Monday, March 29, 2010

Springtime Sweets

I improvised an amazing desert tonight that I had to share. To quote Clifford the Dog "it's a fireworks of flavor."
I had a splendid dinner of grilled mozzarella and arugula- pesto sangwish. As always after dinner I started wanting "sumfin' sweet". I have to say that I was honestly tired of chocolate...I know, right? That almost never happens.
Suddenly the idea came together and I knew what I had to do.
Figgy jam.
I baked up a batch of shortcakes, topped them with dalmatian orange and fig jam and a dreemy pillow of whipped cream--humina, humina.
Here's my recipe for a dessert that is fit for any Easter table (or anytime really...they're just good.)

You will need:
1 1/3 c. flour, 1T baking powder, 2T sugar,pinch salt, 5T sunflower oil, 1/2 c. cream
Figgy Jam ( I used Dalmatian Orange and Fig Spread, found next to the $300 wheel of cheese at the grocery store)
Whipped cream
orange flower water

To make the shortcakes, combine the dry ingredients. Add oil and use hands or forks to work the oil in. It should look clumpy. Add the cream and cut in with forks. Roll into a log and with sharp serrated knife, cut into rounds about 1/2" thick. Place on baking stone or well greased sheet and bake at 425 about 12 minutes or until golden.
While shortcakes are baking, pour about 1T of orange flower water, 1t of vanilla and 1Tof sugar into a bowl. Pour in about 1 1/2c. whipping cream. (I eyeballed it.) Whip cream until peaks form.

Allow shortcakes to cool briefly. Then dollop on a bit of figgy jam, and drop on a biiiiiig dollop of orange flower cream on top of that. SNARF!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cincinnati Weather--WTF(udge)?

This is one single, very expressive picture that describes perfectly the weather around the Cincinnati/Northern KY area. Greenery, spring blossoms, and snow.
Walking to work on Thursday, I had my umbrella ripped apart and generally rendered useless by a torrential rainstorm. I arrived dripping wet and my shoes were sloshy all night.
Leaving work at 4am, a friend and I had a jawdropping moment when we realized it was friggin' snowing.
Seriously? Weren't we done with that?
Apparently not. In fact, I nearly slipped on my porch, which had the nerve to be icy.
The next morning I awoke to brilliant sunshine and the first thing I saw out my window was a tree, suddenly misted over with green.
Is it just us? Or is the weather just catawompus everywhere?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Visit to Manchester, NH

This week one of my sisters and I travelled to Manchester, NH to visit my brother. We were quite excited, because he's lived there a couple of years, but we hadn't seen him there yet. He usually comes by to see us. It was a real treat to see him in his new home.
Unlike myself, he is very quiet and clean and organized. His place always smells like some kind of wood or resin and he has a gift for incorporating nature effortlessly into his home without making it seem cluttered. ( I took lots of notes, as I am trying to cultivate that tendency!)
We started our first day with a glorious walk. He lives right in front of the Merrimack River and we had a ramble by the train tracks, gulping in the fresh, slightly salty air.
Speaking of gulping things down, from almost the instant we got there, until the time we left, he spoiled us with a feast of fat things! He had filled the house with olives, cheese, good bread, chocolate and wine (Pomegranate Juice for me!).

It was fortunate we took so many walks or we would have had to waddle home!
One of the coolest things we did was go to a Brazilian place. It was an all you can eat kind of place, and it was seriously dangerous! They just keep bringing you food until you tell them to stop. And then you can change your mind and get more. It was like sitting in front of the mirror of Erised in Harry Potter. I didn't know if it was real, but I didn't care.
That place should be illegal.
(They also light drinks on fire there, which is neat. My brother got one.)
We did do more than just eat awesome food, of course. We took some petty fun walks around the nearby city. We found some awesome chalk drawings.
This one was my favorite!
We also went to Myths and Maidens, one of my brothers favorite shops. I love these kinds of places, and I was especially impressed by the wall of herbs, dried flowers, and resins. To quote my brother, "They have everything but Eye of Newt".Then there was music. Always lots of music whenever we all get together. Singing, dancing, laughing, reading, and crafting together was how we spent all of our nights during our visit. That was really the best part for me.
A bowlful of myrrh gets lit on fire and we chill together. Quiet reading, bead stringing, or you tube browsing ensues. We had a fine time!
Then going home time came.
Although we were sad to part from him, we had had a wonderful time. We were anxious to see our families waiting for us at home!
I was received by this beautiful bunch of Daffies, which had bloomed during my absence and the arms of a lonely hubby!
Also, our Girl Scout cookies had come in.
It was a joyous homecoming!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Ruckle Family Music Party

My sister and I have been visiting my brother in New Hampshire this week and we've been having a blast!
I'll have plenty of pics and lots of stories to share when I get back. I wanted to share a couple of video clips.
My brother is an amazing pianist! Whenever we get together there is always music. The first clip is one of me singing a song called Uninvited- one of our favorite songs. It had a fixed place on every single mix tape I made between 1998 and 2001.
Because I like to save the best for last, the second clip is a song written by my brother and sung by my amazingly gifted sister called The Dead Are Dancing. It's a beautiful song. My brother had written it and around 1996 he taught it to my sister and she stylized it and together they made this incredible piece. It's one of my favorites...I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back on Track!

So last Monday I was ready to rip my hair out. I was fortunately spurred into action by the example of a sleepy pug dog. I thought I'd follow up with an update.
My awesome sister, Rebecca , equipped with fierce mad skillz, came by and helped me get the lead out. One afternoon with her, and it was all gravy. Supplied with an awesome playlist by the Master Mixer Gweny, the three of us were a bunch of busy bees and busted out some serious cleaning/ orgainization. As a result this week is looking much brighter. (Thanks, Rebecca.)
I can report that this Monday, I left for the Muse concert in Nashville (awesome, by the way.) with a squeaky clean conscience, because although I left my hubby and five kitties to fend for themselves overnight, I left them in an equally squeaky clean apartment.
And there was joy.
Because our old computer crashed I don't have any before pictures to show, which is probably a good thing. But here are a few after pictures. I really consider these progress pictures because I don't think I'll ever be really done. After all, no matter how clean your sink is, there will always be more dishes, so to speak.
The Maintainance section of The Great Simplify Project will never be over. Drawers and Giant Tupperware are all well and good, but they'll amount to nothing if we don't put stuff in 'em.
Yeah, I really meant it when I said this place is tiny. The space we've opened up is amazing. Visitors have been's kind of funny to see. There used to be a giant table in the middle of this room. It was very unwelcoming and did not get a lot of use. It was basically a drop off point for our stuff when we came in the house. We moved the table out and moved our desk, and bookcases in. Now the room actually has a purpsose and gets used. I call it the library. Bill calls it the mancave (I'm not sure which it the manliest part, the Twilight Themed Rag Wreath or Phantom of the Opera Figurine.) because it also houses our Star Wars stuff and the Giant Gerard Butler 300 banner that we've altered to be an advert for Orbit Gum. (for a good, clean matter what!)
Our book collection, having been ruthlessly pared down, now features only the best of the best. Books on our two shelves are now stacked only one deep and stay in place. Formerly they were stacked three deep and covered the top and were stuffed in between. A few favorite photos and trinkets have found a home here as well.
Our kitchen is now quite dainty with the addition of some of my grandma's things. These soup cups were my favorite thing in her house besides my actual grandparents. Most are in the cupboard awaiting chilly days and hot homemade soup. A few were put on display.
Our spice collection, mortar and pestle have a free standing shelf all to themselves .
Supplementing our extreme lack of counter space is a butcher block from grandma's.
This is the actual piece de resistance of the Great Simplify Project. An actual bedroom. What this is is a nook off of the side of the apartment. It's very small and the only thing that ever fit in here was our bed. We had two twin mattresses we had pushed together. It took up the whole area. We got grandma's bed, which is a bit smaller, but my sister had the brilliant idea of turning it in a different direction. Now we have room in here for a dresser and an end table and a small area rug. It's quite cozy. When Gweny walked in she stopped in her tracks and said "whoa!", we're expecting a lot of that from future guests!
The headboard of our old bed became a DVD organizer! We have a zillion and they used to just hang out in a stack on the floor. We had put them on top of a bookcase, but they were stacked three deep and way too high so movies were hard to find and always falling over. Now, everything is neat and accessible.
This is where we've opened up the most space. This was the living/crafting/computer/gaming/reading/ instruments area and believe you me there wasn't room to swing a cat! (Not that we tried.)
Putting the computer and books in the other room opened things up a lot. Adding the crafting table in the corner helped as well.
A favorite orgainizational tool in this room actualy came from my grampa's tool shed. These drawer organizers are both handmade...the one on the left is made of wooden cheese boxes! It's a real treasure.

...and a great way to store findings and supplies!

I consider us finished in the grand-scheme-of-things sense, but I still have some tweaking. For instance, my other brilliant sister, Jennifer, suggested making fabric panels to hide stuff stored underneath the crafting table...a great idea that will improve the over all look to the organized room!

It's wonderful having all this space to breathe. We feel like we got an all new apartment . We actually kind of feel like dopes that we didn't think to do this before. We've been living here 5 years and never thought to toy with furniture placement.
We're feeling a nice flow in here now. It feels less chaotic. There's more light and air.
I'm glad I was done in time for spring.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sanity is a Sleepy Pug

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately.
Two and a half months ago, I got this crazy idea that it was time to get all of the junk out of my house. I shouted "Simplify!" and charged into action.
My house is still a wreck.
We certainly haven't been lazy. We got a lot of junk out. Things were going great.
I've opened up about a cubic crapton of room that I didn't know we have. My apartment ,which I considered to be about as big as a large pocket handkerchief, is actually about as big as a large pocket handkerchief with a lot of elaborate lace trimming, so that's good to know.
But then my grandpa died and my gramma decided to break up housekeeping and live in Kansas City with my uncle. She took very little with her, so she gave most of her stuff away or sold it.
Now, at the best of times it's impossible to get out of my gramma's house without a bagful of either clothes, canned goods, or giant mayonnaise jars filled with macaroni salad being pressed into our hands with grandmotherly ferocity.
Now that she was actually moving and not wanting to take anything with her, it was boxes and furniture taking the place of frozen baggies of ravioli .
So I gamely went over and accepted things she wanted me to have-- all of her fabric and art supplies. A new easel. Grampa's stuffed reindeer wreath that sang "Gramma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" every time you walked by it.
I know I've been trying to take things out, but come on!
"Sorry gramma. I don't want awesome vintage dishes, I'm simplifying."
"That's ok. I don't have room for these schoolbooks that belonged to my great grandfather."
"I don't really need your mother's rolling pin although you taught me to roll out pasta dough using that pin while you were telling me stories of your mother. Whatever."
Are you nuts? Of course I want this stuff! I'm wildly sentimental. Plus I need it. We were getting stabbed to death by the springs popping up out of our bed.
Anyway, yesterday was the last trip. We went to pick up the bed.
So, I woke up this morning with a house full of mattresses and boxsprings and boxes and books and thought to myself....oy.
Two and a half months I spend organizing the place.
I feel like I have no time lately.
Time to walk.
I put on my hoodie and lugged the first of the old mattresses downstairs to haul out to the trash before my walk.
I got outside and almost fell over the mattress. It was warm.
Can I just tell you what an awesome day it is outside? It's hella awesome.
After hauling the stupid mattress to the stupid curb, I pushed up my sleeves and took a deep breath of the warm, springy air and started moving.
I wasted a little time thinking about all the things I need to get done, but then a mercifully comic image snapped me into a new and better train of thought.
I was passing a house with a giant picture window. In the center of the window, snug and peaceful was a pug dog taking a catlike snooze on the windowsill. The sight of it tickled me.
I stood there for a moment, appreciating the image and acknowledging the meaningfulness of this scene that I nearly passed right by.
Like the pug, I needed to find a peaceful sunny spot to rest in. Going 90 miles an hour to try and get everything done was not going to serve me. It wasn't all going to get done today. So I decided to just enjoy my walk for the present moment.
I enjoyed my half hour or so that I spent in the air and sunshine. I noted the bare trees beginning to form their hard buds and imagined those buds swelling until they burst with life and color and glorious scent. I observed strong green points beginning to shoot from the dirt, and had my breath taken away by the first crocuses glowing so purely purple and gold in a neighbor's yard that I almost stopped to knock on their door to thank them for planting them. I became excited about the transition and change the earth was going through. There may be some chilly days left, but the spring is coming slowly and in its own time.
I need to remember that, myself.
Now at home, I have thrown open the windows to let all the good, healthy air in and I've gotten the mattresses and boxsprings to the curb, and things don't seem quite as bad now that I've opened up all that room and can actually sit on my couch.
Maybe I should take another lesson from the pug and take a nap.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Katty's Pick- Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton loves me.
Platonically, of course. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but here's what I think. He was traveling incognito and found himself in Kentucky and we ran into each other and I did something awesome to impress him, not realizing he was Tim Burton. You know, like that old lady who went to this movie theater and asked the usher for a glass of water and he brought her one then the next week she died and she left all of her money to the nice kid who gave her a glass of water? I think it happened like that.
So Tim Burton went home and told Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter all about me and they decided, as reward for my general awesomeness, they would make a bunch of great movies together.
This is the only way I can explain the fact that Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter would never let me walk into a bad movie. Ever. Even mediocrity is unacceptable. It has to be an amazing movie every single time. You're welcome.
All jokes aside, I know I can't reasonably take credit for how awesome all his movies are, but it's nice to dream. Sometimes it feels like that though doesn't it? Like your favorite directors and actors really just do it for you? I feel that way about Tim Burton.
Ever since my first experience with him, watching Edward Scissorhands at the multiplex theater at the California Club Mall, I've been completely besotted. Who didn't want a superpale, sensitive boyfriend who might accidentally slice you to ribbons after they saw that movie? Hands in the air, ladies!
But back on task, now. Alice in Wonderland. Let's discuss.
In this beautiful re-imagining of the classic tale by Lewis Carroll, we join Alice thirteen years after her visit to Wonderland.
Long since believing her adventures in Wonderland were but a child's dream and grieving the loss of her father, Alice is about to turn the page into womanhood and reluctantly accept the proposal of the self important, priggish son of her father's business partner.
Her morning gets curiouser and curiouser when she spies a rabbit in a waistcoat summoning her. Impulsively, she follows him back to Wonderland where she finds her friends in trouble and oppressed by the cruelty of the Red Queen.
Her friends, having anxiously waited her return, believe that Alice is the only one who can defeat the terrifying Jabberwocky and restore the White Queen back to power, ushering in the long awaited Frabjious Day.
This movie was visually absolutely glorious. The best way I can think to describe it is part Narnia, part Lord of the Rings, with a dash of Burton's famous macabre. Alice's world was fresh and light and dainty. Wonderland was fantastical, but beautifully faded from it's former glory.
And the costumes. Don't get me started. I'll gush. I'll go on at length. At Length.
I don't really need to say this because everyone already knows, but for formality's sake I'll just mention that the performances are excellent.
Of course Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter was cleverly and creatively done.
Of course Helena Bonham Carter was a total beast as the Red queen.
But here's a surprise. Crispin Glover, who is always great, was actually a bit dishy. I know, right?
I kid, I kid.
Each performance was wonderful, the actors, even though most of them were animated, acted as a cohesive unit.
I had such a wonderful time watching this movie, and yes I am a bit biased, because I went in expecting to love it, but I can approach things with an open mind. I thought Gamer was lame even though Gerard Butler was in it.