What shall I do?

I know I want to run a 5k and half marathon. Okay, so I want to run, but I will end up power walking instead. Maybe try out some new ethnic cuisines. Travel to some new spots. Try some new classes. Support a new charity. Some may be exciting adventures, some may be boring. I welcome your suggestions for something new to try.

Monday, February 27, 2012

#29 - My Hats Off to You!

Some of you know I am a miniaturist.  I have a line of miniatures I make or repurpose for Wee Forest Folk displays called Of Mice & Minis.  I belong to a miniature club and attend miniature shows and events.  I have been very fortunate living in an area with some active miniaturists who are either rock stars or good friends of rock stars in the miniature world.  If you don't believe me, just ask my fellow mouser and miniaturist Lee who often drools at opportunities that fall into my lap.

Saturday an artist who is teaching a workshop in Portland in a few months offered the workshop to us locals as a practice run. This miniature artist makes miniature tatted doilies, hats and other adorable items.  This happened to be a hat class where we made four 1/4" scale hats.  For those that don't know, a typical dollhouse is 1" scale, meaning 1" = 12".  Quarter scale is 1/4 that size, 1" = 48", so we are talking tiny.  Good light and reading glasses are essential to this kind of work.
I normally just buy something like this if I am decorating a shop or room we have made at one of our events.  But it seemed like a good idea to learn how to make these as I could adapt them to 1/2" scale to work in my mice displays. In the photo, the hat stands are a straight pin glued to a bead.  A fimo clay head with embroidery floss hair is added to make the platform for the hats.  Believe it or not, I found one of the hardest things to be gluing the pins to their bases.  They just did not want to stick together, despite using super glue.  They ended up a bit more crooked than I would have liked and I lagged behind the other students.  I finally got them together though and could advance onto the actual making of the chapeaus.

The hats themselves are just a scrap of fabric with a bit of glue brushed on them to give them some flexible rigidity.  The workshop she will be teaching is for the four seasons so she did a winter, spring, summer and fall hat.  After molding the fabric to the heads, you shape the hats and then add bits of feather, greenery, beads and other trim.  All in all the class took about 4 hours, including a lunch break.  I went a little flamboyant on my hats, but I think it makes them look fun. They will look fantastic in the dress shop we are making for our next State Day project.

I am actually excited to give this a try in some hats that are more mouse sized and making a dress shop or dressing room display for Zelda or Flapper Franny or any of the other abundance of female mice in the Wee Forest Folk line (male mice are horribly underrepresented). They will have to wait though as the Nursery Rhyme theme of Mouse Expo 2012 will take over my studio hours.  Until then, my hats are off to you...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

#28 You say Ris"O"tto, I say Ris"ah"tto...

I love Gordon Ramsay.  Maybe not some of his dishes (look over the menu at Maze in London sometime), but the man knows food and how to pair it with success.  On Hell's Kitchen a menu staple is risotto.  Now you and I would normally order it as risOHtto, but in his charming British accent he calls it risAHtto.  It never ceases to amaze me when budding chefs on Hell's Kitchen struggle with making this dish.  If you've ever watched even one season you pretty much know you shouldn't even be applying unless you have mastered it or Chef Ramsay will be throwing your risahtto across the kitchen.

While I have tasted risotto, I have never ordered it or made it.  Seriously, I just can't seeing paying $9 for a bowl of rice.  It might taste heavenly and yes it is a bit of a pain to cook, but it's still a $9 grain.  I just can't bring myself to do it.  So to salve my rare burst of frugality, I decided I should try making risotto and see what all the fuss is about.

Risotto can be made from several varieties of short grained, high starch Italian rice.  I used Arborio because after diligent research into the best variety, it was the only type carried at my grocers. Being short grained, it absorbs the liquid and releases starch making it a creamy, almost pasta like dish. Don't expect any fluffy rice from these varieties.

Your typical rice is low maintenance.  Boil water, throw in the rice, cover and simmer for 20 minutes while leaving it alone.  But a risotto rice takes a bit more pampering.  Stock imparts greater flavor into the dish than water.  It should be cooked over a low heat with stock slowly added as it gets absorbed into the rice.  It needs to be stirred, but not so much that you break up the rice grains. After 25 minutes of babysitting your dish, you hopefully have a nice flavorful bowl of creamy, slightly al dente, risotto.

I have to say with just broth, mushrooms, parmesan cheese and a few seasonings I ended up with a fairly nice dish.  It was creamy and had a slight bite to it.  I don't consider it a first course or main dish though.  It's strictly a side dish and nothing I would ever pay $9 for in a restaurant.  It isn't something I'll fix often because frankly I'd rather use those calories on something I enjoy a whole lot more than rice.  Still, I do see the occasional risotto in my future...