Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Juniper Beetroot Chocolate Truffles

Looking for the perfect homemade gift to give a loved one with a sweet tooth? Here's your answer! These are easy, delicious, and incredibly festive. Silky chocolate ganache in earthy winter flavors is cloaked in crisp tempered chocolate and rolled in a striking crimson coating of beet powder, which also lends it a subtle sweetness and earthy scent. Yum!

Here's the recipe: 

In a small saucepan, quickly roast 3-4 juniper berries until fragrant (don't burn them!) then add 1/2 c. heavy cream (I used coconut milk so I could eat them), 2 Tbs. butter (or non-dairy shortening), and 1 tsp. honey (or agave syrup if you are vegan.) Bring to a gentle simmer then shut off the heat and allow the juniper to infuse in the cream mixture for a couple of hours. I added a bonus sprig of juniper foliage, which is optional. 

Chop up 8 oz. good quality dark chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream mixture back up until it just barely starts to simmer, then strain the liquid over the chocolate mixture, being sure to separate out any juniper berries. Let this sit undisturbed for 5 minutes, then stir until it's one big creamy mixture and no chunks of chocolate remain. (If they do, you can place the bowl over some gently simmering water to heat it until everything is melted.) 

Place the mixture in the fridge and stir it every 5 minutes until it's thickened enough to roll into balls. Roll it into small balls and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper in the fridge. 

Temper your chocolate. While it is tempering, prepare your beet powder: you can purchase it pre-powdered at most health food stores, but I made my own out of some dehydrated beets I had in my pantry. I just used a coffee grinder to pulverize them into a powder and then sifted it to remove any big chunks. 

Dip the balls of ganache into the tempered chocolate and then gently scoop them out with a fork. Tap the fork on the top of the bowl's rim to remove any excess chocolate (it will fall through the tines of the fork while the truffle sits on top), then place the truffle in the beet powder and gently roll it around. Remove and place on waxed paper to cool and harden. All done! 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Help me brainstorm new Patreon rewards!

As you may know, I've started funding the surprise free events I do through patreon. You can check out my creator page to see what I'm up to! 

A few people have expressed an interest in becoming a patron at a higher reward tier, and I'm trying to come up with the best goodies to offer them. I would love your feedback and ideas if you have a moment to give it some thought. What would you like to see offered? What would make you want to up your pledge amount? 

Here are some of my ideas: 
  • A spoon designed to match each event.  While it would be difficult to send patrons the relics from each event (see below), I could create a custom small piece of artwork to ship after each event as the start of a collection. One idea I had for this was to design a collectable spoon for each event. I would have a limit to the # of patrons accepted at that level so the artworks would be limited edition collectors items. Patrons who support me for a long time would eventually amass quite a collection! 
  • Monthly video chat with the artist. Once a month, I'd offer patrons at this level a chance to get in on the fun with an hour-long studio tour and some sneak peeks at works in process! 
  • Gift Packs with More Goodies: Right now, my highest level of gift pack includes a postcard about the event you helped to fund, a secret recipe sealed in a black envelope, and a cookie baked with the flavors I experimented with for the event. What if I made packs that included a few more items focusing on the current theme? For example, each pack could include those things already mentioned, plus 3 other surprise seasonal goodies relating to the event all made with foraged ingredients (examples include homemade incense, bath tea, bitters, tea blends, infused spirits, handmade scented candles, fine chocolates, syrups, salves, infused oils, etc.) They would be designed as a sensory treat inspired by nature, and all packaged up in mysterious and elegant black packaging. 
  • Quarterly consulation or conversation with the artist: Got a project you are working on and want some advice? Are you planning a party and want an idea to really make it memorable? Patrons at this higher level would get a 1 hour quarterly chat with me (1 on 1) to gather inspiration and ask questions. It would also be a way for me to get to know my patrons better and connect with all of you a little bit more! 
  • Digital Files for printing: For each event, I'd send you 1-5 high quality digital files of photographs from the event for you to print for your personal use. 
  • A .pdf book about the event in more detail (including recipes!): A digital file for you to download to read more about the event, the inspiration behind it, the culinary experiments that went into it, and last but not least some of the recipes from the event for you to try yourself! 
And here are ones that I thought of but might not work (in case you get the same ideas, since we all know great minds think alike ;) ) 
  • A chance to win a custom event, created just for you. As much as I love this idea, it goes against Patreon's rules for rewards. They have an anti-raffle policy to keep things fair and legal.
  • A relic from each event, designed specifically for that event. I liked the idea of doing this as well, but the pricing varies so much on all of the pieces I make it would be difficult to do this fairly. Plus sometimes I sell all of the artifacts from an experience as a complete set rather than individually. 
  • A party once a year for high level patrons. This one might still be do-able, but the logistics would be tough. For one, I would have to have a cut-off date each year so that patrons would have had to contribute for a certain # of months beforehand (because it wouldn't be fair for someone who'd only contributed $50 to get to attend when someone who's contributed $600 is next to them!) It would also have to be held in the PNW and patrons would pay their own travel and lodging. 
  • The seat of honor at an event. I *could* create a high level tier with only 1-3 available pledges and send invitations to those "mega patrons" for each event I am doing, but I worry that it would change the dynamics of the guests' interactions at my events. For example, if all of the other guests at the event are curious hikers that discovered their invitations in the woods, would it be weird for them to rub shoulders with someone who paid to be there? (Or at least have the chance to be there)? 
So, what do you think? Like I said I am open to ideas! Let me know if any of these stand out to you or if you have any new ideas to add to the board! 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Halloween 2016: Witchy Apples and Maple Leaves

This post is late- forgive me! I got distracted and haven't had a chance to put it together until now. But here's the good news: this makes a wonderful fall dessert and would be equally appropriate on the Thanksgiving table. :)

This year's Halloween costume: Lady Maple, Fae of Fallen Leaves. The yellow and orange leaves in the parks near my house and big bunches of black and blue berries inspired me- how many people have to go foraging to get their Halloween costume together? ;) I felt like some kind of pixie-witch hybrid in my long crimson skirt stooping over a pan of simmering wine-poached apples, an intoxicating scent filling my house.

Apples have long been symbols of fertility and immortality and have shown up in fall celebrations since prehistory. Their rosy skins stay intact and plump through the winter offering the hope of spring to come. I wanted to do something especially witchy with them, so I made mulled wine poached apples with maple. I added a few extra herbs to the mix- rosemary (which has long signified remembrance for the dead- extra appropriate for Halloween), and foraged lemon balm for love, success, and healing. Some mulling spices and star anise finished the blend and these beautiful ruby-red apples simmered away on my stovetop, releasing the most bewitching of scents...

These ruby treats were served with vanilla yogurt, acorn almond lace cookies, a drizzle of reduced wine-maple syrup, and a generous dusting of dark chocolate shavings. Delightful. Here's the recipe if you want to try them yourself!

Acorn Almond Lace Cookies: Preheat oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with non-stick liners. Heat 5 Tbs. butter, 2 Tbs. maple syrup, and 1/3 c. sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Bring it to a boil and then remove from heat. Stir in 3 Tbs. flour and 3 Tbs. acorn flour and a pinch of salt, then stir in 1/2 c. ground blanched almonds. Drop the batter by the teaspoon on the non-stick baking sheets (be sure to leave lots of room, this stuff spreads!) Bake until they are evenly light brown, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool a bit before removing from the sheets. 

Spiced Wine-Poached Apples with Maple: 
Peel 7 small apples and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine: 

2 c. wine
1 c.  pom/cherry juice
sprinkle of mulling spices1 star anise 1 cinnamon stick 1/2 c maple syrup1/2 c waterrosemary sprigs
sprinkle of lemon balm 

And bring to a simmer. Gently add the apples, stirring and flipping occasionally, until they are dark red and tender (about half an hour.) Remove apples and strain the leftover liquid. Cook it down until it makes a thick syrup (about another half an hour) Use the syrup to top the apples and yogurt. 

Yogurt: This is as easy as stirring some vanilla bean scrapings or vanilla extract into high quality thick yogurt. You can sweeten it a little if you'd like, but the apples are fairly sweet so I didn't think it was necessary. 

To serve: Place a dollop of vanilla yogurt on each plate and top with a poached apple. Drizzle the reduced wine syrup over top and garnish with acorn lace cookies and dark chocolate shavings. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ember (Wondersmith Event)

Fire is a part of life here in the West. Every August we brace ourselves for the crispy vegetation and smoke-filled air and watch as our beloved forests burn. But there is often beauty to be salvaged from the ashes and lessons to be learned. An ember smoldering under the surface represents a crossroads: will you fan it back into flames or bury it to let it die?

It was with that question in mind that I targeted my invitations to people who may be looking to have that very conversation. I hid beautiful invitations in the self-help sections of local bookstores and gifted the lucky finders a ceremonial tea party celebrating the beauty found in fire's destruction, held appropriately out in one of the biggest fires in the country (the Pioneer Creek Fire near Lowman, ID.) We enjoyed a ceremony of incense, intentions, tea, and lots of ash-inspired treats, all served in handmade stoneware cups decorated with real gold luster. (These will be available to the public on Dec. 11th and my patreon supporters on Dec. 4th!)

This event was free to the lucky finders, thanks to my patrons on Patreon. If you like what I am doing and want to learn more or support my mission of bringing a little magic into the lives of strangers, please visit

Long before the first guests arrived, I had big pots of water boiling for flavorful teas to sip. I decided on two flavors: lapsang souchong (which is black tea smoked over pine branches and tastes like a campfire), or an herbal blend of rose hips, hawthorne, spices, and orange peel. 

In my invitations, I added a little note that the event would be semi-formal and to feel free to get crazy with dress. These lovely ladies definitely embraced that! How fun it was to see these elegant and funky outfits out in th middle of nowhere.

After guests parked their cars in a designated area, one of my volunteers (who also happens to be my dad) walked them down a scenic trail through the burned forest. I then welcomed all of the guests to our location by smudging them with homemade incense with a basis of sage and birch. Then we all sat down at the table and I talked for a bit about the intentions of the event and the nature of embers. Embers are left after the fire dies down. There is a melancholy satisfaction in examining the remains of a fire... the energy is different. While fire is all passion (anger, excitement, love, and lust) and can change in a heartbeat, the energy of embers is steady and calculated. Burned logs are ghosts of their tree-selves, still exhibiting the same bark patterns that are now black and carbonized. I asked each attendee to consider what their personal ember was and keep it in mind while we enjoyed our treats. 

A beautiful close-up shot of one of the cups I made especially for Ember. I sculpted these out of iron-rich clay that turned almost black after firing, then embellished them with real gold luster to add some sparkle. I wanted these objects to be elegant and luxurious while maintaining the roughness of their inspiration: burned logs and twigs. These cups will be available to the public on Dec. 11th and my Patreon supporters on Dec. 4th.

The guests enjoyed some ash-inspired treats while they sipped their tea. Pictured here: black sesame mochi with sweet potato and candied rose hip filling; black sesame mochi with beet, orange, and pine nut filling; and black garlic, juniper, and parsnip ash cheesy twig crackers. I loved watching the guests' surprised faces as they bit into the charcoal gray foods to reveal glowing orange centers, just like the glowing heat inside a real ember.

During the tea party part of Ember's ceremony, guests got to know each other between sips. Pretty elegant for a party in the woods! 

This table held some special goodies to be added to our teas: homemade woods bitters (which will also be available for sale on Dec. 11th), pinion pine nut-infused whiskey, mesquite honey syrup, and fresh orange slices. Also pictured are some incense holders that were later used to burn incense as we chatted and ate. 

Mike the fire-tender was busy keeping our tea pots filled and warm! I love how well you can see our setting in this picture: the skeletal remains of charred trees and soot-blackened soil topped with warm orange pine needles. Just being out in those hauntingly beautiful woods was such a treat; having a delicious tea party with interesting guests was icing on the cake! 

My personal favorite of the treats served at Ember was my spin-off on chocolate roulade cake. I made my version to look like charred logs and filled the dark chocolate goodness with rose hip jam and whipped cream spiked with rose hip-infused whiskey. I even made a dairy-free version (pictured here) with whipped coconut cream so I could join in the fun.

I was so pleased with how everything at Ember came together! The warm and shimmery glaze inside my homemade stoneware cups perfectly matched the pine needles in the distance, while the felt tablecloth and various treats blended right in to the charred landscape. Sometimes there is just so much beauty to be found in the gray. While the guests finished their last cup of tea, I asked them to write down their thoughts about their personal "ember" on a little slip of paper. They were to consider something that had been simmering beneath the surface in their life for too long and prepare to make a decision to fan it back into flames, or bury it and let it die. After our tea party, we gathered in a circle around the fire and a pit and, one by one, had the opportunity to talk about our decision and then throw our paper into either the fire or the pit. Everyone present listened with respect, spoke from the heart, and made a little promise to themselves to follow through on a decision that would make their life better in some way. Some attendees decided to let go of relationships that were no longer serving them, others decided to fan a long-forgotten passion back into flames, and still others chose to keep their decisions to themselves and released them either into the ground or the fire with a silent determination. 

The guests who attended Ember were inspiring. These wonderful people embraced the unknown by accepting an invitation hidden in a bookstore, driving out into the middle of nowhere, and participating fully in something largely unknown to them. All of the guests were warm and kind to one another and supported total strangers in moments of vulnerability. It was inspiring to watch the inherent goodness inside a random group of mostly-strangers. I feel so lucky that I was able to offer this gift to them. Many, many thanks to my patreon supporters that made this event possible. Your generous donations covered the costs of supplies for this event and it is with your help that I was able to bring a little more magic into the lives of these thirteen people! Cindy and her daughter Brooke are some of my most faithful supporters; they were so excited I was doing an event in their area that they went out and scoured bookstores after I dropped a hint on social media. Their love for adventure and kindness towards other humans is a beautiful thing to behold. I sent them (and all of the other attendees) home with a little bag full of the homemade incense we burned during our ceremony so that they could re-connect with the memories of the day through scent far into the future. 

Ember was such a delightful and meaningful event for me. I love doing this. I love it so much.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Some thoughts on Magic

Mystery, magic, play... what exactly do those words mean?

For many, either you believe or you don't. Either you see fairies or you see the real world, explained by science. Either you believe in God or you're a jaded Atheist, unable to put your faith in anything you can't see with your own eyes.

But does it have to be like that? Does understanding how something works make it any less magical?

A few years ago, I was planting a garden with my then-boyfriend. He peered inside the brown paper bag sitting on the soil next to me and said, "babe, this is just a bag of old potatoes. Where are the potato seeds?" I explained to him that a new potato plant grows from the sprouts coming out of the old potatoes. His eyes got wide and he said "wait... to make more potatoes, you just put a potato in the ground!?" I'll never forget that moment of magic for him. I grew up gardening so seed potatoes were old news to me, but for this city boy in his 20's discovering something new about the world, well, there was no doubt he was experiencing a moment of profound wonder. I felt very lucky that I got to experience that moment with him. His excitement over this seemingly-obvious natural cycle reminded me of the wonder of life and regeneration: how amazing it is than an acorn holds all of the information necessary to create a giant and majestic oak tree! How incredible that a tiny mushroom spore can turn into a giant organism of a complex mycelium network under the soil! And yes, how wonderful that one potato can turn into many with just a little soil, sun, and water.

There is magic all around us, we just have to be open to it.

Maybe I've just got a big case of 'Peter Pan Syndrome,' but I absolutely still believe in magic. I'm not into witchcraft or conjuring- instead I believe in normal everyday magic. Because is there really anything more powerful than remembering that our very existence is absolute magic?

I believe I am practicing magic anytime I send a surprise package in the mail, or cook a nourishing dinner that will help to heal a sick family member, or hide a little note of hope for a stranger to find. Have you ever had a particularly insightful conversation with a stranger at a bus stop that leaves you with a new perspective for the rest of your life? I have. And maybe I've BEEN that stranger, who has suddenly and gently shaken the roots of someone's understanding of the world. The beauty of that is you won't KNOW if you're responsible for that sacred moment of clarity, since you will most likely never see that person again. That's kind of magical too, don't you think?

Magic is setting up treasure hunts for your kids (thanks Mom), or inventing Dinovember (thanks internet),  or staring out at the ocean and envisioning all of the sunken treasures yet to be discovered.

Is it juvenile to be so fixated on magic and wonder? Maybe, but is that a bad thing? I don't think so. I think children and their incredible capacities for excitement and imagination are downright inspiring, and it's a damn shame that we censor those traits out of us when we grow up. As adults, we have to work a little harder to see the magic that is blatantly apparent to kids. That's why I want to devote my art practice to bringing more wonder into the world, particularly for adults. Many people ask me if I do kids' parties or events for children, and my answer is always this: Children have Christmas, and Halloween, and Easter. They are allowed to believe in mythological creatures and see fairies in the bushes. Little kids don't need me to make magic for them; they are perfectly adept at making their own. Adults, on the other hand...

You may have seen my event "Lady Fern's Soiree" that I did last May. I wrote elegant invitations on purple ferns, then I hid them in the woods around Eugene, Oregon for lucky finders to stumble upon. We had a delicious dinner of all-purple foods, flavored with the plants from the surrounding forests. The guest list was really interesting- a couple of families with small children and a handful of 20-somethings. I was in the kitchen for most of the dinner but I chatted with the guests afterwards, who pointed something really interesting out to me: to the adults, this experience was absolute MAGIC. I mean, how many people can say they went to a dinner party hosted by a fairy after they found an invite on a fern in the woods?? It was clear that the adults were charmed. But for the little girls, this dinner was a lot of fun, but it was also hilariously normalized to them. Like, of COURSE they were at a dinner party hosted by a fairy, DUH. It was business-as-usual for these little girls, because in their world, magic is an everyday discovery. I was utterly charmed by their matter-of-factness when talking about the event to their parents later.

So how can we, as adults, allow ourselves to go back to that wonderful place of experiencing magic that was so familiar as children? I've been noticing more and more projects aimed at adults lately. One of my favorites, The Mysterious Package Company, is an organization shrouded in mystery, offering secret mysteries and puzzles for purchase. Just the way their website is organized and their email letters are structured makes something inside me shiver with excitement.

There's magic to be found in the world of health and healing, too. Did you know that a recent study came out showing that placebo pills actually help heal people, even when they know it is just a sugar pill? The power of our own brains is immense. Perhaps more healing is done just by believing that whatever you are doing works than by the actual medicine itself? I'm not saying to stop going to your doctors and that you can heal yourself with just your mind, but I do believe that doing something with faith and intention gives it a much higher chance of actually working. I think about that anytime I prepare an herbal remedy to sooth a minor health concern, that just by believing that it will help me I am one step closer to feeling better.

I have faith in science, I have faith in my own brain, and I have faith that magic exists even if you're not sure where to find it.

I also want to be part of the reason people still believe in magic.

That's why I do surprise events for lucky finders to stumble upon. That's why I create real-life narratives of fairytales and ethereal characters. That's why I encourage wonder and play... because it just makes life so much more shimmery.

Did you know that roughly 50% of Icelandic residents still believe in the existence of elves? Even grown adults put out a little bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve to offer goodwill to their smaller hidden neighbors. We co-exist in this world with so many magical and bizarre creatures, why is the belief in elves any stranger than believing in, say, a bird that attracts a mate by curating an immense and bizarre collection of random colorful forest tidbits? Or trees that communicate with each other through a vast network of mycelium in much the same way that we use the Internet? The line between 'magic' and 'science' is so blurry that I would argue it's nonexistent. Sometimes the things we see as magic are just the things we don't have a scientific exploration for yet, but having that explanation doesn't make them any less magic.

What do you think residents in a small town in the 1700s would have done if they saw you using a modern-day cellphone? Probably would have had you burnt at the stake as a witch. During the times of the Black Plague, witch doctors burned aromatic herbs to "banish the demons," but as we know now, smoke is highly antibacterial and likely DID play a major role in banishing the germs that caused illness. How many allegorical caves have we emerged from in our short human history on this magnificent planet? So, so many. And we will continue to emerge from many more, even in our own lifetimes. The cosmic nature of discovery is endless and, if you ask me, absolutely magical.

I've taken it upon myself to devote my work to conversations about magic, wonder, and connection. This is so meaningful to me I feel absolutely COMPELLED to do it. That's why with every piece of artwork I make, I envision the happy use of it in the future as I make it, just in case someday we learn that the intention behind creation is as important as the physical object itself. I'll keep designing objects meant to spark a reaction of wonder or curiosity. I'll keep gifting surprise experiences to strangers so that they, too, can experience something magical. And through it all, I'll keep learning and learning and learning.

I'm curious- what does magic mean to you?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Welcoming Darkness

(In which I babble about all things strange from mushrooms to shipwrecks to bizarre Yule traditions. )

Yesterday was the Autumn Equinox, the point of time between the longest day of the year and the shortest. The period of time between now and the Solstice can be difficult for many as the expanse of the dark void of winter spreads out in front of them. But I'm actually pretty excited.

Have you ever noticed how every season has a different feeling?
In spring, I can't focus because I'm just too alive and busy and curious and overwhelmed. It's the season to be running around outside taking in all of the new life because things change so FAST!

But fall is quite different.

August always feels stagnant, wistful, and nostalgic. I get restless and moody. Time seems to move very slowly in late summer and I become stuck on memories and the past and the future and the question of where I am in life and if I'm happy. But once the cold air of September starts trickling in, that mood changes.

Because fall is Trickster Time.

It seems entirely fitting to me that my culture celebrates Halloween in the middle of this changing season. The way to survive the dark is to embrace it, to question the shadows at the edge of our field of understanding, and to pursue them.


Fall is also mushroom season. Have I mentioned that I go a little crazy during mushroom season? Mushrooms are, hands down, the most enticing wild food I forage for. They are not a plant (their DNA is actually more closely related to that of animals than plants), and they seem to carry with them an energy that is just, well, mischievous. Mushrooms can play many roles: some are healing, some are delicious, some are mind-altering, and some are even deadly. Some mushrooms can be all of those things, depending on environment and preparation! You have to be really focused to hunt mushrooms; one wrong identification could have deadly consequences. It took me a long time to even begin because I was so intimidated by that, but now I fully understand the allure. Guys, mushroom hunting is FUN. Mushrooms flirt and hide and draw you deeper into the woods. They bring out the superstition in all of us. "Maybe if I just walk quieter, they won't hear me coming," you think to yourself before catching how ridiculous that sounds. "Maybe I should carry a smaller basket so they don't hide." Good mushrooms spots are carefully-guarded secrets. Any mushroom hunter worth his salt knows it goes against the code to ask another mycophile about their hunting grounds. Don't ask, don't tell, it's every person for themselves out there.

And did you know there is a whole theory about mushrooms being the true root of our modern-day Christmas? Whether or not you believe this theory, it makes for a pretty compelling story! When I first heard about this I became absolutely fascinated. I often feel that bright and happy yuletide parties about cheer have felt a little off considering the darkness of the season. That maybe we try a little too hard to pretend the darkness doesn't exist, and that just makes an already-tough time of year even worse. There is something deeply satisfying to me to embrace the dark mysteries of midwinter in the setting of a warm and cheery yuletide party.

It was thoughts like that that inspired Grovfor, an interactive installation I designed a couple of years ago. I was initially inspired by the bouche de noel (a tradition of making a yule log cake to eat on the longest night of the year), which are often decorated with confectionary mushrooms. While planning to make one I realized that I was actually far more interested in the confectionary mushrooms than the cake itself, so I decided to focus my energy in that direction and explore the idea more thoroughly. What resulted was a Willy Wonka-esque installation where guests were invited to pluck their own mushrooms from gnarled stumps in a dark forest environment. Dark, mysterious, and a little mischievous. Just the way I like it.

Mysteries and Shipwrecks: 

As the crisp September days fade into October and the darkness of midwinter looms, I move beyond the exciting treasure hunt into a deeper level of mystery. This time of year I am drawn to stories of buried treasure and unsolved mysteries....of secrets hidden beyond my reach and questions that just can't be answered. 

Lately, I've become obsessed with Shipwrecks. Living closer to the coast this year has been a wonderful experience and many times I have gone out very early in the morning and stared at the vast expanse of water as the sun came up behind me. I find it incredibly humbling to consider all of the strange things buried under the ocean's weight. "The ocean remembers all. She gives and she takes." was a thought that echoed around in my head when I'd stare out at the choppy seas of December and realize just how small and fragile one human life is when faced with the almost-infinite vastness of water ahead of me. What lurks in the deeps? What secrets are lost to the depths? 

I read an article a while ago about a 108-year-old message in a bottle washing up on shore. While this story lacks the romance of love letters washed ashore, the thought that something could be riding ocean waves for over a century and then just randomly wash up somewhere is astounding to me. Speaking of bottles, another article mentioned 200-year-old beer being recovered from a ship intact. They even sampled it! Can you imagine tasting beer that had sat on the bottom of the ocean for centuries? What a fascinating curiosity us humans have. Apparently it's not the first time that's been done, either. 

I love researching famous shipwrecks and what was recovered from them; amphorae full of garum (a fermented fish sauce the Romans used to season everything, worth much more than good wine!); perfectly preserved stacks of china plates from the Titanic; pirate treasure and casks full of wine. It's chilling to think of the many lives claimed by the sea over the centuries. Even more chilling is the thought that there are many ships laying on the bottom of the ocean that haven't been seen since the day they sank (at least not by any humans.) 

These mysteries, both frightening and beautiful, are what tug at my inspiration these days. I'm hoping to incorporate some of this inspiration into a project eventually, but until then I'll leave you with the fascinating works of another artist: 

Andreas Franke photographs shipwrecks and then photoshops characters into them to create surreal visions of life at the bottom of the ocean. These images are then exhibited on the shipwrecks themselves and grow upon them a layer of sea-bottom detritus further adding to their story. I find them haunting and beautiful, definitely a juicy feast for the imagination. It makes me think of the rumored underwater city of Atlantis, proof that the mysteries below the waves have excited human imaginations for centuries. 

Oh, winter oceans, how I love you. 


And after the mushrooms and shipwrecks of the fall comes Julklapp. What is this thing, you ask? Well, as this blogger so eloquently puts it: 

"Julklapp was so impressive to me I had to share it with everyone. Julklapp encompasses quite a few things that interest me into one fantastic act. It includes the following:
  1. Christmas
  2. Mischief
  3. Violence"
Sounds pretty intriguing, eh? I first read about julklapp in an obscure little book on Norwegian recipes. It was a tiny paragraph, almost a footnote, but it has stuck with me for YEARS. Just googling it won't get you much- apparently the very loose translation is "gift." Seems a little more fitting when you factor in that the German word "gift" means "poison..." 

Okay, now I'll tell you about it. So you begin with a small gift, and you wrap it. And then you wrap it some more. And then you tuck in some riddles or jokes, and then wrap it more. Perhaps you roll it in a ball of yarn to make it seem as though the yarn is the gift. Maybe you even wrap it in dough and bake it like a cake but then when the recipient bites into it- surprise! But I'm getting ahead of myself. So you have this gift that you've wrapped like a gazillion times in many different misleading layers, but you're still not done. The last layer should be something rather squishy like tissue paper or yarn or hay. Then comes the fun part: dodgeball. The goal of julklapp is rather like Secret Santa- you want your identity as gift giver to remain a secret. The way the presents are delivered is that sometime during the day of celebration they are unexpectedly thrown at the recipient as the giver quickly runs away so as not to be seen. Yep, that means that anytime during the yule celebration you could be suddenly pelted with your surprise gift, which is actually more of a puzzle. 


It is always a let-down on Christmas morning when gifts are unwrapped with such abandon that the whole scene becomes a blur of torn paper and ribbons and then you're left sitting there in a haze wondering what just happened. It all goes by so FAST! I love the idea of prolonging the process of exchanging gifts. Throw in some mischief to match the season, and I'm totally sold. 

So, there are a few of the things I'm thinking about tonight as I prepare myself mentally for the dark days ahead. I wrote this mostly for my own reference but if you're reading along that's cool too. What kind of energy do YOU think fall and winter carry? Are you excited to embrace the darkness? 


Moss Gazing

In Japan there is a tradition called “Hanami” that means tree-blossom observing. During a short period in the spring when the trees are in bloom, people gather to admire their beauty together. The delicate flowers are fleeting and ephemeral, offering lots of inspiration for poetry and artwork about the fleeting nature of life itself. I often think of this while doing a similar activity here in the Northwest- “moss gazing.” But I think that the lessons learned from this are quite different from the ones the sakura blossoms teach Japanese poets.

You see, moss is not fleeting. Moss is constant. Moss is ancient. Mosses were the first plants to emerge from the ocean and conquer the land. They range in size drastically and can be found in almost every ecosystem on earth. They have been here far longer than humans have existed and they blanket our world with the memories of some of the first life forms on Earth. Instead of reminding  you of the frailty of life, they remind you of the constancy of life. That you are just one little blip in the timeline of something much bigger than you, or me, or anyone.

So when life gets overwhelming and my problems seem larger than myself, I escape into the woods and practice the art of moss-gazing. That’s what I invited my guests to do with me this magical night- to make a point to notice the minute and the tiny; the dramatic landscapes found within the soft carpet of moss underfoot and the diversity of flavors hidden under a rotten log. Everything they dined on (and dined out of) was inspired by the delicate wonders of the forest floor, transformed through the poetry of manipulated ingredients and manipulated silica. Just remember, if you’re having trouble seeing the big picture, just look closer. 

I had such a wonderful time planning and executing this magical event. I hand-made all of the serving vessels and plates of out glass and ceramic, dyed all of the napkins, and even made the mossy installation hanging over the table to remind guests of being in green woods dripping with moss. I foraged most of the food for the menu and prepared all the food as well (with a little help from my mom in making the rolls!) 

The menu was full of foresty goodness, from roasts cooked in "Forest floor" to secret buried chocolate treasure, to mushrooms for dessert (really!) Here are the courses: 

1st course: A blank canvas of herb-enriched soft bread; a cracked texture reminiscent of the first stages of decay and peeling bark. The smallest zesty moss balls with which to dress it - fresh bright herbs and tangy goat cheese. Things that are salty, sour, smoky on the tongue. Time to wake up and get present. 
Dutch Crunch rolls make with spinach and nettle powders, zesty goat cheese balls rolled in wild herbs, pickled fiddlehead ferns, alder-smoked sea salt, and fresh butter, all served in homemade glass and ceramic vessels. 

2nd course: A cluster of cool asparagus moss dusted in powdered flavor. A slice of forest floor hugs a fungi cluster- a conference of umami turns into a meeting with wine which evolves into one hell of a party in the woods. 
Spinach crepe filled with a white wine, butter, and parmesan wild mushroom filling. Plated on a handmade stoneware plate with marinated asparagus, a dusting of nettle powder, and a sprinkle of parsley. 

3rd course: A deer rests in the moss, nibbling on acorns. A westerly breeze brings with it the far-off spiciness of juniper. The winds are changing. The soil underfoot carries with it the secrets of new life, of dormant seeds, of one last show before winter's snows. 
Juniper-Infused cream and bright green herb oil; edible soil flavored with olives and juniper; spiced pickled acorns; mint-spruce pea puree; sunflower and pea sprouts; and forest floor roasted beef with a sprinkle of alder-smoked salt. 

Dessert: The intoxicating perfume of nature's gold fills the air. The damp woods smell of almonds and apricots and the dew-covered plants drip as bare feet walk over soft moss. The treasure hunt begins. 
This special dessert is in honor of chanterelle mushrooms, and is made of: almond-lemon moss cake; spherified chanterelle cream anglaise; browned butter and peach/apricot ball covered in saffron spheres; candied chanterelle mushrooms; matcha-almond pudding dots; and a tapioca crisp with matcha powdered sugar. Lots of delightful apricot flavors with undertones of almonds, grassiness, and caramel earthiness. 

After Dinner Treats: A dive into the soil's bitter, dark, earthy flavors. A symphony of licorice notes from the depths of the woods: mushrooms, roots, rhizomes. What treats will you find gracing the bark? Hiding under the moss? 
Lots of special licorice and bitter-sweet treats to nibble on after the feast. I infused a special digestif liquor just for the event, made with many wild plants including licorice fern rhizome and sweet cicily roots for their licorice flavor blended with my "first" bitters blend. I also served coffee brewed with anise shelf mushrooms and juniper cream. A large, bark-covered silver tray accompanied these drinks and on it were lots of other sweet little nibbles: nutmeg, vanilla, and anise shelf mushroom meringues; pine nut matcha bon bon; and cacao nib balls with pistachio and lions' mane mushrooms. After nibbling on these little bites, the guests discovered that the bark they were served on was actually cinnamon, and began nibbling on that as well! There were still a couple of surprises left, too,... 

One final surprise for the guests at Moss Gazing were little gold foil-wrapped treasures hidden under the moss on the table. Inside were my "chocolate truffle truffles"- silky chocolate ganache infused with real Perigord black truffles marbled with fondant to mimic the patterns found inside the fungi for which truffles get their name. I watched as excited guests unearthed the moss on the table with glee to find these treats to take home and remember the evening by. 

To see more pictures from this event, visit my website or my Facebook page
To learn more about what I do and why I do it, visit my Patreon page. 

Friday, August 26, 2016


It's finally time to announce the changes I've been working on all summer! Woo-Hoo! First thing: from now on, all of my events will be FREE. Yep, you heard me. I have decided to stop doing commercial events. It just feels wrong to charge for these sensory gifts- plus having a hefty price tag to cover costs alienates many of the people I would hope to attract. INSTEAD, I am going to be doing a minimum of 4 free events a year in locations all over the NW!

But here's the catch: now, the only way to attend a Betsy Hinze event is to be in the right place at the right time with the right mindset of curiosity, or to sign up to volunteer or host (which you can do on my website) I'll be using unconventional methods to invite guests to these events and you never know where you might find one next. I'll also keeping these events smaller so I can really focus on the art pieces taking center stage at them. I want to shy away from mass-production and give each piece the attention it deserves. They'll now be sold as Artifacts, since each one will be more than a piece of artwork; it will carry within it the memory of a magical experience. They will come beautifully packaged with a signed and stamped Certificate of Authenticity, and each piece will be now stamped with my logo.

And, another plot twist: MY ARTWORK WILL ONLY BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC FOR ONE WEEK EVERY QUARTER! And the way to get "first dibs" on these special pieces is to support me on Patroeon so you can get a secret password for the first week of sales before it opens to the public for one more week.

Speaking of Patreon... you can support my vision for these events by becoming my patron through this awesome site. You can sign up for a monthly donation in your choice- with some awesome thank-you prizes for donations over $5 or $10/month. A little goes a long way! Also worth noting: I will do these events no matter what, no matter how many donations I get. They are my gift to the world, and any contribution you make is your gift to me. Every donation will go towards covering the costs of these events. <3 all="" associated="" be="" costs="" donations="" events.="" for="" my="" of="" span="" used="" will="">

Whew! Thanks for reading all the way to the end, and I'm excited to share this journey with all of you

A Restaurant Mythology

I read an article this morning that really got my brain turning. It's a long read but be sure to go all the way to the end for some interesting plot-twists. Here's the link to The Times' Article about Damon Baehrel.

Spoiler alert: (You should really just go read the whole article to get a better picture of the backstory):
Times writer Nick Paumgarten heard of "the most exclusive restaurant in America", run by Damon Baehrel, and had some questions. 

First, why does this restaurant that seemingly nobody has heard of have such a packed registration list? “I didn’t understand how the secret had been kept,” says Jeffrey Merrihue, a gastronomique that travels the world in the sort of gastrotourism with the mission to dine at the best restaurants in the world. He attended for the steep price of about $430 per person and described it as being the "most memorable meal I have ever had. Would it have been my favorite if it had been made by twenty people? O.K., no. But top ten, maybe. I have never seen anywhere where one person does everything.” Despite this, the restaurant (which serves several meals a day of many courses each) is booked solid until 2024. 

Equally puzzling is the sheer amount of work that goes into this restaurant, which is "simply called Damon Baehrel, after its presiding wizard and host, who served as forager, farmer, butcher, chef, sous-chef, sommelier, waiter, busboy, dishwasher, and mopper. Baehrel derived his ingredients, except meat, fish, and dairy, from his twelve acres of yard, garden, forest, and swamp. He made his oils and flours from acorns, dandelions, and pine; incorporated barks, saps, stems, and lichen, while eschewing sugar, butter, and cream; cured his meats in pine needles; made dozens of cheeses (without rennet); and cooked on wooden planks, soil, and stone. He had christened his approach Native Harvest." -sounds like a lot of work! How does Damon manage to not only cook for 30+ people a week in meals that consist of 15 courses, but when does he find the time to forage and process all of his ingredients?! It conjures up an image of a magical elf-man, employing forest squirrels ala Cinderella to cracks his nuts for him. But what a refreshingly wholesome concept- a dining experience consisting of a dinner in a cozy basement somewhere in upstate NY, eating precious little bites of carefully processed and prepared ingredients, everything sourced from a few acres (12, specifically) of woodland and gardens. 

At first Paumgarten is completely entranced by this wonderland of wild foods, processed deftly and elegantly by a chef so masterful he doesn't even have to clean the kitchen afterwards: "I offered, as one does, to help clean up, and Baehrel laughed. Now he invited me to see his kitchen. It was quite small, about two hundred square feet, and immaculate. It didn’t look or smell as though anyone had prepared a gourmet meal in there."

But once the magic of the meal started to wear off, Paumgarten became more and more suspicious. It seemed strange to him that one man could do all the work required of him to run this place entirely alone. Baehrel refused to share with him anything personal, or anything about running the business- not even who is few suppliers were. More digging brought up more discrepancies; enough to arouse suspicion. I have to admit, I'm a skeptic of some of his claims as well. I know how much time it takes to harvest and process wild ingredients, and how little edible foodstuff you get per pound of some plants. I have a hard time believing his 12 acres would be enough to feed 40 people a week (or more, according to his claims) with just one person doing the work. Many things about his operation seem fishy- the numerous de-bunked celebrity guests (despite his supposed apparent disdain for "celebrity chef culture"), the ultra-tidy kitchen with no scent of food preparation, the mysteries around his supplies and assistant, etc. Also why is he so convinced that other chefs are trying to sabotage him? If he truly is solidly booked for the next 10 years (which I doubt), he needn't be worried about any competition. 

Don't get me wrong, the man is clearly a master of wild cuisine and knows what he's talking about- lots of cool ideas for exploration in that article (Pine needles for curing meat? How fascinating! Saps that taste salty? How curious!) It seems obvious to me that he has spent a lot of time getting to know the plants and fungi on his land and how to process them. Just the descriptions of his dishes made me salivate. My curiosity at the flavors and textures presented is definitely piqued and I would so love to experience one of his meals myself!

He also knows how to construct a compelling story. The vision of a hermit in the woods painstakingly preparing and presenting precious bites of the forest, the exclusivity and secrecy behind his operations. The question is... where does the reality end and the story begin? (And, a second question: does it matter? People so enjoy the myth of this woods-hermit and his creations that it seems like it would almost be like telling a small child that Santa doesn't exist to de-bunk his mysterious back-story.) 

I'm curious- what do you think? Is it better to just trust in the myth and indulge in what must surely be a purely magical meal, or is it better to know the truth even if it shatters some truly beautiful illusions? Or do you think that perhaps there isn't anything to discover and that this man is everything he claims to be and more, and that the rest is just speculation and rumor-spreading?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summertime Pavlova and a Yellow Solstice Feast

I lay in the hot sun, soaking in the rays. My belly is full of hot dogs and potato salad, and I'm perfectly content just laying in the grass listening to my sister splashing in the water. This is summertime at its finest: no school to worry about, no summer jobs (yet), just pure carefree afternoons by the lake. Behind us our mother is preparing some kind of special surprise dessert, an exotic-sounding treat she discovered when she was about our age living in Australia for a year. "Pavlova." I roll the word around on my tongue and try to imagine what it might represent. It sounds velvety and rich, like how chocolate lava cake would taste if it was a word. But when we gather to the table (and remind my mom that kids have two stomachs, a dinner stomach and a dessert stomach, so she needn't worry about us being too full for dessert), what is placed in front of us looks more like a cloud. It tastes like one too. Crunchy, light meringue melds in our mouths with cool, fluffy whipped cream and the fresh strawberries on top really seal the deal with a punch of fruity flavor. This is summertime. This is perfect. 

Pavlova-inspired treat made in honor of the Summer Solstice: elderflower saffron meringue, homemade dairy-free citrus curd, whipped saffron coconut cream, yellow rose petals, nectarines and peaches, and calendula petals. The flavors and textures in this dessert are AMAZING- the cool and barely-sweetened coconut saffron cream compliments the sugary crunchy meringue and the flower petals are a perfect pairing to fresh stone fruits. Every bite is a new experience bursting with summertime sweetness. 

At first I made a big plated Pavlova to share with my guests at a special Summer Solstice party I held last night. I haven't been eating much sugar lately, though, so I found the large amount of meringue to be overwhelming. I re-designed the presentation today and liked it a lot better- more of an emphasis on fresh fruit, and just a little bit of sugary and crunchy meringue to accent the flavors rather than overwhelm them. You could make it either way. 

Here are the recipes: 

Elderflower-saffron meringue: 

Ahead of time, place a little pinch of saffron in a dish with about 1 tsp. almond extract. Allow to soak for a couple of hours. Bring 3 egg whites to room temperature (reserve the egg yolks for the lemon curd!) Preheat oven to 275F

Whip the egg whites until fluffy but not dry, then gradually beat in 1 cup white sugar about a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Whip until glossy and firm. Add 1/3 tsp. cream of tartar and 1 Tbs. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs. powdered elderflower and gently whip in. Whip in the saffron mixture. 

Pipe the meringue mixture onto a silicone baking mat or parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. You can either do little "kisses" like I prefer, or spread a large circle of meringue to use as a pavlova base. (If you want it to be as big as the picture I posted, you'll need to triple the recipe.) Bake for 1 hour and then turn the oven off, letting the meringues cool inside it. (If you pull them out of the oven too fast they will shock and crack.) The meringues should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. 

Citrus Curd: 

Zest and juice 4 citrus fruits (I used one orange and three lemons.) 

Put a little water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine 5 egg yolks and 1 cup sugar in a bowl and whisk until light-colored and creamy. Measure 1/3 cup of your mixed citrus juice and add it and the grated zest to the egg mixture and whip until smooth. Place this mixture in a heat-proof bowl (metal works best) and place over the simmering water. Turn the water to low and whip the egg mixture until it starts to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon, anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup butter, a little piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt before adding the next one. Note: I can't have dairy, so I used a mixture of dairy-free margarine and palm oil shortening. It works just fine! Once all of the butter is melted and mixed in well, transfer the contents to a clean bowl and place a film of plastic wrap over the surface of the mixture. Chill until cool and firm. Refrigerate and use within two weeks. 

Saffron Coconut Cream: 

Plan ahead: place a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight before beginning this recipe.

Place a hefty pinch of saffron in a small bowl with about 1 1/2 tsp. of almond extract. Allow to infuse for at least an hour. 

Open the can of chilled coconut milk and skim the solid stuff off the top and into a bowl. Whip until soft peaks form, then add a little bit of powdered sugar to taste (I didn't use very much at all since I knew the meringues would be sweet.) Whip until it's a whipped cream consistency, then add the saffron mixture and whip again. Transfer to a pastry bag with a star-shaped tip. 

*note: you could totally use whipping cream for this portion. It's easier to control and quite tasty, I'm just allergic to dairy so I use coconut instead!


For a traditional pavlova: transfer your large meringue sheet onto a cake plate or large platter. Spoon the lemon curd on top, decorate with the saffron cream, and add lots of sliced fruit of your choice. 

For my version: Spoon some citrus curd onto a plate and surround it with peeled nectarine and peach slices. Add piped stars of the saffron coconut cream and decorate with rose petals and calendula. Add a meringue kiss to the middle of the lemon curd and enjoy! 

Other Treats: 

I made a variety of other yellow treats for my solstice party. Here they are: 

One for the Sun, One for the Moon:

Since this year's summer solstice also happened to coincide with the full moon, I designed a special cocktail to commemorate the evening. I froze spheres of mango juice and coconut water, then added elderflower vodka, elderflower syrup, fresh citrus juice, and sparkling water to this tasty summertime sipper. 

Golden Beet Salad: 

A delicious (and simple!) salad made with roasted yellow beets, an orange and juniper vinaigrette (which I whipped up with some infused olive oil I made ages ago, freshly-squeezed orange juice and zest, a little honey, a little dijon mustard, and some sea salt), roasted pine nuts, dandelion petals, and marigold petals. The marigold petals taste strong and spicy and are the perfect accompaniment to the sweet roast beets. 

Golden Rice: 

A slight alteration from traditional basmati rice. Fry half of an onion in butter until it is soft, then add 1 Tbs. turmeric powder, 1 Tbs. safflower petals, and 1 cup basmati rice. Mix well and then add a bay leaf and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat slightly and allow to cook for 17 minutes. When it's done cooking add a few pats of butter (I used non-dairy margarine). Serve hot and garnish with more safflower petals and gold leaf (optional.) This rice is earthy and slightly spicy, a great accompaniment to lamb! (Since my party was a potluck, we were lucky to have some delicious lamb burgers brought by one of the guests.) 

Happy official start to summer, I hope you are able to connect with the light in your life!