Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Snapshot: Monument in St. Peter’s

tomb of gregory xiii

In St. Peter’s, there are no paintings. Only sculptures and mosaics which is unusual for a church from that period. As you wander around gawking at the scale of the church, you’ll encounter quite a few massive sculptures along the way like this one. It’s the Monument to Gregory XIII by Rusconi from the early 1700s. It’s later than most of the sculpture in the basilica.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Baked Whole Wheat Olive Oil Doughnuts with Brown Sugar Orange Glaze

For the first half or so of this pregnancy, I really didn’t want dessert type things. I could handle ginger cookies, but I didn’t want brownies or chocolates or cake.

Then around the halfway mark, baked goods weren’t off-putting to me. I still don’t crave them, but they’re nice to add to my snack supply. You should see my purse; it’s like I robbed a grocery store.


I wanted something relatively healthy since I’m at the point where Baby Art Nerd can taste flavors in the amniotic fluid. So I consulted the all powerful Google and Pinterest for whole wheat doughnuts. Then I thought, olive oil! I want an olive oil based doughnut rather than a butter one since a.) I don’t have enough butter and b.) olive oil is better for me and Baby Art Nerd. So I scoured and found an intriguing flavor combination at Blogging Over Thyme. Olive oil doughnuts with dark chocolate and sea salt sound pretty awesome, but I wanted citrus. Because I always want citrus these days. So I decided to use the base and change the topping.


These doughnuts were tender, the crumb was cake-y, and the orange brown sugar glaze added just enough kick. You can punch it up with a stronger olive oil or change out the citrus. When I want chocolate again, I might do an orange dark chocolate ganache.

You can’t go wrong with relatively healthy AND tasty doughnuts.


Baked Whole Wheat Doughnuts with Brown Sugar Orange Glaze

Yield: depends on pan, I got 3 crullers, probably 6 doughnuts

Prep Time: 20 minutes (plus 30 minutes if making preserves)

Cook Time: 10-12 minutes if using a doughnut pan, 12-14 minutes with a cruller pan

Total Time: 30-34 minutes

Healthy, baked doughnuts that aren't too sweet. Based on Blogging Over Thyme's Olive Oil Doughnuts with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt.


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (pastry flour is finer for a more tender cake)
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt, I used pink Himalayan salt
2 eggs, room temperature
3 Tbsp olive oil, I used a mild Spanish one
2 Tbsp milk + 1 squeeze of fresh orange juice, stir and let sit for a few minutes
zest of 1/2 medium orange, divided, I used an organic navel orange

1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
juice from half an orange, use more or less depending on how thick or thin you like a glaze
zest of 1/2 medium orange


Preheat oven to 375F.

Lightly oil your pan with olive oil.

Add the zest to the sugar in a small bowl and mix with your fingers.

Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar mixture to a large bowl and stir.

In a standing mixer or in a separate bowl with a handheld beater, beat the olive oil, eggs, and milk on medium-low for 2 minutes.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, and stir until just mixed. Do not over mix the batter.

Spoon the batter into your doughnut or cruller pan and smooth the tops with a spatula.

Bake for 10-12 minutes if using a doughnut pan or 12-14 minutes if using a cruller pan.

Remove from the oven and transfer the doughnuts to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze:

Add the sugars and zest together in a bowl. Slowly add in the orange juice, stirring frequently until the desired consistency is achieved. I went for a thinner glaze to drizzle over my crullers. Pour glaze over doughnuts or dip doughnuts tops in glaze once the doughnuts are completely cool.

Doughnuts keep for a few days in an airtight container. Mine were gone in 24 hours since I made three...

Blogging Over Thyme

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday Snapshot: The Eiffel Tower from Montmartre at Sunset


Our hotel was within walking distance of Montmartre so a trip to Saint Sulpice on our first evening in Paris was on the agenda. Since it was spring, we could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance between the bare branches.


Monday, February 3, 2014

ArtSmart Roundtable: What’s With The Wall Colors?

It’s time again for ArtSmart!

It’s been a hectic few weeks for everyone, so check back often for updated participant links.

This month, we chose a rather open concept: contrast. I was going to write about the beautiful geometric tile work found in Islamic art, but then an issue popped up at work that made me think of another form of contrast. The contrast between artwork and museum/gallery wall color. It’s something that a lot of museum goers probably never think about, but I think that the contrast levels can really affect a viewer’s visit and perception of a piece.

I’m going to highlight a few levels of contrast that you might encounter at some of the most popular museums to visit around the world. Some are things that can’t be changed, others are poor design choices, and others are a compromise between preserving the art and allowing the visitor to see it.

The Sistine Chapel

Because the frescoes cover the entire ceiling and walls, you’re at the mercy of the lighting in order to see the scenes painted all around. Is it an ideal set up? No. But it’s the intent of the work, and it keeps true to the context. Also, because the lighting is limited to preserve the art, DON’T BOTHER SNEAKING PHOTOS AND DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT USING FLASH. Your photo will be pretty crappy so just stop.

Sistine Chapel, the prophet Daniel before and after Restoration, 1505, Michelangelo Buonarroti. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Sistine Chapel, the prophet Daniel before and after Restoration, 1505, Michelangelo Buonarroti. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Due to the recent cleaning, the colors are far brighter which help you pick out details. The contrast between the vivid colors and muted background help the subject matter pop and allow you to see more details such as the putto holding Daniel’s book or the figure behind him in the image above. However, you can also see that the cleaning reduces the contrast of the vault ribbing because the raised details blend into the background rather than the grime highlighting the different depths.

Also, the cream-colored stone ribbing on the ceiling help break up scenes to make them easier to focus on.  The lighter colored backgrounds employed by Michelangelo help the figures stand out as do the faux architectural frames used. If you’re easily over stimulated, it can be hard to really look at each scene since the entire room is competing for your attention. I would highly recommend studying individual scenes ahead of time so you’re familiar with the subject matter before entering such an overwhelming space. It’ll make your visit more meaningful, especially if you’re going to wait in line that long.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Ever wonder why you often see modern and contemporary art against white walls while older works are usually hung on muted blues, reds, beiges, and grays? Because contrast!

If you put a bunch of ancient Roman marble statues against a stark white wall, you lose the contrast in color between the two making the statue’s details hard to see. You’ll eventually give up on the room because it’s too much effort to create contrast from walking back and forth to see the piece. The same goes for darker, varnished oil paintings like Rembrandts. All the dark colors against such a bright wall create too much contrast which also causes your eyes to lose the ability to make out details. You just see a dark rectangle with a few pops of any strokes of light paint in the image.

This is the dilemma that Ruchard Meier and the Getty Museum faced. Meier’s structures are almost entirely white, but the Getty’s collection is encyclopedic and can’t use a standard stark white. Meier developed a special shade of white which he believed would work for any art collection, but the Board chose a different designer, Thierry Despont, to select the colors and finishes for the galleries. I personally think the Board made the right choice. You can see the colored walls in this video about paintings at the Getty. (MOMA also chose to paint their early 20th century galleries a putty color because white didn’t suit the works).

Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin

Christ Enthroned, folio 32 verso. Ca. 800. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ Enthroned, folio 32 verso. Ca. 800. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Certain gallery spaces purposefully decrease the contrast in the room in order to preserve the art such as the Book of Kells exhibition at Trinity. The Book of Kells dates from around 800, and the delicate nature of the pigment on vellum requires a low light level to prevent fading. This is also why pages are rotated out on a regular basis. The curators have to make a compromise between preserving the pages (they’re best kept out of the light) with displaying an incredibly beautiful and popular work for the public. So they keep the lights dimmed, use spot lighting for labels and text panels, and use muted colors that won’t reflect light back onto the pages. In other spaces, the light is on demand and limited to a certain length of time, or there might be a cover that you have to lift to see a piece if it’s in a room with other less light sensitive objects. There’s a handy tool that measures the brightness of the light that exhibition crews use to hit that perfect balance between being able to see a work without damaging it. Remember why a room my be dim the next time you’re struggling to see a page or print at a museum.

Of course there are far more examples, but the next time you’re at a museum, I hope you look at the contrast of wall colors and light sources. It’s part of what makes an exhibit work, and it’s something that can often be ignored during a visit. You might realize that you love a particular piece or museum because it’s bright and airy or dark and moody.

What is ArtSmart?  A couple fellow travel bloggers with an interest in art and I decided to do a roundtable series focused on making our readers “art smart”, e.g. understanding why certain works of art are famous and worth the visit while traveling.  At the end of this post are links to the other ArtSmart posts by participating bloggers.  Interested in joining the Roundtable?  Check out our Facebook page or email me.

This Month’s Fellow ArtSmart Roundtable Articles:

Christina of Daydream Tourist: Pablo Picasso: Creative Chameleon

Jeff of EuroTravelogue: Danube River Cruise: A Contrast in Scenery, Architecture and Time

NEW TO ARTSMART! Pal and Lydian of Art Weekenders: The French Impressionists Challenge of The Salon: A David and Goliath Art-Tale

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saturday Snapshot: Irish Signs in a Park


Despite multiple trips to Ireland, I always love seeing Irish place names on signs around the country. Some words are easy to match up (Truim and Trim) and others are tougher (Uaimh, like awn-oove, and Navan). I tried Irish classes twice and failed miserably, but I can still pick out certain words thanks to several trips.