Monday, May 25, 2009

things left undone...

this is a confession. one that i'm only willing to make because reparations are in progress. i don't finish things. i start one great project after another, but leave many of them undone: creative projects, writing projects, and a great many small, but significant commitments to myself. if there were a 12 step program for this type of thing (actually, i'm certain there is) this might be my first step.

Some of these are old projects, like the memory book i began putting together for my sister (pictured above) which has been a sore spot for years. but there are also several new projects, started within the last few months, sitting around the apartment reminding me of my bad habit, and frankly, terrifying me~to think they too could join the boneyard of abandoned work!

(clockwise: stand mixer dust cover, hand-pieced/hand-quilted blanket, and unfinished painting resting on easel)

at this moment, i am feeling pretty comfortable surrounded by my things left undone - maybe it's the 3-day weekend, but really the answer lies in managing expectations and celebrating small successes.

big projects take lots of time. that's one reason i think i've taken such a liking to cooking. the process of creating a meal start to finish provides a quick healthy dose of accomplishment. enough small successes, and one might begin believing they could take on a greater challenge, like say... a quilt.

so in the spirit of celebrating small successes, here are some things that are finished:

rhubarb and strawberry jam, with hand carved block print label.
finished summer 08, but enjoyed with breakfast this morning

needlebook w/embroidery scissor pocket in sheep print

finished this book last night- Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Wheat berry and Smoked Chicken Salad & Tail-gating at minor league baseball game!

and now, i suppose, i have finished another post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Georgia on my mind...

i sometimes live in denial of how deeply ingrained the habits of teaching are in me, until i spend two days reading archived articles about the country of Georgia and their recent conflict with Russia in order to write a blog entry about pork stew.

Georgian pork stew is just a recipe, like any other recipe one might find while perusing it's surprisingly tasty for Eastern European food, largely due to the mid-east influenced herbs and spices (fenugreek seeds, coriander, tumeric, basil, cilantro, etc) . but while serving this ethnic cuisine guilt overtook me, since really i know nothing about Georgia (the country).

now, a handful of web searches later, i feel superficially aware of the political strife in this smaller than South Carolina country. so, if asked, i will not be mortified. furthermore, i can share these culinary tidbits: Georgia is possibly the source of the world's first cultivated grapevines and neolithic winemaking. Georgian wines were the most highly prized and sought after wines throughout the former Soviet Union, but recently the demand led to widespread counterfeiting (some of which was just flavored grain alcohol, but this apparently didn't stop many Russians from indulging????). in 2006, Russia banned the importation of Georgian wines (small part appreciation for excellence, large part political motives) nearly killing the industry. since that time the Swiss have taken on the challenge of promoting Georgian wine throughout Europe and some of it has made it's way to us.

Georgian wine made it to our dinner table last night, to compliment our Georgian stew. the stew was delicious. all the research was perfectly edifying. the wine, well let's just say, four-fifths of the bottle still sits on the table untouched. i hope it was the fake stuff, for the sake of the Georgians.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

mise en place [MEEZ ahn plahs]

mise en place is a French culinary term that means you have prepped all of your ingredients and prepared your kitchen before cooking. if you grew up before the onslaught of round the clock real-time cooking shows, you might remember the beautiful array of little glass prep bowls of days past that made cooking seem like it was entirely an act of wizardry, magically in one oven and out the other...amazing! of course you knew someone had painstakingly minced that garlic and pre-baked that casserole, but cooking was neat, simple, and still looked fun!

of course, i don't always do it. it dirties lots of little bowls for someone else to wash. but when i do i find cooking highly satisfying and unflustered. it feels like the "right" way. not that anyone eating your food knows whether you went through this process. in fact, that person eating your food might grow increasingly worried after 30 minutes of prep and "you still haven't started cooking, yet?" but when the prep is fini, the cooking goes smoothly and often more quickly.

Springtime Eggs Benedict with Wild Greens and Mushrooms from Cooking with Shelburne Farms was a recipe that required preparedness, and i was happy to oblige!