Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bluebonnet Baby


I know my friends in other parts of the country are still dealing with the remnants of winter, and not to make them jealous or anything, but it full-on gorgeous spring down here in Austin!

Seriously, the weather has been stunning, with bluebonnets and wildflowers to boot. How I do love springtime in Austin!

This year's bluebonnet (and other wild beauties) bounty pales in comparison to last year's, but it's still a might pretty sight to see fields of green grass dotted with bonnie bright buds, even if it's not in record numbers.


Spring, bluebonnets, pretty things... this is how I got inspired to paint up this gouache bluebonnet lady. And I like her!

I didn't realize it until I was in the midst of writing this post, but I reckon the big blue sky background choice was my mind subconsciously drawing from this picture of bluebonnets growing wild in the desert of Big Bend that I took...uhhhh...what was it? Six years ago?


But it was such a pretty sight at the time, there I was, on my first camping trip EVER (and I loved it!), and we were basically in the middle of the desert, just hiking along and lo, a patch of bluebonnets and a big ol' blue-as-can-be Texas sky. Soooo pretty!

I've lived through Florida, New York, and Tuscany spring times, and hands down it's Texas' spring that wins me over each year.

And I admit, it has a lot to do with the pretty little blue flowers. And the big blue sky...

...And maybe a smidge to do with the fact that my favorite color is blue. Pin It

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Touch O'Green Meringue Experiment

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day!

Interestingly enough, I am more excited about this year than previous years, having just recently confirmed my distant Irishness while working on our family tree with my mama. I guess now that I know that it's there for sure that it's more fun to celebrate.

So when I saw these super cute flower shaped lemon meringues in the back the latest Martha Stewart Living, a light bulb went off, and I was determined to make my own greened up version for St. Patrick's Day -- it's definitely a minimally Irish dessert, but then I'm minimally Irish myself, so there you go.

And so I whipped up some meringues using freshly chopped mint (I wanted to use peppermint extract after seeing the posts about peppermint milkshakes and whatnot lately, but not having any on hand, I opted for fresh mint), piped them out in the shape of shamrocks, and baked them up.

They turned out being only ever the slightest bit green (and yes, on the flat side), but that's all right because they were still super cute!

And absolutely fragile! Boo, breakage!

So yeah, the smaller the shamrock, the less likely it'll break. I learned that. That, and don't pick favorites before you've removed everything from the parchment paper.

I also learned that I am not so into fresh mint in anything other than say, a mojito (and that's a cultural beverage from the OTHER side of my family tree -- not an Irish branch, fer shure). I think I would've definitely preferred using that peppermint extract and a smidge of green food coloring were I to do it again. They just weren't what I wanted (though that didn't stop me from still eating some). Sigh!

However, my husband scarfed them down.

What can I say? He has fancier tastes than I (what with my food coloring and whatnot). That, and perhaps his propensity for shamrock-shaped things denotes a higher percentage Irishness than my own... Or maybe he just like food. Pin It

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan


I've been left speechless by the ongoing disaster in Japan. I honestly find myself at a loss for words, which doesn't happen to me very often at all.

So even though information available all over the internet and news about how everyone can help, I figured that in addition to helping through my own charity donations, I could at least help spread the word, encourage others to continue to give and spread the word, and give my own public yet personal word of support and sympathy to the people of Japan.

And so, here I am.


And as for the cranes, I know it's not 1,000 of them. Not yet, at least.

If you haven't done so already, please consider giving to the following organizations to help disaster relief efforts in Japan:

Direct Relief International - continually ranked one of the most efficient disaster relief charities around by the likes of Forbes and the Better Business Bureau.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)

And a round-up of craft auctions and charity proceeds to aid in relief efforts for Japan via the Red Cross and various other relief charities is available here (via Craftzine).

Peace and thank you.

Pin It

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

King Cake! (and a happy Mardi Gras to you)

I usually don't ever do much for Mardi Gras. Actually, I don't think I've ever done ANYTHING for Mardi Gras. It's just not a holiday we've ever really observed with much to-do or fanfare.

Perhaps that's why I got this mega hankering to make a king cake yesterday afternoon. I had to do SOMETHING for once! Plus, it's been a while since I've baked anything. I missed much of the holiday fun of Valentine's Day. And making a king cake from scratch sounded like a pretty perfect solution.

Yup! I had to do it.


Baby!

If you're not familiar with King Cake, here in the States, it's a Louisiana tradition for Mardi Gras, hence the trademark yellow, purple, and green colored sprinkles.

You often find king cakes for sale here in the Southern half of the U.S. before Mardi Gras -- allbeit these cakes in the grocery stores, I have never found them appealing or tasty. They usually look (and taste) a hot mess.

The cake itself is basically a yeasty, bread like dough (kind of like a cinnamon bun dough, actually) filled with either cream cheese or something else sweet, sugary, or savory -- like a cinnamon or praline filling.

And most importantly, a little baby figurine gets baked into the cake! Whoever gets the slice with the baby in it buys next years cake. Unless they're friends with me, in which case, I'll probably bake one every year anyway...


Upon the advice of my circle of friends' resident Acadian and Louisiana native, Kristin, I made my cake with cream cheese filling and the large sugar crystals on top. Yum! And it was good. Very good. Thanks, Kristin!

There is a baby baked into my cake somewhere, but the size and shape of the center of the ring just screamed out for a second, superfluous, decorative baby to nestle in it.

There he is, in a mountanous bed of ooey-gooey, bready king cake!

I used a combination of sorts of this recipe (credited to Emeril Lagasse, but oddly different from other king cake recipes credited to him elsewhere), and this one, which was the most glowingest reviewed one I found in my super quick recipe search.

I don't think it was too terribly involved. It just takes some time. But you could probably make your own far less involved King Cake with pre-packaged dough and cream cheese icing for filling.

I just happen to really enjoy the long and sometimes frustrating process of baking from scratch. Because I'm a glutton for punishment.

And just a plain old glutton, too. But I reckon that's what Mardi Gras is all about, Charlie Brown!

Mmmm...indulgence. Pin It

Monday, March 7, 2011

Little Pieces of Paper


Well, little pieces of cardstock or bristol board, rather. But I couldn't turn down a chance for alliteration in the phrase 'pieces of paper' so I went with that.

I was recently turned on to the idea of Artist Trading cards by a friend*, and seeing that this past weekend was the first time for a two day long Staple! Independent Media Expo, it seemed the perfect excuse to bring along some pint sized portable paintings, so I decided to try my hand at them.


I admit, it is tremendously fun and freeing for me to doodle up little characters ├╝ber quickly without fussing too much over the details. It's like a sketchbook, but a sketchbook I can easily share with people without ripping it all apart in the process.

And so, here is a smattering of drawings hued with pinks and blues from this weekend's array of pieces. Super cute, yes! Elephant Strawberry Cupcake Girl! Happy Yeti Guy and Birdie!


And Farting Victorian Lady! Cute perhaps, but not very classy I admit.

Such is the gamble you take when you allow me to put a pen to paper -- you get to place bets on whether it'll be cute, creepy, crass, or a combo of all three. Poot!









* a friend who, by the way, if you, ever need to read up on your Americans with Disabilities Act code and architecture, happens to write a blog about it over here that sometimes involves Godzilla. Pin It