Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seeing Dali

© Philippe Halsman und/and Salvador Dalí, Dalí’s Mustache, 1953, Privatsammlung Wien/Private Collection, Vienna. © Magnum Photos / Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, 2011. Image Rights of Salvador Dalí reserved.

Today I visited the Salvador Dali exhibit at Vienna’s Kuntshalle.  Much of the exhibit focused on Dali’s strange and disturbing illustrations in pen and ink.  Arms and legs intertwined in odd contortions.  An arm saws off its own leg.  A clock melts on the branch of a tree. 

As I moved along the line of framed pieces, I was struck by a couple quietly chatting in front of one of the many ink drawings.  They were engrossed in a long discussion about the particular piece before them.  As I moved towards the pair, the man smiled at me, which gave me the courage to ask, “What did you see?”  The man was quite animated.  “Oh, we are trying to understand the meaning!  Some pieces are easy to understand.  For example, this piece here…” 

He proceeded to give me a long explanation of a piece I had just been viewing, describing how it depicted a man dreaming, leaving the reality of his bed and floating upward into the surreal.  

Wow!” I thought.  I had not seen what this viewer had seen at all.  Yet once he described his interpretation, I saw it clearly.  “Oh, yes!” I said, happy to learn his view. 

It is nice to be by oneself to explore and experience the world.  But it is much nicer to share the world – and all its interpretations – with others.  Don’t you think?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Freestyle Fabric Painting Expressions

Sponge work with details by my friend, Natasha

Summertime is a perfect time for extending your workspace to the outdoors.  What better outdoor activity for artists and crafters than fabric painting!  If you read my Freestyle Fabric Painting Tutorial, then you know how fun and easy it is to decorate fabrics using acrylic paints.

In recent weeks, I enjoyed several days fabric painting with family and friends. Here are some of our creative expressions.

Spicing up jeans...

My daughter, Arielle, paints Jen's jeans

Jeans detail

Making jean fabric...

Triangle print

Landscape painting...

Fabric landscape by Jen

Painting with carved print blocks made out of linoleum...

Linoleum block print on silk

Hand-carved linoleum print block

Watercolor expressions on cotton flannel...

I painted this on a piece of bed sheet flannel

I plan to use some of my hand painted fabrics for making baskets and bags for my Etsy Shop.  Stay tuned!

Have you tried my Freestyle Fabric Painting Tutorial?  I love to hear about your experiences!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Val’s Original Sundried Tomato Polenta Bread

Bread in a basket by ValsPlay

Last week I had a yearning for the taste of summer along the Mediterranean Coast.  Of course I thought of sundried tomatoes!  Sweet tomatoes dried in the sun and marinated in a bath of olive oil and herbs.  Yum!

If you love sundried tomatoes and you love bread, then you MUST try my original recipe.  Here we go…


  • 1/8 cup sundried tomato oil (This is the oil that the tomatoes are marinating in.  It gives the bread its wonderful flavor.)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 ¼ cup water (I like to use potato water if I happen to have it.  This is water I save from the pot after I have boiled potatoes.  The yeastie beasties love potato water!)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon dry yeast


Using your electric mixer with a paddle attachment or your bread machine, combine the ingredients – keeping in mind your machine’s instructions.  

When kneading is done, let the dough rise for about 45 min. or until it has doubled in size.  (If you prefer hand kneading, see my note on hand kneading in my Best Ever Polenta Pumpkin Seed Bread Recipe.) 

Ready to be kneaded

Once the dough has doubled, pour it out onto a floured board or countertop.  (This is a slow-riser so be patient.)  Knead the dough by hand for about 5 minutes, and then shape into a round loaf.  

Let rise again until doubled in size.  (I use a damp cloth to cover the dough while it is rising.)

Ready for scoring

Scoring the loaf:

Once the dough has doubled in size (for the second time) using a sharp knife, score the loaf.  This helps in the release of steam during baking (and it looks lovely!)  I created a star pattern on my loaf.

Scored with a star pattern


Bake your loaf for about 25 to 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 385 Fahrenheit (about 195 C).  If you would like to try steaming as you bake, see my note below on the steaming technique.

Look how lovely!

A golden crust

Summer weather permitting, enjoy your bread "al fresco" with a hearty Greek salad.  Don't forget the wine!

Cooling on the terrace

Al fresco dining

Steaming the oven:

Steaming is a technique used by bakers who want to keep the dough moist during the first part of the baking cycle.  This allows the dough to expand fully.  I learned this technique from Rose Levy Beranbaum in her book, "The Bread Bible".  

For this recipe I used the ice cube method: 

Place a baking pan in the bottom of your oven.  I did this during preheating.  Just after you place the dough in the oven, take 4 or 5 ice cubes and throw them in the pan and then quickly close the oven door.  Bake as directed.

I cannot tell you how delicious this bread is.  You have to try it!

Sliced and ready to eat!

I would love to hear your experiences with this recipe.  How did it go?