Friday, May 30, 2008

A Traditional Sauce

Ok, so I scoured the net for a traditional Bolognese sauce recipe because I wanted to attempt a traditional version. The recipe, however, uses diced pancetta -- which wasn't available at the local Food Mart. So I substituted diced ham. Probably bacon would work too. Also, it calls for wine... but since I never have wine around the house or even know what kind to use for cooking, I skipped it. There's not a whole lot of tomato in this either. They say that Bolognese is not a tomato sauce with meat. It's a meat sauce with a bit of tomato in it.

Here's my "on the cheap" and simplified version...

Bolognese Sauce

1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced celery
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package diced ham (about 8 oz.)
1 lb. ground pork
1 cup whole milk
1 can tomato sauce
olive oil
salt and pepper

Fry ham in olive oil for a few minutes until it sizzles. Add carrots, celery, and onions and mix and fry until vegetables are translucent. Mix salt and pepper into ground pork and add pork into vegetable/ham mix. Stir until pork crumbles and browns. There should be some liquid still in the pot from the oil, meat and vegetables. Add tomato sauce and garlic. Then add whole milk gradually, slowly mixing it in and stirring well each time.

I made only the sauce tonight to make it easy on myself. Tomorrow, I'll cook up the spaghetti and serve the dish with garlic bread.

More Recipes on a Budget

Ok, here's another one I made just the other day. I love love love this one for barbecue (and summer is just about here, so there is lots of opportunity to cook on the grill!) But this version I made for the oven.

Baked Lemon Pepper Chicken (instructions for grilled version follows)

2 lbs. chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons lemon pepper

This one can be more expensive if you buy the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. But cheaper with the bone and skin on and you just remove it yourself. Anyway, lightly season chicken with salt and pepper. Use a fork and pierce chicken all over. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon pepper and marinate chicken into this mixture for a few hours (overnight is best). When ready, put chicken in baking pan, pour marinade over, and bake in 350 degree oven for 45 min to 1 hour, checking for doneness.

For grilled version, definately marinate overnight. When grilling, use the oil/lemon juice/lemon pepper marinade to baste chicken.

Here's my side dish...

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

4 large russet potatoes
1 whole bulb of garlic
olive oil
1 cup whole milk
2 - 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in large pot of water for 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, bake a whole bulb of garlic with a little olive oil drizzled on it and wrapped in foil in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. When potatoes are done, peel and mash. When garlic is done, peel and squeeze out the roasted garlic. Add to potatoes and continue to mash. Add butter/margarine and milk slowly and mash until desired consistency, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Other Passion...

Ok, so I've seemingly have gotten behind on my personal challenge to remain creative for this month. However, I will say that I've been keeping busy with some other creative endeavors this week... cooking! Yes, one can only take so much of "take out" before longing for some nice home made food.

I've been on this "Top Chef" kick for the last few weeks too. I totally love that show! They had this one challenge where the contestants are supposed to cook a family meal for 10 dollars... 10 DOLLARS!!! Wow. But they came up with the most incredible meals that I was so inspired to come up with budget menus of my own.

Ok, so here's the first one that I'll post. Not sure if they will all be under $10... but I'm trying to make them affordable, easy, as well as tasty.

Balsamic Vinegar and Honey Pork Chops

2 lb. package of pork chops
salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoon oil
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey

Season pork chops with salt and pepper, and fry in frying pan with oil for a few minutes until browned. Not too long or else the meat will be tough. Combine vinegar and honey and pour over porkshops in pan, and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until porkchops are coated with vinegar/honey mixture. Remove from heat and serve with rice, or couscous, or scalloped potatoes. (my scalloped potatoes came from a box)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gift Tags - Day 18 of MPC

I continued making things out of photos I've taken, and just finished these gift tags.

I first used a photo of the Eiffel Tower, and then played around with color variations and special effects in Photoshop to give it this pink and grainy look. I then printed several copies of the same image on vellum paper and glued them on a soft pink metallic cardstock. I also took small slips of paper with "to and from" typed and pasted these on the back of each. Finally, I used a special tool to set the eyelets and strung a sheer pink ribbon through.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Travel-Inspired Items - Day 17 of MPC

Here's some more items I worked on last night. They can either be used as gift tags or short bookmarks. But I made them 2.5 x 3.5 in., so they will be going with the earlier batch of ATC's I made and sent to Belgium.

These are actual photos that I had taken. I cropped them, fixed the color so that each had a pink tone, and added a "grainy" effect. I also used some cute pink and brown ribbons I bought.

Travel ATC's - Day 16 of MPC

All the posts about travel inspired me to do some collaged ATC's that I completed last week. These and at least 9 more are going to a very nice and very patient group of artists in Belgium. I happened to run across their site where they posted pictures of their giant wall of international ATC's they collected some time ago. Anyway, we arranged a trade and I received a package from them weeks ago. Needless to say, I am extremely late in sending these!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Had to share this...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Amalfi Coast - Day 15 of MPC

My absolute favorite place to visit is the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It's an incredible drive by bus around the steep and winding cliff-side roads, with breathtaking views all around.

The towns are big tourist attractions. There is just something so quaint about the buildings all clustered together on a hill. At certain locations, there are mini-replicas of the towns displayed in carved-out sections of the hill. They also grow lemons everywhere, so the fresh light scent of lemons is present when you pass through this area. It's no wonder that when I see blue and yellow color combinations, I think of this place.

The town of Amalfi is my favorite stop, with it's wonderful, little shops, gelato stands, and the square with the Apostle Andrew's statue. I'm not sure what the exact connection is with St. Andrew to Amalfi, but it may have something to do with part of his remains given to them. Amalfi has done much to honor the Apostle.

Here you can see St. Andrew's Cathedral in the background.

And here is my favorite little store that specializes in limoncello (a lemon liquor). I think that's the shopkeeper in front of his store. Although I don't drink, there are other plenty of other items to purchase... such as lemon white chocolates, lemon-scented soaps, hand creams, perfume, and many other things.

Colosseum by Night and by Day - Day 14 of MPC

I have literally hundreds of pictures of Rome and narrowing it down to my favorite photos is nearly impossible, but the above is what I decided to post. They are interesting shots to me because they are of the same view of the Roman Colosseum (from where I stepped out of the metro station); the first is taken during the late evening, the other during the next day. Our tour guide was hilarious, and maybe I'll post the video I took of him on YouTube sometime.

Here's a scene from the Spanish Steps, where everyone would gather, sit, and enjoy sitting among strangers.

And here is a pic of our poor feet on the Spanish Steps, as we closed a long and tiring day of sightseeing...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Leaning Tower of Pisa - Day 12 and 13 of MPC

I didn't get a chance to post this yesterday, so I'll count this as the 12th and 13th entry since I worked on these photos both days. Pisa is a fun place to visit and I've been lucky to have gone here twice. But there never seems to be enough time to do more here... other than the obligatory pictures of trying to hold up the tower.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Florence Cathedral - Day 11 of MPC

Italy is probably my favorite country to visit because there are so much to see and do, and each place seems very distinct from the other. When visiting Florence, Italy, the whole experience was a blur since we didn't have much time to explore. We were on an incredibly tight schedule because we were on a cruise and the day's excursion only allowed us a few hours of sightseeing. The above pic is the only decent shot I have of the Florence Cathedral. From this angle, you can see the baptistry, bell tower, and a glimpse of the cupola.

I played around with the image and used the impressionist brush in photoshop to create this version.
The city of Florence boasts incredible architechture and art. I was sorry we didn't have time to visit the museum and see the statue of David. There was a copy of the sculpture in the city square... but a copy just isn't the same. Anyway, we compensated by treating ourselves to our favorite... Italian Gelato! I can't seem to get away from talking about food. =) When I returned home, I showed this pic to my boss and she thought it was funny I took photos of food. But when she went to Egypt, she took pictures of the different food stands there and she said those were among the most colorful and interesting shots she took of her trip - and she remembered my Gelato photo... ha!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Castles that Inspire - Day 10 of MPC

Neuschwanstein Castle, a 19th century Bavarian palace, is located on a mountain top in Germany. It inspired other castles in the area to be built and also served as the inspiration of Walt Disney's Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty Castles.

We had to hike up some steep trails to get to Marienbruecke Bridge from where I took the above picture. The palace was built by King Ludwig II, who was fascinated with swans; and you can see this facination in the decor of the palace's interior.

This was a really fun trip but required some advanced preparation. It took us two hours by train from Munich to get to the town (Fussen) where this is located; then we had to take a bus from the train station; then a shuttle; then a horse-drawn carriage up the hill; plus we bought tickets in advance to take the castle tour. Totally well-worth it though!

I'm already starting to get some other ideas of what to do next with these travel photos I'm posting. I was thinking of making stickers, or tags. The creative inspiration continues! =)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Santorini Blue - Day 9 of MPC

Santorini was my favorite place when I visited Greece a couple of years ago. The island showcases the beauty of the Greek islands, with the gorgeous contrast between white-washed buildings against the mediterranean blue waters.

The above picture was taken as we strolled around the town, taking pictures of homes, churches, gates, doors, and everything we encountered while there. I probably don't want to know what residents must think of tourists who go around taking pictures of their neighborhoods.

Besides being so beautiful, Santorini was a straight up adventure from the start, which is why I have such fond memories of it. From the donkey ride up to the town that sits atop a steep cliff, to the crazy bus ride with the drunk ticket collector still able to count exact change; the kind shopowner we met whose dream was to visit Hawaii; the cutest stray dogs you'll ever see; and of course the amazing scenic views every which way you turned.

My friends and I stopped by a restaurant and had baklava and iced coffees. And here is where we made a pact to go see the rest of the world starting 5 years from that point...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Paris Dusk - Day 8 of MPC

My posts for this personal challenge to blog about creativity seem a little all over the place. I kept it broad so that I won't run out of ideas of what to write. But now I'm feeling kind of scatterbrained. I'm feelling that I need to focus more and be a bit more organized.

Ok, so maybe I'll start with a series of travel photography for now, since traveling and taking pictures is definately a passion of mine. But what's so creative about it? I think that a great deal of creative energy is spent whenever you play with the composition and color of a photo you take, and then "fix" or crop in photoshop. I also believe that travel photography is a form of journalism because you're communicating something about that place through the pictures you display.

The photo above is one I took in Paris a few years ago, after visiting the Musee d'Orsay, a truly wonderful museum of impressionist art. It had just stopped raining, the sun had set, and the sky looked especially beautiful at that moment. It was a nice, calm close to a hectic day of sightseeing.

In Paris, yes you might encounter some rude people... but I came across some very nice ones too. It depends on what kind of person you are. If you smile, others tend to smile back. If you expect they will be rude and obnoxious to you, then you are only looking out for that and that, I'm afraid, is what you will get. But this is true anywhere though.

Anyway, I should also note that when we first arrived in this city, I had probably the best cup of coffee I EVER had. The coffee was so rich I didn't even need to use any cream. This and seeing the lights on the Eiffel Tower at night were definate highlights.

I thought that along with this photo, I should post some french music too. Check out this lovely tune from Josh Groban.


Paper, Paper, Paper... (Day 7 of MPC)

Crafts are fun and paper crafts are too cool for words!

- I was checking out Goobeetsa's blog and saw his Robotic Pig.
- Some time ago, Georgina also constructed a beagle from a template.
- I also love this guy's work: Papercuts

Here's some stuff I made some time ago...

My own design of a sunflower using the quilling technique:

And here's a dollar origami I made of Yoda, using Marc Sky's design:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fantastic Felines by Laurel Burch - Day 6 of MPC

This is the first time I've posted someone else's artwork. The above painting is by the late artist Laurel Burch and is part of her "Fantastic Felines" series. I remember first seeing Ms. Burch's artwork on some very cool totebags, and bought one for a friend some time ago. I just LOVE the jewel tones of her paintings... and the use of gold! Actually, one of my favorite tools is my gold-leaf pen that adds just that bit of pizazz.

I know I had not posted much the last few days, but I'm still working on the personal challenge for myself to remain creative this month. Last night, I tried to make some cat themed ATC's, inspired by Laurel Burch's work. I managed to come up with my own designs. But I'm not used to working with acrylic paints and long story short, I winded up throwing the cards away. I tried adding a bit of sparkle to them by putting on a light coat of gold metallic watercolor paint over an orange acrylic background... and that turned out pretty cool. But the rest of it was crap.

I might use that sparkle technique again soon though.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Belated Greetings! - Day 5 of MPC

Oh man, I missed my own birthday! (my blog's, that is, which was yesterday) Oh well, Happy 1st Birthday... grab a plate and get some cake!

*photo and photoshop manipulation by me. I guess I can count this as a creative project. =)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fresh Fruit - Day 4 of MPC

Speaking of dessert... here's a pic of a strawberry pie with fresh strawberries. I wish I could say that I made it, but it's store bought from good old Marie Callander's. I've noticed that the stuff I've been posting has lots of greens, blues, and browns. Let me liven up the color pallette a bit by posting something bright red. I've been wanting to buy a better camera for close up shots like this. But let's see how much the tax refund dollars stretch this year.

Anyway, Summer's right around the corner and fresh fruit will be in abundance. Something everybody I know looks forward to.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

More Design Work - Day 3 of MPC

More playing around with photoshop tools. Although these are leaf-pattern designs (I totally LOVE leaves and trees), the colors were actually inspired by... FOOD! Or perhaps "dessert" is more accurate. One of the more interesting things I've ever tried is a rich chocolate brownie served alongside green tea mousse. And I didn't even have the whole thing... I just *tried* someone else's. Even so, it still left quite an impression on me. It's a dessert served at a very cool tea house in San Francisco I went to a few months ago. It was fun day with friends talking about art!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Seven Trees - Day 2 of MPC

Day 2 of My Personal Challenge (MPC) has me going back to the archives, so to speak. Last year, I tried the "Every Day In May" challenge to create something (or in my case, take photographs) each day for the whole month. I managed to stick with it for about a couple of weeks but didn't complete. Since I never posted them before, I have a bunch of pics that I can go back to. (Yeah, I'm trying to get ready for work too and don't have a lot of time to post this... so having that source is good for me)

Anyway, I've always wanted to learn how to draw trees properly but am still in major need of practice. My versions end up looking like brocolli. I took these last year as reference pics, and just put them together on photoshop and did a little manipulating while using the program, giving them a bit of that "magical" flair... I hope.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My Own Personal Challenge

In a few days, it will be my blog's very first birthday! woohoo! I've decided to celebrate it by giving myself a challenge. I've seen posts where people try to draw something every day for a month or a year or whatever... hmmm, well I can already tell I'm gonna flake on that sooner than later, so I don't want to make it IMPOSSIBLE for me.

I think I'll just try to blog about creative stuff for as many consecutive days as I can (but I won't stress if I miss a day here or there). It can be as simple as writing about something I saw or learned, a photo, or maybe even some new drawings (probably lots of photos, I'm thinking). Just something to get back into the creative side of life, since things have been extremely hectic lately.

I started this site as a diversion from life's worries and concerns, and a year ago I just had way too many of those. This has been a very therapeutic, alternative way to spend one's energy on. And I must say that since writing and posting here, I've learned a lot about myself, met lots of incredibly nice and encouraging people, and discovered that it's more important to have fun with your art than to care if people like it or not.

Ok, so here's my first "creative" piece for this challenge. It's a tropical-inspired design I did on photoshop, using the various photoshop tools. Why? I kept hearing the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in my head today - the version by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (try saying that 10 times fast!) The link to the song is under the photo, if you'd like to listen to it. I like the song's style... and message. =)