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Christy Petterson

A Crafty Visit to Southern California

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Written on February 16, 2007 11:12 PM

A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of traveling to Southern California for what turned out to be a rather crafty week. The purpose of the trip was to see my sister during her last week of pregnancy with her second child. My visit served a purpose for each member of her family as I took care of some everyday chores like laundry, dish washing and cooking as well as keeping my sister company, taking my 5-year-old full-of-energy nephew on a few fun excursions and serving as beer drinking partner for my brother-in-law, who I'm sure felt like he'd been drinking alone for the past nine months. As an added bonus to the long-overdue family time, I also had the treat of visiting LA for the first time and got to hang out with two very creative ladies, Susan Beal (our very own West Coast Crafty!) and clothing designer Christine Haynes.

My first crafty pursuit of the week came in the form of cooking. My sister, very wisely, decided to plan ahead on food for after the delivery. She decided to make several big batches of soup as well as some bran muffins and her husband cooked a whole turkey so they'd have food on hand. I helped with several recipes and will share my favorite below.

The recipes we used were taken from The Pregnancy Cookbook by Hope Ricciotti & Vincent Connelly, a cookbook geared towards the nutrients women need during and right after pregnancy. Everything I tried seemed great for anyone at anytime though!

Cashew & Black Bean Chili
1 lb dried black beans, picked over, rinsed and soaked for 8 hours or 4 cups canned black beans drained and rinsed
8 cups plus 1 cup water
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium red bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced
2 jalapeños, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and diced
1 T chili powder
2 t cumin
2 t ground coriander
1 t cayenne
salt to taste
28 oz can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup raw cashew pieces
1½ cups bean cooking water
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
juice of 1 lemon pepper to taste

Place beans in large pot. Add 8 cups water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, approx. 1 hour. Drain beans, reserving 1½ cups of cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in Dutch oven over low heat. Add onion and sauté it until soft. Add garlic and heat. Add garlic and sauté it until fragrant.

Add bell peppers, jalapeños, carrots, chili powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne and pinch salt. Cover the pot and steam sauté ingredients, stirring often for 6 minutes.

Pour in remaining cup of water. Add tomatoes and cashews and simmer ingredients until carrots are tender approximately 15 minutes.

Add 1/2 cooked beans with reserved cooking water to the work bowl of a blender or processor and puree beans until smooth. Combine puree with the whole beans. Mix well.

Stir veg-nut-spice mix. Add corn, parsley and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Let me tell you, this chili is so good!!! Along with the food, my sister also had some other ideas for ways to get ready for the baby. She had spent a lot of time looking online for linens, blankets and a handmade mattress for the baby's bassinette as well as pretty baby clothes. Using upholstery tacks and pretty fabric she revamped the bassinette she'd used with my nephew.

Meanwhile, I worked on a baby sling for her. I had brought the fabric from Atlanta and tried using her husband's grandmother's old sewing machine. The machine was in good shape (it looked about 30 years old!) but it worked different from mine and I didn't ever get totally comfortable with it. It's funny how every machine is a little different. I missed my machine so I got started on the project but brought it back home to finish. I still haven't completed it yet, but hopefully I'll have some time this weekend. I'm following instructions from the Maya Sling website.

My nephew and I went on two big excursions to Balboa Park while I was in town. On Tuesdays, museums in the park are free--a different few museums every week. For starters we went to his favorite museum (which is free all the time, by the way!), the Timken Museum of Art. He actually led me around and showed me his favorite paintings. I was very impressed by this because he has showed no interest in drawing with me on several occasions, but apparently he does enjoy art!

We also visited the Museum of Man, Mingei International Museum, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Museum of Art and the Botanical Building. The Mingei had an amazing display of jewelry, which I could have looked at for hours. My poor nephew was just about out of his good-museum-behavior energy so we didn't stay too long, but afterwards we did enjoy a good climb on the Nikigator, a mosaic sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle. I love all the architecture in Balboa Park and I think the park is a great asset to living in San Diego.

On a whole other day, we enjoyed a full jaunt through the zoo, which is always an impressive field trip!

After spending time in San Diego with my family, I headed to LA. I took the Amtrak train to the beautiful Union Station and met up with Susan Beal, the craftiest of the crafty.

I certainly suspected it from reading all of Susan's columns and her West Coast Crafty blog, but after spending a couple of days with her I knew for certain--for Susan, crafty is a way of life! It influences everything from the decor of her adorable apartment to the books and magazines on her shelves.

Saturday evening we met up with Cathy of California for coffee at Casbah Cafe in Silver Lake and then went to the adorable ReForm School--the cutest boutique with hand crafted goods from all over the country. Last, we went to the Giant Robot store. A long time Giant Robot fan, I had never been to one of their boutiques before so this was a great treat! After a lovely brunch out with Susan and her husband, Andrew, at The Kitchen Sunday morning, I had the delight of going to the Hollywood Farmers Market with Susan.

It was so much fun going from farmer to farmer and buying directly from them. Susan did a great job of navigating the many fresh produce options and took advantage of the opportunity to use a whole bunch of cute totes all at the same time (notice her Get Crafty tote!).

After the market we went to the LA Church of Craft where we made felt pins and enjoyed the company of many busy crafters. Cathy of California and Tootie of Reform School joined us and it served as the big hand off from Susan to my other LA friend, Christine Haynes of TwoSpace.

Christine is one of my all time favorite ladies of the crafty scene and we always meet up in Chicago for Renegade and anywhere else we might happen to be at the same time. Christine and I made the trek from the eastside to her home in Venice Beach on the westside. In the car, she told me about her upcoming photo shoot for her spring line, her new studio downtown and getting used to living in LA after calling Chicago home for so long. I loved seeing her adorable home, and after a long chat and a bottle of wine, we enjoyed a lovely dinner (fish tacos, yum!) at the Library Alehouse in Santa Monica.

My trip to LA was cut a bit short so I didn't get to go fabric shopping with Christine in the garment district as we had planned, and I didn't get to see her new studio. I did, however get to look through the latest jewelry created by Christine's husband, Kent Bell. Two pairs of earrings and a leather cuff for Davis later, I had expanded my collection of TwoSpace jewelry--quite a treat since Kent is my most favorite jewelry designer! I already wear his pieces all the time and since my LA trip I've received many a compliment on my new pieces.

My trip was shortened because the baby was born so I headed back to San Diego for a final appearance before returning back east. Since I had planned on spending more time with Christine, my flight back to Atlanta was from LA, not San Diego. So all in all I ended up taking the Pacific Surfliner three times. I actually really enjoyed the Amtrack and a new little niece is certainly worth some extra train time!

comment by Christy Petterson on February 19, 2007 1:15 PM:

ah, your sister is so lucky to have had you come to help. and what better host than susan beals in la. glad you had a great trip.

comment by Nancy Flynn on February 20, 2007 2:32 PM:

so much fun! it was like i got to be there and hang with you :)