Thursday, January 31, 2008

One More Day until "Go Red For Women"

Heart disease is the # 1 killer of women in America, and the American Heart Association has a campaign this time of the year called "Go Red For Women," that focuses on making more women aware of that fact, and to inspire them to get heart check ups and modify life style choices to become more heart healthy.

February 1, is the official date, and they suggest that you wear red on that date to show solidarity with the cause, and to encourage all the women in your life to be heart healthy.

Their web site has a "Go Red Heart Check-Up" quiz that I took, and although I'm not at my ideal weight for my height, my cholesterol levels were considered to be in the low to moderate in risk factor, and that, combined with all the other parameters they questioned me on, made my chance of a heart attack in the next ten years to be only at the 1% level (whew!)

I'm still determined to lose weight, however, so I joined their free e-mail newsletter called "Choose To Move" in which they will send nutrition tips and heart healthy recipes, bi-monthly reminders to help keep me more active, e-mail reminders to stay on track, and more facts about heart disease and stroke.

Maybe the Simpson's Movie Avatar I made recently can have a more svelte figure in the future:

Lots of fun things to do on the Simpson web site. I won't change my purple hair though .... kinda like it! :-)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Old Photo Archives

I love vintage photos. I have a collection of photography books that show photos of New York City and of my borough of Brooklyn from the past, and I often wish I could go back in time one day just be able to experience what life was like in those days.

I recently learned that the Library of Congress is offering various historical photography collections to view on the photo site Flickr, some in black and white from the 1910's and some in color from the 1930's and 40's.
The photographs have no known restrictions on publication or distribution, and they have high-resolution scans so they can be copied and used in illustration and collage projects. Here is the FAQ's on their reuse

I spent some time browsing through the pictures today and found many favorites, a few which I've placed below:

A wonderful collection of home canned produce!

A store in Lincoln, Nebraska

A nice surprise for me -- a few pictures of an old-time Brooklyn, including this baseball team!

Go, take a peek at the past, and see what surprises are there for you to find.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ode to Cauliflower

I found this wonderful large cauliflower at the farmers market stand last week, and cut it in half to use it for two different meals, as it weighed well over five pounds!
I made one half the way I usually do, by cutting it into florets and mixing it with some olive oil and and salt and pepper and then roasting it in a 375 degree oven in a pan with some garlic cloves. Turn once or twice until soft, and add some capers at the last few minutes of roasting.... so yummy!

I decided to try a recipe that was new for the second half. I've been receiving the Williams - Sonoma catalog since I ordered something from them that was on sale on their web site, and they have wonderfully interesting recipes scattered throughout.

I made their recipe for Cheddar- Cauliflower Soup, which was absolutely delicious!
It's definitely going into my favorites file, as it was creamy, cheesy, and not at all an overpowering cauliflower flavor if you usually shy away from cauliflower because of that.

The recipe:

Cheddar-Cauliflower Soup

This warming winter soup comes together quickly, making it perfect for a nutritious weeknight meal. Add a tossed green salad and dinner is served.

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 head cauliflower, about 2 1/2 lb., cut into florets
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
Toasted crusty bread for serving

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, cream, the 2 tsp. salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup to a fine puree, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted and well combined with the soup. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and serve immediately with toasted bread. Serves 6 to 8.
~ Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

If you don't have an immersion blender, and like to make soup, you really should invest in one. It's a very handy dandy time saver as you puree right in the hot pot! Williams -Sonoma has very sturdy professional quality one, of course, but I bought one in a chain drug store for $10 that works very well.

Here I am blending:

The completed soup!

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much

I receive a free inspirational newsletter in my e-mail from time to time called "Portions of Joy Post Cards" It is written by Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, who is the Martha's Vineyard-based artist and poet who owns "Tending Joy" -- an exquisite website that displays Ingrid's very beautiful handcrafted book anthologies of her own poems, plus little books of famous quotations, handmade all occasion cards, prayer boxes and scrolls, gift baskets, and other delightful paper handcrafted crafted gifts.

On occasion, Ingrid has a contest and asks us to answer a question by e-mail based on a theme in her newsletter, and then she randomly picks out a winner who she then sends a bundle of her products.

I won this newsletter's contest! I received her "Tending Joy" gift bundle in today's snail mail. What a wonderful, joyful surprise!

Here is a picture of the sumptuously wrapped package Ingrid sent before I opened the paper to view the contents:

Here are all the charming gifts I received:

It was filled with lovely scented "India Temple" incense, a gorgeously wrapped "joy deck" of inspirational cards, a handmade blank card, a "Prayer Of St Francis" miniature accordion prayer box, abound "Happiness" quote book, a hand-bound "Joy" book of quotations, and a "Joy Box" filled with 101 little happy affirmative statement papers! I felt so overwhelmed by Ingrid's generosity! I know she is truly a person who brings joy to all who know her, and I am so thankful to be one of her subscribers and customers.

In her newsletter, Ingrid told us a mantra that helps her to keep on track to be part of the full graciousness of the present moment when her life gets hectic is this: Listen ~ Admire ~ Give Thanks & Bless, and she asked us to share with her what our favorite slogan, or mantra, or simple practice for tending joy was.
I answered:"The mantra that I've been using for years and years is: 'Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much' This saying has become so popular these days that it has almost become a cliche, but it still helps to keep me on track towards keeping JOY in my heart. It reminds me to be kind and treat myself kindly, to laugh and not take things so seriously, and to cherish those I love, and to express that love everyday.
In fact, see a version of this motto every day on my kitchen wall:

What is your favorite motto? What keeps the joy in your heart? What is your simple practice for tending joy?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A New Respect for Packing Tape

While browsing through some art blogs I found some information about an amazing artist named Mark Khaisman, a native of Kiev, Ukraine, who is now living in the Philadelphia area.

He applies translucent brown packing tape on clear Plexiglas panels, layering it to create degrees of opaqueness and form. The finished artworks are then displayed on top of light boxes to give them depth and shadow.

Their color reminds me of an old film negative, although the image is not seen in reverse. There is also a dreamy, cubist quality to them. It's fascinating how he was able to use such a common utilitarian material and use it as a medium to produce such evocative artwork! I'd really love to see an exhibit of his work someday.

Some of Mr. Khaisman's works of art:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Joy of Blogging

Maria Schneider, the editor of Writer's Digest, has a blog called The Writer's Perspective, and I enjoyed her January 15th post entitled "20 Tips For Good Blogging"

I thought all her suggestions were very interesting, and I could see how successful bloggers interested in capturing and keeping a large number of readers and commentators would be doing much of what she suggests. I especially agree with her point # 18, "that a blog is a lot like a magazine, in that it is in constant evolution."
I do believe that the joy I have in reading blogs is because I also enjoy browsing through magazines, and the blogs I enjoy reading the most have both the topics and visuals that catch my eye and hold my interest in magazines, be they be about art, cooking, books, crafts, or life experiences in places I've visited or dream about traveling to one day.

I began this blog to keep a record of things I learn to do, and like, and want to remember. Too often I would drop a website into my ISP's "favorites" file, or send out an e-mail to my daughter or a friend with a "look at this -- isn't this fun, or something we should do?" type comment, and then frustratingly I'd never followed through, or remember the details about what I found. Now, in the brief time that I've started this blog, I've found myself focusing each a little more closely every day on the things that bring me joy so that I can record them here with the hope of not only being a reader but a doer!

The spiritual writer and monk, Thomas Merton, once wrote: "The imagination needs time to browse." I hope my blog will be my muse and my inspiration and will let my imagination continue to grow.

Why do you blog? Do you find blogging helps you be more creative?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Can a recipe change your life?

I just finished reading this delightful book: The Lost Ravioli Recipes Of Hoboken -- A Search for Food and Family by Laura Schenone.
I've always felt that the old recipes of our ancestors are a treasure to find, keep, and pass on, and often bring with them many remembrances that tell the story of a family more clearly than any genealogical chart ever could. The recipes of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers are all too often lost in the shuffle of modern life and modern conveniences, and perhaps a changing palate and the lack of accessibility to ingredients of the "old country."
When the author, Laura Schenone, asks an elderly aunt for her grandmother's ravioli recipe, the ravioli of their past, the one that mothers, daughters, and sisters would make together on holidays and celebratory occasions; little pillows of delicate pasta around a delicious savory meat filling under a homemade tomato sauce. She wants a piece of their history and the "sacred dish" of their past. When Laura receives the recipe card from her Aunt Adele, she sees cream cheese as an ingredient, and she is puzzled and wonders why her great-grandmother, who emigrated from Genoa Italy in the early 1900's, would have such an American ingredient in her ravioli? There must be some mistake! Thus starts her investigation and the beginning of her life-changing search.

The Lost Ravioli of Hoboken is a memoir, a culinary mystery, a travel guide to the Ligurian region of Italy, and a cookbook, all rolled into one fascinating story.

See Laura Schenone's website Lost Ravioli for more information about her book, and hear an NPR interview with her here.

Updated to say that she now has a lovely Youtube video where she makes ravioli using the technique she learned in Italy.

You will be inspired to write down your own special family recipes, and the stories that go along with them, to keep and pass along to your family too. Some ideas on how to save your family recipes can be found here at the Recipes Today web site. Go make a legacy! Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dream craft organization

I find the biggest obstacle to being a crafter is organizing and keeping all my supplies neatly in one place. I saw this wonderful "Work Box" at Home Companion Magazine. Closed, it looks like an attractive 3 x 3 x 6-foot armoire. Open, it folds out to nine feet of shelves holding 83 slides out flexible canvas boxes, has 20 removable Velcro bags for small item storage, and a fold-down table workspace.

Watch the inventor's video of how it works here.

I like how so much storage is made so compact, and how it could be displayed in any room of a house. The price tag is reflective of all the craftsmanship that goes into making it, and I imagine shipping would be pricey, too, but this is a serious crafter's dream item!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cookie cutters

I love to bake, and at Christmas, I bake dozens of cookies to give away to family and friends.
The "cut out" sugar and gingerbread cookies take the most time, but they are also the most fun to make as they become little individual pieces of art and whimsy.... and are almost too good to eat!

I have many cookie cutters that I've collected over the years, but I didn't know until recently that there was an actual Cookie Cutter Collection Club They have over 650 members internationally, and have a convention every two years.

There is even a Cookie Cutter Historical Museum in Joplin, Missouri, and while I could not find it's official website, I did find a website of pictures taken of the museum displays here. I was excited to see I owned some of the cookie cutters that were shown. I guess since I bought many of my cookie cutters almost 30 years ago they are already considered collectible antiques!

Some reproduction old-fashioned mold style cutters can be found for sale at Gramma's Cutters, see picture above, which also offers baking and decorating supplies. A nice video about the "Aunt Chick's cookie cutter designs that Gramma's Cutters sell can be watched on YouTube

A Google search brings up lots of links for tinsmith type cookie cutters, and there are lots of new and antique cookie cutters for sale on E-Bay and many other interesting cookie cutter links here.

I also have to mention these gag ABC gingerbread men cookie cutters that I found. "ABC" refers to "already been chewed." So funny! Just look at their expressions:

Imagine bringing them to you next Christmas cookie exchange. They are certainly out of the ordinary!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

NYC web cams

My daughter "L" called me this evening to tell me she was going to The Shake Shake tonight with some friends after work since the weather here in NY has been unseasonably warm. The Shake Shack is an outdoor fast food restaurant in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, and it has a webcam view of the line of people waiting to give their order. It's fun to take a peek and see "L" when I know she'll be there!

A really interesting webcam is one in Times Square, NYC that shows different views of the "Great White Way." It even has actual audio so you can hear street sounds. If you stand outside the TGI Friday's restaurant on 7th Ave and 50th St. you can be on the webcam close up street shot. Quite a few tourists seem to know this, and sometimes you'll see people stop and wave and call someone on their cell phone to tell them to take a look.

There are lots of other webcam link views of NYC, and more, on New Yorkology.

Go take a peek!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Even though I'm on a diet....

I still love to search around and find interesting food sites and recipes to add to my collection.

Today I found this intriguing site called Cooking For Engineers.

It advertises itself as having "step by step recipes for the analytically minded." I found the recipe descriptions to be quite a bit like Cook's Illustrated Magazine, whose website unfortunately requires a membership fee to view or America's Test Kitchen website which also experiments with different techniques and ingredients to find which works best.

Cooking for Engineers has this yummy marshmallow recipe, and how about this marshmallow dessert sushi that I found on a Vons Supermarket holiday web site?

It's actually marshmallows and mini donuts decorated to look like sushi with fruit roll-ups, candy Swedish fish, etc. Too cute! It would be a fun way to end an Asian themed meal.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Every home needs a cat

This is Bo -- my darling adopted cat of three years doing what he does best.......sleeping! He slept through all the Christmas revelry going on at my house, and even the bag of treats presented to him from his stocking did not rouse him from his beauty rest.

As Mark Twain once wrote:

A home without a cat, and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat, may be a perfect home, perhaps; but how can it prove its title?"

Bo is a "RagamMuffin" breed. They are very big and very lovable!

To see a most exquisite painting of cats on rocks go to the NYC based Italian Ester Curini's web site "Sassogatto"

Two of Ester's painted rock cats:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Old Cookbook Shop

I have a weakness for collecting recipes and cookbooks. I read cookbooks like novels and I'm sure I'll never make 1% of all the recipes that I have clipped and saved, but I can dream.

Bonnie Slotnick has a little bookstore in Greenwich Village in NYC that sells only vintage cookbooks! Why haven't I visited as yet?

I'm putting the address and contact info here to make sure I go one day:

Also, a nice interview on NPR with Bonnie can be found here:

NPR interview

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Old Christmas cards

I was ready to go through my '07 Christmas cards that I received and toss them away when I came upon this clever idea by Junie Moon to make boxes out of them!


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Fanciful Christmas wreaths

This Christmas season, when I hauled all the boxes down from the attic to begin the process of decorating the house, I realized I have accumulated way too much "stuff"! I opened one large container, peaked in and closed it again right away and brought it back to the attic. It was full of "early years" decorations from the 70's and 80's and 90's -- mercury glass bulbs that were tarnishing, little plastic and ceramic holiday knick-knacks that the kids brought home from elementary school PTA sales as gifts and assorted tree ornaments that I haven't used for years.

Sadly, I decided I'd take the box down again after Christmas and throw most of its contents away, even though those things were a part of a lot of memories.
But luckily I found this website tonight:

Sis Boom is a store in Connecticut sells handcrafted Christmas wreaths that are literally dripping with old Christmas baubles, trinkets and bric-a-brac! They are a colorful explosion of gaudiness, but they also contain so much old-time holiday "eye candy" as to guarantee a lot of nostalgia and conversation by all that see them.

Now I'll be on the lookout for some wreath forms to use to make my own for display next year.

Who knows ...... you just might get one as a gift! :-)