Fabrics

While in India last year, I had the chance to visit a fabric printing company. I’ve always wondered about how each one of those brilliantly colored designs ends up on a piece of silk or cotton.

When I say factory, it’s a term that I use quite loosely because it was an old town in an old building with artisans who have been in the business their entire life!

It’s actually a master a skill that has been handed down from each of their parents, sometimes grandparents or even great grandparents. I found them sitting either on the ground or tall stools that have probably been there just as long as the workers. The factory is open air and allows the fabrics to dry in the beautiful Indian heat. It sounds absolutely tedious, time consuming and just plain hard work. And if that was your thought, you would be right!

But the results speak for themselves.

Creating the stamps for printing was breathtaking.  I was most interested in finding out how they created each of these. I thought that the stamps would be made of metal, rubber or some type of resin but they’re not, they’re all hand carved into wood pieces. These can take a day to a week to create and each stamp will be assembled to create a bigger stamp. I can’t imagine having that job! There’s so much pressure of messing it up and with one mistake, my entire design would be ruined. However stamp by stamp, design by design, each one of the artisans hand carve the designs you see with their own microscopic tools; it is a beautiful process that they make look wonderfully easy.

When they’re done with the stamps they take them upstairs to the top floor of the factory; remember that this is an open air factory.  The top floor is open to the sun and there is often a slight breeze.

Each of the pieces is printed by hand on this floor.  The fabric is spread out over a long table and pinned down so that it is perfectly flat.  Then the artisans come to work.  They gather around the cloth with the chosen stamp and begin the design.  They begin to dip into different colors of ink; each color is a different layer.  They clean the stamps between each one of the rotations and as they are layered with color, they are delicately placed on each one of the materials.

It’s painstaking to watch because if you don’t match up the designs then they don’t line up right in the finish piece. But, if you’re off with a color or you have too much color on your wooden stamp, then your design gets muddled as well. One of the things that  I was most impressed about is the color choices. While the rest of the world has gone with muddy grays and vanilla cream colors, India still lives in a vibrant world of hopeful color. They choose colors of beautiful pink fuchsias, tangerine oranges. Spring grass green and the deepest of the ocean blues. And as they begin to work each one of these colors a beautiful design begins to emerge.

When the pieces are done being printed, they are unpinned from the long table.  They are taken to a clothesline and are hung in the sunshine to dry. It only takes a few moments to dry as the wind ruffles through each piece of material.  The sun also makes them crisp and warm to the touch.  It is a sight to see and you are left with a gift of a lifetime!

So many things we take for granted today come from a great tradition somewhere. The color and design in clothing and home goods is so thrilling, but when you think about where he comes from and how it all got started, you begin to appreciate every single moment that went into creating your favorite new heirloom.

I think about that today, as I pass on traditions to my daughter, teaching her how to cook with all the passion that my mother taught me. Some things can only be handed down from generation to generation. Some things have nothing to do with materials or even skills but instead have to do with moments of great thought, heart, and understanding. Sometimes it means going beyond the normal rush of everyday life and slowing down to really appreciate what is in front of you.

So, thank you to all the artisans I met that day. How thoughtful every single stamp, every single color choice, and every single movement each artisan put into creating these beautiful fabrics really do leave me speechless.

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A Wonder on the Other Side of the World

When I decided to go India this spring, I knew I needed to get to the Taj Mahal.  India’s most iconic mausoleum, inspired by love, has been adored by millions with its beauty. My mom always told me to travel – I did not realize how much I would fall in love with traveling since she has passed.   She is always remembered when I travel, meet new people and learn new cultures.

The Taj Mahal is in Agra on a beautiful river basin.  I guess I was not sure what to expect when I saw it for the 1st time, but it was magical.  I have never experienced a building that literally took my breath away and the grounds that surround the Taj Mahal are perfectly placed to support its beauty.  It is so big and majestic, yet it is personal and reflective at the same time.  Once you step foot into the grounds you understand why it is one of the manmade wonders of the world.

I thought it would be fun to give you some of the fun facts of the building for you to enjoy:

  • Construction began in 1632 and finished in 1653 – it took 22 years to build
  • 28 types of precious and semiprecious jewels are set in the marble of the building
  • Turquoise from Tibet and Jade from China are used throughout
  • All the white marble was transported from Rajasthan
  • The Taj is cracking at an alarming rate as it was built on wood structures on the river bed

I would love to have your travel recommendations for the year!  What is your dream destination?

 

 

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My Brother

I am so thankful for my brother Joe.  He is not only the best big brother you could possibly have by your side, but he also has a chocolate factory.  The best of both worlds – wonderful brother and delicious chocolates.  He has been leading my family for years with is patience and strength.  He is also really funny and loves to play practical jokes on everyone.

People ask me all the time about Joe and Waggoners Chocolates.  I thought giving you a behind the scenes look might shed some light on how amazing he is and cool it is that he has a chocolate factory.

Joe as been creating confections for some of the most renowned chocolate companies in the world.  Many of the chocolates that you love have been developed by Joe and his team.  He also travels the world to bring the cocoa beans from harvest to market.  He can taste a bite of any chocolate in the world and tell you the quality, level of cocoa and usually what region it has come from.

That leads me to Waggoners Chocolate.  When Joe decided to build his own company, he wanted to keep it small creating some of the finest confections in the world.  Every piece of chocolate is created in small batches, with ingredients that are local.  Fresh creams and butters from the Ohio valley.  Fresh pretzels baked and shipped right to the factory to be drenched in chocolate. Made in the USA which is so important to Joe as he served his country for 8 years in the Army.

When Joe was asked to come on television, he was initially worried about the delivery to customers, freshness and quantity.  He chose to come on when he learned he could ship right from his factory to the customers.  His visits are limited; he only makes what he can make.  He has always believed that customers are family.  So many folks over the years that shopped in his store are now close, personal friends. His wonderful wife, Stephanie and daughter Cierra share in all the work with Waggoners Chocolates.  That is why every time you take a bite, you know the box was packed with love and pride.

I am not involved in the business at all, but last year he gave me the honorary title of ‘president of taste testing’  and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Give Joe a call next time he is on air next time and let him know what new flavor you would love to try!

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More Than Food

You all know of my love for cooking and baking.  You have helped make the Air Fryer Book the one selling book in the world on Air Frying as it is now published in 5 countries. As I finish up on my 9th book, I thought it would be appropriate to explain what inspired and brought me to the kitchen.

It seems that all of my life there have been big moments celebrated with food.  Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and weekends were a time when I would gather with family and friends to mark big moments in our lives.  That being said, for me, any moment that I get to sit down and break bread with those I love is a special time for me.

We live in a world that is constantly moving, with fast cars, planes, workdays, kids — so taking time to stop for a moment each day and give thanks for the good things in our lives is important.  Why not take that moment over a delicious meal? I grew up in a home where Sunday was always accompanied with a big family meal that I eagerly awaited all week.  My mom is the best person I’ve ever known.  She raised her children in a home filled with love, conversation, and laughter.  She was quick witted, driven, and warm in a world that was not always so kind.  My mom was thankful for every moment with her children and her family, and that came across in her cooking.

My love for cooking grew from our Sunday meals and the other big moments of my childhood and adult life.  In culinary school, I was lucky enough to enhance my experience in the kitchen under the guidance of the most inspiring mentors.  They taught me to appreciate each ingredient — the look, the taste, the texture — and experiment with different flavors.  I found serenity under their mentorship, and a deep appreciation for the way food heals and brings joy.

Today, I find joy every day in a trip to the market — finding fresh fruits and vegetables, preparing a meal, and sharing an evening with family and friends.  Everything comes together when you find a tomato so ripe, it’s almost sweet; or take in the aroma of fresh baked bread, knowing the care that went into the many hours of mixing, kneading, rising, and baking.  It is, for me, the best way to find a balance between salty and sweet, robust and delicate, good and bad.

Today, I’m blessed that I’m able to share these experiences in my personal life and in my work.  I get to share the warm moments with my mom and my daughter, Jordon.   I get to make new memories every day.  And, of course, I try to do as my mom did — be kind, give love, and share laughter, in and out of the kitchen.

I’ve learned that one person does not make a conversation, nor does one tomato make a sauce.  So, invite a friend over to your kitchen, try something new for dinner, and enjoy.  You will always walk away with more than you came to the table with.

On that note….what should be the next book feature?

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You’ve Got Mail

When I first began my work as a host I was just out of the boardroom and filled to the brim with nerves. I was working late hours—or early hours, depending on how you look at it—and cutting my teeth in the new, glossy world of television. I remember my boss coming into a meeting we were having and starting to talk about getting email from customers.

Well, I actually got nervous.  I had just started in the television business, fell into the job (a story for another time) and I was in training to become a host.

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Then it happened.  The first email, one I will always remember.

My daughter was home with a cold, and I was uneasy leaving her for work. I spilled coffee across my newly washed blazer and found myself frantically rummaging through the modeling wardrobe at the network. I prepared to present a digital camera, but when the camera rolled, it immediately malfunctioned. Needless to say, I really struggled that night to get anything out quite right My day was out of focus, and by the time my show ended, I thought I might cry.

The next night when I arrived at work and combed through new messages I spotted an email from a viewer:

“Allison, I was watching you last night on air and decided to reach out to you. You were offering a camera and talking about the last vacation you had with your mom and daughter.  How you wished you had a camera to capture all the memories.  I wanted to send you and email to tell you that you are such a joy to watch.  You are always real, honest and really funny.  But it means more to me than ever because I lost my daughter last year and haven’t been able to smile much lately, but you remind me of her and last night I was smiling.  Thank you so much for being with me every night and making me smile again.”

allisonThis message will forever be one of my most cherished notes from a viewer. Since I started my work in television, viewers continue to reach out and share their own stories, comments about a show, or a simple note to say “hello!” Today we have new vehicles for  communicating —Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With these changes, I get to connect with more viewers and they have graciously allowed me to be a part of their homes and families.  It feels like the world is moving so fast some days and you begin to realize it is all a result of kindness.  One person, one note, one moment, and now through the keystroke on a keyboard, we are all connected.

When you have a bad day, I hope you’ll find me on-air telling a story, sharing something new, and sending some happiness your way. You’ve given me so much support and encouraged me, even on my worst days. I hope I can continue to be there for you too.allison2

 

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Be yourself, everyone else is already taken!

Allison blog 1LBeing a host on television seems to be all glitz and glamour.  The truth is, I’m pretty simple behind the scenes.  One of my favorite passions is great skin care and make up.  Being simple and being passionate about good skin care and makeup don’t seem to go hand in hand, but they do!  I’m on a quest to find solutions to my aging skin and love to have fun with makeup – whether it’s a nude, no makeup look or all dolled up!

My friends ask me all the time – ‘Do you really use all those products?” The answer is yes, yes and yes! What is your issue?  That’s the amazing thing about great beauty – every item IS a solution for someone!  My bathroom counter is a bit crazy because some days I go crazy with a great mask or peel, and some days I just use a little coconut oil to bring moisture back to my skin!

Allison blog 2RI was diagnosed with Autoimmune Disease when I was little and battled my whole life with some type of stress to my skin.  When I was younger my mother would tell me just to love the skin I was in . . . and now I understand what she means.  Love what you have, really be happy in your own skin. In loving my skin, the entire world of skin care opened up to me.  So my suggestion is to simply have fun and try something new!                                                                                                                                                                                   No makeup at all…..yep, none.

There’s no wrong way to jazz up your routine and there might just be your next favorite eye cream around the corner.

So here goes my average day!

  • Always cleanse – Every day, morning, night, lunch time.  Seriously, whenever I need to add a little freshness to my day I cleanse my skin.  It might just be warm water all the way to a deep cleansing clean. My mom also told me to use good cotton washcloths, clean every time when washing to get a deep clean.
  • Hydrate – I use different creams for the different seasons and reasons.  If I’m going to bed, it might be something a bit heavier and, in the day, lighter.  But it really depends on my skin . . . if you need something specific, use it!
  • Eye Cream – Obsessed would put it mildly.  My eyes are showing their age and I love using different products . . . I’m on the quest to try them all!
  • Allison blog 3LMasks, Scrubs and Peels – Yes, Yes and Yes.  Have fun on a Friday, or after your boss yells at you, or when you just want to stay in and pamper yourself. Try new and fun ways to change things up and make yourself feel like a princess.

There are no rules for skincare, beauty or makeup. Love your skin, have fun with great products, try something new. Remember, your skin has been with you through it all and stuck with you!

Love, Joy and Peace!

p.s. Here’s one of my favorite, homemade Vanilla Lavender Sugar Scrubs – use on your feet, elbows and knees!

1 cup white sugar                                                                                            1/4 cup olive oil                                                                                                  1 teaspoon vanilla extract (pure)                                                                      5 drops of lavender oil

Mix it all together in a glass jar!

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Get dirty this summer!

Summer can get dirty!

Summer is spectacular in Minnesota. You have the chance to leave the winter behind and get outside to enjoy the lakes and farms.

As a chef, it’s even more important to search out the local farms with fruits and vegetables. While I love a great farmers market, here’s an important tip:  make sure to find the ‘grown in 60’ area. This means that what you are choosing is coming from farms that are within 60 miles of your market.

beets2We love getting to know the farms and farmers in our area. When looking for ones near you, I’d suggest asking them if they have an email list.  That way, if you’re looking for a particular crop, such as blueberries, beets, cucumbers or tomatoes, you’re able to ask them to send you the best time to come and harvest at the peak of deliciousness.  I also love to dig in and work with some of the local farmers on harvest days for special items.

Like many of you, my grandmother and great aunt taught me to can foods at the peak of their ripeness. It’s something we love to do and, as a result, we get to enjoy these treats all year long!  If you’ve never canned before, don’t fret;  anyone can do it and put in the freezer for up to 6 months.   Since you already know that I have roots on a farm, it won’t surprise you that I especially love jams and jellies . . . .however I never understood why my friends would stop at putting these lovely concoctions on their toast!  In our home, they go with all kinds of hearty cheeses, cakes, cookies, ice creams, iced drinks with club soda and more. We use these in sauces with beef and pork, as well.  You’d be amazed at the flavor a teaspoon makes in a savory dish.

I wanted to share one of our delicious favorites; Blackberry Basil Jam. One taste of this jam and you might not want to stop eating this light, fresh, rich concoction!  Here’s the recipe (and happy canning!), and please let me know if you’ve got a favorite jam recipe!

Blackberry Basil Jam

Ingredients

16 cups fresh, blackberries
6 cups fresh, basil, leaves, tightly packed
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed, orange juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeeze, lemon juice

Directions

Sterilize lids and jars for 10 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. They can stay in the hot water after sterilization until you’re ready to use them.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, blend the basil leaves, sugar and orange juice until smooth.

Place the blackberries in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot.

Stir the mixture into the blackberries, add water and bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick, about 25 minutes. You can use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to lightly smash them.

Stir in the lemon juice, taste and add more if you’d like. Cook about 5 more minutes until it coats the wooden spoon. Remove jam from heat.

Set a large stockpot filled with enough water to just cover the jars on high heat. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth and seal with the lids.

Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Using tongs or a jar lifter, remove from the water and set on a towel to cool and seal. To test the seal, run your finger over the lid after 30 minutes. You should feel a slight depression in the center of the lid. The sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

If a jar does not seal, put it in the refrigerator and use within one month or freezer for 6 months.

 

 

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