At the Farmer’s Market


Forward momentum. That’s what I’m all about these days. After an inspiring visit to Canada to see my sister doing her Farmer’s Market and other shows, I wanted to get started in my neck of the woods. I enquired about the local Farmer’s Market but didn’t hear back, didn’t hear back…and then suddenly an email on Friday asking if I could set up on Saturday!!

Well, I couldn’t say no, but I was also nervous about “yes” because I wasn’t prepared. But, I went for it. Luckily I could borrow a tent last-minute from my husband’s place of work, and a few tables from my mother in-law. It was hasty, but it worked out in the end:

My rushed set-up. Not spectacular, but it did the job

I’ve now committed to the market every Saturday until the end of the season. That’s 12 shows total. I’m not sure it makes the most sense monetarily, but I am looking at it as excellent promotion. How is anyone supposed to know I exist if I don’t get out there? The wonderful thing is that, after only being here for a few years, I already know quite a few people in the community and they are quite supportive. It seems I have a lot of interest from tourists and locals alike with my pet portraits.

I’m selling pet portrait commissions along with small items such as prints, cards, small hand made ceramic charms and hand drawn magnets such as these:

Hand made, one of kind magnets

As well as cards, which I’ve posted before, either here on this blog or at my sister blog: www.vieveandlynsker.wordpress.com where my sister and I share all things creative.

Yesterday I showed up at Costco, ready to buy a tent with walls, only to discover that “summer is over”, at least, according to retail land. So, I was a bit flustered having no back-up plan. But after a quick consult with my very capable and steady sister-in-law, and the help of her smart phone ( I need one of those BAD!) we were able to locate a shade canopy, not exactly the style I wanted, but available at Friedman’s. At that point, I would have bought anything at any cost because I just wanted to get a damn tent for this upcoming Farmer’s Market. Luckily I was in luck, because though the tent didn’t have walls, it happened to be on sale, so instead of $100 it was $89. Sold! What a relief.

I’m not totally where I want to be in terms of the perfect, most simple and light market set-up, but I’m getting there. Wish me luck!

S

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Creativity with Kid Assist


My day-time job is teaching art to kids at the local Boys and Girls Club. I’m blessed that my working life still involves creativity. It has surprised me over the years how inhibited some kids can be, I had assumed that the joy of childom was to be very uninhibited. Instead, I find the majority are worried about things turning out just right or perfect. So, I approach art in as non-judgmental a way as possible and encourage them to “not do as I do and think outside the box”. Naturally, however,  they want to copy me. I used to make an example piece before class to show the kids, but things always ended in disappointment because the kids couldn’t exactly replicate it which was frustrating and it stunted their imagination. At one point I tried to dumb down my art, but that didn’t work for me and I felt like I wasn’t setting a good example. I’ve arrived at the point where I say to the kids “I am A LOT OLDER than you- I’m 31, imagine how good you’ll be in 20+ years!” That seems to appease them a little bit. Also describing the project and then doing it alongside them, effectively creating and discovering together seems to be the trick.

Each week this summer we have a theme and I ended up with some pretty neat artwork by the end of it. I thought I’d share. This is not anything I would usually think to do, but because it was with the kids, I discovered I was less inhibited and in trying to teach the kids open-mindedness and a “let’s see what happens” attitude, I ended up opening up a lot myself.  I’ll show you some things I made during Pirate Week and then Super Hero Week:

This was a project where I showed the kids pictures of pirates and encouraged them to come up with a character all their own. I demonstrated by drawing along-side them. They liked this guy so much that they asked my not to color him but photocopy him instead so that they could have a coloring page. I obliged.

We worked with acrylic paint. I initially started painting this guy to demonstrate how a painting looks finished once all the white of the page is filled in (kids have a resistance to “taking their time” and “filling the page”. I ended up really liking this guy. The kids encouraged me to add a parrot.

The next week was Hero Week. The theme was essentially about local heroes like firemen, policewomen etc., but what was much more inspiring were super heroes with super powers, so we stretched the theme for the sake of art!

I kind of drew a blank on what to do. I often encourage the kids to draw what they like and know (rather than something so outlandishly difficult that they don’t know how to draw it and end up begging me to do it instead), so that’s what I ended up telling myself to do and came up with: Super Artist!

I taught the kids about cartoons and the various cells they could draw. We went over a few conventions and then we went at it. I encouraged everyone to come up with their own hero they could be proud of. The kids as a group agreed that a hero is someone (or thing) that helps and protects others. So I came up with an octopus that saves the little fishies. I also turned this into a coloring page because the kids begged me. I was impressed by the kids’ creativity on this one ( wish I’d had the foresight to bring my camera to work and take pics of their amazing work!).

This was a watercolor class dealing with wax resist, sharpie outline and then salt for added visual texture. This was my demo piece and I really like how it came out!

 

So, though I’ve considered the art I do in the studio and the art I do with the kids very different things, I realized after those two weeks that the separation is beginning to blur. The more I bring what I do to the table, the more the kids seem to be into it and respond to the lessons and the more fun I have!

I appreciate all my kid colleagues who helped me with this break-through moment!

 

 

S

Le Jardin c’est Magnifique!


No credit to myself, the garden is looking pretty swell.

It’s my hubby who goes out every morning and waters the place. He also fought a valiant battle with earwigs and won. It took a bit to come up with a strategy, but once implemented the earwig populations was decimated. Our beer traps were not working so well- it caught snails and slugs but they weren’t the main issue. No, my hubby launched his attack at night, headlamp beaming on the hopelessly exposed earwigs who had unwittingly emerged from their day time hiding places to manger (pronounced “monjay” en Francais) on our romaine. The strategy? Flick as many possible into a bowl of soapy water. The survivors who missed the dip: death by rock.  I myself was not out there. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep over the din of rock hitting its target- Crack! Crack! Crack! It must have been satisfying because he was out there for quite some time. He proudly showed me the shriveled and mashed carcasses the next morning.

I won’t show you shots of the massacre lest it unsettle you. But here’s a lovely escargot, another garden terror. Our method of snail removal is to toss them over our fence into the back field. This guy is blissfully unaware of his upcoming aerial flight.

Our spring onions have been way over grown since fall. We decided to keep them in to see what would happen. After all, isn’t this just one grand experiment?

Last month they started flowering, and now check out the seeds:

Unsure of how to harvest, but unwilling to resort to google, I simply picked up a bowl and started massaging the heads until the seeds fell, en mass, into the dish.

My sister had taught me a nifty trick with morning-glory seeds: to separate seeds from the husks, simply blow. Seeds are heavier and will remain in the dish. So I figured, maybe it’s the same deal with these seeds. Thankfully, I was right and didn’t end up with an empty dish.

So now we’ve got seeds galore. Not sure what to do with them as it’s a little late, perhaps, to be sprouting them for this year. But I feel like such a pioneer when I gather seeds instead of buying them at the store. I feel like, “wow, I am da shit, I keep a self-sustaining garden”. The next step would be to actually label the seeds I harvest as it makes for some awful guess-work when the next season comes around. So, yeah, I’m a pioneer but not a very organized one…

The elephant garlic that started to magically grow this year, having skipped the previous year when it was actually planted, had started to grow flowers on top. We caved and googled ” when to harvest elephant garlic” and learned that we were really late. For some reason we thought we had to wait until the stalk shriveled and dried. Not so, you’re supposed to wait until the bottom leaves brown but the rest is still green. Then stop watering for a few days to allow it to begin to dry and then pull it from the ground. So we scampered out to the garden ( as if a few extra seconds would make us any less late in harvesting the things) and we gingerly pulled them out and found:

Note the little garlics hanging off the roots. No idea what that is exactly- must be its way of propagating itself. I imagine if left in the soil we’d have a whole planter box full of elephant garlic come next spring.

They cleaned up nice. Hopefully they will “set”, that is, dry nicely. Maybe we don’t even have to really worry about that since we only have two and I plan on consuming those bad guys quite soon.

Our green beans are growing..or should I say green bean singular. I think I will need to buy a miniature frying pan, because at this rate, that’s what I’ll be serving up, one green bean at a time. I can’t imagine that we will ever have a handful all at once…but you never know.

I leave you with a few more shots of the garden and its bounty!

S

The Art of Staying Calm in the Face of Paperwork!


I hate paperwork.

And yet, the winding path of my life has led me to a point where paperwork is the order of the day.

It started small, as all things do.

In the very beginning it was just a small thing:  a social security number( rather a Social Insurance Number since I started out my paper filled life in Canada) so I could get my first job…then income taxes. Once in, the ball kept rolling. Then it was license and then travel visas…then I went and fell in love with a California boy and whoops, here we are married (marriage license, more paperwork) and in the process of becoming a landed immigrant -mondo paperwork!!

Currently we are looking for a home and went almost to the end of a purchase in which paperwork for the loan and purchase, appraisals, insurance was ..monumental…(sigh)

And now… I’m trying to truly launch my artist’s career becoming legit by getting a business license and seller’s permit…and boy oh boy am I in for it! I attended a free small business seminar and simply put, had my mind blown by how regulated and fraught with paperwork going into business is. I am at the point where I could freeze out of sheer overwhelmed-ness (I know, not a word) or slowly begin to slog forward, as I have with immigration and with house buying etc. It’s helpful when you have a partner to slog along with you (lots of paperwork lingo is confusing, so it’s good to have a second opinion!).

But isn’t there more to life than paperwork? How did it all come to this? When did papers begin to rule our lives? I know it’s necessary, without regulation we could devolve into chaos. We want freedom but we don’t really want freedom, to go back to the days of yore when we had to defend the homestead shot-gun in hand. Were there building permits? Heck no! Building inspectors? Heckity heck no…but there were taxes, always the taxes.

My utopian dream would be a world in which no paperwork need be filed. No, scratch that…I’d be content with a career that was so successful I could pay someone else to do the paperwork.

The fear is that there will be so much of the paper stuff that there won’t be nearly enough time for the art stuff. I know I am just riling away at the injustice of it all whilst everyone reading this is just thinking ” that is just the way of the world, suck it up  girl!”

And that’s what I am going to do.

I am grateful that our paperwork and checks and balances keep us from a situation where we have to bribe our bureaucrats and officers etc…..at least…not for such little things as business licenses…..

I’m probably revealing how very little I know.

What I know is art, and I’m going to try to keep that my focus.

Deep breathe. Paperwork will be taken care of one step at a time. Keep creating.

S

Art in the Clouds


I recently set up a booth at an outdoor art fair in Angwin called “Art in the Clouds”. It was only the second year for the art aspect of the fair and as such I was one of only four art related booths. I at least broke even, but it wasn’t super successful. I had taken part in the fair mostly as a practice run to see if I could do it. In that regard I learned a lot and now have more confidence going in to a next one…I haven’t lined any up yet though.

The way I managed to break even was with the printed  cards and a few little trinkets I’d made, like the magnets and a few charms.

I recently discovered the long existing but never discovered by me “shrinky dinks”. I had a variety pack and ended up really liking the matt finish one since it really works well with colour pencil.

This is colour pencil

And this is permanent marker. Note their size.

Place in the oven at 300F

In seconds they start to flex and shrink. Really fun!

In the end they’re super small, about half their original size.

Later I attached small silver jump rings and hung them on ribbon. I ended up selling a few of these charms.

Here’s what the set-up looked like:

A little cluttered. And it was hard to get people to walk in and actually look at the paintings.  A little more thought needs to go into the whole thing. Definitely a less patterned table-cloth is in order.

I made a few rings some with ceramics and one with a drawing behind a glass pebble.

mini canvas charms

 Card sets

A pretty good turn out

Overall a good experience and I’d like to do a few more of these types of events. If nothing else I got a lot of positive feedback which was rather encouraging!

Cheers.

S

Grilled Oysters and Salmon, Oh My! And Baby Birdies Make a Ruckus


I had an “Ah ha! Ho ho! Hee hee!” moment just last week as I cruised through the aisles of the local grocery, desperate for  a quick meal but not ready to totally compromise on quality.  Standing at the meat counter I was eyeing the salmon, debating between the chilean farmed fish for 8.99 per lb and the wild caught at 19.99 per lb. Reason won out and I decided on the affordable since fish is always a hit or miss with the hubby, and then what caught my eye was a nice pile of these suckers at 89 cents each. The guys at the counter are always awesome and ended up throwing in a few extra.

Back at the ranch I had my hubby start-up the grill whilst I prepped the salmon, skin on of course!

Salmon:

On tin foil drizzle liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Lay salmon skin side down.

add salt and pepper on top (to taste)

add slices of lemon on top. Fold tin foil mostly closed.

Once the grill was ready, the salmon went on. Couldn’t tell you exactly how long since we usually determine its done-ness by poking at it. Roughly 10 minutes.

Then on went the oysters which required only a minute or so.

This folks was literally the fastest meal we’d every prepared. And all our weariness from the day was usurped by our excitement over  this special treat.

Once the oysters come off the grill, all you need are lime wedges and Tapatio sauce and you are good to go. Be sure, as you crack it open with a sturdy knife, to not spill the delicious juices – you’ll not only burn the crap out of your hands but you’ll also miss out on the added tastiness of the brine.

please try to ignore the purple on my thumb; as an art teacher to kids, I bring my work home with me on my clothes and hands!

Now, my hubby is not a fan of fishy stuff, but he loves this. Surprising indeed! And I have encountered all manner of gloppy, slimy, uncooked, fishy horrors during my stint in Korea, but this is nothing like that. It is pure yumminess all the way and you should try it!

Here’s how the salmon turned out:

And because the tin foil was not all the way closed, steam was allowed to escape and the skin was able to get crispy:

Laying the skin down on oil with salt is key to crispness!

And, because I don’t like to do without greens, here’s the simplest greens prep ever:

Steam a nice bunch of collards, turnip, spinach or mustard greens ( I cheat and buy a cleaned and cut bag with a mix of all of those greens at Trader Joe’s). If you use any of those greens it will take only 5 minutes since they cook up super fast. If you use Kale, expect about 20 minutes. Remember that it shrinks down like crazy, so don’t be afraid to steam what looks like a gargantuan amount.

Remove from water, drizzle a teaspoon of light soy sauce and a half teaspoon of sesame oil on top. Gently mix. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top:

Highly recommended: canned beer. It serves two purposes: 1. a yummy pairing with delicious oysters and 2. as a beer-can trap for awful slugs that keep eating our garden veggies.

Die slugs, die!

It really works! Cut the can in half, fill with about an inch of the beer you can’t finish or has gotten too warm to be refreshing anymore.

Okay, okay we’ve talked about slug death, now on to life! Baby bird life!

The joy of the grill is not just the food but the entertainment we get from the birds that visit our little yard. Right now we have a bunch of hungry blue bird babies and two very tired parents who are continually feeding them. It’s truly remarkable how non-stop it is. Approximately every minute one of the parents lands with some grub to put in their gaping mouths. The babies are making quite a racket with their chirping.

It’s a cut-throat brutal world for the birds. There’s always a threat that another bigger bird will come and drag the babies out for a wee snack. Mom and dad are very watchful and are always suspicious of us. We are always hyper aware of the chirping and when we don’t hear it we fear the worst. But so far, so good.

One wonders how the fattened up babies are going to squeeze out of that hole!

It’s nice to know everyone is well fed.

So try out the oyster thing, it will be well worth it and it’s about the easiest thing you could prepare for a meal.

S

Attempting to be a Successful Succulenteur and Other Garden Hits and Misses


Many posts ago I started on the path of succulent propagation.  My biggest experiment was using the “let it sit” method with a few leaves I’d gathered that had fallen from a succulent plant at the garden center – NOT stealing as they would have been considered cast offs and no doubt swept up and tossed.

So, to refresh, the method is to let them lie on a bed of Perlite in filtered light until they push out roots and then begin to form their own little plant. A while ago they put out a few tiny roots, but check it out now! The little plant is starting to form at the base ( you’ll probably need to click on the photo to enlarge it so you can really look closely):

 

Also, the heads of my Hens and Chicks have robust roots and are more than ready to be planted…if only I had a place to put them…

 

And, as I may have mentioned before, the art of becoming a succulenteur is really about experimentation. I just made a new observation about one of my succulents. It could almost seem to be a deliberate experiment with two test groups, but in reality it is all just coincidence that I had the same succulent type planted in two very different locations. One is outside in full sun, the other in filtered light. Check out the difference between the two!

 

The first one is in full light, the second in filtered. Note how in full light and heat they have balled up and tightened. In the filtered light they have opened up and stretched that neat webbing to its max. Both are doing well, but they adjust to their conditions in order to do so. Also, the one in full light popped out a lot of babies ( off shoots) in early spring due to lots of consistent rain…unlike the ones in filtered light which rely on my non-consistent watering patterns!

 

On the garden front…well, the Bok Choi bolted. This is the third attempt and the third failure. We’ve had really odd changes of temperature. I’m pretty sure the week of scorching heat is what caused them to bolt. But if it weren’t for the heat, I’m sure the pests would have done them in:

Note all the munched leaves.

 

Our little planter with chard turned into a potty for some nocturnal animal. All the sprouts were dug out and I believe if you look close enough you can even see a turd in the bowl. Boo!

Okay, since we’re on the track of failures at the moment, I may as well tell yo that some of my succulents started looking rather weird in the way they were forming their leaves. Also, I noted aphid-like critters on some of them. It seemed to be spreading, so I uprooted the ones that looked diseased.

 

Also, because of the funky weather, my living rock succulent’s flowers shriveled up and died without actually blossoming. I thought the whole plant would die, but it seems to be doing okay if you disregard the desiccated flowers at its center.

 

Onwards to brighter things! The Romain is doing fantastic. We had our first garden salad of the year a few days ago. The roses are in bloom, my Lambs Ear are taking over the entire patch and the bees are loving the flowers that just started blossoming from them. My Lavendula Dilly Dilly ( yes, the actual name of the lavender I planted, of course I chose it for its name!) is getting ready to bloom as well.

 

 

 

 

Our Purple Iris has run its course

 

 

But replacing it is a new kind:

 

And my established Hens and Chicks are also blooming:

 

And finally, after three years here, a lovely California Poppy has decided to join our accidental garden!

 

Annnnd we have a blue bird family in our little bird house. Every time we step into the garden you can hear the little babies chirping from inside, saying “feed me, feed me, feed me!” Our presence in the garden worries the parents who stand around with worms and insects in their beaks flitting to the roof of the house then away again unwilling to reveal to us where their precious babies are. And in accordance the babies fall silent too; until my hubby and I freeze in our actions to the point of shaking with the extended exertion of it until finally the mommy or daddy decide we’re no longer a threat and finally deliver the food to the anxious and voracious babies.

Mommy and…

Daddy!

 

Also, now that it’s getting hot, we are visited by our friendly neighborhood lizards who love our concrete step leading into the garden.

 

All in all, we are rather happy with our little backyard. We haven’t invested as much time in it as the previous year, but it is still a delight. Everything seems so alive and so active.

 

 

So, despite some failures in the gardening department, on the whole I think it is much more of a success. I’ll leave it at that!

 

 

S