Monday, May 30, 2011

kitten mittens

A small peak into my life as a grad student...featuring the c-printing lab, screen printing studio, and my personal studio, which I share with the three other first-year photo grads.

In our printmaking class, we have to made a trade print in an edition to share with each person in the class. A lot of people are doing "kitten mittens" as their theme, because we're allowed to do anything we want for this one print. "Kitten mittens" is from the tv show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I'm debating on whether or not I should do a kitten mittens print, or something else, since I don't really like that show (gasp--sorry for those who do!).

Friday, May 27, 2011

new cooking territory

I have certain recipes/dishes memorized. Like the chocolate chip cookie recipe I "invented" by combining bits and pieces of what I liked from four other recipes. Or like my "famous" salsa recipe, created through trial and error, batch after batch, until one day I thought it was so delicious that I stopped tweaking it and committed what I had done to memory. That kind of cooking is tried and true. It does not disappoint until it becomes too predictable. Then I find myself itching to try something new in the kitchen.

Last week, while grocery shopping, it hit me. I'd never made anything with fresh blueberries. I'd never made blueberry muffins! (from scratch...but is there any other way!?) Blueberries are in season (hoping to find them at the farmers' market soon! but for my first batch, supermarket blueberries had to suffice) so I picked up a package and then looked online for a good recipe when I got home.

The great thing about being an avid baker is that once you have a stockpile of ingredients, you usually only need one or two new things (or sometimes, nothing new) for any given recipe. I've also gotten really good at converting recipes to be vegan, so now I don't even bother to look for most recipes from vegan sources. One of my favorite recipe sources is AllRecipes because of the user comments and ratings. The blueberry muffin recipe has over 4,500 reviews! I usually spend 5-10 minutes reading a few reviews for recipes I plan to try, to see what the general consensus is. Sometimes users make helpful suggestions.

To Die For Blueberry Muffins - my vegan version

* 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup unbleached sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 1 Tbsp ground flax + 1/4 c water
* 1/3 cup soy (or otherwise dairy free) milk
* 1 cup fresh blueberries
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

And for a crumb topping, I didn't measure this out, but combined:

* vegan butter at room temperature
* flour
* sugar
* cinnamon

Bake in a muffin tin at 400 degrees F, 12-18 min.

Another thing which I had wanted to cook for a long time but which always intimidates me is Indian food. I think the names of the dishes as well as the wide variety of spices is what made me feel like I couldn't do it. So I started paying closer attention. I learned the names of my favorite Indian dishes. I read about which spices went into each dish. I don't have it all memorized, to be sure, but I have a better understanding of it now, and it's not as intimidating. I decided to make chana masala first, a chickpea dish and one of my favorites. I slightly cheated by buying a spice mix as opposed to making my own. I didn't own about half of the spices needed for the dish, so this cut down on the price a lot, and the good news is that the spice mixture is just straight spices, no weird preservatives or anything else bad. It was $1.50 from my local Indian grocer, for enough to make the dish 5 times. Now that I know I can handle making this type of cuisine, however, I'll probably try to start acquiring the spices. Making chana masala was so easy, and it turned out to be quite delicious in its homemade form. If you are interested, I recommend checking out this Smitten Kitchen post on the subject.

my spring garden

Last year my friend Amanda told me about square foot gardening. It has been popular for at least the past few decades, since Mel Bartholomew published his well-known book on the topic, but I had just not heard of it before. I had already planted last year's garden at the time, but kept the idea of a square foot garden in the back of my mind.

Fastforward a few months to my move to Columbus, where I am fortunate to have a tiny yard since I live in the middle of the city. I've measured my small green space, and it's exactly 300 square feet. It appears minuscule upon first glance, but I really feel it's the perfect size and such a great asset to have. In February, Corey and I built two square foot garden beds to prepare for a spring garden. Each bed is 4 feet by 4 feet, and six inches deep. Square foot gardening is compact and intensive. It's perfect for a smaller space and also saves money when it comes to the materials for the beds. We will also plant a fall garden, which I am very excited for because I have more time to prepare. Spring sneaked up on me, and I was consumed with school and not ready early enough for the garden. So, many of the plants were purchased locally, but some were also grown from seed. Someday I'll grow everything from seed, but for now, I am just so happy I can have this much.

Things growing in the square foot gardens:

- Tomatoes: yellow pear, white cherry, purple Cherokee, German striped, delicious, brandywine, pineapple, and old time. (We love tomatoes! I fear even this many won't be enough!)
- Peppers: Romanian sweet, Hungarian hot, purple beauty, yellow bell pepper.
- Swiss Chard: ruby red.
- Red cabbage.
- Salad Greens/Lettuce: red leaf lettuce, red salad bowl, black seeded Simpson, lollo rossa, radicchio early treviso, arugula, mustard mizuna, spinach, and endive
- Eggplant: black beauty, gretel.
- Peas: sugar snap.

Things growing in containers/outside of the garden:

- Herbs: chocolate mint, purple basil, Genovese basil, dill, chives, thyme.
- Flowers: zinnias (small and large varieties, multicolored), sunflowers (small colored and yellow mammoth)

Things I want to acquire:

- Strawberries...almost time for them to bloom but all the stores here are sold out! My fault for not being on top of things. They are perennials so I still want some if I find them in time.
- Citronella plant. I associate mosquitoes with heat because of my Arkansas roots, but we've had so much rain that they are everywhere here, despite cooler temperatures.

If you have any fall garden suggestions, please leave them! I am in zone 5b.

The photos above show the cover we built for the garden. We had a week of heavy rain and storms just after planting everything, and temperatures dropped to the 40s, so we covered the bed which holds tomatoes and peppers. I don't think we'll need to cover very much over the summer, but it will be great for the fall garden. The plastic is nearly clear, so it acts like a little greenhouse. It was very easy to build, just two pieces of flexible pvc, some string, bricks to weight the corners down when the cover is on, and a heavy duty, see-through painting drop cloth as the cover itself.

custom fabric, pt. 1

Here is a very small preview of the screen printed designs I am working on! I run each design as both a print and as fabric. I am currently working on getting the materials necessary to screen print on my dining room table this summer (the facilities at my school are moving to a different building and will be closed for awhile), so if that works out successfully, you can expect to see some things for sale in my Etsy shop.

The process is very hands-on and I think that's why I love it. I start by making some of my signature doodle drawings on paper, then go through all the steps to making them into a screen. I love that I can wash the screen out and print again with another ink color, and like paint, I can mix any color I can dream up. Mixing paint colors is actually one of my favorite pastimes. Although I have never considered myself a painter, I am an avid adder-of-watercolor to my sketchbook drawings. Watercolors in a tray are handy and portable, but the ones in a tube are by far my favorite, for the colors you can get with those are endless.

I've got to pick up my film of the garden this morning from the photo lab, but to give an update, everything has sprouted and it's looking great. The spinach is out of control (in a good way), the zinnia and sunflower seedlings have emerged in large numbers, the peas are quickly making their way up, up, up (planted them a little late, but it's so mild here, hoping they make it), and there are also chard, cilantro, and chives from seed. The other plants were purchased, so I find them slightly less magical, but they are getting bigger and one pepper plant even has a flower already!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

recent work

Still working on a title...
Each image is a 30"x40" c-print!
This is what I spent my weekend on.
Critique tomorrow!
See them bigger: 1 2 3 4

Sunday, May 22, 2011

hello, sunshine

Summer is almost here. The sun is actually shining in Ohio (quite a feat, from what I've gathered over the past eight months), my winter coats have been pushed to the back of the closet, the farmers' markets have opened, the garden is planted, I've been riding my bike daily, and the end of spring quarter is less than three weeks away!

Over the course of the summer, I will be taking three classes, teaching one class, and making lots of art. I have so many ideas that I haven't had the time to execute yet. I'm also planning to spend a lot of time working on DIY projects around the house. I don't see these as being too separated from my art, actually.

This quarter, I'm in a screen printing class, and I've recently started screenprinting on fabric. It is awesome. I hope to do a few sewing projects with the fabric if I can make enough before the quarter ends. I have dreams of making a quilt from it, but we'll see. I'd also like to make my way through several cookbooks, including The Chicago Diner Cookbook, which Corey thoughtfully ordered for me after we visited the vegetarian diner on our Chicago trip in March. I haven't had much time to cook from it yet, but I did make the biscuits, which were delicious. The recipe is not posted on their website, but they have shared a few others if you're interested.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

frost free finally

The frost free date finally arrived in Ohio! And so, we planted the garden this week. My tiny backyard is 300 square feet, and Corey and I built two 16 square foot garden beds in it. The picture below makes the yard look larger than it actually is because I took it with a wide angle lens. Technically more garden beds would fit, and maybe for fall we'll add another. Two is enough for now. We'll have tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, chard, herbs, strawberries, peas, and eggplant! p.s. Check out my new (-ish--got them a month or so ago) yellow chairs! They add a lot of life to the yard. I am thinking of painting a yellow sign for the garden to match them. Trying to come up with a name for the garden...any ideas?