On My Nightstand

I do not own a TV so apart from Netflix my evenings home are spent reading cookbooks, fashion magazines, biographies, and novels. Some of  the most enjoyable conversations I’ve had with friends are based on what we are currently reading. Following is what I am curling up with these days.

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The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris by Alice Drake. An elegant account of the decades long rivalry between Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.  My fashion-minded friend Crista has shared some terrific books with me over the years with this being no exception.

A signed copy of The Widow Cliquot, which I picked up at the Market Basket in Rockport, ME. The story of  Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, the woman who built a champagne empire.

Alabama Chanin Stitch Book, because I am stitching the Bloomers Reverse Applique Swing Skirt from the book.

Vogue (I’ve subscribed for years), Lula, and Harper’s Bazaar UK edition.

From the Boston Public Library Napoleon in Egypt by Paul Strathern about Napoleon Bonaparte’s ambitious military campaign at the age of 28 to establish an Eastern empire in emulation of Alexander the Great.

parita-candleFor a bit of atmosphere I have 2 Note Botanical Perfumery’s Parita candle. I love the subtle scent of Geranium, Patchouli and Eucalyptus. Check out their travel-friendly 3 ounce size.

With the Stroke of the Pen

pen3I spent a good part of my childhood trying to better my handwriting to no avail as even my name is practically indecipherable when scribbling it off in a hurry.   That said I appreciate beautiful script and hand-written letters, so it was with great delight I learned my friend Brian Willson is an expert of old penmanship who makes fonts based on historical documents.

The advantage of having Brian’s “hand-written” fonts has given me the ability to dress up event posters and promotional materials. They are also perfect for personalizing invitations, save-the-dates and envelopes.

I thought it would be fun to share some of Brian’s personality here since he was a creative force behind this blog and my website.

Brian created “American Scribe” after famous scribe Timothy Matlack, engrosser of the Declaration of Independence.   A Texan at heart, a lot of his early fonts were based on notable Texans from the early- to mid-1800s. His favorite among those he has designed is “Lamar Pen,” from  the writings of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar the 2nd president of the Republic of Texas.

In all Brian has created approximately 20 fonts, which have appeared in such places as: Dave Matthews Band CD cover art, Cheerios website, Discover Card ad, membership card for the alumni association of the University of Texas, and a current UPS ad campaign.

The license fee for each old handwriting font is $39 (a one time license fee), a pretty affordable way to create a unique identity.

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Lamar Pen is one of six old penmanship fonts Brian has created so far.

Cookies & Bars

Finally getting around to sharing a yummy recipe from the hands-on baking class “Cookies & Bars” I took with Holly Ann Pierce at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education a couple weekends ago. 

Lemon Oat Squares from the King Arthur Flour Cookbook 

Crust

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup light or dark brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (Holly recommended Red Mill’s quick cooking or partially cooked oats)

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ground in a food processor

3/4 cup all-purpose flour 

2 Tbsp orange juice

Filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk 

1-2 Tbsp lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 1/2 lemons)*the more the better

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9×13″ pan.

lemon-oat-oneTo prepare crust: Beat butter, sugar, baking powder & salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the oats, ground oats, flour & orange juice, mixing to combine. The mixture will clump. As soon as it starts to look cohesive, stop making.

Sprinkle half the mixture (generous 2 cups) into the prepared pan. Press it into the bottom of the pan, patting the crumbs firmly to make a smooth layer.

lemon-oat-twoTo prepare filling: Whisk the condensed milk, lemon zest & juice in a small bowl, stirring until smooth and thickened. Spread the filling over the crust in the pan and sprinkle with the remaining crust mixture.

For added affect sprinkle confectioners sugar on top.

Bake until light golden, about 35 – 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and cool completely then refrigerate overnight before cutting and serving.

To switch it up a bit Holly suggested putting blueberry, raspberry or blackberry preserves on top.

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Take Care of Yourself

Accepting a break up can be tough business and moving on often means calling in the cavalry, which is essentially what French artist Sophia Calle did when she received a breakup letter in an email. 

Calle’s exhibit “Take Care of Yourself” at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York City  through June 6, 2009 is a powerful response to her request to 104 women from all walks of life to interpret this letter. Chosen for their profession or skills Calle said she wanted the women to “analyze it, comment on it, dance it, sing it.”  Using multiple mediums including photography, video, and film the exhibit is an honest and engaging interpretation of this task and an invitation on an emotional journey many of us taken but been unable to dissect so completely. 

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Paula Cooper Gallery

Dill, Lemon and Goat Cheese Pesto

Photo by Dave Eskelund

Photo by Dave Eskelund

Comfort food is good for the soul and believe me Anne Mahle (chef, captain, owner historic windjammer, mother, wife, writer, avid knitter, master gardener, horseback rider and friend) is very good for mine. That woman knows how to cook!  She continues to influence what I eat and how I live my life. From recommending Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma to being the voice of reason on the other end of the phone when I’ve just dumped ALL the seed packet contents into a small pot she offers humor and some pretty frank very good advice. 

Visit her blog Artichokes & Asparagus for yummy tales from home and at sea and read her weekly column The Maine Ingredient in The Portland Press Herald.

Annie’s Dill, Lemon and Goat Cheese Pesto

1/2 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
1/2 cup lightly packed dill leaves
1/4 cup pinenuts
2 tablespoons goat cheese  (I prefer Appleton Creamery avail @ farm stands in Midcoast, ME)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic
several grinds of fresh black pepper
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or with a mortar and pestle.

Makes 1/2 cup.  

dill from my garden

dill from my garden

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by Sharon Kitchens

Weekend Truffles

Sunday was spent contentedly eating chocolate truffles thanks to my friends Kate and Steve of Black Dinah Chocolatiers, who down for a quick visit from Maine, brought some of their homemade chocolate goodness with them. Partially because they are artisan chocolate makers who support local agriculture and think pretty much solely outside any box not containing chocolate we are kindred spirits.  I admire their partnership, passion and craftsmanship. 

Inspired by our walk earlier in the day under a canopy of pink flowering dogwoods Kate dressed the table with pink leaves and my antique serveware creating a feeling of spring. After my friends were seated Kate instructed us on the fine art of chocolate making, the distinction between French and Belgian style truffles, and how to observe the taste. With an understanding of what we were sampling we closed our eyes and journeyed from Venezuela (birthplace of cacao) to Aix-en-Provence (fields of lavender). 

0-20 Degrees Latitude  (infused w/ locally roasted organic coffee beans)

0-20 Degrees Latitude (infused w/ locally roasted organic coffee beans)

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Lavender (infused w/ dried organic lavender blossoms)

In honor of Kate and Steve’s visit I baked the Chocolate Caramel Tart from Marlow & Sons featured in the April 2009 issue of  Saveur.

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Andre Baranowski for Saveur

Cultural Direction

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Robert Indiana, HOPE, 2008; collection of Michael McKenzie

The Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland, ME) will present a major exhibition on renowned American artist Robert Indiana drawn almost exclusively from his extensive holdings at his home and studio on the island of Vinalhaven, ME.  I’ve been told this will be the first time some of his work will be seen publicly in 30 years!

Kudos to the curators at The Portland Museum of Art (Portland, ME) who always put together remarkably clever and interesting exhibitions. I’m thrilled my friend Joyce Tenneson, an extraordinary woman, teacher and photographer, will be featured there this summer in “Joyce Tenneson: Polaroid Portraits”. 

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, MA) is a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon. The intrigue of the great theft, the flower filled courtyard, El Jaleo by John S. Sargent and her collection of letters by historic figures in the Long Gallery compels one to this creative home. 

Ongoing shows at the Museum of Science (Boston, MA) include Bees featuring a glassed-in-beehive, In the Butterfly Garden (visitors can walk among the butterflies!) and Colossal Fossil: Triceratops Cliff a 65 million-year-old fossil.

pictures_generation2The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) exhibition “Pictures Generation” explores how images shape our perceptions of the world and ourselves.  Focus is on photographic works from 1974 – 1984 by 30 contemporary artists including Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman. Through August 2.  While there check out the Greek and Roman galleries and collection of contemporary furniture.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s (D.C.) iconic collection includes rockets, missiles, Mercury Friendship 7, Apollo 11 command module Columbia, airplanes, educational exhibits on spaceflight and a planetarium.

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(C) Richard T. Nowitz

Lighten Up

The past week of rain and fog has provided me with a reason to lighten up. Thankfully my home has ample windows so I am able to take advantage of day lighting, however as on recent days when I need to flip the switch it puts a smile on my face to think about the shining options we have to illuminate our space.

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Davis Square Lofts, a creative loft community in Somerville, MA, uses galvanized plate, incandescent lamps from Hi-Lite Mfg.Co. The lofts portray an elegant tug of war between industrial cityscape and green landscape so why not use lights that look like they belong on the porch in the dining room?

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The Greenwich Hotel in NYC has redefined what a stylish bathroom should be.  Each of the 80 plus water closets are laid out in Carrara marble or Moroccan tile and illuminated with playful lighting like this example reminiscent of a cake dome.

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Alabama Chanin, a lifestyle company best known for their hand-stitched fashion, also produces home products. This hand-crafted chandelier made from found items that have been recycled and wired to form this one-of-a-kind light was constructed by talented artisans from Florence, Alabama.

about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.

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