First Day of Spring

Lake Champlain, Vermont.

Hon, this poem speaks to the heart I wish to heal, the head I hope to clear, and the life I must make matter.

“So I am not a broken heart.
I am not the weight I lost or miles or ran and I am not the way I slept on my doorstep under the bare sky in smell of tears and whiskey because my apartment was empty and if I were to be this empty I wanted something solid to sleep on. Like concrete.
I am not this year and I am not your fault.
I am muscles building cells, a little every day, because they broke that day,
but bones are stronger once they heal and I am smiling to the bus driver and replacing my groceries once a week and I am not sitting for hours in the shower anymore.
I am the way a life unfolds and bloom and seasons come and go and I am the way the spring always finds a way to turn even the coldest winter into a field of green and flowers and new life.
I am not your fault.”
Charlotte Eriksson

Dream Writing Studio/Living Area

Barn built in 1882.

Hon, you know I love to write, right?

What better place to work on my writing than in my barn? One little problem…it’s not furnished. When Hubby and I bought our Historic Victorian, it came with this barn, which had a horse stall, hayloft and a wrought iron track from which a sliding door hung. In the years since, the wheels on the track rusted, the horse stall walls rotted, and the hayloft window was nailed shut. We’ve reappointed the stone foundation, but the main floor would need a ton of TLC to make it my…

Dream Writing Studio/Living Area

The studio would have a writing area, living area, and powder room. When it gets warmer, maybe I’ll share a “design board” for my fantasy beach house.

Thanks for indulging me!

Do you have a dream living space? What would you use it for?

Sources:  Arhaus, Pottery Barn, Ralph Lauren Home, Restoration Hardware, Schumacher, One King’s Lane, Refresh Living

Glass Tea House, Venice Architecture Biennale

View from the bell tower of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice.

Another view.

Sign in the bell tower.

Last summer in Venice, my daughter and I discovered something beautiful and peaceful behind the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. We had taken the vaparetto, or water taxi, to the island of San Giorgio to see the views from the bell tower. We spotted a bright blue rectangle and we were curious. 

The hidden gem turned out to be a teahouse at the museum Le Stanze del Vetro. Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto designed Glass Tea House Mondrian for the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The ‘Glass Tea House Mondrian’ by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto unites wood, glass and water as a pavilion, holding the traditional japanese tea ceremony within its transparent walls. The temporary structure consists of two main elements: an open-air landscape courtyard and an enclosed glass cube.

The garden follows a path leading along a forty-foot-long reflecting pool completely covered in Bisazza mosaic, guiding the visitor to a lucent space, inside which the cultural ritual is performed. The pavilion hosts two visitors at once, together with the master of the tea ceremony, while the other spectators can take part by watching around the perimeter of the reflecting pool.

Relating to its surrounding environment and the historical context of the site, Sugimoto’s ‘Glass Tea House’ suggests a subtle analogy between the ancient tea ceremony practice and the art of venetian glassmaking.

Glass Tea House Mondrian by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Click here to read an interview with Sugimoto. Click here to see how the tea house was assembled.

Happy exploring, hon.

Source: Designboom.com

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Gather dry ingredients.

Gather dry ingredients.

Beat butter and sugar

Beat butter and sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add dry ingredients and sour cream a little at a time.

Add dry ingredients and sour cream to wet ingredients a little at a time.

Mix streusel ingredients.

Mix streusel ingredients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pour half the batter into a bundt pan and cover with half the streusel mixture.

Pour half the batter into a bundt pan and cover with half the streusel mixture.

Cut a slice and enjoy!

Slice and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

I found this recipe in my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook. It was so easy to follow, I made it twice in the same day! One coffee cake stayed at home and lots of mini coffee cakes were given out.

Happy baking, hon.

For the Streusel Filling:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz/75 g) firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup (3 oz/90 g) chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

 For the Batter:

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz/390 g) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (6 oz/185 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cups (10 oz/315 g) granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (12 oz/375 g) sour cream

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10-inch (25 cm) tube pan or Bundt pan.

2.  To make the streusel filling, in a small bowl, combine butter, flour, brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or fork, mix until crumbly. Set streusel aside.

3.  Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, with a mixer, beat together butter and granulated sugar on medium-low speed until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Add dry ingredients in 3 batches alternately with sour cream and mix on low speed just until batter is blended and almost smooth.

5.  Pour half of the batter into prepared pan and smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle evenly with half the streusel filling. Cover with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining streusel.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. (Cook less time if you make smaller coffee cakes. The small cakes I made were done in about 25 minutes.) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Tip:  For cakes, butter and eggs should be room temperature. They can be taken out about 2 hours before baking. If you cut the butter into small chunks it will warm up faster. To bring eggs to room temp more quickly, place them in a bowl of warm water.

Related Post: Cinnamon Chocolate Coffee Cake

I added mini chocolate chips to the mini coffee cakes because why not?

I added mini chocolate chips to the mini coffee cakes because why not?

Pattern Reveal

What is it?

What is it?

Dried out sunflower,

Dried out sunflower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pattern Perspective

I like experimenting with perspective, zooming in and out, to get completely different views of the same object or scene.

____________________________________________________________________________

What is it?

What is it?

Frozen Foam

Frozen Foam on the Rahway River in New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

What is it?

What is it?

Screens made of

Screens made of glass.

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Modern birdhouse on the High Line

Modern birdhouses on the High Line in Manhattan.

What is it?

What is it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________

What is it?

What is it?

 

Handsome Knit Men’s Scarf

No-Purl Ribbed Scarf

No-Purl Ribbed Scarf.

I used Merino Superwash so this scarf would be easy to wash and dry.

I used Merino Superwash so this scarf would be easy to wash and dry.

Inspiration piece from pattern posted on Ravely.

Inspiration piece shown with the pattern.

Cartridge Belt Rib

Searching for a handsome, masculine scarf, I found this pattern on Ravelry where credit is given to Purl Soho, a gorgeous yarn shop in Manhattan. This purl-less stitch is known as the Cartridge Belt Rib and is considered a classic stitch pattern. Purl Soho says,

This robust rib stitch produces prominent columns of elongated knit stitches separated by broad valleys of dense texture. The juxtaposition is not only fascinating; it’s beautiful too.

Happy knitting, hon.
MATERIALS:

Suggested on pattern–4 (5) skeins of Purl Soho’s Alpaca Pure, 100% alpaca. I used Sueno Worsted by HiKoo’s Merino Superwash, color Evergreen.
US #8 straight or circular needles – 5.0mm

YARDAGE:  436 – 545 yards (399 – 498 m)
GAUGE:  22 stitches = 4 inches in stitch pattern

FINISHED SCARF SIZE:  8 ½ inches wide x 64 (80) inches long

NOTES:

Slip all slipped stitches purl-wise.

This stitch pattern is worked over a multiple of 4 + 3 stitches.

PATTERN
Cast on 47 stitches.

Row 1: K3, *slip 1 wyif (with yarn in front), k3, repeat from * to end of row.

Row 2: K1, *slip 1 wyif, k3, repeat from * to last 2 stitches, slip 1 wyif, k1.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 64 (80) inches from cast on edge or until desired length, ending with Row 2.

Bind off in a k3, p1 rib. Here’s how… K2, slip the first stitch over, k1, slip the first stitch over, *p1, slip the first stitch over, [k1, slip the first stitch over] 3 times, repeat from * to end of row.

Weave in ends and block as desired.

Source: purlsoho.com

 

 

 

Wonder-ful Event

Wonder, a middle-grade novel by R.J. Palacio

Wonder, a middle-grade novel by R.J. Palacio

Event at Millburn High School in Millburn, NJ

Event at Millburn High School in Millburn, NJ

“Choose Kind” in Action and Spirit

On January 24, I was lucky to hear R.J. Palacio speak about her middle-grade novel Wonder, which I had just finished reading. The book has sold over 1.5 million copies since it was published in 2012. The event was sponsored by The Education Foundation of Millburn-Short Hills and held in Millburn High School’s auditorium. I couldn’t wait to go! (shout out to my SCBWI critique group writers who joined me)

Palacio said:

  1. Becoming a mom led her to rediscover her love of children’s books. (same with me!)
  2. Inspiration for the book came from a “true event” where she hurried her sons away from a little girl who looked like Auggie, the main character in Wonder. She said, “I had blown it” and couldn’t shake the the way she had handled the encounter.
  3. She and her husband made their own trailer for the book, which was considered mid-list and not projected to sell well.
  4. A picture book based on the novel is due out this spring
  5. A movie based on the novel is opening the spring.
  6. Her mom told her, “You’re going to be a writer one day.” (same with me!)

The Ed Foundation’s site says

R.J. Palacio addressed a full house on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 at the Millburn High School discussing how she came up with the idea for her book and how the message of the book has launched an international revolution inspiring all to embrace the theme of choosing kindness everyday.

Over 700 people listened intently to how a book about an ordinary 10-year old boy with a facial deformity resonated with tens of thousands of readers of all ages.

Ms. Palacio passionately spoke to the audience on the virtues of respect, tolerance, and inclusion as a means to heal a world so often divided by cruelty, judgment, and bullying. She shared examples of what students across the country are doing to show empathy and kindness in everyday life.

Click here to see kids actives based on the book.

Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Italian Stew with Winter Squash and Chickpeas

Winter puts me in the mood for hearty soups, and this one is practically a meal. Serve it as a soup or over quinoa, brown rice or polenta. Yum.

Happy cooking and stay warm, hon!

ITALIAN STEW with WINTER SQAUSH and CHICKPEAS

3 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1/2 teaspoon ground Coriander

1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups water

2 cups diced peeled butternut squash (I substituted yellow squash)

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup diced bell peppers (optional)

5 cups chopped kale (see note)

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. In a soup pot on medium-high heat, cook the onions and salt in the oil, stirring often, until very soft and beginning to caramelize, 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, coriander, thyme, and black pepper and stir for a minute. Stir in the water, squash, chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in the kale, cover, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the greens are tender but still bright green. Stir in the basil and vinegar.

Note: About 1 pound of kale will yield 5 cups sorted (discard yellow or wilted leaves and large center stems), stemmed, and chopped kale.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings or about 8 cups

Astonishing Animation & Interview with Morgan Gruer

Me and Morgan in Bologna, Italy.

Me and Morgan in Bologna, Italy.

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Morgan studying and sketching the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

Over 91,000 views! 

That’s how many times Morgan’s animated video, Reflections, has been viewed (so far) since it was featured as a Vimeo Staff Pick. I’m so proud of Morgan, a Pratt Institute student and my talented, ambitious daughter.

The Creator’s Project on Vice.com featured Reflections. Nathaniel Ainley had this to say:

The ephemeral nature of love is captured on-screen in a stunning 2D animation built from a collection of 1,100 individual drawings. Reflections is the expressive, impressive abstract short, and it follows a fleeting relationship between a young couple.

As the the video begins to build the girl starts to question whether the man ever existed or if it was all in her head. Her deliberation is expressed through a series of arm swinging interpretive dance accompanied with explosive graphics and patterns.

Reflections was directed, animated, and edited by Morgan Gruer, a multidisciplinary graphic designer and illustrator who’s done work for heavy hitters like Celine Dion and Gatorade.

In this particular film, the Brooklyn-based artist is careful about her use of color, telling the bulk of the story through gray and black lines. Since color is used so sparingly, however, when it appears, it makes that much more of an impact.

Cheryl Eddy of io9 on the website Gizmodo.com titled her article about the video “Lush 2D Animated Film Reflections Examines the Many Stages of Heartbreak.”

Morgan shares thoughts about her work and insights into the process.

BE:  What was the initial inspiration for Reflections?

MG:  I saw the music video for Breakbot’s song “Baby, I’m Yours,” which is composed entirely of watercolors, and wanted to create something like it. Concept-wise, I was reflecting upon all of my past relationships.

BE:  What themes did you have in mind as you worked on your piece?

MG:  One of the main themes is independence; at the end of the animation the main character walks away alone but stronger.

BE:  Can you explain a little about your process? For example, do you plan it all ahead of time or does it develop as you go along?

MG:  I wrote out the story line and asked some friends to write the music for me loosely based on the concept. Even though the story came before the music, I left the musicians room to express my story line. The plot had an overall beginning, middle and end, but I worked out the in-between parts and loose threads while I was working.

BE:  How did you keep track of 1100 separate digital drawings?

MG:  I compiled each digital drawing in the Timeline Tab of Photo Shop, making it easy to label layers and keep track of everything. I established the frame rate ahead of time.

BE:  How long did the project take you from start to finish?

MG:  Reflections took four months from concept to creation, although I was working on it alongside other projects.

BE:  How do you feel about the finished video?

MG:  I am mostly happy with it, but still see things I would have fixed. At some point, you have to call it done because there are always things you could edit. An artist is always her own worst critic and sees things that need tweaking.

BE:  Are you surprised by the attention its gotten?

MG:  It’s great to get positive feedback and nice to receive validation on a project that hadn’t seen the light of day. It’s exciting that other people relate to my work and appreciate its aesthetic.

Hon, if you haven’t watched it yet, here’s another link to Reflections.