Only 4 days till Valentine’s Day!

It’s Wednesday and Valentine’s Day is Sunday. And if you have young kids, the deadline may even be the day after tomorrow, since one tends to have to produce cards, etc, for all the classmates, favorite teachers, etc.

We don’t have much time.

If you are still looking for ideas– here are a few I’ve seen while casting about for inspiration. Best of luck to you all!

shortbread cookies

One surefire way to a person’s heart is via their stomach, so these heart shaped shortbread cookies should be just the thing. I’m thinking these are obligatory if you’re having any kind of Valentine’s Day party…

tissue paper sun catcher hearts

photo from MarinMommies.com

These tissue paper “sun-catchers” are a great way to add a bit of color to the otherwise dreary midwinter days…

string heart cards

photo courtesy hellowonderful.co

These string heart cards are a great way for your kids to practice handling a needle and yarn, plus the clean graphic appeals to kids and adults alike.

heart shaped crayons

photo courtesy momdot.com

I mean, what kid doesn’t want a multi colored heart shaped crayon?

newspaper hearts

photo courtesy of youaremyfave.com

These painted newspaper heart cards were the design that really spoke to us this year. We’ve made a few adjustments and are mid-production now. I promise to let you guys all know how they turn out!

felt tipped arrows

photo courtesy carolynshomework.com

Perhaps a nod to Cupid is the right way to go this year? These twig and felt arrows of course make great little toys, but they would really be amazing as a little extra touch on top of a beautifully wrapped gift that you might be thinking of handing over to that special someone…

wax crayon hearts

photo courtesy marthastewart.com

No list of holiday related crafts is complete without something from the grande dame of the handiwork universe. Martha Stewart’s wax paper and crayon hearts look beautiful hanging in the window but would also make lovely stand alone cards.

Ways-to-Use-Blow-Painted-Heart-Art6

What kid (or grown up, for that matter) doesn’t secretly want to spend all day blowing paint through straws? I’m thinking these straw blown heart cards may be the way we go next year…

Yesterday, at some point…

old stove pub

We have been passing this place by for years and finally, finally stopped in for dinner. Recently reopened, it’s a classic and slightly ramshackle Greek steakhouse with quite possibly the best and most gigantic perfectly pink-on-the-inside-charred-on-the-outside steak I’ve ever had. No surprise, as the kitchen is overseen by Colin Ambrose whose Sag Harbor spot, Estia’s Little Kitchen, is one of my all time favorite breakfast joints. Evidently the steak’s success is all about the crazy hot vintage stove. Sure, the main dish was $90, but it was dinner and then lunch again for all three members of my little family, and a happy trio we were.

We’ll be back again for sure.

Old Stove Pub
3516 Montauk Hwy
Sagaponack, NY 11932
631-537-3300
open year round

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Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

Last night’s dinner: Stir-fried beef

Stir fried beef

Stir fried beef with snow pea pods– a favorite around our house.

I try to always have about a pound of good quality beef around… cut into strips and ready to throw onto the wok. (Yep, that same wok that spent years languishing unused on the shelf is finally coming into heavy rotation.) Because when you needed dinner to be on the table 15 minutes ago, this recipe can’t be beat.

Absolutely first thing to do is get your rice going. Next, start the beef soaking in soy sauce and sesame oil. Once that stuff is happening, you just prep and chop the veggies, heat up the wok and go. It’s amazing how fast you can get a delicious and semi-exotic meal on the table.

And if you play your cards right there may even be leftovers for lunch the next day.

Melissa Clark’s Stir-Fried Beef with Sugar Snap Peas

Ingredients

1 pound lean beef, cut into 1/4-inch strips
3 tablespoons tamari or dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, more for drizzling
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed (we sometimes use snow peas, when the sugar snaps are scarce)
3 fat scallions
⅔ cup chicken broth
2 ½ tablespoons Madeira or sweet sherry
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons peanut or olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Rice, for serving
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Sriracha or other hot sauce, or rice wine vinegar for garnish
chili oil, for garnish

Preparation

In a medium bowl, mix beef, 2 tablespoons tamari, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Set aside. Thinly slice sugar snap peas crosswise into disks. Thinly slice scallions, reserving dark green parts for garnish. In a small bowl, mix chicken broth, Madeira, 2 tablespoons water, remaining 1 tablespoon tamari and cornstarch. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When pan is hot, stir-fry beef until browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer beef and any liquid to a plate. Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and when hot, add garlic and white and light green scallion parts until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add sugar snap peas and chicken broth mixture, lower heat to medium and cover. Let cook for 2 minutes. Transfer beef and juices to skillet and stir-fry 2 minutes. Serve over rice, garnished with more sesame oil, sesame seeds, dark parts of scallions, and hot sauce or vinegar and chili oil.

A little pep in your step

I was just wasting time on Facebook when I came across this amazing video. The caption (from the Studio by Kelly Facebook page) reads:

The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African American team of dancing brothers, Fayard (1914–2006) and Harold (1921–2000). With their highly acrobatic technique (“flash dancing”), high level of artistry and daring innovations, they were considered by many the greatest tap dancers of their day. Growing up surrounded by Vaudeville acts as children, they became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance and went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.

Now that I’ve shared it with you guys, my time on Facebook has been well spent.

Phew.

Monday, Monday– or more links about expanding your mind…

illustration from brainbalancecenters.com

illustration from brainbalancecenters.com

I’m not calling this a new year’s resolution or anything (besides, it’s already February!) but I would like to start stretching my brain in new directions… Here’s what I’m going to try:

Learn about the history of pop music via a beautifully visualized music timeline.

Sharpen my mind by getting the New York Times crossword puzzle directly onto my phone (or iPad, or laptop, or whatever…)

Read more. (Here are some tips I found via A Cup Of Jo on how to read 100 books a year, which is evidently not as hard as it sounds)

I never really learned to touch type, but they say it’s never too late. Here’s a keyboarding app that I’m hoping is going to get me started.

I have been wading in the kiddie pool of herbalism for a few years now, but I think this is going to be the year I dive in a bit deeper. LearningHerbs.com is a comprehensive site full of all sorts of information and online courses geared towards those of us who are looking to deepen our knowledge.

Thornton Dial, American Artist (1928 – 2016)

Thornton Dial.

Thornton Dial, self taught and internationally renowned artist, died this week at his home in Alabama. Photo courtesy of aptv.org

“Art is like a bright star up ahead in the darkness of the world… a guide for every person who is looking for something.”

Wise words, spoken from the heart by one of America’s greatest artists, Thornton Dial, who died this week at 87 years old. A self taught African American artist, Dial spent most of his professional life as a metal worker and created art in his back yard, in poverty and relative obscurity, until he was ‘discovered’ by the Atlanta folk art collector William Arnett at the age of 62.

By the mid nineties, Dial’s work was being shown in museums and galleries around the world and his reputation slowly grew, particularly among students and admirers of American folk artists. His work is now in the collections of major museums and he is widely regarded as one of the most important artists to emerge in the US during the second half of the twentieth century.

His work is complex, masterful, inspirational and intricate, and it pushes boundaries, raises uncomfortable issues and touches our hearts. He is at once “self taught” and a true master of his craft who will continue to blur the lines, categories and pigeonholes of the art world even though his time with us on the planet is over.

To dive deeper (which all of you should) check out this Studio360 podcast, this celebration of Dial’s life and work on hyperallergic, a fascinating article in the New Yorker about the complicated relationship between Dial, Arnett (his largest collector and champion) and the art world at large, and what I like to call the “official” obituary in the New York Times.

Pizza night!

pizza dough ingredients

This is basically all you need to make the highest quality pizza dough at home.

When I discovered how easy it is to make pizza at home, I inserted a weekly pizza night into our dinner rotation. Add to that the fact that it is a shared activity with your kids (who doesn’t love making a pie and pouring cheese all over it?) and the fact that the whole cooking process takes… oh… about 10 minutes, and it’s a miracle we don’t have pizza every night.

For about a year, I have been ordering frozen dough from Fresh Direct. It comes in the perfect size and it absolutely eliminates the need for any skill whatsoever. But then I saw this recipe for home made dough by the pizza gurus at Roberta’s and I found myself seized with the urgent desire to Make. My. Own. Dough. From. Scratch.

I put it off for a few weeks, and then it took me a minute to track down 00 flour (a special Italian finely ground variety) but once I had my hands on that I was off to the races. And the thing is… the dough was DELICIOUS. And really easy. Beyond really easy. I’m sure I have loads of room for improvement, but even my most basic beginner version comes in head and shoulders over the frozen stuff we’ve been eating up till now.

pizza dough pre-rise

Here’s are my first two balls of pizza dough, all mixed up and ready to rise.

I found the recipe on NY Times Cooking, and I got my confidence to go for it after watching the video that goes with it. All you need is time for the dough to rise– either overnight in the fridge or 3 – 4 hours on the counter.

pizza dough

All risen up and ready to go!

And then the rest is just tomato sauce, cheese and maybe some onions…

the finished pizza

As usual, I started eating before I remembered that I should photograph the finished product. So here is most of my pizza, which was a delicious small cheese with onions.

Here’s the recipe if you can’t deal with clicking through to the Times…

Roberta’s Pizza Dough

Ingredients

153 grams 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)
8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)
4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

Preparation

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together 200 grams (about 1 cup) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil, then pour it into flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, approximately 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.

Knead rested dough for 3 minutes. Cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)

To make pizza, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into rounds or squares. Top and bake.

Done!

I used the standard measurements (couldn’t deal with grams) and it all worked out fine… Oh and if at all possible, pre heat the cookie sheet or cast iron pan or pizza stone before you slide on the pie. It makes the world of difference.

O Canada!

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery.

The Puffin In Bloom Collection edition of Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery.

I never read Anne of Green Gables as a kid, though I was vaguely aware of the movie which aired on PBS in the mid eighties.

I had no idea what I was missing.

My daughter, attracted like a moth to a flame by the cursive gold letters and the lavender-with-pink-flowers cover, clutched this book to her chest while we were shopping for holiday gifts and literally wouldn’t put it down. So we bought it, and started to read it together the next evening.

Written in a breathless and exuberant manner that perfectly reflects the main character, author L.W. Montgomery draws us into the lovely and enchanted world that was Prince Edward Island at the beginning of the twentieth century. The story centers around an eleven year old girl who is reluctantly adopted by an elderly couple who had been hoping for a boy to help them on the farm. Her extraordinary lust for life and vivid imagination combine to create a series of adventures that do cause some trouble but mostly endear her to everyone she meets… including the reader.

But I’m sure you know all of that already, because everyone on earth has read this book (or seen the movie). I seem to be one of the rare few who missed out.

The short chapters make for perfect pre-bedtime reading (my kid is 8 which is a perfect age for this story) and the characters are as compelling as anything one might hope for. Anne’s interactions with her schoolmates are a great way to begin to open up discussions about the complexities of friendships during those crucial developmental years (and believe me, we parents can use all the help we can get) Plus I am always all for a book that celebrates imagination and creativity and the outdoors (with nary an iPad in sight!)

But most importantly, Anne of Green Gables is another one of those classic books that is secretly about girl power in all of it’s wondrous forms, whilst being cleverly disguised as a friendly Canadian from the early 1900′s. Anne is strong, adventurous and first in her class, while also being into the latest fashions and dreaming about forests full of fairies.

The story comes in all shapes and sizes, but this Puffin In Bloom Collection version, with beautiful illustrations by Anna Bond, take the experience to a whole new heirloom quality level.

Yesterday, at some point…

photo by brooke williams

Oh I really really hope they find him…

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Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.