Sunday, February 24, 2008

How to make breakfast for Eli

My daughter's best-friend-since-third-grade, Eli, is a creature of habit. The morning after her very first overnight at our house I served crepes for breakfast. Kids love crepes. As a food item they have everything: they seem really fancy, there is lots of hands-on process involved, you can put whatever you want in them, they are messy, you eat them with your hands, and they are sweet. For the past nine years, every time she sleeps over, she really must have crepes in the morning.

It is easier to make crepes than you think:
Put 1 1/2 cups milk in a blender, add 1 cup all purpose flour, two eggs, 3 tablespoons butter, and a pinch of salt, blend for a minute or so, stopping to scrape down corners a couple of times.
Let this rest for an hour or even overnight (it's okay if you can't wait, but the crepes will be thinner and more delicate if you do). Brush a crepe pan with a thin film of butter and heat until a drop of water evaporates quickly.
Pour in enough batter to coat the pan lightly,
rotate pan after pouring (about 1/4 cup) batter to spread evenly.
Cook over high heat until top is dry-ish.

Lift the edge of the crepe and flip over,
cook the other side briefly until lightly colored.
Flip crepe onto clean towel to keep warm.
Repeat until you have as many crepes as you want.
The simplest version is just lemon and powdered sugar;
squeeze lemon on and dust with powdered sugar.Fold in half twice ( or roll it up).
But Eli considers strawberries with whipped cream to be
de rigueur
. So, even though I try to buy locally produced food
in season as much as possible, I got frozen strawberries.
Nutella is also a favorite crepe filling. I have a delicious recipe
for homemade nutella, but my kids prefer the commercial version because they are brats.

The aftermath.

Now, consider how great it would be to eat crepes and have tea with this wonderful leaf teapot set by Tara Robertson that I found:
As a hand-builder myself, I have to admire the deft hand and skill in execution of this piece.
And rather under priced at $130, if I might make so bold. Trust me, I know how much work goes into a piece like this. Someone (Mick, are you listening?) should go buy it immediately!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to make a cake for Betsy

I always make sourdough chocolate cake for birthdays. Ever since my daughter, Betsy, was four years old she has provided me with sketches of her vision of the perfect birthday cake. Many of her drawings are really detailed (schematics, arrows, exploded views!), calling out exact ice cream flavors, color schemes, themes, and ornamentation. I think she may eventually end up as an architect or fashion designer or food stylist or someones' boss. These cakes always have several graduated tiers of cake, generally alternating with various flavors of ice cream, and decorated with piped frosting and candied flowers. Sometimes we go to the Decorette Shop and choose from their outrageous selection of flowers, animals, stars, and other shapes made of colored sugar. They have every color of icing dye. And every kind of sparkly glitter.
Because this year we were driving to Manzanita (more on wonderful Manzanita soon) to celebrate her birthday, the ice cream layers were not practical and, because I was short on time, the decoration needed to be simplified.

Here are some photos of the cake in progress:

Creaming butter and sugar (then add eggs, stir in melted chocolate)

Adding sourdough mixture to chocolate/butter mixture
I always line cake pans with buttered and floured parchment paper. I hate it when cake sticks.
You have to make two or three recipes to get enough cake for seven layers like this one. You'll have enough left over for another, more abstract cake. Or make parfaits!
Here is the cake with its 'crumb coat', a thin layer of frosting that precedes the final coat. Its purpose is just what you might think; to keep the crumbs out of the final frosting layer. I like to use ganache for cake frosting.
Viola! I put it in a box, popped it in the trunk, and went to the beach. I put some paper elephant flags and seventeen candles on it later that night. We bought banana split and peanut butter & chocolate ice cream to go with it, but that was only because I didn't go to the store with the kids. I would have gotten vanilla bean and coffee. Definitely.

Look at the adorable knit acorn I found on etsy:

Only $6! I can't stand it!
She makes bags, and pins, and spins her own yarn and sells it too. You should probably go look at the hedgehog puppet she made right now.

Oh, Spiny Norman!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Twenty-three, not twenty-five, whales

Here is the bathroom mural I made for a house in Rhode Island laid out on my studio floor.
There is a skylight running down the center of my studio ceiling that created a stripe of glare right down the center of the photo when I first shot it. So, I had to climb up on the roof to cover the skylight with a cloth. I was using the tall (extremely heavy and cumbersome) wooden ladder in the studio to get high enough to take the picture, so I only had a short ladder to use to get to the roof. I leaned it on a half rotting piece of wood leaning on the woodshed roof (attached to the studio), which was in turn leaning on a taller, not rotting, board. I climbed from one to the other, traversed three roofs of varying height and slipperiness, and flung the cloth over the offending area of the skylight. Then, reversing the order of ascent, back down to the ground, and back up the ladder in the studio for the photo. I missed a spot, so back up on the roof, more cloth, back down, up the ladder for the photo. Then the same thing twice more. Gaah...
Anyway, here it is. This is not the whole thing, but it isn't really possible to photograph properly on the floor. I like the little schools of jellyfish scooting around.
The client also ordered a pair of oval sinks. I took some pictures of the process, first the pencil sketch on the bisqued (first firing) sink, then adding slip to the lines, filling in with cobalt (blue) wash, then the finished sink after glazing and firing. Here it is (*click on it for a larger view):

Look at this wonderful pot I found on line:

It's made by Richard Aerni, I potter I am familiar with through an on-line discussion group called 'clayart'. Smart guy, generous, beautiful work. Here is his his Etsy site.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snow and Whales

It's been snowing for days. I always like how our yard looks in the snow. Besides being beautiful in its own right, the fact that we have done nearly no landscaping is not apparent and all the messy things are covered up.
It's been an unusually snowy winter for Portland, a result of la nina- the opposite of el nino. Although el ninos have been in the news a lot, la ninas happen about as frequently, but the have less significant global consequences to el ninos. This may or may not be a consequence of global warming.
*this from my meteorologist friend (thanks Pam!).

I'm working on a tile installation for a house in Rhode Island. There are loads of whales in the shower area and various crustaceans and shells on the vanity backsplash. I made a pair of sinks for the master bath, but for the first time ever, I had to remake one of them because the glaze blurred in the firing. I'm going to try laying the tile out on the studio floor to take a picture because I rarely get photos of distant installations. This commission is especially unusual because it has twenty-five whales in it. I did have a job a few years ago for a hotel lobby in St. Thomas that was all whales. I wish I had a photo of that one.

I found some great jewelry (like this owl) on etsy.
It's on a domino, you should go look at it and the other jewelry she makes. Cool stuff!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Getting Started

I am finally getting started on my blog. I'll be telling you a little bit about what I do, how I do it, and why. There will be bits about tile & pottery because that's how I make a living, and talk of food & cooking because that is a passion of mine, plus gardening, life in general, and other happinesses.
I don't consider myself a writer with a capital "W" but I am hopeful that I will eventually find a voice that isn't too stilted and content that is interesting
. I plan to use lots of photos and not much text.
Pictured above is a sculpture that my husband and I made several years ago. It's been in the garden and been tipped over numerous times, hence the broken headgear. It's about 22' tall.