Rebecca Woolf

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Maybe I should change Mattbites to "Getting To Know The Most Beautiful Women In The World"? Between Jenifer and my friend Rebecca, above, I’m beginning to realize how blessed I am to be in the presence of such strong, talented and gorgeous human beings.

And let me get this off my chest: Women and Mothers are my heroes and I believe we’d have none of the current problems we have today if Mothers from all over the world were in power but I realize they’re too busy doing the most important jobs in the world already. There, I said it. I’m not ashamed.

But speaking of Motherhood….

Cover
Call this post an advertisement if you want, but I want to let you know that my friend Rebecca Woolf has a book coming out next month called Rockabye: From WIld To Child. It chronicles her life as party girl to mother, and while I haven’t read it yet I have been a fan of her blog for quite a while. Her perspective is amazing, her writing engaging, and this woman can walk in heels and carry a child like nobody’s business.

I was lucky enough to photograph her author photo for the book last year and take some candids of her and her lil gentleman. That’s an outtake above that to me captures so much in one frame: the duality of a gorgeous stylish young woman who is also a mother and safety zone to a very special little guy. It’s as if there’s an intersection of two worlds and now I can’t wait to read the book!

It’s available for pre-order now on Amazon and Booksense.

And Skampy, thank you for the introduction. I’m glad you weren’t hurt on the 101 dressed as a Disco Diva in the rain.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Artists I Love: Jenifer Altman

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While I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve and fall in love with
art, fragrance, flavors, trinkets, images and ephemera about
three-thousand times a day, it’s rare that someone comes along and
seeps deep inside my brain and makes me love something inside-out. If
I’m making no sense to you whatsoever that’s ok, it’s a hard thing for
me to explain myself. Enter Jenifer Altman. We met a few weeks ago via
email and chatted about photography, but since we met I’ve been
following her series of polaroid images as well as her lovely blog
Nectar & Light. 

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It’s
hard to describe what I love about her work and it’s much easier for me
to explain how it makes me feel. Have you ever fallen asleep on a couch
next to a sunny window during the late afternoon, only to wake up 30
minutes later slightly hazy, fully relaxed, the sensation of the warm
sun enveloping you like a fuzzy blanket? This is the closest I can come
to describing how I feel when I view Jen’s work. It’s still, it’s
quiet, it’s soft, with a peace and warmth that can only come from
circumstance and not deliberate planning. In a word it’s magical, and
artistically her vision inspires me to no end. Her use of polaroids
convey something that couldn’t quite be achieved any other way, and her
sense of tone and color create that dreamlike state that seems to be
unmatched anywhere. Jen was gracious enough to join me for a little
q&a about her new blog and her photography.

How long have you been taking pictures? What is your background?

After my first attempt at college after high school, I dropped out and decided to join the Navy – basically to see the world.  I was one of the lucky ones as the ship I was assigned to was getting ready to change homeports from Norfolk, Virginia to La Maddalena, Italy {on the island of Sardinia}.  I was also lucky enough to have a job that afforded me a lot of opportunity to travel.  During this time I met my husband and we followed the tour in Italy with one in England.  I think it was during this time that I truly feel in love with the idea of photography – but I was not really shooting a lot – and I do regret that – I have so many stamps in my passport and so few photographs of that time.  We were getting ready to head back to Italy when we learned we were expecting our first daughter – we decided to move back to the states at that point.  Subsequently I returned to school to study Interior Design.  One of my selected electives was Photography – that really introduced me to the bones of it.  But truly the love affair has only become heated in the last year.  Working with a professional photographer – who has become one of my dearest friends – was a reawakening.  She taught me about lighting and equipment – everything that she knew was at my disposal and it continues to be such an amazing experience.

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What is your philosophy about food?

Food is love.  It is simple as that.  My philosophy is that we must eat to survive – so why not make it the most insanely divine experience everyday.  I love to cook – I do so with a rather adventuresome spirit – I have this inability to follow any recipe whatsoever – except when baking of course but I have been known to take a detour there as well.  And we really make an effort to eat as naturally, organically and locally as possible.  I still get the occasional craving for some sort of unmentionable drive-thru fare – but for the most part we are very careful what we put into our bodies.  I think a lot of new parents go through this – as they are beginning to feed their children they are much more cautious about reading labels and ensuring they can pronounce all of the ingredients; you then begin to think, “Why am I not eating this way as well?” – and then it simply becomes a family affair.  And I tend to go for the real stuff – butter, cream – you will not find any diet anything in my house – we are simply mindful of our intake {most of the time!} – but life is too short for margarine.

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What are your guilty pleasures?

I have too many!  Have I mentioned how much I love life?  I just don’t believe in depriving yourself – that is not to say I believe in excess either.  I just think everyone needs to find that happy little place in the middle.  I do have a seemingly never ending addiction for vintage cameras; I have learned to appreciate what a difference 600-thread count sheets make and I always end my day with a hot soak and a single, beautiful little scoop of chocolate ice cream.

Artistically speaking, what inspires you? Who are your influences?

My mother is a painter so I grew up with a very strong understanding and deep appreciation of art.  Travel and my rotating obsession with certain places and times of history have been strong influences as well.  But being apart of the online design/art community for the last two years has opened my eyes to so much more than I could have imagined.  And while I find the simple, naturally lit tabletop photography of Jennifer Causey to be inspiring, I also love the sharp contrast and Dutch influences of photographers like Ditte Isager and Gentl & Hyers.  I just try to soak as much in as possible – from all sources.  But I am also inspired by this almost underground movement of “everyday” photography – capturing those seemingly inconsequential moments and finding something deeper and something strikingly beautiful.

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You capture a very dreamlike essence of light. It touches every single image of yours that I’ve seen and I’m blown away. What is it about the light that moves you?

As you know light is obviously a major player in photography and is probably the next most important element outside of composition.  My friend Amy taught me so much about light and how to make it work for you as opposed to against you.  But the greatest thing she has done for me is influencing me to shoot film.  Polaroid in particular captures light and transforms it into a milky dream of warmth and beauty.  It is so hard to really put into words – but I aim for that effect in my Polaroid work – I actually make a point of shooting into the light just to see what happens.  In most cases – the photograph becomes a dreamy landscape – a blanket against the chill.  I also think light has a spiritual effect – something out of our grasp – yet comforting and all consuming.  Light comes from within – within us – within the earth – it is so powerful.

What’s it like being a Mom?

I never thought I would be the type of person to stand atop a mountain and proclaim that motherhood is the best thing that ever happened to me – alas, here I am.  I have three beautiful daughters and everyday I look at them and know that life is good, that all is right in the world, that they are beauty divine.  It has changed how I look at everything – I am so protective of them – but love that they each show an independent streak.   

Describe a dream day of yours.

I am living it.

Can we please work on something one day, together? Please?

Name the date sweetness!

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Jenifer’s other non-polaroid work is just as inspiring to me. To view much more of this talented woman’s work make sure to check out her sites:

Nectar & Light
Jenifer Altman Photography

Thank you for indulging me, Jenifer!

Hello There!

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If you’ve stumbled upon this site from Martha Stewart’s blog or the Dinner Tonight blog from Everyday Food then I’d like to welcome you! And if you didn’t, I still want to welcome you, too! I’m looking forward to a beautiful, delicious friendship and I really just wanted to offer my thanks to you. With all the blogs out there it really means a lot to me that you’re here. So there. That is all!

An Open Letter

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Dear Sirs and/or Madams,

Hi!
How are you? I hope this blog post finds you well. Me? I”m ok. Wait.
Not really. I need to get something off my chest and I hope I can steal
a moment or two of your time.

After many months of
soul-searching, consultations with family, advisers, clergy and
significant others, it has come to my attention that there is something
I can no longer hide and must respectfully reveal to you. I
don’t want this to affect our relationship in any way whatsoever, and
I’m hoping that my revelation will be met with compassion,
understanding, and nary a flicker of grimace or snarl that I’ve come to
expect whenever I begin to talk about what I must say to you here.

I love tinned sardines.

There.
I said it! And…. there you go. I knew this would happen, I just knew
it! Come back! Please, I’m not finished yet. Please?

Ok,
thanks. So listen, I want you to know that I’m really the same person
you’ve always known. And even though you’ve the first to serve up a big
giant plate of snark and disapproval whenever I take out that
distinctive tin can at lunch I want you to know that I don’t hold that
against you. And no, it doesn’t upset me either when you ask me for the
35th time if I’m "really going to eat that?" and you’ll be happy to
know I don’t hold it against you that you believe my love of tinned
fish gives you an excuse to pass judgment on my meal. In fact I almost
find it comical watching your face contort and twist in disgust as if I
just committed the crime of the century or said you wore granny drawers
or still sucked your thumb as an adult or something rude like that.

But
as of today, enough is enough. I’m coming out of the closet, so to
speak, and professing my love for tinned fish. And here’s why:

1.
I happen to like the way they taste.
Rich and distinctive with a soft
to medium-firm texture, I’ve always loved their flavor and if I can’t
find fresh sardines (a term used to describe a whole variety of small
fish) to cook myself then the canned variety suits me just fine. And
please remember that "fishy" is subjective.

2. They pack some
pretty powerful nutrients.
They have a decent amount of omega-3 fatty
acids and are also great sources of iron. How can you argue?

3.
I’ve enjoyed them since I was a wee lad
. That’s right — I’ve eaten
them as long as I can remember, thanks to my dad who would share the
tangy flavor of sardines in mustard sauce with a few saltine crackers
with me as a snack. So when you feel the need to knock this diminutive,
smelly and often maligned fish, you’re gonna have to go through Pops.

4.
They make me happy.
A few high-quality sardines packed in oil, a hunk
of baguette and a few celery stalks and I’m as happy as a clam. Or
sardine. In a can. I am. You get the picture.

Now that I’ve said
my peace I think it’s best if we grow together and move forward. Next
time you see me carting around that little unmistakable can I hope you
realize it’s my lunch you’re making fun of and that you’ll think twice
before knocking it. And if you’re lucky I might even let you have one.

Just kidding.

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Sardine and Celery Salad adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

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Hot damn! You have no idea how much better I feel now. Seriously. And
now that I have that off my chest I’d like to recommend this little
salad that appeared a few years ago in
Food & Wine. It makes a
nifty little lunch when paired with rye crackers or bread, and it’s so
flavorful that you needn’t make much. Imported high quality sardines
from Spain or Portugal are the best in my humble opinion, and make sure
you also use a high quality mustard. You know what they say about
better ingredients and all. The original recipe called for cilantro but I prefer parsley with the sardines.

Ingredients
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grainy mustard (make sure it’s good!)
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Four 4 3/8-ounce cans sardines in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
4 large celery ribs, peeled and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions
In a large bowl, mix the parsley with the olive oil, grainy and Dijon mustards, red onion and the lemon juice and zest. Fold in the sardines and celery and season with salt and pepper. Chill and serve or pack in a plastic container. Enjoy with rye crackers.

Mother Nature Gave Me A Speeding Ticket

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I spent the better part of last week in bed. My birthday came and went, I slept through Valentine’s Day (sorry, Adam!) and I finally crawled out of bed Friday morning, a bit feeble and restless. I haven’t had this seasonal malady since sixth grade as I’ve been one of the lucky ones who has kept it at bay for so many years. But I suppose my number was up. In all honestly I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for far too long, existing on 5 hours of sleep every night and waking to do it all over again.  Lest I become one of those people who talk about how sick they were or how bad they felt let’s just say I thoroughly enjoyed the rest and feel much more connected to Oprah and Martha. And it goes without saying…the birthday wishes from you really gave me a happy jolt and had everything to do with a speedy recovery. I know this.

By the time I crawled out of bed and joined the land of the living I felt the need to reengage myself with familiar tasks. I cleaned out my spam folder, returned neglected phone calls and also rummaged through the kitchen for something to eat that didn’t involve broth or acetaminophen disguised as lemonade. Blech. I needed something simple, flavorful, and restorative, and I needed it to include the few things we had on hand.

I found eggs, a few small yukon gold potatoes, a handful of remaining mache, and some Cara Cara oranges tucked away on the counter. Tortilla Española!  If this didn’t sound like a recipe-to-make-matt-feel-better then nothing would have helped, absolutely nothing.

I whisked and sliced, slowly feeling the energy return to my weary bones. But I also noticed how quiet things were in my kitchen which is normally a construction zone of recipe-testing, iPod blasting at full volume, every burner fighting for oxygen. But not that day. That day it was still and serene, the only noise being an occasional sizzle of eggs cooking in a skillet and the whistle of a tea kettle reminding me that yes, it’s ok to slow down on occasion and no, you mustn’t let the flu be the only thing to allow you to recharge and reenergize.

Just slow down.

Spanish Tortilla
Years ago while in Barcelona I begged my friend Ramon to ask his sister if she’d let me hang out in her kitchen to observe her expert tortilla technique. Jelou obliged and quickly put me to work. I made many mistakes, and being sternly corrected in Catalan quickly taught me that a Spanish tortilla is at once easy and difficult, simple and complex. Perhaps it’s why there’s no correct way of doing it and each one is unique. While I make mine from memory (and please note it’s certainly not as pretty as Jelou’s)  I’ve included a recipe here from Steven Raichlen and Food & Wine Magazine.

ingredients
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
6 large eggs
Freshly ground pepper

directions
1. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water, add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 7 minutes. Drain the potatoes and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking; drain again. Spread the potato slices on paper towels and pat dry.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a heavy 12-inch ovenproof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Gently stir in the potatoes and onions and season generously with salt and pepper.

4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet. Add the egg mixture and cook over moderate heat undisturbed until the bottom of the tortilla is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake the tortilla for about 20 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the potatoes are very tender. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

5. Loosen the tortilla from the pan by running the tip of a knife around the edge. Place a round platter over the pan and invert. Cut into wedges and serve.

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And it’s absolutely no coincidence that the tableware elevated my mood, too. Look at it! How could one not smile? Muschisimas gracias to Lenox for this beautiful pattern called Chirp from their Simply Fine line of china.  You can find out more about it as well as gorgeous other patterns here.

spring update

Seeing that the days are getting longer and Spring is around the corner I felt a seasonal update was in order. And a word about the new banner (which you may need to refresh your browser to view): it was an accident! We were using a brown mat to transfer some peas to the set when I looked down and said "STOP!"  Snapped a picture, and there you have it. Sometimes you’ll find beauty in the most random places if you open your eyes wide enough.

Oh, and happy birthday to me today. Last year I was in South American eating way too much. This year I’ll be in bed with tea and lozenges, cough cough. But you know what? Another year of so many amazing things are in store and I’m blessed. Even with a temperature. So there.

Is This Thing On?

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Focus
I had a great time chatting with Greg Washington of Inquiringmind Magazine for their second edition of the online magazine Focus. Have you seen it? Damn, it’s sharp sharp sharp and I’m honored to have been included in it this month. It was nice to have some questions that made me think and took me way back to my childhood and it was really refreshing to leave the tech specs alone for a bit.

Tell your friends! It’s a great thing these guys are doing and their design skills make me drool. Oh, and try not to scare yourself with the big picture of my dorky face that flashes on the screen. In fact, you may want to get some paper and a piece of tape and cover that part of your monitor. I promise no one will look at you strange if you explain what you’re doing. Yikes.