Category Archives: THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

WEEKEND MUSIC

It was a great weekend for music in the Shoals…

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit launched their self-titled CD at the newly remodeled Shoals Theatre in downtown Florence. It was staggering to see this iconic venue from my childhood develop to fantastic music venue.

The place was packed with friends, family, fans. Fame Studio, Muscle Shoals Sound, music giants Dick Cooper, Spooner Oldham and others watched as the theatre transformed.

CONGRATULATIONS go out to Spooner Oldham, and his wife Karen, for Spooner’s recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. What a great, and well deserved, honor. All of us in the Shoals are proud to call Spooner friend and hero.

Also, a GIANT shout-out to Shonna Tucker (more amazing than everyone raves) of the Drive-By Truckers for stories, laughter, good food and company… we can’t wait to photograph Shonna for the upcoming Songbirds catalog.

And we are all looking forward to seeing the Truckers @ the Shoals Theatre in the near future..  

Thanks to Traci @ Thirty Tigers and Logan @ Lightening Records for making it all happen…

THREE-LAYER CAKES

My holidays – up until Monday morning – were a cookbook extravaganza. We made birthday dinners (Fried Chicken a la Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock), holiday brunch (Turkey Pot Pie a la Screen Doors), buttermilk rolls (The Joy of Cooking) back-yard picnics (Bunyan’s Barbeque and anything from White Trash Cooking #2), homemade truffles (a la Nicole Spiridakis) , seasoned pecans (Bon Appétit Y’all) and an array of other goodies. But the highlight of two weeks “kitchen play” was the three-layered (and sometimes two-layered) cakes.

I told Angie recently that I am terrified by the three-layer cake. Although I see myself as accomplished in the kitchen, I have never been one to do much baking. However, I have become obsessed with the three-layer cake. My grandmothers and great aunts could whip out a cake in an early morning. They made layer cakes for church bazaars, birthdays, neighbors who fell ill or just because it was time for Sunday supper.

I took the holidays as an opportunity to face my fears, channel Angie, go beyond the simple cupcake and try my hand at the stacked treasure. (I have actually been working up to this for months.) In August, I purchased a cake decorating set which has been unused in the drawer since purchase. And recently I purchased 3 – 9” round cake pans.

First step: Butch requested a Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Icing and Pecans for his birthday on the 24th of December. I got an old-time recipe from page 277 of my favorite, A Gracious Plenty, the soulful Ellen Rolfes Book from John T. Edge. The Chocolate Buttermilk Icing is a recipe passed down from my great-aunt (in Alabama Studio Style) and this was topped off with fresh shelled pecans from Butch’s grove.

Second: It was hard to believe that my son Zach turned 27 on January 4th! And although he does not really like sweets, I asked him to name his favorite cake. He said that he once ate a yellow, chocolate chip cake with cream cheese icing that was the best cake he ever tasted. In adventure mode, Maggie and I attempted a yellow cake, scattered with chocolate chips and our three layers became two when one layer fell apart!

Not to be deterred, I attempted it again and wound up with two perfectly iced layers.

I found a great set of cake tips on page 460 of The Lee Bros. Southern Cook Book and ordered The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum – which came highly recommended by Angie.

My copy of BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher arrived yesterday morning & it is AMAZING… lovely how baking can be broken down to a science. Shirley prefers to bake one cake and then slice into three layers. The book is filled with interesting math – like the perfect measuring methods and baking stones. I now know how little I know and can’t wait to get started baking again…

Butch swears that he is going to make cakes every Thursday of the New Year.

Now, I am off to the gym…

Anybody have a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Icing?

Posted at 8:08 am

AN END TO WINTER

It has just been so COLD outside. All the southerners are complaining so I can’t imagine what it is like to be up north at the moment. It seems that the weather has made the transition from the holidays back to work especially difficult this year (almost impossible) and the grey landscape could definitely use a bit of color right now. Does everyone feel that way?

My seeds came in this week: Seed Savers Exchange

I love the names: Dwarf Gray Sugar and Blue Podded Shelling Peas, Lacinato Kale. Chives, Lettuce Leaf Basil, Florence Fennel, Calabrese Broccoli, Summer Crookneck Squash, Pingtung Long Eggplant, Spinach and Smoke Signals Corn.

And, I received my worms: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

This weekend I am going to clean up my beds around the house, plant Snow Peas, and prepare the compost pile that is going to be my summer garden. Posted at 6:01 am

A BUREAU OF FRIENDS

As I sit in my winter living room and look out the window, I think about what an amazingly full, rich, intense year it has been. I recently made the joke that I sometimes I feel like Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in Blade Runner… when I am lying on my death bed, I will say, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain….”

I feel lucky, blessed, and grounded to have recently met so many new acquaintances to add to the dear old friends who fill my cup with inspiration. While sitting on a couch late one afternoon in South Africa, I decided that I want to take a moment each month to talk about one of these rich, rich souls who has enriched my life.
From painter Judith Eisler, woman extraordinaire Marsha Guerrero, documentarian Davia Nelson, woman of style Julie Gilhart, film maker Jennifer Venditti, writer/stylist/foodie Angie Mosier, and hero Alice Waters, to designer Christina Kim, I want to highlight work that I find world changing, heartfelt and inspirational.
So is born “A Bureau of Friends.” Stay tuned for monthly stories.
Here’s a wish that 2009 may continue to be a great adventure…

FUROSHIKI – THE “GREEN” WRAPPING

While visiting Boston recently, my hosts at the Museum of Fine Arts gave all of the attendees this flyer about Furoshiki.

The term describes “a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that was frequently used to transport clothes, gifts or other goods.”

“Although there are still Furoshiki users in Japan, their numbers declined in the post-war period, in large part due to the proliferation of the plastic shopping bag. In recent years, it has seen a renewed interest as environmental protection became a concern.”

What a great “green” way to use any available cloths to wrap your holiday gifts…
& see a video demo here:

& THANKS to the Fashion Council for a lovely event!