Monday, December 31, 2012

Five Best Of 2012

Happy New Year, all! Here are a few of my very professional, very educated, very vetted assessments of all things 2012. 

  1. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho 
  2. History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  5. Mockingbird by Sean Stewart
See all the books I read in 2012 here.  Also, I have an addition to my 17-word book reviews.  I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Here's my review:

Tear-jerking but thoughtful novel about cancer suffering teenagers who speak with more eloquence than Dawson Leery. (Liked it. But I also liked Dawson's Creek.)

Movies (I have only seen 6 movies this year, so it's a small sample, but I enjoyed all of these.)
  1. Undefeated
  2. Silver Linings Playbook
  3. Sleepwalk With Me (Confession: I did fall asleep for the last 20 minutes of the movie; seemed fitting.)
  4. Life of Pi
  5. Argo
(The other movie I saw was Moonrise Kingdom - very good as well.)

Meals (While I can't say definitively that these are the best meals I've had all year, these are some memorable [in a good way] ones.)

  1. Bacon Blondie at Local Gastropub
  2. The Prewitt pizza (with scrambled eggs) at Hog and Hominy
  3. Mashed potatoes at Rizzo's Diner
  4. Bologna Steak (aka Hamburger) at Robert's Western World (probably more about the ambiance and Miller High Lifes than the flavor, but it was memorable.)
  5. Ribs at Central BBQ (will go on every year-end list until the end of time.) (And apparently Forbes agrees with me.)
This American Life Episodes (Welcome to Nerddom, population 1.)
  1. Reap What You Sow (So, so good. I have gone back to listen to this one twice. It's about self-deportation in Alabama.)
  2. Amusement Park (Funny and charming.)
  3. Back to School (A study of GED vs. regular diploma. So interesting. Did not want it to end.)
  4. What Doesn't Kill You (First two stories are great, but Act 3 is a train wreck for the ears.)
  5. Heretics (This is from a couple years ago, but I heard a rerun of it recently, and I can't get over how good it is. It tells the story of a "fire and brimstone" pastor's changing beliefs.)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jacket Refashion

Before I begin, I'm celebrating my 100th post today.  And my blog turns one in a few days.  What an exciting time for the Patti Wagon! Thanks for riding along.  Now, on to the jacket...

While on a refashioning shopping trip with my mom, I stumbled upon this gem in the boutique section of a thrift store.  It was very expensive; we're talking 25 dollars expensive, but I knew I could turn it into a jacket for kicking ass and taking names. 


The fringe placement was begging for a refashion. I started by removing the fringe along the wrists and front seams. I then glued (!) it to the back of the sleeves and along the bottom edge in a v-pattern.

I sewed buttons on the front and wove lace around the wrists for some design details. 


It turned out fabulous! (Which is probably not a word I should use while wearing this b.a. jacket.)

The hospice thrift store was flush with leather.  Avoiding the mink-trimmed, short-sleeved winter coat made of seal skin (seriously), my mom opted for this little number.  This purple leather mini skirt was cheap; we're talking 86 cents cheap.  Can't wait to see how she re-imagines it!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Year of Wall Art

2012 was a big year for me creatively, and while I blogged about some projects, here are a few wall art pieces that I never posted for various reasons. 

This piece was definitely the most inspired.  My raw materials were various pieces of paper, paint, fabric, and thread.  I am very happy with the end result, and I don't feel like the photograph does it justice.  The yellow square is a dryer sheet with a poem about the ocean written on it.  It's a lot of work, but I would like to create more art quilts in the future, as it's an opportunity to tell a story through mixed media. 

The above two pieces represent my foray into subway art.  The top one is a tribute to Austin, TX.  The bottom one is a tribute to my sister and bro-lo and memorable streets for them.  Raw materials were wood, paint, wax, sandpaper, mod podge, and the street names printed on legal paper. 

This is pinterest-inspired paint chip art.  (I fixed the wonky "a" before giving it to my mom to hang in her studio.)  Definitely not the most creative piece, but I like the study in color it offers. Raw materials: paint chips, card stock, double sided tape. Pretty lo-tech. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Feast of the Two Fishes

Merry Christmas!

While Christmas in Florida may seem to be lacking in many Christmasy departments, namely snow, it more than makes up for it in the seafood department.  

December being an "R month," we always have freshly shucked oysters. 

 Definitely worth the effort. 

How quickly this...

 ...becomes this. 

This year we had a special treat, shrimp ceviche. I hope it becomes a new Christmas tradition. Shrimp cooking in Florida always begins with a trip to Hull's, but I think frozen would work. 

Peel and devein a pound of shrimp.  (I'll save you the gory pictures of the "waste tract.")

Mix together all other ingredients.  (See below for all the details.)

Split the shrimp in half and quickly cook in olive oil over high heat until they just begin to turn opaque. (It's easier to cook in batches.)

 Mix everything together, chill, and serve. 

Here's the recipe: 

Shrimp Ceviche

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
olive oil
1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped pimento stuffed green olives
pickled jalepenos, to taste, chopped
juice from jalepenos, to taste
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t dried Mexican oregano
juice of 1 fresh orange
juice of 1 fresh lime
salt to taste

Split the shrimp in half lengthwise.  Saute the shrimp in batches in oil on high heat. Set aside to cool.  Place all other ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Stir in the shrimp.  Chill and serve. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's Not Christmas...

  • Until I've heard "Feed the World (Let Them Know It's Christmas Time)" and the first two bars of "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time." More I cannot tolerate.
  • Until I've checked the vitality of the 24-year-old ice cream cone ornament still on the Clayton family Christmas tree. 2012 check!
  • Until I've completed the yearly Libs vs. Angel and Phelps turtle taste test. A&P wins every year, but these things still need to be tested, you know? 
  • Until I've heard Twas the Night before Christmas, as read by Papa Clayton, hung my stocking, and properly documented the occasion. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gift Wrap Idea

I have several crafty Christmas gifts I made that I'm itching to blog about, but a crafty gift wrapping job will have to suffice for now.

Brown paper with a piece of my great-grandmother's lace sewn on.  Typically I'm not a shabby chic kind of girl, but I love this juxtaposition of elegant lace and rustic brown paper.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bulletin Boarding

If you ever hear about a job posting for professional bulletin boarder, LET ME KNOW!  I have loved doing stuff like this since I was kid.  

(I won the 8th grade science fair not just based on the merit of the experiment [the effects of caffeine on mealworms], but mostly based on my display board graphics. A worm drinking coffee and reading a book? The judges had no choice but to award me 1st place.)

I decorate the bulletin board on my hallway, and I'm always trying to think of fresh ideas. I haven't always been good about getting photos, but here are a few recent ones. If you have any great bulletin board ideas, send them my way! 

Thanksgiving theme - have the students write things for which they are thankful on feathers and place them around the turkey. 

Mustache theme - I don't try to understand why mustaches are so trendy. But I do try to appeal to the students' interest. And for some reason, their interests right now lie in mustaches.

Foreign language theme - I love the interactive quality, and the fact that the viewer might learn something practical. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dangerously Decadent Dip

(Can I get a What What for Christmas Break?  Get ready for more regular least for the next two weeks!)

I discovered this recipe from my friend Brooke, whom I have known for the last three years.  Brooke is an excellent hostess, and every time she has an event, this onion dip attends.  It is so ridiculously good, I always park myself right by it and play the position of Beater, keeping others from exhausting the supply before I've had my fill.  (Wow. Cue the crazy person music.) 

I made it for the first time for a teacher party this week, and it was a hit!  Side note, I would describe it as "heavily-mayonnaised," so those with a mayo aversion need not apply.  Side note #2, to those with a mayo aversion, you're the crazy ones. 

Warning!  You are now entering dangerous territory!  Once you realize how easy and delicious this dip is, you and I will have a love/hate relationship, because healthy it is not. But addicting it is. 

I'm not sure exactly how Brooke makes hers, but this is what I did, and it turned out very similarly. For those brave enough to handle it, here's the recipe: 

Onion Souffle (just because souffle sounds fancier than dip #francophile)

Peel and quarter one small-medium onion and chop it in the food processor. 

To the onion, add 1 and 1/3 cups parmesan cheese, 

1/3 cup mayonnaise, 

and 2 bricks cream cheese, softened and broken into hunks.

Pulse until everything is mixed well. 

Spread the mixture in an 8x8 lightly-greased dish and bake it at 400 for 30 minutes. 

Make sure it's brown, especially on the edges before you take it out. Like Brooke, I prefer the crispy, semi-burnt parts to the gooey, melty parts. Try both, see what you like! 

Serve with pita chips, bagel chips, fritos, tortilla chips, or any other vehicle of your choice. And inevitably, this will happen. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Books of 2012

Recently I attended a writing workshop by Kelly Gallagher. It was a rainy Saturday morning, and at the time, I could think of approximately 38 things I'd rather be doing than sitting through a lecture in a high school auditorium (namely, sleeping away the rain in my bed). But something amazing happened. Mr. Gallagher was able to crack my crotchety attitude, and I left I-N-S-P-I-R-E-D. Inspired to write and inspired to teach.

One of his main points was to start small, using teen-friendly, high-interest material. (Because let's face it, what fifteen-year-old wants to walk into a classroom in which the first assignment is a three page thesis about symbolism in Of Mice and Men?) One of his first-day activities is the "17 Word Movie Review." Seventeen words is not threatening (actually kind of fun), and what kid can't talk about movies?

I thought I'd perform this exercise with the books I read in 2012.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Page-turning, well-written mystery about the disappearance of a woman and suspicion of husband as killer. (Loved it!)

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Time-traveling teacher attempts to revise history by preventing Lee Harvey Oswald's assassination of John F. Kennedy. (Liked it.)

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Bipolar parenting. Vagrant lifestyle. How did she end up well-adjusted? Second time around just as good. (Loved it!)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
You'll laugh, you'll cry in this story about teenager stuck between rez and white life. Also, illustrated! (Loved it!)

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
Dual narrative: young woman weathers the siege of Leningrad in art museum and the scourge of Alzheimer's. (Liked it.)

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Linda Vincent
Art dealer befriends homeless man, and in this sappy, feel-good tale, they cope with wife's illness. (Didn't like.)

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Main character reflects on past relationships, mistakes, and the death of a friend; too deep for me. (Didn't like.)

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Orphan, abandoned in a graveyard but safeguarded by its inhabitants, must avenge the murder of his parents. (Didn't like it.)

Mockingbird by Sean Stewart
Magical realism rules this book about inheriting the good and bad and learning to accept one's ancestry. (Loved it! Although, honestly I can't quite remember the storyline.)

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
Inspiring parable about impediments on the path toward one's personal legend and how they shape the future. (Loved it! Life-changing!)

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Book within a book. Multiple story lines. Memorable characters. Merge together in this beautifully written story. Stunning. (Loved it!)

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
ZZZ ZZZ ZZZ Ireland ZZZ ZZZ ZZZ hungry ZZZ ZZZ ZZZ father ZZZ ZZZ ZZZ cold ZZZ ZZZ (Didn't like. In case you couldn't tell.)

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
Subsisting on bean burrito, chocolate, and urine while trapped in crevasse, man contemplates life, chops off arm. (Like it.)

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Addict reflects on the roads leading to drug hell and sobriety heaven in this semi-true memoir. (Liked it.)

Now I'm reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and loving it so far. Here's hoping 2013 includes more reading and writing!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." ~Virginia Woolf

I happened upon a list of food quotes recently, and these are some of my favorites: 

Amen, Julia!

Definitely not the case with my mother!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Let the Carbo Loading Begin!

Tonight for dinner I ate pasta with peas, pesto, parmesan, and a pegg.

 Because on Saturday I'll be wearing this. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chocolate Pie Perfection

So there are pies, and then there's Grandma Clayton's chocolate pie.  This pie is in a class of its own.  If you want to impress someone, bake this pie.  Its beauty will overwhelm them so much that they will eat the pie out of the palm of your hand.  I have alluded to this pie before here and  herebut never the recipe.  I make it fairly often (lots of people to impress!), but I always feel stressed because everything has to come together simultaneously, and someone has a generally proclivity to stress out. (Who, me?)  

Over Thanksgiving, in addition to doing some crafting, we did some baking. I manned the pies, and miraculously, I stayed out of the weeds and managed to take some pictures of the process.  I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you try out the recipe.  You will need a baked and cooled pie crust. My mom made and froze a pie crust a few days before I arrived. I baked it for 15 minutes at 400 the morning of.  You can use my pie crust recipe here or buy a crust from the freezer section.  

Step 1: Take a deep breath. Prepare for perfection. Preheat the oven to 350. Also, put all your dry ingredients in the iron skillet. (Did I tell you this is a one-pot pie? Well, except for the meringue and pie crust pots, it is!) Dry ingredients are sugar, cocoa, flour, and corn starch. 

Step 2: Stir dry ingredients together in the dry skillet. Might get a bit dusty. 

Step 3: Add in the liquid ingredients (milk, egg yolks, butter and vanilla) and turn the heat up to the medium / medium-high range. Find your favorite whisk.

Step 4: Stir, stir, and stir some more. As it heats up, it will thicken. Clayton family lore tells of a pie my grandmother had to strain because it had so many lumps. If you stir (and stir like you mean it), you should avoid lumps, but know that if it does get lumpy, the pie can be saved.  Just find your favorite strainer. 

Step 5: Once it has the thickness of pudding, remove it from the heat and immediately start working on the meringue. You don't want the filling to get too cold. 

Step 6: Beat three (or four if you want mile-high meringue) egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer, hand mixer, or if you're as strong as an ox, a whisk.  My Aunt Jane (strong as an ox) uses a snowshoe whisk like this.  Just be sure to stretch your whisking muscles first. 

I prefer a hand mixer.  I'm not strong as an ox, and I'm apt to overmix if I use my KitchenAid.  Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then add in sugar gradually.  Once it is glossy, stiff in vanilla. You can also add in a couple tablespoons of ice water now to prevent the meringue from weeping.  (Beads of water will form on the surface of the meringue the longer it sits out.)

Step 7: Return the filling to heat for a minute and stir it to get out any last minute lumps. Fill the baked and cooled pie crust with the filling. 

It looks really dark because I used dark chocolate cocoa. I recommend the original variety though.
Step 8: Top the pie crust with the meringue. Make sure to have a good seal between the meringue and pie crust. Artfully create peaks in the meringue with a spatula. This is my second favorite part of baking this pie. 

Step 8: Bake in the 350 pre-heated oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until it looks like the most perfect pie. 

Step 9: Pose with your pie. Required. 

Step 10: Slice, admire, and enjoy! This is my first favorite part of baking this pie. 

Here's the recipe: 

1 baked and cooled pie shell

For the filling: 
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 T flour
3 T cornstarch
4 T cocoa (I prefer milk chocolate over special dark.)
3 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
2 T butter
1 t vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients in a dry skillet. Add in milk, egg yolks, and butter, and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Add in vanilla. 

For the meringue: 
3 egg whites (I sometimes use 4 for extra meringue.)
1/4 t cream of tarter
4 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tarter until stiff. Add sugar by the tablespoonful and continue to beat until it is stiff and glossy. Stir in vanilla. 

To finish: 
Pour the filling in the pie shell, top with the meringue, and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until it's golden.