Saturday, July 30, 2011

daydreams from Cartegna de Indias.

A hot summer is the perfect time to read Gabriel García Márquez, because the languid heat and breath-stealing humidity mirrors the weather he writes of in his Columbian cities, imagined or real. This is the heat in which his characters live, love, grow old and sick, and finish their lives in a flourish of sadness and of nostalgia without regret.

My summer started with a trip to Nicaragua, the country's heat a stern teacher of hydration and how to sweat without caring. The green countryside drips with the heat, flowers full like plump lips of a woman ready to kiss you and bright red Malinche trees growing like red lights in a window.

The fascination with Latin America and the intersection of transatlanticism moves on, trailing down south to each successive country, starting in a melting pot of states, Louisiana, stopping in Nicaragua, in Cuba, thanks to Graham Greene and Michael Eastman, and finally ending in Columbia. My head is filled with saturated colors worn down by time and memory, full of Márquez's words in which one ages faster in photographs than in real life and in which one realizes they are old when they look in the mirror and sees their father at the age at which they were born. My heart beats with the fantasy, the lines of disillusionment and nostalgia blurring into the lives of people I feel like I should know.

["Portrait, Havana" by Michael Eastman; click to see the rest of his work. His Cuba photographs look like what Márquez writes.]

Want to read what Gabriel García Márquez writes? Start with a leisurely read (we are in Latin America, are we not, full of mananas) Love in the Time of Cholera, dabble in some short stories (Strange Pilgrims), move onto Memories of My Melancholy Whores, and once practiced in his style of Magical Realism, tackle One Hundred Years of Solitude. It's worth every moment, every effort you put into reading, I promise.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

s'mores from scratch.

For the past several weeks of the summer, my circle of friends have held weekly "supper clubs," a potluck dinner once a week that quickly became themed. This week, we hosted the get-together at our house, and the theme was "Campfire." It started as a joke, but became plausible. The only caveat was that "You aren't required to cook your food over an open fire, but if someone asks, you'd better be able to explain how you would." James made homemade s'mores: homemade graham crackers, homemade marshmallows, and, of course chocolate (but not just any chocolate), and I helped some. This was mostly his baking project, so I asked him to do a guest post.

["campfire" s'mores]

I'm not sure where I got the idea to make s'mores at home, but it somehow became an obsession over the past few weeks. S'mores are simple: a marshmallow caramelized on the outside and melty on the inside gluing together two graham crackers and beginning to melt a square of chocolate. I was determined to take the simple formula to its point of full potential, and I knew where to start.

I had made graham crackers from scratch a few months ago to procrastinate from studying for a test, and they came out with a richness and depth (and crunch, of course) that was really quite satisfying. From there, I asked if I could "kick it up" another notch, and decided to donate the rest of my 70% dark chocolate bar to the cause. All that was left was the marshmallows, and as Janelle pointed out, "if you can make graham crackers at home, you can make marshmallows."

Alton Brown came to the rescue again (as a materials science student, I appreciate that man's style), and before long I was making candy in our kitchen. With a bowl of cold water standing in for a candy thermometer (you know how to do that, don't you?) and my wife running the hand mixer, we were underway! Except for an explosion of marshmallow cream in our kitchen when the bowl ran away from the mixer, they came out beautifully.

[marshmallows ready to go under the broiler]

While the marshmallows set, I melted down the chocolate bar and dipped the graham crackers in it, then put them in the fridge to cool. The marshmallows, once they were done, we popped under the broiler for a couple of minutes until they were good and brown, then scooped their gooey messes onto the waiting chocolate-covered crackers and served them immediately. The result was every bit as gooey and satisfying as the campfire kind, with three times as much flavor. I'll tell you the secret to amazing marshmallows -- use top-shelf vanilla.

Monday, July 25, 2011

earworm: Metric.

Metric isn't new, to me or to many in the know around the music scenes (or even outside the music scene thanks to spots on the Scott Pilgrim and Eclipse soundtracks), but I didn't get into them until their recent album, Fantasies, came out, and along with it, acoustic covers of "Help, I'm Alive" and "Front Row." Now, though, the entire Fantasies album is on rotation, along with the acoustic covers, on my Grooveshark account. Metric is cool. And listenably catchy in a way that's not catchy for catchy's sake. They've got good lyrics and music.

Monday, July 18, 2011


In an effort to walk the line between granny cross stitch and hearkening back to a different, handmade era where young girls embroidered linens for their hope chest, I've been embroidering geometric designs on my pillowcases with neutral colors. I love the subtle texture it gives to my bedding, and that it was handmade by me. These pillow cases could be some of those things that get passed down, much like the quilts the pillows are sitting on.

gradient dots in charcoal, french knot

geometric pattern in cream, backstitch
(the pattern is very light, so click to enlarge the photo)

I'm working on another set of pillow cases that will have more color to them and that will coordinate with an old family handmade quilt that has pieces from my mother's and aunt's childhood clothes. I like to think of this next set as my contribution to the body of handiwork in my family. Not to mention that the repetitive designs and stitches make for great practice for the stitch you're using. Boy, have I got the french knot down.

abstract line in black, pillows for my couch, backstitch

For lots of stitch ideas, check out this blog, or your library for books.

Friday, July 15, 2011

new orleans ice cream company.

Did I say New Orleans Ice Cream Company? Oh, pardon me, but I meant only the Best Ice Cream Ever. Really. I always say that in describing this ice cream, and I always tack on the end that it really is. And I've been to Italy and had the gelato there. This is better. It's labeled "Ultra Premium Ice Cream," and the ingredients back up that claim ( does the price. It's a little over $4 for a pint.) A pint lasts for two weeks in my house because it's so good that you don't have to eat that much.

James and I first had it on our honeymoon in New Orleans, buying a pint of coffee and chicory in a corner Rouse's in the French Quarter and eating the entire thing between us. Hey, it was our honeymoon. We also drank an entire bottle of champagne between us at one point.

But the ice cream. We could only buy it in South Louisiana, so we'd stock up whenever we'd visit James's family, buying two pints and taking it up to the northern part of the state in insulated bags so we'd have it at home in Ruston.

And then our specialty food store in town started carrying it. It would have been the highlight of the month if James hadn't also gotten into grad school that month. And then our grocery store started carrying it this month.

But we're moving in two months. We're enjoying it while we can, because even though we know that Seattle is going to have some really good food, they're not going to have New Orleans Ice Cream Company and the food culture of New Orleans that those ice cream flavors represent.

Our favorite flavors? Coffee and Chicory (first choice) and White Chocolate Bread Pudding (second choice).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

put a cork on it.

Which is to say, jewelry storage. Okay, okay, I'll admit it, I'm kind of a neat freak. My house is cluttered sometimes, but deep down, I thrill at organizing things. So, of course, the jumbled mess of earrings and necklaces topped off with bangles drives me crazy. And a quest was born to find the best way to organize my jewelry for me.

First, as a pre-teen, I tried the mesh wire stands they sell at Claire's. It was lime green.

Then, with an inspiring picture from an Apartment Therapy house tour, I tried stringing wire across inside my bathroom cabinet and hanging earrings on that. The earrings fell off.

[from Apartment Therapy, I think?]

And, finally, I saw a picture from a Selby set, and loved the idea of hanging earrings and necklaces and bracelets like a collection of bugs. Entomological jewelry storage reminiscent of natural curiosities? Yes. That was it.

[From Selby, I think?]

I used an old picture frame with nothing in it, and slipped some thin pieces of cork cut to size that I bought at the local chain craft store. Nail in the wall, and done.


Monday, July 11, 2011

jewelry by fivelives

Just some things I've designed and made recently....

Hook, Line and ... Necklace

Jupiter and Mars Earrings

Red Berry Earrings

Pearl and Chain Earrings

The Hook, Line and... Necklaces will be for sale on Etsy shortly, as well as the Pearl and Chain Earrings. Find them in the side bar.

Friday, July 8, 2011

clay vessels: etsy roundup.

(My favorite ceramic artist yet. Read his artist's statement.)

Isabelle Abramson's Porcelain Berry Bowl (sold).

New Moon Studio's Aqua Blue Nesting Plate Set (sold).

Pigeon Toe Ceramics' Creamer.

*all pictures are from their respective owners on Etsy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

a picnic.

As mentioned, James and I just celebrated our one year anniversary. We weren't sure how big of a deal to make it, so we made it kind of a big deal.

James orchestrated a semi-surprise breakfast picnic with mimosas and crepes to be filled with peaches and strawberries and nutella and raspberry jam.

But we were eaten alive by mosquitoes (15 welts for me!), so we brought it all home (I spilled my first mimosa in the car...) and finished the picnic on the living room floor.

And then I baked a cake. A chocolate cake. A chocolate cake with chai-spiced buttercream icing. We shared it with our neighbors.

Add about 1/2-3/4 tsp. chai spice mix to one recipe of buttercream and mix well.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Did I mention I got married?

I did. Today's our 1 year anniversary. I love him.

Photos by the amazing Aimee Howell.

Friday, July 1, 2011


[behind Thibodaux's Episcopal church]

Most of last week was spent in South Louisiana, full of views with moss-covered oaks and swampy bayous.

James and I are taking it all in-- visiting family as well as somehow managing the heavy humidity that we know we won't get in Seattle. We'll be back at least once more at the end of the summer to say our good-byes.

Shrimp Jambalaya
From the Eastwood Family Cookbook

1/2 c. oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp Tony Chachere's
2 qt shrimp, peeled (and de-veined if they are big enough)
3 oz tomato sauce or a can of Rotel

4 c. water
4 beef bouillon cubes
2 c. uncooked rice

Saute onion and bell pepper in oil in a dutch oven until tender. Add garlic, salt, and Tony's (also a splash of water) and cook a little longer. Add shrimp and saute for 10 minutes longer. In a saucepan, place bouillon cubes and four cups of water. Bring to a boil, then add rice and stir. When broth returns to a boil, stir and turn to low until rice is cooked, approximately 20 minutes.
After rice is cooked, stir it into the dutch oven with the shrimp and seasonings.
Serves 10.