About Emily Smith Pearce

I'm the author of _Isabel and_the_Miracle_Baby_, a middle grade novel, and _Slowpoke_, an early reader.

Hot Air Balloons Painting

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This was a commissioned piece—-I thought you might like to see its evolution. The couple wanted a painting for their baby’s nursery that would grow with their daughter—i.e. not be too babyish when she grows older. They were totally open to me choosing the subject matter, but I wanted a little direction. The room is varying shades of aqua, so I started with color and asked them for photos of blue things from their recent trip to Turkey.

When I saw photos of the balloons in the blue sky over the mountains, I was hooked. The balloons were whimsical and colorful enough to be child-friendly and at the same time specific to a particular moment. I’m hoping the painting will remind them of a special day on their trip.

This is another of those projects that has been coming together for several months.

Here is the initial underpainting:

Painting

Next layers:

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And the final layer, which is the first image in this post.

In other news, really enjoyed Lake Bell’s film In a World, now available on Netflix. And currently reading The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. Very fun read.

Dog Costume

Homemade Dog Costume

I meant to photograph the finished version of this, but I ended up being too distracted to do it. This was for the church spring play, and the final included a tail stiffened by a sliver of milk jug inside it.

The ears here are just pinned on, but I swear I did actually sew them to the headpiece.

The costume is made up of Goodwill items: leggings, T-shirt, with light brown T-shirt spots, plus a balaclava-type “hat” out of more T-shirt pieces. The headwear is very similar in concept to the knight helmets and ninja “hats” I’ve made in the past.

For the ears, I just made two tubes with rounded edges, then sewed them on the balaclava pointing up so that the stitching is tucked unseen just under the ears. This detail gave them just a little bit of oomph so they hung well, with a lot of personality.

My little model here was in the play but wasn’t actually the dog. Our friend who did play the dog totally rocked it out. Everyone worked so hard and did a wonderful job. I was proud to contribute and to have two young actors in the family, as both my kids were in it this year.

For more simple costumes, click here.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Handmade Corn Tortilla

I’d been planning to make these for forever, and an emergency shortage of packaged tortillas (egads!) pushed me to action.

This tortilla press was a wedding gift, lo these many years ago, but I’d only ever used it to make white flour tortillas.

Turns out making corn tortillas is even easier and mega fun. Like magic! I used the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, found here.  I didn’t involve the kids this time, but it would be a perfect kid cooking project, with all the satisfaction of a Play-Doh factory.

Very close to meeting my writing goals for the season (which ends when the kids get out of school). Crossing fingers!

For more posts on food and cooking, click here.

New-to-me podcast: Extra Hot Great. If you like roundtable discussions of pop culture, a la Pop Culture Happy Hour, you might enjoy this one, which is all about television. Somehow I can’t get enough of smart tv analysis.

Have a great weekend!

In Process

Shrunken manuscript

Hello folks. I didn’t mean to stay away so long. There hasn’t been a lot to blog about lately. I’m still working hard on my writing but don’t have anything new to report.

The picture above is of a shrunken version of my novel manuscript. You can read more about this editing technique, created by Darcy Pattison, here.

In my free time, I’ve been doing a lot of gardening, but again, there’s not much to show but some nice-looking beds of dirt which will hopefully sprout some lovely things soon.

I’ve also been painting and making a dog costume for the church play. I’ll post some pics when it’s done.

Finally reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the memoir about her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m always wary of things with a lot of hype, but I have to say, I’m really enjoying it.

What about you? Read, watched, or listened to anything great lately? Hope to be back here again soon with more to share.

Making Ricotta Gnocchi

Handmade Gnocchi

Something about this winter (is it over? can I put it in past tense now?) made me eager to try all sorts of things from scratch. I think it was all the snow/ ice days and delayed entry school days.

Once I found a recipe for gluten-free gnocchi, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Turns out making gnocchi isn’t that hard, and assuming you have a high enough threshold for mess and imperfection (lucky me! I have both!), it’s a great project to do with the kids.

It’s a little like making snakes with play dough, with just a slightly higher level of skill needed. Making gnocchi is way easier than rolling your own pasta (which is fun but exhausting), so I think we’ll have to do it again soon.

Gnocchi

I’d intended to use the quinoa-ricotta gnocchi recipe from Aran Goyoaga‘s Small Plates and Sweet Treats, but there seemed to be an error in the recipe, so I found this recipe through a Google search. If you don’t have to worry about gluten, the link recipe can be g-free or not, and I’m sure there are lots of other ricotta gnocchi recipes out there waiting for you.

A few notes on this particular recipe. One, I decided to double it, which worked fine. I froze some of the raw gnocchi to cook and eat later. Two, the raw dough tasted…um, not good would be putting it mildly. We were all worried the end result would be inedible. Strangely enough, though, when it was cooked, the gnocchi was delicious. We enjoyed it with our standard favorite tomato pasta sauce (we double a Williams-Sonoma recipe similar to this one and freeze half, so we had it on hand).

This whole process was a big hit with the kids. They found it a little tricky to roll out the snakes, as it takes a very light touch, but with a little help, they were more than happy to be my little gnocchi factory for the afternoon.

Btw, we also recently made gluten-free hand-rolled pasta. It was a frustrating process, with lots of setbacks, but I will say the recipe (from this book) was downright fantastic, better than our last attempt, and I doubt you’d know it was gluten-free if I didn’t tell you. At one point I thought, this is so hard I’ll never make it again. But then, I tasted it. If you’re going to go to the trouble, try this recipe. I ate it with Mark Bittman’s recipe for parsley pesto, which was delicious.

Gluten-Free Pasta from Scratch

Just finished Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. Very funny, especially for writer types.

Hand Painted Floral Trunk

Painted Trunk

I’ve been meaning to share this for ages and keep forgetting. I had the loveliest sense of deja-vu when I laid eyes on this trunk last summer at my friend’s house. At first I thought—cool trunk!—and then I laughed. Years ago I’d painted the flowers on it as a gift to my friend and had forgotten all about it.

I can’t remember why exactly, but while I was painting the flowers, I decided to add decoupage, including stamps from that year. Boy do they seem old now (37 cent lick-’em kind!!), but I like the way they give the piece a date and a context.

Floral Trunk

If you’re interested in seeing some more of my artwork, click here or here.

Currently reading: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. Very funny epistolary novel about the academic life.

Also still plugging away at revisions. Beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Gluten-Free Baking Round Up

Gluten Free Bread

If you’re not gluten-free, you may want to skip this one, but I’ve been baking a lot of different GF breads lately and thought it would be worth sharing the results.

First off, let me say, I was a real skeptic when it came to making gluten free yeast breads in particular. Even the best GF breads on the grocery shelf are so mediocre that I’d pretty much given up bread entirely. There IS a local bakery that does GF loaves once a week, and they’re excellent, but I was doubtful I could bake anything at home that would come close.

I’m happy to say I stand corrected! It’s totally worth making GF bread at home because it’s more than ten times better than the stuff you can buy off the shelf. Another nice thing is that since there’s no gluten (sorry I can’t give you the chemistry lesson on this) you don’t have to knead the bread, which means a little less mess and work.

It’s true that GF breads have loooong ingredient lists. That kept me away for a long time. Once I’ve figured out our favorite recipes, I plan to make up some dry ingredient mixes so  getting started isn’t so tedious.

Here are the GF breads I’ve been trying at home:

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread

American Test Kitchen’s GF Sandwich Bread, from The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook (this is also the one pictured at the top of the post)

This recipe was the reason I bought the book. When the ATK folks talked about it on…was it The Splendid Table? I was impressed with how much research they’d done and the many variations they’d tried. Still, when I saw the picture in the book, the texture looked impossibly light and good-looking. Could it really work that well? I’m happy to say that yes, this bread is absolutely excellent, and I doubt if I served it to you you’d have any idea it’s gluten-free. My seven-year-old says it tastes like “Earth Fare” bread, by which he means, it tastes like regular gluten bread that comes from the local grocer’s fresh bakery. Definitely worth making. Recipe here. The book is centered around a DIY GF flour blend that you use in most recipes.

Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix Bread Machine Bread (sorry, not pictured)

A neighbor friend told me about this mix (available locally at Earth Fare) and how it can actually be used in the bread machine. I’d never heard of making GF bread in the bread machine and in fact was on the verge of giving ours away when she told me this. The mix isn’t cheap, but then, it’s still cheaper than pre-packaged bread, and you can use it for muffins, pancakes, and the like, too.

I thought it turned out very well. It didn’t rise much at all, but my neighbor tells me this is normal. The texture was a little bit denser than the ATK version, but it was still quite good, and the flavor was good, too. Definitely worth using if you want to use your bread machine.

GF Crusty Boule from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Crusty Gluten Free Bread

This bread is my favorite. It’s nice and crusty, the closest thing to a European rustic-style loaf, and I’m like, “Where have you been all my life?” Really wonderful flavor and texture. It’s so good that I sometimes take a bite and wonder how it’s even possible without gluten. It looks and feels like a white loaf but does have whole grains in it. I can’t wait to try their new cookbook, which is all gluten-free.

An added plus is that you make the recipe in a quadruple batch, so you have a nice output for your effort. My little guy likes to form the loose loaves on parchment paper. Here’s the recipe for you.

GF Chocolate Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

This one, a quick bread, not a yeast bread, is from Small Plates and Sweet Treats, which I discovered randomly on a trip to the library. The author also blogs at Cannelle et Vanille. She’s originally from the Basque region of Spain but has lived in the US for some time and was once a pastry chef. I ended up buying the book because it was so inspiring, not to mention gorgeous. The recipes are not on the simple side—they take a bit of planning—but her ideas are so fresh to me, many inspired by the foods of her childhood. And her attitude toward gluten-free cooking is downright joyful—-kind of like, “Yay! I get to try new things!” instead of “What a bummer, let’s see if I can try to recreate everything I used to eat.”

Anyway I really liked this banana bread. It has a nice touch of earthiness from whole grain and nut flours, and my little guy just loves it. Sorry—doesn’t look like the author has posted the recipe online, but here is a similar recipe of hers that’s for banana chocolate cupcakes. One note—I halved the sugar, and it was plenty sweet. I did try another bread in the book (seeded bread) which, sadly, didn’t rise, but I’m thinking that was a problem with my yeast.

Besides cookbooks, lately I’ve been reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, also a couple of new-to-me blogs: Refashionista (hilarious adventures in making over horrific thrift store finds) and Toxic Beauty Rehab (natural beauty products).