Monthly Archives: December 2008

Those Cookies

So as you may know, baking has become my preferred medium for creativity and expression. The use of 3 fundamental ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, manipulated in myriad ways to create desserts from flaky, to chewy, to crunchy is magical and I’ve never been happier with all this sweetness around me.

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So I figured I’d share this joyousness by baking xmas cookies for friends and family. Unfortunately the latter were not wow’d by the goodies that came in their cookie box. The variety was not appreciated or acknowledged. It was like popcorn, just grab and pop in the mouth, if that. I was very disappointed by this and also concluded I will not be baking for fam anytime soon. My baby cousin enjoyed the sugar xmas tree, but other than that he was more preoccupied with the scented color pencils I got for him. My father was especially uncaring for it, and I suppose that was my mistake because he doesn’t really eat dessert. Koreans don’t really dessert, there is no sugar regimen in korean food, except maybe rice pudding. So basically I made all this for the wrong crowd. Now I know better.

Nonetheless, I had a shitload of fun baking and decorating the cookies, I love the multiplicity and singularity of cookies, the ability to take one whole bite and continue in this oral fixated repetitiveness that is actually harmful for me. I had a hard time trying not to eat these cookies and distributing them accordingly, they were really good and each had its own particular cute individual character.

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I don’t remember the recipe for these sugar cookies anymore but I can confirm they were sugary for sure. The icing alone took three laborious hours but I enjoyed every minute of it. It took some practice and trial and error to get the piping tools to work properly and not goop and spill everywhere, and it was a challenge to figure how I would want to design my very first iced cookies. My favorite are the xmas trees, and the zig zags as branches and leaves. I didn’t want to waste a whole of icing filling all of them so tried to be as minimally creative as possible. The cookie itself is soft and not so sweet without the icing which compliments the topping very well. It’s solid and soft, meaning it doesn’t crumble all over you upon taking a bite. The recipe, if only I could remember was a keeper. The only thing that was odd was the food coloring didn’t fully dissolve, turning it more into a white and color splotchy swirl. I would like to find a better royal icing recipe, which is basically cups of confectioners sugar, vanilla and water.

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I made these sables not so long ago here and they were so irresistibly delicious then so I had to try it again. It came out much prettier this time around now that I’ve got the gist of rolling, storing, and decorating. They tasted just as delicious and almost consumed an entire batch. I’ve concluded shortbread cookies are my favorite kind of cookies with the knock you out butter flavor and crumbling softness that gently melts in your mouth upon taking a glorious bite. A friend helped decorated with sprinkles and I unfortunately didn’t have red so settled with festive orange and green lining. Don’t they look delicious?

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Thumbprints. Also from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking book. These cookies were even crumblier than the sables, a good thing they were mini bite size because they just feel apart at the mercy of your mouth. The jam I used was Sarabeth’s raspberry orange marmalade and it was very subtle so the cookie wasn’t too sweet. It was a great balance of texture and taste, texture emphasized by the ground hazelnuts which wasn’t overpowering or overtly flavorful. It reminded me of the linzer sables I made not too long ago, but softer and better. Recipe at end of post.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. My least favorite of all the cookies I baked, recipe found here. They’re mushy and chewy, I don’t get so much of the pumpkin flavor which also seems to silence the chocolate’s flavoring. They did come out uniform, round and bubbly so looked cute and soft, but not my favorite.

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Chocolate Hazeulnut Crinkle Cookies. Both hazelnut and chocolate so subtle and well blended, a softspoken thick almost brownie like cookie that beckons your attention with its luscious cracks and powdered topping. They didn’t taste as beautiful as they looked but I got an aromatic high from the smell alone so that was enough for me. Recipe found here.

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The perfect madeleine is very hard to find. It is rare I will even see madeleines in a bakery. I’m sure that’s not the story if you’re Paris. But in Brooklyn and Manhattan, I am yet to find the perfect madeleine. Mine aren’t that much better. I for some reason baked it a bit too much so they were too brown and tasted too brown. Buttery but too bready, not plump and airy enough, and also too thick due to my overfilling the pan. Still, don’t get me wrong, they were delicious. It was moisturized a bit too much but it would still melt in your mouth and revel in the beauty of butter. Recipe at end of post. Oh, and do read this article on the importance of butter.

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I think these were my favorite cookies from all the batches, the classic NY Black & White cookies. It was definitely the icing that won me over. I’ve never had b&w cookies this good, usually would see the big ones in bakeries and only eat the chocolate half and they were always thick and doughy. These here are miniature nite size, thinner, softer, lighter, sweeter. The icing has some lemon juice in it which really comes out in the white part and makes eating that half more tolerable. The cocoa powder that is on the other side is just pure orgasm. One challange was balancing the consistency between the two shades, the white ended up too diluted, I added too much water, but didn’t mind because the chocolate was absolute creamy perfection before drying. I loved these and will be making it again and again. Recipe here.

Those were a lot of cookies weren’t they? I think it will be awhile before I bake again, need a break from such a gluttonous fat inducing activity, not to mention there is an unforgiving relentless zit on my forehead borne from layeres of oil and butter.  But don’t fret, I will be back in the kitchen before you know it.

Recipes

Thumbprints

Makes 60 cookies (I halved)

1 3/4 cups finely ground hazelnuts

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temp

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

confectioner’s sugar for dusting

About 1 cup raspberry jam (or the jam or marmalade of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the ground nuts and flour.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add extracts and beat to blend. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add nut flour mixture, mixing only until incorporated.

Working with a teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Steading each cookie with the thumb and finger of one hand, use pinkie of other hand or end of a wooden spoon to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies should be only slightly colored, they may even look underdone. they should not be overbaked When the cookies are baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let rest for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with wide metal spatula and sift confectioners’ sugar over them.

Repeat with the remaining dough, remembering to cool the baking sheets before baking the next batch.

Bring the jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat, or bring to a boil in a microwave ovenp remove from the heat. Fill the indentations with enough hot jam to come level with the tops. Cool to room temperature.

Traditional Madeleines from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking

2/3 cup all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 large eggs at room temp

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.

Working in a mixer bowl or large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working wiht whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium high until pale, thick and light, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the batter to form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines. For convenience, you can spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, cover and refrigerate, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. or if you have a non stick pan, give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. if you have a silicone pan, no prep is needed. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Don’t worry about spreading the batter evenly, the oven’s heat will take care of that. bake large madeleines for 11-13 minute, and minis for 8-10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temp.

If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch, making certain that you cool, then properly prepare the pan before baking.

Just before serving, dust the madeleines with confectioners sugar.

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Some Group Shows

Three shows I want to talk about: “Looking Back” at White Columns, “Funny Not Funny” at Bellwether, and “Beyond the Canon: Small Scale American Abstraction 1945 – 1965” at Robert Miller. Although each show varies in curatorial mission, it seems they are all reflecting on recent economic concerns and the sense of doom that lingers especially in the art world. Whether it nostalgically looks back in the more naive and oblivious environment of the past year, or perhaps a comical divergent coping technique, or finding solid and safe grounding in art history, these shows reveal the unsteadiness and fragility we are mourning over these days in an incisive, insightful, and inclusive manner.

img_0271Alex Hubbard, Lost Loose Ends, 2008, video, 4 min 8 sec

“Looking Back” at White Columns was undoubtedly an amazing show curated by Jay Sanders, curator, writer and director of Green Naftali. He takes a look back at the shows that have taken place in NY this past year and how they may or may not relate to each other. I noticed many of the works in the show dealt with chance, death and the subconscious with mummies, skeletons, happenchance abstractions, eerie dreamy installations, and odd nonsensical performative videos. My ultimate favorite was Lost Loose Ends, a video by Alex Hubbard who had a show at Nicole Klagsbrun earlier this year. The video is fixed from either above or eye level and the viewer is witness to a sequence of dada-esque performance: a hand manipulates an array of random materials and works them onto a neutral surface layer upon layer of paper dropping and utilizing singular letter signage as stencil to spray paint, lighting a lone bulb only to have it explode and have it memorialized with white spraypaint, covering and recovering the surface with wallpaper, placing a drum symbol to spin then slicing it with an electric saw making the screen vibrate with the intense violence of a blade cutting through metal, and sticking an umbrella through a hole and opening it only to slice each section with a knife. There is no real beginning or an end to this video, just a perpetual act of randomness that is intriguing and abstract and subtley violent, as if in frustration, as if it was a means to discover and explore to find an answer to something that is inexplicable.

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Dave Miko

A series of paintings by the entrace were installed directly on the wall, on shelves and against the floor, all abstract, rusty, squirmy, neon, and impatient.

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A creepy collage drawing by Robert Beck titled “Untitled (Narrative of a Child Analysis by melanie Klein/Art as Healing by Edward Adamson). Eyes and text an illustration from a psychology book I’m guessing, zoomed out and manipulated by abstract swirls that are eerie and surreal, emphasizing the subconscious and dreams.

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Nayland Blake is such a multidiscipinarian, a shaman of sorts. This loud and minimal sculpture made of wood, wire and beads reminds me a spell casting magic wand, ominous and otherworldly, alexander calder at top, joan miro at bottom. He currently has a mini retrospective at Location One that I don’t want to miss.

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This was one of my favorite pieces in the show, a makeshift feathered devil bird using its beak to screech rhythms out of a record player, automated by a few winding wires and wheels made by Tom Thayer and titled “Black Fowl Reflection”.  Again with the eerie creepy otherworldliess of this work plays well with the other works in the show. I was mesmerized by the bird’s static movements, an mummified progression of spastic moves tweeking the record player to send its message, a mating call of death perhaps.

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A series of 6 giclee prints by Robert Grenier, automatic and abstract, repetitive and patterned, I was drawn to its non-sensical spontaneity and juvenile scribbling technique. And the fact that its repeated and contained to a singular frame creating that grid was intriguing as I tried to unify a compartmentalized form.

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I wish I would’ve seen the play where these props came from. Richard Foreman is the founder and director of The Ontological Hysteric Center and created a play titled Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland. It seems to have dealt with discovery through travel, visual affects, and performance. The installation is quite surreal, the lyrics in the notes repeat “And call for help, alas but nonne comes high me” repeated, which I’m guessing was part of a sequence in the play. There is a jeweled plastic fish on the side, witty and deadpan in its placement. The legs of the piano are cut so they are low to the floor, making it awkward and childlike. Must have been an odd spectacle.

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A drawing by Akira Kanayama, an older work from the 50’s, abstract minimalism combining the square, circle and triangle, for some reason I think about twin towers, odd.

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An optical illusionary series by Ron Amstutz titled Re: Perform. The artist colors and costumes himself and stands on a color field and in a corresponding image, turns it into a negative of the initial work. Eye popping and engaging, this performative play with shape, color and form gets both artist and viewer to participate in interpretation.

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I love the fabric worthy patterns of this series, especially the use of the mesmerizing target shapes and the lucid wiggling forms.

White Columns has the tendency to fill their walls to the edges with tons of work and this show was no different. I wonder how spontaneous and random it was for the curator to find work in such a subconscious range, and how it might reflect the post-modernist, contemporary idiom that’s floating around. The market boom followed by the economic bubble popping seems to have resulted in a looking in for the artists, a look into their deeper subconscious self, or just self in general. I liked this show very much and look forward to more curated by Sanders.

The group show at Bellwether took on a comical approach and titled their show “Funny not Funny”, curated by owner Becky Smith and Allison Kave. The works were either subversive or superlative in their representation of humor and it took me a minute to indulge in their performances.

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Three videos were the highlights of the show, one by Jamie Isenstein showing a man and a puppet dancing to no end with a disco ball, a repetitive side to side move with a frozen grin. There certainly was a degree of odd and creepy here, a repetitive playing along with death, a back and forthness that is ominous and spellbinding.

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A superbly articulated manipulated video by Chihcheng Peng titled Follow Your Man, taking existing video and turning it into a repetitive hysterical routine. Here one man follows another down the sidewalk and train tracks, and in each change of screen one figure might have shrunk to half his original size, or doubled in height. they walk pass each other and pass each other and pass each other, startled and stalted, spastic and sneaky, it’s a very fun worthy watch.

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A classic Tamy Ben-Tor imitation impersonation, hilarious. And there she is in person speaking to Becky Smith.

I thought about the hair show that was at Andreas Grimm and both bring humor with a snarky wit that was as engaging in the brain as it was in the hearty belly.

Now on a completely different road bend is the Robert Miller show on American abstraction. It’s stifled, quiet, small, plenty and therapeutic. There were many many names I did not recognize and plan on spending some time doing some research.

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I didn’t write down the name of the artists I took the pictures of, but there were a few that caught my eye, especially this one. The thickly applied paint and the opaque colors, the eye ball tear shapes were quite mesmerizing.

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I love the flow of colors and rock-like formations.

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Painted in patches, collage-like, muted complimenting colors.

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Rusty, layered collage.

Can you tell I’m getting lazy with my words?

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A waterfall of color patches.

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Textured globs of paint, colorful and palate filling.

The show includes artists from all over the world that were not traditionally recognized in the canon of abstraction and are brought here in their small scale and although I didn’t take names down and was too overwhelmed to take a checklist, it appeased and gratified a fix for a grounding static comfortable medium.

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Those Holiday Dinners

Welcome back. Hope everyone had a joyous, fulfilling, and nourishing Christmas. I wish I could say I had the time of my life baking and cooking for family. Instead, I will say I had the time of my life baking and cooking, and was barely satisfied by the reactions it stirred. One thing I will confirm, I will refrain from baking/cooking for family for a very very long time.

Choosing menus for dinners on xmas and eve was a bit nervewrecking, I’ve never actually experienced a traditional xmas dinner. Holiday gettogethers usually involved a medley of korean dishes and maybe a pasta dish thrown in. I’ve never until xmas actually had standing rib roast, or roast beef for that matter. I hadn’t the slightest clue what an American xmas dinner was like and researched like mad to come up with menus that involved a bit too much cheese. Let’s go over them one evening at a time.

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Xmas eve I made NY strip loin roast with garlic-herb crust, tagliatelle pasta with braised kale, and broccoli-pecorino gratinata. It was a small dinner for three and I basically just winged my recipes, choosing what I thought would go well together, and was especially simple and cheap. I was really intimidated about roasting beef and prayed I wouldn’t fuck up and waste meat and money, but it was the easiest to prepare and turned out exactly the way I wanted.

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I marinated the meat a few hours before roasting time and it couldn’t have been easier. I merely rubbed it with a sauce made from garlic, oil, salt & pepper, fresh thyme and sage. It was superbly aromatic sauce especially with the herbs and I was so glad I purchased the fresh ones rather than using the dried bottled herbs, made a big difference in bringing out the max in flavor and texture. Come roasting time, I just stuck this hunka meat and roasted for about an hour, and, voila, magic.

I discovered kale a few months back and have been in love with its sweet bitterness and crunchy bite. I saw this recipe and figured it would have a fettucine taste that would blend well with the meat and provide that significant texture from the kale. It also looked super simple and freakin delicious. The broccoli just looked super easy and figured it would be a nice side. I accidentally dumped a bunch of red pepper on top and the end product was a bit spicier than desired but was still very good, boiled just right so there was a touch of crunchy substance.  This side also involved Pecorino Romano cheese and as much as it was subtle, I think it added an unnecessary amount of cheese into the meal. Still it was great success, the guests very much enjoyed and appreciated the meal and I was very proud. Patting my back as we speak.

Now. Christmas dinner. hmph.

After grueling over the menu and laboring for a day lugging around pounds of meat and ingredients I spent the day cooking up what was a delicious, if cheesy, meal that went quite unappreciated and discredited. I purchased a 14 pound standing rib roast that cost $120 and another $120 worth of groceries at a hysterically packed whole foods and spent the day in the kitchen working my flawed magic.

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I started off with the creamed spinach & parsnips in the morning since it could be made hours, even days ahead. This I think was my favorite of all the sides. It was a perfect combination of comfort, stringent and mushy. I’ve never had parsnips before and it doesn’t taste much different from carrots except perhaps a bit heartier. There was a sweet creaminess that was very complimentary to the vegetables, very warming and addictive.

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I then continued to prepared sweet potato and butternut squash gratin, a dish much too indulgent. I’ve never tried or tasted gratin before and predicted cheesiness in the likes of mac n cheese or lasagna with veggies, but this was a bit too nauseatingly thick for me. It did taste good though, don’t get me wrong. It was just a bit too much. I was confused because the recipe called for 2 cups of veggies each and it wasn’t nearly enough for 3 layers. So I just doubled it to 4 cups of the veggies layered with cheese and cream sauce. I can’t say I cared much for this dish.

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I’ve also never had gnocchi before and was excited to find this recipe calling for sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter and sage. The idea of having something delightfully chewy and sweet and in miniature multiples seemed like such a great idea. My awesome sister helped in the kitchen most of the time and she was responsible for poking holes with forks into the surface of these rolled 2 inch edible cylinders and we boiled them in water which made it all mushy and bloated. It was then coated in butter and sage. It didn’t have too much taste and I felt like it was missing something. It was a bit bland, not enough salty. But it was uber fun making this pasta and I will look for better recipes.

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Then, onwards with the meat. It was a heavy 14 pount standing rib roast I bought from an Italian butcher shop in the burg and gasped at the price $120, but rested assured that I’d be reimbursed. Even more fearful was the prospect of fucking up royally and letting it all go to waste. I’ve never cooked anything nearly similar and was amusing myself with the thought of it actually looking like the pictures. I made salt and pepper crusted prime rib with sage jus, which didn’t require marinating beforehand and stayed very juicy and flavorful. Again it was seasoned with sage and thyme, a magically combo I’m learning, and some shallots scattered about. Into the oven it went for about 3 hours and out it came steaming and still red inside. It looked superb though. Then my father went ahead and butchered it cutting of only the top layer and ended up with multiple trips to the the oven in half hour increments. Fact: koreans do not like the sight of red meat and will not eat it. They like it well done. very well done. So roast beef for koreans? bad idea. We just skinned and served, oven, skin and serve, oven, repeat. It was not a pretty sight. The gravy I made was a bit too spicey and diluted, I didn’t care for it, the meat tasted chewy, juicy and red without it. Will I make this again? No. But was it delicious? In my humble opinion? hell yes.

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So what made my night? Sitting competition.

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Happy Holidays

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Notice

I’ve been baking like a maniac the last few days, and I regret time has not granted any sympathy for me. Xmas is in two days and I am very behind with my presents, leaving me quite anxious and flustered. So you will have to be patient with my limited posting, which will continue in full force on the 26th.
A sneak peek of what’s to come:

blog_cookiesCookies galore!

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More show reviews such as Barkley Hendricks at Studio Museum Harlem.

More of my paintings.

Till then, Happy Holidays everyone.

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Lyceum Craft Fair

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Over the weekend I trekked my way over to Lyceum in Park Slope hopes to find presents. Presents I did not buy but cards I did, many of them. But I won’t be using them to mail, but rather to tack on my pretty walls. There were many nifty things one could buy as presents, I just have a hard time doing the get something random and cool for a person, I feel more comfortable grueling and laboring over something that is specific and significant to an individual person. But at the rate I’m going now I’m regretting not buying anything.

A few nifty things I found:

img_0385Really awesome prints on Moleskine journals using deep underwater creatures.

img_0384Cute collage made out of magazine shreds.

img_0386Your very own Obama face bag. What a handsome man.

img_03872Images made out of repeptitive needle poked holes. Minimal, white, abstract, very nice. I bought three of them and vertically lined them on my wardrobe door.

img_0388Cute fox.

img_0389Cute bibs, although I would imagine you’d have to wash them constantly and they’d shrink to the size of your thumb.

img_0390Cute necklaces for all the hipsters in your life.

img_0392I like the one to the right, how appropriate. They were too expensive to buy.

img_0394For the boys.

img_0396Yoga mats. I love the Japanese fabric, would make a great curtain or tablecloth.

img_0399Crafty decorative paintings.

img_0400Turd necklace at center. It’s called the deux.

Looking back now I REALLY regret not buying any of the things shown above. Next year I will have to be better prepared. Can you believe xmas is in 2 days?!! Confounded.

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Number Two

number_twoNumber Two, 2008, oil on canvas, 4 x 4 in

I think I like this one better

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