Friday, December 16, 2011

Something new for you!

Well, hello there! This is what I've been holed up working on for the past few weeks.
I'm changing my shop and blog name from Domestic Icing to Barnum's Winter. And, I've gotten a spiffy new website, etc. to boot. I'm still not quite done -- There is so much laying about that says, "Domestic Icing," that I have to change, but I'm getting close.

So, why you ask? Why go through all the trouble of changing your name when Domestic Icing is really just fine?

An excellent question, and I thank you for asking.

I am growing.

(Ivan the Terribly Sweet, January 2010)

I suppose when I chose Domestic Icing, I was envisioning a little candy shop filled with a cacophony of sweet things for one's home -- ornaments and pictures, tea towels and notebooks, napkins and invitations. Et cetera.

(Clay Cupcake Ornament, December 2009)

But, at the beginning of the autumn last year, 2010, I realized that perhaps a little more focus was needed. The things I made were, I think, adorable, but not especially wondrous. Instead of making cute little things to populate an amazing and beautiful world, I wanted to make the amazing and beautiful world.

The only trouble was that I could not actually make such things. I didn't know how.

(Girl With Umbrella, September 2010)

So, feeling quite determined, I quietly put away my clay and ribbons, my glue and needles, my fabric and glitter, and I began to really try to learn to paint.

(Girl with Violin, November 2010)

There is so much to learn. But, slowly, worlds and things and creatures and ideas began to appear on my canvases...

(Whimsical Apocalypse, January 2011)

...and some of them started to seem wondrous, even beautiful.

But, a world is a large thing to make, and it will take time.

I do not think many of my pictures now are simply sweet things for a home. I think now, they are bits of a different place entirely, a menagerie of creatures and characters that may or may not choose to be sweet to us.

(Surly Raccoon, September 2011)

They are growing up and taking on a mind of their own. Their artist is still learning, and I'm not really quite sure what will become of my new little world just beyond the horizon.

But, whatever happens will happen in Barnum's Winter.

I am hoping to be all moved in within the first few weeks of 2012. And, I hope I will see you there!

Friday, December 9, 2011

In My Absence...

There are big and exciting things coming...

While I'm not blogging, I'm making something awesome to show you.

I hope it turns out how I imagine it will...

See you again very soon,


Monday, November 7, 2011

Learning to Make Sushi!

Yesterday, I assembled a few brave friends in my kitchen to finally learn to make sushi. Most people I know love sushi, but no ones seems to know how it's made. It's one of those scary-sounding, yet deceptively simple domestic arts I am determined to conquer.

First, I selected a theme song to get me prepared for the day ahead. I chose this song, Battle Without Honor or Humanity (right click and open in a new window or tab to listen). You'll probably know it when you hear it. It's perfect, yes?

Then, I made an adorable sign to hang outside my house, something friendly-looking enough to put everyone at ease as they began their journey. I assembled all of my exotic-looking ingredients: medium grain rice, rice wine vinegar, nori (thin sheets of roasted seaweed), and Japanese mayonnaise, and marveled for a moment at it's exoticism.

The mayo was the only thing that was a little hard to find, but a lot of recipes, including the one for California Rolls, demand it. I found it at an Asian grocer about a mile from my house. I love the little bizarre mayonnaise baby on the package. I learned later that American Mayo works too. Actually, they taste pretty similar.

I realized a few minutes before everyone started arriving that the sesame seeds I had purchased probably weren't toasted. Crap. I googled how to toast sesame seeds and it only took about 5 minutes! Hooray!

I started chopping all of my various random sushi fillings into little bits -- this is imitation crab for those of us who live 1600 miles from an ocean and can't perhaps find or afford sushi-grade fish. We also broiled some salmon in sweet chili sauce and used cooked shrimp too. Variety is the spice of life.

For vegetables, we had cucumber, green onions, shredded carrot, and avocado. For sauces, we had Siracha, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, and wasabi. At last came the making of sushi rice. I'll put a good recipe at the bottom of the post, but this photograph is of the "fan and fluff" stage.

Once the rice is cooked and then properly fanned and fluffed, it was time to assemble the rolls. In the moment before they are rolled up, they look like this:

Pretty, yes? Then you roll it up inside the mat...

...and it makes a sushi tube!

Finally, you put the sushi tube on a cutting board and cut it up into little bite-sized pieces...

And, quite suddenly, it is sushi.

I confess, I am kind of amazed at how easy it was. We forgot to take photos yesterday of the final plate of sushi (because we suddenly cared more for our bellies than my blog), so I made a roll this morning using left-over rice for the final four photos. It only took about 3 minutes.

Sushi only requires cooking one thing: sushi rice. The rest is just assembly.

Sushi Rice
2 cups medium or short grain rice
3 cups water

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 and 1/2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt

1. Put your dry rice in a colander and rinse it. The water will be pretty cloudy, so keep rinsing until the water coming off your rice is pretty clear.
2. Once your rice is clean, shake off the water and dump it into a pot, on a stove.
3. Pour the 3 cups of water into the pot too.
4. Turn the stove on to high heat.
5. Wait for the water to boil. Not simmer. Boil. A good strong, rolling boil.
6. Stir your rice and water a couple of times and then put a lid on that pot.
7. Turn the stove down to half way between medium and low.
8. Set a timer for 8 minutes.
9. Eight minutes later, turn the stove off, but leave the pot where it's at. Do not touch the lid.
10. While continuing to not touch the lid, set another timer for 15 minutes.
11. Continue to not touch the lid until the timer goes off 15 minutes later. While you're waiting, you can keep your hands away from the lid by making your seasoning.
12. Mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt together in a little bowl. Stir with a spoon for a couple of minutes until the sugar and salt pretty much dissolve.
13. Now that you have let your rice sit with the lid on for 15 minutes, it's sticky rice. Congratulations! If you want to use it for sushi, it is time to season it! You may now remove the lid!
14. Dump rice into a bowl.
15. Sprinkle on the vinegar mixture a couple of spoonfuls at a time and gently mix it in.
16. If you have a friend handy, make them fan the rice while you do the gentle mixing. The fanning will cool the rice down and give it a pretty shine. Apparently not everyone does the fanning bit, but you might as well if you have a fan and a friend. It will make the process seem kind of magical and esoteric and give your friend a purpose.
17. Once the vinegar solution is all mixed in, your rice is done. You might let it sit a while longer until it cools down a bit if it's still really hot.

Time to assemble and roll your sushi!

Watch this awesome video to learn how (the girl shows you an alternate way to season you rice too!).

Friday, November 4, 2011

Scholarly tiger, brave bird, and piano

"Scholarly Tiger and Brave Bird" 8x10

This is not a good photo, but as always, I'm too impatient to wait for a scan to post. The background in real life is more of a creamy cream than a nondescript gray. Oh, well. This is my contribution to Paint Party Friday and Illustration Friday. Once I do get a scan, I will indeed be posting my new little friends in my shop, which has been rather quiet as of late.

I also am the grateful recipient of an early Christmas present from a very sweet relation. This here is a mid-century Baldwin spinet. It is now sitting quite elegantly where my dining room table used to be, but it is a small price to pay for having a real live piano! I'm not terribly good at playing piano, but I do enjoy it and I can't wait to dust off the ol' sheet music and start horrifying my neighbors! I'll be a virtuoso before I can successfully explain to anyone that "no, I cannot turn the volume down." And, my new dining room will either be in my basement or in my painting studio. I haven't quite decided. This is the first new song I'm going to learn to play. Beautiful, yes?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Artful Life

This is my latest painting, Guitar with Birds. Can you tell I've been listening to a lot of folk music recently?

I've been finding it harder and harder to find time to make art while working full-time and trying to be a good adult. But, when I snuff out time for drawing and painting, it tends to pop back out in unexpected places. This is the lunch I made for my husband yesterday:

Broccoli with sweet chili glaze and penguin onigiri

It's got me thinking a lot about the idea of living an artful life while still existing in reality. I think it is possible to be the sort of girl who's put together, has a full-time job, a beautiful home, is a good cook and hostess, a good wife, independent and interesting and impressive, witty and accomplished, well read, etc. I wish there was a blog or book that offered instruction in all areas of a modern girl's life -- everything from how to make a good mimosa and french toast to how to manage finances in a graceful way to super interesting cocktail trivia. Maybe it could have inspiring essays on sprezzatura and the importance of hobbies. Can someone please write this for me?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Learning to make Bento

I made a Big Dango Family Bento for the Mister yesterday! I know it's simple, but I think they're adorable! I think I'll try little penguins next. If you haven't seen the amazing works of lunch box art made by bento artists, just google "bento" and proceed to spend hours gazing through google images. I think this qualifies me as an awesome wife.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's ok. I'm with the band.

I am officially a rock and roll band photographer! How cool is that? Granted, I was kind of a shoe-in for the position because I did it for free and I am married to one of the boys, and sister to another of the boys, and the third was the best man at my wedding. But still, I feel far cooler than normal. I even got to tell them things like, "Hey you! Drummer! Look over your shoulder!" and "Gimme more attitude! You look silly!" and "Hey, quit blinking so dang much!"

If you haven't heard Hammer for the Masses yet, you probably should, for they shall someday be famous and you will want to be able to say, "Oh HftM? I've been listening to them for ages. Where have you been?" This song is my favorite. But, this one is a close second. If you live in Denver, you should come and have a drink with me at their next show!

I Made Halloween Clip Art!

One of the libraries I work for needed a logo for a neighborhood Halloween parade. So, I got to take home some homework from the office. I like homework sometimes. And, it's good for me to do made to order stuff -- it broadens my horizons I think, a little at a time.

If you want a pretty little clip art graphic for Halloween, please feel free to download this one! If there is a not-awkward way to assign some credit back to my blog, it would be appreciated but isn't necessary!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The trouble with improving...

Fox: 2009, 2010, 2011, respectively.

Whenever you try very hard to get better at something, you do, inevitably, get better. The trouble with improvement is retrospect. At the time I painted each of these, I was rather proud of them. But, as each new version was produced I recognized bits of unsatisfactoriness in older versions -- the messiness of lines, the awkwardness of an eye, etc. Oh, I could view each painting individually as a unique creation with its own charms, and I know I should. But I have a hard time doing so. Quite honestly, I like the newest version more. I think it's better, not just different.

And, so, each time I make a new painting, I might think to myself not only that my older work is becoming more and more bleh, but also that this new and beautiful thing I've made today may not really be awesome -- that time and more practice will reveal this painting's true nature under its ephemeral mask of newness. Will I improve a bit more and recognize today's work as rubbish? Was it always rubbish and I was too unskilled to realize it?

No. And yes. If I am to improve, my older work will, by definition, not be as skilled as my newest paintings. And, if I continue improving, my current paintings will be less skillfully executed than my future paintings. But, not all of art is about skill. Sometimes it's just about making something pretty or moving or cute. And, sometimes the idea is just as important as the skill to express it. So, keep improving and don't let improvement get you down.

Dashing Fox, 8x10 Print. 2011

A Bad Week in MS Paint

Don't get me wrong: I love my day job. But, it's been a rough and strange week. I have expressed my feelings about it via MS Paint, which is always a good medium for self expression when you're way too tired and irritable to be expected to find a pencil or to actually create something good.

Monday, back to work after the weekend.

Tuesday, I must go to work again.

Wednesday, another day at work!

Thursday, yes, you must go in again.

But Friday? OK. I can stay home...

That is all. The end.