Artwork of the Day: Mary Button Durell

By Mary Button Durell.  Source

By Mary Button Durell.  Source

San Francisco-based artist Mary Button Durell makes sculptures out of tracing paper and paste.  She has a website here.

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Artwork of the Day: Louise Weinberg

Still Life with Apples by Louise Weinberg.  Source

Still Life with Apples by Louise Weinberg.  Source

I like the delicate lines and almost ghostly color palette.

Also like this reaction from one of my followers:

Louise Weinberg has a site here. Do have a look at her other works.

Epic Shortbread Fail

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’ve been struggling to express my half Scottishness through the making of shortbread.

It’s butter, sugar and flour: how can anyone screw that up?  And yet, I have managed to find way after way.

Yesterday I made one perfect batch.  So perfect that I got a little overconfident.  I thought that I had this shortbread thing figured out.  Now I know how to make shortbread, I can look back at my hilarious past mistakes and laugh.

So I set out to make another pan of shortbread today.

So maybe you were wondering what happens when you don’t measure the butter carefully enough and add too much of it to the shortbread dough.

THIS:

This was supposed to be shortbread, after I scraped it out of the pan

This was supposed to be shortbread, after I scraped it out of the pan

Apparently too much butter keeps everything from sticking together.

I wonder if my Croatian side is having a bit of revenge, after my arrogant claims of Scottishness permeating my being? Croatian me is saying, “Screw this baking shit. Go have a burek.”

Update:  I have discovered that mixing Epic Shortbread Fail into cherry yogurt results in something that tastes a lot like cherry pie.   Yum.

 

Shortbread success at last

Today I made shortbread without burning it!  It was only a bit damaged when I loosened it from the pan with a knife.

Shortbread success at last!

Shortbread!

Shortbread!

It’s a good thing, too, because lately I have been wondering if being half-Scottish means I’m literally only half Scottish, like a hermaphrodite (in which case, which of my arms is Scottish?  Which of my legs?  etc.) or if Scottishness is sufficiently pungent to permeate my being even though it only came from one parent.

Since the final success of the shortbread, I’m leaning more towards the permeating-my-being theory.

The thistle design didn’t come out that crisply detailed, but I suspect this is because I put corn meal in to add texture and it made those coarse holes.  With rice flour I bet it would take the design better, but rice flour is hard to get here while corn meal couldn’t be easier.

Here’s my Shortbread recipe:

  • 150 grams butter, room temperature (I hacked off slightly more than half of a 250 gram brick)
  • 100 grams caster sugar (I used American measuring cups – 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 50 grams ( 1/4 cup) corn meal or rice flour
  • 250 grams (1 cup) flour

Cream the caster sugar and salt into the butter.  Slowly add the corn flour while mixing with a spoon and then the flour, slowly, mix and mix until it goes through the stage of looking like crumbly pie crust and starts to stick together.   The corn meal or rice flour and the salt are optional but make a big difference to texture and flavor.

You can chill it before you press it into the mold.  Some say this makes the design come out better.

If you haven’t used the pan before, OIL IT!  Or the shortbread will stick.

Glob it into the pan and hammer it down with your hands as firm as you can for the best design.  When it’s smooth and even, prick it all over with a fork then bake in a 150 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  I had to use the bottom rack to keep the top from overbrowning.

Remove the pan from the oven, let cool 3-5 minutes, then loosen the sides with a knife and turn out the pan over a cutting board.  If the shortbread doesn’t pop out, tap it firmly against the side of the board.  Cut into wedges with a big sharp knife while still warm.

Tastes even better the next day.

Makes 8 wedges.

The arts funding saga continues

Self-Portrait by Welsh artist Gwen Johns.  Source

Self-Portrait by Welsh artist Gwen John. Source

The saga of Maria Miller and her plans to gut funding for the arts in the UK continues.  Today brings us this piece by John Kampfner in the Guardian:  ‘The economics of the government’s approach makes no sense’.

An informal poll of my Twitter followers last night suggests that nobody wants these budget cuts.

When civilizations collapse, who is the first to be sacrificed?  The poor, sick and disabled or the artists?

This comment from commenter Frances Smith resonated with me:

Since the protestant work ethic took hold, just as the uk stopped believing in god, people have got very puritanical. No one is allowed to have fun, unless they have worked very hard to get rich, including being born into the right family, which is harder work than you think.

So this miserablist view of the world, as the new feudalism takes hold, doesn’t believe that people should enjoy themselves through arts, no we should all be miserable, and work all day in poundland, and make sure our blinds are up in the morning so the neighbours won’t think we are scroungers.

In which I eat yogurt, and decipher mysterious label

I got no painting done yesterday because I had to go out to the store.   Because the sun was shining, this turned out to be a hot and tiring 5 km trek and the sun was down by the time I got back.

Anyway, whilst out I bought this carton of yogurt.
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