Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Someday soon, this will
be a cartoon!

As I attempt to finish two short animations in the final week of classes, I find myself being afflicted by facing two realizations:
1) Since there's suddenly no time for other coursework, whatever I've got finished in other courses, at this point, will have to do... sorry, art history and drawing class. And sorry, self-imposed perfectionism with which I've struggled since kindergarten!
2) Possibly I shouldn't have created this crisis by electing to do a second animation, but when an open project was assigned in my media course I considered my other options (e. g., a "sound art" project, a Dreamweaver website, a short film, a photo series) and remembered that animation is really the only technology-heavy work I really find exciting. (I mean, sound art? Just shoot me.)
3) Although it's stressful and a time-eater, and the animation software drives me a tiny smidge FUCKINGCRAZY, making cartoons is sooooooo fuuuuuun!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Americans Celebrate 10 Millionth
'Bring Yourself To Work Day'

Sunday, April 27, 2008

On the subject of taco salad

Taco night is, in my judgment, the best thing to happen to the American supper since the joyful popularization of spaghetti in Jeffersonian America. Ben makes an exhilarating vegan taco salad a few times a month, and IT IS SO GOOD. It's fairly conventional (and simple) as far as vegan fare goes, but so yummy that I'm certain it would satisfy omnivores. On taco night, we top tortilla chips with salsa, melted soy cheese, sunflower seeds, black olives, homemade guacamole, and spicy black beans (I couldn't say exactly how Ben makes those, but I know it involves Sriracha sauce, sauteed onion, the soaked and boiled beans, and lots of cumin, basil, and oregano). For my part, I usually prepare the melted soy cheese, combining it with a bit of nutritional yeast and soy milk. The guacamole is also my deal; in case you really don't know how to make guacamole (really? you seriously don't?), here's how to do it:


2 ripe avocados, halved, peeled, and pitted
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. onion, minced or finely chopped
1/4 t. sea salt
1 T. lemon juice

Place the avocados, garlic, onion, and salt in a small bowl. Mash together with a potato-masher or fork. Stir in the lemon juice.

Cake and finals

Another vegan applesauce cake has come and gone. This time we threw in some extra cinnamon and a little more oil and, as anticipated, it was even better than the 1,659 vegan applesauce cakes that came before it.

Another thing that has come and (almost) gone is my first year of art skool. In a week and a half, it'll be time for a glorious summer during which to reflect upon what I've learned. No time for that kind of deliberation now, though: I have several hundred hand-painted animation cels to scan (each takes 6-7 minutes!) and animate, a stop-motion to shoot (haven't even finished fabricating the puppet and set, for Christ's sake), and a shitty drawing to salvage for Michael's class. I know wishing won't make it so, but, in the area of figure drawing, I do wish I had improved more--a lot more. But, barring the unexpected, there's always next year.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Yeast = feast

If you have about seven hours, some flour, and a little yeast, you can bake some awesome bread. I like to do so a couple times a week (it makes me feel like a prairie wife), but obviously it's only possible on the weekends, or when I'm working at home. For the golden loafy pictured here, I made the same dough we use for burger buns; it always turns out well.

Homemade bread doesn't last long, though--and I don't just mean because it is so delicious that we eat it up like pigs (although we certainly do... big, hungry pigs). There are no preservatives in it, so the bread doesn't stay soft for more than a day! After that, it isn't stale exactly, just not very soft anymore. That's when we make garlic bread. If there's still some left after that (and there almost never is... again, pigs), we bake vegan croutons! (Homemade bread is the dish that keeps on giving.) And, finally, here is a photo of Ben interacting with some delicious bread. For some reason, his hands look enormous.

Test tube meat?

A story on NPR's Science Friday got me thinking. If you're vegan or vegetarian, would you eat test tube meat? Did you know PETA has offered a million-dollar prize to the first scientist to come up with (and market, by 2012) in vitro meat?

According to this article from Wired, the "tissue engineering" technology already exists, but "once the meat is made, consumer acceptance is far from assured. What cultured meat will taste like is up in the air. Some scientists think it could be used to create novel foods that won't be quite meat, but won't quite be anything else either."

I don't know enough yet to have a solid take on this concept, but it seems that at the very least, mass-marketed test tube meat could seriously lessen the environmental impact of conventional meat production.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chicago vs. Sherman

During Judy Chicago's lecture last night at MCAD, there was this weird moment when she totally dissed Cindy Sherman, another feminist artist who came to fame in the 1970s. I almost wondered f I had zoned out for a few minutes (I hadn't), because suddenly Chicago was delivering what I considered an irrelevant tirade about one of Sherman's Untitled Film Stills; basically, she spoke, seeming very irritated, about how--even in the art world of the '70s--there was already a strong precedent for images of women looking in mirrors. (She could show us 300 different ones, she claimed, which I kind of don't think is true, but whatever.) And so, Chicago continued, there was absolutely no reason for such a fuss to be made about Cindy Sherman's work, or at least about this particular Untitled Film Still (which, as far as I know, isn't any more famous, or any more significant, than the other images in the series).

I was uncomfortable with this attack for a few reasons, including the obvious one re: feminist infighting. What's bizarre is... well, there are a couple things that seem bizarre about her comments, to me anyway. My brain hurts from painting animation cels all morning, so let's get listy:

a) Her phrasing and tone were so antagonistic. What's her beef with Cindy Sherman?
b) The comments seemed so irrelevant to the rest of her talk, which was about content, context, and continuity in feminist visual art. I was totally paying attention, and the jab seriously came out of nowhere.
c) But, the thing is, she actually had slides to correspond to these comments (that is, one slide of Sherman's work, and one slide from Carrie Mae Weems' Ain't Jokin series--the Snow White/"You Black Bitch" photograph). My point is, this wasn't an extemporaneous outburst. Like her entire talk, which she read verbatim from a sheet of paper, the criticism was scripted. My strong impression was that, for whatever reason, Chicago had to get this poke in, and she didn't integrate it very well into her otherwise constructive, instructive, and worthwhile lecture.
d) The particular Untitled Film Still Chicago criticized is in some ways representative of the series at large: it is a black and white photograph of the artist, young and beautiful, costumed like a character from popular film. Not any particular film, yet it is immediately familiar, cinematic, evocative, and--best of all--convincing; that is, it looks like a still image from a late '60s film noir or suspense thriller. And this image, like the other Stills, is about the act of looking, the active male/passive female dichotomy, and gender as a social construct. That being said, the specific imagery of a woman before a mirror--which is explicitly what Chicago criticized as not being groundbreaking or whatever--is not an image that Sherman comes back to again and again, as far as I know. It's probably not a reflection (no pun intended) of Sherman's work as a whole, so why pick this single image, out of a series of sixty-nine, to rant about?

Seriously, what is the dilly-o? But please don't get me wrong--I admire Judy Chicago. She's a really important figure in visual art and feminism. I probably like Cindy Sherman's work more, I'll confess, but Chicago's stuff is intellectual and groundbreaking, too. It's just that her lecture kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

P.S. I should note that while criticizing the Still Chicago did say something to the effect of "Cindy Sherman's work is fine, but it shouldn't be seen as a precedent." So she didn't totally de-value Sherman's work, or at least didn't want to be perceived as completely de-valuing it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Midsummer in early spring

Ben and I really enjoyed this production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at
the Guthrie. It's one of my
favorite Shakespeare plays,
and one of the funniest. In
the production we saw, the
fairies' costumes are so cool! They seem to reference both Native American dress and the punk aesthetic.

P.S. This photo is actually from a 1937 staging of AMND. That's Vivien Leigh as Titania!

Monday, April 21, 2008


I'm sick, my Flash program crashed, and I'm
really stressed out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Russian over to the museum.

Ben and I and our out-of-town guest spent Saturday afternoon at the gorgeous Museum
of Russian Art
. It houses the premiere
collection of Russian art in the U.S.
and it's right here in Minneapolis! Curious about how this international treasure ended up in the middle of Minnesota, I did a little research (and a little more) and discovered that there is in fact a strong community of Russian immigrants here, most of whom arrived in Minnesota in the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Neat. The same sort of thing was true in the central Pennsylvania town I lived in during the late '90s. I was doing community education back then, and my evening ESL class was made up almost entirely of recent Russian immigrants.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Good luck, Crunch!

Armed with the two free tickets I got from school, Ben and I went
to an NBA basketball game the other night. He likes basketball,
and I was curious about it, so we showed up at the Target Center
and found our nosebleed seats. Here's where our story takes a
surprising turn: people, that game was ridiculously freaking fun!
For real. Spectators are kept constantly entertained by:
a) a blimp that drops prizes from the sky,
b) recognizable rock songs,
c) a senior citizen dance team,
d) the regular dance team,
e) the antics of the Timberwolves' mascot,*
f) easy-to-learn chants and cheers,
g) raffles and freethrow contests, and
h) a Chinese acrobat!

They also do this fun thing where a giant spotlight swirls around the upper levels of the stadium, and whichever section it lands on gets a crapload of free ice cream! Even Ben and I were screaming, "Over heeeere! C'mon, our section!" And we're vegan. Anyway, even the basketball game itself wasn't boring like I expected. Plus, we ate french fries.

There are many things wrong with pro sports, but last night I couldn't think of a single one of them.

*Crunch, pictured here, is, apparently, the Timberwolves' mascot. His endearing stunts and gags did win me over, and when he/she put on his/her enormous rollerbades to perform a trick involving what I perceived as a frighteningly steep ramp, I found myself screaming, "Good luck, Crunch!!!!!!" and "We love you, Crunch!!!!!"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Braised tempeh and a sweet potato crepe

The carmelized onions on this lightly braised tempeh were perfectly sweet. Ben placed the tempeh on top of a mashed sweet potato crepe, and on the side we enjoyed sauteed spinach, summer squash, and carrots. Jesus, it was good! Something else that is good: being married to a born gourmet.

Just the perfect blendship

Ben and I are looking forward to a visit from our D.C. friend T later this week, and I'm preparing by cleaning the house instead of completing basic schoolwork. Although I'm not especially partial to a life of gaiety, I am looking forward to having T here; Ben and I are both so slow at making new friends that it is truly special to have an old friend in town. Unfortunately, I'll be working on a project in the animation studio at school for most of T's visit... it can't be avoided. But she is such an easy, low-key guest. We'll give her a house key and a DuraMap and turn her loose on the Twin Cities, and she will love it. The other nice thing is that the weather is finally improving! It's nearly 70 degrees today, although windy as hell.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Easy vegan chocolate peanut butter candy!

I'm flying high on the realization that easy, crazy delicious candy can be made by melting together vegan chocolate chips and some peanut butter. That's it! You just melt it together and pour into miniature cupcake papers! An hour in the 'fridge, and holy crap! You have fast,* melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-peanut butter candies!

* For less fast, but more fancy, peanut butter cups, try this. Each has its place, don't you agree?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Go forth, friendly bacteria

I know I've already heaped praise upon how far soy yogurt has come in recent years (now without grainy texture!), but it's worth another post because I am so into it lately. I wouldn't call it one of my favorite foods or anything, but look how pretty it is with strawberries! And, soy yogurt is probiotic, which means it contains bacteria that contribute to the health of the intestinal tract. As the steward of one seriously screwy intestinal tract (it's genetic), this sounds good to me.

Friday, April 11, 2008


As most of my three readers know, I'm in art school and I try to participate in every art challenge that comes my way, because a) it's fun to make art that isn't going to be graded, b) it pushes me to expand my subject matter and materials, and c) sometimes you win stuff!

This is a photo of my submission for the school's annual self-portrait competition. It's made of thread and fabric on the requisite masonite board.

Breakfast pudding

Que tropical! This creamy coconut-banana pudding topped with strawberries was a nice contrast to
the repulsive mid-April snowstorm Minneapolis is suffering. It went okay with the baked oatmeal medallions seen in the photo, but those turned out chewier than I wanted.

Vegan breakfast pudding

12 oz. silken tofu
6-8 oz. coconut milk
2 bananas
1/2 c. sugar
sliced strawberries or other fruit for garnish

Blend the tofu, coconut milk, bananas, and sugar in food processor. Pour into dessert cups or bowls and chill for 4-6 hours. Before serving, garnish.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tofu all the time!

These spicy tofu triangles get play a couple times a week at our house. Ben's really good at whipping them up, and they're great in a primavera, nice with rice, and satisfying in a veggie sautee. Press the tofu first for maximum deliciousness, because this simple dish is super-savory, and squishy tofu just doesn't absorb as much flavor.

Tofu Triangles

1 block extra-firm tofu (not silken)
3 T. olive oil
2 T. tamari or soy sauce
2 T. sesame oil
2 T. Sriracha sauce
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. basil (optional)
1/4 t. oregano (optional)

Press the tofu, then slice it into 1/4-1/2"-thich triangles (or whatever geometric form you prefer). Pour the olive oil into a large pan and arrange the tofu in a single layer in the pan. Sautee the tofu over medium-high heat for several minutes, flipping to lightly brown each side. Add the tamari/soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha sauce, and spices and continue to cook over medium heat for 6-10 minutes or until the tofu is pleasantly browned and nice to gaze upon. Add to primaveras, veggie bakes, or rice dishes.

Hezbollah Tofu

Do you know about this blog dedicated to veganizing the recipes of Anthony Bourdain? (Bourdain is the Byronic anti-vegan who wrote Kitchen Confidential.)

About the name. Here's what sayeth Sara, Hezbollah Tofu blogger:
Dudes: we know it's offensive. That is the point. It's meant to call attention and mockery to the absolute ridiculousness of Anthony Bourdain earnestly comparing vegans to the freakin Hezbollah.

Movie star snack

I made a half-batch of somebody else's vegan recipe for crispy brown rice squares. Actually, that someone else is Alicia Silverstone, the blonde who was so cute in Clueless (a 1990s film that many folks don't realize is an adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma). Anyway, Silverstone is vegan and the chocolatey, peanutbuttery dessert turned out too well, actually: Ben and I gobbled most of it up the first night.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Vegan potage esau

If you've only had lentil soup from a can, no wonder you don't like it! Fresh, homemade potage esau is a really delicious winter supper. Made with fresh tomatoes and spinach, it's simultaneously mild and flavorful. A hearty bowlful goes great with fried sweet potatoes and a green salad.

Potage Esau

3 T. olive oil
1 heaping c. coarsely chopped onion
1 t. rice vinegar
1 c. brown lentils
½ c. brown rice, uncooked
4 c. vegetable broth or water
1 t. basil
1 t. cumin
½ t. ground pepper
¼ t. coriander
¼ t. cayenne
½ t. Sriracha sauce (optional)
1 ½ c. diced tomatoes
1 c. roasted red or orange peppers, seeds and skins removed

Sautee onion in the olive oil for five minutes over low heat. Add the rice vinegar and sautee three more minutes. Add lentils, rice, and broth (or water) and bring to a boil. Add basil, cumin, ground pepper, coriander, cayenne, and optional Sriracha. Reduce heat to low and simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slice the roasted peppers. When ready to serve, turn off heat and stir in the roasted peppers.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Homemade burger buns

Lately, a modest veggie burger has been one of my favorite weeknight dinners. They're so nice with slices of ripe tomato, some mustard, and a leaf of spinach. Sometimes I put soy cheese on mine--oh, and always a pickle! Always!

Although we occasionally make our burgers from scratch, Ben and I don't snub the commercial ones. Boca and Gardenburger make such good-tasting, dependable burgers that it's hard to muster up the courage to make homemade ones that may or may not turn out right. If you've ever tried to make your own veggie burgers out of mushrooms or other veggies, you know that lots of things can go wrong. (They often turn out crumbly, for example.)

But one thing I can be relied upon to make well is homemade burger buns. Since the dough has to be punched down a couple of times before being formed into cute little bun shapes, I make them on days when I am working from home. It takes a little time (mostly waiting for the dough to rise), but making them is incredibly easy and inexpensive. Plus, fresh bread is always worth the trouble.

Homemade burger buns

2 1/2 c. flour (unbleached white, whole wheat, or a mix)
1/2 t. salt
Scant T. yeast whisked into 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. canola oil

Combine the flour and salt in bowl. (If you have a Kitchenaid mixer with a bread hook, combine them in your mixer bowl.) Making sure that the yeast is completely dissolved in the 1/4 c. water, add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and either stir by hand until combined or attach your bread hook and mix.

Knead the dough for ten minutes by hand or a few minutes by mixer/hook. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel and place in a warm spot to rise. (Sometimes I put the rising dough in the living room, because that room is a little warmer than the others.)

After a couple of hours, when the dough has doubled in bulk, punch the dough and scrape down sides. Cover again. A couple hours later, when the dough has doubled again, punch the dough, scrape the sides, and form dough into a ball. Divide the ball into 5-8 smaller pieces (depending on what size you'd like the buns to be, or how many you need). Form each into a ball and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet to rise one more time. (You can cover them if you like--I usually find it too much trouble.)

When the buns have risen to not quite double their size, bake them in a 350 degree oven for about twenty minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

When cool, slice the buns in half bun-style.

Vegan vanilla yogurt cake

A scoop of vanilla soy yogurt in the batter makes this cake both moist and dense. It's topped with Ben's fluffy, light maple syrup frosting--an amazing substance with the consistency and flavor of a pastry cream.

Soy yogurt sure has come a long way in recent years. I was never a big consumer of yogurt of any type, and the soy yogurts I tried years ago--as a new vegan--were pretty terrible. Grainy and weird-tasting, the yogurts of five or ten years ago were just kind of gross. Nowadays, Silk brand makes smooth, creamy, dairy-free yogurts that I like a lot. I buy a big container of plain or vanilla each week and use it for baking and for breakfasts... nice with fresh banana or other fruit mixed in (another reason to anticipate the summer berry season).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Collaborative dessert

Ben made this giant batch of chocolate-chip cupcakes and I frosted 'em. This is what we do on the weekend.

Vegan omelette #1

This tofu omelette was perfect until I folded it in half. I had been able to flip the little circle of batter in order to brown both sides, but once I added the filling (sauteed mushrooms, onions, spinach, and soy cheese) and tried to close it up, everything spun out of control. So: tofu scramble! Tasted good, but just isn't as pretty as an omelette. The lemon-dill potatoes turned out great, though... much better than last time!

I'm trying to figure out what I can add to the batter to firm up the omelette. Stay tuned, friends.