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Tuesday Tidbits - Tasty Delight

March 31, 2015

The Ugly Fruit Campaign [Credit: Link]

* last week, i made a stack of crepes... and not for breakfast with nutella... but for dinner in german pancake soup... first, make a pot of chicken soup... any one will do... then, slice up crepes into strips... add a few scallions... and bob's your uncle.

* ahh, the eggplant... how i am obsessed with you... in the past, i only ate it in a chinese garlic sauce... but now, combined with my  introduction to ottolenghi... my culinary mind has been opened.  i love you in a roast veggie tart... wrapped around soft pillows of ricotta dumplings... roasted and added to a comforting tomato sauce a la Norma a la Batali... cultivated since the dawn of prehistory in the arab and asian worlds, i am only at the tipping point of my love for you...

* of these five mother sauces, i have figured out all but that old brunch favorite, the hollandaise sauce.

* seriously, could these cookies BE any cuter?

* i'm a thousand miles away from the nearest krispy kreme... these just might do the trick. [wait.  krispy kreme is global???]

* [throwing my hands up] really?? the vast majority of 'tuna' we think we are eating is not tuna... it can also be escolar.  heads up:

"84% of fish samples labeled "white tuna" were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage."

* on a sweeter note, candied citrus peel.  yum.

* time to dust off my pasta maker... hello, fettuccini.

* kombucha king  - it just never caught on with me...

* stir-fry's secret weapon

* summer, i mean, pesto season, is right around the corner

* weird. flavor changing milk.

* weekday vegetarian  - let's try it... jamie's doing it, too...  here's something to kick start you...

* seeds imbedded in our coffee cups - giving our trash a second purpose

* thoughts on indian food... aka why it's so delicious

* this looks so good... Focaccia di Recco

* dealing with food waste

* bakery thieves

* mushrooms can help save the world... plants communicate, people...

* croissant artesans - i love watching bakers baking, don't you???

* NYC food trucks not to miss

* pie crust decorating - easy as pie

* traveling? eat like a local.

* tiny cakes need tiny tools - some people have too much time

* support the ugly food movement

* chefs wish for new tools to be invented.

* baby carrots, they are NOT.

* an important infograph - ben & jerry's ice cream flavors

* vegetable art

* the ugly ducklings of the produce aisle have become swans

Servus... xo

Quilt No. 5 | Sparkle in Kenya

March 25, 2015

My last quilt was for Craft Hope's Project 25 for the charity, We Are Kenya.  It was sent to a small child at the Provision Education Center in Soweto, Kenya, in the hopes that it would give him or her warmth and make them feel special.

I was so inspired by this project, by this country, by the smiles of the children... that I made a second quilt for me.

I was moved by how the Kenyan people manage to create beautiful wardrobes and jewelry.  They have a pride that shines brightly... and a perserverence to keep moving forward... to create such works of complexity (I would have given up by the fourth row of the beadwork!).

Kenyan Bride by Philip Lee Harvey [Credit:Link]

With this ceremonial wardrobe, this Kenyan bride looked special on her big day.

Old Samburu Goddess Woman by Eric Lafforgue [Credit:Link]

This elder Samburu woman truly looks proud, regal - a true diva.  Her facial expression, her pose - exude power.  She doesn't have all the money in the world or an entourage... but her inner power in this moment is truly mesmerizing!

Did I mention the jewelry?!

The beadwork, colors, and design are so wonderful, so bold.  And it's not about using diamonds or precious stones... these are beads!  It's incredible how the pieces dance together... each piece whether single or layered with others creates a sparkle that even some modern jewelry can not match.





Well, now you know what inspired me about the Kenyan people... next, I searched for inspiration of a quilt pattern that could capture the color, the movement, and the bold sparkle that can not be stopped.

Gees Bend quilts never fail me when I need inspiration.  The following two quilts were the main catalysts that got my mind churning - like the tornado that swept up Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz - I was off to the races!!

Pearlie Kennedy Pettway, ca. 1960 [Credit:Link]

Annie Bendolph, "Thousand Pyramids" variation, ca. 1930 [Credit:Link]

It took me some time to cut all of the half triangle squares (finger cramps!)... but once I had enough, I started playing around with the overall pattern...


Zig Zag Directional

Converging to a point

Centered and Radiating Outward

The last option, radiating outward, felt perfect.  Radiating out was how I felt the Kenyan clothing and jewelry spoke to me.  So, my little design assistant and I got to work.

El, Future Designer

This quilt required semi-planned patterning... unlike the improvisational piecing of my previous quilt.  As you can see from the photo below - lights with lights and dark with darks.

The Queue

Getting Bigger

Bigger Still

Finally! We finished the top layer!!  What a job... hard part was over.

Top Layer

The back layer was definitely easier and more improvisational... except for the center block.  I had all of these extra squares with a bright lemon yellow that didn't make it into the top layer of the quilt. I felt the back panel would be too boring if it was just the four color blocks - so, I added a little bit of sparkle to the back of the quilt, too!

I wasn't sure if it would be successful, but I went ahead anyway.  I'm happy I did it... the back panel can also be used as a top layer (if the sparkle from the front is too much!)

Back Panel Block Pattern

Back Panel Finished

Sparkle in Kenya

It was an eye-opening journey creating this quilt... It has shown me how to create something beautiful... not from the richest of materials... but from the everyday things around me.  Joy and happiness don't require much - even a smile or a hug can mean the world to someone... so why don't we do that more often?

We often are so afraid to reach out to people because we're not good enough, not worthy enough, not great enough... the point of it all is to connect - really connect.

It's not the pretty life we post in our status that connects,  it's actually sharing with another person something real about yourself - good or bad.  It's not all of the infinite amounts of stuff we absorb sitting alone in front of the computer... it's sitting with someone and watching a movie together or even having a conversation (imagine that!).

Life is messy but we are each beautiful in our own way... and we can choose to chase after the things that keep us happy, curious, or joyful... the things that make us smile!

Samburu Woman Laughing [Credit:Link]

Tuesday Tidbits - Creative Endeavors

March 24, 2015
 [Credit: Link]

"It doesn't matter how the paint is put on so long as something is said." 
- Jackson Pollock

* secrets of the creative mind

* need a creative spark?

* new obscure words you didn't know yet

* foreign words the English language should steal

* the most beautiful English words

* to be a writer... learn to read like a writer

* what someone learned writing their first book

* totally useful websites you didn't know about

* cool youtube channels that can teach you a thing or two

* hesitant about following a dream?  Just jump.

* there are leaders... and there are those who lead

* one thing successful people do...

* what forever means to a teenager

* don't kill a child's creativity

* teach our children about real food

* conquering disgust to save lives

* the effects of negativity on us... on water crystals.

* our eyes... the window to our souls?

* how to be charming

* fake it til you make it

* this Egyptian woman did

* no one's style is unique

* vemödalen - n. the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical
   photos already exist

Total Eclipse of the Heart (Strawberry Apple Tart Tatin Redux)

March 20, 2015
Hear, ye! Hear, ye!  We have officially survived winter and the last battle with the pesky germ posse!!

No doubt, today is a serious event... when the past winter says goodbye and spring enters like a champion - entering with a Spring Equinox, a Super Moon, and a Solar Eclipse!!!


Things are looking up, up, up... Up to a rare solar eclipse!!! Are any of you peaking out the windows at this celestial phenomenon today?  To my Scottish friends, seems you will get the best seats in the house!


Interestingly enough, for the newly solar-powered countries like Germany, France, and Italy, this solar eclipse will be an 'unprecedented' test on how their power grids will be affected when the sun goes 'out' temporarily. 

Wow, just checked what's happening in our Austrian neck of the woods, and the eclipse is visible only partially, but, man, they have it on a schedule like an arriving bullet train.  Down to the minute, people!!


Are you excited yet?  We are witnesses to the Universe doing its thing!  No amount of human intervention can stop this... and this is the beautiful, harmless stuff.

Yesterday, as I walked El & Lil to school in the morning, I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and I could feel my whole body smile.  Finally, warmth! Vitamin D! All I wanted at that moment was to lie prostrate on a grassy knoll and rejoice! But, that would be weird to my Tyrolean onlookers!

So, I settled for putting some sun in my belly and made an Strawberry Apple Tart Tatin instead!

Yes, I posted very recently a Tart Tatin recipe, but I just made a version so immensely yummier that it was like a secret I just couldn't keep to myself and I HAD to share it with you!

Strawberry Apple Tart Tatin

*Adapted loosely from Julia's Album
* Print Version


Puff pastry (or Pate Brisee, if you are feeling ambitious)
6-8 apples (peeled, quatered, cored)
1 1/2 handfuls of halfed strawberries
1/2 stick (1/4C) butter
3/4 - 1C sugar

1. Preheat oven to temperature instructed for puff pastry
2. Melt Butter, then add sugar.
3. Add the apples and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add the strawberries.
5. Remove the apples after they have softened, but not too soft... use your eyes... see that the exterior is softened but the interior maintains its bite.  They will continue to cook in the oven. Arrange the apples (cut side up) in a nice circular pattern in a cast iron skillet.
6. Continue caramelizing the sugar, butter, and strawberries... remove from heat when it thickens into a loose jam sauce consistency.
7. Pour the sauce over the apples.  Jiggle the pan to get the sauce under the apples (don't want burned apple bits, right?)
8. Use a similar diameter plate and cut out the puff pastry.  Cover the fruit with the puff pastry disk.
9. Bake according to the package instructions.
10. Let cool slightly.
11. To flip - hold a large plate above the skillet and flip in one fail swoop. Pour the remaining caramel-y sauce over the apples.
12. Devour with a bucket of whipped cream.

Serves 4. 

And if you don't have apples, why not just blaze ahead with just strawberries? Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella did!

Only pears? Don't fret.  Martha doesn't! Try this.

Only Tomatoes? Try this one.

Aran, at Cannelle Et Vanille, gets her beets on for this one!

Tart Tatin is a lovely dish for dinner... or dessert! Just take a gander into your fridge and see what you've got - it's all yummy in the end!

. . .

So, while you are patiently waiting for your apples and strawberries (or tomatoes, beets, or what have you) to soften into caramelized goodness, I leave you with two songs - one to say goodbye to Winter, til next year!

Two Door Cinema, 'Next Year' 

And, one to welcome Spring!

ELO, 'Mr. Blue Sky' 


Tuesday Tidbits - Déjà Vu

March 17, 2015
**1/ Visvim (Link) 2/ Traditional Kimono (Link) 3/ The Row (Link)

Déjà vu
feeling the old
in something new

that nostalgic feeling
we yearn for-
from old Russian candy wrappers
to forgotten Olympic dreams.

We really love old shit.
Even, THAT shit.

We discover the past every day -

We go all Indiana Jones
to find things in foreign lands.

We find people
who live in the wild
who live on the edge of extreme.

We remember times of 
great promise  and
Times of great hardship -
from the Great Depression,
 to the Civil War

We can't let go of
the worker's uniform
 but can say farewell
(or just 'grow up')

We celebrate icons 
and designers
like Lanvin & McQueen

We rejoice 
when we find
forgotten treasures.

**We delight in a nod to our
and send a nod
back to old Japan.

Welcome home!

A 200-year-old house?
Not too shabby, I say!

Abandoned mansions?
Still full of life!

Neglected malls -
Centers with new purpose!
We love reinvention, don't we?

Feathers, reimagined.
Plus, other things
you can put on your head.
and the last meals on Death Row.
But are we over it?
Is fashion really dead?

Looking at Margiela
then and now.

YSL to Saint Laurent
What's the secret?

Japanese cool 
rules in Paris.

 Yoji Yamamoto
Still the master.

Vivienne Westwood
Reigns as punk queen.

It's true
Fashion Week sucks -
 for an intern but not for sharks.
Have a heart!
Don't forget the penguins.
 and other charitable arts.

Give back sometime. 
Doh! Sam Simon
gave it all back.

Veterans heal in the hot shop.
Banksy goes
undercover in Gaza.

A good book
Use it like a weapon.

 Here's a map to guide you.
Follow the sounds

Learn the importance
of sampling in music,
and where not to cross the line.

Don't feel too bad for Pharell,
he always makes 
old shit look good.

It's not where you got it,
it's where you take it!

Go get inspired,
watch these

Rediscover design.

Play this game,
create new ideas.

And, remember to
support the littlest artists, too!!!

Rock Steady (Sauce Bolognese)

March 16, 2015
The past week was a neverending battle of old cold germs versus new cold germs... jumping from one person to the next.  I swear, it's been an epic dance off for the last three weeks!  But, (hopefully!) we are nearing the end (with warmer weather and happier moods) to bid these winter bugs - adieu!

Nevertheless, the weekend started off slowly... as we welcomed our first Clematis flower!

I started kicking around some block ideas for a new project...

And, then came the Foehn winds... This was new to me when I moved to Austria.  A Foehn wind is a system of dry, warm wind (yesterday, it came from Italy, hello warm air!) that moves over a mountain range and moves down fast into the valley (where we live!).  And, if said wind system is very wet, the moisture (called a rain shadow) will be caught on the backside of the mountain... where it will surely catch up in the next few hours (or days).  And, it can get really windy.  REALLY windy!  The winds accelerate so fast down the mountain... it creates sometimes storm force winds.  For some folks, the Foehn winds bring with it quite a headache.

Anyway, yesterday we had a Foehn wind (that was dry, thank goodness!) pass by and so the weather was warm and sunny!  And you know what that means for us - road trip!!!

The Route

A few weekends ago, we went on a scenic trip to Kochel (see the star).  This week we decided to explore the Ziller Valley and the Kitzbuhler Alps.

Ziller Valley (Zillertal)

Ziller is a valley in our Austrian state of Tyrol.  Archeologists have found artifacts going back to the middle Stone Age.  The oldest remains of settlements in this area date back to the Illyrians, a tribe from the Balkan Peninsula, during the late Bronze and early Iron ages.  This tribe was later absorbed by the Bavarians.

The area endured countless back and forth claims and quarrels between counts, countries, and territories... mostly, these quarrels can be traced back to a gold mine documented in the 16th century. In 1803, the mine, as well as the entire Ziller Valley, passed into the hands of the Counts of Tyrol.

The Zillertal is particularly renowned for its musical tradition. For instance, several families of travelling singers and organ builders from the valley have been credited with spreading the Christmas carol Silent Night across the world during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

If you're a big ski buff, there are several glaciers still around upon which you can ski year round!

We Need A Closer Look! [Credit:Link]

One of these, the Hintertux Glacier, is located in the Ziller Valley.  The total amount of ice on the glacier is 190 millions of cubic metres, which corresponds to 171 billion litres of frozen water! The ice sheet is up to 120 m thick and the glacier features a length of 4 km, which varies from year to year.  Due to glacial movement, lift facilities have to be adjusted up to three times a year! I think we need to go back again just to take the lifts for a closer look!

Next, we made it to the Gerlos Pass - a mountain pass in the Austrian Alps between the Oberpinzgau region in the state of Salzburg and the Zillertal valley in Tyrol.   It is a road of much history and dispute between the states of Tyrol and Salzburg... but in 1630, a surprise find of gold in the area motivated the two regions to get at least a cart path started!

In the 1960's, the Gerlos Alpine Road was officially completed once everyone stopped quarrelling!

Next stop was the Durlassboden Reservoir.  Quite majestic in the winter...

... and quite beautiful in the summer.

 Summer at Durlassboden Reservoir

So many things to do here!

Then, we passed by Bramburg... where the Habachtal Valley (along with spots in Norway and Italy) is one of the sites of Europe's natural emerald deposits.  Habachtal emeralds go way back in history.  The famous St. Louis Emerald, a 51.5 ct. square emerald cabochon mounted into the Holy French Crown, is of Habachtal origin (1271).

Passing through Hainzenberg, we passed by this little eatery, Goldschaubergwerk, by the side of the road.  Little did we know, but it was the entrance to a two hour tour that includes a stop at the dairy farm and cheese shop, then the animal park, and then through a gold mine!

goldschaubergwerk [Credit:Link]

The pilgrimage church, “Maria Rast”, the most frequented pilgrimage site of the Zillertal valley, is located at Hainzenberg at the passage to the Pinzgau and is even eternalized on the emblem of the village in the form of a star. A hiking trail takes you to this little church dating back to 1738. It starts at the tourist office and takes promenaders via the Gerlosstrasse road to the Waldheim tavern, further on along the Via Crucis and past the Lourdes grotto to “Maria Rast” in about 1.5 hours.

 Maria Rast (Exterior & Interior)

In Hainzenberg, there is also the longest toboggan run of the Zillertal valley. The Gerlosstein funicular takes you comfortably to the start at 1,650 m.   Enjoy the 7 km long ride down into the valley!

Kitzbühel Alps

Walking through this entrance to Kitzbühel was like walking back into time.  Historical and romantic, this little gem of a village (also known as Chamois City) is such a real treasure surrounded by all of the Alpine mountains.  Some call it 'the pearl of the Alps'...

‘The Pearl of the Alps’

Here, the earliest known settlers were also Illyrians in 1100 BC.  The Romans expanded their empire to contain the Alps but then, in 15 BC, the Western Roman Empire fell and the Bavarians stepped in.  Today, it's a world famous winter sports destination where stars and celebrities find their way here.


St. Catherine´s Church was built in 1360 and consecrated in 1365. The church is a perfectly preserved example of the high Gothic style. The "Kupferschmied-Altar" (coppersmith´s altar) is a gem. The winged altarpiece, created between 1513 and 1515, is the only one to survive in the region and is recognized as one of the early masterpieces of that period. The church was restored in 1950 and is now used as a war memorial. A carillon, placed inside the former fire watch room of the tower, is rung daily at 11.00 a.m. and 05.00 p.m., in memory of the fallen of the Second World War. 

St. Catherine's Church

The Kitzbuhel Museum is located in the historic district and holds a permanent collection of the Tyrolean painter, Alfons Walde, who single handedly made skiing a legitimate painting subject!

“Aufstieg” / Ascending Skiers (1935)

Also, a little secret, Haddaway lives here! Anybody remember,  What is love?!

Continuing on, we made it past Wilder Kaiser - or just the Kaiser - a gorgeous mountain range between Kufstein and St. Johann.

The Kaiser Mountains

The first dated evidence of human settlement in the Kaiser Mountains goes back 4000 to 5000 years. These are discoveries of the remains of Stone Age hunters in the Tischofer Cave. Other discoveries have revealed the presence of Bronze Age settlers in the cave. Documentary evidence of human settlement in the Kaisertal in the Middle Ages date back at least to 1430.

Tischofer Cave  [Credit:Link]

Artifacts, such as bone tools, dating back 28,000 years, can be found at a local museum in the fortress of Kufstein.  This cave has been recorded as the oldest proven site of human occupation in Tyrol. 

. . .

Finally, we made it home! And, after such a long journey, the cherry tomato on top, so to speak, was a warm and comforting pot of Bolognese Sauce!!

Bolognese Sauce

*Roughly adapted from Mario Batali
* Print Version

  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • handful of speck
  • a few dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 pound ground beef/pork
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 handfuls of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Soften onions in oil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add carrots and dried mushrooms, sweat some more.
3. Add pancetta, veal, and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.
4. Add sliced mushrooms, cook til they are nice and softened. (Sautee them in butter, then toss in for better flavor!)
5. Stir in tomato paste, milk, wine, and thyme.
6. Gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Quilt No. 4 | Kenya Kids

March 12, 2015
Last August, I happened to find myself at a website called Craft Hope.  Jade, the site's founder, has collected and distributed thousands of handmade items to those who really need them.  She has garnered the attention of many crafters from the internet and channeled their unending enthusiasm through different projects focused on specific charities and organizations.  (She's spreading the love, people!!!)

Her latest project, No. 25, was for the charity, We Are Kenya.  I had just finished Quilt No.3 and I was dying to start another one.  This one even came with new clients!

Beautiful Smiles [Credit:Link]

Are these not the sweetest faces?  Their smiles were my biggest inspiration for this project.  Helping We Are Kenya was the best way I could help bring more smiles to their lives... and of course, when I read they were looking for handmade quilts for the school, I volunteered right away!

I did more research about the country and people of Kenya... I looked at tons of quilts... I saw so many wonderful images of Kenya that only touch the surface of the beauty (and struggles) of this faraway land.  Here are a few inspirations that spoke to me...

2010 @ Dany Paquin [Credit: link]

Vibrant color against natural, earthy colors...

The Queen Bee [Credit: Link]

Power... beauty... not to be messed with!

Namibian Madame @ Jim Naughten
[Credit: Link]

Fearless use of color play - light and dark, feminine and masculine!

Masai Babe @ Kimberly Haugen
[Credit: Link]

Love the use of geometric elements - hard and straight against a very rough environment!

"House Top" @ Loretta Pettway (Gee's Bend, 1963)
Made of Men's Clothing Scraps [Credit: Link]

I always find inspiration from the ladies of Gee's Bend...

"Pig in a Pen" @ Mini Sue Coleman (Gee's Bend, 1970's)
[Credit: Link]

Again and again...

And so, I put scissors to fabric... fabrics that were all second-hand, donated, used, etc... I like using what's around because if I had the chance to buy or choose my own, I would have eternal creative block - the choices are endless.  (I'm a Libra and choosing is a battle for me!)

This was my first few rounds of improvisational piecing...

The layout I chose for the back panel...

The final back panel... with quilting testers at work.

Quilt No. 4 | Kenya Kids

It feels so great to be able to have the time to create something so special for a child faraway... I hope that they feel warm and snug at night... that they will keep this quilt with them for always.

No! Thank YOU!!!