Monday, November 28, 2011

the third date

blogger brunch at lauren's
In between stuffing my face, visiting family, and trying to be productive this weekend, I had the chance to get together with my favorite group of local bloggers to chat, sip mimosas, swap cookies, and attempt to make Christmas ornaments. I suppose this was our third date, but these girls already feel like old friends - I guess that's a benefit of blogging about your life - we all know so much about each other through our blogs!
ashley, sarah, rachel, tessica, lauren
Ashley, Sarah, me, Tessica, and newly-engaged Lauren (see her beautiful smile and beautiful ring?!)
Lauren hosted a delicious and impressive brunch at her gorgeous and cozy apartment and Tessica taught us how to make beautiful 3-D paper snowflakes. Well, some of them were beautiful - my attempt went straight in the recycling bin. I did not take photos of my "masterpiece", but I think Ashley may have documented my failure! (I later realized that I had pinned this exact project a long time ago - it's a good thing I didn't try to make it on my own!)

We also got to meet Lauren's fiance - who was such a good sport about having a group of chatty women take over the apartment to do craft projects! What a great guy! (And he kindly took the above group photo of us, too - and didn't even cut off our heads the way Larry usually does!)
blogger brunch at lauren's
Seriously, check out this impressive spread! Mmm!
I've been so busy lately, that I was stressing out about not having the time to bake cookies beforehand and not having the time to take a break from my work to socialize, but I'm so glad I did. I find whenever my schedule gets overbooked, the best thing I can do is take a break to chat with friends. I always leave feeling happier, energized, and inspired.
ashley, tessica, sarah
cookie swap
Thanks ladies, for a lovely afternoon! (And for all the delicious cookies we've been snacking on - Larry and the dogs ambushed me as soon as I walked in the door carrying a big bag of treats!)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy thanksgiving

Brought to you by Banjo and dogs under tables across the U.S.A.
under the table
(This looks like a tryptophan-induced nap, but the pups actually weren't invited to Thanksgiving. Again. Gravy finds this very unfair considering it is his namesake holiday!)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

almost pantsless

jeans
Tonight Larry and I went to Hell the mall to go jeans shopping.

There was much sighing, complaining, and perhaps some whining.

You might be surprised to know that the sighing, complaining, and whining was coming from me. I hate the mall and I hate shopping there. But I realized I was down to owning only one pair of properly fitting pants (besides yoga pants, pajama pants, or any other sort of elastic-waisted pants that shall not been seen in public). Since these jeans are my only properly fitting pair of pants, I wear them all the time. They're getting ratty and they're in that near perfect super-soft stage in their lifespan where you know it's only a matter of time before they rip. And being that they are the only pair of properly fitting pants I own - how would I go to the store to buy a replacement pair if I were pantsless? I'm pretty sure that shopping without pants is frowned upon at Tysons Corner Center.

So the dreaded trip to Hell the mall was necessary. It was down to the eleventh hour really since once Black Friday kicks off Christmas shopping season I refuse to set foot in Hell the mall. And I hated every second of it. I hate trying on pair after pair of over-priced jeans. What the heck are Demi-Curve, Bold-Curve, Chimney, and High-Riser? Hell, it didn't matter what style they were - they were all either too long, too short, too wedgie-inducing, and most-likely, too tight.

Also, why is there no booze at the Denim Bar?

Anyway, I want to slap the bitches who wear "skinny skinny" jeans. (Seriously, that's a thing. You know, in case the plain ol' skinny jeans just aren't quite skinny enough.) And why weren't skinny jeans in fashion back when I was actually skinny? (Nooo, I had to be skinny back when grunge was cool.)

Skinny jeans do not work for people who are not skinny. Like me. In fact, I think the jeans styles available today should be more appropriately named Spare Tire, Camel Toe, Muffin Top, and Butt Crack. Because seriously, when I put them on, that is what's going to be hanging out. (Perhaps I should stop eating so many donuts?)

Anyway, I tried on approximately four dozen pairs of jeans. I bought four of them. None of them really fit properly. I'll probably return a few and plan to hem some of the others. And by that, I mean, I will stuff them in the back of my closet and find them months later with the tags still on, unhemmed, still too long, and probably even tighter than they were before.

Larry tried on ONE pair of jeans. He bought them.

So I'm really no better off than I was before - perhaps worse off, since I'm now poorer. Please, old jeans, I beg you - don't rip!

Despite all these frustrations, Larry remained cheerful as he dragged me from store to store, suggesting shops to look into - even if he'd never heard of them. ("Seriously, Larry, do I look like the kind of girl who could get away with wearing something from a store called Diesel?")

He even got me to crack a smile a couple of times with a few of his comments:

At Ann Taylor Loft:

Larry: I'm the only person with testicles in this entire store!
< Looks around, spies baby of questionable gender. >
Larry: Well, perhaps there might be some little testicles over there.


Outside of Madewell:

Larry: How about this store? Madewell?
Me: They're owned by J.Crew.
Larry: So?
Me: J.Crew clothes never fit me. Haven't you ever seen the models in the catalog? Their clothes are made for flat-chested girls.
Larry: Well, maybe that's why this store is called Madewell! Because it's for chicks who are MADE WELL. MADE WITH BOOBIES!

(Note: I did end up buying a pair of Madewell jeans. I can't tell you if their tops fit any differently than J.Crew tops since luckily my boobs don't need to fit into my jeans. Also, they might be borderline skinny jeans. I'm still not sure about them, but I wanted something I could wear with boots. Tell me, People-Who-Wear-Boots-Over-Jeans, how do you keep your pants from bunching up in your boots? Is there some sort of trick to this or are you all secretly wearing stirrup pants?)

Friday, November 18, 2011

holiday list

christmas 2010
I'm one of those people who doesn't want to think about Christmas until Thanksgiving is over - one holiday at a time please! I'm also a bit of a scrooge. I loved Christmas as a kid, but sometime around my teenage years, Christmas lost its magic...and sadly, I never found it again. Sure, there are plenty of things I like about the holidays - I'm crazy for Christmas trees, twinkle lights, and cooooookies, especially. I love Christmas crafts and am always pinning new ideas. But commercialism and consumerism always seem to squash my Christmas spirit, the cold weather makes me cranky, and the holidays ultimately leave me feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, and sleep-deprived.

In my perfect world, there would be a ban on shopping malls and their fugly fake Christmas trees, inflatatable Santas, those commercials with shiny new Mercedes topped with big red bows, and Black Friday sales. Seriously, this is how America celebrates Christmas - by fighting over cheap crap made in China in a Walmart at midnight the day after Thanksgiving? Yuck.

Sometimes Christmas makes me feel like this:
christmas 2010
Christmas = Dog Butt

That being said, owning my own business has me viewing the holidays in a different light. Business-wise, I can't deny the consumer aspect of Christmas. People do a lot of shopping this time of year and as a business owner I have to be prepared for that. And I like that my shop can provide an alternative to mass-produced gifts. Giving thoughtful handmade gifts is much more my speed and I like being part of a community that promotes this.

But being a business owner also has me planning ahead and thinking about Christmas much earlier than I'm used to. And I'm ok with that. I've been excited about it this year. Sure, I've been stressed out as I'm prepping for holiday art markets, but I'm thinking about how once the markets are over with, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the last two weeks before Christmas - snuggled with my family in front of the fire, admiring the twinkle lights, baking, and not stressing out. I'm really looking forward to it.
twinkle
christmas 2010
I recently read about the German concept of Gem├╝tlichkeit. (Don't ask me how to pronounce that!) It can be loosely defined as coziness, the absence of anything hectic, togetherness, and the opportunity to spend comfortable, calm, quality time with friends and loved ones, often while lighting candles and enjoying good food and drink. I love this concept, and being of German ancestry makes me love it even more. I hope to spend the holiday season just like this - cozied up with the ones I love. 
christmas 2010
Gravy and Banjo have the concept of Gem├╝tlichkeit down pat. Yup, they're both in this photo.

Amy of Just a Titch recently made a Holiday To Do List and inspired me to do the same. It's a good reminder to take some time for some fun activities amid the typical December busy-ness:


I probably won't check off half of these, but it's nice to have a list to refer to when I start feeling Scrooge-like!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

hello from the studio

gouache
Hello! I'm still stuck in my studio, working my tail off in preparation for the holiday art markets. I haven't let myself do much besides work. When was the last time I left the house? When was the last time I had contact with a human other than Larry? I'm basically denying myself of all pleasure so I can get this work done. (I'm a tough boss!) Overextended and overwhelmed? Yes and yes!

While I'm busy being the crazy shut-in artist, I feel like I'm missing out on just about everything. Every day I look out my studio window and think "I should go outside and photograph Fall in our yard." We have several gorgeous maple trees with bright yellow leaves, and my favorite - a burning bush hedge that turns a stunning red in Autumn. Today, I looked out the window and all the leaves were on the ground. Too late. Why is Fall such a fleeting season? Why do I now have to look at bare branches for four straight months?

However, my sacrifices are paying off - I have nearly a dozen new pieces (all gouache illustrations) completed. I'd like to do a dozen more, but I have to be realistic. I still need to build a display (there may be some adventures in woodworking this weekend - hopefully, I'll make it to Monday will all my digits intact) and package up prints, keep up with my Etsy shop, and make ornaments (for the ornament swaps and some for sale at the art markets). I'm obsessed with gouache, bright colors, and patterns lately, and can't wait to share the new stuff - but first I need to fork over the big bucks to get my paintings professionally scanned and reproduced.
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I like to keep this a personal blog and only write about my life, my art, and things that I personally have experienced. I only post my own photos. I don't typically post links to other people's stuff - there are plenty of other bloggers out there who scour the internet for beautiful and interesting things, so I prefer to leave that to others. (If you want to see what catches my eye on the internet, check out my Pinterest!)

However! Twitter has been keeping me sane while I've been shut in my studio. Thank goodness for blogging friends to keep me company while I work. Since I'm lacking the time to take and edit photos (not to mention, do interesting things to blog about!), I thought I'd share some random bits and pieces - things I've shared on Twitter, things I've found on Twitter, and other thoughts going through my head these days:

* I want to go to Sweden and stay in the Treehotel - specifically in the UFO treehouse (don't forget your E.T. costume!), although all the rooms are awesome (there's also a giant nest!). Too bad I didn't think of this for Larry's 40th!

* Did you know that author Dave Eggers is also an artist? I love all of his illustrations, but especially Being A Bear Solves Nothing, Hoping Fervently That You Stay Kosher, and Ass Kicking Is On My Mind. (At $500 to $900 each, though, they're a little out of my budget.)

* The discovery of Federal Donuts makes me want to hop on an Amtrak and stuff my face with donuts and fried chicken in Philly. Seriously, a place that sells only donuts and fried chicken - it's like it was made just for me!

* For years, I've wanted to eat at Chef Johnny Monis's Komi. For some reason or other, we haven't (Larry had even gotten us reservations there for my 30th and then changed his mind and rented a limo instead - which was awesome - cruising around town in a limo with my friends on my birthday!) Anyway, Johnny Monis has opened a new place - a tiny Thai restaurant called Little Serow. Can't wait to try it!

* Luminhaus (my favorite Virginia vacation spot and the place I did take Larry for his 40th - almost as awesome as a UFO treehouse!) has a new website and photo gallery. They've included links to my photos from our trip along with photos taken by Shauna & Stephen of Something's Hiding in Here.

* Big thanks to Becky of Love Everyday Life for including my Embrace Messy Hair print in her collection of Handmade Holiday gift ideas.

* Speaking of Handmade Holiday - Larry and I are trying to give all handmade gifts this year. I've been wanting to do this for years, and as an artist/crafty person, it's rather shameful that I haven't. I used to think that as an artist myself, I had to make all the gifts myself, too. That is not what is going to be happening. I'm happy to support other artists (and certainly don't have time to make all our gifts) and will be buying handmade items at craft markets and on Etsy to give as gifts. Either that, or everyone will be getting glittered macaroni necklaces.

* Handmade Holiday, part 2: I'm hoping to share a series on my blog in the coming weeks of handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations all made by me. Ideally, I'd like to decorate a Christmas tree with entirely handmade ornaments this year. Realistically, I have two art markets to prepare for, OMG. But I'm still taking little breaks between paintings to make ornaments, and I can't wait to share.

* What have I been the most excited about this week? Unleashed by Petco just opened up in the shopping center next to our house. A pet store within walking distance! Now we don't have to drive all over the county to find the fancy dog food we feed our pups (ahem, or make the dogs scrambled eggs when we *accidently* run out of dog food and don't want to drive 10 miles to get more. Good dog parents, we are). I live a pretty exciting life, let me tell you - excited about a pet store.

* If you exceed some of your goals for the year, does that make up for the ones you've completely failed at? I was looking over the (way too ambitious) lists of goals I set for the year, and with 2011 coming to an end there's no way I'm going to accomplish a lot of these.

* I have found the cure for insomnia! As much as I hate hate hate going off of Daylight Savings time (every time I see the moon out at 4:30, I want to punch its face!), the time change was the perfect opportunity to kill my bad sleeping habits. I've been going to bed earlier, snuggled up with a hot water bottle (I'm such an old lady) and my iPad, watching TV on HBO GO. I know you're not supposed to look at screens an hour before bed, but this is totally working for me. For a girl who didn't have cable television for the first 30 years of my life, I'm loving being able to catch up on all the HBO series that I missed out on. I watch one episode per night and I've been sleeping like a baby - the past week or two I've slept through the night for the first time in years. My bedtime routine is something I look forward to all day. And while I haven't been reading as much (now that I'm rotting my brain with television instead), I'm not going to argue with what works!

* And last, but not least, Gravy turned 5 on Monday. We celebrated with peanut butter sundaes:
gravy's birthday sundae
Yes, Larry (the guy who swore our dogs would *never* eat people food) even topped Gravy's sundae with miniature marshmallows. Lucky beast!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

bread of the month | anadama bread

anadama bread
November is the eleventh month. And this is only my fifth Bread of the Month post. Bread of the Month is going to have to become Bread of the Week if I want to have baked 12 loaves by the end of the year. So much for that goal!

This month I baked Anadama Bread. I first heard it mentioned in a book I was reading a few months ago. One of the great things about reading e-books on my iPad is that I can do a quick google search if I read about something unfamiliar. I'd never heard of Anadama Bread and I was curious. It turned out to be a bread made from cornmeal and molasses. I particularly liked the myth that explained the origin of the name - that the bread's name came from a fisherman cursing his wife by exclaiming, "Anna, damn her!" I was intrigued by this tale and the cornmeal-molasses combination.

A New York Times recipe for Anadama Bread popped up during my search and I bookmarked it so I could try making this bread myself. I am a big fan of anything with cornmeal in it, though the molasses component had me a little nervous. Molasses kind of grosses me out. It smells like prune juice. The color of the bread dough once the molasses was added was...rather unappetizing.
anadama bread
But the bread turned out great. Slightly sweet - it tastes a lot like Honey-Wheat Bread. And after making buns, rolls, and flat breads, it was nice to bake an actual loaf this month. Five down, seven more to go! (And only six weeks left in the year!)

Oh, and here's a behind-the-scenes shot of what really goes on during a food photo shoot in my house. My subject matter is always being threatened:
anadama bread

Thursday, November 10, 2011

scrumptious october!

scrumptious october!
Whoah, yum! October was good. Very good. We did a lot of cooking and a lot of eating out. Basically, it was a month of stuffing our faces. Fresh ingredients (from the apple orchard and the Farmers Market), meals out (date night at Graffiato, sandwiches at Cowgirl Creamery, a bloggers' brunch at Kramerbooks) and some delicious junk (treats at The Apple House, dinner at Truckeroo). It was a food-filled month punctuated by a Halloween meal of Chicken Goulash with Biscuit Dumplings and a fist-full of Halloween candy.

In addition to baking lots of apple desserts, I also discovered The BEST chocolate chip cookie recipe. Now before I go on, I should confess something: I don't actually like chocolate chip cookies. I know, I know, that's un-American, or perhaps even un-human. And that's not to say that I dislike them enough to not eat them (they are cookies after all!), but the chocolate chip cookie is my last choice cookie. I'd choose a sugar cookie or a peanut butter cookie over a chocolate chip any day. (The exception to this is the dough - I love chocolate chip cookie dough. So much better than the actual cookie.)

So you have to believe me when I tell you that these cookies are phenomenal. To the point of me hoarding them. And considering punching someone in the face if they were to take the last cookie...

The recipe is from A Tender Crumb and is a variation of Jacques Torres' (aka Mr. Chocolate) famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. (I had bookmarked the original recipe years ago and didn't realize I was making a translation of Jacques' recipe until the cookies were already in the oven.) Anyway, these cookies are awesome. Most cookies taste best warm and straight from the oven, but these cookies actually taste even better once they've cooled down. And even better the next day - the centers are chewy and gooey with chocolate (you will end up with chocolate all over your face when eating these - no matter what your age) and the edges are delicately crisp. Perfection.
chocolate chip cookies

A few things to consider if you make this recipe:
  • The Tender Crumb recipe is actually a doubled version of Jacques' recipe. It makes a boatload of dough. The dough is very thick and it almost busted my mixer and overflowed the bowl. I suggest using a powerful mixer and a big ass bowl.
  • Holy chocolate, batman! This recipe uses a lot of freaking chocolate. TWO pounds to be exact. (Use broken up chocolate bars, not chips.) That will run you about $25. Yes. There is $25 worth of chocolate in this recipe. It's insane. And totally worth it.
  • The Tender Crumb recipe omits this step, but I suggest sifting the dry ingredients together. The dough was so thick that I feared I wasn't getting all the ingredients thoroughly incorporated without sifting first.
  • Yes, you do have to use both bread flour and pastry flour. Do not substitute all-purpose flour. The texture of these cookies relies on the fancy flours.
  • Make big cookies! Bigger is better. I used golf-ball sized balls of dough and it yielded about forty 5" cookies. (Your results may vary if your willpower to not eat the raw dough is stronger than mine!) I got perfect results when they were baked for 16 minutes.
  • Because of the aforementioned boatload of dough, I rolled all the dough into balls and put the extras in the freezer. (And then I put an alarm on the freezer should anyone try to steal my precious dough! It's mine! All miiiiiiiiiiine!) This way you can bake 6-8 cookies at a time and have pre-rolled balls of dough in the freezer ready to pop in the oven next time you have a cookie craving.
See you in my belly, cookies!
chocolate chip cookies
(Now back away from my cookies and make your own!)

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What we were eating and cooking this month: apples and cookies (what else do you need?)

*This post brought to you by a big bottle of something from the liquor store - which I am headed out to get right now since my computer crashed and deleted this post multiple times. Cheers!

Friday, November 4, 2011

holiday art markets


I'm excited to announce that Funnelcloud Studio will be at two holiday art markets this December!

Mark your calendars:

December 3 -  Charm City Craft Mafia's Holiday Heap (Baltimore, Maryland)
December 11 - Richmond Craft Mafia's Handmade Holiday (Richmond, Virginia)

I mentioned that I've been working around the clock in my studio lately and these shows are the reason why. Two holiday shows a week apart - oy! But I'm so excited for both of these - they're my biggest shows yet and will be a different set-up than the markets I did earlier this year, since they're indoor markets (yay - no wrestling with tents, weights, etc). On the downside, I have to figure out a way to display all my work on a single 6' table!

And yes, I realize after October's market, I had mixed feeling about doing any more this year, but that very night I applied to both of these markets (I honestly thought my chances at being accepted were slim!) and now I've got a full calendar for December!

So, if you're looking to give some handmade gifts this year, come check it out and stop by my table to say hi. (Do I have any readers in Baltimore or Richmond?) The Baltimore show is in an old church complete with stained glass and strung up with twinkle lights - I can't wait to see it!

Oh, and to further extend myself, I've signed up for two ornament swaps - The Very Berry Scrappy Ornament Swap and The Freshly Blended Holiday Ornament Swap (you can still sign up for this one through November 7th). In between all the art making and display building for the markets, I'll have to squeeze in some ornament making, too.

Ho Ho Ho, here we go!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

truckeroo

truckeroo
Last Friday, I met Larry downtown so we could eat dinner procured entirely from food trucks. It was Truckeroo 5, and it was awesome!

In the past, food trucks conjured up images of vendors on city streets selling week-old hot dogs out of a tank of dirty dishwater in the back of a truck. Or the mobile canteens that pull up outside construction sites. Perhaps, the Good Humor Truck (Larry still yells "ice cream!" whenever he hears the chimes from the Ice Cream Man). In college, we had Ziggy's Wagon - a food truck that stopped outside the dorms after the bars closed, so drunk students could get their late night fix of greasy cheese fries. Turns out Ziggy was selling something else out of the back of his truck, too: Marijuana. And cocaine. (Ziggy got busted and spent three years in jail for that one.)

But the food trucks of 2011 are not the typical roach coaches of the past - they've gone gourmet these days (with price tags to match - a lobster roll from the famous DC Red Hook Lobster Truck will run you $15).

I have a bit of an obsession with these fancy food trucks. When they became the trend in California a few years ago, I was envious. And I followed along with the Food Network show The Great Food Truck Race. Within a year or two, fancy food trucks did eventually come to DC. Problem was, by that time I was working and living in the suburbs and didn't have the opportunity to grab lunch from one of these mini-restaurants on wheels.
truckeroo
truckeroo
The solution? Truckeroo! Truckeroo is a monthly gathering of 25-30 DC food trucks. They all park at Das Bullpen (a biergarten/big open lot full of picnic tables used for tailgating before baseball games) next to Nationals Park and serve up food to hungry Washingtonians all day. I'd been wanting to check it out for a while, and for the past few months have had conflicts and wasn't able to go. But last week was the last Truckeroo of the year and I'm so glad we went. It was a fun environment and everything we ate was delicious.
truckeroo
DC Empanadas - these things are freaking awesome!
truckeroo
Poutine.
truckeroo
truckeroo
truckeroo
So the guys at TaKorean were decidedly not Korean. (But their tacos were delicious.)
truckeroo
Sadly, we couldn't try food from all the trucks, but here's what I was able to stuff in my hungry maw:

     Empanadas | DC Empanadas
     Korean Tacos | TaKorean
     Poutine | Eat Wonky
     Curry | Fojol Brothers
     Cupcakes | Sweet Bites
     Cheesecake | Sweetz/That Cheesecake Truck

Don't even ask me to pick a favorite because everything we tried was fantastic.
truckeroo
Korean Tacos from TaKorean (Half-eaten, whoops!)
truckeroo
truckeroo
Eat Wonky - home of the poutine-covered hot dog (aka Wonky Dog).
truckeroo
CUPCAKES!
truckeroo
truckeroo
Cookies & Cream Cupcake from Sweet Bites. Mmmm!
truckeroo
truckeroo
I hope they continue Truckeroo next year, because I can't wait to go back and try food from all the trucks I missed. Next time, I think we'll bring a big group of friends, claim a picnic table, and make an evening of it. (There's a beer stand, too.) Who's in?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

halloween 2011

halloween 2011
This year's jack-o-lanterns: Jack Skellington (from The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Fred (from deep inside the recesses of Larry's brain):
halloween 2011
halloween 2011
Last year, my jack-o-lantern was Jack and Larry's was Ed. Sense a pattern here?

2010: Jack & Ed
2011: Jack Skellington & Fred
Prediction for  2012: Jack & Ned?

halloween 2011
Gravy modeled for the second annual creepy greyhound silhouette photo:
halloween 2011
halloween 2011
halloween 2011
halloween 2011
halloween 2011
halloween 2011