Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bœuf Bourguignon

Edited with Kim Klassen's texture "minus 43", blended in soft light at 100% and texture removed from the food again. 
This is for this week's Texture Tuesday.

Last Saturday I wanted to serve one of those slow cooked, rustic meals for dinner. I thought about what to do and looked through one of my most favorite cookbooks that I found a couple years ago in a sale.

This cookbook has all kinds of tasty meals from around the world, including France, Italy, Thailand and Mexico. The recipes are explained very well and it's easy to follow them (I think). The measurements are both in metric as well as what is used in the US. I especially like the French recipes, and on a cold night Bœuf Bourguignon seemed just right.

You need quite a lot of ingredients. However, once the prep time is over and you've started the meal, it's not as complicated as it might look. The best part is that you throw the entire thing into the oven and let it cook for two hours, while the most delicious smells wave through your house. This recipe makes 6 - 8 servings.

So, this is what you need:

- 8 tbsp (75g) flour
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3-4 lb (1,5 - 2 kg) beef chuck, cut into cubes
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 lb (500 g) thawed frozen pearl onions
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 1 bottle (750 ml) Burgundy or other medium-bodied red wine
- 1 can (28 oz / 875 g) diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 cup (250 ml) beef stock
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 lb (250 g) cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

In a shallow bowl, stir together 3 tbsp of the flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper. Turn the beef pieces in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. (I actually use way less salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Have ready a plate lined with paper towels.

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot over medium heat, sauté the bacon until it renders most of its fat, 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the paper towels and set aside.

Working in batches if necessary, cook the beef in the rendered bacon fat, turning frequently, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the beef to another plate and set aside.

Add the carrots, celery, yellow onion, pearl onions, and peppercorns to the pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the onions and carrots begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the wine and deglaze the pot, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits. Stir in the tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil.

Stir in the remaining 5 tbsp flour and the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened, about 1 minute. Return the beef and bacon to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, transfer the pot to the oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours.

When the stew is nearly ready, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they release their moisture and become tender and brown, about 5 minutes.

This is the moment when I add something that is not in the recipe - a little bit of lemon zest finished salt, a present from a friend. It gives the mushrooms this tiny little bit of extra, it adds just a hint of lemon which always goes well with mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms to the stew just before serving. Divide the stew among warmed shallow bowls and serve at once. Enjoy!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Grow Your Blog

It's finally here - the Grow Your Blog event, hosted by the very generous Vicki of 2 Bags Full. This is her way of giving back to the blogging community that has given so very much to her (these are her very own words). I was very touched by her words and by the way she has set up this entire event that I knew I wanted to participate. Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity, Vicki.

So - welcome to my blog! You either came here through Vicki's links or by pure chance or because you stop at my place on a regular basis - either way, thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you have a little time to look around.

My name is Carola. I'm a German native, photographer and mixed media artist who has moved to Northern California in 2001 together with my family. We have loved living here, and I feel blessed to live in such a wonderful spot of our beautiful planet.

I started blogging in the summer of 2010 as a result of an online course that I had taken. I had thought about starting a blog before that because I wanted to connect with other photographers and mixed media artists from all over the world. This was just the last and decisive kick in my butt I needed. Since then I haven't looked back. There are so many wonderful people in blogland I have met, who have become friends even though we have never met in person. It feels like coming home when you land in the place of a kindred spirit, no matter where they live.

Blogging has also given me the opportunity to show my art, something I was very shy about in the beginning because I thought my art wasn't "good" or "worthy" enough - whatever that means. The blogging community has been good to me, I have learned so much and even found the courage to open my own Etsy shop. This has been one of my big dreams that I don't think would have come to life without my blog. It still thrills me to no end when I find blogs with beautiful photos and art that speaks to me. There is still so much to discover.

The photos you see here are a few of my favorites. Photography has been my first big love that hasn't lost any of its thrill for me. This is why my give away is a 2013 calendar I made - putting fences on center stage. Fences is one of my favorite motifs, along with anything nature, animals, interesting architecture and my daughter, the biggest gift life has ever given to me. This give away is for anyone - it doesn't matter whether you have a blog or not, live in Australia or just around the corner - anyone can enter. Just leave a comment on this post including a way how to contact you in case you are the lucky winner! I will announce the winner on the first day of February here on my blog.

By the way - many people have asked me about my blog header. This beach is along famous Highway 1 in Northern California between Bodega Bay and Jenner, just an hour away from my home. It's also one of the most dangerous beaches along our beautiful and rugged coast because of its treacherous sleeper waves. As so often in life, danger and beauty go hand in hand.

I look forward to hearing from you and to visiting your blogs. Most of all, I look forward to meeting kindred spirits and making new friends.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Laguna Sunrise

This morning, after I had dropped off Kaefer at school (she has zero period and starts at 7:00 am), I went out into the country and to the laguna. A friend of mine who passes the laguna every morning on her way to work had posted daily pre-sunrise pictures of this spot on Facebook which have been an inspiration for me. Finally I made my way there as well, and absolutely loved what I saw.

I arrived only minutes before the sun crept over the hills and spilled his beautiful light over the water of the laguna. I love the silhouettes of the bare winter trees, it is so calm and peaceful.

The geese loved the rising sun as well. Two flocks took flight only a few minutes apart from each other. I felt happy to be there just in that moment.

There they fly into the new day, spent in the vastness of the laguna, while I still marvelled at the beauty of this place and its lone trees.

After I had been there for quite a while, happily chasing the morning light with my camera, I noticed the barbed wire in the gate I was standing at (I hadn't had my coffee yet, so my slowness is somehow understandable). When I got down to my knees (oh, that hurt in the cold - it was around 29F) I could see the sun right below this detail of the barbed wire, and of course I couldn't resist to take a few more photos.

It was an excellent though cold start to a beautiful, sunny and clear day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Fairy Art Mother

Since I didn't paint for quite a while, I gave myself a kick in the butt and signed up for Life Book 2013 by the amazing Tamara Laporte. Before that I did a "little" class taught by her about a Christmas painting, and I really like her style of painting AND her style of teaching. She's organized, funny and a great teacher - plus an exceptional artist. Life Book 2013 lasts for the entire year, and so far I have only done the "warm-up exercise" which was so much fun. Meet the "Fairy Art Mother":

For this painting I mainly used the Caran d'Ache watercolor crayons which have become a favorite of mine. When shortly before Christmas one of our two art supply stores sent me a 40% off coupon I didn't hesitate to get a pack of 30 of these wonderful water soluble crayons. On cold press watercolor paper they turn into brilliant colors when activated with water. So the Swiss not only make good chocolate and cheese but also fabulous art supplies.

I'm usually not someone who paints a lot of whimsical, but I think I could get more and more into it. This painting of course is very simple and I did it in one day which is quite extraordinary for me because usually I take forever. However, I enjoyed painting this one so very much that I couldn't quit it in between.

Finally, I'm linking up with Paint Party Friday again. Since I didn't paint for such a long time, I haven't participated in the party, and I'm glad to be there again. I hope I keep up! I also link up with Sneak Peek Friday at JRU studio which is another favorite site of mine. I encourage you to go and visit there and perhaps even link to their sites as well.

A lovely weekend to all of you - tomorrow is Saturday which means I will unplug again. Enjoy, everybody!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


"Poppies" is this week's challenge at Inspiration Avenue. Oh what a lovely theme!! I love poppies, they belong to my favorite flowers. Of course I love our California poppy, the state flower...

... and the beautiful oriental poppies that are so showy and come in all kinds of colors.


But my true love, the poppy that really makes me smile and feel happy, is the wild poppy that you can find in Germany at the roadsides and in the meadows - we call them "Klatschmohn" which is such a wonderful name for them. Sometimes an entire field appears to be red because of all the poppies that gently glide with the wind from side to side.

They are a great partner to alternative energy sources like windmills, especially when there's a storm lurking in the clouds:

It's the roadside poppies that inspired me to this mixed media painting, and I loved to include the seed pods that are still beautiful long after the actual flower is gone.

Poppies are my all time favorites and I am sure that I will paint more poppies and include their image in my mixed media work.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


One of my wishes for 2013 is to have unplugged days - days without the distractions of a computer. I have realized that the computer consumes way too much of my days, especially my Etsy store and Facebook. I don't really surf very much, but I sure like my social media. Whereas it is nice to connect online I also find it distracting to what I really want to do and achieve. I am very determined to reduce my daily online time, and I decided to have one completely computer-free day a week.

The best day for this is Saturday.

And so I unplugged yesterday for the first time in this year, and I hope to stay with this "resolution" throughout of 2013. I had such an enjoyable day. I spent many hours in my studio, making little Valentine cards for kids that they can take to their classroom parties, and when all that was done I finally started painting again. A vision has been going through my mind for a week and now I finally sat down and started to put this vision on wood. As soon as I can see where it is going to I will blog about it in this space. At the moment I just got the base down, using quite a lot of molding paste.

In the middle of the day, Kaefer and I went to Jamba Juice and had some wonderful juice creations that tasted like summer. I like to spend time with her away from home, just her and I, when she gets funny and very talkative. For several days she has been fighting a cold, especially a rather nasty cough. She has a concert in two weeks and wants to be on top of her voice by then. A little juice and a lot of vitamin C will help her with that.

I also had time to read without feeling guilty. Currently I'm reading "Grow Your Handmade Business" by Kari Chapin which of course serves my word of the year perfectly. She has some exercises included, and I always read that book with my journal close by in order to do those exercises (and not saying "I do that later" which is more to my procrastinating nature). It is quite helpful I have to say, and I was rather surprised what was just flowing out of me while I was writing. I have to be careful not to fall into a whining tone here!

There was time to cook as well. At the end of the year I really had lost my cooking muse and just felt it was a chore I didn't particularly like. I didn't even look into cook books any more, I was not interested in finding and trying new recipes - something I usually like to do. I just got "easy and quick" things to cook at Costco and Trader Joe's which made incredibly dull and boring dinners. But most times I just couldn't find the energy to stand in the kitchen and cook. I am the only one who cooks in this family, the Geek hates cooking and Kaefer has way too many other things to do. So I am the one who cooks day in day out, and honestly, it gets old and boring, especially when no one in the family answers when I ask them what they would like to eat. Sometimes I'm out of my wits to think about what to cook. See, I'm whining again. Anyway, since winter break, when I got more sleep (and a rather bad cold that gave me lots of excuse to lie on the couch and rest), my cooking muse is on her way back, and I rather enjoy this. So I cooked up a storm yesterday evening, had a little wine while cooking (something I thoroughly enjoy) and we had a wonderful dinner, one of our most favorite dishes of all time. I think I need to blog about that one sometime.

In short, this unplugged day was a blessing! There will be way more unplugged Saturdays this year. It just feels good to be away from the computer and not to be seduced by all its distractions.

Do you have unplugged days?? And how do you spend them?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hello 2013

A new year. I've always liked the first few days of a new year. All the possibilities that lie ahead. A new year reminds me of a snow covered meadow - fresh snow, all whiteness, with no tracks been made by anyone, human or animal.

When I think of the year ahead the first thing that comes to mind is that we're all getting older. Kaefer will be
15 this spring, start 10th grade in the summer which means there are only three more years left until she will leave for college. I already feel bittersweet about it. 

I also think of my health and all the tests and screens I need to get done this year, like a colonoscopy. I really am not looking forward to that but I decided not to procrastinate any longer and finally get it done. The earlier in the year the better.

So many of us chose a word for the year that will give some kind of direction and commitment. The last two years I had the same word, being authentic. While this is something I always strive for, I feel it is time for a different word this year. Since the end of November the word "grow" has wandered through my head, never quite leaving my mind. It stayed foggy first, but then it became much clearer the more I thought about it.

Grow. I want to grow my business, get more serious with it. Somehow I feel I have played with my business more than being completely serious about it. The first time I felt like a business woman was when I paid my sales tax to the state this past summer. It wasn't that much, but somehow I felt rather satisfied afterwards. Sounds weird, doesn't it? Content to pay taxes? So anyway, I want to grow my business, make more sales, create more and have some good amount of inventory. Last year I started out with about 50 - 60 items in my   Etsy store; this year I have 150 items. I would love to reach around 300 items by the end of the year. However, I also want to have more sales - I would actually like to double my current sales number - and if I have those sales I probably won't reach the 300 number that easily. On the other hand, I don't want to be dictated by numbers only, but I also know that numbers is what counts in a business. I still need to find a good balance in my work; at the moment I tend to work many hours for my store and do so on the weekends as well. Which means I need to grow my balance ability (how does that sound?).

I also want to grow my blog. During the past year I have been very negligent of my blog, posted way less than I used to do. Of course this came mainly with the purchase of our home, the move and all the work on the house. However, I do enjoy writing, and creating beautiful blog posts gives me a great sense of accomplishment. I don't want my blog to become an ad space for my work. My work will be part of the blog, but I will not allow it to take up a lot of space. There is so much more to life than work, and I want to see this reflected in my blog as well.

And there are other things I want to grow. Relationships, friendships. Walks, being in nature. Time for reading. Listening to beautiful music. These are all things that I love to do and that were pushed on the backburner over the past year.

All photos in this post were taken along Highway 12 in Utah in December 2010

Have you chosen a word for 2013? What is your wish for this year? 
Let us know in the comments, if you like.