Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving Potluck & The Gallery Hop

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I knew it was time for the 5th annual UK Landscape Architecture Potluck. Brad organized it for three years when he was still here at UK, then he passed the tradition on to me. Of course this is my last year, so this year I had to teach someone else how to plan it for next year.

Planning a potluck like this is a lot of work! There are the tasks of cleaning the space, making signs, making announcements, setting up tables, chairs, and organizing it all. A 4th year student helped me this year so he could keep the tradition going for next year. It's hard to coordinate a group of busy college students, but we had plenty of food...even though we had a lot of cheesy potatoes and macaroni and cheese. I wasn't able to get a photo because I was so busy getting things ready! Even though it takes a lot work, and I always have to eat last because I have to make sure everything is okay, everyone had a good time and a good meal. I also made for the third year in a row my famous deviled eggs. I made 45 of them!

Later that evening was the gallery hop I had been anticipating. An art teacher who I had taken community classes with, Christine Kuhn, asked her past students to help her fill in an exhibit she wasn't able to fill. Our exhibit was held at the Sishopromatem (Metamorphosis spelled backwards) Gallery. This gallery is a non-profit which helps underprivileged kids to learn art and have activities they can participate in.

As for the Gallery Hop, this was the last one of the year on November 19th. I contributed two photos and also the quilt I recently made. The quilt I didn't put for sale, but the photos I priced. If they sell, then part of the profit is donated to the gallery.

The Hop was fun and a lot of people showed up to the gallery. I met a few other students who had taken classes with Christine. One of them worked with Brad at Parks & Recreation! There was also entertainment and food (I took my Pull Apart Bread! See the post before this!) My mom and her friend came by which was fun. No one else I knew showed up and I was kind of disappointed. Several people from school said they were coming, but they forgot about it. The photos will be displayed at the gallery for another month.

My photos are the middle left and right. Josie the orange tabby on the left, and Silas the Beagle on the right. A few other student's works on this same wall.

A guy sung some bluegrass and classic rock tunes for most of the night. Some of the other student's paintings on the wall.

At first, my quilt wasn't going to be displayed, but I asked my art teacher if we could hang it on this blank wall in the back.

It was really exciting to having something displayed in such a large local event. I wished more people I knew had shown up. It was embarrassing standing around by myself for an hour. I just ate food.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pull Apart Bread

Finally something turned out right! I haven't felt like I've been a very good cook lately, but this bread has brought me enthusiasm for the future of cooking.

I found this recipe through 'The Kitchn' website. Someone wrote in looking for a lost recipe someone else might know. Turns out they found it, and so I decided to try it because it seemed simple. The recipe was taken from the blog 'Dreaming of Pots and Pans'.

I however didn't add the cheese or pepper (and used olive oil on the top instead of milk), because I wanted a plainer bread, and I altered the cook time some. It originally said to cook at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower the temp. I found that this was a little too much heat and reduced it halfway (and it was just right).

I think I'll make this in the future, especially for taking places. The slices pull right apart which means no cutting, and each piece is really moist. It's almost like rolls made into a loaf shape. It also came right out of the loaf pan which means it can just be wrapped up without leaving it in the dish. Plus it looks cool and each slice is unique.

The hardest part was keeping the discs from falling over while stacking them, and then maneuvering all that sideways into the pan. I imagine you could just put them directly sideways into the pan as you make each layer.

My loaf went way outside the pan! Last time I made rolls the yeast was very inactive...but this time it was very active! I felt like it could have been a scene from 'I Love Lucy'


1 packet active yeast (or 2.25 tsp)

1 TBS sugar

1/2 c warm water + 1 cup (divided)
4 c bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 TBS olive oil (for the dough)
1 TBS olive oil (for the cheese and herbs)
1/2 block of cheddar cheese (I used white extra sharp) shredded
2 TBS fresh or dried herbs
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 TBS milk (for glazing)
sprinkle of kosher salt 

In a small bowl, whisk together yeast, sugar and 1/2 c warm water and allow to expand (10-15 mins). If your mixture does not foam and expand, the yeast is dead. Throw it out and start over.

Sift together flour and salt then make a well in the bowl. Drizzle in olive oil and yeast mixture then mix well to combine. Slowly add the remaining cup of water as needed until a ball of dough forms.

Turn out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise 30-45 mins for rapid rise yeast, 45-1 hour for regular active.

Punch down slightly and knead again just two or three times. Mix together herbs, cheese, pepper and oil. 

Cut dough in half and cover one half. Roll into a log and make 10 balls from each half. Roll into discs, 3-4 inches in diameter. 

Top each disc with about 1 tsp of cheese filling, brush edges with oil and stack another disc on top. (Or just put each layer directly into the pan sideways if this works better)

Turn your stack sideways and place in a well oiled loaf pan. Cover and allow to rise another 20-30 minutes, or until the dough reaches the sides of the pan. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sea or kosher salt.

Bake 40 minutes total. Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees (rotate halfway through for even browning), then cover with foil, and reduce heat to 325 degrees for another at 20 minutes until done. Turn out and cool slightly, but it's best eaten when still warm.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Quilt Is Done!

The quilt is finally done! I started it in late July and it is now done in mid November, with a total of 44 hours. The break down below...

Quilt Time

2 hours picking out fabric 
2 hr washing
1 hr ironing
6 hours cutting out squares
1 hr chain stitching white squares
1 hour chain stitching black squares
2 hours ironing
3 hours stitching blocks
2 hours ironing
4 hours trimming down the squares
2 hr planning the pattern
5 hours piecing the squares
1 hour shopping for the backing fabric & batting
3 hours laying and pinning the "sandwich"
2 hours binding the edge
7 tying the quilt together

44 hours

I picked out the pattern from this book Quilting For Peace by Katherine Bell, which I checked out from the library. This book has also begun many sewing groups around the nation who are making quilts and sewing to donate. You can check out the campaign here. I strayed from the pattern a bit since I picked out fabrics that was already in my stash. I didn't have the right amount of fabrics for each pattern needed, so I had to mix it up a bit. 

This is the pattern I chose for this quilt

First I had cut out 168 white 4" squares, then 168 black ones, then 336 squares in various colors and patterns, which makes 672 total squares! 

Then I had to match up the black and white squares with the patterned ones, and sew those together to make a 4 square block.  This is chain stitching, where you just keep sewing the pieces together and don't stop to snip the threads in-between pieces until the very end.

Then I had to trim all of those down to a 7" square. 

Then I sewed all those together in rows, and more rows, and into more rows! 

Then the quilt top was done, and I had to layer the backing, the batting, and the quilt to make a sandwich. 

Then I pinned all those together, binded the edges, and then quilted it together by tying embroidery thread at the corners of each block.

If you decide to ever make a quilt, make sure you have a purpose! It can be a tedious, mathematical, costly, and time consuming project! But the end results make it all worth it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cookies and Tenure

Brad and I have watched some really good movies lately. One is Ondine which is a modern twist on an old Irish mystical tale. The other is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassis which is another mystical story, and Heath Ledger's last role. But tonight we are watching Tenure and cooking cookies. Tenure is a funny movie about a guy (Luke Wilson) who strives to gain tenure at his college. After some barriers he ends up where he truly wants to be!

As for the cookies, Brad made some great chocolate chip cookies (this recipe must be withheld from the public), and I made Chewy Ginger Chocolate Cookies via Joy the Baker. They turned out pretty good, but nothing like the recipe seems they should. If I ever made these again, they would need modification. Brad made a good choice sticking with the best!

We decided our cookies weren't too photo worthy since neither of ours turned out like we anticipated...If you decide to make the ginger cookie recipe, don't be afraid to add more spices to the mix, and try only adding in a cup and a fourth of flour instead of the written amount. Mine had the chewy potential, but there was really too much flour somehow. Also make sure to keep these cookies small! I rolled 28 cookies out of a 48 cookie batter...which made them more awkward!

Spaghetti Squash

Tonight's dinner was Spaghetti Squash. Yes......that's right........spaghetti squash. Instead of normal spaghetti with pasta, this dish uses squash as the noodles. This type of squash is seasonal, so look for it during the late summer and fall months (It's a light yellow color). This is a super easy dish to make and is extremely great for you!

What makes this dish so great is that it eliminates the processed wheat out of the traditional dish of spaghetti. The squash noodles practically act the same as normal noodles. Wheat in excess is a burden on our bodies; everyone has some intolerance of wheat. By replacing the wheat with squash, we are not only reducing the amount of wheat we are eating, but also giving our bodies fiber and tons of nutrients. So, eating a piece of garlic bread with this dish is still OK because you're still eating a low starch and sugary meal! This dish really doesn't take much effort, just the time to cook the squash.

Spaghetti Squash
Servings from one squash: 4-6

Place the entire squash in a casserole dish filled with a half inch to an inch of water. Poke it with a fork if you like. 9X13 works well.

Bake it for 30-45 minutes on 375 degrees.

The squash will have to be cut in half and baking it somewhat beforehand makes this a lot easier!!

Remove the squash and cut the top part off where the stem is. Then cut in half lengthwise. Be careful, this squash is tough! Place a towel underneath it to keep from slipping.

Place the two halves back in the dish, right side up, and add more water if necessary. Put some butter on the halves as desired.

Bake for an hour to an hour thirty minutes. You want the squash noodles to be really done.

Rake out the seeds and mushier part of the squash from the center.

Scrape out the rest of the squash down to the skin of the squash rind. Do the same for the other half.

The full squash takes 16oz of tomato sauce. Any sauce can be used, but the squash absorbs and takes on the flavor of the sauce, so make sure you like the sauce.
Top with Parmesan cheese.

*Update: To make the spaghetti even better, try baking it for a bit after adding the sauce. You can then also put some cheese on top.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Weekend

Brad came down to Lexington to celebrate Halloween with me this weekend. We were super excited about this weekend since we planned for several fun things. First we made it to the My Morning Jacket concert in Louisville, KY. They performed at the new KFC Yum! Center which just opened a few weeks ago. It's a really nice venue right in downtown Louisville near the waterfront.

The new YUM Center or 'Downtown Arena' as it is being called in some circles, is a work of architectural art! The building provides an icon for Louisville and has a very interesting layout. The interior was pretty amazing visually and functionally. However, the acoustics in the arena were a bit lacking. I am sure they will work this out eventually and this will be a great venue for the downtown area. Its proximity to the Water Front Park and other plazas mean that the arena could be used in conjunction with other spaces for events, festivals, and, of course, sporting events!

My Morning Jacket uses puppets like these in their shows. I wonder how one gets to do this!

During the last part of the concert the band dressed up like Kernel Sanders and rocked out. MMJ also brought the Louisville Youth Symphony Orchestra to the show which you can see in the background. They provided some extra accompaniment for a few songs. The kids looked like they were getting down with the band and they sounded amazing.

After the concert we went to Tolly-Ho (a greasy spoon type of place!) back home in Lexington to get some cheese fries, cheese tots, and a milkshake. This place has been here for decades...and is about to leave this location on campus for another building nearby. A lot of people were dressed up in costumes which made tonight more entertaining.

On Saturday afternoon we took the dogs to the Howl-O-Ween costume contest, hosted by the local pet store, Incredipet. We didn't win, but the dogs got some great goodie bags and everyone got to socialize.

They all went as characters from the Wizard of Oz. Greenlee was Dorothy, Roxie was the Good Witch, and Heidi was the Wicked Witch

Heidi was really good, and even kept her hat on!

A lot of dogs (and girls!) were dressed as bees

This little dog won. We think he was the cartoon Grinch's dog

Even though none of the dogs won the contest, it was still very enjoyable. To see all of the pets and the owners dressed up was an interesting event. I must applaud Katrina for coming up with the 'Wizard of Oz' theme and making most of the costume with here awesome sewing skills! Just because they aren't recognized by the judges doesn't mean they go unrecognized by everyone! Nice Work!

Later that evening we met with Brad's friend Jonathan. We all went to eat at Planet Thai and then we dressed up in our costumes for the evening. Brad went as a pimp, and I went as a 1970's tennis player.

Jonathan went as Mario, a pretty impressive costume!

We then went to downtown to see the Thriller Parade. It's done every year at Halloween. The main part of the parade happens when zombies perform the Thriller dance down Main Street. Mecca Dance Studio teaches everyone who would like to participate the dance. They also showcased a few 'floats' and cars, such as a early 20th century hospital car, and a pirate boat. The community band also marched and a young ballet group did their version of Thriller.

After the parade, we headed to the developing Distillery District, where we attended the Beaux Arts Fall Ball. The University of Kentucky architecture hosts two 'balls' every year to raise money for the school. The ball is hosted at Buster's Billard's and Backroom. I wish that the Landscape Architecture Department on UK's Campus was this awesome and threw some parties to raise money for our programs.

Sunday we made into a relaxing day. Brad got to visit a friend from school with Jonathan and I prepared the kitchen for some cooking and pumpkin carving for the evening.

I made these muffins for Brad the morning before he came in. They're sooooo goood; they have to be the best muffin I've had! They're Pumpkin Cream Cheese filled Muffins! Thank You Annie's Eats. They take a little longer than most muffins, but they surely will be a hit!

It was quite an amazing weekend. Some things didn't go as planned and some events were left out, but mostly it was a huge success. It marks our 2nd Halloween together! I am currently learning how to make movies and videos using iMovie. I took lots of video at the concerts and during the parade. Hopefully, I can figure out the software and post the videos for everyone to see.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Just Another Day at the Shack...

The Nelson Institute's Doris Duke Conservation Fellows organized a day at Aldo Leopold's Shack near Baraboo, WI. It was an opportunity to explore the grounds of the shack and the new Legacy Center with a guided tour. We also intended on volunteering for collecting seeds of prairie grasses to aid in the Leopold Legacy Foundation's efforts to install more prairie species at the Legacy Center. Our volunteer work was deterred by the day's steady rain. Instead of working, we were able to take an in depth and unique look at the entire at the Legacy center and the shack!

Overall, 17 people volunteered to come out to help and learn more about Leopold's legacy. We started by cramming into the small shack, which was used as a chicken coop prior to Leopold purchasing the farm, to hear stories about the family, their first experiences on the farm, and the family's continuing efforts to promote the 'Land Ethic'.

The tour guide led us around the site showing us photos of the Leopold farm during the early 1900s. The guide also showed several photos of the family hanging out on the farm, planting trees, or building things around the shack itself. I learned many things about the site which I had not known about such as the owners of the property before he bought it and the way in which he acquired the property. Here she explains what happened to the old farm house that stood here before the government foreclosed on the property due to back taxes. Apparently, Leopold bought the farm as a 'vacation spot' for only $8.00 an acre!

Our guide even took the opportunity to show us important sites which were referenced in the book. She took the opportunity to read her favorite passages about the sites and talk about the continuing influence that Leopold has today on the modern conservation movement.

For those who admire Leopold's work, standing among the pines he planted nearly 70 years ago is a religious experience.

Visiting the Legacy Center is also a wonderful experience. The building complex is LEED Platinum and was built from pines and hardwood harvested on the farm or the adjacent land. The complex utilizes several innovative building techniques which utilize solar power for electricity. The site also uses geothermal for all of its HVAC! The computers in the architecture monitor the usage of the building and its effectiveness toward employing all of these green materials and building practices to achieving the goals of being self-sustaining.

The rafters in many of the buildings were constructed of trees that were trimmed out of the Leopold farm to thin the tree canopy. This meant that the whole forest could be more healthy and the larger, healthier trees could have more growing room. We were told that the beams were not squared off because this limited the strength of the wood.

We had the unique chance to see the basement of the Legacy Center. The basement houses all of the technology which makes the building so advanced. It felt like we were walking into a science lab!

These tubes of water are used to circulate water through the vertical geothermal field. Water can be directed to flow a specific direction to heat or cool the building. Also, a horizontal geothermal field provided all of the air circulation in the building. This system uses only natural air circulation to move air into and out of the building.

Here the tour guide shows us the monitors where the staff keeps tabs on the solar panels. These computers track the usage and output of the panels. An inverter also converts the power from DC to AC so it can be used by standard devices and put back onto the grid. Other monitoring systems can tell the staff which power outlets are used the most and where they can be losing efficiency. The building can also adjust its HVAC by occupancy using CO2 monitors to determine how many people are in the building and each specific room. Talk about a smart building!

Here I am standing behind the Legacy Center next to the rain garden which catches the roof runoff of all the buildings. Also behind me is the prairie in which the geothermal field sits. You can see the solar panels on top of the main building.

We end the day a bit more knowledgeable about Leopold's legacy and the practices modern day conservationists employ today. I am very appreciative of the Nelson Institute for sponsoring and the Doris Duke Conservation Fellows for organizing such an event. They provided us all lunch and a copy of Leopold's A Sand County Almanac.