Friday, July 30, 2010

Break Our Necks for Home

Currently, I am reading Holy the Firm, a beautiful, very short book which provides reflections of a daily life. It is an engaging book and, although short, really provides a nice place to leap into your own mess of thoughts, your own reflections. I am not what some would call religious, maybe spiritual, but not religious, that being said, I still find this book to be an inspiration.

Here is a quote that I found most wonderful:

And then, when we wake to the deep shores of time uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it's time to break our necks for home.

There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times

(Annie Dilliard, Holy the Firm)

My wish for each and every one of you is to find what you are looking for in life, to find the meaning you seek. I know I am searching and, regardless of what I find, I will be happy.

Have a lovely weekend all!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roll Those Tamales

Over the weekend, I got the cooking bug again- this time it was for tamales. Yes, tamales. They are not as hard as they seem, they just take some time and patience. I decided to fill them with refried beans, pieces of jalapeno, and of course Chihuahua cheese. I also threw together a side of salsa, because, really, tamales without salsa are just sad lonely things on your plate.

The salsa should be made first. It will need to cool so if you make it first it can hang out in the refrigerator while the tamales are being prepared. That is unless you have a little someone taste testing the salsa...


(Everyone has their own heat levels, mine is fairly high. The hotter the better and if I don't get hiccups, why bother eating it at all?)

5 Roma tomatoes- diced
1/2 bunch cilantro- cut up
1 small garlic bulb- finely diced
1/2 medium side read onion- finely diced
3 jalapenos- (seed 2 of them, leave the last one alone)- finely diced
1 lime
pinch of adobe spice
pinch of black pepper
pinch of Cayenne
pinch of cumin

mix everything up, then puree 1/3 to 2/3 of the mixture (add the pureed portion back in with the remaining mix) and chill. (Once again, unless you have someone "tasting" it at this point. Once they are finished "tasting" it, then chill :))

Next, on to the tamales!!!

Corn Husks:

You will need the dried corn husks. I get them from a little store in my neighborhood- I am sure you can probably get them most places. You want the larger ones since the small ones are a pain to work with. I know, I was stuck with the small ones on this batch.

Soak these in water while you are preparing the other ingredients.


Really, you can put in whatever you desire. I chose the refried beans, jalapenos and cheese because that was what we had around.

1 can refried (vegetarian) beans
2 jalapenos (both seeded, but throw some of the seeds in anyway- like I said, no hiccups, no good!)
1/4 package of Chihuahua cheese
1/2 bunch cilantro- cut up with stems removed.
pinch chili powder
pinch adobo powder
pinch garlic powder
pinch cumin

Mix those together and put aside for the moment. Don't worry about cooking the mixture. It will cook when you steam the tamale.

Next, the masa...


I cheat a bit here. There is a mix for the masa that can be found at most stores. It is called MaSeCa for Tamales. It works well.

4 cups MaSeCa mix
2 cups vegetable broth (or use a veg. bullion cube)
2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
11/3 cup of vegetable shortening- I use a palm version from Whole Foods

In a smaller bowl, whip the shortening until fluffy. Set aside

Then, in a larger bowl, combine the mix, salt and baking powder together. Add your water and broth and mix with your hands to make sure all is absorbed and evenly distributed. Then mix in the shortening.

Get your steamer started at this point.

Rolling the tamales:

Take your well soaked corn husks, dry each one off- I don't dry them well, just well enough so the masa sticks.

take one of the husks, grab enough masa to cover about 2/3 of the husk, spread it on beginning from the side you are going to roll until it is about 1/4 inch thick, leaving space at the top and bottom of the husk (so you can tie them off) and then add your filing to the middle of the masa. Roll from the masa side and make sure you form a seal with the masa so your filing doesn't escape. (It probably will on a couple, don't worry, those are for "tasting.") Tie each end with either kitchen tine or use your longer husks torn in strips as ties.

Place into steamer for approximately 45 minutes.

These do freeze well, that is, if you have any left after "tasting" them...


Friday, July 23, 2010

Get Back In Touch

Recently, I was discussing the importance of touch- both being touched and touching another. I find touch to be one of our greatest senses. Don't get me wrong, all our senses play an important part in our everyday being, but touch literally and figuratively links us to the world around us. Research has determined that touch is so important that children who have been neglected and have not received enough touching from another develop more slowly and are more likely to have emotional disconnection than children that experience touch on a regular basis.

Moreover, per some studies, societies that have more touching such as France have lower rates of violence. That correlation makes sense to me. If we are touching we are experiencing each other and our world in a more interactive way. I have always found touch to be necessary and healthy in both love and friend relationships. It is a form of grounding, the other person is physically present. The connection created reduces the chance of seeing the person as other, unrelated and easy to discard and harm. It also can reduce the need to be violent because it provides an outlet to anger and aggression by giving emotional support, a shoulder to cry on shall we say.

In our society today, I believe we move further and further away from each other. Between text messaging and e-mailing, phone calling and Skyping, many of us have forgotten the importance and the art of touching. I do not want to down play the importance of those other forms of communication in our daily lives and the opportunities they have given us to be in contact when we are across the world and unable to be in each other's presence, but we need to touch more.  Many in the U.S. shy away from placing a hand on another for fear of being seen inappropriate. Appropriate touching can make us feel less alone, can comfort us in times of sorrow, can show love and affection for another, can show concern and relieve stress.

On a personal level, I know I need to be touched and touch. The surprise hug while washing dishes, the hand on the shoulder when passing by, a stroke of one's hair while watching a movie, the resting of hands on the small of one's back or waist- these all remind me that I am here in the present. That I am loved and protected. That I protect and show love to another. They tend to be the thing most missed when someone dies or leaves- the feeling of them being there, in the present. And you know they are there, because you can feel them.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Journey to Yourself

As I have mentioned before, I am doing some mental (and physical) house cleaning. Working through my own little crisis has opened me up to taking inventory of me and then reflecting on it. I think I am on to something. Regardless of what happens, at the end of this crisis I am sure I will be in a new place mentally (and definitely physically).

So here are my thoughts for the day:

Start becoming who you want to be. It may surprise you how long or short the journey will be. Restrictions are often self imposed due to fear of the unknown, fear of the possibility of other. Be prepared to proceed further than expected, be prepared to have set backs- both are helpful and teach patience, gratefulness and humility. I have come to understand how fleeting life, love, youth and friendship are, but that may be what makes them precious to us. Without the possibility of losing/gaining any of these, do they have value on their own? I am not so sure. I do not believe we savor moments as much as we do when we realize all can be lost. For example, once you decide to move to a new place, a new city, do you start to see the home you live, the city in which you reside in a different light? Do you start to appreciate the little quirks of the places, the specialness of every building, every encounter? I think the answer to this is a resounding yes.

I further believe that nothing we do matters and yet, all that we do matters- it just depends on the scope, the context, in which we are analyzing the action or thought. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it is good. It gives us a more balanced perspective on life and our role in it. It is all a journey. Sometimes we go it with someone, sometimes alone, but always with our past, present and future selves.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Suikertaart (Flemish Sugar Tart)

For a fairly easy versatile tart, I suggest the Sugar Tart. It goes fast so make sure you keep a piece for yourself! Recipes come from Everyone Eats Well In Belgium Cookbook:


1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup of milk (warmed to 100 degrees)
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 1/2 tbs butter (melted)

mix milk and yeast in small bowl for approximately 5 minutes

While waiting for yeast, combine flour, sugar and salt in large bowl. Make a well in the center and add egg, yeast mixture and melted butter. Mix with fingers until it forms a ball that doesn't stick to your fingers. Leave it rise for 1 hour in a lightly oiled bowl.

After it has risen, punch it down and roll it out to fit into a well buttered and floured 1-12 inch tart pan or 2-8 inch tart pans. Poke with fork and allow to rise for 20 minutes.


3/4 cup of brown sugar
3 tablespoons finely ground almonds
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine sugar and almonds in small bowl.

In a larger bowl mix eggs, cream and vanilla.

Sprinkle 2/3 of the sugar/almond mix into the tart crust. Add the egg/cream/vanilla mixture and then top off with the remaining sugar/almond mix. Dot top with the butter pieces.

Bake in lower third of oven for 8 minutes at 450 degrees and then reduce the heat to 300 degrees for another 12-15 minutes. Let cool.

The tart custard center melts in your mouth. It is a wonderful tart. Smakelijk! (Enjoy!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ink on the screen

This past weekend I completed my 1st screen printing course. Short, but sweet. For those of you out there who do not know what screen printing is, here is a quick down and dirty explanation:

1. you start with an image or stencil (see example above).
2. you place that image/stencil on the printing screen (either with adhesive in the case of the stencil or with photo emulsion in the case of the image)
3. Once the screen is ready, then the item that you want to print on must be slightly stretched and attached to a surface for a clean image.
4. Place the screen where you want it on the item you are printing on
5. Choose your inks for printing
6. Use the squeegee to push the ink through the screen to copy the image on to your clothing/fabric
7. Let ink dry
8. Apply heat to the fabric/image to avoid the image from washing off.
9. Wash the clothing item and now it is ready to wear.

Below are some of my newest creations.

Making wearable art seems so intuitive. It places art into the world, a piece of you- who knows the places it may end up. Making art is similar to putting a note in a balloon and letting it be taken by the wind. Someone may find it and then they too will share in your creation, add to it.

How do you put yourself out in the world?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baby Blanket

I finally finished my first attempt at a baby blanket using the Stitch and Bitch knitting book. I used Malabrigo yarn for this project- cream and purple.

The double color was a little much since it was my first blanket, but I persevered. When I started this project I was in such a different state of mind than I am now. Each stitch includes the journey of my life for the months (yes, months- I kept putting it down to tend to life's other issues) that it took me to finish. I am proud of the finished product- it definitely has some character- perfection is boring.

Now... what to try next? Sweater? Socks? We shall see...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Individual Cobblers

I borrowed an individual cobbler recipe from Pioneer Woman's blog and it turned out really well. They are really easy and perfect for this time of year. Here is the recipe:

Prep Time: 15 Minutes Cook Time: 45 Minutes Difficulty: Easy Servings: 24


2 cups Self-rising Flour (You Must Use Self-rising)

2 cups Sugar

2 cups Milk

2 sticks Butter, Melted

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

2 cups Fresh Raspberries (I also used peaches just to vary it up a bit)

Extra Sugar For Sprinkling

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour with sugar, then whisk in milk. Whisk in melted butter and vanilla.

Pour 1/4 cup batter into greased muffin tins. Sprinkle a few raspberries on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown and crisp around the edges.

Invert onto a cooling rack and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The night of the insomniac

Last night, after the remnants of my husband’s goodnight hug and kiss began to fade and his peaceful snoring commenced, I realized sleep would again elude me and so I ventured out into the night. Walking around after most of the city has gone to sleep provides a certain sense of calm. The warm breeze, the porch lights left on for the stragglers after the “responsibles” have gone to bed, the silence of resting cars lining the neighborhood streets.

I think of the couples snuggling up next to each other while the hum of the air conditioning lulls them into dreams. New mothers taking well deserved cat naps before the next middle of the night feedings commence. The insomniacs, like me, who refuse to leave the confines of their bedrooms and see and experience the nighttime world. I think of all of these characters and more as I walk the streets in silence.

I came across a man sitting in a lawn chair on the roof of a garage. He was wearing headphones- could’ve been listening to a old Joy Division tune, could’ve been Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Who knows? He had his long neck bottle positioned between his legs and a bee bee rifle strung across his lap. I am not sure what he was hunting, but he was definitely focused on the kill. He sat there a long time surveying the area through his site while I looked on. I wonder how he came to the decision to sit up on that garage roof half past midnight in pursuit of whatever it was that he needed to maim or kill. What kind of mission he was on? Was it something internal? Was he just a rat vigilante? I never got my opportunity to ask.

While watching the “Alleyway Hunter,” I was approached by Joshua, an artist from the outskirts of Rockford. He was a bit disheveled wearing a blue and white stripped boating shirt and a Disneyland flower printed hat. He was sweating profusely even in the breezy night air. His hair was a mess and he had been drinking some. His shorts pockets contained various size and colored crayons. Although he was quick to cut the night by speaking, his appearance and demeanor quickly dispelled any initial threat of harm that can come from an unknown.

His plan was to finish the sketch he had started earlier that evening. He proudly showed me the beginnings of the sun god he was drawing. What he lacked in technique he made up in creativity and unabashed ease that he exuded when he plopped himself down on the ground to finish his masterpiece.

He told me he had been politely kicked out of his friend’s apartment while his friend’s roommate spent some alone time with his girlfriend. He talked of his adventures in the city and quickly surveyed his past loves. We parted ways when he tried to turn his bungled charm on me.

“I am married” I explained, “I am not interested.”

He gracefully accepted my rejection to his verbal advances, and I continued on my way into the shadowed quiet streets alone, back home to my sleeping husband.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Screen printing in review

The screen printing class is a success. I mentioned in a previous post that I was signed up for this class. I really didn't know if I would enjoy it, but I had received a gift certificate and thought it was high time to cash in.

It is a small class consisting of about six students in all. We are learning to transfer images (yes even images taken by us! Yay!) on to fabric. I was so excited to hear that we could use our own images- Isn't that such a great way to share one's own photos in a creative way? My husband kindly help me switch a few of my photos into 100% black/white so that they would work with the photo emulsion process. He always tries to be supportive of my new and crazy endeavors. He actually is the reason I took this particular class at all. Great suggestion!

My photo emulsion screens worked really well and I was on my way to making prints and such. I am like my own walking advertisement. How fun!!! So without further ado, here is on of the creations I made. This is the only one which has made it in front of the camera so far. I will share more as I go.

I really enjoy when something new I try is as fun as this is and the finished product is able to be used! Now, if my fiddle classes were only so productive... but the sure do make me laugh.

Have a nice after the 4th day.

Friday, July 2, 2010


When we talk about ourselves, about others, or simply about things, we want-it could be said- to reveal ourselves in our words: We want to show what we think and feel. We let others have a glimpse into our soul... But maybe this is absolutely false? A self-deception? For not only do we reveal ourselves with our words, we also betray ourselves. We give away a lot more than we wanted to reveal, and sometimes it's the exact opposite. And the others can interpret our words as symptoms for something we ourselves may not even know.
(Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon)

Sharing words spoken or written is such a pleasure. Communication with another is very important. Without such we miss the challenge of trying to understand another. Without words we miss the fulfillment of sharing our thoughts and dreams with another.

That being said, I have always been of the mindset that one should listen with both their ears and their eyes. Body language shares so much more than just the spoken word. The look, the smile, the tensing of muscles all give a window into the others soul. Without the gestures, words can be seen as empty. It is easy to misunderstand. How often does one read an e-mail and become angry at the written words only to find out that the tone was not intended?

Have a wonderful weekend. Share some words with a loved one. I hope to do the same.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

flowery delight

With all the beautiful blooms around, I would like to share with you some of them that I found particularly intriguing... I hope you enjoy them as well.