Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Come for the Cupcakes, Stay for the Art...

Or come for the cupcakes and stay for the cupcakes - the October flavors sound incredible - but do poke your head around the corner at the Small Hall Gallery and say "Hello." I'll be there from 5:00-7:00, hanging with the beasties.

grizzly

What: First Friday Cupcake Tasting & B is for Beast Art Opening
Where: Magpies Bakery & The Small Hall Gallery
When: October 7, 5:00-7:00 PM

mauve fox

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coming in October

coming soon
More info here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shop Update

2011.06.25 (chocolate dala)
A few pieces from my Emporium Show - which closed yesterday - are now available for purchase from my etsy. Kind of a trial run. If there's any interest I'll probably list more.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Now Showing

aditloo advertising

aditloo at the emporium

aditloo at the emporium

Thanks so much to everyone who was able to come out Friday night for the opening reception and to the Emporium Center for providing such a terrific venue for local artists to share their work.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Various Anniversaries

Saturday

dollywood

Few days early birthday celebration with Mom. First stop Dollywood, where I admired the taxidermy and waterfowl in between rides on the Tennessee Tornado, Blazing Fury and Barnstormer (sadly, the Mystery Mine was down temporarily for some minor technical tweaking).

wild plum tea room

Next stop The Wild Plum Tea Room. For the past several years we've come here on or around my birthday for lunch so it's become something of a tradition. I love the atmosphere, which is slightly fancy but also relaxed and friendly. And the food is always incredible.

andrea wilson gallery

Then a visit to Andrea Wilson's gallery, which opened last October. I enjoyed seeing her workspace, with all her various reference specimens laid out, almost as much as I did her beautiful work.

Sunday

anniversary dinner

Anniversary dinner. I really can't think of a better way to celebrate five years of married life than with barbecue and pie.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Measuring Out My Life in Chocolate Cakes

small chocolate cake

chocolate dala

dead simple chocolate cake

winning hearts and minds cake

Trying to decide which one the husband and I prefer as our go-to chocolate cake. Tough decision, as they all have their merits and are all rather simple to make. May need to collect more data before a decision can be reached.

Click on the images to access recipes

Monday, July 4, 2011

Red White and Boop-Boop-Bee-Doop

boop-boop-bee-doop

independence day trifle

Happy Independence Day, everyone! I hope you get a chance to blow something up before day's end to show Thomas Jefferson and the baby Jesus how much you love freedom.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Birth Day, Peanut

dead simple chocolate cake

Welcome to the world, baby boy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Game of Thrones

I have never read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. To be honest I wasn’t at all familiar with his work until HBO decided to build a series around it so I have no idea how the television counterpart, Game of Thrones, stacks up against the novels. I do know that if you like sword and sorcery stuff Game of Thrones delivers the goods but, having said that, I almost abandoned the series on more than one occasion; now that I'm all caught up and through the first season I can happily report that I’m glad I stuck with the show.

Like all of HBO’s original programming, the production values for this series are impressive. Game of Thrones boasts a terrific cast, wonderful costumes and sets and sumptuous locations and photography. I am particularly fond of the stylish opening credits, which sweep over an animated map of the kingdom and are accompanied by an appropriately sweeping musical score. To me they promise excitement, intrigue and romance, which is just what I want from a show like this.

Coming into the series without any prior knowledge of the world or the people that make it up, though, made it difficult for me to get my footing. It’s not that the story is confusing or hard to follow it's just that there's so much of it. So many characters, so much plotting and scheming, so much talk of cool things like dragons and White Walkers but, for those first few episodes, the series feels like a lot of set-up and preamble and the expectation of cool things to come. Which is all well and good to a degree but there was a same-ness to the first half of the season that, at times, made it tedious for me. I liked it well enough but not as much as I wanted to like it. I just wanted the show to get on with it - whatever “it” might be - already.

This is not unlike the feeling I got when I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring. My only previous exposure to Tolkien’s Middle Earth had been the Rankin & Bass animated feature of The Hobbit, which I really liked (I even had the read along with the record book when I was a kid) so I went into the first part of Peter Jackson's epic trilogy armed only with a faint sense of nostalgia and an odd affection for Gollum (don't ask - I don't really understand it, either). I left underwhelmed but hopeful that the next installment would be a better fit for me. Going back and seeing the movie a second time I found I actually liked it because now I knew the characters and could more readily invest myself in their struggles. This was definitely an instance where I think reading the books and being familiar with the world of the story would have helped in the beginning. I feel pretty much the same way about Game of Thrones.

The biggest problem I have with this sort of front-loaded storytelling is simply that it takes longer for me to get attached to the characters, something I realize I pretty much require out of any program I'm going to commit long-term to watching. Keeping everybody's names and lineages straight in my mind takes time away from me forming those necessary emotional connections. For the most part. There were some characters I attached to pretty quickly and they, along with the aforementioned great production values, were the reason I kept watching. Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion is pretty much irresistible from the word go because, by necessity, he must use his wits rather than his might to get by. Plus he’s snarky and charming and sexy and his bravado masks the pain and disappointment that he has suffered throughout his life and all of that is interesting to me. I was quick to love Arya, too, because what’s not to love about a feisty young lady who rails against the patriarchy? It's been done so many times but it's done well here and is helped in no small part by the considerable charms of young Maisie Williams.

Characters who have the least amount of power at the onset are great because isn’t it fun to see how they might gain power and control over the course of a series like this? They also have more room for personal growth and tend to change and evolve in more pronounced, perhaps even profound, ways. I think that’s certainly the case with the character who held my interest the most over the course of these first ten episodes, the one I kept tuning in for when I really thought the show had little to offer me: my number one crush, Emilia Clarke's Daenerys. Oh, how I love this character. Not just because she looks like a live-action version of the Lady Amalthea (though that certainly works in her favor) but because her character arc plays out so wonderfully. I think of all the characters on the show she evolves and changes and grows the most over the course of the season and it is terrific to watch. Clarke's acting is subtle and convincing. She is capable of projecting vulnerability and naïveté but there is steel at her core. I was amazed by both the depth of her character’s thoughtfulness and by her incredible emotional strength. She feeds off adversity and transcends it to such a degree that her story borders on religious allegory. I found the whole thing riveting (and yes, by extension I loved Drogo and her dynamic with him). This was easily the best, most engaging part of the show for me and, because of that, the final scene of the first series made any earlier misgivings moot and could not have created a better set-up for what's to come. Bring on the fire. I'm ready.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gateau au Citron

gateau au citron

So, how pretty is this? And every bit as tasty as it was easy to make. I think this cake confirms the adorable Molly Wizenberg's status as my number one crush of the moment.

gateau au citron

Flipping through her book last night - noting both the tasty sounding recipes and the marvelous Camilla Engman illustrations (I love beautifully designed cookbooks so much) - I had the sudden urge to go all Julie & Julia on it and work my way, one by one, through every single recipe it contains.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Baking Crazed

2011.06.17

Over the weekend my recent baking kick mutated from a hobby to a compulsion. I'd finish one recipe and want to start another one immediately. Baked oatmeal, Nutella cookies, blueberry-molasses granola, chocolate pie, lemon yogurt cake, tiny bread loaves... Sometimes I even had multiple recipes going at once. For three days I hardly left the kitchen. I realize it's madness to run the oven nonstop in mid-June but I can't reason with the muse. If I'm meant to bake then bake I must.

2011.06.19

These are the only foodie photographs I have to commemorate the insanity. I was in too much of a rush to document most of the madness. I do intend to photograph some of the edibles before they get all eaten up, though. And I did manage to leave the kitchen long enough to watch Karen Gillan's interview with Craig Ferguson, which re-broadcast late last week:



I’d seen part of this when it first aired but missed the beginning and never bothered to look for clips online to catch what I missed. I love how gangly and fidgety she is and how her cute short dress makes her look even more like a great tall China doll. Not since Ten, Captain Jack and Martha teamed up for the S3 finale have I been so simultaneously smitten with all the principle cast members at once. I will miss Eleven, Pond, Roman Rory and River this summer while Doctor Who takes its mid-season breather.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Of Food and Foxes (Belated Weekend Roundup)

chocolate pie

My first attempt at mother-in-law's chocolate pie, which took longer and was a bit more involved than I was expecting. I devoted a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon to this thing and at least half an hour of that, I'm certain, was spent hand beating egg whites to make the meringue topping (an unpleasant but rather rewarding experience). I'm pretty sure I undercooked the filling, which I now know ought to have been more or less set by the time I poured it into the crust. I actually lifted off the browned meringue and put the pie back into the oven to firm up before popping the whole thing in the fridge. It's not the prettiest dessert I've seen but it tastes quite good. Husband seems to approve, which is the most important thing. I plan to give this one another go soon.

lemon coolers

The lemon coolers I made Sunday were much simpler. These were a request from my friend Martha, who loved this type of cookie as a kid. Like husband, she was pleased with how her dessert turned out (and so was I).

papa fox

When I wasn't baking I tried to do some painting. I'm really happy with this fox. Husband says he looks very "Grandma Moses-esque." I'm not sure he's familiar enough with her work to know what he's talking about but I adore Grandma Moses so I'll take the compliment.

scratchy foxes

Two little guys I did late Saturday night. I'm trying to free up my style a little bit and not make everything so tidy and overworked.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekend Eats

christmas in june grapefruit

I nearly pitched this grapefruit, which had been in my fridge since Christmas and looked, going by the skin, like it had gone off ages ago. Luckily I sliced it open out of curiosity before giving it the old heave-ho and found, much to my delight, that the contents were in great shape. I ate the whole thing.

ginger spice cake truffles

I have no idea who invented the cake truffle. Probably someone who likes playing with their food as much as I do. These were made using leftover ginger spice cake and cream cheese frosting, which I mashed together, shaped into balls and dipped in melted white chocolate. They aren't nearly as pretty or tasty as the red velvet truffles my friend Jamie makes but for a first effort they'll do.



My gorgeous Frenchman's Lunch from Crown & Goose. Eaten Sunday morning at Book Group brunch while the ladies and I discussed Ally Condie's fantastic Matched (the only book I've managed, so far this year, to read from start to finish).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tawny Granola, Take Two

tawny granola

I've had a hankering for granola lately and wanted to try my hand at making my own. I used a recipe from the gorgeous Sophie Dahl, substituting sunflower for pumpkin seeds - couldn't find the latter at Kroger - and leaving out the apricots (though I did buy some pitted dates and will probably chop up a few of those to use as a topping as I eat this).

tawny granola

This is the second batch because the first one turned out less than tawny. Think smoky. Think burnt. I checked it at the twenty five minute mark but I clearly needed to look into the oven sooner. I reduced the heat to 325 for the second batch, turned it after ten minutes, then checked every five minutes or so until it was done. Granola is fairly straightforward but it does need minding once it's gone into the oven. Toasted can turn into charred very quickly.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Scones from Scratch

scones with craisins

I always assumed making scones from a recipe would be incredibly tricky. I'm not sure why, unless it's that I regard scones with the same sort of vague awe that I do so many things - even the most common, everyday ones - that are English.

scones with craisins

I used a basic recipe from Alton Brown. It was easy to follow and the scones smelled incredible as they were baking up. I substituted butter for the shortening (since I never think to buy shortening and, therefore, never have any on hand) and added some craisins but I'm anxious to try these again so I can experiment with different modifications and flavors.

scones with craisins

The dough was super sticky and bit of a bitch to work with (maybe the shortening makes it less so) but that was only a minor inconvenience. And a small price to pay for something so tasty.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

What I Made This Past Weekend

peanut butter cupcakes

Peanut butter cupcakes, topped with melted Dairy Milk, for Book Club.

bear card

New gocco for my shop.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dixie

dixie

You're the best. Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Week of New Recipes

berry yogurt muffins

Berry yogurt muffins. Another one from poppytalk. I substituted blueberries for blackberries cause that's what I had on hand. Yummy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Water for Elephants

I did not expect to like Water For Elephants, Francis Lawrence's cinematic version of Sara Gruen's gritty yet whimsical Depression-era circus romance, as much as I did. While I'm sure my very low expectations going in had something to do with my ultimate enthusiasm for the movie I don't think they were the only contributing factor. Water for Elephants is well made, thoughtfully acted and very true to the novel upon which it's based.

Staying true to your source is not always a good thing, though, as some novels lend themselves to adaptation better than others. Cram too many characters and too many meandering plot threads into a two hour distillation of a written story and you're just as likely to get a hot mess as a faithful representation of the source material. Luckily, Water for Elephants is a straightforward narrative that centers on a small group of characters. And Gruen's language is very visually descriptive; it was not hard at all for me to imagine the novel as a movie while I was reading it. I was, however, concerned about the filmmakers prettying up the story for the big screen and removing some of the more unsavory details of circus life that made reading Gruen's book such a pleasure for me. In order to garner a PG-13 rating, I’d imagine, Lawrence and his team do downplay some of the more explicit moments from the book and almost everything in Water for Elephants looks a little prettier than I imagined it in my head, including the hero, who is transformed from a gangly carrot-topped young man into the more conventionally dreamy Robert Pattinson. What I found while I watched, though, was that I didn't really mind because Gruen's story is more than just a meticulously detailed and researched examination of circus life during a specific era in American history; it is, primarily, about the romantic notion, so ingrained in our popular culture, of running away with the Greatest Show on Earth. The story of Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student who runs from an unbearable personal tragedy and, as a result, finds a new life under the big top of the Benzini Brothers Circus, is essentially a fairy tale. Hardships are tempered with magic and wonder and, despite the odds, all ends well.

I can't really fault the movie for playing up the more romantic, whimsical aspects of the story because I feel like they still get it right where it counts - especially in allowing an appropriately dark tone to pervade the interactions between the three principle characters: Jacob, Marlena, the Benzini's star attraction and object of Jacob's infatuation, and August, the circus owner and Marlena's husband. I won't deny that the main reason I was so dubious about this adaptation before I saw it was because of some of the casting choices but I was thrilled when Christoph Waltz was pegged for August, arguably the most complex and interesting character in the book, because I knew from his work in Inglorious Basterds that he could be both charming and terrifying, often in the same moment. That combination is essential for a character like August, a mentally unbalanced man who can draw others in with his charisma one moment only to tear them down with his violent outbursts in the next. I adore Jacob and Marlena. I genuinely do. They are great characters and very easy to root for and to like. I'm fascinated by August, though, because he's not easy to like but he is compelling and Gruen never makes him merely a brute or a one-note baddie; he's more than just an obstacle to the star-crossed love of Jacob and Marlena. If anything, the story feels more like a love triangle. August is genuinely impressed by and fond of Jacob and I believe he loves Marlena. While her marriage to him is often brutal I believe Marlena also loves August. At least the good parts of him, or the way he is in the moments when his illness does not cloud his every thought and he is not acting merely out of blind rage.

So, I never doubted that Waltz could make August as fascinating on the big screen as he'd been on the printed page. And he did not disappoint. Same goes for Hal Holbrook; his small role as present-day Jacob is perfect, like I knew it'd be. I had no faith whatsoever, though, in Pattinson as Jacob and the idea of Reese Witherspoon as Marlena was almost enough to make me physically ill. I really needn't have worried, on either account.

Having only seen Pattinson in the first Twilight movie I found it hard to believe, even when I heard it from reputable sources (like my pal Paige, who has excellent and discerning taste) that he could actually act. I mean, I know he has very little to work with in Twilight but I just couldn't imagine this weirdly pretty, brooding mess of a creature as Jacob. Nerdy, good-natured, brave Jacob. Less the leading man and more the endearing underdog. But somehow, some way, Pattinson convinced me. Yes, his Jacob is more handsome and sure-footed than book-Jacob, but Pattinson brings an appropriate innocence and naivete to the role and a sense of delight at suddenly finding himself in such a strange, bewitching environment. I like that he gets to smile a lot, because he has a wonderful smile, one that he doesn't get to employ enough while he's vamping and sparkling for the tween set in Twilight.

When Reese Witherspoon made her debut at fourteen in The Man in the Moon I was so smitten with her. Her acting was incredibly naturalistic and she imbued her character, lovesick tomboy Dani Trant, with so much pluck and heart. For me everything she’s done since then , with the exception, maybe, of Election, has been a little bit of a let down. I never felt connected to another of her characters as strongly as I did Dani and the more she immersed herself in the land of high-grossing romantic comedies the less genuine and interesting she became to me. The trailers for Water for Elephants played up her Harlow-esque appearance but little else. I was afraid her Marlena would be simpering and insipid but somehow, even in that first moment when she appears on screen, I knew she'd been the right choice for the role. Her Marlena is strong and spunky. A bit flighty at times, just like she was in the book, but resilient and smart. And her chemistry with Waltz is really terrific. The intelligence each actor brings to their role makes the co-dependent relationship between August and Marlena much more interesting and intense than it would have been with lesser actors. They turn something that could have been soapy and overwraught into a taut character study. I found them riveting together.

Of course the heart and soul of the movie, as she was in the book, is Rosie the elephant. As compelling as the interactions between the human characters may be the way each of them relates to Rosie, and the way she regards each of them, is what makes Water for Elephants so special. Tai, the elephant who plays Rosie, has oddly freckled skin and, despite her size, is captivating in a very unassuming way. I think she is especially beautiful and she’s talented, to boot. Elephants are smart, sensitive creatures and maybe acting comes more naturally to them than to some types of animals. I found Tai’s Rosie to be every bit the equal of the other actors in the story. And that's certainly as it should be.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Broccoli Quiche

crustless quiche

I've been making an effort to spruce up my modest repertoire of dinnertime staples with some new dishes. When I saw this recipe last week I thought it sounded fuss free and delicious.

crustless quiche

crustless quiche

crustless quiche

Much to my delight, it was.

I was tempted to make mini quiches in a muffin pan - after reading in the comments that someone had tried that with success - but I decided to stick with the pie pan the first time around. Definitely gonna try it next time, though.

crustless quiche

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Roundup: What I Watched Over the Holiday Weekend

Good Friday, April 22, 2011: The Last Temptation of Christ 
I had never seen this but I remember when my mom went to see it on the big screen and all the controversy Scorsese's movie stirred up. I thought it was beautifully made and very powerful. I love that it looks kind of like an old-fashioned, big budget Bible epic; the combination of radical, contemporary story and aesthetic plucked from an earlier era was a good way to go with this subject matter. The lighting and the effects are especially dramatic and terrific, as is the score by Peter Gabriel. I like that Harvey Keitel's Judas could be right at home in Mean Streets or Goodfellas and the John the Baptist scenes are fascinating. They could be outtakes from Hair (I had no idea J the B and his followers partied like that. No wonder Salome wanted in on the action). The crucifixion, temptation and death of Jesus are very moving. Scorsese makes the scenes gruesome and graphic but doesn't focus all the attention on the carnage and physical suffering. The emotional struggle that Dafoe's Jesus undergoes is far more wrenching and, like Nikos Kazantzakis, Scorsese certainly seems to understand that.

Saturday, April 23, 2011: Doctor Who 
This was one of my favorite moments from the Doctor Who S6 opener, The Impossible Astronaut. It's such an arresting image and so foreboding because of the wrongness of the astronaut, in full-on space gear, appearing in a lake on Earth in broad daylight. The beauty and stillness of the scene (filmed on location in Utah) only enhances the sense of dread. Like all episodes penned by showrunner Steven Moffat, The Impossible Astronaut is dark and unsettling. Matt Smith has some especially impressive, rather chilling moments as the Doctor; he knows his companions are keeping something from him and Smith makes the character's frustration, disgust even, at not being the most knowledgeable person in the room (for once) very palpable. Karen Gillan's Amy continues to grow on me and Alex Kingston's River Song continues to be awesome. Rory doesn't have much to do but he gets sidelined a lot. I hope he'll have a chance to be more crucial to the story as the season progresses.

Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011: United
I told my husband we had to watch this one because it'd probably be the only time a single movie would contain something that each of us loves intensely. In his case that something is football and in mine it's David Tennant. Unfortunately the movie, about the Munich air disaster that killed several young players from the much beloved Manchester United football team (nicknamed the "Busy Babes"), was only so-so. It's a well made movie and there are some striking visuals, especially in the aftermath of the accident, but, at just 90 minutes long, it feels like there's barely time for United to break the surface. The tone is somber and respectful and of course I was very sad to see the young, vibrant players cut down in their prime. But it would have meant more to me if the first part of the movie had done more than give us cursory introductions before rushing towards the accident, which serves as the dramatic centerpiece of the movie. The latter half focuses on surviving player Bobby Charlton and his relationship with coach Jimmy Murphy. Tennant, who plays Murphy, and Jack O'Connell, as Charlton, do good work but, again, it all feels a bit slight and rushed. All the pieces were in place, the filmmakers just failed to do more than the bare minimum that was required to tell the tale. I'm not sorry I watched it but I definitely wanted more.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter, Happy Easter

chickies

dye my own easter eggs

lady bunny

Whether you celebrate the Resurrection or just enjoy eating fondant-filled chocolate eggs, I hope you have a lovely Sunday.