Wednesday, January 30, 2008


So, that other resolution, it’s kind of lame in a way, but shutup, this is my blog and I will be lame if I want. You know how snarkydork is part of that project 365 and she takes a photo every damn day? And she did that nablopomo thing? And she posted every damn day? Well, I am too lazy to do that. But I figured it would be good for me if I could do one thing every damn day (and for the record, I’ve already screwed up and missed a few days). So see, I am a…draw-er. I draw things. But I am purely digital. As in, I only draw on the computer. I don’t use pens or pencils or paper, just bits and bites and béziers. I don’t use a stylus or a tablet (but I did buy one, so that’s going to have to change a bit) just a mouse. That’s just how I do it and I like it that way. But I got to thinking that while that is great and all, I often find myself faced with a blank screen. I’ll know what I want to draw but I can’t get my mind around how I am going to get there. And it’s frustrating.

So I resolved to make a sketch every day (and as I said, I already screwed that up and missed two or three days, but I’ll make that up, I promise!). So yeah, big deal, whatever, there are people who sketch all the time, you say. True, true. But I am not one of them. I tend to go from idea to project, with nothing in between. That’s fine too, I think of what I want to draw, I tweak it in my brain until I can visualize what I want and then I sit down and I do it. Except, you know, with the getting older and all, sometimes it doesn’t go from “here” to “ there” so easily.

The thing is, this is something I have done before. When I was in college and taking all kinds of artsy-fartsy classes, I drew every damn day. Sketches, costume designs, magazine layouts. And since I was doing it every damn day, I decided that if I also added in one sketch for myself, like my cartoon characters say, then I might actually get better at it. And I did it. And I got better. And then I graduated and I didn’t do it anymore. And then I learned how to draw on a computer and I never looked back and here I am.

So, I’ve been sketching every damn day (with the exception of those few days that I forgot). It’s pretty much the last thing I do every night and mostly it’s been ideas for a personal project. And so far, it’s helped. Things that I just couldn’t approach on the computer suddenly became crystal clear on paper. And now I can see in my mind how they can be constructed with my trusty mouse (and eventually my stylus and tablet). It’s not that I didn’t know this method before rather, I had gotten out of the habit. I like drawing on the computer so why would I draw with a pen? And granted, there have always been the little reminder sketches and jottings but not the dedicated sketching. And I think that goes back to the college art classes of sketch journals (5 sketches a day, every damn day!) and to being told by that art teacher that my sketches were too “sketchy”. But that’s the point here. It’s not a finished drawing, it’s not even something I am going to scan into the computer to trace. It’s just mental reference. The idea that if I put a circle here and a square here, then I can make…something.

It’s not revelvatory, it’s not deep. It’s just a sketch. And that’s the step I was missing.

And now, here is a surfing whale. This was not sketched beforehand. But it's a whale. And it's surfing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I’ve not been blogging a lot due to my current lack of inspiration. Or rather…laziness. No, no, it’s a lack of inspiration but only during my typical blogging hours. I don’t often blog from home and I don’t moblog. It’s a certain time of the day or nothing and lately, it’s been nothing. But only on the blog front. OK, honestly, I just want to see how many times I can use a permutation of blog here…

Annnnnnyway…although I claim not to have made any resolutions, that is, my friends, a total LIE. I am a liar and I lie. I did make two. One was to read more books so as not to be ashamed at the end of the year when I look back and realize that I only read like…three books…all year. Eh, it wasn’t that bad, but I didn’t read much two years ago, I did better last year and this year, I am on my fourth book…and it’s nice. And it’s not that I am reading for numbers or volume, just that I sometimes, at the end of the day, I am tired and the idea of thinking is painful. But that’s just silly. I really enjoy reading and I always have so why was I not doing it? Dunno. But now I am again it’s been nice. Currently it’s Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham. I’ve had the book on hand for a little while but the other night I was watching a bit of Twelfth Night and heard the line “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” and it triggered something in my brain so that when I finished my previous book I began rooting around for this one. I’m not very far into yet but I am enjoying what I’ve read.

And there has been some new music as well. I finally jumped on to that Wilco bandwagon and I was only just now listening to Sky Blue Sky and thinking “Oh, so this it what it would sound like if the Beatles and Bob Dylan made a baby together.” Scary thought, good music. (The cd ended and I have moved on to a little Mazzy Star to type by.)

It’s been tough at times to want to read when I have Jane Austen on Masterpiece Theatre though. Actually, I didn’t really enjoy the newest incarnation of Persuasion, but so far (20 minutes in) I am FINALLY enjoying Northanger Abbey, which is a tough one to like for me. I find that as a novel it takes some understanding for it to work as it is primarily a parody of the popular Gothic fiction of the time of it’s writing. However, from what I have seen of this newest version, it “gets it” and I am looking forward to watching the rest.

The other resolution?

Eh, I’ll get to that later.


Guinness Truffles

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 pound milk chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Guinness Stout
Cocoa powder
1 pound dark chocolate for coating

Melt butter and cooking chocolate over hot water. Add cream and whisk until mixed well. Remove from heat and stir in Stout. Chill until firm.
Melt dark chocolate over hot water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.
With chilled chocolate and stout mixture, make 1-inch balls with a spoon and by rolling between your cocoa-dusted hands.
Dip balls in warm dark chocolate until coated. Place in a plate of cocoa power, roll to coat and refrigerate until very firm. Store in layers in an airtight container, placing a piece of parchment paper between the layers. Store truffles in the refrigerator.

Ok, now, here is how I do it:

I use the almost the same proportions but I always make a double batch and I never, ever use milk chocolate. I would encourage you to use semi-sweet chocolate, or the darkest that you can tolerate. These should not be “sweet” truffles, they work best, in my opinion, when they are pretty dark and almost bitter, but not like bittersweet chocolate. They should have an “edge”.

I don’t melt my chocolate on the stovetop anymore, but by all means, if that is how you are most comfortable, go for it. I use the microwave and I do it in 30 second bursts, stirring every 30 seconds. The tricky thing about chocolate is that it will hold it’s shape longer than you expect, so you need to stir to make sure it’s not burning.

When your chocolate and butter are melted and you add the cream, the mixture will look hopeless and curdled. FEAR NOT! Stir. Keep stirring. Stir some more and then, all of the sudden, it will become glossy and beautiful and you will wonder why you were worried.

Now, when I say “almost the same proportions” it is because I will attempt to get as much Guinness into these things as possible. I start with the recommended two tablespoons and continue to add until I don’t think it will take anymore…and then I add some more. This year I think I got about 6 or 7 tablespoons of stout in there. Like I said, more bitter than sweet.

Let the ganache (that’s what this is, a basic ganache) cool in the fridge. It will become firm but not solid. When you are ready to roll, I suggest you plan on doing it in batches. The ganache will soften and when it gets too soft, it’s just a mess.

I also suggest that you set yourself up before you start as this part is spectacularly messy. I cover the counter with waxed paper and I chill a cookie sheet and cover that with waxed paper as well. I keep two paper towels handy, a damp one for wiping my hands and a dry one for turning on the sink, because you will get covered with cocoa and chocolate and you will make a mess, I promise, and it’s just easier to have something NOT covered in chocolate with which to turn on the tap. I also like to pour myself a drink before I get started because I don’t want to have to mess around with washing my hands just so I can get a little water…or cocktail…whatever. (Finish off the Guinness, it shouldn’t go to waste.)

So dust your hands with cocoa, grab a portion of the ganache and roll it into balls. I go for somewhere between a small walnut and a hazelnut. Not huge, as they are very rich. You’re not looking for perfection here, you just want a rough spherical shape. Then roll the ball in a little cocoa, tapping off any excess. This will help keep them from getting completely oozy as they sit on the counter.

After all the truffles are rolled and covered with cocoa, I like to “cure” them a little. If I have time, I will leave them in the fridge overnight, loosely wrapped. You do want them to firm a little and get slightly dry on the outside. When I don’t have enough time to do that, I just chill them for as long as I can before dipping. You’ll be fine either way but you will probably have to dip them in batches as they do soften quickly.

Now, if you have never dipped candy before I have got some tips that I learned the hard way. I’ve been doing this for a number of years and I found a method that works for me, but it took me a while. So here are a few things to keep in mind…

Tempering chocolate seems like a frou-frou step. Believe me, it’s not. This article ( is very helpful. I have managed a kind of faux tempering that worked really well for me this year and you might find that it works for you. I melt the chocolate in the microwave, just as I did to make the ganache (only no butter this time) in 30-second increments, until it is easy to stir…and I can’t say this part strongly enough…DO NOT STIR IT WITH A WOODEN SPOON!!! I am a foolish girl and I have done this several times and you’d think I’d learn but no. At this point any moisture touching your chocolate will cause it to seize and that sucks. And wood holds moisture and there you go, you end up with a pound of seized chocolate that you can’t use for dipping. Anyway, as you stir your almost but not quite melted chocolate, add a handful of unmelted chocolate and continue to stir until it’s all uniformly glossy and lovely and melty. I don’t think that this is technically TEMPERING chocolate since we are not dealing with actual temperatures and all but it worked for me really well this year and kept my coating chocolate smooth and shiny throughout the whole process.

And a side note here: when I say “coating chocolate” I mean real, actual chocolate that you will be using for coating your truffles. Please don’t use compound chocolate coating, like you could buy at a craft store. These truffles deserve to be dipped in a good, rich chocolate and compound chocolate coating (or confectioner’s chocolate) just doesn’t have the same flavor.

Ok, so now your truffles are “cured” your chocolate is “tempered” and it’s time to dip. I use a…dipping thing. Not the fork kind, the round kind. It works for me. I have tried regular forks and spoons and doing it in my hands but I have had the best luck with the ring thing. (One thing to mention though, if your truffle centers have gotten soft and your chocolate is really hard, they will start to melt onto the ring. If that happens, just chuck the centers back in the fridge for a few minutes.) Dip your chocolates one at a time, allowing the excess to drip off a bit before placing them on a wax paper covered tray. If everything has gone well up to this point, they should become firm and glossy rather quickly.

I have decorated these many different ways, sometimes with a few pretty white non pareils, sometimes with a cocoa nib, but my preferred method is with a dab of white chocolate, to represent the foamy head on a nice pint of Guinness.

There you go, Guinness Truffles, suitable for gifting. And because of the chocolate coating, they travel pretty well. They should be stored in the fridge but I haven’t had any problems with them spoiling during shipping. And my mom says that they are best served at room temperature, but that’s up to you.

Good luck. I hope you like them. Me, not so much. But man, I did like the caramels I made this year, and if I can find the recipe I used, I’ll share that too.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Random things I got for Christmas (not a comprehensive list):

Cookbooks! Including but not limited to Veganomicon, Vegetables Every Day, Nigella Express, Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking, Mission: Dinner! and a british cookbook that finally explains how to make a floating island

A unicorn

My grandmother’s gold bangle bracelet

Socks…lots and lots of socks

The tiniest damn USB drive I have ever seen

Patsy Cline box set

A sweatshirt that reads “Lead me not into temptation, especially bookstores.”

A tiny chest of drawers with jester-slippered feet


Whiskey flavored coffee

Blueberry wine

DVDs including the second season of Futurama, the second season of House of Eliot and 28 weeks later

2 rugs

A lotus lamp

The world’s greatest slippers!

Too many other awesome things to mention.



Just ugh.

I’ve been sick. I am still a little sick but a lot tired. It’s been one of those kinds of sick. It’s really only a cold. I don’t feel so awful. It’s not that bad, you’re just a big wimp . But then it goes on…and on. And I am now at the point where I almost don’t feel the need to lie down every ten minutes, which for some reason, I did feel, but never did. Which may explain why this particular bit of crud had decided to hang around so long.

Anyway, I’ve been sick. I am almost better. I will be better soon. Until then, I am taking a page from snarkydork:

What I am reading: I am trying to read more this year than I did last year and far more than I did the year before. And I am on my third book of the year, so that’s a step in the right direction. Right now it’s Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. It’s ok. It’s a Y.A. novel and in a lot of ways it reads like a Y.A. novel but there’s nothing wrong with that. I am 191 pages into a 498 page book and I don’t feel like throwing it away, so…I guess it’s ok. But at the same time, I am not yet thrilled. We’ll see.

I am also reading the Herbivore travel issue. If you’ve never seen Herbivore magazine, I think it’s worth taking a look even if you aren’t vegan, which I am not either. Somewhere in my internet travels I came across mentions of it and I got intriguied and tracked some copies down. It is a really nicely produced magazine. It’s pretty heavy on words, not so much the slick and shiny mag, so it reads more like a book. This issue in particular as it is square bound and chunky and, in fact, their first print issue in… a year, I think. They had gone all-digital and it looks like now they will do both digital and print. In general, I think they are a pretty well written mag. Not being a vegan, or even a vegetarian, I feel a little strange sometimes but even when I don’t agree with some of their political stands, I have to remember that I rarely agree with anyone’s political stands, so…you know…grain of salt and all. In the past they have featured musicians, artist and writers that I am very fond of (Jonathan Richman? Hell yeah!) so I keep coming back.

Next? Well, I am looking for some inspiration and when one needs inspiration, where does one go? Well, to Stephen Fry, of course! The Ode Less Traveled was given to me for my birthday and I’ve been saving it for that extra boost when I need it…looks like I need it now.

What I am watching: It has occurred to me that the writer’s strike is not hitting me all that hard. I like television and I watch a lot of television, but…eh. If it’s not on, I probably won’t turn it on. And I don’t really feel like I am missing anything there hasn’t been any “must see tv” for me since Buffy. That said, I am finally catching up on the stuff on my DVR. Now that the new season of Medium has begun, I am finally watching the last season. And Rick Steve’s travel show has been featuring the UK so I’ve been recording those when I can’t watch them “live.” There’s also a new Jamie Oliver series on Food Network and Masterpiece Theatre is running Jane Austen shows so I really don’t feel at all unentertained. Oh yeah, and there is always a book.

I did watch a few movies recently, but since I can’t remember what they were I’m going to assume that they weren’t that good. I read the shooting script for Juno and enjoyed it well enough and I am currently reading The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and enjoying that too. I figure I am more likely to read movies then see them so I am taking advantage of Fox and Miramax offering scripts online. By the way, I haven't seen The Namesake but I did read the book and it was very good. I am hoping the script lives up.

What’s next? Well, Stephen Fry again, of course! The box set of Jeeves and Wooster appeared under my Christmas tree and I am looking forward to breaking that in.

What I am listening to: Right now? Iron and Wine which is reminding me of Simon and Garfunkel. Generally? Well, a lot of Ella Fitzgerald. You can’t go wrong there. And along with some Stephen Fry under the tree, I found an awful lot of Patsy Cline, so I am thinking there will be a country-fried good time around here soon. You did know that it’s wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk Angels, didn’t you?

Actually, as much as I need inspiration, I need music. I’ve recently ordered some new (to me) stuff, including the Waterboys and the Doves, bands I know and like but have never listened to at length. I need to get that new Radiohead…what else do I need? Any suggestions? You can see that my musical tastes are fairly eclectic. What have you heard lately that you think I might like?

What I’m working on: Did I mention I’ve been sick? Did I mention that I need some inspiration? Well, as soon as these valentines are done, it’s back to work on my personal project…I hope. BUT, I did just by myself a little tiny graphics tablet thingy. The kind with a stylus? I don’t know how it will work for me, but I am curious to see what comes of it.

What I had for lunch: leftover chicken and dumplings and a Minneola. The chicken dumplings were actually better as leftovers than they were for dinner. But I really can’t figure out why.

What new blogs I’ve been reading: SemiCircular Vegan makes me laugh out loud. Russell Davies is ever entertaining and Downbeat is…well…downbeat.

So, what have you been up to?

Hmmm…this Iron and Wine is starting to remind of Crosby, Still and Nash now…

Thursday, January 03, 2008


This (last) year's Christmas cd cover.


I am sniffly. I have a pathetic cold. Of course I do, I traveled on a plane with my husband for many hours. He has a cold too, only his is more sniffly and pathetic than mine. Of course it is.

Christmas was nice, traveling was ok, Weather was there, but snow wasn’t. Gifts were exchanged and merry was made and all was well. Returning took longer than expected but was not unreasonably long. And then the colds set in and New Year’s eve involved NyQuil, the cocktail of choice among my party set and (FINALLY) watching the two hour season finale of…Burn Notice. You know, that show that ended like twenty years ago? Well, many months ago, anyway. And now I am eagerly awaiting its return because if there is anything better than Jeffrey Donovan being a smartass, it’s Bruce Campbell and Jeffery Donovan being smartasses together.

There are no resolutions available for comment but there has been the purchase of a datebook, which figures into at least one, if not two resolutions. And there has been a massive grocery shopping trip which involved many fruits and vegetables being purchased. There are books stacked up to be read and cookbooks awaiting little flags to signify interest in various recipes, many involving new and exciting vegetables. The dust, however, still sits thick on every available surface, the pre-holiday laundry is yet to be put away, a suitcase is still in the middle of the living room and the trees (plural…did I mention that the cat got her own?) disgust me and I want them gone (they are fake, not shedding needles on the desperately-in-need-of-a-vacuuming carpet).

Obviously none of my resolutions involve cleaning.

Oh, I will be back shortly, when I sneeze less. And I will provide a recipe, as requested, for the Guinness Truffles, just in time for…I don’t know, Valentine’s Day maybe? And I will tell you all about my presents because I know how much you care, and…and…ah, whatever. I gotta go blow my nose.