March 31, 2013

Happy Easter.

It is 8 am. Our scavenger hunt has already been hunted, and our hidden Easter baskets already found. We've got church, and feasting, and Easter egg hunts still ahead. Hope your Easter is full of both family and the celebration of New Life!

March 25, 2013

Spring Break.

Though we were already somewhat celebrating this weekend, Spring Break officially began this morning for the Craunlets. We've shaken off the schedule and order of the days around here. We are giggling, and reading, and staying way too late into the day still dressed in our jammies.

We are enjoying the hours all strung together, dotted with so few firm committments. 

Last night, we went out to our favorite local pizza shoppe, and stayed out nearly past bedtime. After all, it was an unusual Sunday in not being a school night, a most certain cause for celebration. Nate lost his front tooth, and Isabella is devouring her junior reader novels checked out from the library. 

The Craunlets woke up this morning, and voyaged downstairs together to find a waiting box of donuts for their proposed "independent breakfast" letting Dave and I sleep in. Then they ventured into the living room, finding the couches already pushed together in a nest, for some morning cartoons.

Snow is falling out there, a current accumulation of 4 or so inches. Winter's last hurrah, on day one of Spring Break. Good thing we are staying indoors today, and likely not leaving our pajamas.


A friend and printing colleague at Zygote Press–Eric Gulliver–shared a delicious cookie recipe with me last week through this phenomenal letterpress broadside* that he created for his infamous Whiskey Snaps.

It's a richly dense and spicy cookie, their top-sides cloaked in a thin and glassy layer of sweetly vanilla imbued glaze. Aside from the lovely image on the broadside, the line-up of aromatic ingredients and specialty flours had me eager to work this into my baking rotation as soon as possible.

Dave having a poker night on his calendar for Saturday evening, presented me the perfect opportunity to whip them up this weekend. All ten zillion of them. Yes, I did in fact read the warning within the recipe about it's hearty yield, but always being up for a good challenge, I headed no advice of freezing portions of the dough for later, or halving the recipe. Instead, I watched enthralled as my Kitchen Aid chugged away at the dough, spurting out plumes of flour as I added it gradually, and stood there relentlessly amazed as the bowl inched full towards the mixer's absolute maximum capacity. I finally relented, and then incorporated the rest in by hand. Literally; all ten fingers finally coaxed the remaining flours into the mess of dark and spicy dough. Already I was completely smitten.

Next I scooped out rounds of dough, rolled them through additional spices swirled together in a pool of granulated sugar, and then pressed them onto parchment-lined cookie sheets with a the bottom of a juice glass. Again, a slight adaption to the recipe, but I'm just not sure I could bake without parchment. The results? Absolutely delicious.

The guys at poker night enjoyed them appropriately paired with whiskey, we donated two dozen to a cookie ministry at our church on Sunday, and the Craunlets continue to line up for them at any snacking opportunity. The adults in the house have also been quietly sneaking them when the Craunlets are otherwise distracted. 

We still have close to 3 dozen remaining in our cookie jar, which has led me to daydream other extensions for incorporating the cookies into our immediate diet. I'm thinking homemade ice cream sandwiches, or crushing handfuls of them into a graham-like crust for a custard pie or a vanilla cheesecake.   The possibilities of them seem deliciously endless.

* Anyone interested in the letterpress broadside pictured at the top of the post -- 7 runs through the press, including 3-color linoleum blocks, and scads of handset type -- can contact Zygote Press directly, where you can be connected to Eric Gulliver. We plan to frame ours and hang it in the kitchen.

March 22, 2013

Outtakes of the Photo Session for our Article in Edible.

The Craunlets have thoroughly soaked up their week or so of local fame, enjoying the extra attention from our favorite local food haunts. We attended a fun and delicious little launch of the Edible Cleveland's Spring edition midweek at a nearby local restaurant. There we mingled with other contributors, partners and staff of Edible Cleveland while sipping the tartly sweet herald of Spring drink featured in the issue [Strawberry Ginger Shrub] and we nibbled and noshed on a wide variety of local cheeses.

Also this week, Edible's lead photographer [Laura Watilo Blake] shared a few of the photo outtakes that she captured for the article. I think the two selected for print were perfect for the article, but I thought I would share a few of the extra images here. The deadpan serious one below totally makes me think of American Gothic and grin widely. 

These Craunlets are completely proud of that article, and excited to be in a magazine. Both carried in editions this week to share with their teachers and classmates. When not being local food ambassadors, or pretending to be two staunchly serious little people, they can really ham it up...

The two of them are wide smiles this week about sharing out local eating lifestyle, and soaking up their 15 minutes of fame. Local readers, look for a printed copy all over town.

March 20, 2013

Chop, Whirl and Voila.

The other day at our local grocer we picked up two small hydroponic plants of locally grown basil to whip up into some simple pesto. I was fairly certain that homemade pesto would be a snap, having so few ingredients, and was only a little hesitant about concocting a nut-free version that Nathaniel's allergy insists upon. Enter the ever fabulous sunflower seed...

It was a few short minutes of ripping basil leaves from their stems, a fast measuring of just a couple on-hand ingredients, including a quick grating of some local cheese directly into the pitcher of our Vitamix.

Drizzle over a splash of olive oil; whirl for a few moments like magic–and friends, it was fresh pesto, PRESTO! A deliciously quick, simple and mostly locally sourced sauce for a quick but luxuriously tasty weeknight dinner. Feasting like kings, we are over here. 

Nut-free Pesto, PRESTO!

1 1/2 C Fresh Basil Leaves
1/3 C Raw Sunflower Seeds
1/3 C [or more, let's be honest!] fresh Grated Cheese*
2 cloves of garlic, peeled + smashed
2-3 grinds of fresh Pepper
tiniest pinch of salt
1/3 C Olive Oil

Toss all ingredients [in the order listed] into the pitcher of your food processor [or Vitamix, in our case] and whirl on high until brightly green and smooth. Drizzle in additional olive oil as needed, if you went a little heavier on the basil than the recipe calls for [waste not, right?] , and still want a nicely smooth pesto...

*Headwaters Tomme by Kokoborego simply cannot be beat. However, if you are not fortunate enough to live in the Cleveland area, a Pecorino Romano or nice Parmesan would be a natural second here.

March 18, 2013

Indoor Blooms, and Bosses.

I'm working from home this morning, and looking at the loveliest bunch of boldly blooming daffodils next to my desk. They are brightly yellow against this gray day, and cheerfully fragrant. 

This handful of stems were an impromptu gift from my boss on Friday. My boss gives me flowers. I am completely serious; this is at least the third time that I can remember getting a bunch of flowers from her. Always unexpected–for no certain occasion–a bright and small gesture that epitomizes her leadership style and friendship: thoughtful, appreciative, attentive, and inclusive. 

On Friday, she brought in enough small bunches for everyone that was working at the moment. We had just finished a quick phone conversation–she was on her way in–and casually asked who was all there. I didn't think about it much, it's really a pretty common inquiry as we are all part-time, erratically-houred and include many various intern, volunteer and bartering work relationships among the staff at Zygote. And shortly after our call, she walks in buoyant and cheerful, her arms full of fresh-cut daffodil buds.

It's always such sweet encouragement. I love how she keeps it real and simple, casually handing out small bouquets still in their cellophane sleeves from the store, including their price tag. That simplicity always provokes me; it's so beautifully genuine. And a good reminder that the cost of kindness is far greater paid in thoughtfulness than dollars.

March 15, 2013

Something Chocolatey.

It's a casual celebration tonight. I volunteered begged to bake something for the occasion. The hostess indicated only: something chocolatey. Of course, this translated to me that things would most certainly need to be absolutely and completely overdone to the point of deliciously indulgent––enter my most favorite something chocolatey to bake: Susan Purdy's To-Live-For Chocolate Mousse Cake [Recipe is from her cookbook: The Family Baker].

The recipe is a wee bit process-involved [to the tune of two full pages of written text], and dirties a ton of dishes in the making, including multiple whisks, bowls, mixers and even a double-boiler and then it bakes quickly in a spring-form pan nestled in a water bath, but it's somehow still incredibly simple to master. I kid in the kitchen all the time that "Susan never let's me down..." because dang-it if she doesn't. Every cookie, cake and bread in that book is a home-run. EVERY SINGLE TIME. While it might be the most complicated recipe among it's company, it's definitely the most indulgent. Seriously, how could one go wrong with a recipe that calls for one full pound of fine dark chocolate, 8 eggs, nearly two sticks of butter and absolutely no flour?! I know what you're all thinking, and yes, it is ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Definitely perfect for a casual celebration that calls for something chocolatey.

Afterall, tonight we find out if our good friends are expecting a little miss, or a little mister.

March 14, 2013

In Print.

Here we are, on the printed page! My sweet little article about our eating-local adventure got a two-page spread adorned with two completely gorgeous photos [thanks for making us look so great, Laura Watilo Blake!]. My strawberry rhubarb pie recipe was also included! How exciting!!

Over-the-moon doesn't begin to describe our enthusiasm over here! Our tiny small basement never looked so charming!!! Local readers, pick yourself up a free copy of Edible Cleveland's Spring Issue [here] all over town [see a full listing of locations here]. Click right here for a full read of the article, and HERE! for the strawberry rhubarb pie recipe!

March 13, 2013

On Spring, the Warm and the Cold of it.

This weekend we played outside in light jackets. The sun shone, and all of our crocus opened up in full bloom. We rode bikes, washed the cars, fairy-gardened, and played on the playground. We slept a night with the windows open.

Today, large flakes are swirling crowded in the frozen air. It's coats and scarves again. And extra blankets on the beds.

Spring in Cleveland is so indecisive!  Team Craun is ready for the warm to stay, so in the meantime, we will bake to keep warm!

March 8, 2013

Headshots. Not So Bad, Kid.

So a few weeks ago, on about 12-hours notice, I wanted needed  a new head-shot. It's to accompany an almost-no-word bio that I'll have in a publication where I'll also have a little article published. [more on that soon!] I hit a button with the very word publish on it every single time I finish a post here on Chatter. But, for ever, I have wanted to actually publish on the printed page.

Photo Credit: Isabella Craun, 2013.

Lucky for us, Cleveland weather was up for the challenge, and the natural light pouring through my studio windows after school was perfect. After the tiniest amount of coaching, Isabella was up for the task of learning how to use my Canon Rebel. Nathaniel even took a turn, but the weight and size of the camera helped all of his images come out a wee bit blurry.

Photo Credit: Isabella Craun, 2013.

With minor editing [and square-cropping of one] in Photoshop, two pictures turned out pretty good, for a kid take. In full disclosure, Isabella took nearly 30 for good measure. Many images found me talking–explaining how to use the camera–and my hands helping their little fingers find the right button again. The almost half-an-hour photo shoot was quite a riot. There was much laughing, and it was totally a trip to see them each take a turn on the other side of the camera.

March 7, 2013

Extension Number: IMMEDIATELY.

It was quick as a flash. Scrawled onto a post-it note and stuck down next to my new phone, in the new office, at my new workstation, it was an extension number. It was this very moment. A wave of OH.MY.GOD.WHAT.AM.I.DOING.AT.AN.OFFICE?? panic pulsed through to my core. Suddenly the accumulation of all the screen time, and clicking, and calling, and meeting weighed down on me in an instant. And I knew at this moment––for my survival, and the best interests of the organization's growth––I needed to jump ship.

Slowly, over the next handful of weeks, I digested my thoughts and began to distill my WHAT.DO.I.WANT.TO.DO.WITH.MY.LIFE?? mini-mid-life crisis into a coherent plan. Ultimately, I decided to lay down this added [and fourth] position. All of these jobs, none of them applied for formally; I have never quit one single time. Even the heaviness of the word quit; all the baggage. So, I did what made the most sense to me. PANIC LIKE A CRAZY PERSON!!!, and internalize the worry of letting a good friend and long-time colleague [BOSS??!] down.  How does one go about quitting a job? I would percolate and ponder this question over and over and over again in my head on my way into the office. Then I would log into the server, start reviewing artist-teacher planning documents, schedule meetings and site observations, and compose several e-mails and absolutely hate that all of the fun parts of the job kept getting sucked into the rabbit hole of workflow, administrative tasks, and general organizational stress.


A few weeks ago, I bit the bullet and said I.QUIT!!, but more professionally. It was actually a lot more like: I am planning to quit. I am slowly wrapping up this semester and working myself out of a job, and I am going to do less and less, starting the moment right after this meeting. And I was a million pounds lighter. And Spring came early! It was hearts and unicorns, and curlicue writing in my mental diary entry that afternoon. You know, world peace and everything. 

I'm not sure why I didn't put it out here sooner. Other than it was maybe a little too fresh, and just a bit too long to type out quickly and publish on hurried time. 

It was this morning's conversation that prompts this post...a conversation that Dave and I had, after lamenting that we tell the Craunlets a seemingly million times to simply worry about themselves, and let us do the rest. The phrase has a million variations; Don't worry about your brother. Don't worry about your sister. Please worry about yourself.  I know that is what your friend said, let's let her mom and dad worry about that. You know what, we don't need to worry about that. Just worry about yourself. ETC.ETC.

Dave worked most of the hours last night that our family slept. And I said in our conversation, imagine that for a week. That JUST.WORRY.ABOUT.YOURSELF. bit. Show up for work completely unconcerned about keeping people working under you busy, and keeping those over you satisfied, no more worry about what's good for the business or organization. No more worry about parenting, and maintaining a healthy marriage. Sure, all of these adult relationships are totally worth the work, but could you imagine the week where we took our own advice? Oh, I'm so sorry, I'M.JUST.GOING.TO.WORRY.ABOUT.MYSELF.RIGHT.NOW.

Where's the balance? What's real in that advice, even for us adult folks? 

I think in a smallish way, that my letting go of something that was good [this job I laid down] but not the right thing for where I am now, and where I am headed, is a certain step in the right direction.

March 5, 2013

Bright as Yellow.

Chunky warm knitted scarf in the sun. I'm ready for Spring, March. And ready for more sunny days.

So are all of my front gardens. Those hundreds of bulbs out there are a couple good green inches above the soil -- Winter, be nice to them please. I beg you.

March 4, 2013

Pie for Breakfast: Pink Banana Squash with Maple.

Many of you know that I have a fierce love of baking. And most of our family and friends know our morning-after tradition in regards to our leftover but lavish baked goods. It may come as a surprise, but we serve ourselves pie and/or birthday cake for breakfast. It seems like the most luxurious thing ever. Given the average day is spelt cereal or similar. And although it probably amounts to a dozen or so days out of the year, I hope it's a memorable celebration of life that the Craunlets take with them into adulthood. 

I hope it someday also trumps their everyday memory of moaning and waiting while we have our morning cup of espresso before any breakfast is served up. I joked with Isabella about it this morning––us all eating leftover pie––that she'll probably remember the grueling 4-minute forever wait for breakfast while her parents enjoyed a small sip of slow down and get going from little white cups set upon small round plates that perfectly fit in the hand long into her adulthood. Right up to the laughs she'll share with her someday husband, as they are fixing their own little cups of espresso. She smiled, not up for contradiction this morning; she was likely contemplating these tomorrows.

Similar to a pumpkin pie, we were enjoying a deliciously light, yet rich, pink banana squash with maple pie for today's breakfast. Right after we finished our espresso.

Pink banana Squash with Maple Pie

1 prepared crust for a 9" pie plate

2 C pureed cooked pink banana squash
1 1/2 C heavy cream
2 eggs
1/4 C firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
1 T maple syrup
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and integrate to a smooth mixture using an immersion blender. Pour into your prepared 9inch [unbaked] pie shell. Transfer carefully to preheated 425º oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350º [I also add pie crust shields at this point] and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack completely, and enjoy.

March 3, 2013

Persistent Making.

I've been in the studio more these last few weeks, and I'm slowly paving the way for even more weekly studio time in the weeks ahead.

This print is miles and miles of lines, read my newest art blog post right over here.

March 2, 2013

The Kindergartner, and 100+ Days of School.

Here we are, well into the third quarter of the school year. How on earth is Nathaniel's year of Kindergarten managing to pass us by so quickly?!

He's a mix of absolutely serious, and then suddenly a total smiley Mr. Silly Pants. 

His vocabulary has exploded exponentially, and his reading is truly profound. I'm stunned at how thick his sight-word flashcard stack is already, and his intuition and sense about contextual word reading is undoing. I am constantly taking a double-take as he reads, the progress is speeding-train fast. He's smart as a whip, and asks the most excellent conversational questions using words like interesting, and unexpected, and just the other day he perfectly used the word awkward in correct context.

To celebrate 100 days of school, he made an art project using 100 objects. He selected google eyes for his counting collage project, and drew the greatest many-eyed monster I've ever seen. His diligence in counting those eyes again, and again was remarkable. 100. 100. 100. 100; which he can now count by ones, fives, and tens.  That quickly led next to ones-and-tens grouping, then adding, and now he is even mastering subtraction. When did Kindergarten become first grade?!

He's happy, making millions of friends, and is having the best year ever. It's so sweet to see him growing into the young man that he will become; day by day, 100 and beyond.

March 1, 2013

Sewing and Settings.

The afternoon was a bit like a scene out of a sweetly illustrated picture book. 

Detail of Isabella's woodland fairy sewing party invitation and stitched red felt envelope.

A dozen girls found their named place setting around the table, and stitched up a cursive monogram craft [inspired here]. Our table was decorated somewhat like a crafting tea party, and set an almost formal tone, that encouraged manners and etiquette. I couldn't be more surprised and pleased both by the patience and level of success in the project.

Still finishing up the felt monogram letters for the craft project the day before the party, Isabella inquired with seriousness one concern that she held: What font are you going to use? Yeah, our eight year old is having a discussion about the type-setting of the sewing craft for her birthday party. I about died when I heard her say font in such a legitimate tone of worry.

So––for the official record––and because font is indeed very important, here's the type face low down on the monograms: the A, J, K, L, and M are Commercial Script. The C, S and I are English Essay that have been heavily modified by use of a custom-line stroke and some minor vector-tweaking.

Each place setting––styled atop a square of green turf––held a little sewing kit, that I made to look like a toadstool [adapted from this DIY] and filled with several necessary sewing notions, and a needle pre-threaded and ready to go. These would pack up as party favors for each of the girls.

At each working station, we placed a chocolate button lollipop standing at wait in a wooden spool for a working nibble, and a sharpened toadstool pencil ready for signing the final piece on the inside of the embroidery hoop. The button lollipop and styling idea from here, and the toadstool pencil craft was inspired here. Also at each setting was a hand-written place card, and little paper basket for collecting desired craft materials for the project.

The efficiency of having a place ready for each girl at the table was really essential, and it made each girl upon arrival feel welcome, and immediately excited about the project ahead. There was much giggling and enthusiasm about the cursive felt letters, and the butterfly and flower embellishments. Step-by-step, all of us working together, every project was completed successfully. It was smiles all around. 

I had small white bulk gift bags at the ready, and we quickly packed up each girl's finished craft, sewing kit, pencils, etc. and tied their named place-setting card to the handle of their bag. Times twelve, this was a brilliant move to keep things in order and moving smoothly. At pick-up, it was a total cinch to send each of the girls off with their things all accounted for.

Isabella's birthday medallion tied to her white favor gift bag.

With the table all cleared, we brought the cake over from the sideboard, lit the glimmering candle, and sang Happy Birthday to a super excited and proudly smiling eight year old.

Isabella's cake request: birthday confetti layer cake from Momofuku's Milk Cookbook.
It was a  deliciously sweet close to the afternoon. What a pleasure it was to have a table full of young friends talking and laughing, sharing life and celebrating Isabella.


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