I was doing some paperwork (and waiting for my pizza) when I came across my student ID and class receipt from Lillstreet Art Center. In one week I’ll be starting my class!!! Eeeeek. Scary. And yet I can’t think of anything more hopeful for a new year than the learning of new skills.

It’s a Good Thing.


“Chance is the fool’s name for fate.”

If you’re a fan of the films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers you’ll recognize that title. It’s from “The Gay Divorcee.”

Fred and Ginger were mainstays of my New Year’s Eve celebrations for many years along with pizza from Pizza Hut. And this year, TCM is running a mini-marathon of Fred-and-Ginger films starting at 8:00 EST. The lineup:

  • The Gay Divorcee
  • Shall We Dance
  • Top Hat
  • Swingtime
  • Carefree

I can’t imagine a better way to see in the new year. And on that note, I want to wish you all the very best for a great 2008. May you have an all-singing, all-dancing good time!

Poking around on eBay

And elsewhere last night. Came to the conclusion that Rachel Ashwell has a lot to answer for with “shabby” chic. Not since Anne Rice used the word “preternatural” to death, has any word been so egregiously overused as “shabby.”

eBay sellers take note: Just because it’s broken, dirty or otherwise funky and unlikeable, it’s not necessarily shabby chic.

Sleepless in front of the computer

I really was going to go to bed about an hour and a half ago, but I made the mistake of poking around my RSS feeds to see what was new, and discovered a new blog. Okay, new to me. Jennifer Ramos has obviously been around for a while now, and reading her old posts is what’s been keeping me up. She’s a tireless design blogger, environmentally aware (Which means I now have twenty tabs open in Firefox, and no hope of sleeping any time soon.) and a designer with an eye for the quirky and colorful. The image to the left is from her line of cards over at her site, Made by Girl.

Now I really need to go read.

Merry Christmas

2003_1224_203821AA (If you’d prefer to substitute another celebration for Christmas, that’s fine with me. The spirit of the season should be one of tolerance and inclusion.)

I borrowed the following from a friend over on Live Journal. If you’re looking for some green, sustainable, renewable gifts that don’t clutter the house and never need dusting:

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect. – Oren Arnold

May the light of the season flood your lives. May your days be filled with joy and warmth.


My friend, Suzanne, is home for the holidays and just posted her bread-baking adventures. In spite of all my good intentions I now feel the urge to make bread, but what I want is a cardamom loaf, or cardamom buns. I want a warm, fragrant loaf of bread with a slight crunch of sugar and almonds on top. But I’m still cleaning up after the gallon of soup and gallon of applesauce/chutney I made on Friday! There’s a soup pot big enough to hold several cats sitting in my sink, filled with hot, soapy water. I must clean before I can cook again.

Perhaps I will bake on Christmas day. As a treat to myself. And the house will smell like heaven. A cardamom braid, saffron buns.

I love to cook.

And again, process

Rifka is my mosaic mentor, by which I mean she not only produces some delightful pieces, often with unexpected materials, but she blithely goes ahead and covers her door frame with broken Talavera tiles and grout color experiments. I love that assurance and devotion to her work.

Recently she sent me a photo which I wholeheartedly embraced not only because I found it both gorgeous and whimsical but because I have collected more buttons than any one human being should ever own. I couldn’t help looking at this photo and thinking: “Wow, that awful pink lamp would look fantastic with a mosaic of buttons!” So I started firing off questions and Rifka, bless her, has been answering them, and sending on illustrations to show me what she means. I asked her if I could share the photos and she agreed. I think you’ll find the transformation as wonderful as I do.

Left: Italian pitcher. Nice enough, but not a Rifka pitcher by any stretch.

Below: Work begins. In the background you can see her famous flower mosaic. She tells me she adheres her materials with silicone, even using caulk. I’m going to give it a shot. I’ve used E-6000 in the past which is great for jewelry, but hellish for big projects.

Later views. Around the top, she’s using aquarium stones. She also says she’s using Diamond Glaze, Wellbond, Thinset, Liquid Nails… I like a “whatever works” approach. *g*

And then, the finished piece! I just loved this. I’m going to have to make a button mosaic before I get too much older. I just love the way the aquarium stones have taken on a frothy quality now that they’ve been painted and glazed. It’s the sort of thing I look at and wonder how I could reproduce this in a ceramic piece.

Pompeiian Red

Is not a wine.

It’s an exhibit of 100 paintings from Pompeii, currently on view at the National Museum of Rome. Some of the paintings, such as the one to the left — theatrical masks — are in surprisingly good condition with rich, vivid color quite unlike the washed out, time-worn pieces which have been shown in the past.

The scope of the images seems to be rather broad, showing not only religious imagery, but scenes from everyday life in Pompeii. What I find most intriguing is how much more contemporary some of them seem, as if they had been painted by Renaissance masters instead of nameless artisans working fifteen centuries earlier. This one, a fresco of Theseus, has in fact, been compared to the paintings of Raphael. (He of the now ubiquitous pensive cherub painting, more properly known as a detail of the Sistine Madonna.)

But the painting which most pleased me was a detail of a larger fresco. It depicts a nightingale among roses, and it’s so fresh and simple in its beauty that it could almost be contemporary. I wish I could just drop everything and catch a flight to Rome to see this exhibit. The Pompeiian paintings are so fragile, they’re rarely moved from Naples. To see them together like this, and lovingly restored, what a treat that would be.


One of the more interesting aspects of reading art blogs is sharing, albeit from a distance, the process of creating art. The most interesting art blogs don’t just share finished work, but work in stages, and often the thought which goes on as the work progresses.

So it is with my friend, Nancy who is currently at work on a piece called “Afternoon at Cafe Fiore.” And while I’m enjoying watching this one take shape, the one I find really interesting is her Sunflowers piece.

It began here with a fairly static composition in watercolor, which is not her usual medium. By her next post on the subject, it was clear she was struggling with the way she was working. And then suddenly she seemed to find her step. At least I think so because what I’m seeing here is miles beyond the flat, static beginning. It’s got life and energy, and she’s given her colors free rein.

When I was learning to paint… wait, let me rephrase that: When I was attending painting classes, I had a teacher who I liked very much, but who was kind of a stickler for using media in the context of their physical qualities. Watercolors should be transparent and delicate, acrylics should be flat and bold, etc. And while I do get what she was trying to teach us — how to get the most out of your medium — I love watching people work with their media in ways which are not wholly conventional. I think Nancy has achieved that here in “Sunflowers.” Yes, there’s transparency and a looseness commonly associated with watercolor, but I think it goes well beyond traditional watercolor method in the vividness of her color and the strength of the line. I think it’s exciting.


I blogged about this over on my Live Journal, but completely forgot to post here. The fact is I was probably still so full there was no room for my brain to work. As it was, I pretty much figured I’d never have to eat again. Because last Saturday I was treated to a Julbord at Tre Kronor. A Julbord is the traditional Scandinavian Christmas smörgåsbord, and when I say smörgåsbord I do not mean a few plates of lunch meat and cheese and a hot dish or two, I mean the real deal, four-course, oh-dear-god-I-ate-too-much-is-there-any-more-rice-pudding? smörgåsbord.

Tre Kronor is one of the few genuine Scandinavian restaurants left in a city which once had a thriving Scandinavian community. Ann Sather’s, which has not been owned by Ma Sather in decades, still serves up brown beans and Swedish pancakes, but tends to cater to the upscale market in Wrigleyville, Lakeview and Andersonville. Svea, once excellent, has apparently gone down the tubes (I haven’t been there since I worked in Andersonville, but I heard this from one of my dining companions last night, and since June is a daughter of Karlskoga, I’m gonna take that as gospel.) Wikstroms is gone since my mom’s old buddy, Ingvar Wikstrom, retired and Erikson’s is still more a deli than anything else. And while you can get glögg over at Andie’s Middle Eastern restaurant all winter, it’s not what I’d call a real Scandinavian dining experience.

Every year at Jul/Christmas Tre Kronor puts on this kickass Julbord which is so good that the folks I was with are actually contemplating going to the Christmas Eve one instead of making their own. Now for those of you not familiar with how these things work, let me break down the experience into manageable units. You start with a tiny cup of glögg. Glögg is a kind of mulled, fortified wine drink served in teensy cups because more than a couple of ounces can seriously impair your ability to walk, and therefore to eat, since the Julbord experience is serve-yourself. I’ve been served teacups filled with glögg and can tell you that my mind remained crystal clear, but appeared to disconnect from my legs entirely, rendering me unable to get up off the sofa for several hours.

The first course is the herring course. The herring course also includes other fishy goodness, but it’s traditionally mostly herring. Last night there were nine different sorts of herring on the bord.

  • Glass Blower’s Herring
  • Mustard Herring (SO good that I’m actually jonesing for it now.)
  • Herbed Herring
  • Matjes Herring
  • Curried Herring
  • Hus Fru Herring
  • Tomato Herring
  • Dill Herring

I managed to try five types plus the traditional new potatoes, the gravadlax and smoked salmon, as well as the oysters and shrimp. I also cheated a bit and piled on the pickled cukes because if there’s anything I dearly love it’s pickled cucumbers. Also the pickled beets because, hello? Yum. And a couple of pieces of crispbread because you need crispbread in your diet. I have to tell you, all the herring was excellent, the gravadlax was heavenly and the cukes were to die for.

Step two: Discard plate, pick up clean one. Head for the salads and cold meats and cheeses. Last night there were shrimp, citrus, potato and crab meat salads, thin sliced meats including Goteborgskorv and sult (*shudder*) a delicious country-style pate, and a generous tray of cheese including Danish blue and brie. For me, there was more pickled cuke as well.

Interim step: Recognize that there is still the hot course to come and decide not to go back for more herring, gravadlax, pate and cucumbers.

Step three: Pick up clean plate. Head for the chafing dishes where you find:

  • Meatballs with or without gravy
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Red cabbage
  • Ham
  • Roast pork with prunes
  • Biff à la Lindstrom
  • Lutefisk (Oh yes, it’s not Christmas w/o lutefisk in all its glory.)
  • Jansson’s frestlese (literally Jansson’s temptation, a heady casserole of potatoes and anchovies)
  • Brown Beans
  • Prinskorv
  • Potatiskorv (potato sausage, and damn good potato sausage, too.)
  • lingonberries

Interim step two: Wonder what on earth possessed you to take so much Jansson’s frestlese. Observe that the lutefisk isn’t a patch on the stuff made by June and have her add that neither is the Jansson’s frestlese. Think to yourself that the latter is still pretty good.

Interim step three: Wonder how on earth you’re going to eat rice pudding.

At this point the lights go down and one of the servers comes in wearing a white gown and a crown of candles, singing the Sankta Lucia song. It’s very pretty, though I can’t help but wonder how many hapless Scandinavian girls have been set on fire on St. Lucia’s day. I was also rendered half blind because a photographer for Metromix was there, snapping a thousand photos in the darkened room. You know what that’s like.

Dessert follows. Mercifully it’s limited to: rice pudding (There’s a law somewhere that says it’s not Swedish if there’s no rice pudding. Pam reports that at the last Daughters of Sweden meeting she attended, someone read a report from the Rice Pudding Committee.) Creme bruleé, butter cookies, chocolate mousse cups, more lingonberries, mixed nuts and clementines. There’s also good Swedish coffee.

Pentultimate step: Wonder why you ate so much. Revise that to wondering how you ate so much. Pay check. Make no move to leave because you fear your legs will not support your weight.

Final step: Stumble out into several inches of fresh snow, and think how beautiful it all is. Then think it sure sucks to have to walk through this to the car, knowing that if you fall down you’ll lie there like a beached whale until you freeze to death.

I don’t actually mean to complain. Everything was delicious and it really was my own fault that I ate that much. It did my Danish side much good to commune with native foods, too. If you’re local and want a real Swedish meal, I really recommend Tre Kronor, especially their Julbord which is tremendously impressive.