Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Memphis Beautiful

My boyfriend's parents came to visit this weekend, and between the huge meals we consumed, we were, at times, at a loss as to what to do with them. We hadn't thought past, "Oh, let's eat here for breakfast, and then we'll take them here for lunch, and for dinner we'll take them to that great steakhouse...". We ended up driving them around and pointing out various Memphis attractions. The first place we thought of was the Elmwood Cemetery, which is the oldest and most historic cemetery in Memphis. Lyndon had me snap a picture of his favorite grave marker - a mysterious and haunting shrouded woman made of bronze. Isn't the patina just lovely? I had to agree with him that it was one of the most beautiful headstones on the grounds. After strolling the cemetery grounds, we decided to take them to the National Ornamental Metal Museum. It's the only museum in the United States that is dedicated to the preservation and education of fine metal work. The exhibits are always stunning, and the view from the garden of the museum is wonderful.

The whole day made me realize that there is a lot more to Memphis than people think. What do you think of when you visualize Memphis? Elvis, no doubt, then rock and roll, followed by barbeque, right? I don't want to downplay the importance of these things, because they are part of the reason that this city is so great. (A side note: his parents were dying to get barbeque when they came, but Central Barbeque was out of ribs and the Barbeque Shop were closed...I suppose we were just not meant to eat barbeque on Sunday).

So, if you ever find yourself in Memphis, it's ok to go to Beale Street and have a drink or five, and it's fine if you decide to check out Graceland. You couldn't visit Memphis and not do these things or else you wouldn't be a true tourist of Memphis. But, if you have a free moment, consider checking out a museum, or a park (and of course try the barbeque!). Memphis really is a beautiful city, with so much to see.

Monday, February 18, 2008

My Blueberry Nights

Since moving to Memphis two years ago, it's amazing to me how much we hear about famous people visiting the city. I know Memphis is a very historic city and has lots of draws, but I still find it really neat that Memphis gets such attention. It's great for the city and really makes me proud to live here.

Last summer, there was buzz about a movie being filmed in Memphis in the South Main Arts District. I was curious, so I drove down there to investigate. Sure enough, there were camera crews and tech guys all over the place. They were filming the movie inside Ernestine & Hazel's, a seedy but really great bar that is located in a former brothel house.

The movie they were filming was My Blueberry Nights, starring Norah Jones, Jude Law, Natalie Portman..and many more big name actors. Of course, the scene they filmed here in Memphis could only be a 3 minute scene in the actual movie, but who cares. The whole idea that these people were in Memphis and filming at a bar that I've been to is really pretty cool. I'll definitely be going to see it when it comes out in theatres (early April, I think).

Go here to see the trailor.

Update: 9/16/08: Please don't even waste your time with this movie. We finally rented it over the weekend and watched it, and it was difficult to get through. Bad dialogue, some really boring acting on Norah Jones' part, and really really annoying stop-motion (is that what it's called?) cinematography. You know, where everything is sort of blurry, like they are trying to make the scene more dramatic. Blah. Something else that was very irritating is that they would have a shot of say, traffic lights, and it would be all blurry/choppy (dramatic again), and the shot would stay on these dumb traffic lights for a good ten seconds or so. And it had no meaning. It was like the director was all, "Ok, crew, let's try to up the drama here and focus on these swinging traffic lights. Yeah, that's good - just like that!". Ugh.

Featured Seller: Octavine Illustration

I love Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles. Seeing that I went to college for interior design and architecture, these two styles were, by far, my favorite lectures in our art history and architecture history courses. The sweeping, organic elements of Art Nouveau seemed so beautiful and natural to me, while the rigid, structured motifs and silhouettes of the Art Deco period were so pleasing to the eye. To me, both of these styles just make sense.

That's why I was so happy to find this artist on etsy.com. Go check it out! Her shop name is Octavine Illustration, and here is her description of her work:

"My goal is to construct a world of retro images based on the classic Art Deco form. I garner inspiration from the sensuous lines of Deco haute couture, classic silhouettes of sleek sophistication."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Sweet Note

Remember second grade? When Valentine's Day meant a deluge of valentines from all of your little peers, some with My Little Pony theme, some with Transformers theme, (can you tell I grew up in the 80s?) and the rest were all duplicates? And then were your teacher handed out those chalky little hearts for you to snack on? Is there anyone out there that actually likes those?

But even now that I'm an adult, I still get excited to get any sort of Valentine. And this year, look what I got! Well, I should say we. Lyndon's parents sent us a valentine, and I thought it was so very sweet of them to find such a specific card. Hopefully that means they like me.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day

I was going to bake a cake for Valentine's Day to share with my coworkers, but at the last minute I decided to make cookies instead, and here's why: it's much easier to taste-test cookies than a cake. It would be fairly obvious if I brought a cake to work and and it was missing a corner because I wanted to taste it.

So I made Brown Sugar Cookies. I regulary watch America's Test Kitchen, which airs on PBS here on Saturday mornings, and that's where I got this cookie recipe. Have you ever seen this show? It's great. They take a typical everyday food, explain why it just plain sucks, and then they show you how to really make it taste good. One episode they featured pasta salad, and the guy brought a container of generic pasta salad from the grocery store and dumped it into the bowl. "Look at this! It's gross! All mayonnaise and no flavor!" Then they proceed to cook the most amazing-looking, wonderfully flavored pasta salad that has just the right amount of mayonnaise, and the pasta isn't sticky, and all of a sudden you have a huge craving for pasta salad.

There is a catch, however. They advertise that you can get all of their recipes on their website, but in order to do so you have to pay a monthly fee. Yuck to that. So I was determined to get this cookie recipe for free. I sat in front of the TV with my pen and paper ready. I jotted it down as quickly as I could. The lady who was making the cookies was listing out the steps. "Brown 10 tablespoons of butter, roughly 2 to 4 minutes, and then add 4 tablespoons of cold butter to that mixture, to stop it from browning. Remove from heat, and set aside." All good, I think as I jot this down. This is easy - they are giving me the entire recipe! "Now, you take two cups of flour, some baking soda and baking powder, and sift that together." What? How much is "some?" This was disturbing for me, because up until this point, they had given me every necessary measurement for the recipe, except how much baking soda and baking powder. Ugh, how evil! I suppose they do this so you are forced to pay and subscribe to their website...because who really knows how much baking soda and baking powder to use in a recipe like this? No one.

But I wanted to attempt it anyway. Take that, America's Test Kitchen! And they didn't turn out that bad at all! I decided to use 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. They did turn out a little flat, so maybe next time I'll increase those amounts. For any bakers out there...if you have any idea how much I should use, please let me know. Like I said, they turned out fine (and my coworkers love them!), but I think they could be better. Or at least not so flat.
As you can see, I also rolled them in red and white sugar, in honor of Valentine's day. You will also notice that the finished cookies are weirdly shaped. I must have made the balls too big, or put them too close together, because I had to cut them apart once they came out of the oven. But they still taste good!

Brown Sugar Cookies
adapted from America's Test Kitchen - those jerks

14 tbsp butter, divided
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 350. Melt 10 tbsp butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue stirring until the butter browns, roughly 2-4 minutes. Remove from heat, and drop in the remaining 4 tbsp cold butter into the melted butter. Let sit until all butter has melted.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, and set aside.

Mix the melted butter and brown sugar together. Stir in the egg and egg yolk. Gently fold in the flour mixture, making sure not to mix too much (I think this was also why my cookies turned out a bit flat).

Roll into 1 inch balls, and roll them in sugar (the show says to roll them in brown sugar and white sugar, but I opted to roll them in colored sugar instead). Place them 2 inches apart on a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake one pan at a time, for 12-14 minutes. Turn cookie sheet around half-way into the baking time. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and place on cookie rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Featured Seller: Sparrowfist

Like I've already said in my previous post, I'd like to start featuring sellers that I find on Etsy. You are probably asking, "Well, why don't you feature what you make?" Good question. If I didn't have my day job, then I would have oodles of time to create, create, create, and then of course I'd have awesome and amazing stuff of my own to show off. But, that's not the case. I'm a slave to my nine-to-five, and once I get home from work I just don't have any energy to create anything. I'm hoping that once Daylight Savings Time kicks in (March 9th!), I'll have more energy. At least that's my excuse.

Anyway...here's the seller that I've chosen today. Her shop name is Sparrowfist. I can't remember where I found this seller, but I loved her stuff so much that I sent her a message telling her how much I adored her jewelry. Looking back, that may have been a little like spamming her, but she wrote back a really sweet thank you message, so I guess it didn't bother her.

Just look at her work! What I like most about it is that it's all so simple. Beautiful, simple, effective. I'm not a frilly girl, but I do love bold looks. Please go check out her shop. Go there and buy something from her. Be like me and spend all of your money on Etsy things, and all the while keep hoping that one day you'll get your act together and actually create things of your own, instead of thinking of creating things. But that's another story...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Human Reactions

So I just had to share this. I took a psychology course in college, and the very first day proved to be very interesting. As students began filling up the classroom, the professor was nowhere in sight. Five minutes went by, and then ten. Many of us began comparing notes: "This is Psych 202, right?" "Yeah, I think so." Fifteen minutes went by and a lot of students were thinking of leaving. All of a sudden, a woman who had been sitting quietly near the front of the room got out of her chair and went to the blackboard and turned around. "So," she said, "Are you all planning on leaving?" Some mumbled yes, others weren't quite sure what to do. "Well, go ahead and sit down. I am the professor," she said. "Isn't it amazing how people react when things don't go the way they expect them to?" Basically, she was studying our actions and watching how we were dealing with this unexpected event. A small event, sure, but she got her point across, which was that human beings tend to react in very similar ways when confronted with unusual happenings.

Which led me to this post. I found this at www.improveverywhere.com, and just had to share it.
On a cold Saturday in New York City, the world’s largest train station came to a sudden halt. Over 200 Improv Everywhere Agents froze in place at the exact same second for five minutes in the Main Concourse of Grand Central Station. Over 500,000 people rush through Grand Central every day, but today, things slowed down just a bit as commuters and tourists alike stopped to notice what was happening around them.