Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday recipe

It's Saturday (vegetarian recipe Saturday) and I spent all day at a lemonade stand and yard sale with the neighborhood kids and all evening finishing a commission. I didn't even try for a quick and easy meal tonight - I ordered take out - a tofu dish and spring roles. In an effort not to deviate from my schedule so soon after its conception, I will share my plans for lunch tomorrow. I've been known to eat a tomato sandwich for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when they're at peak in the garden. The Alvarado Street Essential Flax Seed Bread makes it a meal...go find some and enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday homekeeping post

I put this cleaning kit together about six months ago when I started the project of cleaning my way through Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook you can read a little more about it here. The chapter of the book titled, Cleaning products 101, goes over all you need to select the proper cleaning products and streamline what you keep under the sink. You will learn about the PH scale and the healthiest options for household use. It is suggested that your universal cleaning kit have the following:

  • An all purpose cleaner, such as Mrs. Meyer's, or a solution of 2 tablespoons mild dish washing liquid, such as ivory, and 2 cups water in a spray bottle

  • A mildly abrasive cleanser, such as Bon Ami - Bon Ami was always in our home when I was a child, I used to take the little chick sticker off the top and save them on the side of my dresser

  • Glass cleaner, or a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle

  • Rubber gloves

  • lint-free white cloths

  • Medium-bristle scrub brush

My kit has been adapted slightly; in addition I keep the following:

  • I keep a solution of Murphy's Oil Soap in an old dish detergent bottle for quick clean-up on the hard wood floors.

  • I have a mason jar of baking soda - three parts warm water to 1 part baking soda makes a nice mild scrub

  • Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap to fill up the hand soap dispensers around the house. Put a little in one of those lathering soap dispensers with water and it stretches like crazy!

  • I do use Mrs. Meyer's - the fragrances are amazing. I would bath in the dish soap.

  • I do keep paper towels in the caddy. I try to use my washable towels whenever I can, but in a house with three kids, two dogs, a cat, two turtles, and some chickens there are going to be times when a paper towel is needed.

This gets all the everyday cleaning done, of course there are special jobs that require something specific - I'll cover a couple of those as they pop up.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

pass around journal update

I didn't post about the journal on Monday; the journal was wandering (as pass around journals are want to do) but it's making a stop here tonight, so I thought I'd open it up and give you a peek at what's going on inside. Readers have expressed an interest in an adult version of the pass around journal, I think we'll get it started in the fall. I'm very excited to see where we could take it.

Concerning the blog in general, I think I should label a few days of the week to add a little organization to the subcategories. This will also help guide me when I'm having a jam packed day and feel at a loss for words.

  • Tuesday - journal check in
  • Wednesday - update on my studio project
  • Thursday - garden update
  • Friday - homekeeping project
  • Saturday - vegetarian recipes

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

keeping house & the benefits of blogging

Maybe some of my friends remember, when inspired by Julie & Julia I decided to clean and organize my way through Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook(a gift from my dear friend, Meredith)I was going strong for a while, but then work got busy (yay) and it kind of sputtered out. I also didn't have a blog at the time, if I had committed to documenting the project I probably would have stuck with it.

Blogs are useful for many strictly personal reasons like this; they allow you to declare your intent, they keep you accountable, and they offer the opportunity to discuss the subject with others. Even if you aren't trying to hone your craft as a writer, or promote a business, they can still be valuable tools for exploring what you believe and setting goals.

Now that I have the blog I think I might revisit this project, maybe devote one day a week to it. I'm aware that my blog covers a great many subjects, but that was kind of the point, it's the universe of our home and family, even my work is centered here. Adding a little about what it takes to keep this place ship shape (or passable depending on the week) would open up for discussion the balancing act many of us share.

Here's one of the projects that I documented. I wish I had used the real camera instead of the phone, but you get the idea.

All of this came out of the closet before conversion...embarrassing, I know.

"Today, I have offices in all my homes, tucked into very compact spaces."

Well, now I do too Martha...all one of them.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

from the salad archive

Here's a favorite arrangement of garden goodies I made for the first time last summer.

First, there's quinoa. Quinoa is highly nutritious - you may have heard me touting the health benefits of this ancient grain on here before. This supergrain (technically it's not a grain, but the fruit of a green leafy plant) is gluten free and can supply the body with impressive levels of protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. About half a cup of quinoa will provide a child's protein needs for one day. I hear that and it reinforces my belief that world hunger could be a thing of the past if our governments would get out of the way, but about the salad....

  • Place some quinoa over lettuce, this was butter crunch from a friend's garden. You might want to make a little extra so that you can keep it around in the fridge for a couple days already steamed, this makes for easy salads and wraps if you're in a hurry.

  • Next chop the veggies. I love the texture of a chopped salad, this one has cucumbers, radish, and tomato. I left the red onion in slivers because it looked nice.

  • Strain some chickpeas and place them on top.

  • Drizzle the dressing of your choice over the top - I like a mustard vinaigrette with this.

Great summer meal/salad for meatless Monday!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

sticky hot hub bub

The children's pass around journal project has begun, it should make it back here for a stop tomorrow and I'll have some pictures to post on Monday. You can get caught up on the project here.

I've been traveling around a bit this week, the kids enjoyed a few days in the mountains with their Nana, so I was in a mad rush to get things done. In fact, my zeal to be productive left me frozen for the first day - I was in shock. I know that sounds silly, but I stood there like a deer in the headlights not knowing what to do first.

Once I adapted we enjoyed a much needed date night that started at, Xochitl in Society Hill - delicious! had an impromptu dance party, and cleaned the house (with a special focus on the kids closets) Every other free moment has been spent in the un-air conditioned studio sweating and painting.

I have a couple projects I need to finish this week. It's ridiculous how my mind titillates me with the most intriguing new ideas every time I'm trying to finish a piece; it's definitely two steps ahead of the time I'm actually able to devote to my work. Having the freedom to go off on crazy creation tangents must be amazing. Who knows, maybe in the future I'll hear, "Grandma will be down any minute, she's been in the studio for three days straight and she can't wait to see you guys."

I'm guessing I'll adapt and make use of all of that freedom, but for now I think I'm more productive with the kids close. I remember Alice Neel saying something similar in an interview, that she works better with all the hub bub around her, she wouldn't know how to work any other way.

Alice Neel

1980 Self Portrait oil on canvas

*Here's a hint about the new project, it makes use of an old video camera*

Monday, July 19, 2010

"There is a special place in hell..."

Today I found myself looking forward to the next meeting of the artist cooperative I have been a member of for the past four years. MamaCita, a mother's cooperative in the arts, is a group of women who meet to discuss and share their work, to provide constructive critique and encouragement, find venues for shows, and most importantly keep each other motivated to keep producing despite the demands of parenting and the isolation that can come with it.

The group was founded in 2005 by Melissa Tevere. The members are a diverse group including professional artists represented by galleries, published authors, art teachers, and women who are just beginning to find a way back to their calling. The support we give each other is essential. The statistics concerning the success of women in the art world are chilling, for more on the subject you can take a look at this, add being a mother and you have really taken on a challenge!

Every year the growth I see in myself and the other members amazes me. You know what else amazes me? The fact that every time I leave a meeting I feel energized and focused. Now, I must say I feel a little sad that I find this so precious and so rare, but it is. We have all experienced the special support of female friends, it can't be substituted, but it can be in short supply. Susan Shapiro Barash, teacher of gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College and author of Toxic Friends: the Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships says, "It's a dirty little secret among women that we don't support each other."
I've noticed that we frequently support individuals because of a common tie - fellow alumni, people who share our ethnicity, people from our hometown, yet I rarely see women jump up to support the other woman in the room - I do see it, but I've got to tell you, it's far too rare.

It can be hard not to get caught up in the game, so what are some traits you need to bring to the table to be authentic, truthful, kind, and supportive in female relationships? It's complicated and a bit of a mystery, but here are a couple I am certain of:

  • Believing in abundance. All of the statistics about how far women still have to go to achieve equality can drive us forward, but it can also fill us with a fear of lack making everyone competition.

  • liking who you are - we often see in others what we don't like about ourselves, if your list is long...

I have two little girls and I want them to benefit from having strong, healthy friendships, and the support of female mentors as they grow. I hope other mothers find this important - teaching their girls to change the game, not just win it.

"There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

- Madeleine Albright

Saturday, July 17, 2010

fast, fresh vegan meal (submitted by a reader)

There are many delicious summer desserts that incorporate peaches; here's a savory one suggested by a reader. There's not much to the recipe, just a concept that you can tweak to your liking:

  • Make some long grain, brown basmati rice

  • dice avocado and peaches

  • place on top of a bed of romaine lettuce

I like to toss the avocado and peach cubs in some lemon juice and olive oil, add a little bit of finely chopped red onion, and sprinkle with sea salt.

This is a fast, well balanced vegan meal. Avocado has some amazing health benefits - you can read more about them here. I would also suggest some "So Delicious" coconut water lemonade sorbet for dessert.

Thanks, Nicole!

today from the 9 x 16

The heat has done a number on the garden, yet the 9x16 micro farm is still gifting us with some edibles every day.

We have collards and kale going strong, which is great because I love kale - I stick it in everything. This guy loves kale too, and I'm definitely going to order one of his t-shirts.

Many of the heirloom tomatoes are getting big and green and the first little ones are ripe. There are still a few strawberries (I ate them with breakfast) cucumber babies, basil, and fresh organic eggs. The last heat wave made me pull up the beans and peas, I'm sad to see them go, but now I can use the space for some cool weather crops.

The chickens have taken dust baths to a new level to escape the heat. Some days they dig such deep holes that they look like prairie dogs sticking their heads out.

Later today I will post a delicious dish suggested by a reader using peaches - another fleeting taste of summer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

the class moves outdoors

On the second day of the plein air painting class we got our sunshine. When we pulled up to the trail we felt raindrops, but decided to press on and be brave hikers. I'm so glad we we did, because fifteen minutes in the sun broke through the clouds full force.

The big rock was a great place to paint and lots of fun was found on the little hidden beach below us.

Looking out at the river (which happened to resemble chocolate milk after all the rain)forced us to tackle perspective and the children made some interesting observations as they laid out their composition.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

approaching the landscape in a new way (plein air class moves indoors)

Today's plein air painting class had to be adjusted because of a couple hours of heavy rains this morning. Instead of painting in the Wissahickon, we worked indoors creating mixed media landscapes. First we made patterned paper, added it to a collection of interesting scraps, and then assembled a landscape using stitching into the paper as a final detail. We even took a break to float paper boats in the giant puddles.

Ripping and cutting shapes from the landscape will help the students tomorrow when they look out at the landscape and need to make initial decisions about composition. Working with pattern and color very freely opened up possibilities about how they see color in nature.

U selected a piece of paper for her sun and when she cut it out she saw it was blue on the reverse - making an excellent moon. U said she wanted a way to keep it reversible, so J brain stormed with me about how we could make it happen. We came up with hole punching it and letting it dangle by a piece of string. It's these moments that remind you why it's important to get them working as a group; the energy is buzzing and they're excited about what they're doing.

Can't wait to get in the woods!

Monday, July 12, 2010

the pass around journal project

Above is the email received by those invited to join in a children's journaling project. Initially it went out to children who live in the neighborhood, so that they could easily pass it around. If you have interest in participating, send me an email and let me know. I've been thinking about putting something like this in motion since I posted, the Sketchbook in May. Keeping a journal or sketchbook is a great idea, and definitely not just for artists. It acts as one of the greatest tools in developing our ability to see instead of just look at the world around us.

After reading about some great Journal starter ideas at Diana Trout's blog - Hub Bub, I decided to adapt and combine some of them into this project.

The children will pass the journal around completing a page and then leaving a prompt for the next in line.

I will post entries on the blog every Monday.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

finished double portrait

Here's the finished portrait.

I was kept away from it for a while since the last step and as I eyeballed it in passing I got rather fond of its looseness. When I went back to wrap it up, I wasn't feeling the detail I was adding - I stopped myself and will let it be.

When I'm working I'm fed by the magic moment, not necessarily the moments of absolute control. I enjoy the amazement of how one loose gesture can create the wrinkle around a lip that gives away the secret of a concealed smile more than a couple days of glazing would. At the same time I greatly enjoy the work of those who feel fulfilled by a different process, which illustrates a wonderful thing about art - art is witnessing someone's understanding -- how wonderful is that??

Now - Dinner/dishes, a walk to get water ice with the kids, reading, tucking in and then back to the easel. Deadlines approaching for three new pieces.
You can read more here, here, and here,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

children's papier mache class - day two

Although the day was sprinkled with intermittent chicken and chihuahua adoration, we still had plenty of time to paint and make some accessories for our little paper dogs. One has an ottoman and the others have food dishes or bones.

They are all adorable and I'm thrilled with the fantastic colors.

The group worked so well together; I loved to see them offering each other a hand when they could, sharing ideas, and encouraging each other.

The next group of classes will be the plein air session in the Wissahickon, July 20th and 21st.

New papier mache classes will be listed next week.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

children's papier mache class

We're back from the mountains - greeting the city in the grips of a heatwave. 103 degrees feels very different bouncing off asphalt. My garden is hanging in there and the chickens are panting and digging deep into the dirt to keep cool.

My first children's papier mache class was moved indoors today due to the heat. We did venture outside for a little bit to visit the chickens as we toured the menagerie looking for inspiration. We also visited the finches, the turtles, the cat, and the dog. Frida Paloma(the chihuahua) stole the spot light and everyone ended up making dogs.

These pictures are from step one. Tomorrow we detail, reinforce, and paint.

I love how different each dog's personality is - we even have a flying dog! More pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

the scented geranium

The scent of geranium is still on my hands as I type this - a bright and invigorating symphony from the various scent geraniums I was just handling.

I have always loved the smell of my standard geraniums; the ones I'm sure we're all familiar with from the flats at the nursery, but I recently started collecting heirloom scent geraniums and I've fallen in love. These plants have been collected by gardeners for centuries, and the hunt to find new varieties is part of the fun.

The fragrances include rose, peppermint, pineapple, nutmeg, and lime. They all have a base of something decidedly "geranium" - never too sweet or perfumey.

The scent geraniums will not produce the big blossom balls that you may be familiar with, they have very delicate, demure blossoms. These plants are also known as "crane's bill geraniums" because of the shape of the seed pod. The scent is found in the oils all over the plant.

Right now my small collection includes:

A couple Pelargonium Graveolens - large green leaves with a lemon/rose fragrance and small lavender flowers.

Robert's Lemon - irregular, green, lobed leaves with strong lemon/rose fragrance. Pale pink flowers on long stems.

Snowy Nutmeg - nutmeg fragrance. Leaves are round and frosty colored. Small white flowers.

I have my city dwelling/plant lover friends in mind as I post this. I think the scent geranium is a wonderful potted plant to collect and enjoy that won't take up too much space.


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