Friday, May 28, 2010

We're Moving

{To India}

I know. I can't believe it either. A year ago P. and I half-jokingly wondered, what if we put everything in storage and moved to India for a year? Six months ago we both applied for grants and residencies there, because why not keep our options open. A few days ago P. got a big envelope in our rusted mailbox at the end of our dirt road, and inside was a letter from the grant people saying, hey, we're funding your project and you need to be in Delhi in *August.*

So we're moving to India in two and a half months, and we'll stay the better part of a year.  P. is going to learn about clean water delivery and I have a painting residency. The doggies will stay with Ma and Pa Stockman on the farm back in New Jersey, where they can square off against foxes instead of coyotes. Provided we finish the restoration and make the trip back east in one piece, the Scamp will live in the barn. Everything else will go in storage. And that's how we're moving to India: just. like. that.

[Insert squeal of total panic/ utter excitement here.]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Guess What Dolly Found

{A He-Tortoise!}

If animals were judged solely on the merit of the nouns associated with their anatomy then the endangered desert tortoise would be king. His entire ancient chelonian self is sandwiched between two spectacularly named shells: Below, the pale, smooth plastron. Above, the armor-plated carapace. No doubt he was off looking for the she-tortoise we found earlier in the spring. Slow moving but surprisingly libidinous, those desert tortoises.

Tomorrow: A wee announcement regarding the future physical location of bigBANG studio.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Show in L.A.!

{Featuring New Homestead Paintings Straight Outta the bigBANG Oven}

A gal can't let a recession cramp her style. So I'm putting on a little DIY show with two friends -artist Anne Jordan and writer of musicals/ blogger/ hostess extraordinaire Kate Sullivan- in Kate's gorgeous Silverlake apartment. Kate will be making her signature summer cocktails, serving up gourmet vittles in the secret garden, and no doubt greeting every guest with massive hugs whether she knows them or not. At the risk of sounding immodest I'm gunna go ahead and throw this out there: it's going to be the cat's pajamas. I hope you can come. It would be pretty rad to meet some of you coastal kittens!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Leek, Asparagus and Corn Hash

{Served On Sourdough and Topped With An Egg}

One of the blessings of the Southern Californian climate is strawberries all year round. And spring corn. Where I grew up in central New Jersey we had to wait all summer for the corn to ripen (and I'll arm-wrestle anyone who doubts that NJ has the best sweet corn in the country), but this early crop on the West Coast is still pretty delicious. When my mom was visiting two weeks ago we bought an armful of fresh leeks and spindly desert asparagus at the Joshua Tree farmer's market, threw it in a saute pan with some fresh corn, and came up with my new favorite go-to meal: serve it on toasted sourdough and top with an egg for breakfast or over brown rice for dinner. Simple and delicious.

Leek, Asparagus and Corn Hash
Enough for four people for breakfast or two people for dinner + leftovers

3 firm leeks
2 bunches asparagus
2 ears spring corn (or half a bag of frozen organic sweet corn)
butter or olive oil
salt n peppa

Using only the white and pale green part of the leeks, halve the long way then chop into half-inch moons. Saute in hot pan in butter or olive oil over medium heat, stirring so that the leeks don't stick to pan. Chop asparagus into small segments, discarding woody ends, and add to pan. Cut corn off the cob and add to pan once asparagus is slightly soft and leeks are browning on edges. Add salt and pepper as you go. Corn does not need to be cooked, just heated. Once everything is nice and hot and slightly browned on edges serve on buttered sourdough with a poached or fried egg on top. Splash with a little Cholula hot sauce. Delish.

Monday, May 24, 2010

itHouse Spectacular

{Bistro Escondido at the itHouse}

Saturday evening P. and I drove up into the boulder-strewn Narnia of Rimrock, a desert outpost so wild and pristine it makes Joshua Tree look like a suburb of L.A. The ever-inventive Bistro Escondido was at it again, but instead of cioppino stew around a bonfire it was roast duck at the famed itHouse, the completely off-the-grid glass and steel opus of architect couple Linda Taalman and Alan Koch. The itHouse has been the darling of Dwell magazine and rightfully so; it's a perfect marriage between built space and the natural environment, and its minimalist aesthetic and innovative use of indoor-outdoor space make it a pretty spectacular place to enjoy a dinner party with thirty strangers. Hands-down one of the most magical evenings P. and I have ever had in the desert.

Read more about the itHouse on its website, or in this Dwell spread.
Sign up for future nomadic, sporadic Bistro Escondido dinners by emailing Chantale Doyle

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wool Socks in May

{A Sunday Cold Front}

A cactus-wilting cold front moved in last night, bringing wild cumulous clouds and chilly temperatures to an unsuspecting desert. Which has resulted in sleepy dogs, the wearing of wool socks and the folding of vast amounts of laundry. All good things.

Hope you've had a lovely weekend. I'm completely over my bug and feeling like a new person. Even went on a little adventure last night that involved desert architecture and delicious food. (A very winning combination.) Pics tomorrow.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Notes from the Bedside

{A Little Mid-Week Set-Back}

Usually strep throat is reserved for the kindergarten set. But every few years I'll pick it up and wham, it hits me like a stampede of elephants. Within a few hours I go from healthy to shivering to sweating through my clothes and unable to swallow or stand up. It's the pits. P. was working overnight when it hit and I was too weak to take myself to the doc, so I just holed up in bed with some asprin until he rushed home and took me to the ER on Wednesday morning. He's been taking *such* good care of me, and the ever-attuned doggies haven't left my side. I'm pretty blessed to be in such good company.

I've been agitated about getting behind in the studio but P. scolded me for being Type A and ordered me to just rest and recuperate, so I'm listening to the Mister because he's always right. I've caught up on a vast backlog of This American Life episodes (for those of you unfamiliar, the best old-school/new-school radio show on the planet), consumed a great deal of lemon-ginger-honey brew, and taken enough baths to raise some eyebrows at the Hi-Desert Water District.

And, in what could not have been better timing, I received two books in the mail from two separate, beloved bloggers -one just up the coast and the other clear across the Atlantic- which has been the silver lining to getting sick.  I'm halfway through A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, the gal behind one of my absolute favorite food blogs, Orangette, and I can't wait to sink my teeth into Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls, which by all accounts sounds like Little House on the Prairie for grownups. Thing could definitely be worse.

Hope you have a good weekend. I'll be dragging my sorry carcass to the studio as soon as I'm feeling sprier. And brainstorming a way to thank the huz for being the bomb.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scamp Update

{One Month into Scamp Camp}

Restoring the Scamp has been more, um, involved than I expected. I fall asleep thinking about fiberglass repair and the subtleties between 80 grit and 60 grit sandpaper. Which is what happens when you impulse-buy a vintage camper on Craigslist. The learning curve is steep, but we're making progress. I think.

Here she is the day we brought her home exactly one month ago, surrounded by wildflowers and sporting a red bow on her door (it was my birthday), courtesy of my darling huz and team captain of Scamp Camp. Let us revisit her interior, lest we forget the sheer horror/ awesomeness of the all-over treatment in plush carpeting.

The flower-power pillows, tiger cushion and VHS collection will be a goldmine for someone at the Joshua Tree thrift store, where all these items now live. I kept the curtains.

The interior upholstery had been affixed to the insulation foam (called ensolite) with spray glue. Spray glue that is thirty years old. Spray glue that must be painstakingly, maddeningly, removed by hand and sanded off.

This is how we do it: I rip out the remaining fuzz by hand (called rat fur from here on out), then remove as much glue as possible using a paint scraper and my fingers. P. follows behind with the electric sander. Let me be clear: there is nothing enjoyable about this part of the process. Rat fur + glue makes me peevish and hateful. Thank god we are almost done with this step.

Despite the din of the electric sander, the flying particles of glue and the limited space, the Hound of Love seems to enjoy stretching her ladyness out across the disgusting floor. The dogs are way into the Scamp, which, unlike rat fur, is fun. Below, the bare plywood floor stripped of seats, table, and three layers of carpeting. We'll eventually lay down bamboo flooring or some killer retro laminate.

That tiger cushion picture? Same scene below, sans le tigre. A few more hours of sanding and then we'll caulk the seams in the ensolite foam and paint the walls and ceiling with non-toxic water-based acrylic paint.

The counters, seats, and closet needs a gentle but thorough sanding, and then I'll recoat them with melamine paint. Once all that painting is done P. will work on the wiring and water lines, and I'll get to work on making new cabinets and reupholstering the cushions. Any fabric advice? I'm thinking of Scotchgard-treated brushed duck cloth that can bear the wear and tear of dogs but still look modern and clean. The look we're hoping for is less white trash and more updated mid-century modern, desert-studio, Joshua Tree chic. If that's at all possible when it comes to decorating a *trailer* on a tiny budget.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Too Fast

{Weekend Blur}

The weekend went by too fast. P. and I worked on the Scampalamp all weekend with a welcome break for brunch on Sunday at our friend's otherworldly desert rose garden. Then back to sanding the heck out of the interior of the Scamp. We finally called it quits last night at 7, popped open two beers, and took the dogs for a sunset walk down our dirt road. There's nothing that says "classy" quite like a Sunday evening stroll with roadie sodies in hand.

More pictures of Scamp progress/regress tomorrow. And frogman over there in that picture above? He left his Crocs in the back of his car for ten days and they *melted* in the hot desert sun. The point isn't that my dear husband wears Crocs; the point is that A) it's starting to warm up in the desert and B) Crocs shrivel into demented hooves when left in hot cars. Just fyi.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Iced Coffee, N'Orleans-Style

{Life-Changing Cold-Brewed Coffee}

I was lurking around the backwaters of a new favorite blog and happened upon this post on cold-brewed coffee, and I've been making the stuff every morning since. The cold-brew approach calls for soaking ground coffee beans (and chicory, if you're a New Orleans-style purist) in cold water overnight, then straining it in the morning to yield a powerful, smooth coffee concentrate with zero bitterness. Pour over ice, temper with lots of milk, sweeten with a hit of maple syrup, and you're in Sunday morning heaven. I'm usually not one for three-letter acronyms, but OMG.

This will change your life, people. Scout's honor and cross my heart. Just try it.

New Orleans-Style Iced Coffee
Adapted from the NYTimes; order Blue Bottle Coffee's special chicory blend hereCoffee concentrate will last two weeks in the fridge. 

1/3 of a cup coarse ground coffee
1 1/2 cups cold filtered water
good dark-grade maple syrup or agave syrup
almond extract

In a glass jar gently mix coffee grounds and water trying not to agitate the beans too much. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight, or twelve hours. Strain through cheesecloth or coffee filter to yield a dark, powerful coffee concentrate. Pour two inches or so of concentrate over ice, fill rest of glass with milk. For a Yankee twist sweeten with a glug of dark maple syrup; for a desert flava use agave syrup. Add a drop of almond extract to really put it over the top. Stir and enjoy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lilies, Not Leeks

{Three Days in the Desert with Mom}

My mummy left yesterday after a glorious visit spent drinking too much coffee, identifying wildflowers, and discussing dog and horse behavior at great length. That is what we Stockman girls do best: discuss the minutiae of pack and herd mentality and overcaffeinate our sensitive WASPy constitutions. 

We spent one perfect morning ordering the dahlia tubers I reserved for her at Christmas from that bastion of heirloom gaiety, the D. Landreth Seed Co. We went for evening hikes through the desert wilderness behind my house and checked on the various and sundry bird nests I've been keeping tabs on all spring. Mom caught me up on farm gossip (my favorite kind) and Lemon's miraculous recovery while we pored through the jpegs of my wedding pictures, which, two years later, we're just getting around to ordering. (That's another thing we Stockmans do best: procrastinate like hell.)

I love my mom. I miss her every single day. What a gift to take a few days off from the studio and just be together with no one to answer to and nothing preventing us from taking luxuriously long naps.

For a belated mother's day present I gave my mom an earthen mug thrown by a local potter and stuffed with a boastful exuberance of desert roses grown by my amazing friend Nora.

My mummy had considered picking me a suitcaseful of wild leeks that sometimes grow in the woods around our farm, but that involved the hunting and gathering of said rumored leeks which may not even exist in the first place. So instead she told me about how she *thought* about picking me wild leeks, but, in fact, did not actuate on the charming plan (another winning Stockman attribute).

Instead my darling mummy brought me a posy of lilies-of-the-valley, which she picked just before leaving for the Philly airport. She brought them wrapped in damp paper towel through airport security and all the way across the country to California, being careful not to crush them in her purse. If ever there were a gesture of love from a mother to a daughter, the transcontinental delivery of beloved spring flowers must be one of the sweetest. Plus, lily-of-the-valley smells way better than wild leeks.

P. came home from his ten day excursion last night and mummy is back home on the farm where dahlia tubers need planting and the existence and location of wild leeks needs researching.

Our little desert house still smells of mom's signature lavender lotion, and it makes me smile just thinking about it. All is well, friends. All is very, very well.

Have a good weekend, muggles, and thank you for the generous comments about the shows.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Show Recap

{People Showed Up and No One Threw Fruit}

Kittens, it was a fantastic night. I'm overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response from those of you who inquired about paintings, and to you I say: I'm making more! I'm making LOTS more, and soon I'm going to slap some giddyup on my woefully outdated website* so that in the very near future you can buy them directly through me. And you will be the first to know when that happens.

Opening night was blast. In attendance: desert friends, new acquaintances, strangers, tourists, Brian's LA crew, a gentleman who may or may not be one of the guys from ZZ Top (see above) and a fellow in an orange jumpsuit who had either just escaped from prison or was part of the installation at the gallery across town. One can never be sure with this crowd.

Yes, those are two-finger gold wedding rings inscribed with Mr. on his and Mrs. on hers, with diamonds as the periods. I imagine they prohibit the protracting of the middle finger during traffic disputes, but who cares. This couple had it goin ON.

Outside in the Starlite Courtyard between the two galleries the Stormin' Mormons from Wonder Valley -the beloved Sibleys- banged out their signature desert rockabilly revival.

It was a magical night. And to top it all off one of my favorite bloggers made the trek out to he desert with her adorable husband to see the show. Which resulted in squeals of delight and lots of hugs, and confirmed what I have suspected for some time now: this whole blogging business has yielded some wonderful, precious friendships.

Hope you had a great weekend and mama's day. Gale-force winds prevented my mama from getting out here yesterday, but by late tonight she'll be falling asleep beneath a desert moon. Amid more gale-force winds. Thanks for all the lovely comments about the paintings. You guys are the cat's pajamas.

*What can I say? My webmaster is my HTML-whiz frat-boy cousin who stopped responding to my emails once he turned 21 and got a girlfriend. So the website, it languishes.