Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Ever since I was a little girl - Mexican food has been a part of my life.
My dad loves Mexican food - so we had it pretty regularly.
I remember going to a local restaurant every couple of weeks with my family.
When I was little - with a limited palette-
I ate a taco.
I remember trying refried beans for the first time.
I liked them - alot.
Enchiladas - tamales -Mole - etc - etc - etc
The older and braver - the more my palette expanded.
There is very little in that cuisine that I dislike.
Except for maybe - tripe.
Sorry - just can't get my brain to accept that one.

But with all of the culinary explorations - can you believe I was an adult before I tried flan?
And what's more - I never tried making it.
Until this last weekend.

Flan -
I am in love. For many years - flan has not been a part of my life. So very sad.

I tried making my first flan this last weekend.
It was not difficult to make - in fact, it was really quite easy.
The carmel gave me a little bit of an issue -
and it wasn't the making of the carmel that was hard.
It was the fact that the dish I was going to initially use didn't like it.
I poured the hot, amber liquid in the bottom of the stoneware dish and heard a low resonating pop.
I swirled the carmel around.
Hmmm -  another pop.
Then another one.
I lifted the bowl and looked around - and there it was.
A long crack.
Dang! I loved that bowl. To the garbage it went.

Oh well - another batch of the caramel.
I poured into a different bowl and swirled it around.
It's a fascinating process.
The caramel cools quickly to a hard candy - golden in color - and almost as clear as glass.
But really, really hard.
Must trust the process . . .
Then we whipped smooth the other ingredients -
eggs, evaporated milk, sweeted condensed milk, vanilla, a little sugar. . .
seriously - how could this not be good.

I poured the custard mixture into the bowl with the caramel and put it in the over in a water bath.
And wait. Almost an hour.
Then after it is cooked - we wait.
I'm feeling anxious.
It has to cool.
Then the unveiling - turn it upside down on a plate.
I'm nervous - will it release? Will it fall out in pieces? Will it land on the plate and then collapse into a gooey mess?

My daugther helps me - we flip and . . .
we are rewarded with a satisyfying sound as it releases and drops on the plate.
It is beautiful.
We stand and just admire it for a few minutes.

We slice it and take the first taste.
Oh my.
Smooth - velvety - sweet, but not overly sweet.
The texture was perfection.
A new favorite to be sure . . .

Oh and - believe it or not -
I have been painting and creating art.
I've been filling a lot of orders.
This last week has been spent on stacks of lazy susans, mirrors and smaller plaques.
A few chairs have been thrown in there for good measure.
I'll get some pictures up soon - I promise.
In the meantime - go make a flan!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Go To Meal . . .

 Do you have one? 
You know the one . . .
You get home late from the day job.
It's been a *$(*&%)# day.
You are hungry.
You want dinner.
You are impatient.
You need something warm and satisfying.
You want something quick.
You DO NOT want anything that requires speaking into a speaker from your car window.

So what do you cook?
At my house - it is almost always pasta.
Or pizza - but we will save that for another day.
I love working with pasta - it's versatile, it's begs you to be creative.
It's almost the perfect food.

Now a disclaimer - as I said -  I love pasta. But I rarely order a pasta when I go out to eat. 
I think because I find it so easy to cook, it's hard for me to pay elevated prices for a pasta meal.
But I digress. . . .

So last night was as described above. 
I finished the day job and then had an appointment at a local youth center to discuss a new project.
It was almost 7:30 and we were hungry and tired and needed some comfort on a plate.

While the pasta water was heating up, we scanned the refrigerator and found some mizithra cheese. 
Tossed it in the food processor with the large blade and hit the on button. 
I am left with a bowl of white snow.

I heat up the large skillet with some olive oil.
In goes a couple handfuls of chopped mushrooms.
Those cook until they take on a lovely golden color.
Next - garlic.
I mean - come on - it's pasta. You have to have garlic.
5-6 large cloves of minced garlic.
Then the butter.
A cube.
Don't judge . . .I needed comfort -
 and by the time this is dispersed on the whole batch of pasta
and split between 4 of us at the table plus the leftovers for 2 lunches -
it's really not that like I was eating a whole cube of butter.
(Am I rationalizing?  Maybe)
But the bubbling golden mixture is quite divine.

Now it's time for a little Spring.
Asparagus is arriving and it is one of my favorite vegetables.
Chopped into crisp little one inch pieces.
But they must wait - because there are few offenses more bothersome than overcooking the asparagus.

Now I must admit - I would normally add peas as well -
but my daughter does not like peas -
and I was feeling kind so I left them out this time.
But if you like peas - add them.

Pasta is cooked. Perfectly al dente.
It is removed with a strainer from the cooking water and placed directly into the skillet with the golden,
bubbling butter mixture.
Do not even think of rinsing all of that starchy water off.
Toss it all together.
Now . . .and not a moment before, add the asparagus.
Toss, toss, toss - make sure every morsel is soaking up that sauce.
And then - let it snow.
Sprinkle that wonderful mizithra all over the pasta.

That's it.
Plate it up.
Serve it with a little warm bread . . .or not.
Serve it with a salad . . .or not.

And to make the meal especially wonderful
sit down and enjoy it with someone you love.
And don't forget the a healthy dose of laughter.

Now - what is your go to meal? 
Share . . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dining Table Buddha

How do you know when your daughter is all grown up?
Her birthday comes around and she doesn't ask for
dolls or toys or clothes or makeup or the typical birthday gifts.
She asks for things to decorate her home.
She asks for functional items to use in her apartment.
She asks for a Lazy Susan for her dining room table that has been embellished with a Buddha.

And that is what she got.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Painted Footwear

I can probably say just that one word and you know what I am talking about.
A little canvas shoe.
Nothing special.
but all the rage.
My daughters have all bought them.
Friends have bought them.

But they are plain. . . .
Of course - some of the girls have bought versions with sequins and glitter . . .
but the basic version is PLAIN.

When my friend Vicki visited in January, she bought a pair of olive green Toms.
But she wanted something a little special, SO . . . .

Much better -
Now they are not so plain!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spontaneous Moments

If you've spent any time at all following this blog,
you know that we are big into
"family dinners".
Generally these are held on a Sunday evening.
They offer the perfect opportunity to connect as a family and take a deep breath before diving head first into a new week.
With the pace of life - I look forward to my lazy Sunday family dinners.

But life is shifting a bit.
A year ago - our home was bulging with 7 life forms.
All of my children, my husband, myself and the grandbaby were cohabitating.

Well - a year can make for a big change -
now there are three of us in the house.
Three of my children have moved out and moved on.
My youngest is not so young anymore and full of her own adventures.
And Mr. Man and I find ourselves sitting in an empty house on the weekends more often than not.

Now do not mistake this as a complaint.
I actually enjoy the quiet and the ability to do what I want, listen to what I want, have full control of the tv remote (like I actually watch tv) and to revel in this new found experience.

But I am finding it more and more difficult to gather the entire group of us around the table for a shared meal.
And the more difficult it is - the more I cherish it when it actually happens!

And I am particularly grateful for evenings like last night.

I needed to give something to my son. We talked and decided I would get it to him last night.
Then the conversation changed - if we were going to see each other, maybe we could actually have dinner.
OK - sure.
It was a Monday night - but why not?

Later I talked to daughter #3 and found she had no plans. Sure she would love dinner.
That invitation was then forwarded to her boyfriend.
Then my oldest daughter needed to drop something off and she came over with Little Man grandson.

All of a sudden the boring Monday evening turned into a spontaneous meal .
8 of us crowded around the table.
The menu was nothing special - just a simple meal.

But it was a good reminder to be open to the spontaneous moments.
To sit and talk and relax and share.
The conversation and laughter makes the chore of washing the dishes seem easy.
A little bit of perfection on a Monday night.

What are your favorite spontaneous moments? How do you embrace them?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Butterflies Are Free . . .

Butterfly children's chair - Sold

If you know my work - you know I love painting chairs.
In many ways - chairs were the gateway to many of my other items that I create. (Is there a 12-step group for that?)
I love taking old chairs that people are tired of and giving them a new life.
Full of color and whimsy - they become useable pieces of art.
And who can't use an extra chair?

People use their chairs for their desks, for a focal point in a corner of a room, for teacher's chair for story or circle time in a classroom . . .all sorts of things.

And of course - children's chairs are the most popular.
A few years back, I was lucky enough to stumble on an ad on Craigslist.
A church was selling a whole room full of old children's chairs.
Make us an offer, they said.
So I did - $2 per chair for as many as I could put in the back of my van.
The price was perfect - but I worked for those chairs.
I had to carry them all out of a basement - up 2 flights of stairs - on a hot August day.

I brought home a lot of children's chairs. We had them stashed everywhere possible.
I have painted them and sold them over the last few years.

But alas . . .I have only one chair left.
And they are getting so difficult to find - school districts have destroyed their supply of wooden chairs -
they are not considered sanitary.
People who sell them now consider them an "antique" and want "antique" prices.
I am a sad, sad person. . .

So I send a message out in to the universe . . .
where is an artist to find inexpensive wooden children's chairs?
May I happen upon another source from someone who is just anxious to make them someone elses problem?
I would be kind enough to take on that burden. . .