A Few Photos


Gack.

I lack inspiration at the moment. My work schedule has shifted…I feel shifted…it’s going to take me some time to figure out how to reorganize my creative life.

In the meantime, since I missed taking part in the local photography club slide show ( a bi-annual community event)…just totally gapped, dropped the ball, forgot it was taking place… I am posting the photos I was going to show at the event here instead.

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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

Keep It Simple Genius: Pearl Barley, Quinoa and Veggie Salad


Folks, you know how I don’t like to spend loads of time doing domestic chores. Cooking falls somewhere in the middle. I groan about having to do it at times when I’m just off work and would rather be vegging or doing something creative. But as it turns out, cooking can also be an amazing creative outlet as well and I try to look at it that way. Recently (actually, in April) one of my fellow bloggers sent out a challenge to the blogosphere  to create something out of left-overs, the “Great Leftover Challenge”  at http://dannyskitchen.me/. Well, I didn’t answer the call but now I’ve come around so I’ll post this in honour of the competition I did not participate in. My absolute favourite thing to do in the kitchen is work with what I have left over in the fridge and try to come up with something that completely reinvents it. That to me is the most creative and seems to come to me rather more naturally than a brand new dish. Also, if I don’t have to nip off to the grocery store for any filler ingredients, I consider that the biggest success and triumph. Let me share with you my triumph:

This is what I had in the fridge: Pearl Barley from  the previous night’s BBQ, a half tomato and  1/3 of a box of quinoa.

So I rummaged through the fridge, mind working through possibilities, and this is what I dragged out:

I set the quinoa to cooking. I’ve seen it prepared other ways, but my way is to rinse the quinoa several times to make sure of no gritty chunks ( I lose some grains in the process since they are so dang tiny), then bring water to a boil and put the quinoa in. When it comes to a second boil, stir and then leave it on low until all the water has evaporated. Pretty much exactly as one would prepare rice (though I’ve seen other methods of rice making as well that go against all my asian roots and makes me cringe).

Then comes the chopping and the grating. I happened to have the veggies that I had, but that in no way should limit you. As long as you have crunchy veggies, this dish will be a success. I happen to like the texture of cucumber and cauliflower in salads and was lucky enough to have them in my fridge at the time.

So here’s the ingredients list, just keep in mind it is infinitely changeable:

pearl barley

quinoa

1/2 tomato

1/3 cauliflower

1/2 cucumber

2 celery sticks

2 carrots medium-sized

1 bell pepper

Sorry folks, I’m kind of a pinch of this and that cook. As you will see later, I’m not much for measuring and I rarely follow recipes. I’d say I had approximately a cup of barley and a cup of quinoa.

My personal preference is to grate the carrot into the salad. Easier to chew and it seems to absorb more of the yummy dressing in this state.

Oh yes! And a wee bit of red onion finely sliced or diced. I took a pic to illustrate how little I use. Too much and it overwhelms the salad and also makes for dragon breath that will haunt you for the rest of the night and maybe into the morning!

Don’t forget that this is a wonderful time to fill your compost. If you do not yet have a compost, get on it! It’s absolutely brilliant. It took me a while to convince my hubby that we needed one. He thought it would just attract wildlife i.e. rats and our yard was too small. But I worked on him and we ended up building a small one. He is now a convert. It makes fabulous soil for our little garden, and it feels lovely not tossing all this organic matter into the landfill.

*Side note, the best compost bucket in the world is not the ones they sell specifically for compost but this plastic OXO brand container. It is marketed as a container for pantry items like cereal, etc. because the lid has a top button that you depress and it seals the container. Well, it absolutely works as a compost bucket for exactly that reason: it seals. No smelly fumes emerging into the kitchen AND it’s easy to clean unlike traditional buckets that have all sorts of inconvenient grooves for stink to settle into.

Okay, back to the salad.

As I mentioned earlier I’m not a measurer and as a result I invariably realize mid-way that  I have  chosen a vessel too small for what I am creating. Since I am a salad monster, I should have known better and just gone for the largest bowl possible. But for me, starting smaller helps to reign me back a bit. It is always helpful to have a bowl that is slightly too large so that when you get to the dressing it part of the process, you can easily mix without all the ingredients falling out.

Bowl transfer

Last but not least, when all fresh veg are happily sitting in the bowl, toss the cooked quinoa and some raw sunflower seeds (optional) on top. The quinoa is still warm from cooking, but as it mixes in quickly gets cooled by the veg.

And now for the dressing. Remember, keep it simple my geniuses. If you have a favourite salad dressing in the fridge, good for you! Toss it in.

If you like making your own dressing, do so and toss it in.

I am a sour/vinegar fan and so I favour this totally made up recipe of mine, which I will now attempt to share but keep in mind the measurements are approximations. Keep the phrase “to taste” in mind and make adjustments accordingly. My salad was rather large so measurements are also large.

Asian dressing:

1 lemon or lime (I actually prefer lime but had none on hand and dang it I was not going to the store!)

3 tbsp virgin olive oil

1 dash kosher (or any) salt. Celtic sea salt would be awesome!

2 tbsp light soy sauce (all soy sauce is not created equal and come in many flavours. I recommend Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce)

Rice vinegar (to taste) approx 2 tbsp

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp  agave

1 tsp sesame oil

 It wouldn’t hurt to sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds as well. I know my Auntie R would approve.

Then mix this whole shebang together and…

voila!

A salad even my hubby can enjoy. For me, the essential ingredients are those that give it a variety of texture: the cauliflower, sunflower seeds and grain. I’ve never used pearl barley before, but it was very nice. In lieu of that, brown rice or spelt would do…any grain you enjoy.

So, I hope you give this a try. It’s super simple (any and all ingredients can be substituted with something similar) and pretty quick so long as you don’t mind a little chopping.

Cheers!

S

On Roughing It, Fluffing It and Oh Stuff It-ing It


A few days ago I bit the bullet and cleaned up the house. Yes, even used the vacuum. I was, of course, spurred on to this for a reason: guests were coming. That’s why I need a steady stream of guests if I want my house to be spa like at all times.

But now look at it!

My hubby, his sister and her husband and two of their friends and I, are all going on a three-day hiking and camping trip at Big Basin National Park.  We’re pretty excited to be camping – even more so because I’m taking time off of work for this adventure!

Well, we both went shopping yesterday with a list of things for our camping trip, and wouldn’t you know, more came home than expected. Not only has this turned out to be expensive, it’s also ridiculous. You would think we were heading into this trip expecting to die of starvation, and the result is an extreme overcompensation. At this rate, the only things we’ll be able to carry is food, forget about a tent or sleeping bag, let alone clothes!

One thing I’m kind of looking forward to is trying out the dehydrated food I got at REI. We are only bringing the beer-can stove so whatever we eat has to be edible with only boiled water added, no simmering or cooking time required. We’ll either be impressed or really disgusted :

On to the “fluffing”. I’m still working on gathering together a bunch of art stuff for this art fair I’m going to be a part of in two weeks. I’ve already dragged out all available work and have been assessing what I’m going to take in terms of originals:

Then there’s the additional fluff required to fill it all out. I’m pretty happy with this:

It happens to be a frame I found at a thrift store (really good quality) which already had a mat board in it with pink trim I thought I’d have to toss, but turns out it goes perfectly with my “Alfred Yawn” print.

I’ve already designed 4 octopus cards that are currently at the printers – I’ll update you on that later. I’m pretty excited about them. And now I’m working on another idea: mini originals magnets:

It’s still in the experimental stage. I’ll draw little pictures and mod podge it to glass stones with a magnet also secured to the back. That way, folks who can’t buy the pricier stuff can still go home with something. What do you think?

And now for the “Oh stuff it!” part of my blog.

Our garden this year has been half-hearted. Not because we don’t care, but because we are in the process of looking for a house to buy and don’t know when we’ll be moving out. As a result, we’ve half planted and half let things go back to nature. One thing we did do was plant Bok Choi, and wouldn’t you know it, the pests are out and loving it! It makes me mad because in the past we’ve had no luck with Bok Choi and I really hoped that this would be the year. Oh stuff it.

But, on the bright side ( literally, on the bright side of the photo ) the romaine lettuce is doing just fine.

For that matter, our accidental garden is doing great as well. Check out my elephant garlic sprouting its flower:

And something unidentified ( in his half hearted haste, he neglected to mark any of the plantings) – we think peas, is growing quite happily:

And that’s the latest on roughing, fluffing and stuffing it!

S

 

A Cranky Creative’s Cogitations


I’m feeling cranky. You know, the kind of cranky that makes you want to do crazy stuff…like shave off your hair or something. The crankiness is coming from a feeling of lack of moving forward, a lack of creative outlet. Shaving my head would probably be the result of misplaced action and something I’d deeply regret…or maybe not…

Instead, I’m going to channel that frizzy energy into being pro-active. Part of being a creative person is the struggle with not only self-doubt but also with how to get your stuff out there in the world. That is where I’m perched. Ready to show my work and ready to sell some stuff but not sure how.

Today I’m filling out a form for the Angwin “Art in the Clouds” outdoor art show. It doesn’t cost much to enter, it’s only their second year, and the turn out will most likely be small, but I need to exercise some marketing muscle. I need to put myself out there just to see how it feels and get the ball rolling.

It’s coming up fast. That means I need to have stuff to show and small salable items that I stand a chance in hell of moving. The chances of originals being purchased are slim, so I need to head into the world of reprints…without breaking the budget to do so.

Can I do this? It’s coming up really soon : May 20th.

Pawing through the stuff I’ve already done, I found cards I’d had printed last year for Christmas. I have lots of extra I can package into card sets:

 

 

 

 

Would you buy a set of those? I’m also working on some octopus themed cards for thank yous and birthdays.

But therein lies a slippery slope. Do you make art for art’s sake, or do you make it to sell? Once you worry about your audience, the joy and the freedom of creating can quickly slip away.

I shall be navigating these waters in the next couple of weeks. Wish me well. I will keep you updated.

 

 

S

 

 

 

Update on Succulents and a Few Other Things


So last time I wrote about succulents I’d just been to the garden center and picked up a few new wonders of the succulent variety as well as a handful of loose succulent leaves. Well, I laid them out on a bed of perlite and left it outside under filtered light (my covered porch) and waited. It’s been what…two weeks now? Well, I am happy to report that they are now pushing out roots. Check them out!

 

I’m going to wait a bit longer until it starts to form a new plant, so I will get back to you on that. They still have a lot of  juice in them. No watering is required. You know it’s ready to put into the ground when the leaves are desiccated and a new mini plant is formed at the end where the roots are.

I also showed you how you can propagate by just cutting off succulent heads, scabbing them over and putting them directly in soil. Well, I cut too many heads and didn’t have enough planters, so some of the heads I left sitting on the perlite. Well, wouldn’t you know it, they also started to push out roots. These should be placed in soil pronto as the leaves are getting really thin, indicating that it’s using all it’s juice to make those roots and needs water soon.

 

So that’s the most recent skinny on succulents.

 

The end of April brought the first BBQ of the year for us. Very exciting. Nice to have the longer days and the warmer evenings.

For our inaugural BBQ we grilled burgers. Not to be forgotten, sweet red onions drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt.

 

Look at its transition to absolute tastiness heaven:

 

Add to that my mother in-law’s home-made pizza…and we were so very good to go!

 

 

The accidental garden is doing well. Those petunias just keep on flowering!

 

And my hubby planted a lot of seeds that have been happily germinating on the window sills in our apartment. Look at this happy sprout greeting the vegetation outside our window:

 

Soon they’ll be ready for the outdoors.

Unfortunately pests have discovered my Bok Choi that was so happily flourishing in our planter boxes. I haven’t the heart to upload a photo. Have been experimenting with sprinkling cayenne pepper on and around them. So far no evidence that this has helped in any way. Does someone out there have advice for me? We think it might be earwigs getting to them. Booooo! Hisss!

 

That’s the latest. Will upload photos of recent artwork soon.

 

 

S