Friday, December 30, 2011

New Years Eve Eve

4:57 p.m.

 Thanks, Anne & Peter, for the music, the bubbly, the cheese, and, and, and ...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Christmas, It's the Easter Board Book!

Look what came in the mail today! That Easter book over there on the right will be out in a board book version on January 24. I love board books because they're compact and shiny and so substantial you can use them for lunch trays.

There are no endpapers, though, and I miss that part. But they run two bucks less than the hardcover: only $6.99. Can you believe you can buy a new book these days for $6.99?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Heavy Sky

6:51 a.m.

When I woke up this morning the sky looked like a kid had drawn it. There it was, crowded against the top of my screen. Underneath it was a big blank space. Then on the very bottom were houses and trees.

5:12 p.m.

This evening, foghorns – one of my very favorite sounds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Step Two

12:02 p.m.

Did you notice there are quite a bit fewer cookies shown than there were yesterday? Mari says in her book, "Although I make mistakes all of the time and I like to incorporate them into the overall design, there are plenty of occasions when I've made a mistake that I just couldn't keep. It's a good thing cookies are edible!"

Step Two seemed harder than Step One. Mari's book says: "Always bake in a good mood. This ensures that love goes into what you're making." If you hear yourself muttering, "I'm going to stab myself," over and over, does that mean you're in a good mood?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Step One

Today I made Mari's basic sugar cookie recipe. One thing I really like about her new book is that it only contains two cookie dough recipes. The rest of the book inspires you to decorate those cookies like crazy.

In honor of Mari, this is the first time I've ever followed instructions. I could not imagine why I was using something like parchment paper to line the cookie sheets with. I had never dreamed of rolling out cookie dough between two sheets of wax paper. Wouldn't it stick? And why lemon zest and lemon juice instead of vanilla?

I didn't have a wire cooling rack, so I put newspaper over an oven rack. And when the space ran out, I just used newspaper. Otherwise I followed Mari's instructions to the letter. One thing I can say is that I'll never bake again without using parchment paper, and I'll never use a rolling pin without making a sandwich out of wax paper for the dough.

I had some trouble with this part: "Bake cookies for about 10 minutes or until they brown around the edges."

When the timer would go off at 10 minutes, the cookies would look as pale as they did when they first went into the oven. So I would set the timer for 3 or 4 more minutes and wander off to do something else. When the timer would buzz again, the cookies would be very brown around the edges. I did this over and over! I learned that there's a thin line between unbaked-looking and burned.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mari's Book! It's Here!

I thought it would never ever ever arrive. I waited outside by the mailbox for days. It is gorgeous and funny and instructive. The book is called the coolest cookies on the planet and it's by our own Mari Pfeiffer, with photos by her husband Wolf. Here are just a few of my favorite parts:

Did you notice? I always use electric colors: electric blue, hot pink, lemon yellow, bright orange, electric green and fire engine red. It's a personal preference, obviously, and you may not want your decorated cookies to look as zany as mine. That's okay. We can still be friends.

When I started baking on a regular basis, the most common mistakes I made were: not carefully reading the recipe ahead of time, not having all of my ingredients or not having all of them in the required amounts, and not understanding the equipment necessary. Because I have this insane belief that I'm so clever, I substituted ingredients here and there. And then I cried when I didn't get the results I wanted.

My friends – and especially my right-brained friends – baking is a science! You really need to follow the directions carefully and do as you're told. I know. Hearing that just makes ya wanna holla. But trust me. As much as I hate to listen to orders and follow rules and regulations, I learned that:

When it comes to baking, do what you're told.

But when it comes to decorating, do whatever you want.

And here are just a few nice little tips to ensure that your cookies will come out just right:

• Always use butter that's at room temperature.
• Always fluff up your flour before measuring.
• Always mix your ingredients until just combined.
• Always measure your ingredients carefully.
• Always add ingredients in the order the recipe tells you to.
• Always bake when you're in a good mood. This ensures that love goes into what you're making.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Xmas at Gina's

me, Gina, Meg

Bean soup with crimini mushrooms, Italian kale, onions, Italian sausage. Pate, Afghani-Italian filled bolani, bread, cheese, carrots ... biscotti and wine.

Gina made the mosaic on the mantel.

Footnote: Gina lives in San Mateo. If you're born with no sense of direction, this is how many maps it takes to get to her house, even if you've been there before.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Enchanted Glutinous Evening

From: Anne
Date: December 14, 2011  10:12:14 AM PST
Subject: Cheese Ravioli, ... Bread Pudding

Just got this Linda. Do you want to join us? My treat.

From: Linda
Date: December 14, 2011  10:12:15 AM PST
Subject: Cheese Ravioli, ... Bread Pudding

HELL YES! What time? 

I wasn't expecting the food to be so amazingly good. It was. Chris, our server, was extraordinary, too. It was not the Bistro I remembered at all. (This is the upstairs part of the Cliff House, not the fancy downstairs part.) Soon as Tom gets back, I'm driving him straight there from the airport. Thank you so much, Anne and Peter – the best pleasure is having your company.

Me gusta comer pastel.

The fifth in the Whistlefritz Spanish for Kids series is out. The illustration and
mouse-terful Flash animation is by me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gluten Fest

Tom is not able to eat gluten. Tom is out of town. So Saturday night, Anne and Peter had a gluten party. Pizza was on the menu – something that Tom and I never eat. What would I bring?

I noticed a BAKE SALE sign in front of Sunset Co-op Nursery Saturday afternoon. The perfect opportunity to buy some glutinous substances for the gluten fest! Not only were there cookies and gingerbread houses and little trees to be decorated, there was a bar set up on the 2nd level for grown-up children. That's my idea of a progressive nursery school.

I ordered a vodka with cranberry juice, and hightailed it over to the bake sale table where I bought a raspberry pie for $10.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Help! The Moon Got Stuck in the Windmill

4:56 p.m

Write about a ritual (today's prompt)

A ritual I love is this: About a half hour before the sun goes down, I stop working and put some sunblock on my face just in case a ray of sun might hit it.

Then I change into my grungy pants with big pockets and put on an Eddie Bauer hooded under-thingie.

I comb my hair back and put on my baseball cap. (Light yellow for now.) A disgustingly filthy 6-year-old light wt. down jacket goes on next. Sunglasses?

I grab my shoe bag and an extra pair of light wt. wool socks because my shoes are too big. Then I turn on the porch light, lock the door, and drive down to Taraval. That way, during the first half of my walk the sun will be behind me, and when I'm coming back it will already have set – but there will be plenty of light still left to walk. In other words, I won't ever have to be walking directly into the sun.

I park down by the rest room. I pull off my UGGS and change into my filthy running shoes. I plug my earbuds into my phone and set Pandora to the Beatles and hit the beach. The best treasures (glass, shells, rock) are down this way. I walk north to the Beach Chalet, then turn around and come back. Tonight the moon was full. (In fact, it was so full it got stuck in the windmill.) It was almost dark by the time I got back to Taraval.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The violence

I get to be part of the Writing Salon's Round Robin this week! I'm substituting for somebody who left town in a hurry. Today's prompt is The violence. We write 10-12 minutes from that prompt, and email it to our partner of the week. I cleaned mine up a little for you:

I'm having two books for five-year-olds published in 2013. This means that soon I'll be able to say I'm a writer. Every day I've been opening up Publishers Weekly, and imagine how exciting it was this morning when I saw a link to this article:

12 Holiday Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use

Oh boy! A list of gifts people could buy for ME some day. I clicked right over.

#1 was A CHEESY NEW BESTSELLER. Thanks, but no thanks. Unless it's this one.

#2 was GOOD LIPSTICK. Yes! That's a good one! But how would you know what color? Everything I apply to my lips or face turns orange. So just in case you're wondering what color to get me, it needs to be something with lots of blue in it, because blue neutralizes orange.

#3 was FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING SOFTWARE. "Most writers wish they knew more languages," the article claimed. Ha, ha, ha, ha! I'm laughing myself silly over this one. I've never learned my own language and I have to look up any word longer than 6 letters. Plus, I never leave my neighborhood.

But #4 was the killer: A BATHROBE.

"...As Ann Beattie recently revealed, and as a generation of bloggers already knows, most writers wear awful clothing while they are working. Help your writer friend out by giving her a beautiful robe to cover up her bizarre ensembles."

The violence of that assumption!

I stopped reading and stomped into the other room. Then I glanced in the mirror.

I was wearing orange striped bed socks with UGGS. A pair of 10-year-old size large pajama pants covered with different types of faded sushi. A turquoise mock turtleneck that smelled bad. On top of that was a dirty discount sweater that had never worked out. The left side hung down 8 inches past the right side because the buttons were buttoned not ONE-BUTTON-OFF, but TWO-BUTTONS-OFF.

In case you're interested, here's the link to the Holiday Gift article.

p.s. #7 and #10 are great ideas.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Joy of Socks

New socks! And earbuds. (Alongside the past week's collection of sea glass.)

Remember those track lights from Home Despot? The ones that almost drove us to check into the insane asylum? We returned them today and got a refund. We took the money and ran across the parking lot to TJ Maxx and bought socks and new ear buds – and white elephants for Emmy's party. I hadn't partaken of a shopping mall-type experience in so long, it was simply exhilarating. Holiday music. I was daffy with happiness.

I also bought new running shoes and some tights, but later I came to my senses and returned them. The shoes were just too unsightly, even though they felt good. It was the opposite story with the tights. They looked great but after I left the store and pulled them out to admire them and I realized they had control tops. I was afraid that if I was able to get into them that they'd get stuck on me and I'd never get them back off.

I just found out I get to be a substitute for the Writing Salon's Round Robin all week this coming week. I've really missed that class so I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Playing Hooky

DAVe Warnke   Color Critters    Marker on 6" x 4" Martha Stewart paint chips 

This afternoon I kissed my computer goodbye and headed downtown. Helen Steele and DAVe Warnke both have art on exhibit this month at Hang Art Gallery.

The pieces above were drawn on Martha Stewart paint chips. Sometimes the name of the color influenced what DAVe drew (for instance the ice cream cone, which is drawn on the "Lemon Ice" chip.)

I met Helen at Fort Mason where we were taking a class in how to make repeat patterns. These particular paintings have got to be the farthest thing from repeat patterns I can imagine. Her work has been hung in the place of honor: right by the big front windows.

Helen has another opening at Room Gallery this Tuesday, December 6 at their new location in Mill Valley.

Helen Steele     A Moment in Time     Acrylic on canvas 36 x 36 inches