Archive for January, 2011

epic sneak peak

as some of you know, I went into l.a. on friday to pick up some fabulous things in the jewelry district. I’m eager to share pictures of my goodies and what I’ve made with them so far…coming soon to your favorite jewelry store!

rock quartz, and citrine, and labradorite, oh my!

i've re-imagined the raja chic earring in new materials: rock quartz and crystal

i bought tons of faceted crystal

i've made a trio of 'princess' necklaces in materials like this beautiful labradorite

this stunning trio of turquoise is just waiting for some handmade chain

and here's a fun necklace made of coral and glass

January 31, 2011 at 7:33 pm Leave a comment

quiz: the anal-retentive chef

give yourself a point for every question you can answer with a resounding yes (even if it makes you want to laugh and/or cry hysterically). add a million bajillion points if you answer yes to #3. add up your score to see just how anal retentive you really are. like you don’t already know…

  1. has anyone ever, even jokingly, referred to you as martha stewart?
  2. were you secretly flattered?
  3. would you ever admit that?
  4. do people run away from you in fear as you move about the kitchen?
  5. has anyone ever called you a kitchen nazi? no, just me?
  6. have you ever told someone they didn’t chop something right?
  7. tried to show someone how to use a knife?
  8. been upset when they didn’t take it well?
  9. have you ever attempted a recipe from julia child?
  10. were you successful?
  11. seriously? you rock.
  12. do you own more than one kind of whisk?
  13. more than one flat or roux whisk?
  14. know what roux is?
  15. could you whip it up without a recipe?
  16. have you ever made petit-fours, you know, just for fun?
  17. do you want to learn how to make fondant covered  cakes?
  18. do you already know how?
  19. do you consider  yourself a glutton for punishment?
  20. would you say that a well made meal involves swearing, trying something new, and swearing some more?

January 28, 2011 at 1:19 am 1 comment

veggies for very good girls

this past weekend, the hubby and I ventured into l.a. for some dim sum, a milkshake, and a toy for me. okay, so that wasn’t the original intention, but I had admired this soft toy basket of veggies at the home of an actual child, and I wanted one for my own. we needed a few things at ikea anyway.

I played with it the whole way home, and it is now sitting happily in our kitchen.

I just love the details! in the assortment of goodies (mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, carrots) you also get a cucumber with a star detail, a leek complete with roots, and a head of lettuce with four removable leaves. ordinarily I eschew made-in-china-cheapies, but I had to have this. plus, you know, I was a good girl the whole trip.

thanks for letting me share! I’ve been working on my photography skills (finally getting a grasp on f-stop and shutter speed and what not), and this seemed like the perfect little shoot. if you’re interested in getting a set of veggies for yourself, check out ikea’s chidren’s section–the set was $8. next time we go, I’m getting the breakfast set!

January 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

risotto demystified

making risotto is not hard, you just have to speak it’s language (it likes baby talk). seriously, it’s just a certain kind of rice (arborio) carefully cooked with patience and love. and it’s delicious, so it’s totally worth it.

not sure if you can proceed without hair-pulling hysterics? take the anal-retentive chef quiz (mostly just for laughs). if you score anywhere from 1 to a million bajillion points, you are so ready. though if you score a million bajillion points I hope this isn’t your first risotto rodeo.

the following recipe is Mrs. Martine’s, but it’s easily adaptable by varying the type of broth, cheese (or not), and stirring in some deliciousness like fresh peas, sauteed wild mushrooms, or grape tomatoes right before serving. digression: Mrs. Martine was a sweet italian woman who took my family under her wing during our 9 month stay in Sicily when I was 5. she’s probably the reason we all gained about 15 pounds; according to my mother, she was always sneaking me meringues, which sat in a big glass container in her dining room. I think my beliefs about food–that simple food is made delicious through loving preparation, and that food can be comforting and really enjoyable–came from Mrs. Martine.  I was too young to really appreciate our stay in Italy (I remember the persimmon tree outside our villa, my mom’s custard, and risotto di gorgonzola), the idea of elevating simple food into fabuously social multi-course meals has stayed with me.

risotto di gorgonzola

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 good-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 6-8 cups broth (I use chicken)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 pound gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (if you’re lucky enough to have a choice, choose the dulce or sweet version unless you love the smell of feet. then try the picante or strongly flavored gorgonzola.)
  • possible add-ins: salt, white pepper, lemon juice, parsley for toppin’s
  • tools: heavy-bottomed pot, second pot for keeping broth warm, spoon, ladle

golden, translucent onions--ready for the rice!

warm the heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, then melt butter and saute onions. your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get the onions soft and almost translucent without browning them–so you’ll need to stir frequently. once the onions seem clear (as clear as an onion ever could be), you’re ready to add the arborio rice. also, start warming the broth in a pan (or heating it in the microwave)–you want it just about boiling before you add it.

see the color of the rice? as it cooks, it will get whiter.

stir in the rice, evenly coating it with the butter/onion mixture. begin adding hot broth, ladling just enough to barely cover the rice. you are now wedded to your stove for the next 30 minutes or so. (if you must leave the stove for any reason, even if it’s to do something brave and true like rescue a kitten know that the rice won’t care, and turn the heat down as low as possible until you return.) begin stirring. and herein lies the secret of risotto: don’t add too much broth at a time and always add it hot. I keep mine in a pan next to me on the stove, but you could also keep it hot in the microwave. don’t walk away from the risotto if at all possible. and for the love of all things holy: keep stirring. congratulations! you now speak the language of risotto.

add just enough broth so that it barely covers the rice

continue adding broth, a little at a time, and stirring. you’ll notice that when you first added broth, you added quite a lot, but as you continue cooking, you’ll add less and less each time. you’re trying to go to risotto’s happy place, adding just enough broth that it doesn’t dry out and stick to the pan, but not so much that it drowns.

the rice is white, al dente, and really sticks together when it's done

once the rice is cooked–which is about 30 minutes or until the arborio is still al dente (it holds its shape and maybe has just the teeniest crunch or bite to it) and it stops absorbing much liquid–you’re ready to add the gorgonzola. stir in the gorgonzola until it melts completely, increasing the heat if necessary, and taste. this is where you can add more salt, a little white pepper, and/or lemon juice if the flavor’s not quite right.


pile it onto a plate and mangia tutti! that means eat it all. which shouldn’t be a problem.

January 15, 2011 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

how to make the most of your vacation

first, let me say that you can’t make the most of any vacation without spending quality time with your family, preferably a whole bunch of them.  I don’t think it’s fair to apply these rules to a tropical paradise or anywhere with a hot tub.  if your vacation involves a spa, a quiet retreat, or a plan, it doesn’t count.  read no further.

family funtimes

  1. begin the trip by driving 8 to 10 hours in the car with an incontinent old dog.  this should really set the stage for future enjoyment.  if she poops more than once–inside the car, of course, hopefully just after you’ve started your trip or anytime after you’ve tried to get her to go to the bathroom at some little strip of grass next to a starbuck’s–give yourself extra points.  don’t have what you need to clean up?  have to travel with that smell?  more points.
  2. arrive, greet family, and immediately fall asleep from total exhaustion.  yay!  the gang’s all here!
  3. the next day, spend at least 4 hours trying to come up with a plan for the day.  if everyone agrees on where to go, you lose.  if everyone wants to do something different but everyone must do the same thing, you win!  make sure that when you are finally ready to go, everyone has to eat lunch, go to the bathroom, and can’t decide who should drive.  bonus points if it’s now too late in the day to do much of anything.
  4. be sure to get injured early on in your trip, ideally on the first day, and if at all possible, accidentally and by your husband.  make sure this happens inside a crowded minivan and sounds totally improbable.  that way, when you do finally seek medical attention, you’ll be sure to enjoy all the questions from concerned nurses about whether or not you’re safe.
  5. continue with your plans for the day, because why should you stop for injuries?  just take an ibuprofen, suck it up–tears are for sissies–and borrow some drugs from family members.  bonus points for going to a popular tourist area where people stare at your tear-streaked face and you unsuccessfully try to look happy.  oh, those are going to be some great pictures.  did I not tell you to travel with familial paparazzi?  my bad.

    that's me, in the green, trying to look like I'm having a good time. seriously, I'm trying to smile. unsuccessfully.

  6. lose a hubcap.  if you’re on a very busy street at night in the rain, all the better.
  7. remember that dog that you brought with you?  kennel her.  old dogs love chaotic new environments.  and you love shelling out cash.  win, win!  bonus points for kenneling her neurotic canine companion with the old dog just so she has something familiar to be with.  double the pleasure, double the cost!
  8. take an overnight trip to stay with someone you’ve never met.  come on, it’ll be fun.  oh cool, she has an amazing house.  oh poo, it’s hard to enjoy it when you’re injured.  well good, we wouldn’t want you to have too much fun.
  9. did we say overnight trip?  sorry you only packed one change of clothes, we’re staying for two nights.  learn to read minds and you’ll avoid this kind of issue in the future.  bonus points if you turn your underwear inside out or go commando on the last day.
  10. be sure to have some kind of dietary issue that prevents you from eating, oh I don’t know, wheat or something, so that there’s not much for you to eat.  not a problem since you injured your jaw, but be sure to get really hungry and have low blood sugar so that you can…
  11. totally lose it.  publicly.  in front of the whole family and that nice new lady you just met.  at whose house you’re staying.  you want to make a good first impression, don’t you?
  12. it’s always nice to include a trip to the ER in any vacation.  don’t miss out on this one!
  13. spend $18 for parking.  spend $50 on your copay.  I know, it’s cheap.  ideally you’d pay much more.
  14. walk out without a clear understanding of your problem.  be told to rest your jaw for 48-72 hours.  that means no talking and only liquids.  sure it reduces the pain, but it also makes for a fun vacation.
  15. fight with your brand new insurance company.  oh, did I not mention this occurs over the new year holiday?  whoops.  bonus points if your trip includes a weekend, when you can’t actually speak to anyone anyway.
  16. pick up your dogs from the kennel and shell out another $240.  you don’t like having money anyway.  I mean, what are you, a member of the bourgeoisie? pfffft.
  17. get the sensation from the stinky puddle of urine on your old dog’s bed and blanket that she is coming down with yet another urinary tract infection.
  18. try to get seen for a mandated follow-up to your ER appointment by your primary care doctor and be told by the snippy-but-in-a-perky-I’m-being-helpful-sort-of-way receptionist that the first available appointment is 5 months away.  continue to question her as to the possibility of being seen in a timely manner, and get an appointment a week away.  with dr. frankenstein.  it’s pronounced dr. franken-steen.  and no, I’m not kidding.  resist the urge to laugh and reference mel brooks movies.  she won’t get it anyway.
  19. spend sleepless nights taking your old dog out every two hours so she can strain out little teeny piddles of stinky pee.  bonus points if it’s cold out.
  20. return home, feeling the need for a vacation from your vacation.
    1. continue to fight the labyrinthian “health”-care/insurance system.  complain to your insurance company about not being seen in a timely manner and be shocked that they agree with you.  they file an expedited grievance, only to decide that your claim is not “that urgent” being that it’s not a matter of life-and-death, only a matter of pain and happiness.  take the damn vicodin and shut the hell up.  you don’t need to function, just stop calling the nice doctors and insurance people and bothering them with your silly little complaint.  don’t call us, we’ll call you.
    2. get your old dog in to see her doctor, same day, and shell out $80 for her antibiotics to cure her UTI.  remember, we’re trying to turn this inexpensive trip to see family into an epic, long-lasting, cash-wasting extravaganza.  they’ll sing songs of it years from now.
    3. actually convince your insurance company to switch you back to your old insurance company once you berate them, once again, with your tale of woe.  get to see your old doctor.  get an appointment for a specialist in 20 days.
    4. learn to get really creative with soft food.

the upside of our vacation is that we found that hubcap, amazingly, days later.  oh, and we did get to spend time with family and friends.  there was a little time for me to visit my favorite berkeley haunts, in-between the ER visit and sleepless nights with our old beagle.  a successful vacation, no?

I had the best of intentions of maintaining blog posts and sending you great pictures from the road, but after about 24 hours, that hope dissolved into a puddle of tears.  maybe next time.

January 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

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