Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse

Rem and I had an incredible dinner earlier this week. We’d talked about going to Chez Panisse someday, and eating in the downstairs restaurant.  They recently marked their 43 anniversary.  I visited the upstairs cafe about 29 years ago but I’ve forgotten most of the details (though it was the first time I ever had crème brûlée).  It was time to experience dinner at the restaurant.

Outside Chez Panisse

Rem had an unexpected windfall, a gift from his dad, with a note saying “Take Dianne out to dinner.” It was the trigger to do something special.  We weren’t celebrating anything yet the evening felt celebratory.  Rem had just called two days prior and asked when they had seating on a weeknight and we got a table for the early (5:30) seating.

The restaurant at Chez Panisse serves a set menu of four courses that changes daily.  It is posted on their website a week ahead but if you make a reservation for a date further ahead then that, you’ll have to be ok with whatever they’re serving.  That isn’t a bad thing though, because what they’re serving is bound to be good.

Their signature is serving food created from the very highest quality, seasonal, organic ingredients.  It is mostly sourced locally and sustainably, and it is all beautifully prepared.  It is deceptively plain and simple. This is not hefty servings, swans made of spun sugar, pheasant under glass with esoteric spices and herbs, or blanketed with fancy sauces.

We arrived a little early for our 5:30 booking and were invited to wait in the foyer or upstairs in the bar.  We decided to try a non-alcoholic spritzer.  Since they had two types listed,  Plum Berry, and Lime, we got one of each and shared them.

Spritzers

Before I go any further, I’m must apologize for the photos.  The lighting wasn’t great, especially when we got downstairs to the restaurant, but more critically, I forgot to take pictures several times because I was so eager to tuck into whatever was on the plate or bowl set in front of me.

These drinks were a delicious start to the evening.  They both achieved a beautiful balance of not too sweet, not too fizzy and just right fruitiness. The aroma bloomed up from the glass and reminded me, for some reason, of fruit popsicles – but the best most perfect popsicles ever!  Every time I lifted the glass and tipped it for a sip, I was greeted with the fruity fragrance. They were so flavorful and refreshing on a warm, sunny afternoon.  We traded the glasses back and forth so we could both enjoy the two different drinks.

Before we finished our drinks, it was time to move to the dining room. Going down the narrow stairs from the cafe and bar to the  dining room, I noticed the copper railing.  The foyer is decorated with big posters and a large bouquet of fresh flowers.

tomatoes

The dining room has interesting looking nooks and crannies and is warm with lots of wood, copper light scones and lamps.  There was a huge arrangements of flowers  and leafy branches in one corner and and a footed plate of tomatoes on a sideboard.

As we follow the host, I see the open kitchen and I’m delighted when we are seated just to the left of the wide entry to the bustling space.  The menus, small works of art with a beautiful linoleum block print of strawberries, sit on the white-clothed table under a large leather bound wine list.

strawberry printed menu

A waiter brought a small bowl of rosemary olives and then a basket of bread with a small dish of butter and our feast began.

Wine List and Olives

The main course is roasting on a spit just inside the kitchen.  Rem sits with his back to the kitchen to start but we switch for a course so he can check it out.  We nibbled the olives and mopped up the herbaceous juices with bread, anticipating the first course.  The waiter said there were “tomatoes in everything since they’re so good right now,” which wasn’t quite true, but they had a starring role on the first plates set before us.

Again, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t manage a photo until I was well into the dish.  It was just so enticing.

Menu inside

The different varieties and colors of tomatoes were drizzled with a vinaigrette and then scattered with shreds and leaves of two types of basil.  Two milky white slices of fresh mozzarella were the perfect counterpoint to the juicy, sweet tomatoes.  A large, golden brown fan at the top of the plate was a big zucchini flower dipped in tempura batter and fried to delicate crispness.

Half-eaten tomato appetizer

When I talked to my friend, Tom Hudgens, cookbook author and chef who worked for a spell at Chez Panisse, he said that much of the beautiful produce and other ingredients at the restaurant aren’t available to the average shopper because the vendors save their very best, peak-of-season items for Chez Panisse.  One bite of this perfectly plain but absolutely luscious plate of tomatoes had me convinced.  More of the good Acme bread sopped up every bit of juice and dressing from my plate.

Rem had been a bit apprehensive about his encounter with fish.  We knew it was on the menu and he wanted to have the full Chez Panisse experience, but having worked on a salmon fishing boat one summer in Alaska, he was a little cautious about the next course.

Halibut in broth

A piece of roasted halibut, crisp on the surface and flaky white inside, sat in a rich gold soup of fish stock created from lobster and rock fish, with tomato and saffron.  Dried fennel was scattered over the broth and soup.  I believe it was the most succulent, delicious, perfectly cooked piece of fish I’ve ever eaten. Rem agreed that it was incredible and ate it all.  He didn’t love the broth but I wanted to pick up my bowl and lick it clean!

At some point, I knocked over my glass with the dregs of the Plum Berry Spritzer.  I’d been letting the ice cubes melt a bit then sipping the last of the ambrosia. Luckily the glass tipped but stayed on the table and I only lost the ice.  The staff dealt with it quickly without making me feel clumsy.

The cute solo diner at the next table over asked in a charming British accent if there had been much left in the glass and when I said no he said “then nothing lost.”  We chatted a bit and learned he’d been anticipating his visit to the restaurant for 10 years!  His dinner partner had cancelled but he decided to stick to his much awaited plans.  He was enjoying his meal as much as we were enjoying ours.

View into kitchen

We’d been watching the main course roasting over open flames: spit-roasted pork loin.  It was served with shell beans (more bits of tomato in the bean broth), chanterelle mushrooms and crispy-fried sage leaf garnish.  Meyer lemon is mentioned in the menu and I didn’t taste it, but I guess it was used on the pork.  A small salad of watercress and escarole completed this plate.

Pork Loin Main Dish

Rem enjoyed a class of Rosso Scarpa with the entree.  It was very tasty but didn’t reach the same heights as the others. Once again, I soaked up the juices with bread and left my plate nearly clean.

Our neighbor told about his vacation so far including a terrible trip to Las Vegas that he wanted to forget ever happened.  He spent a5 days picking raspberries at an organic farm in the Central Valley, part of WWOOF, an organization or network, really, of organic farms and volunteers who work at them for room and board in exchange for 5 hours a day of labor. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  He was still looking forward to visiting Harbin Hot Springs before heading back to London.

The pace of our meal was slow and relaxed.  The room was a bit noisy but not because of loud music, which seems to be popular in some places these days.  Cooking and serving in the kitchen along with a crowd of happy people eating, drinking and celebrating whatever they were celebrating made for a constant babel.

The final course: dessert! I’d watched the plates go by and was happy when ours arrived.  Profiteroles, one with plum ice cream and the other with toasted almond ice cream.

Profiteroles

I couldn’t decide if I did or didn’t like the toasted almond ice cream.  Alternating bites between the two different flavors made them somehow even better than each tasted alone.  The almond was made by soaking toasted almonds and caramel in cream.  Then the almonds and caramel are squeezed in cheesecloth to get all the flavor out, the nuts are discarded, and the infused cream is used to make the ice cream.  There was something about the flavor that reminded me of milk left from a bowl of cereal, but better.

However, the sauce on the plate and the garnish of sliced peaches, strawberries and raspberries lifted this dish beyond what you might expect from looking at it.  Rem tasted a bit of peach and exclaimed “did you taste the peach??!” as I was savoring a perfect raspberry that almost moved me to tears.  It was a transcendent moment.

It was shortly after reaching this blissful state that I noticed proprietor Alice Waters in the kitchen. I don’t know if she comes every night but it was a thrill to see her in person.  She came out and greeted guests at a nearby table.  Johnny, the Brit at the table next to ours was nearly overcome.  After she returned briefly to the kitchen he looked at us in amazement and said he was more starstruck than if Tom Cruise had walked by.

He asked a waiter if Ms. Waters could possibly sign his  menu.  She came by and they ended up having an extended conversation including a discussion of organic farms, his travels, her daughter living in England and who knows what else!  They ended up exchanging emails and he sat looking stunned after she shook his hand and departed to visit with other guests, his dessert melting in front of him.  It was delightful to witness and clearly the cherry topping off his evening and perhaps even his trip.

A last, final small plate was set on the table, something more than what was listed on the menu, an encore to our meal. Three small bites for each of us and yes, once again I forgot to take a picture before I ate.

Empty plate

These little bites or mignardises were, for each of us: half of a ripe Mission fig, a strip of candied grapefruit peel and a chunk of dark chocolate almond bark.  We were sated and happy.  Our meal had been all that we had imagined it might be and more.  I’m already thinking about returning for my birthday next March.

Thank you for your visit.

 

 

 

 

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Remembering Ruby

Ruby 8 weeks old

Ruby at 8 weeks old.

Yesterday was a very sad day: my sister Kathleen had to say goodbye to her sweet girl Ruby.

Ruby was 15 years old and she, like many of us, had certainly slowed down.  Her hearing and eyesight were diminished and she was no longer getting out for walks.

With stuffed puppy

I have some great memories of Ruby.  She was an adorable puppy, full of personality.  From the very beginning, she thought she was a big dog.  I think maybe that was her Indian name: Runs with Big Dogs.

Once she chased after a coyote and another time she ran right up the trail at a horse!

Ruby with her first little octupus

Kathleen couldn’t resist dressing her up for special occasions.

Santa Pup

Wiener Dog

I think, at best, Ruby tolerated it.

Kathleen and I take a walk every Saturday.  They used to be longer hikes. Ruby loved chasing a tennis ball, but we learned not to bring a ball or we couldn’t make progress on the trail.  In fact, we didn’t even say “ball” around her.  But sometimes she would find one anyway.  Her sense of smell must have been pretty good because there were times she would plunge off the side of the trail, seeking an unseen ball and after a time, her head would pop up with a tennis ball clenched triumphantly in her teeth.

Sometimes she would nudge a ball off a trail just to amuse herself and chase it down the incline, through poison oak and underbrush.

Muddy Dawg

In 2003 Kathleen entered Ruby in the Doxie Derby dachshund races held at UC Davis every year.  I wish I had pictures from the event but they haven’t been unearthed.  Some dogs wander off the course or stop, or turn the wrong way.  But Ruby ran like an Olympian!  Her ears were flapping and all four feet were a blur – at one point she was flying with nothing touching the ground.  She won a preliminary heat and we were delighted.

Happy Dance

Here she is doing a happy dance.

When Kathleen brought home a Siamese kitten, Xander adopted Ruby as his second mother, curling up with her and sucking on her fur.  Ruby tolerated that for only so long.

Ruby and Xander

Rem was a big Ruby fan and even did a stint of weekly dog-sitting.  When Ruby was little, Kathleen worked in a dog-friendly office and for 7 years they went to the office together.  But later, Ruby stayed home and various friends and family members helped Kathleen by taking Ruby out for little walks.

Sometimes Rem would take Ruby with him out for coffee or a stroll.  This is on the waterfront in Sausalito.

In Sausalito

Here are some pictures of her from our Saturday hikes.

In the creek

Posing on a rock

More than likely her Mama was holding a treat and calling her name to hold her attention long enough for me to snap the picture.

On more recent hikes Ruby would ride for part of the way in a puppy pack adapted by our sister Sarah.  Ariel is carrying her in the  pack here.

Ruby in the backpack

Ruby celebrated 15 birthdays.  Here she is on her tenth.

10th Birthday

Two weeks ago, Ruby suffered a blood clot in her front right leg and she could no longer use the leg, which meant she couldn’t walk.  A younger dog may have been able to adapt but especially in a short-legged, long bodied breed like a dachshund, it really wasn’t possible.

Kathleen made the terribly difficult but very brave decision to keep her beloved girl from more suffering.  Ruby was going downhill and was no longer eating.  In the morning we had a last walk, with Ruby in a stroller, and Molly keeping company.  In the afternoon, visits and petting in the sunshine on the front porch with friends who loved her.  Xander lay next to her, purring, while Ruby was on Kathleen’s lap.  A wonderfully kind and understanding vet came to Kathleen’s home to take care of things, and Ruby died in Kathleen’s arms.

I had plans for the evening, an outdoor symphony concert by the lagoon at the Marin Center with my mom. Unfortunately, I had to leave shortly after the vet, with tears drying on my cheeks. I was tired and didn’t really feel like going out but I’m glad I did.  It kept my mind off the sadness of the afternoon and it was beautiful sitting outdoors watching the sun go down, birds swooping around, seemingly in time to the music.

The concert finale included a glorious fireworks show and I had an image of Ruby racing along, her ears flapping and all four legs working beautifully, a blur of motion as she flew, and the fireworks seemed to be a fitting response to her arrival in heaven.

R.I.P. Ruby Red Faw

April 25, 1999 – September 13, 2014

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Art Journal: Inchies

Inchies Two Page Spread

August was a month for healing and building up my stamina.  Oral surgery on July 31st really sapped my energy and I have done very little crafting.  I’m almost back to my regular work-out routine and finally have some time and energy left for crafting.

Inchies are 1″ x 1″ decorated squares of paper or fiber and are mini works of art – they can be painted, collaged, stamped or hand-drawn.  They are sometimes traded in sets of 6, 9 or 12, but I made them for my Art Journal.  I used many types of paper including watercolor paper, card stock, magazine pages, maps, sheet music, vellum, old calendars, dictionary pages, and other paper ephemera.

4 inchies

When I started, I thought I would do a page of inchies. I laid them out in rows of 4 but I decided rows of 5 would look better.  Once I filled one page, I kept going until I completed 70 inchies.  I found the small size very satisfying and delighted in coming up with different designs and embellishments.

70 inchies

Multicolored stripes from an ad in a magazine were used as waves in the ocean and as a cheerful background for a happy face sticker.

Just another fish in the ocean

A scrap of paper doily inked a blue-purple became a lace fan for a sketch of a Spanish lady.

Spanish Fan

Although I used many different colors, I stuck with orange and green with some purple for my overall color theme.

Mostly Orange

Mostly Green

I looked at things with an eye to how they might be transformed into an inchie: junk mail with a picture of an orange safety vest became a square, parts of a chocolate bar wrapper appear on three squares, and a business card for a Psychic I found on an early morning walk made two inchies with the addition of some washi tape and sequins.

Tarot

Palm Reading

I made tiny collages with layers of different paper.  I searched through my scraps for little bits and pieces to use.

tiny collages

When I completed enough for both pages, I had to decide on the layout.

Draft layout

After gluing all the squares in place, I realized my little crescent moon was upside down, so I carefully peeled it off the page and put it on correctly.

Moon & Sun

I don’t know that I’ve gotten this little inchie-bug out of my system.  I think maybe a birthday card made with inchies will be my next project.

Sorry for my lack of posts in August. Thank you for your support, patience and continued visits.

Alarm Clock

 

 

 

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Art Journal: Collage & Watercolor

Bird Collage

I’ve been saving this image of a bird standing on a branch, stamped in black ink on grey tissue paper for a few years. Looking through material to use in this two page spread, I came across the image and decided to use it.

I layered bits and pieces of paper with different text and music onto my pages, then scraped a thin layer of white gesso over them.  I didn’t want to use too much color for the background but I did include a little bit of green and pink.

Next I used watercolor crayons, watercolor paints and colored markers to color in the bird.  I stamped the little trio of flowers a few times and added some purple (I used an air spritzer tool with a marker) and green to the image.  I stamped a few other images and then wiped a little gesso over these extras images to keep the focus on the bird.

Bird Image

On the opposite page, I used this technique from Carson at Pine & Plum: using Thickers or other cut-out letters as masks.  I spelled out “Bird” using letters I picked up at Dollar Tree.  Then I painted a wash of blue watercolor over and around the letters, making sure to get into all the corners and curves.

I used my heat tool to dry the paint then carefully peeled the letters off the page, leaving behind the word in white in a field of blue.  The background is a printed paper with a handwriting-style design that I brushed and scraped with a thin layer of gesso.  The writing shows through but doesn’t distract.  Below “Bird” I stamped more text so there are layers of different fonts and words.

Bird Word

I’ve been looking at Art Journaling on other blogs and I like to look at the materials they use. I saw Gelly Roll pens by Sakura mentioned several times and picked up a Gelly Roll Stardust Clear and a set of Glaze 3-D Gloss Ink pens.

Shimmer Ink Close up

I used the sparkly pen which is shimmery and clear on the lower part of the letters. I also used it on the bird and the three flowers.  The I dotted the eye of the bird with the glaze pen in black and added a little purple glaze to the flowers.

Three Flowers

I added a bit of washi tape, including some with a music design.  I love using music on pages with bird designs.  I also went back o the bird and first used a bit of gesso around her then, after drying that, I painted on blue watercolor to balance the blue around the letters of the word on the other side of the page.

The last thing I put into this layout was the little feather I picked up on a walk the same day I created the spread.

feather

A few quick swipes of blue, a blast of the heat gun and lettering in white finished the page.

full page bird

Thanks for your visit.

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Art Journal Immersion

blue spiral

Sometimes when I sit down to craft I don’t have a specific project in mind.  It might be that I only have a short amount of time but I want to get my hands onto the supplies and play. Or I have the time but don’t have the mental energy to design something and I don’t want to use up all my time staring at my supplies and wondering where to start.  Here are two solutions to this kind of situation.

The first is to work on backgrounds in my Art Journal. Since I use an old textbook for my current Art Journal, the pages need some prep before they’re ready for paint, ink and/or collage (and glue).  I’ve already thinned the book down by ripping out every third or fourth page.  Since I create collages, I add thickness back to the book. I also glue two or three pages together with a glue stick on either side of the spread I am starting.  Finally, most of the time, I put a thin layer of gesso down.

Gesso is a primer and it adds a little body and stiffness to the page.  It keeps paint and ink from soaking into the paper and at the same time it has a little texture to help paint to stick. I’m using an altered book instead of a blank artist journal because I like that starting layer of text so I like having it show, at least in some of my finished pages.  So when I put gesso on the page, I’m going for a very thin layer.  A credit card (or store member card) that you don’t use is great for scraping across the just-applied gesso and leaving behind just a thin film.

A heat gun speeds drying but if you only have a very thin layer of gesso, it dries pretty quickly.  Once you’ve got the pages glued and gessoed, you can play around with putting some color on the page.  Here is a finished page (sorry, I didn’t capture the process in pictures) that I made while recovering from oral surgery.

Exercise 6

I worked on the background over two different days.  Over the white gesso I used some poppy-red and tan acrylic paint.  I scraped it back and forth over the page with an old credit card.  After it dried, I put another very thin layer of gesso over it, then scrubbed some patches off with a damp paper towel, letting more of the color through in some areas.  A water soluble crayon in red-orange added a bit more color.

When I was working on the background, I had no idea on how I was going to complete the page.  I think because my face hurt I was just putting that feeling down with my scribbles and streaks of red-orange.

Close Up Exercise 6

After a few days I went back to the background.  I decided to add some texture by painting brown paint onto bubble wrap and pressing the wrap and resulting texture onto the page. I collecting a tag I’d found on the ground while out walking, a page from an old savings account book, and a few other bits of paper with numbers on them and made this collage. I think my dislike for math suited the page that started with unhappiness and discomfort after dental work!

On another background I used watercolors, gesso and white paint.  This one has a much lighter, airy and yes, maybe even happier feeling to it.  Again, I worked on the background and came back a few days later to add to the page.  In fact, I still haven’t finished it.

Pasel background

I have some Light Molding Paste and decided to see what I could do with that.  After posting this page, a friend wrote to ask if I’d used molding paste to create the flower.  It is a pretty image from a Burt’s Bees ad in a magazine.

IMG_0162

After her comment I purchased some molding paste and I finally took the time to play with it, using the flower in the ad as inspiration.  I mixed some paint in with the paste and used a palette knife to apply it to the page.

Bloom Where You're Planted

Flower close up

I stenciled a little design with leftover molding paste but the two page spread is a work-in-progress.  When it is finished, I’ll share it again.

So prepping pages and working on backgrounds is one way to jump into your Art Journal without having a finished project in mind. The other is this patterned paper by artist Päivi Eerola on her site Peony & Parakeet.  She has a wonderful post called “How To Make Your Own Patterned Paper,” and I found the process to be very relaxing and almost meditative.

I did it in my Art Journal, so my first step was a layer of gesso to prep the pages.  Brushing it on in big, quick swipes of a brush then spreading it around and scraping it off with the plastic card.

IMG_0075-001

A quick swoosh with the heat tool to dry it.

Dry with heat tool

Then swirls of watercolor paint.

Watercolor

Purple paint

Watercolor layer

Don’t think too hard with this, just try and be loose and easy.  Swab a damp paper towel in a few spots to leave some lighter areas.

Swab with paper towel

Dry with the heat tool then start doodling with colored markers with medium tips.  You’ll be going back with finer points later in the process.

Doodle with markers

Add colored marker doodles

To be honest, at this point I wasn’t really loving the results.  I was enjoying fooling around with the colors and different media and I didn’t have any other ideas at the moment, so I continued on, using the heat tool after each new layer of color and detail so they didn’t all blend into a big, muddy mess.

The next layer was supposed to be more fine doodling using gel pens but I don’t have any so I skipped that and proceeded to colored pencils, filling in color where it was more washed out then I wanted.

pencils

I don’t have a picture that shows the results of my scribbling with colored pencil – it was more subtle.

Now I used several different white pens.  Two of them picked up some pigment from the page which was a cool effect, though not completely white. Then I went back with a white uni ball pen and added more details.  In the directions on Peony & Parakeet, she suggests using a white correction pen.  I will be experimenting with one soon!

white pens

More white detail

I decided to go back with the colored markers to bump up the color in some spots.

Once more with markers

Black and silver pens are the final detailing tools. Fine dots and little highlights add to the finished look.

black & silver pens

Flower, bubbles & heart

Swirly dots and tiny flower

bubble and dots

I’m not sure if it is done, but I like it!  I really enjoyed the process and love that it didn’t take any drawing talent or special painting skills to do this.

Wild Patterned Paper

I might try a crazy patterned fish swimming across the page or a wild bird flying over.  Or maybe this will be it.

One last thing.  I recently posted a page and realized this weekend that I had an error in the quote I used.  The quote was fine, except instead of writing “Everybody” I wrote “Everbody.”  If anyone noticed, they were kind enough not to say anything.  I don’t know how many times I looked at the page before I saw it.  So…I fixed it.

Everybody needs...

Wishing everybody beauty and time to create it in your life.  Thanks for your visit.

 

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Little Fairy Gardens

Fairy Music Garden

I’ve been working on these little fairy gardens for awhile but they were gifts and I didn’t want the recipients to see them. I’m delighted to finally share them with you.

It was the project at a recent  Tuesday night Craft Gym at Once Around (a wonderful local craft shop).  The instructor, Lauren, posted a picture of Teacup Fairy Garden that she had crafted.  My initial response was lukewarm – kind of “meh.”  What would I do with it? Where would I put it?  I don’t have a teacup!

But the next morning on a walk I started thinking of upcoming birthdays and how a sweet, miniature garden in a small bowl, pot or teacup would be. Once I began gathering twigs and pods and thinking how they could be used for the project, I was hooked.

Heart Back Chair

Everyone brought their own containers to the class and we started creating.  Each miniature plot was different.  I found a small painted pot from Mexico at Sloat Garden Center in Kentfield and filled it with Irish moss.

Twig Chair Leaf Pillow

We learned how to make chairs from twigs adhered with hot glue. A leaf cushion made from thick felt added to the charm of the twig chair I made.  Small pine cones make finials.  The twisty twig heart used for the chair back was an item I picked up in the store. A little slice of branch makes becomes the top of a small side table, a perfect spot on which the little book can rest.

Leavesall about leaves

Sea glass, a flat glass marble, a shard of abalone shell and a sparkly silver-glitter star decorate one corner of the pot.

Sea glass

Small seed pods from a liquid amber tree strung with beads in between make a festive garland.

Seed Pod garland

Once I got started, I couldn’t wait to make another.  I stumbled upon the awesome The Magic Onions site which has loads of Fairy Garden pictures, DIY’s, information and even a contest, which I’m going to enter.  Be sure and check it out!

Here is another little fairy garden in a similar pot, also planted with Irish moss.

Angel Fairy Garden

The side table in this one is made from a cork.  A tiny acorn became a goblet of wine, or maybe it is nectar.  I used ink and Diamond Glaze to fill the cup and it stained the acorn red.

Book of music with wine

The cover of the music book is made from bark, backed with paper.  An itty-bitty succulent is potted in an acorn cap.

Succulent in Acorn Pot

Washi tape makes a colorful garland and acorn caps glued to felted green balls top the twig posts.

Washi tape garland

This mini-garden was created for a friend who loves angels so I found and copied this little bead angel that works perfectly as a garden ornament.  I found the beads at Baubles  and Beads in Berkeley.

Bead Angel

I made my third fairy garden a little larger because this one needed a bit more space.  I also decided to go with dried moss instead of living moss that would need watering.

A bowl found at Cost Plus World Market is the container.  Rocks in the bottom serve as ballast to increase stability.  I filled the bowl part way up with a potting mix for cactus then topped it with dried moss.  You can find it at a garden shop or craft supply store, but I actually found mine at Cost Plus.

Bowl with rock ballast

Moss

Moss in bowl

Another twig chair but this time I added a tiny bird perched on the back.  Once Around has a “Do Dad” section with jars of a changing selection of little goodies, like sequins, bottle caps, clothespins and other items and that is where I found the bird.

Twig chair with bird

I fashioned fairy-sized musical instruments.  This garden went to my friend Jane who was having a birthday celebration in her back yard and encouraged her guests to bring instruments.  I brought instruments, but of the teeny-tiny variety.

Fairy-sized instruments

I’m very pleased how these came out.  The drum has bark sides with paper for the drum head that I colored to make it look more like an animal skin. I peeled a twig for the mallet, twisted a tuft of wool around it and covered it in fabric.

drum

The handles of the maracas and the stringed instrument are from the same seed pod, with the heads of the maracas from small acorns. There are tiny seeds inside the maracas so when you shake them you can hear the rattle.  The pan pipes are cut from a reed and glued together.  I used embroidery thread to make the oh-so-little tassels.

pan pipes

Music in the garden

I love how the sea glass looks in these fairy gardens so I included it in this one too.  Dried bougainvillea bracts, rattlesnake (or big quaking) grass and a few other dried plants I picked up on hikes complete this garden.  I even added some coriander seeds to a bit of dried berry bush that was missing its berries.  They don’t show here, it is behind the chair, but I want the garden to look good from any angle.

Here is a felted gnome I made, waiting for the fairy music to begin.

gnome and fairy garden

Thanks for stopping by.  Do let me know if you make your own fairy garden.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker

Ratatouille Ingredients

I need to share this recipe with you.  I’ve made a batch every week for the last three weeks and think it’s delicious but I can’t seem to get any good pictures of the finished dish.  But I can’t hold out any longer.

This came about because I bought some vegetables that I planned to cook on the grill. But it was so hot that weekend, I didn’t want to cook at all.  The next weekend rolled around and I still had the vegetables, a little worse for wear.  It was still hot so I wanted a recipe for the slow cooker.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but it was great!

My recipe is adapted from one I found by Geema at Food.com.  Each time I make it, I change it a bit based on what I have in the fridge.  It is pretty flexible, so if you don’t like mushrooms, by all means, leave them out.  If you have some fresh herbs to use up, put them in.

Third Batch Ratatouille ingredients

The first time I made it I didn’t take any pictures.  The top photo is from my second batch and I used 4 squash, Japanese eggplant and only one bell pepper.  The third time I made it with regular eggplant, big zucchini and bell peppers and small tomatoes.  It was delicious every time.

Here’s the recipe but don’t be too worried about measuring everything exactly.  Sprinkle in the herbs, drizzle in the oil and enjoy the way the dish melds into something greater than the individual ingredients.

Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker

Adapted from Geema at Food.com

1 large eggplant or 2 Japanese eggplant, (about 1.5 lbs. total), cut in cubes

eggplant

3 or 4 zucchini or other summer squash, cut in chunks

Zucchini

2 onions, cut into quarters and sliced

2 red bell pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips or squares

8 oz. mushrooms, cut in quarters  or if really large into 6ths or 8ths

2 large tomatoes, cut in wedges than chunks

2 cloves garlic, minced

'shrooms, onions, bell pepper and garlic

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Optional:

1 teaspoon sugar (I used it twice and forgot it the third time and the difference was pretty minor)

pinch hot pepper flakes (use caution here, a little goes a long way)

Hot Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Put half the vegetables in the slow cooker.

Dot half the tomato paste over the vegetables and sprinkle half the seasonings on the vegetables.

Drizzle with half the olive oil.

Half of the recipe in slow cooker

Repeat with remaining vegetables, tomato paste, seasonings and olive oil.

Cover, set slow cooker to high and cook 3 to 6 hours or low for 7 to 9 hours.

Full Recipe in pot

I used some fresh herbs in this batch.

Covered and Cooking

The last time I made it, my zucchini and bell peppers were on the large side.  It was a very full pot and took longer to cook. Next time I’ll use smaller veggies.

The finished stew.

Ratatouille

This is good hot with some grated Parmesan.  It is also good cold on a hot day.  You can toss it with pasta or use it for a pizza topping or sandwich filling.

How about on an open-faced meatball sandwich with melted cheese over the top?

Meatball sandwich

Or add some beans to boost the protein. I like a piece of french bread (or two) on the side to sop up the juice.  I imagine you could use a stick blender to make a smoother sauce.  I like it chunky so I haven’t tried that yet.

With Beans

Thank you for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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