Monday, January 30, 2012

b-i-r-d, lexington, ky

Jessie Dunahoo
is an amazing artist that Anna and I got to meet in Lexington, KY just a couple weeks ago.  Please follow the link, it will show you his amazing work, which makes me think of quilts, forts, beds, tents, vines, and wind.  We performed our crankies at Latitude Artist Community, and Jessie was there, working.  We showed him our sewn cranky by laying it on the table and rolling it by, tracing his hands over the applique shapes.  Anna put his hand on the bird and finger-spelled into his hand: b-i-r-d.  He got very excited.  His communication was a mix of touch, ASL, and mime.  As with any new language, we were able to catch very little of what he was saying--but each bit seemed like a victory to me.  I don't want to make this event all about me, but as a musician, it felt like such a gift to be able to share something physical, real, and creative with another artist who wouldn't have been able to hear my music.  With a cranky, I could share some of the things that are most beautiful to me about the songs.  Big, awesome shout-outs to Bruce Burris and Crystal Bader who run Latitude.

Anyway, on the same trip we got to perform at Institute 193, a gallery downtown.  Sometimes 193 exhibits work from artists from Latitude.  And they were awesome enough to document our show with photos & video, and make a blog about it!  And I wanted to put the link here!  So go here.

Thanks Lexington, it was real.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Tea Cake": another food blog moment

OK, number one cake that makes me feel smug: "tea cake".  I read a lot of food blogs, and many are all, "I never knew whole wheat could be actually tasty, I thought it was only for heavy hippie bread".  Or they're like, "Don't worry!  I'm not using whole wheat because it's healthy!  It's because it tastes good!"  What's wrong with both?  I was raised on heavy hippie loaves (peanut butter-n-honey sandwich of the gods), whole wheat hard-tack known as "binkers" (a biscuit alternative), and the most delicious chocolate-chip & oatmeal cookies: Whole.  Wheat.  Baby.

Not to say that I don't advocate judicious and thoughtful use of the WWF.  Pie crust gets half-and-half white & whole; so does coffee-cake.  Eclairs and cheese sauce are all-white.

But as a showcase of how mind-blowingly delicious and magically "Rustic" whole wheat flour is (meaning it makes your baked good is less fluffy, more crusty, and coarser-crumbed), Tea Cake is the winner.

In my house we like to use the Fannie Farmer cookbook.  Not only does it have a more hilarious name than Joy of Cooking, we find the baking recipes in particular to be more excellent.  So I have adapted this cake with the stupid-simplest change ever: everything is the same except the flour quantity is half white and half whole wheat flour.

But Then!!  Here is what drives it into outer space.  Same book, recipe for "Quick Caramel Icing".  Oh my gosh.  The combination is so homey and snackable, YET so sweet and kind of delicate.

You know how some sweets you really have to concentrate on, and you don't want to have another taste interrupt the experience, because then you have to start all over and let the flavors develop through a couple of bites?  And then some things have such a good "first taste" that you really just want that first bite over and over again, so you have to break it up with drinking some milk or doing something else?  (Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch is that for me, the Heath overbears the coffee after the first 3 or 4 bites and then I don't feel like I'm getting my money's worth).  Long tangent, but bear with me: this cake is in between.  It is beautifully balanced.  The first bite makes you want another bite, and the fifth bite makes you want another bite, AND it makes you a little thirsty, so it's perfect to wash it down with something like a big glass of milk...or, of course, tea.

Whenever books are like, "tea and cake", this is what I imagine.  This cake makes me feel like a hobbit.    I can't really think of anything better than that.

A couple notes on the icing.  It may look like you have too much.  It's a very sweet icing.  But use it all anyway, it's the perfect amount.  And I advocate stopping adding the powdered sugar a little earlier than you think.  It makes it less gacky-sweet, plus it oozes down the sides all charming and hardens a bit while it's on the cake.  The whole mess tastes even the better the next day.

Tea Cake
adapted from "Boston Favorite Cake" in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Eleventh Edition.

Butter a pan 9x9 inches.  Set oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit .
Sift together
1 3/4 cups flour--part whole wheat, part white.  Go for about half and half, but it doesn't need to be exact.
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Cream thoroughly
1/3 cup butter
Beat in
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until fluffy (this takes a long time if you're beating by hand!  But not that long.)  Beat in
2 egg yolks
Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour mixture.  Stir in
1/4 cup milk
Add another 1/2 cup of flour mixture and
1/4 cup milk
Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat just enough to blend well.
In another bowl, beat until they stand up in soft peaks
2 egg whites
Fold into the batter.  Spoon into the pan.
Bake 30-45 minutes, till a toothpick comes out clean.

You don't even have to take this out of the pan if you don't want to!  Just make sure that you pour on top of it:

Quick Caramel Frosting

Melt in a small pan
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar melts. *(don't freak out!  You don't have to worry about temperatures!  If not everything gets all melted, it will be slightly grainy/crunchy in this awesome praline way.  No sweat.)
1/4 cup milk
Let cool.
Beat in until thick enough to spread *(POUR, but thickly.)
Confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla.

Eat more of this than you think you should.  Eat it for second breakfast, you solid hobbit, you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Whut izz 'Murrika?

what is America
the stupidest question
but I actually think about it all the time.

And of course, the only way I can begin describing things is by SOUNDTRACKING THEM, duh.

Right now a lot of this on my mind.  Remember The West Wing?  This is like that, but better, because it's old-timey.  The other day at breakfast my Libertarian uncle said that America was made of 2 types of people: idealists and buccaneers.  You either come here to practice freely your most eccentric beliefs, or you come to make money.  Of course Bald Theatre Friend quickly rebutted with group 3: unwilling passengers of the indentured, prisoner, slave, and woman-kind.  Food for thought.  I'll admit it, guys.  Sometimes...sometimes I think about freedom.  I don't know.  Every time I see that "Appeal to Heaven" flag, it totally slays me.  It makes me think about Jung and symbols of the world and of transcendence, and about human yearning.  I thought Thomas Jefferson was actually sexy in that show in a strange way, with his pixie-ish harsh demeanor.  "Sexiest Founding Father" I called him.

Anyway...So some of it is this, too, right?

I think this is actually kind of perfect.  Cars, guilt, twangy yet a little existentialist and very frowny-faced?  This video is in lieu of a Dylan video, because Welch wears a Dylan hat, musically.  While Rawlings wears a cowboy hat, sartorially.

Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, sorry dudes.  I don't like it.  "Appalachian" means something a bit different to me.

When I listen to Roscoe Holcomb, I feel...a tension.  I also feel a trance.   I was just staring at his picture, and I started to think it looked like a death's head.  Holcomb makes me feel super-serious.  One time I trimmed my Christmas tree to the sounds of an entire Holcomb album, and it was really weird.  It was like, do I feel happy and excited?  Or like I am in a room being slowly deprived of air, walking on a tightrope, or in a depressing movie?
I love Roscoe Holcomb.

But Guess What?  This.  Ha ha ha!  I should think this was obvious: sex appeal that is slightly rugged yet squeaky-clean, "mainstream", cheery, un-poetic ("I need a love reaction"?!).  Not so much on the finesse.

Okay, obvs this is just a teeny tiny segment of what I think is America, or even American music.  I mean, I left out Blues and Old-Time and stuff.  But what do YOU think?  Is there something for you like Appalachian Spring is for me?  Something where you're like, "I don't believe you!  That's not freaking America!"  Or something that you think says it all?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Perfect All-Nighter

Here is a little whim I put together while I was procrastinating on an actual all-nighter.  I still think it's cute, so here we are.

Everyone has their own set of motivators and fuel.  I like to set up the scene as though it were a theatrical production.

It's important to turn all the lights on.  Bright, abrasive lighting allows you to view your project in detail.  It also "keeps you awake" (false.  nothing keeps me awake.)

Costumes feature super-coziness and bright colors for "energy".  note the scarf, socks, leggings, and extra-long sleeves.  NO SHOES.  That's important.  it must be extra comfy.  Note also glasses.  Contacts have been taken out because of that tired feeling you get when your contacts start to dry up.

Determining you caffeine source is important.  While I enjoy coffee, I prefer a steady stream of sweet, strong, milky tea.  Less jitters, more British pretension.

Stay hydrated!  Lots of water makes me feel less fatigued and my skin isn't as crappy in the morning.

Secret weapon: SHOWER.  At some point.  You don't feel gross after your all-nighter.  Or at least, you feel clean.  Hot water is relaxing, "without putting you to sleep".  (false.  everything puts me to sleep.)

Computer is vital for tunes and for distraction.

High-calorie hot food.  Seriously.  Duh.  I'm pretty sure that's chana masala leftovers on rice with a fried egg on top.

Now buckle down!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Art Shout-Out

Katherine Fahey is one of my favorite artists in the world. I feel that, since my friend Anna and I inspired her to make this amazing thing with our own cranky, I could potentially blow the smoke off my guns and go home.  I don't want to, quite yet--but I could.

Please check THIS.  Click on the video(!!!!)

The story of this song, "Francis Whitmore's Wife" is so beautiful and stark and spacious.  And Kathy's art has this subtle and filigreed elegance.  With a hint of gnarliness that every so often comes in and maybe that's the best part?

I'm also delighted to say that Kathy, Anna, and I will be taking a trip up to the North in April--a pilgrimage of sorts, because Kathy's going to show the cranky to the author of the song-lyrics.

We're currently in the air-castle-building part of planning our "tour".  It's going to be short, April 18-26.  Great ideas, anyone?