Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Give Me a Museum and I'll Fill It"

I'm going to try to get through this post while the events of the day are still fresh on my mind, but it's going to be tough.  I've consumed mass quantities of food today and I feel kind of green at the moment.  To gloss over the morning and early afternoon, let's just say that the new Belgian waffle maker made an appearance and we hit up a barbecue shack called Phat Boyz.  Moving on.

This is a post about art.   We're really excited about what's been going on at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts the past few years.  In 2009, the museum completed a $100 million expansion, a beautiful addition that has resulted in some stunning exhibits.  We saw a collection of Tiffany work last year - stained glass, sculpture and painting.

The highlight this spring is Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris.  The exhibit features works from the artist's personal collection, on loan from the Paris museum during its renovation.  There are only three U.S. stops on the tour, and this is the only exhibition on the East Coast.  One month in, 75,000 people had seen the exhibit.  It's only here until May 15, so get crackin'.   

To make it easier, here are our tips from today's experience:

Dummy's Guide to Picasso

Go even if you're not an art-lover.  Let me explain that I'm not well-educated about art.  Most of the time I look at it, head cocked to one side, trying to figure out what the heck is going on.  I can't understand why some choices are called "bold" or "provocative" when I just see a bit of a mess.  If you feel the same way, I'd still encourage you to give it a go.  It's the opportunity to see some work normally living in a Paris museum that was hand-selected by a legendary artist to define his legacy.

Get the audio tour.  We didn't, and it would have been helpful.  There's not much explanation of the work beyond the notation next to the piece.  You will get a booklet that explains his different periods, but if you're not familiar with the work, you'll get less out of it.  Or, download a free tour (thank to our friend Roger for pointing this out).

Appreciate the genius, even if it doesn't make much sense!  We were struck by Picasso's wide-ranging techniques and styles.  On one hand, you have finely drawn portraits, and on the other hand, less realistic images with weird, uh, hands.  All from the same guy.


Go with a friend.  I feel pretty dense about art.  Bobby does, too, but he's able to see more in depth than I am, and ask questions that make you think about what's really going on.  We try to talk quietly, though, because we don't want anyone else thinking we're idiots.  Because we're the first to make our own comments about that idiot over there waxing on about the Blue Period.

Be prepared for delays.  Now, we walked in at 4 pm on a Saturday.  It was a mad house.  The earliest tickets we could score were for 6:30.  That actually worked out great, because we walked over to Strawberry Street Cafe for a fantastic dinner.  The staff does well monitoring the flow of the group, but if you don't purchase your tickets online, don't expect that you'll walk right in.

Tickets are $20 each.  There are extended hours all this week.  Check the website for more details and to order online.  

Some of our favorites...

I really loved this sketch.  It's not pleasing or pretty.  It's supposed to indirectly represent the Spanish Civil War, but really it addresses more suffering in general.  All it made me think is that when I'm at a sobbing, gut-wrenching low, I feel exactly what he's sketched.  So if you get one "a-ha" moment like this, I guess you've experienced art?

We thought this one was particularly powerful, and had a discussion over coffee about the effects of war.  What's going on in the minds of the victims, and in the eyes of the soldiers.

And this one is still totally serious.  Still talking about suffering.  But all we could think of was Bug yelling, "I don't KNOW where my shoes are, mom!"

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Only Thing We Got Out of the Royal Wedding Was a Hankering for Scones

I've got a fun kid activity post idea, but it's going to take some preparation.  In the meantime, since things got busy after Spring Break and I haven't posted in awhile, I share with you one of my favorite recipes.  It's Teacher Appreciation Week, and we sent in some goodies to the kind ladies who manage my children a couple days a week.  I hope they enjoyed!

We love scones here.  We're not British (well, maybe way back down the line).  We weren't enthralled by the royal wedding.  But we do love a good tea party.  We've made scones from mixes, from Bisquick, and from fancy Food Network recipes.  We buy them from shops.  The very best we've had come from Market Salamander in Middleburg, VA (Resisting temptation to diverge into a road trip post.  Another time.  I promise it'll be good).  Anyway, scones: Butterscotch pecan.  Out of this world.  We also love 'em from Ukrops' (oh, ok, fine.  Martin's).  And this recipe tastes a lot like those.  Better than the mixes and the Alton Brown scientific scone-making method.

The original recipe calls for apricots, but I always throw in craisins instead because we have them on hand. I also cut them in eighths instead of sixths, because really, it's a lot of scone for one serving.  For the first time, I noticed the chocolate/almond variation, and I'm going to try that next.  With perhaps toffee chips.  Yum.  Anyway, I've made these before and been asked for the recipe, so I guess it's a keeper.  They're moist and cake-y and all sorts of good.

Cranberry Orange Cream Scones

2  cups all-purpose flour
3  tablespoons granulated sugar
3  teaspoons baking powder
2  teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup white vanilla baking chips
1 1/3 cups whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice
Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet. In large bowl, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, orange peel and salt until well blended. Stir in apricots and baking chips. Add whipping cream all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
On lightly floured surface, knead dough 6 or 7 times until smooth. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into 6-inch round; cut each into 6 wedges. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix powdered sugar and enough orange juice for desired drizzling consistency. Drizzle icing over warm scones. Serve warm.
Cranberry-Pecan Scones: Substitute dried sweetened cranberries for the apricots and add 1/2 cup chopped pecans with the cranberries. Double Chocolate-Almond Scones: Omit orange peel and apricots. Stir in 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips with the white baking chips. Add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract with the whipping cream. For the icing, substitute water for the orange juice and stir in 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Sprinkle tops of iced scones with 2 tablespoons sliced almonds.
For the lightest, most tender scones, quickly mix and shape the dough, handling it as little as possible. Use only a sprinkle of flour on the work surface.
Using whipping cream in this recipe eliminates the need for butter and eggs. The high fat content in the cream makes them very tender and rich.