101 in 1001 {II}: 038 cook with 12 ingredients I’ve never used before [ongoing]

07: dahlia tuber. joe and i were nosing around a vegetable stall at the union square greenmarket a few weekends ago when one of the younger farmers turned to us. "those are dahlia tubers," he said, gesturing to a bin of homely potato-ish things at my hip. they're totally edible." i quizzed him: best raw or cooked? (raw.) how much would i need? (not much). what did they taste like? (floral, which...i guess i should have seen coming.) were they expensive? (no.) did they keep well? (sure, you can slice pieces from a single tuber all winter.) sold! i plucked a fist-sized fellow from the bin and brought it home, where it languished in the crisper until last friday. then, in one of my Ill-Advised Late-Night Baking Fits, i made this.

dahlia bread

dahlia bread (adapted from plantlady2's gardenweb post)

- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c vegetable oil
- 1 c sugar
- 1 c grated dahlia tuber
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon

preheat oven to 350 degrees. in a medium bowl, beat two eggs until light and foamy, then discard a quarter of egg mixture. add oil, sugar, dahlia, and vanilla, then mix until combined (don't go crazy, but you want a homogeneous mixture). combine and jumble up dry ingredients in a second bowl, then add to first bowl and stir together only until blended. pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for approximately one hour, or until surface is golden brown and fairly firm (i started checking at 50 minutes and took my loaf out at around 55, as i recall).

joe had already gone to bed by the time the bread was out of the oven and cool enough to eat, but our friend jacob (in town from iowa and perpetrator, as it happens, of some of my all-time favorite dahlia arrangements at his wedding last october) was brave enough to try a piece - and liked it! i did as well, actually: it was crumbly and fragrant, and the little silvers of dahlia added a mysterious note of spiciness (it was, in fact, quite floral) that paired well with the cinnamon. the original recipe called for baking soda, which we left behind in our hell's kitchen refrigerator and hadn't yet replaced, so i subbed in additional baking powder without cutting down any of the other ingredients; i think the lower pH of the resulting batter was rather nice. pounce on dahlia tubers if you see them, internets! you'll intrigue house guests and feel like a faerie queene at the breakfast table.


much has been made of jessica valenti (of feministing)'s interview in last week's times magazine - specifically, of her comments about bust. quoth jessica,
Bust used to be a feminist magazine, but now it’s more crafty and about making things out of yarn. I’m not a D.I.Y. feminist. I once tried knitting a scarf but threw it away after 15 minutes.
my reaction to a tired jab at DIY is predictable, but i've been rather surprised by how strongly i respond to what bust's debbie stoller calls "girl-on-girl crime." online discussions of craft movements and what it means to be a modern woman, partner, feminist, and so on are hardly new; hell, i feel late to the party, and i've been blogging since 2001. what does feel new is the squandering of what previous generations of women worked so hard for - that is, that calling ourselves what we like, mothering and working in proportions of our choosing, marrying or partnering and knitting or not knitting are all non-issues. the rights themselves are one thing: what i love is that those options are givens now, and that we can make those choices without drama. like any adolescent, though, the internet loves its drama, and we're re-living the mommy wars, judging the hell out of each others' weddings and partnerships, worrying about what others' craft projects say about us. i've worked at a women's magazine for nearly five years now; my work is a lot of fun, and it's occasionally important. it's also turned me into the sort of person who's bored shitless by invented conflicts and lady issues that, honestly, were resolved before we were born (and i am infinitely grateful for that).

let's spend our time figuring out what to do about the stupak-pitts amendment. i promise, sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, that my handmade halloween costume isn't about you.

sneakers and i have had a complicated relationship over the last few years. the day after joe and i were married in oxford, i bought a pair of feisty yellow and black golas that had been making eyes at me from a shop window on the high street; they promptly gave me spectacular blisters, and i had to wear flip flops for the rest of our honeymoon (sorry about that, belfast). the golas and i warmed to each other eventually, and we were close (even, i admit, at the office) right up until they fell apart last year. i've since turned to running shoes at the gym and ballet flats for everything else. i haven't even flirted with sneakers - which is impressive, i feel, given that joe shops for them all the time.

i then wandered into bess, where i met a pair of used white converse all-stars. they were covered with pyramid studs and ballpoint pen, they fit me perfectly, and they cost $60. "sixty?" "no," the guy at the counter said, "one sixty for the low ones." actually, i misheard him the second time as well; when i got home and looked them up online, they were $260. upcycling, buying handmade, and encouraging design are all near and dear to me, but...oh, who am i kidding? i'm poor. i plagiarized with gusto.

woefully perforated shoe

i messed around on ebay in search of a used pair of chucks that would fit as well as the ones i'd tried, but they're not unlike aggressively used jeans (in that people keep them until they disintegrate) - hence these blinding white fellows. (i figured the leather had a better chance of holding up to the studs than canvas would.) they're covered with big ugly holes because i made the beginner's mistake of ordering 1/2" pyramid studs, which are gargantuan. i didn't admit the error until i'd finished a whole shoe; the poor thing looked like lil jon.

studded sneakers (interior)

after a week and a second delivery from studsandspikes.com (heh), i was ready to have a go with dainty little 1/4" studs. they're much more difficult to anchor, thanks to their size, and i ultimately needed a craft knife to perforate the leather. i owe said craft knife (and the needle-nose pliers i found at a dollar store) at least three fingertips; that first round of studding, starring a bent fondue fork in place of an awl, was an episode of super surgery waiting to happen. with the right equipment, all i had to do was perforate, place, and bend, over and over and over.

studded sneakers (exterior)

and so! i need to dirty them up, my spacing is a smidge uneven, and i'll probably need to line the interiors with something like electrical tape (those tines, even crimped in against themselves, are a bit scritchy), but: sneakers! in other news, can i stud that for you?


101 in 1001 {II}: 064 visit the russian tea room [completed 11.15.09]
i started getting messages from the hudson union society a year or two ago. i think they have something to do with my association with the overseas studies program at college (they were originally the oxonian society), but who can say? every so often i'm invited to interviews, lectures, and so on. two weeks ago, they dropped me a line about "a rare and surreal evening with the legendary david lynch." that mysterious sonic boom you heard at the beginning of the month? that was me, on it like dale cooper on pie.

dress was "at least business casual." i wanted very much to accessorize with my log; joe assured me that that would be deeply uncool. i settled for what in my head was a tip of the hat to mulholland dr.

we learned we were going to the russian tea room after we bought the tickets.

chandelier, russian tea room

it's a regular venue for the society, but i think it was (cough) rather uniquely suited to the speaker this time around.

we were told to take an elevator to the third floor; it stopped on the second and opened into a room full of trees hung with ostrich-sized easter eggs. "isn't that him?" "yes, but he's not ready yet." we continued up to a mirrored room and had blisteringly expensive glasses of wine. it was extremely difficult to tell whether the creatures on the chandeliers were bears or apes.

lynch spoke for an hour or so, gamely retelling the stories of how george lucas shipped him up to skywalker ranch to try to talk him into directing return of the jedi and of how he had a chocolate shake at bob's big boy every day for seven years (and saw the man who inspired him to create frank booth there). he was most animated as he spoke of transcendental meditation, and had a great plosive poom! to describe the moment of transcendence ("beautiful!"). he exclaims single words quite a bit. he is, as advertised, not fond of discussing what things mean. "if you just saw the movie, you saw it. that was what it was, right there."

day 102: david lynch at the russian tea room

i didn't think i could be one of the audience members who asked him if he considered his filmography representative of "the ocean of creativity," so i asked him why he climbed into the dumpster behind bob's one day. "because i had a feeling the shakes weren't really made of ice cream," he said.


in the three weeks we've been in the new apartment, we've put up a grand total of one picture; the others are clustered at the edges of the bedroom and the living room like seventh graders at their first dance. it takes time to know where pieces should live, you see; i can hardly be expected to hang the debbie harry needlepoint above the sectional before the sectional materializes* (before the holiday guest visits begin, o furniture gods, if you are merciful). the marina towers painting could hang above our bed, but what if the bedroom stayed white? we did manage to figure that out this weekend; it did not.

day 094: down pipe

this is down pipe 26, a deliciously deep grey by farrow & ball. it's somewhat costly paint, but it's excellent paint; i decided it was worthwhile to spend a bit more for the good stuff (and two cans, even two fancy cans, aren't so very much anyway).*** i found said paint via the lethally stylish ab chao, whose paradoxically airy down pipe louisiana bedroom (inspired by abigail ahern) has been pinging around design blogs for the past few months. check out our insta-velvety wall, you guys:

day 095: grey corner

we weren't trying to make our room a louche den of mystery,**** but as i finished the second coat yesterday evening, little faux-goth lauren back in 1996 sat up straight with a sudden premonition of future excellence. you're welcome, baby bat.

*we've been told that this could take up to twelve weeks, for we ordered it in "charcoal" (the nerve!) rather than "walnut" or "ale."** i miss the instant gratification of craigslist furniture; new shit is overrated.

**has using beverage imagery for upholstery fabric ever been a good idea?

***the hypersaturated color is fantastic, and the paint itself is zero VOC by EPA standards. i'm also a firm supporter of f&b's marvelously english color names (other favorites: porphyry pink, dead salmon, churlish green).

****speaking of, we accidentally knocked off a 101 in 1001 {II} list item (065 have a drink at a sneaky-sneaky hipster bar) by following friends to the hideout in brooklyn on friday. note to self: bourbon and orgeat play very well together.


101 in 1001 {II}: 038 cook with 12 ingredients I’ve never used before [ongoing]

04: key limes. our friends with relatives in florida fell over laughing when i showed them one of the grape-sized mexican key limes i ended up ignoring the health-care-related whole foods boycott to buy back in august; i'd apparently compromised my ideals for the runtiest limes on the eastern seaboard. i argued that their size wouldn't affect the eventual excellence of a key lime version of giada de laurentiis's unstoppable lemon ricotta cookies with lemon glaze,* and i was right; the awkward process of juicing in miniature did leave me with arthritic little crone-hands, however, and i know just which exotic fruit to curse when i'm unable to play the piano someday. in conclusion: key limes make fine cookies and sublime pie,** but i probably don't need to bake with them again (unless i find myself in florida).

05: sunchokes (aka jerusalem artichokes).

jerusalem artichoke

(how 'bout that bubble wrap presentation! there was a lot of that for a few weeks there.)

these rooty little things were pitched to me as tasting like a cross between artichokes and potatoes, which (if blackened and thrown in a taco) would make them the perfect food. in practice they're neither as scary as the alien grubs they resemble nor quite as chompable as advertised, but my impatience as a roaster could be to blame: our oven at the old apartment handled vegetables unevenly, and my little sunchokes (tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few whacked-up shallots and cloves of garlic) were subsequently either velvety and winning or surly and a tiny bit fibrous, depending on where they were in relation to the heating element. everything sorted itself out in the next day's reheat, though, and the apartment smelled fantastic; sunchokes will come home with me this winter. that mysterious hybrid flavor (a bit taterish, a bit chokesque) is worth investigating.

06: mochiko (aka sweet rice flour).

mochiko (sweet rice flour)

(i also baked while we were moving. i have the attention span of a gnat.)

i feel i deserve double credit for baking with mochiko; i had neither used it nor known of its existence prior to this recipe (i adore the green tea mochi that sometimes materialize at sushi restaurants and japanese grocery stores, but i'd never devoted much thought to what went into them). the food librarian's blueberry mochi cake (via my friend sara) promised exotic, gluten-free chewiness,*** so i scored a box of the good stuff at the soho dean and deluca and got baking. straight out of the oven and warm on a napkin, this cake is dazzling: its texture is unusual without being off-putting, and the flour's whispery sweetness (paired with a bit of tartness from the wild blueberries) is light and sophisticated. a few days in the refrigerator (as we're no longer the destroyers of cake we were in our twenties - most of the time, anyway) weren't especially kind to the leftovers, so i'd recommend this as a decadent breakfast or dessert item for company (that is, people who can eat it right away) - but i'd certainly recommend it.

*george's (excellent) idea.

**that i will continue to purchase from the pros.

***wheat and i are cool, but some of us need an alternative to cupcakes; i hear that.


say what you will about beautiful families, adoring dogs, and cottages left intact after dragon attacks, but from where i'm sitting, the very best greeting at the end of a long day comes from a stack of boxes from the oxford university press.

mah OED


when i was a wee lass, we didn't mess around on halloween: my mother has an art degree from stanford, and she put it to good use in service of the holiday and our whims. each of our costumes was completely handmade,* and many of them were so well received that they were re-used by friends and neighbors over the next few trick-or-treating seasons (artichoke costume of the late '80s, i salute you). she still has a hand-feathered bird costume she made when my sister was a toddler, and it still drops jaws. said sister has her own art degree now (and is plugging away at costume design in grad school); the family tradition of bringing it each october has survived and gotten ever more feisty over the years.**

...which worried me when i decided to be the log lady. last year's bowie costume didn't involve a lot of sewing, but it called for enthusiastic face-painting; i got my effort in, after a fashion. i did some fancy ebaying to find a proper sweater coat and wig, but the former ended up being too big (the log lady is frumpy, but she isn't portly) and the latter arrived from hong kong...today, actually; getting a sweater from old navy and turning another wig into a bob (lauren: "hey, would you wear this while i chop it up?" joe: "no!") hardly seemed like a proper tribute to the fam. so (in the convenient absence of ponderosa pine) i made my log.

log as burt reynolds?

like most of the soft pieces i've built, it's primarily felt; this time i sprang for decent wool felt rather than the crappy stuff from the local art store, as i knew i'd be detailing the hell out of the bark (it will be a long time before i applique again) and i wanted it to retain its shape (and be washable, which turned out to be important, as i carried it around all night at a bar).

log embroidery detail: the revenge

inspired by an extremely timely copy of jenny hart's embroidered effects,*** i tried my hand at some simple rings for the cut edges of the log and branches; given that it's the first time i've ever embroidered, i'm pretty happy with how it came out.

log embroidery detail

(that's stuffing sneaking out around the stitches; i sort of forgot to do the detailing before i constructed and stuffed the log.)

i also had a go at one of lovely amanda's favorite pastimes and spent a lunch break in central park gathering acorns and caps. i hot-glued a pair back together (you know it's craft if you melt glue), convinced them to stick to a pair of leaves i cut from log-scraps, and glued all of that to a safety pin. boom! brooch.

log lady acorn brooch

(you can see a bit of glue behind the caps, but that's a little cobweb rather than glue in the front. sometimes it's important to wear cobwebs.)

my log and i had a lovely time on saturday; a few people thought i was a tree-hugger and a few more thought i was carrying a giant cigarette (?), but the occasional twin peaks fan's happy shrieking was more than enough. log on, internets.

*which was especially impressive when i chose to be, say a telephone receiver, or autumn. you were patient, ma.

**my dad's side has its own techie subspecies of enthusiasts: for their semiannual halloween party this year, my godparents made a dvd invitation complete with easter eggs.

***jenny hart is my crafting idol; i've seen her at events in the city for years now, and i'm still too starstruck to roll up and say hello.