Monday, January 30, 2012

Found Paintings



I've had this painting from the artist Tom Lieber hanging on my bulletin board for many months.
I picked the card from a pile of gallery announcement cards that we kept at my old internship site. We used the cards in a classroom setting to prompt group discussions, or to inspire art-making. I was drawn to this painting in particular and brought it home with me. Since then I've glanced at it from time to time and have even considered digging my acrylic paints out form the shed, to try my hand at painting with something other than watercolors. The moment slips by, weeks pass and sometime later I end up staring at the card, and the cycle begins again. Paintings like Lieber's make my fingers itch for gobs of silky paints, smooth paper, and a space I can make messy without feeling the need to clean it up when I'm done for the day.

Other artists that make my fingers itch to create:
Hung Liu
Lisa Kokin
Mark Rothko
Richard Diebenkorn
Mary Cassatt
Monroe Hodder

And some lesser known, but extremely creative and wonderful artists from Creative Growth in Oakland as well as Creativity Explored in San Francisco:
Dan Miller
Mary Belknap

What or who inspires you to do, to make, to create?
And what stops you from doing it?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Favorite New Blog!: 1

I'm excited to have recently discovered two new blogs of dear friends from Birch Family Camp! They are listed on the right sidebar of Four Black Stars, but please check them out for yourself and if you like what you see, subscribe to their feed.

The outstanding, hilarious and lovely Sandee Moore!

And the photographically talented, creative, and sweet Amanda Kingloff!

Please check out their blogs and peruse their inspiring, crafty & witty posts.
Well done ladies, thanks for inspiring me to continue my own blog!

Birch Love.

Favorite New Blog!: 2

I take it all back. I found "Cabin Porn" on this lovely blog: Unruly Things. Check it out. It's a nice mix of craft, fashion, design, and travel. Good times.

Favorite New Blog!: 3

I found this gem in a pile of a long list of blogs the other day and it made me so happy.
The name of the blog is Cabin Porn. I spilled over the postings for a good 1/2 hour deciding which cabin I wanted to have as my own.

Check it out and find your bliss.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Save the Dates and Tissue Flowers

We had a couple of people on the guest list who didn't have email addresses and so I made some paper Save The Date cards. Pretty straightforward, but they were fun to make!

I also goofed around with some really basic tissue paper flowers today. Tissue poms and flowers have been all the rage for a number of years now. In fact, for my best friend's wedding (The lovely Megan Hohn Surly) we made hundreds of these. Small, medium, and large sizes and they looked beautiful! We attached small ones to twigs they'd gathered and used them as centerpieces. If I had good photos of this I'd post them here, but alas, I do not.

I'm not thrilled with the colors but I was using tissue paper I had around the house. I  do like the shape and shadow of the flower though, and they are really fast and easy to make. I've tried making another kind of paper flower but it was much more time consuming and harder on my hands. It turned out beautifully though, see?

I'm thinking the tissue paper flowers would make a good napkin-dresser-upper. I got the idea to put them around napkins from ye ol' Martha Stewart. Perhaps if we have the flowers around the napkins and a few candles in jars in the center that would be all the dressing up the tables would need. Even if this is what we end up doing, half the fun is making stuff, looking at design and ideas, and eventually ending up where you started, right?

Split Pea and Barley Pressure Cooker Soup

Total Time: 40 Minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes

Serves ~ 6-8

1 1/2 c. Green Split Peas
3/4 c. Pearl Barley
8 c. Water
2 1/2 Tbs. Veggie Bouillon
1 Large Yellow Onion
2 Carrots, Chopped
2 Cloves Pressed Garlic
1 tsp. Thyme
1 tsp. Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste

Throw the whole damn thing in the pressure cooker, stir.
Bring pressure cooker to boil (pressure gauge rocking rapidly), turn down heat to steady gauge rock and set timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes turn heat off and let pressure cooker release steam on it's own time.

After the soup is done, remove the bay leaf. Then place about half of the soup into a blender until mostly smooth, and then reincorporated it to the unblended soup.

Eat with Vigor!

Recipe was modified to be vegetarian and tastier from this original version.

Shout out to my Mom: This recipe easily rivals the California Pizza Kitchen soup we used to love. And it's REALLY easy . . . if you still have a pressure cooker around . . . 

Ta Da!

The Finished Product. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Blender Blues & Banana Bread

Broken Blender + Brown Bananas = Banana Bread!!

For the past few months Devin has really been into making smoothies for us for breakfast. Each day he'd blend up a banana, some plain yogurt, frozen fruit (berries, mango, etc) and a touch of juice or milk. But then, one sad day, our already temperamental blender took a turn for the worst. Long story short, we have been blender-less for a month or so, leaving us looking longingly at blenders online, or searching thrift stores as bunches of fresh bananas slowly turn brown.

Since we're moving in less than 5 months we've been ruthlessly streamlining our possessions, and trying not to buy anything new unless we really need it. A new blender, sadly, just wouldn't make the cut into the Move to England pile so instead of buying one our friends came to the rescue and loaned us one! It was delivered to us by the Mighty Weston Lane last night, but not before I'd already thawed the pile of frozen brown bananas in preparation for banana bread making!

I'm happy to say I have two tasty smelling loaves in the oven right now AND I got to have a smoothie this morning! (Thanks Wes and Katelyn!) Below is the recipe I used, and though I've not tasted it yet, it came together easily and is shaping up really nicely as I type! Recipe credit to these ladies over at The Sister's Cafe blog.

Recipe Source:  King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat Grain Baking Cookbook
Yields 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease 2 9×5 loaf pans.

1 cup butter, softened (Or 1/2 cup vegan butter and 1/2 cup applesauce)

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla

3 cups mashed bananas (about 5-6)

1/2 cup honey
 (I use a bit less than this)
4 large eggs (or vegan egg replacer)
4 cups whole wheat flour, traditional or white whole wheat

Sprinkling of Oat Bran
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Beat together the butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla until smooth.  Add the banana, honey and eggs, beating until smooth.  Add the flour and nuts, stirring until smooth.  Spoon batter into the prepared pans and let it rest at room temperature, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Bake the bread for 50 minutes.  Lay a piece of foil gently across the top, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 10-15 minutes more.  Remove the bread from the oven, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.

Once cooled freeze one loaf for later, and eat the other immediately with a smoothie!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Spools of Color

Spools of thread with guests names as escort cards.
Pretty idea. And a pretty wedding too!

Wedding Dresses

I picked out my wedding dress, and suffice it to say, I'm glad that's over!

I don't mean to sound ungrateful, or bitchy . . . it was a fun and interesting experience and I had a great time with family and friends trying on dresses in Denver and in the Bay Area (Champagne and a breathtaking view of the skyline? Yes please!). It was however, quite overwhelming as it called into question so many things that I didn't anticipate! From silly little questions like, "What is my style?" to bigger questions like "What kind of wedding do we want to have? ".

Before getting engaged I'd barely flirted with thoughts of a wedding, let alone my own, and suddenly I found myself diving into a world of tulle, paper flower decorations, bunting and diamonds. For me it was much too much, and yet, I kept going deeper and deeper. The siren's call of the wedding industry kept bending my ear and I was listening.

After 2 cities, 4 different boutiques, 7 appointments, and something close to 35 dresses I did it.

I found the dress.

And it wasn't an ah-ha! This is it! THIS is THE dress moment.
It was more of a: I like this dress. It's really nice. It's comfortable & easy, it doesn't require any special underwear (score!), I can get into it without any help (another score!), and it's pretty. It makes me feel pretty. Oh! And it costs less than my graduate school tuition? Done.

If I could give advice about wedding dress shopping to anyone it would be this:
#1. Don't freak out.
#2. It doesn't have to be a "wedding dress".
#3. Don't freak out.
#4. Stop thinking so much and just pick one.

Cynical advice? Maybe. But it worked for me, and I got a sweet dress, if I do say so myself!

Bay Area Bucket List

By the time we move away from the Bay Area in June, I will have called the East Bay home for a little over 8 years. That's the longest I've lived anywhere, save my childhood home in Sioux City, Iowa in which I lived for . . . 8 years! Something magical about that number I guess.

It's no surprise that there are many, many things I've yet to do in and around San Francisco and because of this, I've created a bucket list of things to do before we go. Some things on the list I'll be doing for the first time, while others I want to do one last time before departing.

Here are some examples of Bucket List items:

Take Devin to the California Academy of Sciences (check!)
Visit and have tea in Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden (check!)
Brunch at 900 Grayson
Cocktails at Mua in Oakland
Sunset Bay Ferry Cruise into San Francisco
Summit Mt. Diablo & Mt.Tamalpais

Devin and I have created a Google calendar of when we'll be doing these items and invite friends & family to join us! If you'd like us to share the calendar with you let me know and I'll add you to it.

Bay Area people, what should I add to the list?
Out of towners, what would you do if you visited the SF area for a week?

Book Club - December

December Book: The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaimen (Graphic Novel)
Host: Anna Parisi
Date: December 14th, 2011
Food Theme: Pick a character from the book and create a dish based on their personality

Sadly, I didn't even purchase the book this month. I did make an effort to find it at one bookstore but when they didn't have it, I walked away and returned to reading last month's book club book. Most people got the book read though, and many reported they really enjoyed reading a graphic novel for a change. Each story's artwork was completed by a different artist (all men, where are the female artists?!) so each story had a really different feel to it. From the sounds of it, a few book-clubbers might continue to read some of Gaimen's other novels. 

Food was a hodge-podge of different dishes. Garlic breadsticks, cheese plate, deconstructed cesar salad, thai salads from whole foods, and celebration chocolate mouse in honor of Trixie's 1st Birthday as well as the birthday of Mrs.Teresa Matazzoni! A good time was had by all.

And so ended Book Club 2011. 
Since we were headed into a new year we drew calendar cards to set the schedule of hosting. We pulled one calendar card each, creating a schedule through the month of June.  A bittersweet schedule of just 6 short months because come this summer I, and likely Ms.Sarah Lusardi, will be both be leaving the Bay Area, and thus Book Club. (Sad Faces) A Skyping Book Club? Perhaps! But until we cross that bridge:

Book Club 2012
January: Kim -- Book: Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean
Date: January 22nd, 2012
Theme: Movie Night! One Day: The Movie (Book Club - August 2010)

February: Sarah
March: Hayley
April: Jessie
May: Anna
June: Teresa

Book Club - November

Host: Kim Keogh (Technically)
Food Theme: Ethiopian Restaurant!
Date: November 29, 2011 7:00pm

While a handful of us didn't finish the book in time for BC, the overall impression of Abraham Vergese's book was a positive one. Verghese manages to keep you turning the pages through time and through the stories of various people whose lives are touched by twin brother's and their life story. It's a hefty book, but worth reading if you have time.

Since we ate out for dinner this BC, I have no menu to present other than to encourage people of the Bay Area to patronize the fabulous establishment of Amsara Ethiopian on Telegraph Ave! Their Veggie Combo is fantastic and worth eating on a weekly basis.

December Book: The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaimen (Graphic Novel)
Host: Anna Parisi
Date: December 14th, 2011
Food Theme: Pick a character from the book and create a dish based on their personality

One Year: One Blog

A year has come and gone since I started this blog. I'm not convinced I have what it takes to be a 'Blogger', or what that might even mean. I do know that writing it down (whatever 'it' is) feels good. Or to steal a book title from author Natalie Goldberg, blogging for me is "Writing down the bones". Blogging serves me in much the same way as art-making. It's a space to document, to track, to remember, to re-experience and re-examine my life.

On average, I managed to write just short of one post a week during 2011, although those posts came in more a digest-style vs. the usual daily report. I honestly don't know how people manage to blog daily. Perhaps you just have to make it a daily ritual like checking your mail, touching your toes or brushing your teeth. Maybe once I'm settled in England and feeling far away from friends and family I'll make it more of my daily ritual. Until then though, I'll continue with my massive digest stye of blogging.

Thanks for reading.
Happy 2012!!

Save The Date

Well, we did it. We invited a ton of people to our wedding.
The "Save the Date" along with our wedding website went out this morning after much research and data entry.

The big items are checked off the 'To Do' list so now we're getting down to the nitty-gritty.
Decorations, Flowers, Music, Tablecloths . . . all the fine print.

It's amazing to think how quickly things have come together considering D and I have only been engaged since last August (5 months). On the flip side, to think that we'll actually be standing in front of all of our friends and family in July (6 months) it feels like we've got so much to do we'll never get it all done. I say this not so much with regards to the wedding as to the fact that before we get married we need to MOVE!

The Grand Plan
We have high hopes for this summer, much of which is likely achievable if we really dig our heels in and get stuff done. We hope to complete our jobs (and for Devin to complete his PhD) by the end of May. Leading up to May we'll be applying for our UK Visa, selling unwanted possessions,  packing boxes 'For Storage' & 'For England' and completing our Bay Area Bucket List (See other post). At the end of May we'll have a grand Bon-voyage BBQ with all of our friends and co-workers and then take to the road for a 4-5 week road-trip, first stop, Yosemite.

We haven't planned all the details of the road-trip yet (i.e. no planning whatsoever) but aspire to spend a chunk of time in the Sierra's, stumble around all over Utah, and finally end up someplace in the Rockies before landing in Denver around the 4th of July-ish.

Then, badda-boom-badda-bing: WEDDING

And then, back into the Rocky Mountains (Buena Vista)! After the wedding we hope to decompress a bit from the move, road-trip, and wedding festivities, and have some quality down-time. We welcome any and all friends and family to join us while we spend time in BV since it might be the last we see of you before moving to England! We anticipate that we'll head to Cambridge sometime in August or early September to begin the exciting next chapter of our lives!

See what I mean about having a lot to get done? Oofta!
But what a fantastic to-do list to work our way through.
Damn we're lucky.