Wednesday, December 28, 2011


johnny cash's to-do list via listofnote

I've mentioned more than a few times I love to keep lists. Written down on just about anything and about everything. Some are simple 'to do' lists, others are types of 'wish' lists that include my inspirations, goals, and dreams, and still others are functional lists that help me remember, check off, and accomplish tasks. But I'm not the only one who likes to keep lists. The above handwritten To-Do List was made by the one and only 'Man in Black', Johnny Cash. Note #2 Kiss June and #3 Not kiss anyone else.

For me, the act of putting thoughts down to paper is a way to keep sane. Lists can decrease stress, increase productivity, keep you organized, and provide a sense of accomplishment. There's nothing more satisfying than crossing an item off your list. And frankly, there's so much going on in my head, my life, and with work that I need to write everything down so I don't forget it. I know with our busy schedules I'm not the only one that struggles with a short attention span. Lists also help me to stay focused in a day filled with interruptions. And when you're feeling overwhelmed, they act as reminders of what needs your attention. I can't tell you how many times I simply forgot to do something in the heat of the moment but if I go in with a list, I'm less likely to leave without finishing what I set out to do. The fact is, the simple act of writing things down not only helps you remember, it also sets goals you're more likely to accomplish.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


This year's Christmas cards. I kept it simple and handmade my own this year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


via keef

A timely reminder. I love to mentor young people, especially when I can share a nugget of wisdom learned from my own mistakes. And I've made a lot of them. Not a hard thing to do when you're the type to attempt new things with more enthusiasm than experience. Over the years I've picked up a trick or two and I believe it's important to share our experiences. But not just as cautionary tales. Sharing knowledge is empowering for everyone. I never understood people who were stingy with information.

One lesson worth sharing is to always know your own worth. Particularly when it comes to negotiating your rate. If you don't know how much you're worth, no one else will either. And although I don't always agree with the above sentiment, I will say this - nothing undermines your enthusiasm more than feeling like you're being hustled. Translation: under appreciated and underpaid. Someone will always try to cut corners, shave costs, or get something for nothing. Just don't undercut yourself. Ever. And if you're going to accept a crap job with crap pay, do it with your eyes wide open. It somehow lessens the bitter aftertaste.

Monday, December 12, 2011


In the following short film photographer, Tim Walker, discusses his inspirations, his influences, and his process as an artist. You can't help but fall in love with his extravagant stagings and romantic motifs. There's definitely a surreal fairytale quality about his images that capture your imagination, and you can't help but lose yourself in the photograph as you go in search of the story that speaks to you in a barely discernible whisper. Walker keeps scrapbooks full of clippings, images, stories, and just about anything that inspires him as "a cupboard full of ingredients" from which he "draws on to bake a photograph." I love his reference to baking.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


"Potpie... a crusted pie made with poultry or meat, and, usually chopped vegetables. The term, which first appeared in American print in 1785, probably refers to the deep pie pans or pots used to bake pies in, and it has remained primarily an Americanism. The most popular pot pies have been chicken, beef, and pork. The first frozen pot pie was made with chicken in 1951 by the C.A. Swanson Company." - Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani

Growing up, my family wasn't particularly into canned foods or frozen TV dinners but we did usually have two staples in the kitchen - Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and Banquet's Pot Pies. When you think of either, you immediately think comfort food. And I guess that's part of the reason my dad served it to us. Chicken noodle soup wasn't served for lunch or dinner in our house, Campbell's soup was breakfast on cold blustery mornings before he hustled us off to school. And even though Dad must have served us pot pies regularly, I seem to remember them as treats for special occasions. Maybe because they came with flaky crusts we kids automatically associated with desserts. As an adult I became more selective with what I was willing to eat, and most frozen items fell to the bottom of my list. Occasionally, I'd think of those Banquet pot pies of my childhood and wander down the frozen food aisle. But I always managed to pass them by.

Recently, I had a craving for chicken pot pie. A constant craving that wouldn't go away. And sometimes, you just need to give in to it because nothing else will satisfy it. And because I happen to have left-over pie dough, I decided to make chicken pot pie from scratch. I asked myself, when you think of comfort food which chef comes to mind? Of course, the only answer is Nigella Lawson. The below recipe is an express version of her Chicken Mushroom and Bacon Pie. Now, I'm a huge fan of bacon so I didn't have to think twice if this recipe was for me. And true to her word, total prep and cook time was exactly 30 minutes. Quick and delicious - sold! The end result was absolutely scrumptious and worth the effort.

But sometimes, when you're tired, in a hurry, and can't be bothered, frozen pot pie isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Banquet brand kicked off in 1953 with the introduction of their frozen meat pies. And although there are many brands to choose from these days, Banquet is the one brand I'm guaranteed to find in any grocery store across America. I recently tried one, and honestly, there's no comparison to homemade but in a pinch, they're not bad. Each bite brings me closer to the past and my childhood, and that's not a bad thing. In fact, I'd say it's a darn good thing.

Nigella Lawson's Chicken Mushroom and Bacon Pie
(2 servings)
3 rashers streaky bacon, cut or scissored into 1-inch strips
1 tsp garlic infused oil
2 cups chestnut mushrooms, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
8 oz chick thigh fillets cut into 1-inch pieces
2 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp butter
1 1/4 cups hot chicken stock
1 tbsp Marsala
1 (13-oz) 9 x 16 inch sheet all-butter ready-rolled puff pastry
  1. Preheat the oven to 425º F. Fry the bacon strips in the oil until beginning to crisp, then add the sliced mushrooms and soften them in the pan with the bacon.
  2. Turn the chicken strips in the flour and thyme (or toss in freezer bag), and then melt the butter in the pan before adding the floury chicken and all the flour left in the bag. Stir around with the bacon and mushrooms until the chicken begins to color.
  3. Pour in the hot stock and Marsala, stirring to form a sauce and let this bubble away for about 5 minutes.
  4. Make a pastry rim for each of your pots for the pies by curling 1/2-inch strips of pastry around the top of the pots. Dampen the edges to make them stick.
  5. Cut a circle bigger than the top of each pie-pot for the lid, and then divide the chicken filling between the two.
  6. Dampen the edges again and then pop on the top of each pie, sealing the edges with your fingers or using the bottom of a fork.
  7. Cook the pies for about 20 minutes, turning them around half way through cooking. Once cooked, they should puff up magnificently.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


In life we are tasked with different types of quests - some trite while others can be life changing. Quests often start in one place and end in another. But every quest needs a first step, and those moments that propel your story forward. In novels these moments are referred to as the "inciting incident," or the decision that will change a character's life. Certainly, my own life can be stringed together by a series of quests. And in a strange way it seems regardless of decisions or choices made, or even roads chosen, I was always going to end up right here. And depending on what that means to you, that could either be a good or bad thing. I haven't quite figured out my own situation. But I can't help but wonder if all these quests are just disguises for what really is our need for perfection. After all, aren't most quests an arduous search for something? And usually involving some pie-in-the-sky ideal that can never be attained. Or can it?

I came across an interesting article in a 2003 issue of Saveur magazine. The author, Elmer R. Grossman, was on the quest for the ultimate shortening that would result in a flaky, flavorful pie crust. He had tried Crisco, the go-to fat for his Jewish grandmother, that although produced tender flaky crusts - fell short on taste. In search of an alternate shortening, Grossman learned the choice fat of most classic cookbooks was lard. And when he started baking with this rendered pig fat, he found it did yield a wonderful flaky texture. But lard is hydrogenated for a longer shelf life, and Grossman realized that if he wanted to avoid trans fats, he would have to find old-fashioned fresh lard, the kind butchers sold from their refrigerated cases. But he soon learned all lard is not created equal, and that the most desirable kind for baking is leaf lard, which comes from the collection of fat around the pig's kidneys - nearly all of which is purchased by commercial bakers. And so began his quest for leaf lard, which ultimately turned out to be more illusive than he originally anticipated. But persistence paid off, and the reward was a crust that was both beautifully flaky and flavorful. Now, that's going the distance for the perfect pie crust.

(makes two 9" pie crusts)
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pastry flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
12 tbsp chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6 tbsp leaf lard, chilled
  1. Combine vinegar and 1/4 cup ice water in a small bowl. Combine flours, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Put both bowls into the freezer until well chilled, about 20 minutes.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut butter and lard into chilled flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal flecked with pea-sized pieces of butter and lard. Sprinkle in water-vinegar mixture, stirring dough with a fork until it begins to hold together.
  3. Press dough into a rough ball, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Give dough several quick kneads until it becomes smooth. Divide dough in half, gently shape into 2 balls, and flatten each ball slightly to make a fat disk. Wrap disks individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before using.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I watched the most amazing episode of Chopped in which the featured 'chefs' or contestants were school cafeteria cooks. I was so glad to see these 'lunch ladies' being honored for all that they do to feed our kids in school. All the contestants were knowledgeable and crafty cooks, but what stood out to me was just how gracious, honored, and thrilled they were to be on the show. There wasn't a sore loser in the bunch, all the ladies were incredibly supportive of one another. It was so obvious how much they cared about their students' health, using fun and clever ways to entice them to try new foods. One contestant wasn't intimated at seeing quinoa because she served the grain in her school! I also loved how the judges refused to call the contestants anything other than "chefs," bringing tears to the ladies' eyes. In the end, they were all considered winners and awarded five days of classes at the Culinary Institute of America. Cheryl from New Haven ended up taking the win and $10,000 with her Grilled Cream Cheese and Fruit Sandwich dessert. By the show's close everyone was crying - contestants, judges, even myself. I think it's fantastic that Food Network believed these ladies were worth featuring on the show. These talented school chefs disproved the stereotype of lunch ladies with hair nets, serving slop.