Melting Pot #8

Getting Baked!

French breadOne of the most fun things you can do in the kitchen (besides THAT) is to bake. You take on your mad scientist persona and mix all this stuff together to create magic in the oven. Unlike stove top cooking, where you add things while you are making the food, the ingredients are mixed together before the cooking process begins. A mistake in measuring can result in a waste of time and money. Exciting!

I particularly enjoy baking bread. It just smells so good when a fresh loaf comes out of the oven. Next in line would be baking cookies, they are easier to do but just as rewarding. I haven’t made a cake from scratch in years, maybe I should set that as a goal over the next few weeks…

It is really easy to find great recipes online. I like recipe.com, they have a pretty good variety but there are several places to find recipes so have a search and let me know your favorite. One of the things you have to be aware of is the authors of the recipes are not always correct in measurements. I used a bread recipe recently and there was too much flour, the loaf was way to heavy.

I will add some of my baking experiences and methods in the next couple of days. In the meantime, let me know what sort of stuff you want me to make and I will have a go.mmmmm Cookies!

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ASCAP Meeting Wrap Up

Los Angeles is a cruel mistress...I finished up the ASCAP event this weekend. I have to admit I was pretty skeptical going in. I have attended other expos and conventions for different industries and they are usually just non-stop marketing. The ASCAP event was a little different though; yes, there was still a lot of marketing going on but there was a lot of really great educational events too.

One of my favorites was by Ralph Murphy, a song writer and producer from Nashville. His presentation was full of humor and useful information. I got a chance to chat with him briefly and he was a real, down to earth fellow. I am looking forward to meeting and chatting with him again.

Overall the event was pretty positive. I did get a little claustrophobia in the hallways though. The sponsors had tables in the halls so things were a bit crowded for my taste. I think if they put the booths in a exhibit space it would be more comfortable. I have to talk to industry people as part of my job and it was hard to have a conversation with all the noise and jostling about.

The bottom line question is would I go back next year. I think I would, there was enough good information that it was worth the price of admission.

 

Los Angeles Day Two!

ASAP Main Stage Backdrop

So here we are, day two in beatafull downtown LA. Hollywood actually but whos counting. I got a ‘Tap’ card, which is the LA version of a Fast Pass, seven days for $2, less than parking and gas would cost to drive to the ASCAP event every day.

The bus stop was only about a block from the hotel so no big deal. I said ‘good morning’ to the driver as I got aboard the bus, it took him by suprise so I guess being polite hasn’t reached southern California yet… The bus ride was only about 5 blocks, then I transferred to the Metro line, the Los Angeles subway/train system. The train was a little behind schedule but no big deal. The ride to the venue was only about 10 minutes. I like using public transit, you meet really odd people and you don’t have to look for parking.

The ASCAP Expo is being held at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, right in the heart of tourista-ville. Michael Jackson was there, one of the Harlem Globetrotters, several Batmen (all in various levels of decay) and a Spider Man who looked like his web had snapped. Ah, the magic of the movies!!

I went in to the hotel, got lost, found myself (right where I had left me) and then picked up my ID badge and lanyard. I also got my swag bag. It is a nifty little thing, just big enough to hold a laptop but flimsy enough for said computer to shatter to a billion pieces when dropped. I’ll give it to my daughter, I love her…

There were tons of events to go to, and it was hard to figure out what to do first. I ended up going to the opening speech, given by Paul Williams. Williams wrote ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ and other top hit songs. His presentation was great and was a promising start to the expo.

I then went on to forum of song writers titled ‘Anatomy of a hit song’ there was lots of interesting information, but the main take-a-way was to be true to your point of view and use a web site to find rhymes. The next one was a sales pitch by one of the sponsors, selling their web design service. Even the sales presentation was a little useful so that was cool.

I went to lunch and had a $3.00 ham sandwich that cost $9.00. Great to be in Tinsel Town, where even the crappy food is a star…

The afternoon was more great events and chatting with other attendees. I would have stayed for the afternoon social events but my back was feeling shreded ( I have spondylothesis) so I went back to the hotel to lay down.

Well, that’s about it for now, that’s the life of a rock-n-roller for ya…

Los Angeles: Day One

Image

I am in Los Angeles for the ASCAP ‘I Create Music’ Expo. I write music and work for a music management company so I had to leave my happy haunts of northern California and wander down to LaLaLand. I am in town through Sunday.

I will post some updates on the Expo and food experiences here and let everyone know how things go.

I am staying at a hotel on Sunset, it was the closest place available for under $100 a night…the place is OK, but the good news is there is a lot of Thai restaurants in the area.

Blender is Fun!

Teddy Bear made with Blender

If you are like me, you enjoyed The Incredibles, Despicable Me and all the other cool movies that have come out over the past several years using 3D computer animation. The programs that are used to create this stuff is pricey, really pricey. Except one. That program is Blender from Blender.org. You can just go on and download the program FOR FREE!!

I know what you are thinking, how can a free program be anywhere close to a program that costs thousands of dollars…well, Blender is pretty amazing and there is a large community of Blender artists out there making really great animations. Plus there are tons of tutorials available on the internet.

If you or someone you know interested in learning 3D art or animation, you should check out Blender. It is a great way to get intoNapkin with Glass the world of computer animation without spending tons of money. Now, the learning curve is pretty steep but if you hang in there and stick with it you can pick stuff up and make progress at your own pace. The images on this post are things that I made while following along on a couple of tutorials.

Get out there and try it, all it is going to cost is a little time to learn.

HAVE FUN!!

Melting Pot #6

Irish Stew

Yummy stuff on a chilly day. Irish stew is one of those easy to mess up things. It seems super simple but if you get too carried away you can end up with something that is less than appealing.

The final product. It was delicious!

The final product. It was delicious!

Generally speaking, a stew is sort of a soup but with bigger chunks of goodness. For my version I use beef, some lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, a bottle of beer, salt pepper, corn and green beans. You can add other vegetables like turnips, celery, cabbage, etc. Avoid the sissy vegetables like cauliflower.

First, chop up two baseball size onions into a medium dice. Set them aside.

Peel and cut up two or three carrots. You want about a cup of carrots so what ever that works out to, go for it.

Get your locally sourced beef and lamb ready to go. By locally sourced I mean the super market that is closest to your house. I take the beef, usually about two pounds, and rinse it off. The lamb, usually just a couple of chops are cut up into cubes. In a deep pot I render off some bacon. Then add some oil, a few tablespoons or so.

Start browning the meat. Before you put the meat in the pot, dry it off. This helps them meat to actually caramelize and

The brownin' o' the meat...

The brownin’ o’ the meat…

not go grey and boiled looking. Add beef until the bottom of the pot is almost covered, leave enough room to turn your meat. Brown it on all sides and then remove. Do this until all the beef is browned. Do the same thing for the lamb.

After browning drain off most of the oil at the bottom of the pot. Bring the pot back to temperature and throw in your onions. Stir them around, add a pinch of salt to help break down the onions. Once they start to look a little translucent throw in your carrots. Mix everything around so it seems like you are a chef.

Vegetables simmering with beer. Meat waiting to dive in.

Vegetables simmering with beer. Meat waiting to dive in.

Turn the temperature down a little and dump in a bottle of beer. NOT one of those giant bottles of Budweiser that you can buy at the CVS for a $1.49. Use a bottle of dark something…Harp, Guinness, Sapporo…you know, something made by people who care. Use a 12 bottle. This time around I used Newcastle Browne. Simmer that down and let it reduce.

As that that is happening peel and cut your spuds. When you cut them make sure they are pretty good size chunks, about the same size as the stew beef pieces. Put them in a separate pot to cook.

Go back to the stew pot and stir, scraping all the good brown bits off the bottom. Add back the meat, including the bacon that you used to render. Stir things around a little. Add water to just cover everything. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Add some pepper and salt and a couple of bay leaves. Cover. Have a beer.

When the potatoes get to the point that they are almost done, drain them out but do not rinse them. Set the potatoes aside to cool. If you have a big pan you can spread them out on even better. As they cool they will get a starchy coat which will help them stay firm in the stew and keep a nice ‘bitey’ texture.

After about an hour check the stew. The meat should start getting softer. It may take a lot longer, maybe just a little. You want the beef to come apart under a fork. If you have to work at it there is some more cooking to be done. You may have to add a little more water, but not too much. You really want as little juice as possible.

When the beef is right fold in the potatoes. Be gentle, you don’t want mashed spuds! After this add corn and green beans. I use frozen veggies so let the temperature of the stew come back to a boil and you are ready to serve.

Serve with some bread and butter along with a nice beer and you have a meal fit for a peasant.

I am sure you will have a completely different way of making stew, but that is only because the Irish are a confused lot. I am sure however you do it is fine. Wrong, but fine.

When I Grow Up

'When I Grow Up Stories' by Nancy Lee, 1921 'Policeman

‘When I Grow Up Stories’ by Nancy Lee, 1921 ‘Policeman’

 

 

So, a long time ago I bought these children’s books. They were the ‘When I Grow Up’ series, written by Nancy Lee and published in 1921 by Stoll and Edwards. There are four books in the series: Policeman, Fireman, Banker and Farmer. The stories are about what these four professions do and how the Little Jerry wants to grow up to be just like them.

I have had the books about 20 years now. They have been pretty   much just sitting on my shelf in plastic sleeves. One day I was looking for something to do on CorelDraw so I decided to draw the covers of the books using tools in Corel. As you can see by the original scanned image, the covers are a little rough. The Fireman book even has the top part torn away.

After scanning I brought the original into Corel then started tracing. I have used CorelDraw for a long time but I am still FAR away from being an expert, I would rated myself as and ‘Advanced Novice’. When I re-draw something I try to break it down into elements. For these pieces there is a black background and then colors laid over the top. I traced the outlines then worked with the node tool to line everything up. The tracing and adjusting took the longest, about 2 hours or so per image. It is funny how you get dialed in to working on something like this and you forget time.

When the tracing was done I started coloring in the images. Then using the diffuser I would give a fade to the edges of shading. The Fireman is still a work in progress, I need to add some more detail and finish off the image. I am pretty happy with the Policeman, he has a lot of the details and looks kind of stylized a bit. I think I will print this on a t-shirt or poster or something…

Anyhow, I will post all four covers once I get the project completed. I just started working on the Farmer and still need to wrap up the Fireman cover. Thanks again for reading, I hope this inspires you to go out and try tracing and painting your own vintage piece.

Have fun, and please feel free to comment or ask questions. Cheers!!