Monday, October 20, 2014

Camping in Vedauwoo, Wyoming, A New Adventure on a Schooner Bound for Mexico for Ethan + PF CHANG’S MONGOLIAN BEEF+ BROCCOLI COPYCAT RECIPE

Now that they can both drive, Ellie and Kohlton were itching to go out and have an independent adventure sans the parents. They took a short road trip up to Vedauwoo, a lovely rock formation in southern Wyoming.


Out on the West Coast, Ethan has said good-bye, for now at least, to The Lady Washington and The Hawaiian Cheiftan. He has called them home since February. Now Ethan is on a new adventure upon the Schooner Patricia Bell. Here is information about her from the Tall Ship Festival site:
Schooner Patricia Belle was built by owner Captain Patrick Hughes from 1994 – 1998. Constructed of locally grown Douglas Fir in Port Orchard, Washington.


Her shake down cruise was from Seattle to Nicaragua, returning with 10,000 pounds of Arabic coffee to San Diego. Patricia Belle has sailed the Pacific to Hawaii, Mexican Waters annually for 10 years, Central America, Panama, through the Golf Coast of America, Bahamas, Caribbean and South America.

As a private family owned schooner, friends, family and Mariners in training are always welcome aboard.

Ethan has joined their crew to take part in the Baja HaHa, a regatta from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. They will be taking part in the event from Oct. 26 to November 8th. If Ethan being on the crew for the boat is a good fit, he will stay on and sail with them until he comes home for Christmas. Then he is considering going to Thailand with Emily and a few other friends for a few months next year. I am excited for him to go on this new adventure, but nervous about his being in Mexico.
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PF CHANG’S MONGOLIAN BEEF + BROCCOLI COPYCAT RECIPE, slightly modified
via: Damn Delicious

PREP. THE BEEF
1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain (Ellie did not like the flank steak. I thought it was fine. Next time I might try sirloin steak)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced

FOR THE SAUCE
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

BROCCOLI
2-3 cups Broccoli, trimmed to bite size pieces
1/2 cup Water



In a clean, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1/2 cup water. Heat soy sauce mixture until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes; set aside.

In a large baggie, combine flank steak and cornstarch.Toss to coat the beef with the cornstarch.

Steam the broccoli by heating the water up in a clean pan. Add the broccoli once the water is hot. Stir occasionally. Steam the broccoli for just a few minutes. Be careful not to over steam it. Set it aside as you cook the beef.

Heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Add beef and fry until browned and cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; discard excess oil.

Add beef, steamed broccoli and soy sauce mixture to the saucepan over medium heat and cook until sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in green onions.

We serve ours over Basmati rice.

Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Frida Kahlo Shrine

The last few night I have been working on an ofrenda, or rather, it is supposed to be an ofrenda, but it is really closer to a shrine or an alter. You see, ofrenda are small shrines that are created to honor the dead. They contain a picture of the person being honored, a small collection of things they liked, or that represented them, and things to represent the four elements of the earth, namely a bowl of water (to quench the soul's thrust after such a long journey), a candle (fire to represent celebration and new life), tissue paper banners or flowers (to represent wind) and food (to represent the earth and the nourishment it gives us). There are also usually marigolds for beauty and the strong scent that will help the souls find their way back home.

I am making my shrine to honor Frida Kahlo because I admire the strength of who I think she was and how strong her spirit is. I considered making the shrine for my grandmother or my mother-in-law, whom I loved deeply, but this manner of honor is too flashy and public for both of them. I considered making it for the pets we've had in the past who were so important to me, but how could I pick just one, or risk not including another? Besides, there is already one for a woman's beloved dog who died a while back.
This project is in response to a call for entries for ofrendas. When I was at Two Hands last week Casey mentioned that she was sure I had no lack of ideas and that perhaps I would make the time to create an ofrenda in response to their call. I was very pleased and complimented by this comment and so I set my mind to see what I could come up with. I did have many ideas that were all fun, but vague. The ideas became more clear once I began to gather my stuff. I picked up an old, sort of yucky shadow box that had housed samples of legumes as a kitchen decoration. I had wanted a house figure, but all that I could find were either too big, too cutsie or too hard to modify. I also had wanted to make the alter out of tin, but I could not find tin for an art project anywhere (though one person suggested that I get roof flashing. I will keep this in mind for next time). I had also imagined that my shrine might have wings or a heart with barbed wire and flames as those are traditional images, but that is not what came forth. Since I could not find tin, I cut up an aluminium tray that I got from the dollar store. I used beads that I had from a grab bag and beads that I bought just because they pleased me. And I chose a picture of Frida who was laughing and happy on some sunny afternoon. I liked the light her joy put off. I tinted that image in places with markers.

At one point I asked Ellie for her advice on a few ideas that I had. She, being insightful and artistic, had wonderful suggestions that felt just right even as she explained them to me. I am so thankful for her and her ideas. She in turn thanked me for caring what she thought. "Of course I care what you think," I replied softly. Part of me was trying to push myself to include all of the traditional elements that are expected to be found in an ofrenda, but that felt strained. Ellie told me that she thinks I can win. I, of course, love that she thinks that. It would certainly be fun if I won, but I really did it to push myself outside of the "regular art I usually create." And my, am I ever enjoying it. I would not want to do this kind of art all of the time. It would become too blingy, but once in a while is a blast. So, I will finish my piece, deliver it to Two Hands and see what comes of that.

Friday, October 17, 2014

An Enjoyable Fall Evening + Homemade Chicken Pot Pie in Puff Pastry Cups Recipe

This week has been so beautiful. The sunrises are unreal shades of bllues, pinks and oranges - colors impossible to capture on film or in paint. A blogger that I follow, who lives in Mexico, is touring New Mexico and she is so taken with the kind of light that we get here. She has posted many photos of the sky with clouds, the sunrise, the sunset, etc. It sort of encourages me to see those things through her lens, as well as my appreciative one.

My classroom is on the second floor of the old part of our building, which has a small courtyard in the middle that is home to three trees. Each morning, during passing periods, I go over to the window, look out over the sky and admire the trees. One is a deep rusty red with twinges of pupley-red on the edges. Another smaller tree is draped in a golden hue with a blush of orange. The third tree, much smaller than the others, has leaves the color of leather with bits that look like they've been dipped in brown paint. At the beginning of the week the trees were fully adorned and the ground was still a deep, rich green. Now the ground is carpeted with the leaves that are falling from the trees. Since they live in a courtyard, the leaves are undisturbed by wind and thus, they do not commingle with each other. I imagine that when I return to school on Monday the trees will be but skeletons and the ground will be a kaleidoscope of of colors that deepen in hue each day.

This week I have also been doing a bit of art. I made a few small pieces to send off to friends who are part of an mail art exchange that I organized. This time I used small pieces of clay board to make Day of the Dead inspired art that is more flashy and blingy that I usually do, but it was so much fun!


The other day Larr noticed that a big ponderosa pine was being cut down in front of a house that he passes on his way to work. As he traveled back home that afternoon he found that the tree was gone and the wood was neatly stacked next to the road. Larr make an inquiry as to whether that wood was available for the taking, and it was, so he filled the SUV with the fragrant wood and had Kohlton go by to fill up his truck as well. The kids, Ellie, Kohlton and Brandon, were happy to help unload the wood and stack it in the back yard so that it will be ready to fuel our evening fires. The scent of the pine was heavy in the air, lingering there all evening. Later that evening we had a fire and used some of the new wood. It is so heavy with fresh pitch that the end of some of the pieces seemed to be boiling.


The stacked wood is so textural and lovely. It reminds me of a display I saw a few years ago at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival. A young man created art by arranging coins of wood in a deep frame. It looked a lot like this stack. Ever since seeing that man's art, I have wanted to make the same thing. This evening I am going to pick out some pieces of wood from the pile and set them aside for such a project. Larr says that I need to let them sit for a few month and that if I tried to cut them now, I would just end up with a gummed up blade.

The art looked a lot like this, but in a frame:

We also had a nice dinner of breaded green beans (which are about as good as french fries)and chicken pot pie in puff pastry cups. I offered the pumpkin spice cake with cinnamon glaze for dessert, but everyone was too full to have any of it. (I have included the chicken pot pie recipe below. It is a keeper.)


As Larr and I enjoyed the fire, the kids and the dog were in the living room, making music. It was fun to see them having fun like that.

I am now onto my next project. I am making a shrine for the contest at Two Hands. I am happy with the progress I am making.

Chicken Pot Pies with Puff Pasteries
via:A Happy Food Dance


1 package puff pastry, thawed
3 chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, stems removed and diced
½ cup flour
½ cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup shelled green peas
1 egg
2 tablespoons water


To roast the chicken, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
On a baking sheet lined with foil, lay breast skin side up and drizzle with olive oil. Season with thyme, rosemary, pepper and salt. Rub the seasonings all over the chicken and under the skin.
Roast chicken for 30-45 minutes, until chicken reaches 165 degrees internally and juices run clear.
Remove chicken, allow to cool, and then shred removing any bones, skin or fat. Do not discard pan drippings, this is full of flavor and will be used for our filling.
In a large saucepan, combine butter and drippings from the roasted chicken. Bring to medium-high heat and add onions, carrots and mushrooms. Cook stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, 3-5 minutes.
Stir in the shredded chicken, then sprinkle the flour over the top and stir again until everything is incorporated, cooking for an additional minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Slowly add the chicken broth while continuing to stir, cook until sauce has thickened.
Once it starts to thicken add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the heavy cream, continuing to stir. Let the mixture bubble and thicken, cooking an additional 3 minutes or so. If it seems overly thick, you can add a little more broth slowly.
At this time add your peas and give one more stir.
Pour your filling into the dish size you have chosen. I did 6 - 6" ramekins but you could do one large baking dish.
Roll out the puff pastry just enough to cover, with about 2" excess, your dish. Press the dough against the sides so that it sticks.
Using a knife, cut little vents here and there in the surface of the dough.
Beat egg and water and brush mixture all over the top of the crust (you will have extra egg wash).
Place your dish over top of a baking sheet, these might bubble over a bit and bake for 25-30 minutes or until your crust is golden brown and you filling is bubbly.
If your crust starts too get to brown, you can cover it lightly with foil.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chihuly at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Part 1 + Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting Recipes

Saturday was a glorious, perfect day. Larr and I happen to be free of other commitments, so we decided to take in the Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens and oh my, was it ever lovely. It was much more than I had expected.



Many of the cattail type pieces reminded me of something from a Dr. Seuss book.


It was a very popular place to have a photo taken.


I also love seeing my husband in action. He has such an artistic way of looking at and framing images. He says that before the advent of digital cameras, there was skill and talent involved in taking photographs. He thinks that now just about everyone can take a nice photo. While I agree that it is much easier to take a nice photo now, I still think that his photos are artistic. It is they eye, not the camera, that finds the art.



Ellie and Kohlton spent the morning at the Alamo Draft House cartoon Cereal Party: Halloween Edition. It was an event at a movie theater where there are tables and chairs so that you can eat a meal while watching a movie. They had access to unlimited amounts of sugary cereals like Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, etc. and milk. They watched the Halloween editions of popular Saturday morning cartoons from the 1980's and 10990's. You are even encouraged to go in your pajamas. Ellie said that they had a lot of fun.
Later they stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things so that they could make a few fun food items, including brown sugar cookies.

Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies with Brown Sugar Frosting
via: Cookies and Cups


Cookie:
14 tablespoons salted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar

Frosting:
1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Cookies:
Preheat oven to 350° and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat butter in medium skillet over medium heat until melted. When butter melts slowly swirl the pan and continue to cook the butter until it becomes a nice, brown-caramel color. The swirling helps it from burning. Let cool for 15 minutes.
Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and set aside.
When butter is cooled mix 1 3/4 cup light brown sugar and browned butter with electric mixer until no lumps remain, about 30 seconds.
Add egg, yolk and vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds, until smooth.
Slowly add in your flour mixture and mix on medium-low until incorporated.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl.
Roll cookie dough into balls and then roll in sugar mixture.
Place on lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake approx 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Do not over-bake.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Frosting:
Combine brown sugar and butter in small saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to a boil and continue cooking 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Mixture will slightly thicken.
With hand mixer beat in milk until smooth. Slowly add in powdered sugar until spreadable consistency. ( I used all 2 cups).
Spread approx 1 teaspoon on each cookie.



Chihuly's Glass Blowing Studio


Team Chihuly installs the exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens


Chihuly in the rain and at night

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fully Fall & Day of the Dead Warm Up

Yesterday was a quintessentially fall day. The day at school had been thankfully calm, a nice contrast to the strained craziness of the earlier full moon part of the week. I left school just a little early so that I could make it up to Two Hands in Boulder so that I could be time for the El Dia de los Muertos event that featured Laura Lambrecht and a few of her goods from her store, Bella Frida.


Driving up highway 93, I was taken by the dramatic colors - the deep red of some of the clay that peeked out between large swaths of tawny dried grass and the tassels of weeds waving in the wind. The sky was filled with dramatic light. As I drove north the ominous black cloud enveloped the sky. Even as I was driving, part of my brain wondered how that beauty could be caught with paint. Could it be rendered in acrylic? Watercolor? I am not even sure that the photograph really contains the beauty I witnessed. I am thankful that we get to have fall weather for a while as we often go from summer to winter in a very quick shift.

I was excited to get a chance to meet Laura. Mia spoke about her and her store when I was working on the Frida pieces that I began during the encaustic workshop this summer. Laura even sponsored a special Frida event this summer, but I was not able to attend. And then here she was sharing some of the fun Day of the Dead stuff she sells in her shop. I knew I would like her and then when I saw that she was brave enough to have her face made up, I knew that it was a done deal. I was sure that she and I would enjoy each other's company. Here are some of the fun things she was displaying:

I also had a chance to meet Tori Carpenter who came for the event and to drop off the Ofrenda that she made for the contest that Two Hands is sponsoring. Her shrine is dedicated to her beloved pup, Cracky, who passed away a while ago. Her shrine was made out of a special gourd that she purchased from an Amish store. She made it look like an apple by covering it with green encaustic medium. I love the playfulness of her piece. She has a love of making miniatures, so this project was just right for her.

Later in the week Laura will return to Two Hands to teach a class on how to make a cigar box Ofrenda.

I also loved the new displays that they put up in the store. They are so clever. I was very tempted by the metal hearts on this wall. I would have loved to see the big ones lit up. I did end up buying one of the simple metal hearts, and was very tempted to by one of the hearts with the flame and barbed wire for Ellie. I was not sure if she would want one, so I held off.
Did you notice the large metal skeleton?

Next to that they also had another fun display where the shrines for the contest will be displayed along with fun stuff for the holiday.
And of course I admired the window display. They are always so clever with what they display. I think this one might be one of my favorites.
There was inspiration to be found in the new card selection, too.
On the way home I stopped to pick up the things we needed to make Pad Thia for a late dinner.
When I arrived home I was thrilled to find that Ellie had created a wonderful fall centerpiece on the dining room table. I love it when she creates such lovely displays and gives me presents to celebrate the turning of the season. My girl has such a nice, artistic eye.