Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More Sick Days

All of that deep thought apparently took a lot out of me because I ended up getting super sick for the second time in a week.  Like, fever sick.  I hate fevers.

If it wasn't the deep thought, maybe it was the kids' birthday party planning?

Elly got to have 4 friends for his 4th birthday party.  We tried to do as much handmade as we could.  I had planned to make the kids plush dinosaurs, but with all the illnesses, we did end up having to buy party favors.  And although the frosting on the cupcakes is handmade, the cake mix is pure Betty Crocker.  Just like my mom used to buy.

I wish I could do everything, be everything.  But even doing this much sent me straight to bed.  So there hasn't been much art making or even artistic thinking.  I'm just happy to be up and around.

We're still taking it a bit slow, but I still wanted to get my art on.  So today E and I stayed close to home and made rainbow rice, inspired by my friend Anne and the internet.

Mixing it up!

We did need something to do with all that extra white rice, since we're moving toward whole grains.

A good time was had by all.

The finished product and subsequent playing.

And my favorite part was where he planted seeds (marbles) and waited for them to grow.  They will, apparently, take 60 years, or so he tells me.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Making A Living

So, what do I want to do with my one wild and precious life?  I want to make a living through art.  To be clear, I want many things.  Wanting is an issue of mine.  A habit.  A kind of difficulty I run up against constantly.  But there is precious little language around to describe our dreams, to write about the path one chooses to take.  So here, I'll use the language of want, though I struggle against it in many ways.

In arriving at "making a living through art", I went through many phrasings.  I want to be an artist.  Well, I am one.  Period.  I want to earn a living through art.  Well, we don't earn our living.  It is given to us.  We just make choices about what we do inside of that living.  I want to earn money through art.  This is true, but I don't want the money, exactly.  I want what money gives me, or what it could give me if I ever had any.  I want the freedom to make the best choices in my life.  Which all brought me to the concept of making a living.  That felt right.  After all, what do I do?  I make things.  I always have.  Yes.  That is what I want in life, what I want to do in life.

The next question, of course, was how.

I have a Masters degree in Writing Poetry.  Sounds fancy, right?  I had dreamed of it much of my life.  But when I got into it, I saw that while earning the degree was a valuable learning experience, what it gave me was a pathway to academia.  Academia is not for me.  Godspeed to those for whom it is, but for me, it was a cage.  Even a cage of one's own choosing is still a cage.

I went searching for something else, but for a long time (years), that searching looked an awful lot like running away.  I think I was running away, no matter what I called it.

In time, I reached a place of awareness--an amazing gift if ever there was one.   Now, I'm looking back and learning from that running away.  I am just beginning to apply that knowledge.  This blog is a step on that path.   I'm not exactly sure where I'm going, but I think I know where I've been.  I think it's enough to be on your way.  This blog is meant to chronicle that journey, wherein I make the art--the life--I've always made and call it that.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Forward, Backward. It's the Journey, Right?

In my last post, I alluded to some thinking going on.  Then we had a bit of stomach flu here the past few days, which can be its own kind of meditation, I suppose.

Elly and I snuggled on the couch watching tv.  I did a lot of knitting and reading, since an adult person can only actively watch just so much Dinosaur Train.  Although I didn't come to any sweeping conclusions, I did make a lot of progress on my project (which is a gift, so I'm not posting any details!)
Too bad I made the front bigger than the back.  I've said before that knitting is essentially solitary.  However, I often knit in groups with friends.  If your friends are as fun as mine, it's pretty easy to make an unfixable mistake like placing your markers incorrectly.
I could probably adjust the pattern to make it work, but the buttons wouldn't be as visible from the front.  And it would just bother me.  Part of a handmade item is the eccentricity and individuality of the piece.  A real and specific person made each stitch in their own way.  Small mistakes can be okay, but this is the sort of thing I just can't deal with.  I'd almost always rather redo something than stare at the mistake for all eternity.  So I'll be frogging it today and knitting again.

Knitting is often a round-about journey.  We move forward and backward along the continuum of the project.  I used to want to cry when I had to rip back.  All that work for nothing!  But it's not for nothing.  I learned a lot ripping back, maybe more than I ever did moving forward.  And if knitting were just about the finished project, well, I suppose I'd just buy off the rack.

This all brings me around to what I've been mulling over.  What is important to me?  Why do I make things?  What will I do with what I make?  And what is the next deliberate step?

I'm thinking of this poem by Mary Oliver, which ends,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Today has been a day of thinking, considering.  I keep coming up to the edge of something.  Maybe tomorrow I'll have it pulled together enough to post about it.  In the meantime, a basket of flowers, another kind of edge, a work in progress.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On The Needles

Knitting was my first love.  It was the first craft I learned as an adult.  We have endured through the years, 12 of them, I believe.  Sometimes I knit a lot, though lately, I've been knitting less for all kinds of reasons.  It feels good to have something back on the needles.

What I love about knitting is also what I sometimes find to be challenging.  You begin with the end it mind.  For me as an artist, I'm not always sure where I'm headed.  Knitting doesn't work that way.  And even though you know where you're going, you can't get there very fast.  You must attend, first and always, to each next stitch.  Knitting is about being present.

Monday, February 20, 2012


My sweet, darling baby is 4 years old today.

He was very excited.

When I was pregnant, people would always come up to me and tell me about how "kids just grow up so fast!"

Sure, I thought.  Of course.  I never truly understood how fast they meant.  I feel like he was born yesterday.  Well, maybe more on the order of 6 weeks ago, but definitely not 4 years ago.

He's absolutely an amazing person.  I can't believe how lucky I am to be his mama.  It goes so fast.  Really, it does.

Belated Valentine Redux

(This will be the first of two posts today!  It's Ellis' 4th birthday today, but I did want to finally get the Valentine's stuff up first.  I was waiting on a camera download.)

Hope your Valentine's Day was lovely.  I am a big fan of this holiday.  I don't even care if it is some card manufacturer's marketing ploy.  A day for hearts and flowers is always welcome as far as I'm concerned.

Ellis had a wonderful time at his pre-school party.  His teacher loved our homemade Valentines even if the kids were more impressed with the candy and tattoos.  I felt proud that E was able to tell his teacher all about the process of making the crayon hearts and assembling the cards.  It felt like a win to me.

I spent most of my day cleaning and decorating the house.  Better late than never! In the afternoon, I made a special family dinner.  Spaghetti and sauce--Sarah's very most favorite meal--was on the menu.

I've always loved Spaghetti (which is what I thought was the name of tomato sauce and any kind of noodles for years!)  I have come to love pretty much every kind of tomato sauce that doesn't have green peppers.  I do have a soft spot for a meat sauce, since it's what my mom made when I was a kid.

I've refined my own recipe over the years, forever chasing the perfect tomato sauce.  I had a good thing going, but everything got turned on its ear when I came across this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  Butter?  What?  Turns out, that was the secret ingredient all along.

My own current recipe is a mixture of my own tomato sauce history plus new tricks from this Smitten Kitchen recipe.  It's good with or without meat.

Jen's Best Tomato Sauce

1-2 TBS. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 TBS. Butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped very small
1/4 cup red wine
salt, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper to taste
2 quarts home-canned tomatoes, mostly drained, water reserved
1 lb. ground beef, browned or Italian sausage (optional)

Prepare meat in advance, if using.
Heat butter and EVOO over medium low heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté until onions are soft.
Add wine and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil until liquid is reduced by half.
Add tomatoes, spices and meat (if using).  Add extra tomato water if needed.  Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes or until yummy, checking and adjusting spices frequently to suit your palate.
Serve over pasta and garnish with grated parmesan cheese.

I urge you to experiment with many kinds of tomatoes sauces to find what works for you and your family.  I feel like my recipe is just a jumping-off point and works well as long as I have tomatoes, onions, garlic, and butter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Prep & Menu Plan Update

Happy Valentine's Day!  Ellis is in pre-school, which means we needed to make some Valentines for his classmates. I love me some recycled crayon hearts and I had lots of Valentine-y paper and thrifted doilies.  So we made collage-y Valentine cards with recycled crayon hearts.

I'm sure E's classmates will have awesome store-bought cards with candy.  I'm trying not to feel inferior.   I'm trying not to add Spiderman stickers. I know it's okay to do homemade, but sometimes I get a complex.  Oh, the courage of my convictions is often hard to come by.

Ellis helped.  It was hard for me to release control over how beautiful the finished product would be.

In other news, I forgot to keep you posted on our meals this week.  The Beef and Broccoli was amazing.  Total make-again.

The Irish Blue Cheese soup was also very good, but I found it to be a bit rich, and that's reducing the cheese by half.  I am still adjusting to a more meat and fat intensive diet, so I am probably not a good control subject.  However, I'd sub most of the cheese for sour cream next time and spice it up a bit.  In any case, it's totally worth making.  A very flexible tomato soup recipe.

While I was in Minnesota, I made some freezer meals for my parents.  The big hit was a Split Pea and Ham Slow-Cooker soup.  My mom is currently making it on repeat.  It couldn't be easier:

Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup with Ham (or Vegetarian!)

Put this in the slow-cooker:  20-24 oz. split peas, 1 chopped onion, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 2 chopped carrots, (plus any other veggies you like, all chopped small.  Potato would be great!), some ham (either a ham hock or whatever), enough broth or water to cover everything (Around 6-8 cups.  We used 365 Chicken Broth, because it is soy free and not crazy expensive.  Homemade would be best.)  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove ham and chop it up.  Blend with immersion blender if you want things smooth.  Or don't.  Put ham back in.  Enjoy!  If you're the veggie sort, omit ham and use mushroom broth and more veggies.  You'll also probably want to adjust seasonings, with salt, pepper and thyme and maybe a bay leaf to add the depth the ham provides.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Embroidery! On An Embroidery Blog, No Less.

The art content around here has been less than I'd like.  Of course, I've been busy, inspiration has been hard to come by,  and the light, frankly, has been crapola as far as pictures are concerned.

I got sort of stalled on this piece, which was surprising to me.  I'd planned it out more than usual to avoid getting stuck, to give me a roadmap to work with.  But then I didn't love where it was going and I couldn't break out of the map.  When it doubt, put a flower with it.

That got me going again.  Well, that and some variegated threads.

Here's Josie the cat checking out the neighborhood.  Isn't she pretty?

This piece is about silence--and not silence, inspired by Audre Lorde who said, "Your silence will not protect you."  When I'm feeling shy about my life, which is not conventional, per se, I remind myself of those words.  This piece is about being loud in regular life, about the right kinds of loud, about speaking up.

This bit is from a vintage hankie with one torn up corner.  Thank goodness for torn up corners or I'd never be able to cut into the vintage linens.