Archive | July, 2011

Party Time: Cocktails and Creativity

21 Jul

A few weeks ago I teameded up with Lara Duren, artist, stylist and woman about town, for a lovely Sunday afternoon of drinking and drawing.  Lara set up an elaborate still-life in her living room, I made cocktails and we sipped and sketched to our hearts’ delight.

lovely ladies making lovely things

I’m not particularly good at drawing, but really enjoyed having an excuse to sit around and draw a still life.  Seriously- drawing is great for concentration, observation and meditation, artistic merit aside.  I highly recommend rounding up some friends, arranging some interesting objects on a coffee table, making some cocktails and sketching away.  Simple as that.

drawing on each other

I made a variation of the watermelon cocktail from my last post (this one contained ginger beer) and a cucumber cocktail made with the generic-looking “cucumber beverage” I once found in the International aisle at the grocery store and now cannot get enough of (incidentally, if you’re ever wanting to buy me a gift I’ll really love, consider a lifetime supply of ginger beer and cucumber soda”).  Look around to see if you can find some in your grocery store or Asian market.  If not, I know Dry makes a less-sweet version of cucumber soda that would work well.

cucumber cocktail

Cucumber Cocktail

  • 1 oz vodka or gin
  • juice of 1/4 lime
  • 1 oz ginger beer
  • top with cucumber soda

mix all ingredients in a glass with ice.  serve very cold

hard at work

All photos by Shawn Poynter.

For more projects like this one, check out the Domesticity page.


Watermelon Basil Cocktail

18 Jul

I’ve been spending this weekend with my lovely Aunt Olivia, whom I credit with much of the whimsical attitude with which I approach food and drink.  As a kid, we dyed mashed potatoes purple and formed mountains from them, using broccoli trees to form an intricate landscape.  Once we made an anatomically correct man out of meatloaf (he sported long spaghetti hair).  It should then come as no surprise to you that we created a pretty artful cocktail this weekend.

I had just come into possession of interesting cocktail glasses.  The glasses come in two parts- a round bowl with a cone-shaped glass nestled into it.  We figured the best way to use these glasses is to fill the round bowl with ice to keep the cocktail in the cone-shaped glass cold.  I made a nice watermelon basil cocktail and Olivia suggested we dye the ice in the bowl to make the cocktails look much like an actual watermelon.  This is a tasty drink with a lovely presentation.  Thanks, Aunt Olivia!  It was lovely to have you.

photo by Shawn Poynter

Watermelon Basil Cocktail

  • 1 cup cubed watermelon
  • 5 leaves basil
  • 1.5 oz gin
  • .5 oz fresh lime
  • splash of ginger ale

Muddle watermelon, basil and gin in a cocktail shaker.  Add ice and lime and shake well.  Strain into cocktail glass and add splash of ginger ale. Add to glass of ice mixed with 1 tablespoon water and 3-5 drops of green food coloring, if desired.

Photo by Shawn Poynter

Photo by Shawn Poynter

For more recipes like this one, check out the Domesticity page.

Make an Aromatherapy Inhaler

15 Jul

Years and years ago I remember being at a hippie grocery store with my mom and coming across a collection of little white tubes with drawings of colorful people on the labels.  I don’t think I knew what they were, but have always liked compact things with pretty labels, so I asked my mom if I could have one and she actually acquiesced.  She showed me that it was an aromatherapy inhaler; the little tube housed essential-oil soaked cotton that, when placed under (or, for the very brave, inserted into) one’s nose allowed one to enjoy a calming and refreshing olfactory experience.

Since then, I’ve bought several of these little tubes, each with specific blends of oils to facilitate relaxation, rejuvenation, motivation and other desirable -ations.  It never occurred to me that I could make my until recently.  I poked around online and found a company in nearby Asheville, North Carolina called Dreaming Earth Botanical that make empty inhalers with wicks that can be soaked in your favorite essential oil (or combination of oils) just by dropping maybe 10 drops onto the wick and then inserting it into the tube and capping it.

I have a summer cold I’m fighting off and have been enjoying a mixture of equal parts eucalyptus, rosemary and tee tree oil.  You can go wild making up your own combinations. For a list of some basic essential oils and their functions, check out my apothecary post.

Warning: I would be remiss not to mention that there is no way to enjoy these inhalers without looking like you are, or are about to, stick a tampon up your nose.  But you know what?  Worth it. 20110715-101153.jpg

For more posts like this one, check out the Apothecary page.

Initials Banner

14 Jul

A few weeks ago I got a request for a custom banner for a wedding in Australia from the bride-to-be.  She wanted it to read like a carving in a tree trunk- [her initials] hearts [his initials].  I was so happy with the results, I’ve decided to sell custom initials banners on my etsy site.  Remember, these don’t just have to be for your wedding.  Love your cat who happens to have a last name?  Let me make you a banner so you can express your love to the world!  Want to show your appreciation for your boss?  I’d love to help, but that might be a little over the top.  Have a crush on the dude who sells you coffee everyday?  Why not express your love with a banner?  Oh right, because he doesn’t know your name.  In any case, I’m sure you can think of plenty of uses for these sweet initial banners by yours truly.

Open Road Project: I Ride on the Seat in Iowa County, Wisconsin

13 Jul

When I’m on a vacation, be it a month-long backpacking trip or weekend jaunt, each day I plan to leave a section of Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road. I might leave it in a B&B guestbook, tuck a note behind a hotel painting or write it on a dollar bill I spend at a hot dog stand. In any case, I’ll be tracking where I leave the poem here. I call it The Open Road Project.  Click on the stanzas below to find out where they’ve been left and track the poem’s progress here.

We spent the fourth of July weekend with my sister, my mom and her boyfriend at his farm house in Iowa County, Wisconsin.  I’ve always loved Wisconsin, especially this area, which features a great art community, the homestead of Frank Lloyd Wright, House on the Rock and other unique and delightful things to see.  It was a great weekend of eating, reading and shooting off fireworks.

farm house


I left the 38th section of the poem at Arthur’s Supper Club, a funky little Knights-of-the-Round-Table themed restaurant in Spring Green, Wisconsin where we were lucky enough to be seated in the “waterfall room,” which sported a wall mural of rolling hills and a man-made waterfall.  I unfortunately lost almost all of the pictures I took on the trip, so you’ll have to settle for my description of it’s grandeur.

Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank?
Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious
thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always
drop fruit as I pass;)

I left the 39th section of the poem at Taliesen, the summer home of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Growing up in the Midwest, I’ve always admired his work, but it was really fun seeing the house he called home.

What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers?
What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side?
What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I walk by
and pause?

Pimp Your Desk

12 Jul

Remember when I whimsified my workplace?  Turns out, that didn’t cut it. First off, the little post-it flags kept blocking the menu bar from my view.  Second, it just wasn’t enough.  Last week I was sitting at my desk, where I spend the better part of my eight hour work day, and realized it said absolutely nothing of my personality.  There was not a single thing on my desk that delighted me.  So I decided to fix it right there and then.  I ran around downtown Knoxville over my lunch break in my not-quite-worn-in gladiator sandals, giving myself blisters in the name of whimsy.  I bought a vintage tablecloth from the thrift shop.  I got a great calendar from Yee-Haw Industries.  I bought cigar boxes for $1 from the cigar store to store my various sundry office supplies.  I ran home and got a few figurines.  I now LOVE coming to work.  No joke.  I’m not sure how long this honeymoon period with my desk is going to last, but I can say it’s worth it to make just a little effort to make your work space somewhere you actually want to be.

For more projects like this one, check out the Things to Try page.

Shrimp Salad and Summer Succotash: A Solstice Supper

6 Jul

We’ve been having some odd weather here in Knoxville.  It’s been swinging between hot & sunny to dark & stormy and back again.  I have to admit, it’s actually pretty cool, except when we get storms so intense they knock over trees and leave folks without power for days.  We had one such storm on the Summer Solstice, when a friend of mine was in town visiting.  We’d made a solstice feast– a fusion of traditional Scandinavian fare and Southern classics (we joked about opening up a Scandinavian/Southern fusion restaurant which I think were it actually to come to fruition would become a huge hit).  We had summer succotash, dilled shrimp salad, watermelon feta salad, hot rolls and cucumber cocktails.  Just as we finished cooking, a violent storm rushed in and knocked out all our power.  What could we do but enjoy our meal by candlelight?  It turned into a pretty magical evening. I figured I’d share a couple recipes from the evening.

photo by Shawn Poynter

Dilled Shrimp Salad (via NPR)

  • 1 pound precooked small salad shrimp (pink shrimp or bay shrimp, depending on where you are)
  • 1/2 cup minced dill (1 small bunch)
  • Heaping 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Salt to taste

Mix together all of the ingredients, and taste to adjust seasonings.

Summer Succotash (this isn’t the exact recipe we used, but close enough)


  • 1 ½ cups fresh corn
  • 1/2 cups young lima beans
  • 1/4 cup butterbeans
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion or 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  •  peices country ham
  • salt & pepper

1) Start by heating up a medium sized saucepan and heating up 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil. Add the frozen lima beans, corn, onion or shallot and garlic and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes.

2) Add the red pepper and cook for another minute or two and remove from the heat.

3) Add the fresh basil, parsley, and thyme and mix together.

4) Season with sugar, lime juice, mix, taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

For more recipes like this one, check out the Domesticity Page.