our advent calendar

My mother made this Advent calendar for us sometime in the late 70's or early 80's. It hung near the front door and my brother and I took turns picking ornaments each day, sharing the top star duty Christmas morning if we remembered to. The calendar went out of commission for about twenty years, give or take, so I'm so happy to have two little ones of my own who are excited out of their minds to see it when we take out the Christmas decorations every year. 

I'd love to break this down into a do-it-yourself project, but I'm not much into sewing and I think it's pretty much self explanatory. A big piece of burlap with a dowel and ribbon at the top for hanging, a felted triangle for the tree, twenty-five sets of velcro dots, felt and stuffing to make twenty-five little ornaments (including a star), and felt to make the twenty-five pockets to hold the ornaments.

He's got two faces for the camera, this one and the giant smile/squinty-eyed one.

The things I could show you that my mother has made. She's incredible! She actually designed a line of Christmas-y dolls and angels and worked the craft fair circuit with my stepfather ON TOP of working a full-time year-round job that basically paid my way through five years of architecture school. Our tree is covered with homemade ornaments (many hand painted wooden ornaments from really cool kits). There is just so much! I have had a really hard time parting with any of it, which is sort of a problem because the Christmas stuff takes up a good percentage of our current small storage situation.

It dawned on me to share this because I am seeing do-it-yourself Advent calendars all over the place this year. Some really fantastic, creative and elaborate ones. Many are even three dimensional. There is a little round up of great calendars here by Kelly at StudioDIY, and Jordan and her team at OhHappyDay have been making some really cool large scale ones. There have been several in the last few weeks, just scroll through her blog to find them. The idea of having to come up with twenty five little gifts to put in the boxes or pouches on top of all the other shopping that needs to get done is a little daunting to me, but I still think they are awesome.

Have a great weekend everyone! We're doing the tree thing tomorrow, and then Sunday I'm taking Stella to the Bazaar Bizarre Holiday Faire to do some Christmas shopping. I have several donut projects on tap for next week, possibly even FIVE DAYS OF DONUTS (we'll see), so see you Monday! xoxo


bread box

Two wonderful things I haven't been able to find on a grocery shelf out here arrived at our doorstep the Friday after Thanksgiving, sent to us by my sweet, sweet Aunt Kate all the way from New Hampshire. What a surprise! Real Vermont maple syrup (it's all Canadian, even in the nicest of shops in our neighborhood) and this super-thin bread that I LOVE! My grandmother made us cinnamon toast and sandwich after crustless sandwich on this stuff, and her wonderful melba toast, too. We ate the first loaf in a day, I'm afraid to open the second loaf.

Random surprise packages are such a joy, right? My friend Erika sent me a box full of vintage aprons last year and it was such a treat. My mother does this sort of thing for the kids every now and again, and the happiness far outweighs whatever is in the box or the postage.

My aunt was certainly inspired sending this package. Wonderful food memories of this summer in her barn and of my grandmother G.G., who I adored and whose food I adored as well. I had visceral feelings by just laying eyes on the bread wrappers. It made me ask myself what kind of food memories our kids are collecting right now, what I am feeding them that they love or that smells really good and that they see on a regular basis? I am afraid our warmest food memories are made mostly of sugar. That's food for thought, for sure.


donut pan idea no. 31: olive cheese cocktail rings

I can't believe I banged these out on Thanksgiving with everything else I had going in the kitchen, but I did. Olive cheese cocktail rings! I serve them in ball form at almost every party I have. They are great because you can prepare them ahead of time and bake them right before serving. Stella, David and our friend Windy love to gobble them down. I can easily eat five or six of them myself per cocktail, so I thought why not bake them in the donut pan? What did I have to lose? 

Nothing! They are even more fun and just as delicious.

The recipe is from a copy of Betty Crocker's Cookbook that my mother handed down to me years ago. So many great cocktail snack recipes in that book, but this is the best one.

I didn't have time to shoot a play-by-play, but that's okay, they are so simple. This is a four-ingredient recipe. You will need 2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 1 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 c. melted unsalted butter and 42 small pimento-stuffed olives. This will yield seven cocktail rings, each with six olive segments. You will also need vegetable oil, for the pans.

To make:
Prepare the pans by oiling the cavities. A little heavier than "lightly oiled", but not so much that the oil pools at the bottom of the pans.

Stir together the cheese and flour, then work in the melted butter with your hands, squeezing and kneading until the cheese and dough become one.

Pour your olives into a colander so excess liquid can drip off. Mold one teaspoon (I eyeball it) around each olive and roll between palms to shape into ball. Place tightly, six per cavity, in donut pans like so:

Cover and refrigerate for one hour or up to one day.

When ready to bake, place in preheated 400º oven and bake for +/-18 minutes. When they are done they will be light golden brown at the edges, and ever-so-slightly still soft to the touch, just a little bitLet cool on a rack for ten minutes before removing from pans.

To remove, carefully work a very sharp paring knife around the edges to disconnect from edge of pan. Do not scrape your pan! After I cut the edges away a bit, I was able to carefully pry the rings out totally intact. If you remove them while the pastry is still warm you risk crumbling, so definitely let them cool first.

To serve, just pile up on a pretty plate and have at 'em. If you are friendly (or family) with your fellow snackers, you might find yourself breaking a few of the rings into segments to share with each other. If you aren't all that familiar, then plan on one ring per person as a cocktail snack. 

Speaking of cocktail snacks, my very first donut project was also great with a drink. Remember these


small business saturday


This is most of the new batch of egg piñatas I delivered Wednesday to Rare Device. I have started using a variety of lovely crepe papers that I can order directly from Carte Fini and my new find, the other-worldly Castle in the Air. These recent eggs feature an amazingly hued, two-sided crepe called doublette, a thin and strangely colored metallic crepe called noblesse, and the heavy thick florist crepe I've been working with for a while (like I used here). You can read about these crepe papers and more here, if you'd like.

 •pine cone•

•candy striped•

I wanted to go all metallic and shiny and white for the holidays, but some of the metallic papers aren't easy to work with when it comes to standard Elmer's Glue and an eggshell, so I switched directions and went a little woodland with some of them. I have a few in my Etsy shop right now. I have yet to sell any eggs out of the Etsy shop yet! Luckily the are doing well at Rare Device since they started stocking them in June. I think you need to be able to touch them and see them in person to really get what they are.

•white and cream layered winter goose egg in hand for scale•

•trio of blue-to-silver gradated eggs•

•white and cream layered chicken egg•

•golden tree shape•

The reason I worked my fingers to the bone and pulled some late, late nights over the last week was to get the eggs in on time for Small Business Saturday, which is tomorrow, November 24th. Rare Device is hosting an opening for a new pop-up shop within the store, and it is a day I hope a lot of people around here think about supporting fantastic local businesses like Rare Device that carry so many wonderful things from local artists. San Francisco is FULL of opportunities like this, as is Etsy. So much quality, local, handmade wonderfulness out there. Sometimes you just need a reminder to go find it!


gentlemen, to bed

We are having Thanksgiving here on home turf for only the second time in eleven years. Stella and her cousin have been planning their annual Thanksgiving performance since my sister-in-law and her crew walked in the door yesterday afternoon. Everyone except Oliver and me is out taking a backstreet tour of the city right now. I am recovering from the exhaustion of working until 2:30 a.m. for four nights in a row and getting ready to cook the crap out of our dinner tomorrow.

We have so much to be thankful for this year, probably more than recent years gone by. Hard work is paying off, our marriage is stronger than it has been in a while, I recently got great health news, the kids are great and thriving. I feel like we have it all right now.

I hope you are feeling similarly! With a roof over our heads and food on our tables, I think with everything going on right now it is hard not to feel very lucky and thankful.

I leave you with this, something hilarious that I have watched over and over since discovering while listening to the film The Trip while I was up late working a few nights ago. All four of us have it memorized, and my sister-in-law's family almost has it down, too. Really funny stuff.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! xoxo


showtime: debut performance at red hots burlesque, el rio, october 24, 2012

All photos by Eric Stein Photography unless otherwise noted.

I just had a great night performing with Bombshell Betty last week, but before I get too behind and this becomes a distant but exciting memory, I wanted to share the photos from my debut performance at Red Hots Burlesque last month. I had stage kittened for the Red Hots previously, but this was my first actual performance with them.

Red Hots Burlesque is run by Dottie Lux, who is a wonderful performer, a generous, generous soul, and a hilarious broad. Dottie performed that night, along with the INCREDIBLE Alotta Boutte, and performers Nikki Sparx and Miss Rahni. I of course performed my Frida Kahlo act, which I am so happy to put away for a while.

Unfortunately, that night was game one of the World Series, with eventual champions the San Francisco Giants playing, so we didn't stand a chance. There were maybe twenty people in what is normally a packed audience, including the one friend of mine who showed up out of literally a dozen who said they would be there, who was here on business from Pennsylvania (he's a Red Sox fan). They audience did the best they could, and with the lights in my face it didn't register that I was performing to a sea of empty chairs.

Good experience for me for sure. I was completely out of my comfort zone, performing with seasoned, talented performers who don't know me from Eve. Preparing for the show in a keg closet with four other performers. Dancing for next-to-no-one. I gained a little autonomy that night. I'm not only (proudly) one of Bombshell Betty's Burlesqueteers, I am a performer named Yve Jobs. Pretty cool.

Here are a few more photos. You'll see more in an American Apparel ad on a bus stop than in these photos, so don't fret.

I love this next photo so much. That's David Glamamore on the right, a revered performer and costume designer. He's whispering to me "....and when you removed the sequined eyebrow?!". Best moment of the night!

I also really love this! I've never been on a flyer before. That's me on the bottom right performing my Easter act earlier in the year, with the big huevos eggs.

Flyer credit: Dottie Lux

I hadn't expected to be performing this much in the second half of the year, but it has been a joy. The Frida act is as much a performance art piece as a burlesque act (they are often both). It has a narrative of being freed from the body cast, the bandages (and the eyebrow), and something about death. It's as much as I can convey in a three minute long song. It's fun. 

I'll be back performing a different act with Red Hots in late February. I'm really looking forward to it. I guarantee there will be more people in attendance that night, which will make it even more fun!


thanksgiving cranberry jelly rings

Cranberry jelly rings. Individual plates of cranberry jelly for each guest at your Thanksgiving table. Need butter? Make a few of these to scatter around the table as well.

November's issue of Martha Stewart Living arrived at our house just a few days after I had been on a hunt for a good molded cranberry jelly recipe. Perfect timing. In it was this cranberry-maple jelly recipe. I love that magazine, I really do. It's got my number.

The recipe as written will make you upwards of twenty cranberry jelly rings. Each ring is about a two ounce portion, which I think would be enough for your average turkey eater. I did some math here and adapted the recipe to make five jelly rings. If you need ten, double it. If you need fifteen, triple it. And if you need twenty, just go right here, to the original recipe.

For five rings you will need a 12 oz. bag fresh cranberries, 3/8 c. sugar, 7/8 c. water (divided), 7/16 c. grade A pure maple syrup and 3/4 tbsp. unflavored powdered gelatin. I brought the gelatin proportion up just a tiny bit to make sure the jelly kept its shape when released from donut pan.

Start by bringing the 12 oz. cranberries, 3/8 c. sugar and 3/4 c. water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat. Cook, stirring occasionally for ten minutes, until cranberries have burst and are completely soft and juicy. 

Over a medium bowl, press the cranberries through a screened sieve (mine is much too small, but it worked) using a spoon or the back of a ladle. Get all the juice you can. It took me a while, but I got a full cup of juice. If you get less than a cup of juice, add a little water to make a full cup.

Add the 7/16 c. maple syrup to the cranberry juice bowl and stir.

In a custard cup, sprinkle the 3/4 tbsp. gelatin over two tbsp. of water to soften. Let sit for a minute.

Transfer 1/4 c. of the cranberry/syrup mixture to a clean saucepan and bring to a simmer, then stir in softened gelatin until it dissolves completely. Add this mixture back into the bowl with the other 3/4 c. cranberry/syrup mixture and stir well. Place that bowl in a larger bowl of ice water until cool to the touch, stirring occasionally. This should sit around ten minutes.

While the jelly mixture is cooling, oil your pan lightly with vegetable oil (you know the drill).

Fill the pan with the cooled jelly mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for eight hours (and up to two days).

When you are ready to unmold the jelly rings, fill a baking sheet with warm (not hot) water and set your pan in the water for just five to ten seconds. The jelly breaks back down quickly. I learned that the hard way, so really just do this for a short, short period of time, then set the pan back down on the counter.

I found using dry, clean fingers I could press lightly and pull the edges of the rings away from the edge of the pan, enough to gently slip a butter knife in and then to allow me to work my fingers underneath the rings and pull them up. Since these are being plated individually, you can't just flip the whole tray over. You have to remove them one by one. Have your saucers or small plates at the ready, you want to put the jelly rings down quickly and precisely, because you can't move them afterwards.

If you do end up with imperfections (I ended up with a few due to leaving the donut pan in the warm water a little too long), maybe disguise them with a few berries or pomegranate seeds, or maybe something even more clever than that! How about fried sage leaves? That would be perfect. 

I hope you have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving. As always, I am thankful for you stopping by here! xoxo


round up: a picture is worth a thousand words

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what does my camera being devoid of photos of my children for the last few weeks say about me? It says I've been way too busy lately. Concerted efforts to rectify the situation started yesterday, and made me feel great. No matter how exciting a project may be, I love the feeling of a clean plate and clear slate.

Besides our trip to Point Reyes last weekend, it's been all "work". A new egg order, the donuts, the costume, the shows (photos soon), major daily messes, and stress. And late, late nights, the kind of nights that find you asking yourself what the heck you're doing with your life, followed by a cup of coffee in the morning to erase all of that from your mind for the rest of the day. I am hoping December brings some very civilized evening routines and early bedtimes for me, but it's doubtful. I love Christmas.

Bonus prize care package for the donut pan giveaway winner Deb, who is a wicked sweetheart.

A feast for our eyes. Stella and I caught a few parts of Broadway: The American Musical on PBS. Fantastic!

The heater (has been ON).

Five eggs is a good sign we were all having breakfast together.

The nighttime scene. Confetti and a movie.

Holiday piñata egg preview number one: winter goose egg in blue-to-silver gradation.

Holiday piñata egg preview number two: winter goose egg in subtle cream and white stripes. It's lovely.

First one backstage. Always.

The morning after a show required breakfast sandwiches and a cuddle on the café couch with Oliver.

Have a great weekend! xoxo

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