Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Make-up: Replicating Sylvia Ji's Girlies

I obviously got way into Day of the Dead imagery this season (we’ve done sugar skulls, profiled Catrina dolls and highlighted the artwork of Sylvia Ji).

Because I paint my face every year for work (the Friday before Halloween usually) I thought the Sylvia Ji look would be perfect.

What you’ll need:

White grease/ face paint

Black grease/ face paint

2 other colors of grease paint (your choice)

Black eyeliner

2 other colors of eye or lip liner

Big silk rose/s

First I selected an image I wanted to replicate:

Then I covered my face with white. I also dusted my face with a little foundation using a brush (it creates an aged, dingy look - more skull like).  I used the black eyeliner to outline my “orbital cavity” – around your eye – from the top of the brow. I also used it to outline the “spade” shape used for the nasal cavity and to mark the teeth.

Then I filled in my eye area with green and outlined my actual eye with black. I brushed a little green on for gaunt cheeks. I outlined the black circle around my eye with brown. Then filled in the nose with black paint.
I dabbed yellow paint on my chin and forehead in a rough shape of the flowers I wanted to add there. Then I outlined the flowers with red lip liner, and also added red petals around the eyes. I added swirls and dots with varying pencils.

I added the rose to my hair (you could use two!) and added some tears.


Closely associated with the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Catrinas (known as Catrinos if they portray a male figure) grew out of cartoons by a Mexican journalist José Guadalupe Posada who portrayed people from all stations of society as skeletons wearing their natural dress and performing everyday activities.  

He especially loved showing Mexican woman of the upwardly striving classes wearing the French fashions of the day, with the low cut dresses showing off the bare bones of their chests. Catrina dolls have become a Mexican tradition and can be found in all sizes from a few inches tall to over six feet.

They are intended to show that the rich and fashionable, despite their pretensions to importance, are just as susceptible to death as anyone else.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pizza A La Checca

Being originally from New York, rarely a day passes that I don’t day dream about real NY pizza and bagels. You know, they say that it’s the NYC water that makes these things the phenomena that they are, and that they can't be duplicated in other cities because of it.

A few pizzerias in Los Angeles were rumored to import water from Manhattan to make their dough. Actually, some of the best pizza I’ve ever had outside of NY was in LA – at “Two Guys From Italy”, in Glendale. Man they really knew what they were doing.

In addition to an awesome Mexican pizza; chorizo, jalapenos, cilantro, red onions (jeez, I'm really hungry today), they’re the ones that first introduced me to my favorite pizza configuration; what they named “Pizza A La Checca”.

Alla Checca sauce is traditionally just a simple, uncooked sauce of diced roma tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella and garlic.

Here’s how The Two Guys made they’re pizza version (in these photos I used my usual Chef Boyardee pizza kit for the dough and my pizza stones from Pampered Chef):

Pizza A La Checca

Pizza Dough
3 TB Extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves chopped garlic
10 whole leaves of basil (Italians consider chopping basil bad luck, so if you want smaller pieces you can tear it)
Palm full of toasted pine nuts
2 diced ripe roma tomatoes
Shredded mozzarella
Sliced Pepperoni (optional)

Make your pizza dough and spread onto your hot pizza stone (I bake my pizza stone for 15 minutes on 425) or greased pizza pan. 

Brush the dough liberally with olive oil (you won’t be using sauce, so this helps moisten it). Spread mozzarella. Add basil, garlic, tomatoes and pine nuts. 

I always add pepperoni, because I just need pepperoni grease on my pizza – but you can drizzle a bit more olive oil instead and keep the whole thing vegetarian.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.

We (of course) also had to make a traditional American sauced version for the buddy boys (but Marley does like pine nuts on his side too!).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sugar Skulls

Don't Laugh.....

This is my first stab at making sugar skulls (under the tutelage of my friend Danine), and I kind of forgot I suck at icing work. They look more like Luchadores....

Oh well – it was super fun! The boys had fun too and admired their handiwork.

Danine and I made the raw skulls in molds a week ahead of time, at her house, then let them dry. I didn’t document it but the process is simple enough. I purchased most of the supplies from (which also has great, step by step instructions).

I am not of South American or Mexican descent, but I love to explore all the food and craft related ceremonies of different cultures, and of course, I am particularly attracted to something that melds skulls with roses!

Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is not directly related to Halloween, and is celebrated on November 2nd (so you've got plenty of time to do this if you're interested!)
It is an ancient celebration traced back to indigenous Aztec cultures. The festivities involve visits to the graves of ancestors and loved ones, to both honor the dead and to commune with them; have your own prayers heard by those in the spirit world who may be better poised to help you. Sugar skulls are just one of the many foods and beverages which are prepared specifically as offerings to the dead.

While this is a good craft for kids, nobody eats the skulls – so just make that clear to everyone beforehand. They aren’t poisonous or anything but it’s just not recommended. Mine did nibble on a little one (it’s very hard to resist a skull entirely made of sugar and icing).

Hawk works on decorating a mini skull (we printed out inspiration pics from online).

Marley and Danine Decorate.

Here are Danine's (Danine is much better at it than I am....)
Sugar Skull Altar


What you’ll need:

For Skulls:

Skull Molds
Meringue Powder
A big bowl
Index cards or squares of cardboard

For Decorating:
Powdered Sugar
Meringue Powder
Gel food coloring
Icing bags
Paper bowls
Plastic spoons
Other stuff you may like to stick on your skulls: colored foil, mini roses, beads, jewels, glitter.


The following instructions are taken directly from (so hop over there if you have more questions and need more photos);

"Sugar Skull Recipe:

Do not make sugar skulls on a rainy or high humidity day. They will not turn out.
Please don't forget the meringue powder!
It's necessary for the sugar skull recipe.
Meringue Powder Brand
Do not use meringue powder from hobby shops or cake supply shops as it's usually diluted and cut way too much for use with heavy granulated sugar. It's ok for icing, just it will not hold together sugar skulls! We get calls daily from teachers & folks who's sugar skulls are "sandy" and not sticking together and have a big mess on their hands and don't have enough time to get new meringue powder and redo the project. Start right from the beginning! The only reliable meringue powder is the one we sell or that of Sur La Table gourmet kitchen shop/ catalog.

Mix together well in large bowl:
1 teaspoon Meringue Powder for every cup of granulated sugar used.
Step 1: Mix dry ingredients well.
Step 2:
Sprinkle sugar mixture with 1 teaspoon water per cup of sugar used.
Variation: Colored Skulls
Most people prefer white skulls the first time they make them, but if you'd like colored sugar skulls, add paste food coloring TO THE WATER. For a 5 pound bag of sugar, use 1/4 cup meringue powder and 10 teaspoons of water. Yield 5 large skulls or 20 medium skulls or 100 mini skulls or any combination.
For a 10 pound bag of sugar, use 1/2 cup meringue powder and 7 Tablespoons water. Yield 10 large skulls or 40 medium skulls or 200 mini skulls or any combination.

Meringue Powder is a MUST and cannot be omitted. It is difficult to find, but may be ordered in 4 oz, 8 oz or 1 pound packages on our sugar skull molds and supplies page. Meringue powder is what makes the sugar and the icing hard. Its main ingredient is powdered dry egg whites & starch, but it also includes vegetable gum, cream of tarter, calcium lactate, malic acid & sodium aluminum sulfate. It's totally edible. 

Mix well with hands until every bit of sugar is moistened. If your fingerprints remain when you squeeze the sugar in your hand, it is ready to mold. (Right) It should feel like cool "beach sand."
If it doesn't hold together, mixture is too dry. (Left)
Remember, water sinks, so keep the sugar mixture mixed up frequently as you make your sugar skulls.

If all the sugar mixture does not fall out of mold easily, it is too wet. Re-mix with a bit more sugar. Hand wash and dry your mold after every 5 skulls to avoid sticking. Most Sugar Skull makers will have a collection of molds to make the molding process more enjoyable.

To Dry

All sizes of the molded sugar skulls need to air-dry on their card boards from 8 hours to overnight before they are ready to decorate. Medium and Mini skulls may be decorated after they are completely dry.

Royal Icing Recipe (for decorating):

Mix 2/3 cup water, 1/2 cup meringue powder and 2 pounds powdered sugar with an electric/stand mixer until icing peaks (about 9 minutes!) Don't mix up more than 2 pounds at a time. Keep in a tightly covered container. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Royal icing is a cement type icing used for gingerbread house construction. It isn't very tasty, but it is strong, dries pretty and lasts. Use ONLY concentrated paste food colorings (NOT liquid food coloring from the grocery store!) Yes, we have 12 great colors on our sugar skull molds and supplies page.

Mix icing & paste colors in disposable cups. Use pastry bags and metal decorating tips if you are a pro or into cake decorating. Yes, we have great disposable pastry bags on the Order Page!
Add 2-3 ounces of Royal Icing (no more than 1/4 full). Squeeze to decorate.

Calculate each 5 pounds of sugar skulls will need 2 pounds of powdered sugar Royal Icing. Most skull makers prefer 5-6 paste colors to decorate with and at least one pack of colored tin foil. Yes, we have tin foil in deep Purple, Magenta, Orange, Gold and Red, see sugar skull molds and supplies page."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicken Paprikash

This is another recipe from my childhood.

My mother always made it with whole chicken pieces, but I prefer to use chopped breast, as it’s quicker and easier (and is a little more kid-friendly).

It really is one of those lickety-split dishes that are simple but have a high comfort-food level.

Chicken Paprikash

1.5 lbs chicken breast
12 oz. Sour Cream
3-4 TB Hungarian Paprika
1 medium yellow onion
Salt & pepper
3TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3TB salted butter
1 cup chicken broth
Splash of Chardonnay
Wide Egg noodles

Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet. Chop raw chicken into pieces and sautee until browned. Remove to plate. Slice onion (make pieces long and noodle-like). Sautee in butter and oil until soft. Add chicken back and de-glaze pan with the Chardonnay. Add paprika and salt and pepper. Stir well until coated with paprika. Add chicken broth and sour cream and mix well. Simmer while you prepare the egg noodles.
Drain noodles. Mix sauce and noodles in warmed serving bowl.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Artwork of Felicia Olin

Felicia Olin is a Springfield, Illinois based artist, recommended to me by my cousin Lillian (because she obviously gets me). Olin's work is reminiscent of a fantastical Kahlo-Klimt marriage on the other side of the looking glass.

MWKA Monday: Samantha Rutt

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with moms who inspire. If you or someone you know would like to participate in this project please contact me.

New farmer Samantha Rutt, talks about how she got to where she really wants to be, living simply and raising her three kids (plus lots of chickens and a few goats) with her husband on land just East of the Colorado Rockies.

Name: Samantha Rutt 
Age: 29....for 1 more month!!!!
City: High Plains Colorado

How many children do you have and what are their ages and names?

Three: Symphony; 11, Memphis; 7, Pike;18 months.

Tell me about their names, and why you picked them. 
Symphony- can take no credit (all her dad’s); Memphis- some of my southern roots coming through, tough and sweet.
Pike- named for the Mountain he was born at the bottom of (and secretly, Pike was Luke Perry's name in the original Buffy movie).

Are you married or have you ever been?
Married for 1 1/2 years .

Do you work outside the home?

What is your position?

Are you doing what you want to be doing, or is it a stepping stone to something else?
I am more doing what I want at home....although I enjoy serving and can make pretty good money.

Did you go to school? When and for what?
School of life.

How did you end up in the city you reside in?
Had the opportunity to rent a house on some acreage with a greenhouse.

Where else have you lived?
Texas and California.

Where have you traveled?
Nowhere nearly cool enough to mention!!!

What was a typical day for you when you were 20?
Already had one kiddo...Living in Long Beach, probably wake up and play with baby Symie, walk to beach, drive to work, get home and have to park 8 blocks from apartment and walk home hoping not to get robbed. But having fun!!!
Describe a typical day now.
Get up with girls...trying not to wake Pike. Make lunches, breakfast, snacks. 
Then up to feed the 23 chickens and 2 goats. 
Gather eggs.  Girls off to school.  
Chill with husband, Brandon  for a few before he leaves for work. 
Play with Pike, chickens, goats, dogs. Garden or clean pens. 
Pike waits for the "irls" at the front door when he hears the bus.
Homework, play, dinner, chill, kids go to bed....Grown up time!

What do you like to do with your kids for fun?
We mostly have fun just being silly around the house...Pike is pretty entertaining. 

What do you like to do for yourself?
Smoke a joint and read a book or listen to music...maybe a bath

How do you make new friends, and how do you keep in touch with old ones?
 I don't really make new friends...I guess if I do it’s from work.  Keep in touch with old Facebook.  Before that, a phone call or letter a few times a year.
What sacrifices have you made for your children?
 I don't think staying with the girls' dad for as long as I did was a sacrifice for them....but maybe I thought so at the time.   Now I think I mostly sacrifice my peace of mind when they are not with me and my sanity when they are.

Did you ever consider not having children?

What has been the hardest period in your life?
Splitting from a bad, long term relationship....helping the girls through it as well.

How did you get through it?
I always knew there was never any other option but to get through it.

What has been the most hopeful period?
Marrying Brandon, pursuing a common dream.  Raising awesome children!

What worries do you have for yourself?
I try not to worry.

What regrets?
No regrets...most of the stupid sh*t I did eventually led to something good.

Are you spiritual? Religious?

What’s your personal philosophy; why do you think we are here?
I have no f**king clue why we are here....I guess it's just our turn to be here and then someday we won't. So love each other every moment.

What is your nationality/ ethnicity and the ethnicity of your children?
Well, I have a mom from Guam and a dad from Texas...of Irish descent.  My two daughters were both born in So Cal...they share a few ethnicities...1/4 black...1/4 Pacific Islander and 1/2 white.  My son Pike is a Colorado native.  None of the Islander comes out in him...all Irish with blue eyes and blond hair.   

Is this something you identify with strongly?
Not at all.
Has the economy affected you and your family in the last few years?
No, tourists are still coming through on schedule.  My family and I grow a lot of food and eat a lot of eggs.

What’s an important dream you have which you work towards almost every day?

To raise my children to have confidence in who they are and to teach them skills that no class room can offer.

What do you imagine for your children in the future?

I hope that they live simply and all find true love.

Do you have a mantra (something you tell yourself to help you get through the tough spots)?

Just to be love and focus on positive things happening.

Recommend three bands, films or books, and tell me why: 
Still Life With Woodpecker (by Tom Robbins). Am I the last person on the planet who hadn't read that? was everything I ever could want in a book...outlaws, exiled royal family with a ginger princess daughter, Seattle, anal sex....the list goes on. 
The Black Keys...funky and bluesy.  
The Tudors...the reign of Henry VIII and all his wives.  Great story and show!!! Super hot! 

What inanimate object would you hate to live without?

How many tattoos do you have and of what?
1. Really bad Betty Boop (trampstamp)
2. Daughter names around lotus flower
3. Pikes name below that 
4. Bluebonnet- representing Texas!!

What and who inspires you?

My husband and my kids inspire me.  I want them to have as many happy-loving-productive memories of me as possible.  I don't ever want them to think that I was just "alright"!!!