Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Rainbow

We visited Florida for Christmas.  It was so warm!  It was pretty chilly last year, so we weren't expecting to swim in the pool but it was warm enough to do so.  I usually would think it's nice to feel warm air, but for Christmas, and the fact that I was not expecting the warmth, it was too much.  But we had a very nice time with family.




It was raining on the Christmas morning.  On and off.  I looked outside from the patio, and there was a rainbow!  It was not clear, but everybody came out to see it.  Then all of them expect my daughter and I left.  More we stood there and looked, it became clear and clear shaping a perfect half circle very vividly.  It was the best Christmas present ever.



Saturday, December 10, 2011

I can't believe it's almost Christmas



We visited Florida for Thanksgiving.  I baked 4 different financiers to bring with us.  Pecan and chocolate chips, Almond and English tea, Almond and Green tea, Hazel nuts and chocolate....  Too bad I finished my green tea powder.  It really gave nice taste of green tea.  I must put that on the list of the things to buy in Japan.
Our dog Rosco had a great time playing with Mama's dog Layla.  They were such a perfect couple.  So cute together.



Thanksgiving in Florida was pretty warm.  With the sunshine coming through the big windows, it didn't feel a bit like Autumn.  The feast was great.  We had a fun with the family, definitely.  



I contemplated over going shopping on black Friday.  I decided to pass.  But I ended up going to an outlet mall in the afternoon.  It was not as crowded as I thought.  I guess experiencing real crowdedness in Tokyo and NY toughened up my tolerance for the crowd.  

It was a very short visit, but it was so nice as usual.  I am so glad we are close enough to do this.  8 hours of driving is not too bad considering the 16 hour drive we had to do from CT.
And this time, we didn't go home through Savannah, we went through Atlanta.  This gave us extra 2-3 hours of driving, yet, it was worth it.  I was able to shop in H-Mart which is Korean super market.  I haven't gone to serious Asian store for over a year.  I went literally crazy.  As soon as I saw the vegetable section full of vegetables that are not available in east TN, my well thought-out grocery list lost its meaning.  I just shopped as if I haven't had any food for a week.  
We were able to have very down to earth Japanese breakfast next morning.



Natto on brown rice.  Miso soup with seaweed and tofu which is not cut to 1/4 inch cubes like restaurants.  Japanese people would cut tofu to much bigger than that!  Korean tofu is so tasty.
Natto is one of the most difficult food for non Japanese to eat because of the strong aroma for fermentated food.  But J likes it.  Actually he loves it. It's also very healthy.  We bought so many packages of them...


The days go by so quickly after the holiday.  Every year, November and December were busiest time for me because of Nutcrackers.  Since we moved and I am so far away from my clients, I was not busy in this season last year, and I felt very sad.  But this year I am busy finishing up the first semester at the college.  
I am finishing the project for my weaving class.  I enjoyed weaving so much.  It is really nice not to use any machinery.  I am so glad to discover the craft I can enjoy besides sewing.


After this is done, I will have to be in the serious Christmas mode!







Thursday, November 10, 2011

Halloween



Halloween was most fun when my daughter was young.  I made costumes for her ever year.  But now that she doesn't go trick or treating anymore, it is not too exciting, sadly.  We had lots of Halloween candies to give out.  But they didn't appeal to me.  I am not a big fun of Halloween candies even though I love sweets.  So I decided to bake chocolate financiers with hazel nuts.
The combination of chocolate and hazel nuts is inspired by Nutella, obviously.  I just make hazel nut powder with a grinder.  
It was really rich and tasty.
I realized that I had missed baking.  Now that I go to school, it is hard to find time to bake.  I love the quietness in the kitchen and I like moving slowly to savor every moment of baking.  But that kind of baking hadn't happened for long time.  So I enjoyed baking these financiers in the Saturday afternoon.



We curved the pumpkin in the last minute.  I love the devilish smile my daughter designed.







Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall



The time passes so quickly when you are busy.  After I started the school, it's been non-stop!  Studying for general study classes, producing projects for art class, finishing painting the rooms, taking care of family, and my minuscule Etsy business.....  
But I took a moment to enjoy the colors of fall leaves.  In the afternoon sunshine, they were so beautiful.  Walking in the quiet woods with red, yellow and orange, listening the wolves hauling (but they are in the cage in the main area of the park so we didn't need to be afraid), it was great fall afternoon.




The lilly leaves get red, too.  I didn't know that!  I love water lilies.   We need to go back there when it gets warm to see them blooming.  

Now that it is getting cold, the farmers market is getting smaller.  In a way, it's easy to find a spot to park, yet it's a little sad to see some venders go.  
But I found chestnuts.  That made me smile.  I love chestnuts.  My grandmother boiled them and cut half, and served them with a spoon.  But I decided to roast them in a oven.  



I was going to use them for sweets, but they were so good as is, so they were all disappeared before I could use them for baking.  Now I have a reason to go back to the market.  Next time, I'll get more.  I'll make chestnut puree.






Saturday, September 10, 2011

The curtain has been opened

The whole one year I spent after we moved to East Tennessee seemed so empty to me.  Because I didn't work at all.  I wasn't really happy.  It was like construction and painting after the construction, and new construction and more painting and new construction.......  Anyway, that is almost done.
I wanted to do something creative like when I was in North East.  I do miss the time.  Yes, I was almost going to drive myself sick by working like a mad woman.....
I was getting fed up with not moving forward.  I know it's not entirely true.  I learned a few tricks during the first year in TN.  I became much better at baking.  I got a new camera and started to really enjoy taking photos. I housebroke our puppy.  Even I don't have a green thumb, I was able to grow some tomatoes and basil in the little garden we made.  But I still felt empty.
But that period is over.  I now have a few small plans for my business.  And more importantly, I'm back in College.  I'm going to finish BFA that I never finished in NY.
Two weeks ago before the school started, I was thinking that the first year in TN had been a very long overture before the curtain was opened.  I liked the idea because I've worked at a theatre.  But now that the school has started, I am so busy.  But it feels good.




But August went by working on painting, getting ready for College...  I couldn't bake much.  But I am happy that I can make roll cakes pretty effortlessly these days.  


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer Holidays are over!



I can't believe that the school started already.  Somehow, it starts early August in East Tennessee.  So I feel like it should be cooler, but it's still August, so it is still hot.  Summer is not over yet.
We had a busy first half of summer vacation.  We went to Florida, we attended Wedding, my daughter went to drama summer camp, and we went to Florida again. 




But last half of summer vacation was very slow.  We didn't have any plan, and the construction was going on, we practically stayed home everyday, not doing anything much.
It was not really fun for my daughter nor for me.  
So we are so glad to have school started.  And the construction is done, so we can now paint the newly renovated bathrooms and bedrooms.  Suddenly we are very busy!


Here are the sweets that I made during summer.  I was so fortunate to have good berries and peaches in June and July.  Almost all the sweets were made with local fruits.






Today marks one year from the day we came to TN form North East.  I feel like I didn't do anything this past year.  We had the cycle of having renovation going on, which means I get stressed out having workmen in the house all the time, then it's done and they are gone for a while but we can't relax, because we have to paint, then the next renovation starts.... we did that 3 times in the past year.  Our painting part is not done yet.  But after that, it's done for now.  I am glad.
I hope 2nd year of our new life in Appalachia will be nicer.  We couldn't go out much because either we wanted to do something at home while the workers are not around, or we had to paint.  I'd love to visit lots of places and check out some events.  I want to start working if it's possible.  I don't know if there are many chances like in North East for me to make dance costumes, but I would like to do something with my skill.
There are a lot of hopes for the future.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tulle... My favorite fabric



Tulle is my favorite fabric.  I always loved it.  Ever since I saw a ballerina dancing on a stage as a child, I dreamed of the skirt.  I told my parents that I like to learn ballet.  They knew that I was not really active.   I was a child who spent time drawing and reading, never into any physical activities so they said it didn't seem like a good idea for them to send me a class.  They knew I was just dreaming about the costumes.
I drew pictures of princesses and I soon forgot that I even wanted to dance.  But I always liked watching ballet on TV or ballet themed movies, etc....
So I love making tutus.  Not those tutus for the little girls, the tutus for grown up dancers.  Gathering tulle makes me so happy.  And I have to say that my parents knew me so well.  They encouraged me to learn design and here I was making the costumes that I dreamed about.

Now that I left North East where I worked as a costumer, I miss making tutus.  So I started to make little tulle flowers.


Gathering tulle had calming effect on me.  
So I started to decorate my room with the tulle flowers.





Monday, August 1, 2011

Sleeping Beauty Ballet Craft Class (How to make a tissue flower)



When I was still back in North, I had a chance to teach a class for young ballerinas.  Not a dance class. A craft class.  I worked as a costumer, so a little craft is my cup of tea.
The summer ballet camps for young children usually include arts and craft class since they need a break from dancing.  But lots of times it is just to color the printed out ballerina pictures or putting stickers on the paper dolls.  I wanted to teach something about ballet along with the crafts they enjoy.  So I made the session into Ballet Craft Class.
I would tell the stories of the ballet.  Everybody, especially young children know the stories of Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella.  But what they know is usually Disney version or fairy tale version.  The story lines for the ballets are a little different.  I would bring in the pictures of stages, and describe how the stories go act to act.
I had realized how messy the gluing with preschoolers can get, I was always thinking about something that doesn't require glue.  The little dancers are so anxious to try on the headpieces or wings that they just finished and some end up with very sticky hair or leotards.  I needed to avoid that.
For the ballet Sleeping Beauty, I picked a rose for Act 1's climax, Rose adagio.  I made these flowers as a preschooler and I know it's not messy!  I can talk about very important part of the ballet, too.  The principal dancer has to be on her toe while the 4 prices give her rose one by one.  It's extremely difficult position to sustain.  It's so beautiful though.

Here is how to make the flower:




Now all the little ballerina has a rose.










Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wrapping the little cakes



I baked brownies because my daughter was going on a small trip with her friend's family.  I wanted to give them something to eat on the road.  
If it was for us to bring along, I'd just put them in a tupperware.  But that's not cute nor inviting.  
When I bake, I do everything from scratch and spend good amount of time, so I want to make sure that will be eaten.  Therefore, I'd like to present the goods more nicely.

Recently when I brought mini cakes to friend's house, I used a basket form farmer's market.  Whoever picked the bluish green for the basket has a great sense in colors.  Colors of fruits stand out so well against the green.  My mini cakes had red and purple form raspberries and blackberries, I thought it was great box to use.




I wrapped the whole thing with wax paper and a ribbon.  It was ready to be a little gift.  
I like show what's inside.  Because it feels more casual.  It's not a fancy present so it shouldn't be so pretentious.

I wished if I had the box.  That could be thrown away easily and nice looking.  But farmers usually recycle them, so I rarely get to have them.  
I wanted to put the brownies in a open box so it's easy to grab and also visible.  But I wanted the brownies individually wrapped, so if they don't eat some of them, they still keep.  And the box has to be something disposable do they don't need to worry about returning it to me.

So I decided to make a basket with a brown paper bag.  I wrapped the brownies with wax paper and cooking string.  It's not too fancy but more inviting than plastic wrap.





This is how:









Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tarts



I had never baked tart until this January.   I like tart all right, but I always preferred cakes with cream.  But I remembered that I enjoyed tarts from this nice little shop called Aux Delices in Connecticut.  However, I can't get anything like that here in my town.  Only solution is to learn how to bake it.
So I started.  I remember that some kind of filling they used was so good.  Now I know that was almond creme.  It was not too difficult make.  After I got comfortable making dough, I started to experimenting.
I like custard in tart, so I made very simple custard and fruits tartlets for afternoon snack.


It is so much fun to arrange the fruits.  Especially caramelized apple.  I like make it look like a flower.
I just love cooked fruits.  Of course fresh fruits are great, too, but I do like them cooked also.



Now when I make filling for tart, I do substitute almond with other nuts.  I like Walnuts.  It gives more down to earth feeling to the tart.  I especially like pecans.  If they are coupled with brown sugar, it becomes very "county" tasting to me.  I love making peach pecan tart.  To me it tastes Southern.  It probably doesn't to real southern people, but the all the ingredients are from this region, an taste so simple and kind so I feel that way.





Making small tartlets is fun too.  They look so cute.  I always make a few for taste testing when I make big tart.





*******************


I've been wanted to make something pretty.  Not food.  With my sewing.  But I couldn't find what to make for long time.  Doing renovation all the time brings chaos to the house and my brain.   I always had clients to tell me what they want, so without them, I felt lost.  But I think something brewing in me.  I found a scrap book that I made 20 years ago to get ideas.  I love the feeling of thinking about making something pretty.










Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tiny Raspberries and Long Blackberries



I started seeing berries at the farmers market.  I remember we had very big blackberries last year when we came here for closing of our house.  They made my daughter who never had liked blackberries completely change her opinion on blackberries.  So we've been looking forward to having them again.  I also found tiny raspberries.  They are half of normal raspberries in a grocery store.  They are very sweet and I can't pass them since they are so cute looking!

So I made Raspberry Custard Tart for July 4th.  


We came back from Florida 4 p.m. and I was baking the tart right away....

It was such a short trip.  We left on Friday night and drove back on Monday.  But it was really fun taking our dog to beach.  Although he is afraid of water.  I hope he will get use to it but there are no beaches where we live....  We need to look for a lake, I guess.





Besides the berries, South Carolina peaches are in season.  So I baked Peach and Blackberry Tart one day.  Instead of almond cream, I made walnut cream.  I love changing out the nuts to make cream.  My favorite is pecan cream with brown sugar.  It tastes very country-like to me.





I was happy that I used up my berries very tastefully, but I saw them again at the market yesterday.  I couldn't walk away from them....  So they were thrown into mini Lemon Cake.



I guess my baking with berries will continue for a while until they stop selling them at the farmers market.











Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gorgonzola Pancakes with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes



I sometimes put chocolate chips in my pancakes or blueberries, or nuts and bananas.... but I never cooked pancakes that are not sweet.  But I was feeling experimental.  So I deicide to make something different with the ingredients that I'm comfortable with.   I love gorgonzola.  It's my favorite cheese!  Gorgonzola and red wine makes me as happy as sashimi and Sake.  I know I don't need to pick but I sometimes like torture myself by asking which would I take if I can only have one for rest of my life....  It's difficult decision. 
Anyway, that afternoon, even though I spent all the afternoon making Father's day cake for my father in law the day before, I was ready to work again!

*Gorgonzola Pancakes*
1/2 cup Flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg yellow
Salt to taste
1/3 cup Milk 
1/4 ~1/3 cup gorgonzola cheese
2 egg white
3 tablespoon butter

< 1 > Mix flour, baking powder, egg yellow, salt together.
< 2 > Dissolve the cheese  with milk and mix into the batter.
< 3 > Whisk egg whites until it forms a peak and mix it into the batter carefully.
< 4 > Melt the butter in a heated pan.  Swirl the pan to coat the bottom and pour excessive butter into the batter and mix.
< 5 > Cook pancakes as you would cook normal pancakes.

I roasted halved cherry tomatoes with olive oil and dried oregano to accompany the pancakes.  It was very nice to have sweetness and tartness of the tomatoes to balance out the bitterness and richness of the cheese.  The pancake is very fluffy with the whipped egg whites.   I think fig preserves will accompany this pancake very nicely, too.


I guess I was in the cooking mood this weekend.  I do bake every Sunday to bring to my father in law's house as desserts.  But I wanted to make something special for Father's day, so I opened the book of Pierre Herme even though it is a huge challenge for me.



It took hours to make, but it was tasty.  And my father in law loved it.  So I was very happy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Visiting St. Petersburg


When we visit my mother in law in North Florida, we sometimes drive to Orlando for theme parks.  But this time, we went to St. Petersburg.  I've wanted to visit St. Petersburg for long time to go to Dali Museum.  I found out that Busch Garden is in Tampa which is on the way to St. Petersburg so my daughter might be able to have a fun there also.
It turned out that the rides there were too much for both of us.... and after going to very relaxing and not crowded Jacksonville zoo, it was difficult to enjoy the zoo part at the park.  But I definitely enjoyed Dali Museum!!



I was so lucky to visit the newly opened museum.  The building itself was amazing.  Dali's art was a little too much for my daughter but she enjoyed the little garden outside and his film. 

We also went on a cruise to see dolphins in Tampa Bay.  It was so much fun!  They followed the boat that we were on and jumped right next to us.  Of course we tried to take pictures of them, but it was very difficult.


One night, we went to eat oysters on shells.  We love oysters.  We had a favorite oyster bar back in Connecticut, but in East Tennessee, it is not easy to find a place to eat them.  After having great dinner, we suddenly decided to go to the beach.  It was too early for the sunset but the beach was surrounded by the beautiful colors.


We looked for pretty shells in the air that was tinted with pink and blue.  It was such a nice moment.  We usually don't do things spontaneously.  So coming to the beach after dinner was fun. We decided to spend next afternoon at the beach.

Before going to the beach in the next afternoon, we went to a tropical garden named Sunken Garden.  It was full of the plants and flowers that we weren't used to seeing.  I enjoyed it much more than Bronx Botanical Garden.  



We spent all the afternoon at the beach.  Reading Fran├žoise Sagan.  Taking a nap.  Building sand statues.  Playing with baby horseshoe Crabs.  Finding more shells.
This time, I couldn't miss the sunset.  So I planned to go back to the beach right on time for it.  When you think about it, you can't see Sun setting on the ocean in East coast unless you are in Florida on the side of Gulf of Mexico.  So it's special.


It was beautiful.  That's all I can say.  I loved the little trip we took.  








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