Friday, November 11, 2011

DC Creative: Watercolor, Bread-making, and All that Jazz

Photos: Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center alive with jazz band and dancing, and a few nature photos taken from Jud's patio, including those golden leaves and the last rose of summer. Right, my fall leaves watercolor with the help of Jud; our yummy Russian bread.

Jud led his last watercolor class a few nights ago. I was happy to be part of it. He offers the classes for members of his Coop building in DC, sharing his talent and experience. He is creating a nice group of new artists. Nancy worked on a lovely tree, and Bo a scene of fishes.

I focused on turning the fall leaves I had collected on our walk from Van Ness to Tenleytown into little paintings, of sorts. I don't consider myself very creative, and not at all in the medium of painting. I guess you could say Jud plays with watercolors the way I play with words. But painting feels so much more emotive and visual. Jud showed me how to outline the leaves in a combination of watercolors and cornstarch, press them on a paper washed in yellows, and let the “water do its work."
That was a whole new concept. Now I have a few little creations to bring home with me. Autumn momentos.

Jud also loves to cook, and so one day we baked Russian bread together. It’s a great, even a physical, labor of love. The recipe calls for a surprising mix of flours, spices and ingredients. I had no idea. Chocolate, vinegar and molasses? Really? Yes! Like a Mexican mole'. Now I'll be able to sample the bread like we sample a glass of wine, swirling, sniffing and sipping, trying to identify the taste and the bouquet. My kids will be amazed at my breadmaking skills, with Jud’s expert instructions in my ear of course!

But that's not all that's in my ears! This is "DC Creative" afterall. Friday night we went to the Kennedy Center and heard a wonderful jazz concert on the Millennium stage, free and open to the public. The place was jammed. The Eric Felton Orchestra turned out to be a fantastic "swing" band playing the old favorites from Duke Ellington on up to Irving Berlin and Frank Sinatra. Singer and trombonist Felton has a clear, warm voice and the musicians were fantastic. The dance floor was also hopping, literally, beginning with free lessons and transforming into glorious swing dancing, cha cha and jitterbug, to the big band sound. People of all backgrounds, ages and ability having a good time. Even Jud and I took a turn on the dance floor. "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!" How uplifting and joyous that music.

Next to us, an elderly woman, slight, spry, with a twinkle in her eye, moved to the music. "Tomorrow's her 98th birthday," her daughter leaned over to tell me. An inspiration. Her son took her on the dance floor several times. It was magical. You could see the age melting away. A beautiful young woman emerged, graceful on her feet, full of energy, blue eyes sparkling, dancing the night away.

On the other end of the age spectrum I met a young couple who noticed my Ukraine Peace Corps pin and asked, "Oh, were you in the Peace Corps?" Yep, I told them. "So were we," they marveled. They had served in Mozambique, learned Portuguese, worked in a small village. We had a wonderful chat, talking about our adventures, swing music in the background, the dance floor alight with swaying figures in lavender and gold. What a lovely night, followed by a great Thai dinner under an almost full moon!

Now, with these songs in our heads, and hope in our heart, big band sounds in the background, here is Jud's bread recipe:

Russian Bread ala Jud Dolphin
3 cups rye flour
4 cups unbleached white flour (can substitute up to 2 cups whole wheat)
3 cups bran flakes crushed to 2 cups +/-
2 scant tsp of salt

2 tbls caraway seeds crushed
1 tbls fennel seeds crushed
2 tsp of instant coffee
1 ½ tbls cocoa powder
1tsp onion powder

Combine all of above in large bowl and then combine the following in a small bowl

2 ¾ cups very warm water (like a baby bottle)
¼ cup + 1 tbls margarine
¼ cup molasses
2 packets of yeast (yeast should get bubbly after 4 minutes)
Combine wet ingredients into dry and add ¼ cup vinegar

Mixture should be pliable and a little sticky…so add more water if needed or more flour if too sticky.

Knead for 10 minutes until mixture is elastic and like the bottom of a baby.

Warm oven to 200F and turn off.

Place dough into large greased bowl, turn over and let rise for about 60 min. in the warm oven that has been turned off. Preheat oven to 350F and divide dough into two lightly greased loaf pans.

Bake for 50 – 60 min. or until the loaves sound hallow when thumped and edges are brown like toast.

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