Monday, December 31

Backyard Field Guide: Genus Narcissus

First narcissus in bloom! They're so beautiful--you can just imagine them clinging on to some riverbank somewhere.... Happy new year! (Sorry for the photos--no good light thanks to winter!)

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Saturday, December 22

Into the Kitchen: Pumpkin Spice and Apple Donut Holes

My good friend Pat and I were chatting about baking with yeast the other day and she passed along this wonderful, easy recipe. What's more perfect with coffee on a lazy Saturday in winter?

Pumpkin Spice and Apple Donut Holes

For dough:
1/2 cup of warm water (around 110 degrees)
1 package of dry yeast (I like the Rapid Rise kind--so much faster)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp shortening
1 egg
1 1/2 cups sifted flour (my version of sifting now is using a whisk)
1 1/12 cups of chopped Macintosh apple (optional)
3 cups or so of canola oil for frying

For sugar:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp or more cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
dash of ginger
dash of clove

Stir water and yeast together to dissolve. In a medium bowl mix sugar, salt, shortening, egg and flour. Stir well for about 1 minute. Blend in apple. Cover and let rise in warm oven about 20-30 minutes. When dough has doubled, pat it into a rectangle 1 inch thick. Using a sharp knife cut dough into cubes. Heat oil in a pan to 375 degrees using a candy thermometer. Fry until golden brown, turning donuts only once. Drain and dip in pumpkin spice sugar.

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Friday, December 21

Sweet Find: Wintry Village

Awaiting our latest snowstorm, I've been thinking back on the holiday decorations of my childhood, the ones that survived being passed hand to hand across generations. Until wandering around the web today, I had forgotten entirely about the brittle cardboard houses and castles that I knew so well back then--and then there they were! I love the updated versions of these rare kitschy classics. Despite the lush new colors, looking at them I imagine some things haven't changed--for one, the scale still seems to be charmingly off. I can almost feel the sandpaper walls, bottle brush trees, aerosol snow, frozen-stiff deer, and part of me thinks, I could live in this weird world for a little while. (See here too in one of Lena Corwin's home tours.)

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Saturday, December 15

Nebraska Poets on Sheldon Painters: Moving Forward

The official press release is about to go out: Nebraska Poets on Sheldon Paintings Contest. The museum has received a generous grant from the Nebraska Arts Council and we're moving rapidly forward with the publicity. Needless to say, I'm thrilled about the opportunity to solicit work from poets of all ages living in our fair state and our judges are excellent: Hilda Raz, Susan Aizenberg, Grace Bauer, Mary K. Stillwell. The contest is running in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition "Poets on Painters". If it's coming to a museum near you I highly recommend it. Collaboration, community, interarts--it inspires one to imagine what other kinds of partnerships are possible. (Above painting is from the Sheldon Memorial Gallery collection: Fairfield Porter, "Long Island Landscape with Red Building," oil on canvas, about 1962. Porter, too, was a friend of poets, specifically James Schuyler and the NY School.)

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Monday, December 3

Backyard Field Guide: Pinpointing the Poinsettia

Getting ready for our neighborhood holiday party we've bought a few of the usual poinsettia and out of pure curiosity this morning I thought: what's the story of these plants? if they grow wild, where?

I've only found bits and pieces of information but from what I understand the plant is native to the Pacific coast of Mexico. The ancient Aztecs thought the flower a symbol of purity, a belief which was then adopted (appropriated?) by the first Christian colonists. The above image was taken in the Chihuahua desert and can be found on a local Texas
desert site. Looking at it and comparing it to the common greenhouse ones we have here, I can't get over the elegant shape of the wild one's bracts (top leaves, not flower petals as is commonly thought).

Speaking of the borderlands, ecology and religious interpretations: Last night I finished the new Ana Castillo novel
The Guardians and highly recommend it.

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