Wednesday, November 26, 2008

the real painter of light

I just watched a fascinating documentary-- called "Stolen"--about the theft of 13 paintings and sculptures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. (The whole film appears to be available on YouTube.) It details the search for these works of art but also offers some very nice commentary on some of the paintings, including several by Vermeer. I had forgotten how much I loved Vermeer in college. He was a huge favorite of mine until I went to Hong Kong and turned into a Chinese and Japanese art fanatic for a while. One of the paintings taken by the thieves in 1990 was "The Concert", which appears above. I am always drawn in by the way his paintings glow, even after 350 years. Contrast this with Thomas Kinkade, the purported "painter of light," known for his renderings of magical cottages backed by purply sunsets, etc. He is also known for sexual harrassment, public urination, and questionable business practices. Oh, and his newest line of NASCAR-themed paintings!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

hooray for the D+!

I was reading about this Civic Literacy Quiz and the miserable scores of most Americans who took it, not to mention ELECTED OFFICIALS who also scored very poorly. I have to say I was feeling pretty confident. As you might guess, it's been a long time since I took a history or government class, but I read the newspaper and plenty of political blogs and books, etc, so I was ready to score high... and I got a 67%. Sheesh! I really need to read up on The New Deal and international trade, I guess.

It's only 33 questions long so it doesn't take long. If you take it, post your score so I can gauge just how ignorant I really am.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

cooking with paperclips

Got 6 hours to kill? Want to spend it marinating pork? Interested in incorporating paper clips somehow? GREAT, here's the recipe for Chinese BBQ Pork (aka Char Siu).

2 lbs pork loin or butt
metal paperclips

1/2 tsp salt
2 T hoisin sauce
4 T soy sauce
1 T apple juice or grape juice

Cut pork into 1" x 2" x 6" strips, or use ribs if you like. Place in marinade in a Ziploc bag or sealed container and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

Now move your oven racks, placing one on the very bottom rung and one on the very top. Place a cookie sheet (with a rim) or 13 x 9 x 2 pan on the bottom rack and pour 1 cup of water into it. . Now unbend the paper clips to make them into hooks. Stick one end of a paperclip through the top of each pork strip and hook it to the top rack. Here's a photo of what this looks like.

Bake at 400 for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Don't overcook. Slice across each pork strip. Eat over rice with this sauce (called "gerng" in Cantonese):

* 1 bunch green onions (or scallions)
* 1 pinky finger-sized piece of ginger, peeled
* 1 Tbs (15 ml) sea salt (yes, that much)
* 125 ml (1/2 cup) light vegetable oil (not olive oil)


Green onions are usually bought in a whole bunch, but you won't need that much for this recipe, just 6 stalks, so keep the rest for another dish. Cut the roots off the onions and discard, trim away any loose of floppy tips. Slice the onions quite thinly (about the width of a house key) and place into a mixing bowl.

Grate the ginger on the finest holes of your grater and add to the green onions. Add the salt and vegetable oil, and using the back of a fork, lightly crush the onions, mixing well.

Place the sauce aside for at least half an hour, of if you want to keep it (for up to 3 days), cover and place in the refrigerator. Before serving, Bring to room temperature, crush again with a fork and stir well.

(The sauce recipe is from

My kids tore into this meal like wild dogs. There was actual teeth-gnashing going on.

rockin' the pipe cleaners

One day I will sit down and figure out the features on my cell phone camera and turn the "weird '70s polaroid" option OFF. Anyway, just wanted to pass on this little game we made in Cub Scouts today. It's basically Barrel of Monkeys but with pipe cleaner candy canes. The boys twisted the pipe cleaners together and made them into an S-shape. Threw some instructions in there, and they were ready to get back to being spazzy 8 year olds. The take-out box is from Hobby Lobby. It cost too much.

Friday, November 14, 2008

happy birthday!

It's Flash's birthday this weekend. We're heading out on a road trip in honor of it. It will involve some horseback riding, confetti cake, and a special mix CD that I just spent 2 hours making (it's hard to know what 9 year-old boys like). Here he is with his friends visiting our friend Hannah's grave on her birthday in September. He didn't know that I caught this moment. He was comforting Hannah's older brother. What an amazing kid.


OK, this is pretty funny as it is, but take a look at that friendly tooth in the background reminding you to brush.

I think I need a freezer paper shirt with this guy on it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

ruined... almost

I just realized that youtube has many, many period piece movies up. I sat down to watch "Rebecca," based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, a book I have read about 15 times. I first picked it up because of the title and looooved it. I've since grown out of it a bit, but I was still interested in watching a recentish film version of it. I got to part 3 and had to abandon it because it was ruining the sets and characters I've conceived over the years. I didn't want to replace those mental pictures with someone else's interpretation. Do you know what I mean?

Totally unrelated, you have to check out the website for this documentary called "Awake My Soul." You can watch a trailer to see what it's about. I'm not sure where to find it; I'd love to watch the whole thing, but for now I just visit the website from time to time to listen to the very cool, old-timey and sort of spooky hymns that stream on it.

check. this. out.

I went to Chinatown today and bought some amazing fruit. It ended up costing much more than I thought (I'm sure it came from far, far away). The pink and green fruit is called dragonfruit and it tastes kind of like jicama, but with soft flesh and tons of black seeds. The other one is some kind of tropical melon. It has a beautiful rind flecked with green. Tastes like honeydew, but so much cuter!

The rice there in the background is jasmine rice, which is so fragrant and wonderful. Can't wait to have it with spicy tofu tonight.

Friday, November 07, 2008


I know what you're thinking... you just wish your kitchen looked like this right now. Word to the wise: don't paint your kitchen avocado green unless you are 100% certain that you will always love avocado green. Or just break down and buy the freaking Martha Stewart brand so you can be sure about the color... and not have to prime and repaint 2 years later.


I have a long, sad, history of stupid sewing mistakes. This little diaper case took about an hour longer than it should have to make. I won't bore you with the details of its construction ; suffice it to say that I ripped out 3 different seams and completely destroyed the only piece of bias tape in the house that matched the fabric. In this case, though, insanity is the mother of invention and I substituted a wider piece of brown fabric for the bias tape, thus making the case slightly bigger and able to hold more diapers. So I guess it ended well. My plan to make 2 of these tonight, however, has been scrapped in favor of a little Jane Austen and a heating pad for my achin' back.

Wow, that picture is really orange, like an old Polaroid picture from the 70s or something. I guess it's the camera phone + sewing machine light combo. Weird.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

all-American election night meal

I'm on pins and needles tonight. I just love election night, even though I rarely stay up late enough to find out who won. I'm holding out my last hope for McCain (mostly because of my views on abortion) but I'll just be glad to see Bush vacate the White House.* Please forgive me if you are still happy with Bush. No offense intended.

And what could be more American than Chicken Tikka Masala? The recipe is from my gourmet sister, Camilla. I make it at least once a month. It's time-intensive, what with the marinating and the separate sauce and the mincing of garlic and jalapeno. But, MAN. It's incredibly delicious, so delicious that if you cannot find garam masala where you live and would like to try this recipe, I will buy some for you in Chinatown and mail it to you. Just let me know if you want some. (Was that weird? Hope not; just trying to spread the gospel of tasty Indian food far and wide.)

Chicken Tikka Masala
I usually add some frozen cauliflower and peas to the sauce with the half and half, and I also grill or broil the chicken before cutting it up rather than after.

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground red pepper
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 piece gingerroot, minced (1/2-inch long)
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup whipping cream OR fat-free half and half OR fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
For marinade, combine yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, red pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, salt and ginger in a medium bowl or food-safe plastic bag; stir in chicken, marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.
Meanwhile, soak six 6-inch bamboo skewers in water to cover 30 minutes and set aside.
For sauce, melt butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, add garlic and jalapeno; cook 1 minute.
Stir in coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala and salt.
Stir in tomato sauce, simmer 15 minutes, stir in cream; simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat grill to medium-high (or heat broiler).
Remove chicken from refrigerator.
Thread chicken onto skewers; discard marinade.
Grill or broil chicken, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 8 minutes.
Remove chicken from skewers; add to sauce.
Simmer 5 minutes.
Serve with basmati rice, naan or pita bread.

*Funny bumper sticker I saw: "2008: End of an Error"