Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Great Eats: Cabbage/Sauerkraut Soup

Oh, sauerkraut. Why are you so delicious? Most of the time I don't even ask, as I stand there, eating you right from the jar/can. You're just so good!

And calorie-free, which is no small thing - as at one point eating lots of sauerkraut soup helped me shed 70 pounds. And even now, it's such a simple thing - a handful of staples, not even thirty minutes on the stove and BAM, I have a huge pot of delicious, pungent, colorful soup that all together cost less than $5 to make.

It really can't be beat, and the ease of preparation seals the deal. Heavenly with sour cream, but vegan without and if the idea of so much sauerkraut is off-putting, try draining it or if you're so adamant, rinsing the delicious, delicious pickled cabbage.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Great Eats: Tomato & Herb Risotto

Tomato & Herb Risotto
Mmm, risotto. This easy and endlessly adaptable dish has such a poor reputation. There is this image of toil and endless stirring, that is very far from the truth - this is a great grab-and-go dish that can be ready in less than 30 minutes, with hardly any prep-work or thought. It, of course, requires an iota of attention - like anything, but so long as you don't let it burn, you are guaranteed a hearty, flavorful side dish that's filling to be it's own meal.

Vegetarian and vegan too!

Inspired and adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good Reads: "The Passage" by Justin Cronin

When will the Army learn not to mess with strands of DNA from Undocumented Diseases from Far Away Places?

Never, I suppose. Not so long as there are Zombie Apocalypse Epics to write. Here, the US Army is up to no good, using death-row inmates as guinea pigs for some top secret project with requisite top secret mountain bunkers, scientists, agents and goons. It's the Near Future with requisite acts of terror on US soil, a shaken economy and people working to create super-soldiers who heal overnight. All goes just fine, until a 6 year old girl, somehow and inexplicably, is chosen to receive a cocktail that will make her immortal. And then, of course, the world ends.

This is just the first few hundred pages in this door stopper of a novel. The next "act" is set further in the future, as a whole new cast unravels the folly of these mad men while dealing with the horror of unkillable undead and a failing world. And, "The Passage" would be another wholly forgettable end-of-world book, especially with the unnecessary exposition and incessant filler that renders whole chapters tedious and boring, were it not for how the author wove a very interesting bit of magic into the story that really keeps the story afloat. It's right in the opening and is sprinkled sparingly through the pages and it adds a sense of purpose to this bloated novel. The first third of this tome, however, is enthralling and impossible to put down, but still, the book has no business being over 700 pages(!) long.

Especially not when you get to the end and this damn thing doesn't end. Apparently, it's a trilogy now and I couldn't help be upset when I got to there. It stops on a weak cliffhanger that gives no reason to read the forthcoming books - ending with a look into a time well into the future, it renders whatever is yet to be written unnecessary - because right here, in the end is the proof of their eventual success.

A decent read, it is engrossing and really makes one wonder about the fragility of the day-to-day lives we lead. With some heavy editing, this could be a truly spectacular, thrilling book, but it too often reaches for the mediocre.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Good Reads: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Here is a fairy tale that is at once nothing like you've heard and yet a derivative of many stories. Dark, oppressive and near-cruel, this is a potent tale that is not some half-baked "gritty" or "modern" folkloric update mish-mash - rather this is a story that transcends the medium and becomes a rumination on the horror of childhood, the wonder of adult-hood and the impossible, unbearable, cost of growing up.

In this tale, a young boy loses his mother and, in some way, his mind. Scared, ignored and angry, he finds comfort in reading books of fairy tales that his mother dearly treasured. But, these tales are as old as Man and there is real power in something so ancient. And as young David's world comes apart, the books offer a reprieve and glimpses of magical places. They whisper to him and he hears his mother's voice - calling, pleading for help. David answers the call but right away learns that nothing as it appears and that he is suddenly cold, hungry and alone in a dangerous world that will do all it can to kill him.

In short - No easy read, the book is nonetheless worthwhile and powerful. Brisk and engrossing, the way ancient tropes and characters from myths and stories are overturned and twisted is unsettling and shocking. However, it's all done with purpose and aside from a handful of grating moments, the book keeps it's grasp on you wholly. Given a chance, the lush, dangerous world will consume you like the magical, living, ivy that comes alive at night and drags  into its forest the bodies of slain half-wolves with awful purpose.

Though small, this book left a deep impression. The main story ends in a satisfying way, but the final chapter was heart-wrenching. The simple words - a summary of a man's life in a few pages - gave the preceding chapters so much weight, so much emotion, it was unbearable. The words really connected with something deep inside myself and in the space of a few sentences, I could not stop myself from sobbing uncontrollably, weeping not only for this man, but also for myself and the endless tiny aches, pains and regrets of my own childhood.

It was an unexpected reaction that ended as I reached the last word. The experience brought up long-forgotten whispered words from my mother, hugs from my grandmother, vague notions of endless sunny days and all the hope and wonder of the world bottled up and hidden inside me, bursting forth all at once. Surprised, embarrassed and relieved, I closed the book feeling much older, with a pride that comes with gaining some bit of universal knowledge that I knew would change me for all time.

It was,somehow, my own Happily Ever After.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Great Eats: Simple Cauliflower Curry

Oh, cauliflower. Such a humble vegetable. So unassuming and plain-looking, it is ever a staple in my home and yet whenever I get it, the poor thing just sits and sits and sits in my fridge, wilting, forgotten in the furthest corner. And only when all other colorful, tasty vegetables are consumed do I seem to "recall" and grudgingly pull it out and put it out of it's misery.

Which is a shame, because the humble cauliflower is capable of some great feats with a little help of the ever-miraculous coconut milk. Some Indian spices don't hurt either and when you put the three together, the results are always hearty, healthy and wholly pleasant.

As always, the spices make the ingredient list long - the rest is dead easy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Work: I'm Already Gone

2012 is off to a bright start with this piece that started off as a doodle in a soon-finished sketchbook, I layered color over texture to create the warm glows and effects. 
You can see more work here
Website: here

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On: My Big Art Sale, an Update

Silk-screened cards
Soon after coming back from Spain, I got a crazy idea - sign up for an art fair. I had no art ready, no supplies, but a lot of drive and inspiration and an endless supply of past-projects that I knew could be re-tooled for sale  in a flash.

Right away, I saw that I'd missed the deadlines of all the big shows by months but had just a few days to apply for Bucktown's 13th Holiday Art Show. So I did, got accepted, forked over a ton of cash and suddenly had to do something about that.

And since then I've been accumulating projects and, when a smaller art sale suddenly popped up, I've been frantically buying supplies, printing, cutting, gluing, assembling and sleeping little and eating poorly. But it's all almost over. The BIG art show is this Saturday and Sunday and I am almost ready. If it were tomorrow, I'd be OK even. That in itself is a tremendous accomplishment for me and I am thrilled at the challenge this project has presented over the past 3 months.

This weekend, I will have 25 8x10 prints, 40+ 5x7 prints, 80+ 4x6 prints, along with buttons, round and square magnets, magnet sets in gift tins, pins, bookmarks and silk-screened cards. It doesn't look like I'll have the book bags silk screened in time, but that's ok! There is plenty of other work ready for sale.

The best part, for me, is that I at last have arrived at a concept in which to wrap all this work. It has a name, a logo, and soon - an Etsy store and website. More on that when I get to it, maybe after the sale, maybe 2012.

Until then, I have just a backdrop to make, some risers to paint and maybe make more cards. Also Mom is driving in from Ohio to help me and that is a huge bonus and reward - I get to sell art, meet people, talk up myself AND hang out with my wonderful mother! Until then, I am taking it easy and thinking ahead. I got a lot done, but there's just as much still to do.