Friday, October 22, 2010

Fashion Photography: Underwater

This post will dispel the assumption that the career of being a fashion model is a cushy gig. Not only does a model have to wear whatever the shoot dictates, regardless of the weather (wool sweaters in the summer, bikinis in an icy breeze) all while looking better than any of us can do in the most perfect atmospheric conditions, they sometimes have to fight their fear of heights as they are suspended and push their bodies to the limit for a requested pose (in my last shoot the models were NOT ballerinas – and yet they were forced to cram their feet into pointe shoes and stand up – and "Smile! Arch your back! Quit wincing!". 

In the trendy genre of Underwater Fashion Photography they have to not only look beautiful, but fight anti-gravity and, oh - also - not die, as they hold their breath underwater. I wish I could compile the actual models’ names here, but it’s very difficult to find that information (as photographers tend to leave that info out). 

These girlies keep doing it anyway. Here’s to you fashion models! Some of us know and appreciate what you put up with.

*Of special note: some of these are little kids! Way to cowboy up kids - I'm lucky if mine will just not look disgusted in a photo. Also - most of these are female photographers, which is rare (most fashion photographers are men). Interesting that they are drawn to this style.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bolognese and Béchamel Lasagne

This lasagne recipe is not just the most perfect lasagne, it may be the most perfect food (providing you’re not a vegetarian). This recipe is adapted from Marcella Hazan’s (from Essential Classic Italian Cooking). It is the one that my mother always uses, and the one that she taught me

The Bolognese sauce takes such a long time, and requires such attention, you will feel like you are doing something very special for your family and friends when you prepare this (it takes at least 3 hours). Having to create two different sauces for one dish leaves you feeling quite continental; you use béchamel in place of any cheese.

I’ve had more than one boyfriend persuade me into altering the recipe to closer resemble their own childhood lasagnes (adding mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, oregano, etc). And guess what? Not as good. Not even close. Because, simply stated, this dish is a masterpiece. You cannot tinker with a masterpiece. 

Bolognese Sauce
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 TB butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef (not lean - higher fat content will make the sauce, or
ragù, sweeter)
1 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 C canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut in with their juice
Put oil and butter in a large heavy pot with chopped onion over medium heat. Cook and stir onion until translucent. Add chopped celery and carrot. Cook for 2 minutes more, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.
Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Break up the meat and stir well, cooking until the beef has lost its raw, red color.

Add the milk and let simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. This can take a while. Add the 1/8 tsp of grated nutmeg and stir.

Add the wine and let simmer until it has evaporated. 

Add tomatoes and their juice and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest simmer.

Cook uncovered for 2- 3 hours, stirring from time to time. I use a wooden spoon to break up the giant tomato pieces occasionally as the sauce cooks. 

Taste and correct for salt.

Béchamel Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk (heat in microwave 30 seconds)
1/4 tsp salt 

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, and turn the heat to low. When the butter has melted completely, add all the flour, whisking as you add. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. This is called a roux. As you draw the whisk across the bottom of the pan, if the roux is thick enough to expose the bottom for a second or two it’s ready for the next step. Don’t let the roux brown. Remove from the heat. 

Off heat, add 2 tablespoons of hot milk to the flour and butter mixture, and whisk until incorporated. Repeat this procedure until you have used 1/2 cup of milk. Continue to add milk, now at 1/2 cup at a time, thoroughly stirring until incorporated after each addition. (Or in Marcella's words: "Stirring steadfastly, until you have smoothly amalgamated all the milk with the butter and flour.") Adding the liquid off heat will help prevent lumps from forming. 

Return the pan to low heat, add the salt, and continue to stir without stopping until the sauce is as "dense as thick cream."  If you find any lumps, beat the sauce rapidly with a whisk.

1 box of lasagne noodles (or fresh noodles if you're really talented and fancy)
2 TB butter
freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400.
Prepare lasagne noodles. 

Spoon some Bolognese off the top (where some oil is separated) and ladle into the bottom of your lasagne dish. Line the bottom of pan with one layer of noodles.

Cover the noodles with a layer of the Bolognese, then a bit of the béchamel on top of that (it will not cover the whole layer – just ladle a few stripes). Sprinkle some grated Parmesan, then add another layer of noodles. Repeat the procedure of spreading sauce and Parmesan and noodles. Leave enough B
échamel sauce to spread a thin layer on top at the end. Sprinkle with Parmesan and dot with butter. (This can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.) 

If you have Bolognese left over, freeze it (it’s great on all pasta, but is traditionally served with tagliatelle).

Bake lasagne on top rack until golden crust forms on top, about 10 or 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 min. before serving.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Creepy Chimera Decoupage Pumpkins

Despite my deep, maniacal love of Halloween, I have several issues concerning traditional Jack O’Lanterns:

1) They’re grody. Nothing is grosser than pumpkin guts – slimy and clingy and stinky. Then the kids always want me to go in and sort the seeds to roast, which is nasty, and anyway, roasted Jack O’Lantern seeds = not good…not worth it.

2) If you do it when you’re really in the mood to start decorating for the holiday (usually two weeks prior to Halloween) then they rot on the porch (whether you use that “anti-pumpkin-rot” spray or not) and become hideously deformed (not in a good creepy Halloween way either).

3) Unless you are able to do the entire carving process alone, as an adult, in a private studio where no kids are allowed to give their input – they come out mediocre. 

4) You also have to cut out your kids pieces (even if they are old enough to use the cute little saws and pokey tools) because they get so lazy and discouraged half-way through. By that point I am SO OVER Jack O’Lanterns that the craftsmanship gets really shabby.

THIS year, as the first year I’ve been doing this blog experiment, I came up with something different. Don’t get me wrong – this new approach was a hard sell with the buddy boys, but I finally convinced them they would be so impressed with the end result that they wouldn’t care about the missed pumpkin gutting. I think they just like that it’s the one time they can wield sharp instruments.


I compiled a little library of spooky vintage black and white art (some skeletons, some bats, some insects and some other objects like a top hat). I got all of my images (except the black widow) from The Graphics Fairy; a great provider of public domain vintage images.

Next I took them into Photoshop and cut out the black shapes; using --->Select --->Color Range (black)----->Cut---->Paste (on a new layer).

Then we had fun creating Chimeras (hybrid monsters using different animal parts; depicted in the art of various cultures since ancient times). 

A chameleon skeleton with horns and bat wings was my boys'  favorite (they fought over who'd use it on their pumpkin). I pasted (in Photoshop) brightly colored googly eyes on each creature at the end. 
We printed both positive versions; black on antique white (I added a bit of a parchment background) and “inversed” versions; white on black.

We painted some of the pumpkins antique white and some matte black (using acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby - $2.49 a bottle). 

Once the pumpkins were dry (just a half hour later), we cut around the printed images (about 1/4 inch around the outside of the image) and Mod Podged them onto the pumpkins.
[One note: a brush laden with Mod Podge in the hand of an overzealous child, may rub the acrylic paint off a little – you’ll either have to supervise gentleness, or touch up afterward.] 
For more weather proof pumpkins you could varnish them.

Because these pumpkins don’t glow, I added strings of orange lights around the patch when we put them on the porch. I think they’re masterpieces (and they’ll last at least until Halloween!). If you use synthetic pumpkins to do this they’ll last forever.

Original Graphics Fairy links to images used: SKULL, TARANTULA, BAT, CHAMELEON, GOOGLY EYES, HAND

Blackbirds and Bones Wreath

Because my Four and Twenty Blackbirds Halloween pie idea didn’t pan out, I still had blackbirds on the brain. I had an idea to make a black feathered wreath with bones caught in it, and a parchment set inside displaying a curse.

I wish I could have found synthetic, decorative bird bones or skeletons for this project (THAT would have been perfect). But all I could locate were real bird bones (sold for laboratory and educational use), which were a) crazy expensive, and b) yeah, okay, really gross.

I guess this is where I’ll have to admit that birds creep me out.  Wild birds, cute birds, pet birds, chickens (don’t even get me started on turkeys….). I see them as little, feathered lizards. Ancient, soulless dinosaurs that’ll peck you soon as look at ya. So there you go.

Anyway, I did find well-designed mini skeletons (originally strung on a twine of nooses) which had a nice aged patina appearance, and were cheap at Big Lots ($3.50 for 6).  I plucked them apart to use the individual pieces, which seemed scarier.

I started with a base of an inexpensive grapevine wreath from Hobby Lobby ($3). 

There I also found a garland of black feathers (ordinarily $9.99 but 50% off – as most everything you need usually is at Hobby Lobby).

I love everything about Hobby Lobby, except the fact that they close to go to church on the very best crafting day of the week.

I also got a really cool roll of black snakeskin ribbon trimmed with feathers to hang the wreath.

For the parchment I started with an image from The Graphics Fairy (an old opera sheet music border: Original Link is HERE).

My son Marley wrote the curse; “Treaters beware, you’re in for a scare”. 

We hot glued the feather garland along the grapevine.

Then I hot glued the individual bones around, and tucked into, the feathers. I attached the parchment with wire in the corners from the back of the wreath . Then tied the ribbon around the top of the wreath and pinned it, and draped the ribbon over the front door and tacked it on the inside.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slow Cooker Honey Orange Ribs

I hate when I look up slow cooker recipes and they involve all of this pre-cooking jazz (browning of the meat in a pan, pre-baking of ribs, etc). Worse yet I hate when you have to slow cook one part for an hour, then add other stuff, or cook for 6 hours, then add other stuff, or take out stuff or any other combination. The sole point of slow cooking (so far as I’m concerned) is that you throw stuff in a pot in the few minutes that you have before work, and then you come home cranky and hungry and – ta da! All done, just like magic.

This is one of those recipes. Its only flaw is that you have to make some mashed potatoes to go with it.

1 rack baby-back ribs (about 14 ribs each)
3/4 cup honey    
Juice of one orange (or 1/4 cup OJ)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 TB apple cider vinegar
1 TB maple syrup  
2 tsp Dijon style mustard    
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Cut the ribs apart for easier fitting (and maximum saucing). Place the ribs in the bottom of a slow cooker. In a big bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients.


Pour the mixture over the spareribs and stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

Serve with mashed potatoes. Spoon the sauce over the potatoes like gravy.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chase Away Monday Blues with Vintage Hues of Yellows and Blues

Van Gogh's "Majolica Jug with Wildflowers" and a 60's Appliance Ad
Majolica Monkey Teapot

Collectible Tobacciana (Cigarette Cards from the 30's or 40's) featuring Orientalized Classic Hollywood Starlets
Ed Hardy Galoshes, Quilting Fabric by Spoonflower and a Rare 1984 Nintendo Stationary Kit
Blue and Yellow Toasters

Majolica from Taste of Florence
Assorted Jadeite (which I plan to start collecting). Note to Longmont residents: Serendipity on 3rd has a great selection.

Collectible Ginger Beer Bottles and a Rare Yellow Bernina Sewing Machine
Victorian Easter Greeting
Antique Yellow Chinese Lacquer Armoir and Spanish Majolica Platter

Yellow German hearse (for goin' out in style)
Hilarious 60's Saran Wrap Ad (dang! They're both having a ball!) and vintage yellow stove in modern kitchen featured in Country Living

50's Food Art: Ham Shortbread with Pea Sauce (Yum! I think...)
Vintage Yellow Sculptura Donut Phone and Blue Vulcan Sewing Machine
Re-purposed Suitcase Cat Bed by Vintage Renaissance

Bizarre, Animal-headed 50's Maidenform Ad and Vintage Blue Metal Suitcase on Etsy

Yellow Beach Cruise by Green Line Bicycle