Thursday, June 17, 2010

School's Out Forever

elToday was our last day of school. To prepare for the day's lesson, I made this:
So we could do this:

Now, it's back to the drawing board.

Aaaaaaaand, I'm spent.

 4 days to rest up. Then, The Hajj.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Le Charme Marsella

As you may have noticed, I have not posted any new artwork for a few weeks. This is because I've been busy watching SBTB from 7am-9am everyday on the Superstation, followed by Raging Bull on Cinemax. Oh, and preparing for the after school art class I've been leading three times a week at the School of Visual Arts & Careers. Not only was I hired for this position without possessing any teaching experience, but my folks pointed out to me that I was allowed to be around a group of young girls without a background check. "Why does this matter?" I replied. "I am of course America's Greatest Living Artist and not a clearly insane person." In addition, I was given the freedom to teach anything I want as long as I could justify that it had something to do with art. The only explanation I can offer up for such a fortuitous opportunity is known to insiders as "The Marsella Charm," something that only those preordained by the Higher Power to be born of the Marsella Pedigree possess. We can never turn "The Marsella Charm" off, but it can be turned up ifyouknowwhatImeanandIthinkyoudo. How else do you explain this:

My father, a greasy, Italian, teen-aged gas station attendent & Marsella by blood, at the time when he ensnared my mother, a very hot, very intelligent, young woman with a bright future ahead of her. He got his Marsella Charm workin' big time, and she was helpless against its powers.

I've got "The Marsella Charm" to thank for my very existence, the way in which I will someday bewitch my heart's desire, and most recently, for this enjoyable teaching job.
I decided to lead a class on Upcycling arts & crafts, based on three deciding factors:
1. Years of upcycling experience under my belt
2. The available art supplies on island are pretty much limited to the Crayola aisle at KMart
3. My mother's threat to call A&E and put me on Hoarders.
Allow me to elaborate on this last one a little. There is no recycling center on St. Thomas, just one giant landfill, which is currently experiencing the beginnings of a crisis situation due to its overflow. Behold the beauty of Man's touch on America's Paradise:

Ever since I was a little girl, I've felt a genuine and deep-seated longing to save the Earth. My mom bought me books on the subject, which led to a period of my refusal to flush the toilet in order to save water. My conservation effort was short-lived due to the fact that I shared the bathroom with my older brother, who A) was not fond of glimpsing my pee/poo everyday and B) was a lot bigger than me.
To this day, I cannot bear to see such waste; it's psychologically painful to throw recyclables into the garbage, and so I upon my arrival here, I began hoarding them in a large plastic bin. After a week or two, my mother questioned me on my intentions for the "trash pile" that was now overtaking the corner of her living room:
"Trash? What trash? I don't see any trash." Holding up two soup cans, "This here is a working telephone. And clearly all the rest of this," pointing to the mound of refuse, "can be made into envelopes." She looked at me with reasonable apprehension, slowly nodded, and allowed my hoarding to carry on (due to the fact that I'm bigger than her).
So, by teaching this group of young girls how to upcycle simple items in their homes, I could build up my hoarding army and save some much needed space in the St. Thomas landfill.
Without further ado, here are some of the projects we've completed so far, with links to instructions on how to make them yourself:

 Upcycled Paint Chip Wallet (this one is currently traveling over sea and land to a lucky recipient. you know who you are) 
I've also been busily working on my own projects in my personal laboratory. In a recent fit of Etsy bitterness, I decided that since no one's gonna buy my handi-work, from now on I make jewelry exclusively for myself, the memory of Michael Jackson, and my mom's birthday, and that's fucking it:

To get shots like this last one, I just imagine Ian Malcolm seductively eating
 a Cadbury Creme Egg. Mmmmmmm. Spared no expense....

The production of the Lauren Marsella Upcycling Factory is matched only by the heavy yield of baked goods popping out of the kitchen at Chez Marsella these days. Enjoy. My mom is.

Bran Flax Muffins
adapted from Bob's Red Mill Recipes
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3/4 cup flaxseed meal
3/4 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 apple, peeled & shredded (I used my fave, Granny Smith)
3/4 cup water (the original called for milk, but I try not to bake with any milk because of the way it breaks down at high temps. Water worked just fine here)
2 eggs, beaten with a whisk
1 tsp vanilla
Optional (I didn't add these cause we po'):
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup nuts of your choosing

Mix together dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add carrot, apple and optional ingredients. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then pour into dry mixture. Stir until everything is moistened, but be careful not to overmix. Fix muffin cups 3/4 full or totally full if you're into muffin tops. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Makes about 15 muffins. 
Give to your mom.

Peanut Butter Muesli Cookies*
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (© 1973)

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
3/4 cup Muesli
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
*Like 98% of all recipes found in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, this one will give you thunder thighs and a heart attack if you eat if everyday, so don't do that. I'm just trying to fatten my parents up, so I can eat them.
Look at this book! What an object!

Cream butters, sugars, egg & vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients & blend into creamed mixture. Shape in 1 inch balls (I used a tablespoon for this).
Roll in sugar & place 3 inches apart on a cookie sheet (the original recipe said to place 2 inches apart & mine ran together as you can see).  Bake at 375 for 12 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove from pan. Makes 3-4 dozen. Give to your mom.

My mother enjoying a cookie at her work station inside NORAD.

Rosemary Bagels
A Lauren Marsella Original Recipe

1 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp dry yeast
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour (You can try out different combos of your fave flours. This time around I used half Bob's unbleached white and half Bob's white whole wheat)
2 tsp sea salt
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 egg, beaten (for glaze)
Poaching liquid:
12 cups water (or enough to fill a big pot)
1 tbsp sugar

In a large bowl, dissolve 1 tsp sugar in warm water. Sprinkle the yeast overtop and let stand for about 10 minutes or until frothy lookin'. Whisk in eggs with oil. Chop up your rosemary to desired weeness, and stir it in with a big spoon, along with 2 cups of the flour. Add salt and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. 
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Dough should spring back when ya poke it. Form into a pretty ball, place in a bowl greased with a bit of oil, turning to coat. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours (though I like to let mine rise at least 6 hours, if possible).
Gently punch down & knead a couple times. Divide into 8 pieces.
Now, there are 2 routes to choose from when forming the dough into the bagel shape:

Option 1. Roll each dough piece into a 6 inch rope, bring ends together and overlap them by about an inch, stretching the overlapping end around to meet underneath. Give it a real good pinch to seal. I used this method in the past, but my bagels always came out sort of pregnant looking (think of the way a snake looks after it eats an egg).  My rolled cigarettes also used to possess this pregnant look, so maybe it's just me.

Option 2. Form each dough piece into a little ball and poke your thumb through the middle to make the bagel hole. Gently widen the hole by moving your thumb around in there, or you can do it the fun way by violently swinging the bagel around and around your thumb, in the same fashion you swing a hula hoop around your midsection, ya dig?
Be sure to be covering the finished bagels with the damp rag to keep 'em from drying out while you work.
Meanwhile, set the big pot o' water with the tablespoon o' sugar on the stovetop to boil. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Slip the bagels into the water 1 at a time, boiling each side for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the lined cookie sheet.
I like to let the poached bagels cool for about 5 minutes so the egg glaze doesn't immediately cook upon contact with the hot bagels. Brush on glaze, and top with your fave bagel fixins' if you like. You know, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, rainbow jimmies, raisinets, eye of newt, etc.
Bake at 400 hundo for 22-25 minutes until tops are golden and bottoms sound hollow when ya tap 'em.

French Bread*
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (© 1973)

1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp sea salt
2 cups lukewarm water
7 cups flour (I used Bob's unbleached white)
1 egg white (for glaze)
*This Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book recipe falls in the 2% that will not give you thunder thighs and a heart attack if you eat if everyday, so don't feed this to your parents if you are trying to fatten them up so you can eat them.
Note: I made a double recipe to prepare for a potential survival sitch during hurricane season, hence the 4 loaves.

Put warm water and yeast in one bowl, salt and lukewarm water in another. Beat 2 cups flour into salt water. Blend in softened yeast. Add 5 cups flour, or enough to make a moderately stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 15 minutes, adding more flour if necessary.
Place in a greased bowl, turning to cover blah blah blah you know the routine. After doubled in bulk, gently punch down, reshape and let rise again for another hour.
Turn out onto a lightly foured surface and divide into 2 portions. Cover & let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each portion into a 15 x 12" rectangle (though I just rolled mine as big as the countertop would allow because I thought it was funny). Roll up tightly, longways, pinching to create a seal on the bottom of the loaf. Fold ends under and taper i.e. make it look pretty like a young girl in a Godard movie.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves on sheets and using a very sharp knife, razor blade, or Leonardo's katana, slice tops diagonally every couple inches, about 1/4" deep. Beat egg until foamy, adding a little water. Brush over sides and tops of loaves.
Cover with damp cloth, not touching loaves by draping cloth over inverted glasses. This is kinda a pain in the ass but just do it, okay? Let rise til double (yes, again), about an hour or so.
Bake at 4 hundo, 20 minutes. Et voila! Le pain fran├žais. C'est si facile!
Vive Le Charme Marsella!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Loyal readers, you have failed me. A phone call, an e-mail, even a text would have been better than the way in which I was self-informed of June 3rd's heartbreaking news: Rue McClanahan suffered a massive stroke and passed away at the age of...well, actually, we don't know how old she was. Her birth date was removed from vital records by order of the Governor.

I hardly think it necessary to reiterate why Rue McClanahan was awesome, why The Golden Girls are awesome, and what her particular character, Blanche "Slutpuppy" Devereaux, did for feminism in the second half of the 80's. We all can appreciate and understand the magic that took place at 6151 Richmond Street; for me, this is where the ultimate awesomeness lies. Yes, the impact of The GG's transcends the borders of gender, age, race, sexual preference, the list goes on. Kinda reminds me of someone else I know.
Now I'm getting a little verklempt. I'll give you a topic: "Which Golden Girl Are You?" My answer lies in this clip. Discuss.
This woman is speakin' mah language.

"Which Golden Girl Are You?" definitely makes my list of "Top Ten Most Common Conversations had in the United States of America". The fact that I've seen all kinds of people eagerly jump in when this topic is brought up just proves the point I made earlier about the universality of The GG's. Just sayin'. Time and again, when "Which GG is Lauren?" is up for debate, someone will immediately scream out "BLANCHE!" which is followed by another friend or family member adding "And Sophia! She's sarcastic." (And yes, I get "Samantha" too, when "Which Sex & The City gal are you?" is being discussed, though I am anti-that-conversation and anti-that-pronouncement-of-my-character.) My best friend is a cross between Rose and Dorothy, which makes us a match made in heaven. Speaking of heaven, I'm really glad I was Blanche Devereaux for Halloween before she sashayed through the pearly gates. Death has the power to completely transform the meaning of Halloween costumes.
I'm all verklempt again. I'll give you a clip. It's the Best of Blanche. Discuss.

There, now I'm better.
And so I say to you, Rue McClanahan,
Farewell and Thank You for Being a Friend.