the fact that it is winter (my most hated season) right now, and carbs and sugar are comforting.

2. Bake bread once a month.
Again with the carbs. But there is nothing better than homemade bread, and I haven't made it in such a long time. (I recently saw a resolution to bake a cake a month and thought "Yes! I should do that!", but bread seems slightly healthier than cake.)

3. Eat more fish.
Every time Larry and I cook fish, we say that we should make it more often. It's healthy, delicious, and a good way to reduce the amount of meat in your diet. (This may be the first resolution that is somewhat healthy, too.) We don't do it as often as we should because the fish counter in our local grocery store is sketchy, so we have to go out of our way to buy fresh fish.

4. Eat more cheeses.
Splurge on the good stuff every once in a while. There are two cheese shops in the DC area that I've always wanted to visit - Cowgirl Creamery and Cheesetique.

5. Mix cocktails.
I can cobble together my three stand-bys - gin & tonic, pineapple juice & coconut rum, and baileys & milk, and I also make a mean sangria, but I'd like to mix some real showstopping cocktails this year.

6. Make use of our new kitchen tools: pizza stone, mandoline, potato ricer.
Ok, I know what to do with the pizza stone and am hoping to improve my pizza-making techniques this year. As for the mandoline and the potato ricer - I'm not sure what to make with those and am open to suggestions. Potato chips? Gnocchi?

7. Cook an international meal each month.
Inspired by the success of our New Year's Eve party and the challenge of cooking food from foreign countries, I'm hoping that Larry and I can pick a new country each month and make a meal that includes wine and food from that country. I'm really looking forward to this.

8. Eat outside whenever possible.
We have a beautiful patio and a picnic table for eating in our yard. Also, taking meals with us when we go on hikes or going to a nearby park for lunch, dinner, or even grilling are good ways to dine al fresco. We could even sit on our front porch or spread a picnic blanket across the front yard. (There's too much dog poo for picnicking in the backyard...)

9. Have a gourmet picnic.
To expand on the resolutions above - would be great to take some hunks of good cheeses and other treats and eat outside. This one was actually inspired by our trip to the beach in September - in the evenings, our group of friends would set up a table on the beach and drink wine by the ocean. It was fantastic, and while we don't have the ocean here, we could still find a pretty outdoor setting and drink wine (if we're sneaky) and relax with friends.

10. Attend wine events. Drink wine (and learn more about it).
We have a local wine shop down the street called Red, White, & Blue that has wine tastings on the weekends. It's fantastic and I'd like to go more often. I'd also like to go to a Virginia winery this year.

11. Go berry picking again. Cook lots of things using the bounty.
Picking blueberries in July was one of the best things we did last summer and I made a ton of new recipes that month. Can't wait to do it again - this time with strawberries?

12. Go to the farmers' market in the fall.
We love our local farmers' market and go almost every Saturday during the summer. It stays open in the fall, but for some reason come Labor Day we always stop going. Need to change that.

13. Cook recipes from cookbooks and food mags.
We did way better with this in 2010 than we have in the past. I've been using my cookbooks and we've made several good recipes out of Food & Wine. It's easy for me to look at the pretty pictures in the magazines, fold down the corners of pages that catch my attention, and then the magazine gets stashed in a pile with L.L. Bean catalogs and the recipes that caught my attention get forgotten. Hopefully, that won't happen this year.

14. Have more dinner parties.
Food is so much more delicious when it's shared. Larry and I both love to cook, so we need to remember to have people over and share our table and our meals with friends and family more often.

15. Organize the kitchen and transform the mudroom into a pantry.
My big project is transforming our mudroom into a big walk-in pantry. I need the extra space for storing kitchen equipment (such as the ice cream maker, bread machine, etc) and to visibly display all the jarred ingredients and canned goods that get hidden in cabinets and in my current little pantry.

Larry's goal would be to make more food in his smoker. I've also toyed with the idea of entering a recipe contest, but I don't think I'll commit to that for 2011, since the above list is pretty ambitious. I actually made the beet cake as a taste test for entering the Scharrfen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest, but quickly realized that creating my own recipe (for baking no less - that would require a lot of trial and error and a lot of cupcake eating) at the same time as preparing for the holidays was just not going to happen!

P.S. The EAT MORE CHEESE print is available in my shop.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

photography goals 2011

self portrait (in the bathroom mirror)
In 2011 - Fewer awkward self portraits in the bathroom mirror...

I love photography, but I feel like I've been in a bit of a rut lately. The challenge of the Daily Photo project I started in 2006 has worn off, and looking over the past year, it seems I only photograph my dogs and my meals. I need some new challenges.

1. Complete The 12 Project.
One photo each month of the two of us - an idea made popular by Tara Whitney. This should be easier for us since we are a family of two, but it would be nice to include the dogs, too.

2. Use my zoom lens to photograph people.
I've never been a portrait photographer - to be honest it makes me uncomfortable to get all up in people's mugs to take their picture. But I'm always disappointed when I don't have photos of the people who are important to me. I especially want to get some good photos of my family this year.

3. Get in front of the camera more.
There's something missing in all my photos - me! I look at the photos of the past year and I seem absent from my own life. Of course, this is a goal I don't have much control over - but I'll have to encourage Larry to get behind the camera more.

4. Take creative self portraits.
When Larry won't cooperate with #3, it's up to me. I've got to find better ways of doing this than the ol' gorilla arms shot.

5. Read my camera manual.
I'm ashamed to admit that I've had the DSLR for over three years and still haven't read the manual.

6. Shoot in aperture priority mode.
I shoot food, inanimate objects, and shop photos in full Manual mode, and I shoot people and action in Auto. There is something in between - Av.

7. Use the tripod more.
This should help with #1 and #4.

8. Take an HDR photo.

9. Take a double exposure photo.

10. Enter more photo contests.
I did really well with this in 2010 - I entered 9 contests. I was a Finalist in the Manassas Art Guild Art of Snow Contest, an Honorable Mention in the April Pampered Puppy Contest, First Place in the April Penn Camera Photo Contest, 7th Place in the May Pampered Puppy Contest, and Honorable Mention in the CEA/Photojojo Best Shot Photo Contest. You can't win if you don't enter.

11. Get a 50 mm lens.
Been lusting over this lens for a while. I've never used a fixed lens before, but it's supposed to be the best lens to use for photographing people, especially in low-light situations.

12. Experiment with Lensbaby.
I've had this cool lens for a few years and I need to master it.

13. Get better lighting.
This is more of a home improvement project, but the lighting in our house (and consequently the photos taken in our house) sucks.

14. Shoot for a stop motion video.

And a few things on my To Do List for after the photos are taken:

- Purge bad photos.
- Archive good photos.
- Print photos.
- Make photo books.
- Share photos.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

business goals 2011

artistic inspiration 2011
In December, I started thinking about my goals for Funnelcloud Studio for the coming year.  I thought about setting goals in terms of number of sales/profits, but the truth is, I don't have control over these things. People either buy my stuff or they don't.  I do have control over the steps I take to hopefully make sales and make my business grow. I need to focus focus focus and be productive. After a successful first month in 2011, I'm excited and inspired and riding the momentum of a great start.

In 2011, I hope to treat Funnelcloud Studio as my real job and not just a side biz/hobby. I hope to find a balance between my business and my personal life. And I hope to accomplish the following:

1. Transform the studio into Funnelcloud Studio's Headquarters.
The spare bedroom has been my studio since we moved into the house and it is currently a disaster. I want to make it look less like a craft room/giant f*cking mess and more like a functioning artist's studio. I need shelves, better lighting, bulletin boards, storage for all my shipping and art supplies, and art for the walls.

2. Create 20 new pieces for sale.
An arbitrary number, but something to work towards.

3. Sell art at another art/craft fair.
I sold at my first art market in September. I want to go bigger in 2011!

4. Meet other Etsians/artists/creative people. (and customers!)
I love the online Etsy community, I love reading artist's blogs, and I love when customers and creative people stop by my blog. But they all exist through the internet. I consider other Etsians to be my co-workers, since working from home can be rather lonely and isolating - so I hope to meet some of you in real life in 2011.

5. Find an external source for printing art prints.
Since opening my shop, I've focused on printmaking. But I've been wanting to do illustrations, drawings, and paintings - just haven't figured out how to reproduce them for sale.

6. Organize the business aspect of my shop - set up business accounts, etc.
This just needs to happen. I do my accounting/bookkeeping online through Outright, but I need a bank account dedicated to my business.

7. Buy and learn Adobe Illustrator.
I've been using Photoshop for the past 13 years for graphic design, architectural graphics, and photo editing and never had the need to learn Illustrator. But I've got some freelance projects in the works that would definitely benefit from using Illustrator instead of Photoshop.

artistic inspiration 2011
The photo is all my artsy ideas for the coming year - they're taped to the wall in my studio (in the place where I've been meaning to hang a bulletin board for the last two years - see Goal #1). My favorite category is of course, Shit to Make.

Monday, January 24, 2011

the trick is to keep breathing...

Larry stops breathing when he is sleeping (sleep apnea). It's not good. I often thump him or whisper "keep breathing" in his ear whenever I catch him holding his breath.

Larry's one of those people who is very confused when he's groggy. When I wake him to remind him to breathe, I usually get a very confused and humorous response. For example:

"I AM!"
"I was underwater."
"I'm breathing through my snorkel!"

Or my personal favorite:

"I couldn't be more confused if wild monkeys were flying out my butt!"

Last night he was holding his breath in his sleep again. When I told him to breathe, he lifted his head and looked at me:

"I wasn't breathing?! That's not good!!! I NEED TO BREATHE TO LIVE!"

Yup, that's generally how it works.

Friday, January 21, 2011

RVin' it

I've written before about our dream to travel the country by RV. And right now it is just a dream...a dream that will only come true if when we win the Mega Millions. However, this fall, Larry and I took an amazing ten day RV trip through Colorado, Utah, and Arizona with our close friends, Sarah and Sean.

It was our first taste of the RV lifestyle...and we loved it.
From being able to pick up and go wherever we wanted, to sleeping in some of the most beautiful places in the country - we loved it all.

Arches National Park:
RV'in - Arches National Park
Dawn at Goulding's Campground, with Monument Valley in the distance:
goulding's campground - monument valley
Larry loved driving the RV.
We had sandwiches for lunch every day - meat and cheese on bread has never tasted so good!
And Larry and I slept in Mother's Attic (the bunk above the cab). It even had a skylight (which dripped on us all night).
mother's attic
For the trip, we rented a 25' RV, which slept two couples (and a baby). However, while we were on the road we noticed a lot of enormous RVs - the type of rigs that you expect rock stars to travel in. We were so curious as to what they were like inside.

So, last weekend, we jumped at the chance to check out a local RV and Camper Show...just to satisfy our curiosity.
RV Show
I hate to label people, but I've found that there are three types of people interested in the RV lifestyle:

1. Rednecks
2. Hippies
3. Senior Citizens

I'll let you all figure out which group we belong to... (and while we're not senior citizens yet, I do hike with a cane trekking pole...)

I'll also let you figure out the primary demographic of the attendees of the RV Show. (Hint - 95% of them were wearing camouflage.)

Considering that only one of the above groups of people can probably actually afford an RV, it should come as no surprise that the interior decor of these vehicles can only be described as Nursing Home, Circa 1990.

However, RVs can be modernized and beautifully decorated - I've followed the Janssen family's blog for several years and they have renovated several RVs with gorgeous results. So if when Larry and I do win the Mega Millions and can afford an RV before we're senior cits, all we need is a can of paint and some reupholstery fabric and we'll be good to go.

A lot of the RVs were what we called "Family Vans" - they had bunk rooms so you could bring all your kids along. We don't have kids...but then we realized the bunk beds would be perfect for our pups!

The most affordable RVs are tow-behind trailers. Of course, much to Larry's delight, towing a trailer would require owning a truck.

This one was about our speed (minus the dirty cereal bowls). Love the pop-out bed, though obviously this would only be practical in warmer weather.
RV Show
These little pods were cute, but you could only sleep in one if you were under four feet tall.
RV Show
RV Show
Then we checked out the interiors of the big rigs. Can you believe this is the inside of an RV? Flat screen TV, fireplace, kitchen island...! And what exactly does one keep in that cabinet with glass doors? Smashed tea cups?
RV Show
However, one of the coolest features of these upscale RVs was that they had a compartment for a flat screen TV on the EXTERIOR - so you could set up lawn chairs and have movie night outside! They also had exterior kitchens - awesome.

The Airstream trailers were gorgeous (and extremely overpriced!). What's up with the fake ficus though? Is that supposed to make you feel like you're out in the woods?
RV Show - airstream
I love the modern interior (and no tacky vinyl wallcovering to be found!).
RV Show - airstream interior
Anyway, the RV Show was an interesting experience and hopefully someday we'll be able to embrace our inner redneck hippie and live our dream before we're ready for the nursing home...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

american splendor

rocky mountain national park
Larry and I love to travel.

Of course, there are thousands of dream destinations in the world on our list...if only we had unlimited money and vacation time! I was lucky enough to study abroad twice in college - a summer in Spain/Portugal, and a semester in Italy - but I haven't been back to Europe since the year 2000. Larry occasionally gets to travel internationally for work - last year he went to Serbia, and this year he'll be in Asia. However, besides visiting a handful of Caribbean islands, Larry and I have done no international travel together.

Luckily, we both agree that there are enough destinations in the good ol' U.S.A. to satisfy a lifetime of travel. There are lots of interesting American cities, and we have mountains, beaches, forests, oceans, and deserts, all within our own backyard. This isn't to say that we don't hope to go to Australia or South America or Europe together some day, however, we feel lucky to live in a country that has such a variety of things to see, and traveling domestically is so much more affordable. In fact, our dream vacation would be to take a year to live in an RV and travel throughout the United States (we both have the goal of visiting all 50 states and are slightly competitive about it!).

We are big supporters of the U.S. National Parks and many of our vacations over the past seven years have revolved around this. We didn't start out with an intentional theme to our vacations, but have found that the National Parks vacations have been the ones we've enjoyed the most. In fact, our first vacation as a couple - in 2004 - was to the U.S. Virgin Islands to enjoy some sun and relaxation. Interestingly enough, on the island of St. John is...Virgin Islands National Park! The following year we went to the Rocky Mountains, and we haven't stopped vacationing in the National Parks since...

Virgin Islands National Park, St. John (2004)
virgin islands national park
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (2005)
rocky mountain national park
rocky mountain national park
Death Valley National Park, California (2006)
death valley national park
Zion National Park, Utah (2006)
zion national park
zion national park
zion national park
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (2006)
bryce canyon national park
bryce canyon national park
Olympic National Park, Washington (2007)
olympic national park
olympic national park
olympic national park
olympic national park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina (2008)
great smoky mountains national park
great smoky mountains national park
great smoky mountains national park
Arches National Park, Utah (2010)
arches national park
arches national park
arches national park
Canyonlands National Park, Utah (2010)
canyonlands national park
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado (2010)
mesa verde national park
mesa verde national park
(We are also lucky enough to have Shenandoah National Park under two hours away from where we live, and we visit a few times a year for some day hikes.)

All of these parks have been amazing. We've been to Grand Teton National Park separately, and I've been to Yellowstone and the Everglades.  And every time we get back from one of our trips, I look forward to planning the next one. I think Crater Lake, Acadia, and Glacier are next on my list...but there's a few biggies we've missed, too...Grand Canyon, many choices.

I have a great travel partner and can't wait for the next adventure...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

gluttonous december!

glutinous december!
We finished up 2010 with a total of 113 new recipes for the year! And like most Decembers, this one was full of carbs and sweets. It also appears we were into red and purple foods this month.

What we were eating and cooking this month: cookies, cookies, cookies, I ate my weight in cookies and found a new favorite Christmas cookie recipe. I cooked dirt beets for the first time, even though I cheated and hid them in a cake. We had a few snowy days, so we broke out Larry's famous Blizzard Chili (which we first concocted during Snowmageddon last February). I made this Creamed Haricot Vert and Corn Casserole twice. We busted into the homemade blueberry freezer jam for a taste of summer (made from the blueberries we picked in July). I tried out my new pizza stone for the first time. And we enjoyed lots of wine, cheese, and international foods on the last day of the year.

Here's to a delicious 2011!

P.S. See all the monthly cooking collages here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

what's up...?

potato butt!
So, I was going through my photos for my long overdue December cooking collage, when I found these behind-the-scenes pics of Larry and I prepping for our New Year's Eve party:

The monkey peeler really does conquer all!
cooking for new year's eve party
Larry ricing potatoes with our new potato ricer. Will we ever use this gadget again? (Side note: When googling potato ricer, the autofill on my iphone kept replacing it with potato river. Which doesn't sound like too bad a place!)
potato ricer
And of course, our sous chef:
cooking for new year's eve party
cooking for new year's eve party

Monday, January 10, 2011

a one woman sweatshop

I was hoping to write about something other than my shop, for example, all the fun things we've been doing in January, however the truth is that Funnelcloud Studio has occupied my time 24/7 since the start of the year. Yesterday, my print made the front page of Etsy.

Appropriately enough, my studio looks like a funnelcloud has ripped through it. Also, it's week into the new year and I've existed entirely on a diet of cheese and cookies. That can't be a good start to 2011. Larry was away on business last week and I tend to eat a rather bachelor-esque diet when I'm on my own. On Thursday, I spent the entire day printing, processing, and packaging Embrace Messy Hair prints and by dinnertime realized that not only did I have messy hair, but perhaps I should change my motto to Embrace Stinky Pits or perhaps, Embrace Hairy Legs. Ew. (Not to worry, I'm not trying to promote poor personal hygiene, and I did indeed get a shower that evening.)
prints and orders
And I've also run completely out of the shipping supplies I ordered in bulk a few months ago. I've got more on the way due to arrive soon. I'm still accepting a limited amount of orders of the Hair and Cheese prints, but due to the high volume of sales and the lack of shipping supplies, it will take approximately 5 business days for your order to ship. Hopefully, by the end of the week I'll be restocked with both surplus prints and shipping supplies, and business will be back to normal. Thanks to all of you for your inquiries about the prints and for your patience! I'm a one woman shop and I'm working to get all orders filled as soon as possible.

Ok, I do actually have two studio assistants, but they're of the canine variety, and all they contribute is large quantities of toxic gas...
gravy and banjo by the fire
P.S. I won honorable mention in the photo contest. Thanks to all of you for voting!