Archive for December, 2009

These were the final few prints that I cranked out last month – I held off on sharing them because two of these were a late birthday gift for my mom, but she received them last week, so I’m no longer in danger of ruining any surprises.  These are all monoprints, done with hand-cut stencils loaded with ink and run through the press.  I’m pretty happy with how several of them turned out – none of these are perfect, but I’m coming to learn that these imperfections are the beauty of printmaking.

These are two of my favorites, which will soon hang on the wall of my parents’ newly remodeled bathroom (my first piece of art to ‘grace’ someone else’s walls!):

These are all part of the same series…

And so my intro into printmaking has ended.  But due to the generosity and thoughtfulness of my ever-supportive husband, I’ll be able to occasionally rent space in the print studio next year with my Pratt school gift certificate!  I have some thinking/organizing/prepping to do before I’m ready to get back in there, but there are lots of ideas swirling around in this busy ol’ brain of mine.  Can’t wait to see what comes of it…

Shane and I spent Christmas in Portland with my family, taking it easy at my brother’s house, doting on sweet little Elise, enjoying the warmth of good food and being with loved ones.

Elise made out like a bandit, and had more gifts to open than any of us (as is to be expected, with a face that cute).  One of her favorites was this little car/music machine from my parents.  I’m sure Mitch and Kathryn will quickly tire of the sound of the chugging ignition, the trumpet horn, and the front bumper keyboard, but it all makes Elise smile, so I imagine they’ll say it’s worth it.

Elise also loved her new Kleen Kanteen water bottle from Great Grandma and spent all day toting it around with her.

Shane and I got her the most adorable little wooden tea set, and she and I enjoyed several carpet tea parties throughout the day.

This tent was a big hit as well, and she spent much of the morning crawling in and out of it, peering out the door with that ‘come-and-get-me’ look of hers.

Post-presents, we headed out into the clear, crisp day to enjoy some fresh air and give Elise a chance to burn off some of her Christmas-Day adrenaline at the nearby park.

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching a movie, playing with all our new toys, and preparing a lovely Christmas dinner.  I spent every moment that I could with Elise, knowing that next time I see her, she will again be much changed.

I was looking through my new 50mm lens much of the day, and while I’m still figuring out how to make the most of it, I can tell that it is opening up all kinds of new photographic possibilities for me.  Thanks, Shane…

And so, Christmas has gone as quickly as it came.  I am dealing with a mild case of the post-holiday blues as I think about returning to work tomorrow, but I am so grateful for the short time that we did get to spend surrounded by loved ones.  It really was a very merry Christmas.

Ahhhhh, today was such a good day.  Wonderfully low-key, spent hanging out family, eating, opening gifts, eating…  I enjoyed an abundance of blessings today, as I tea-partied with my niece on the living room floor, played at the park with her and my parents, sat around the dinner table to eat and laugh with family members I couldn’t love more, and made use of my uber-cool new 50mm lens from Shane.  I have over a hundred family photos to sort through, but those will have to be saved for another day, as I’m slowly drifting into a wine/food/bliss-induced coma.  Shane and I just wanted to wish you all a merry close to a Merry Christmas.  God bless.

The tree has been decorated, the gifts have been wrapped, the cookies have been baked, the holiday parties have been had, and yet, I still feel somehow so ‘unprepared’ for Christmas day.  Like I’m missing something amidst all of my checked-off to-do’s.  And as I ponder this, I come to the conclusion that I have spent so much time preparing our home and our gifts and our travel plans, and not enough time preparing my heart for the holiday.  I feel urged to take a break from the shopping and baking to pause and quietly revel in the fact that our all-powerful God sent His Son to earth in the form of a tiny, helpless, precious little baby.  We spent some time with our community group last week talking about Christmas meanings and memories, and J’s comment, “Such a big God, in such a little package” has stuck with me.  It’s unfathomable, really, that a tiny little baby, probably looking very much like the babies I see in restaurants with their faces covered in food, or the ones I see bawling in the grocery stores, grew to be the man that would die on a cross for the sins of this world.  And that’s what I want Christmas to be about – awe, thankfulness, joy, and the perfect peace that comes with knowing I love a God that is humble enough, selfless enough, ‘outrageous’ enough to leave the throne of Heaven to take the form of a diaper-wearing, crying, cooing little infant.  That’s the Christmas miracle.

I spent this afternoon baking up a storm, preparing all kinds of goodies to take with us when we head down to Portland later this week to spend Christmas with my family.  I love using the holidays as an excuse to try out new cookie recipes, and so I scoured the internet to find a couple of sophisticated-but-simple treats. This is what I came up with:

Cranberry Noels (recipe here, courtesy of Martha):

This one seemed simple enough, and once I had my dough all rolled out and packed away in the fridge, I figured slicing the rolls into perfect little circles and dropping them on a cookie sheet would be a piece of cake.  Not so much…  My dough was really crumbly, so when I tried to slice it, it fell apart.  But I’ll be danged if I’m going to let two whole sticks of butter go to waste, so I had to just hand-form the dough into little patties and for-go any hopes of matching Martha’s perfectly round biscuits.  Ah, well.  They still taste good…

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps (recipe here, also from Martha):

Espresso and chocolate, coming together in one perfect cookie?  Yes, please!  Between the sifted ingredients, the melted chocolate, the goopy mixing bowl, and the sugar-dipping bowl, this one made a disaster of my kitchen, but it was worth it.  Freezing the dough before rolling it into balls was key, as it was far too sticky to work with right out of the bowl.  I used Starbucks Via instead of instant espresso, and the cookies have a distinct-but-not-overpowering coffee flavor.  Yummy.

And finally, because it’s tradition, one more batch of butter toffee.  Not sure what happened to the batch I made last weekend – we must have an infestation of toffee-gnomes in our kitchen…

Our bundle of goodies is now safely packed away, ready to be broken into on Christmas Eve with the family.  Dude, I love Christmas…

It’s December, and I’ve got the baking bug, so I spent this afternoon whipping up a batch of my most favorite almond toffee.  I only make this at Christmas-time (see the copious amounts of butter used and you’ll understand why), so it’s an extra-special treat.  Recipe below, in case you’re also tossing out any notions of a holiday diet…

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Chocolate-Covered Almond Toffee (recipe adapted from here):

10 ounces chopped, toasted almonds (almonds can be toasted on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup rum
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

Place sugar in a small deep saucepan. Add the corn syrup and rum and, over medium heat, bring to a boil.  Let boil until large bubbles form on the surface, 3 to 4 minutes.  Cover with foil and boil 5 minutes longer.  Add the pieces of butter and continue cooking, uncovered, over medium heat until temperature reaches 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and immediately add the salt, baking soda, and 1 cup of chopped nuts. Stir until well combined.  Pour the toffee mixture on an oiled baking tray and spread the mixture out, making a block about 10 by 13 inches.  While the toffee mixture is cooling, melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl placed over simmering water*.  Keep warm.  When you can lift up the block of toffee, transfer it to a flat work surface or to a clean baking tray*. Pour the melted chocolate over the toffee and sprinkle with the remaining chopped nuts. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes to set the chocolate.  Cut into pieces of desired size.

***LESSONS LEARNED:  Today was not my day kitchen-wise, and though I’ve made this recipe several times before, I somehow managed to royally screw a couple of things up.  Take heed:  1) Melting chocolate is a sensitive process.  I set my metal bowl over the pan of simmering water, but neglected it for just a moment and it turned into a solid, chunky mess.  The stove should be on low, and the chocolate should be stirred constantly until melted.  Thank goodness for my extra chocolate stash.  Crisis averted.  2) This one is embarrassingly obvious, but do not (I repeat DO NOT) set your block of toffee on a sheet of wax paper to cool.  I meant to grab the roll of parchment paper, but instead grabbed the wax paper, and when I went to lift my block of toffee to transfer it to a plate, the paper stuck to the bottom and was impossible to peel off in places.  This whoopsie forced me to toss out nearly half my batch.  What a shameful waste of good butter…

Mishaps aside, this is good stuff.  Happy holidays!

This clear, crisp weather we’ve been enjoying has reminded me how beautiful downtown Seattle can be, so I grabbed my camera on my way out the door yesterday, thinking I was due for a good hometown shoot.  I spent my lunchtime walking through downtown and Pioneer Square, armed with my warmest hat and fingerless gloves, snapping pictures left and right.  I’ve walked past some of these buildings hundreds of times, and yet somehow never really looked at them.  I suppose that’s the power of having a camera around your neck – your eyes are suddenly open so much wider, as you seek all those perfect photo-ops.  Ideally, especially as an architect, I would be consistently observant, but it seems that whenever I’m downtown, I’m just a woman on a mission, whether it’s to grab a quick lunch, rush to a meeting, hurry to catch my bus, etc.  It was good to consciously stop and pause, stand on a street corner, and look around in every direction, taking in the way sunlight warmed the tones of a brick facade, or bare tree limbs crawled toward the sky.  This is just a small sampling of what I’ve been missing out on…

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Just a few randoms…

love in a mist (2009.11.09):

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paper tree (2009.11.27):

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snow princess (2009.12.09):

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Despite yesterday being a pretty busy day for us, we made sure to carve out some time in the afternoon to keep the Schnell family winter tradition alive and cut down our Christmas tree at our favorite tree farm out in North Bend.  It was a chilly day, but the sun was shining and there were lots of beautiful trees to choose from – we walked away with a perfect 7-foot Grand Fir.

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This one was meant to be my ‘action shot’ of Shane cutting the tree down, but somehow it looks more like the tree is eating him alive.  Prime Christmas card material:

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There is nothing like the warm glow of a Christmas tree – I am sitting by it and sipping on my hot apple cider as I type.  This is the stuff December evenings are made of…

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My printmaking class ended a couple of weeks ago, but I made the most of my final days of studio access and cranked out some good stuff.

The two images below are collographs, made by carving into a shellacked piece of cardboard, rubbing ink into the carved areas, then running it through the press.

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My next focus was on paper lithography, using some of my photos of Paris to make prints.  I spent a few hours wrestling with this process one night in the studio, and still don’t feel like I got it right, but are some nuggets of quality in here…

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I also put together several graphic monoprints that I was pretty happy with – a couple of them are being given as gifts, so for the sake of not ruining any surprises, I’ll post pics of those once they’ve been unwrapped.

In short, this class was amazing – I now see printmaking potential in all kinds of random things, from tangled netting to old photos to sketches I did 4 years ago.  I’m in the midst of figuring out how I’ll get back into the studio sometime soon – can’t let all that potential go to waste!