Archive | July, 2013

Birthday Bags

29 Jul

For the last year, everyone in my family has received a special birthday bag. Made by me. Everybody has really liked them, but I am happy to see the cycle completed. Now I can sew other stuff!! There are two folks who I am very late on getting a bag to, but other than that, done and D O N E! Birthday Bags
I also had fun making cut-out stamp cards. For each and every member of the fam, plus friends too. That’s a lot of cutting out! I got smart and sat down one or two times and made a whole bunch at once. That’s the way to make your own cards, let me tell y’all.

I’ve decided that I’m going to collage for this next year’s cards. Collage is a fun bird. You imagine certain ideas, but it’s almost a waste of time, because nothing really comes out how you imagined once you sit down with scissors and material. I just found that out tonight. What I am making is going to be fairly simple, by the way. I don’t have time for all that cutting and gluing, okay?! I love collage a lot, but man, it’s hard to do. A good collage can be quite stunning with simplicity, or complexity, whereas many collages (mine) can easily be a jumble. I don’t know what makes the difference.

Joseph Cornell is wonderful, of course.

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Dash Snow has some phenomenal collage (much more interesting than his photos if you ask me), and I’m not talking about that collage piece that features his sperm either. Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 10.07.34 PM

I also love John Baldessari’s dot faces.artwork_images_320_456404_john-baldessari

Turmeric Chicken Stir Fry

19 Jul

This is my first stir fry, in my new wok, that I have actually owned for over one year. Stir fry is so easy y’all, why have I not made them before? I don’t know!

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I got this recipe from Saucy Little Dish, a Brooklyn cooking blog that I have not made a meal from until now. Why have I not cooked a meal from their recipes yet? I don’t know! I will go ahead and post the recipe here, straight from Erin’s post, with some changes I made, but you should certainly visit the blog and have a look for yourself.

“1-2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil (I used coconut oil)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, sliced into 1 inch pieces (I am pretty certain cubed tofu would work great too. My chicken had skin on it, and it was no big deal)

1 yellow onion, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

Shake or two of cayenne pepper

1 heaping tablespoon (or 2) of turmeric

1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated (or you can use 1 teaspoon dried ginger)

2 tablespoons butter (I skipped this ingredient)

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead)

1/2 cup of chicken stock

1 head of broccolini or broccoli florets

1 cup of mushrooms, sliced thin

Heat oil in a wok or sauté pan. When hot add the chicken and cook for a few minutes until the pink fades. (I have never stir fried, but just so you know, you want it the heat to be med/high.)

Add the onion and garlic, stir or shake the pan to coat everything in the oil and cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Make a well in the center and add the ginger.

Add the cayenne and turmeric, and again stir to coat everything in the spices.  The pan will immediately turn an amazing, bright yellow color.

Stir again to coat then add the soy sauce, butter, and chicken stock. Then add the broccoli and mushrooms and allow everything to simmer for just shy of 5 minutes.

Serve over rice.”

This was pretty easy, fast, and delicious. You should certainly try it. I will be making more stir fry soon. If you have ever made it, you know that all the work is in the prep. After you have chopped and cubed and cut your veggies and meat, you’ve done all the work. This prep can easily be done the evening before, if you have a long day coming up and need a quick meal.

Also, I have never cooked with turmeric, but have had some in my pantry for over two years. Does turmeric normally have a faintly dusty smell? Or is mine just old? I don’t know.

Before Midnight, the movie

15 Jul

By Molly Wilbanks

I was really into Ethan Hawke back in high school. I watched all of his movies and managed to convince someone, once, that he was my boyfriend. I was pretending to be depressed because he had broken up with me for Uma Thurman (yes, I really did this). I especially loved Before Sunrise, taking the time to pause through that romantic, spontaneous poem that his character writes for Celine, so I could copy it down word for word. Nowadays Hawke sort of reminds me of a drowned rat but I still enjoy watching him act, and I enjoyed this film. After a week or so of trying, the husband and I finally got a chance to watch Before Midnight. This film flows amazingly well considering that it is all dialogue. It’s clear that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have a generous helping of chemistry… I guess three films of playing the same characters may do this to a couple of actors.

While I wasn’t so interested in the philosophical aspect of the conversations, musings on age, marriage, and love, I never got bored during all the talk. By the end of the film, there is a big blow-up and this is where I found myself more interested. The faces get really fun to watch, well, Delpy’s face does. Hawke’s face needs a shave, but still, I watched it. I am endlessly fascinated by the myriad of ways we humans communicate, words, of which seem to be the most ambiguous of all. How much more do we communicate through looks, gestures, and the absence of words? The depths of non-word communication are quite deep, as anyone who has been in a romantic relationship will no doubt agree. The way that we learn loved ones methods of “talking” over the years is also fascinating to me.

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By Ross Wilbanks

In the film’s looks and gestures hang this emotional lynchpin: Is Jessie serious in trying to convince Celine to move to the United States to be closer with his son? He only declares it once and in defense of Celine’s abashment says, ‘So there’s no way…’

Ethan Hawke’s laid back charm does have a sinister quality. A way of sliding the problem discussed back-at-you. In real life, Men often can work this angle of suggesting something dramatic very casually and, letting the woman react, break down the argument on the side of reason, breaking down confidence and instinct and then, bringing back the issue with an advantageous angle. In real life and in drama too, this happens. A trope used by Spencer Tracy in his movies with Katherine Hepburn is to rile her by this same casual suggestion, allow Hepburn to work up her dramatic temper to a silly boil then steal the scene with a simple gesture coupled with a wily straight face (Bill Cosby added a wrinkle to this face as well). The gesture needs to be simple, the pulling of an ear, rolling of the tongue … nothing too fancy.

Returning to Celine and Jessie with this in mind, I keep sympathies with Celine though she looks on the objective surface very annoyed (annoying); needling, pestering Jessie at all critical points of exchange. When quiet she looks defensive in anticipation. Perhaps she is trying to keep the laid back commando off-balance, but what if she’s simply making too big a deal over this? Maybe Jessie was just trying to work on the problem out loud?

I return to these thoughts each time I think of this film the past two weeks: not the lighting, not a passing reference to the 1953 masterpiece Voyage to Italy, not the director-as-auteur. Some very good film writing has taken these items up, and more, and it’s a nice beat to see a film inspire upon its initial release. With my personal life approaching similar situations as Jessie and Celine’s, I find the intricacies of their arguments more interesting than any of the film’s form.

Henry Miller, The Paris Years, the book

8 Jul

I picked this book up because it was written by Brassaï, not because it was written about Henry Miller. My husband and I were in La Jolla, CA, and stumbled into D.G. Wills Books. We loved this bookstore, and certain members of our family returned multiple times to buy a lot more books. All of our vacation money was spent in this store! That’s how much we enjoyed it.

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This book is a nice introduction to the person that was Henry Miller. I love reading about Paris in the early 20th century, and learning about where Henry Miller lived and hung out. He hung out cafés, if you can imagine that. There are chapters in this book titled, “Paris in 1930”, “Exile in Dijon”, “Truth and Storytelling”, and “The Delicious Rogue”. I enjoyed the “Truth and Storytelling” chapter as Brassaï dives into Miller’s storytelling technique of including real incidents that happened to him, and then embellishing them greatly. He gives examples of conversations he shared with Miller, and of how they showed up, distorted, in “Tropic of Cancer”. Brassaï mentions Miller’s tendency to employ this same technique in everyday letter writing to friends, or in telling stories orally, or in other words, making-up shit all the time.

Brassaï talks about how Miller’s “cavalier treatment of the truth” troubles him and others, but he doesn’t dismiss Miller or judge him harshly over this character attribute, which I appreciate. In the following chapter, titled, “Autobiography is the Purest Romance”, Brassaï goes on to dissect this tendency in Miller stating such things as, “But while Miller makes a virtue of necessity, professing that reality is only a pretext for giving life to his obsessions and his hallucinations, and an excuse to make ample use of his storytelling gifts, he doesn’t dwell on it. Sometimes he could even admit that his overactive imagination was a flaw, preventing him  from seeing things as they really were, rather than purely as a reflection of his mind. So quickly does his art take over and cloud his vision of facts and events that when he looks at his notes later on, he no longer remembers what was really said and felt, and what was imagined. He could not control the moment; once his imagination seized the reigns, his mind raced in to the might-be, the could-be, the fantastic, the baroque, the unreal. It is, I believe, a common trait among great storytellers.” Okay…. we all know THAT friend. You’re not really sure if you can depend on him, but he’s a Great Artist, or a Great Writer, or whatever, and he’s immensely talented and entertaining, and that’s makes him worth you’re time. Just don’t loan him money or fall in love with him, right?

I am now going to attempt reading some Miller, as I have never done so. I also love the cover of this book very much, and if I manage my blog post of “Favorite Book Covers” this will be included. The picture was, of course, taken by Brassaï.

Grilled asparagus

1 Jul

This is so delicious! It’s really easy if you don’t count the grating of the asparagus, which still only takes about 10 minutes. Grate the stalks of some asparagus and then sprinkle on olive oil and salt and pepper. Enough olive oil to coat them lightly, and not too much salt. Broil for about 10-15 minutes, keeping a close eye on them. You may want to move your rack down to the lowest part so it doesn’t get burnt. You may also want to throw some grape tomatoes on for color and taste.

This is a great vegetable to cook for guests as you don’t have to have your oven on for too long, it is easy to make, and it looks and taste so delicious and fancy.

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(these are sitting in a pan just to keep them warm…)

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