Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What We Found While Picking Up Trash At The River #2. Or Is It #3?

Heck I don't know. I've logged so many hours picking up trash this fall that I cannot remember how many times I've done it, done blogged it, and done been annoyed and angry that people give so few craps about this beautiful land.


Here's some more of the ridiculous, sad and bizarre sights we have beheld while picking up trash on the banks of the mighty Mississippi.

YOOOOO HOO! We see YOO using the riverfront as YOOR own personal landfill!

Did you see what I did there?

What can I say? I'm an artist. Not a comedian. Er, comedienne? I'm really not too sure.

My litter has a first name-it's O-S-C-A-R...

I got a million of 'em...

Styrofoam. And plastic. Blindingly white. Not even a slight chance that somebody could accidentally leave this stuff behind.

Again, large piece of styrofoam. No way you could miss it as you left the riverside.

Piece of styrofoam that had been around so long it had actually begun to camouflage itself. Cheeky monkey.

What's that? Yes, MORE styrofoam! This styrofoam is masquerading as a habitat for grasshoppers.

At this point in the day, I was really starting to feel like maybe we should just ban styrofoam altogether. And plastic. And fishing line. And beer. And humans.

Hey, Billy Cramer! I found your Dreft bottle!

This was an interesting find. It is a dried out piece of fish carcass. You can see the eye hole there towards the top. Underneath was a stunning set of bones still attached to the skin. The skin was very hard in some places, and quite papery in others, but had no fishy smell. I was pleasantly surprised by all of these observations, as dead animals are not something I spend much time examining. Bones are extremely inspiring, though.

This is the underside of the fish carcass. It is just an absolutely stunning, sculptural network of points and lace and frilly bits and bobs. I never knew bones could be so beautiful. But look there in the middle and what do you see? A little bit of paper. Trash.

You can see it better in this closeup.

I mean, how dang disappointing does it get? I find this beautiful bit of nature's trash and even it has been affected by human trash.


Come on, humans. Stop being so lazy. Put your trash/recyclables in their appropriate receptacles. Is your car so small or cramped that you cannot fit a soda bottle or drink box or bit of styrofoam in it, so that you can take it home to dispose of?

No. It isn't.

We only have one Earth. It really is true, you know. Isn't it better for all of us if we just do our danged part and help keep her clean?

Help put me out of my self-appointed, non-paying, part-time job by picking up after yourself and your offspring, man!

Thank you.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Snapshot-Forgotten Cotton Candy

Have you ever wondered what happens to a bag of county fair cotton candy if you hide it in the cupboard and forget about it after you leave the fair? Wonder no more.

Apparently, deep down inside, it yearns to be a hamburger patty, so that's what it becomes.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What We Found While Picking Up Trash At The River #1

We've been picking up trash for an Environmental Science project. What started out as obligation has quickly morphed into something I feel compelled to do, for so many reasons.

It is my new favorite therapy. Getting lost in nature is the balm for so many ills, but caring for nature while you are lost in it, is such a fulfilling, soul renewing, creativity refreshing way of spending time. You can't help but feel GOOD after spending a few hours removing trash that poses environmental hazards from the skin of the earth. Not to mention, it makes the landscape safer for little humans to explore, something that is always on my mind as I want my littles to have the freedom to make discoveries without having to worry about them getting cut or hurt by broken glass, sharp plastics or entangling lengths of fishing wire.

I will admit though, that picking up litter can also make you very angry with humans very quickly. Because you find the most ridiculous examples of lazy, blatant littering.

You gotta counter that with the knowledge that you're making a positive impact and setting a good example. Plus, you never know when your example will inspire someone else to action.

I thought I'd share a few snaps from our last excursion, because picking up trash is always interesting.

I didn't set this up. My husband found it. Some litterers are more creative than others I guess...

Why? Just, why?

Pure laziness. 

"Hey, come look at these grasshoppers!" "Yeah. They're mating." "Are you sure? They aren't moving. I think the one is just sitting on the other." "Yeah....MATING." "Well, they're very slow at it..."

There were several of these right under my feet as I went to get out of our vehicle. Thank you, lazy fisherman, for dumping your bait on the ground and leaving it where people park and walk. Couldn't you have at least thrown it in the bushes? 

I also collected some big, rusty metal hooks which I'll be using for an art piece. Thank God I was the one to stumble onto them, as some sweet baby might have had their foot pierced through their shoe by those. Preventing that kind of tragedy is definitely something I can feel good about.

You can do it too! Won't you please consider?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pumpkins And Sprinkles

College has kept me super busy lately.

Like, BIZ. E.

And of course I am the dummy who has to make things more time consuming than they already are.

Recently, I had a birthday. I also had a research paper and a speech due the same day. A demonstration speech. You know the type-five minutes, show your audience how to do something easy and bam! You're done. That's it.

Only, I couldn't think of something quick and easy. All the things I like to do are time consuming.

So I went with cake. Because it was my birthday!

And because I am a dummy.

And then, of course, I was under pressure, and my son was cranky and my husband was on a business trip, and everything that could go wrong did, so I ended up with a cake that I was embarrassed to bring. And I couldn't read my notecards so I left out half the stuff I had written on them, and it feels awkward to look down at them when I'm trying to show people something, so I felt pretty silly afterwards. Not the best speech I've ever given, or cake I've made, that's for sure.

It did taste good, though. And that's the most important part.

Plus, I had enough batter left over to make mini cakes for my kids. Which made them happy.

And that's the moral of my story.

In the end, nobody will care too much if the cake looks awful, so long as it tastes good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Work: Cluster But-ton.

This is a new little piece I made for the Independent Art class I am taking this semester.

It was inspired by the thousands of tiny, algae covered shells encrusting the rocks along the river that we encountered a couple weekends ago.

I love this piece. It is heavy and substantial for such a small, little guy. I love the way that the whole is far more interesting than any singular component that went into it. I love the way that the suggestions of movement and struggle and suffocation can be achieved with color and texture.

I will definitely be making more of these.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Chocolate Cherry Pecan Brownies

Sometimes you just need brownies for dinner.

I made these for the kids and I on Saturday.

Don't judge me. We had a long week.

Ingredients For Bars

1 Cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 or 3/4 cup chopped chocolate cherry candy(Nestle Delightfulls, Andes)

Ingredients For Topping

1/2 cup chopped cherry chocolate candies
 chopped pecans

These are one bowl bars. I drop the fats, sugar and eggs into my mixer, beat well, then add all the dry stuff, incorporating the candy last. Then pour into a greased 8x8 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or so. Bars are done when toothpick inserted near center comes out mostly clean. You might have melted chocolate on the toothpick, be careful not to mistake that for raw dough or you could end up with overcooked brownies. Don't ask me how I know this.

To make the topping, all you do is sprinkle your candy on top of the hot brownies then spread as it melts. Sprinkle your pecans on top of the chocolate "frosting", then slide pan back into your oven for a couple minutes so the nuts can toast. Toasty nuts. That's what you're looking for.

I thought I'd make the joke before you did.

Let brownies cool a few minutes if you want to make them easier to cut. Or just get a fork and eat straight from the pan. You'll save yourself from having to wash an extra dish. That's water conservation. Very eco-friendly.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Baked Black Beauty Eggplant And Cucumbers With Tomatoes and Cheese

My garden is wrapping itself up and I've been wracking my brains to find ways to use up the last cukes and tomatoes because I'm too lazy to cut up anymore for freezing, I'm all salad-ed out, and they are maturing in random, small amounts. Like, one every few days.

C'mon tomaters! Get your crap together! Your mistress is getting tired and lazy and wants you to organize yourselves so she can make one big batch of salsa or sauce and be done for the year!

Wait, what was I saying?

Oh yeah, enter the two Black Beauty eggplants that I picked off my two lone little plants a while back. They were shriveling in the fridge and I knew I needed to use them quickly. Seeing a sad little tomato and a couple of cukes on the counter, I wondered if they might make amiable companions and decided to combine them under a sprinkling of cheese before letting them frolic in the oven.

I am quite happy with the results, so I thought I'd share my method just in case anybody else has this combo of edibles hanging out in their garden too.

Here's what I used-

2 Black Beauty eggplants
1 medium cuke
1 medium tomato
olive oil
pepper jack cheese
sharp English cheddar

And that was it!

To Make-

Sweat(or don't sweat-you choose) the eggplant after washing, slicing off stems/leaves and slicing into 1/4 inch or so wide pieces. Slice the cukes into similarly sized pieces. Cut tomato into chunks or dice it into smaller pieces. Layer vegetables into a buttered dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with cheeses. Bake at 350 degrees for as long as necessary(vegetables are cooked through and cheese is melted). I think I cooked mine for about 20 0r 25 minutes.

AFTER. I clarified, in case you couldn't tell...

That's it! Easy and delicious. Maybe healthy?

I don't know. Who cares? CHEESE.

This may not look delicious, but trust me, it is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Common Core Made Me Do It

This newish piece of work was made for a local show this past summer. I made it to spice up the typical lineup of paintings and drawings. I think I had the only textile pieces in the show, and I'm not sure that they were well received, but if one kid looked into that display room and thought, "Oh! I didn't know art could be something other than paint, pencils and paper!" while one  parent though, "Dear God, I hope my kid doesn't grow up to make this kind of crap!", then I feel I did my job. Ha.

But seriously. These newer "bubble" pieces I'm doing are all about testing the boundaries of what embroidery is. How much can I get into a hoop? How tall can I make it? How heavy? How unrecognizable as a hoop? Is it still embroidery if you can't actually see the stitches?

This piece in particular, is all about discomfort. The bubbles were inspired by a photo I once saw, that haunts me to this day, of an animal with an infestation of ginormous, bloated ticks packed tightly together on the poor thing's head. The ticks were just, huge. Like giant gray blue berries. It is a wonder the animal didn't pass out from blood loss. Common Core gives me the queasy feelings too.

I have some ideas for giant, installation type pieces, but lack the time to construct them, so I'll have to stick to small pieces and experiments for now.

My kids are always excited to see the things I make. I don't know why, but they think I'm the greatest artist ever. I'm gonna hang on to that for the precious little time it will last.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pink And Bright And Happy All Over

I've been feeling really overwhelmed lately.
Like, don't tap me on the shoulder or you might get punched because I'm wound so tight, overwhelmed.

Life has just been aggressively coming at me from all emotional angles. The husband has a new job where he's working a lot of hours and traveling. The boy turned two and entertains himself by climbing things and shoving things up his nose. The girl turned six but apparently her emotions turned sixteen. I'm taking 13 credit hours of college this semester and volunteer art teaching at my daughter's school. My house is a disaster, because school and parenting come first. We've been eating much more poorly than we should be because I'm struggling to manage my time efficiently and I'm cracking under all the pressure of all the hats I'm wearing, plus trying to find a new house in a different town when we've only been in this house a couple of years. BPD makes all of this worse, and I am forced to spend a lot of time questioning whether my thoughts, behaviors, reactions and responses to emotional stimuli are logical, rational, healthy and acceptable in order to prevent outright breakdowns.

Thank God for my happy place.

The lettering is sooooo cheesy, but my husband and kid did it as a surprise for me, so I love it.

I guess I should say "happy places", because I have several mental and physical happy places-prayer, yoga, meditation, painting, the riverside, my garden, Dairy Queen(don't hate on me!), Goodwill, Salvation Army, Etsy...the list goes on.

But my studio, that's my panic room, my paradise, my sanctum sanctorum. That is the one place that is all mine, where I surround myself with the things I love that make me feel safe, calm and happy in the most self assuring ways.

Everybody my age is so into wreaths. I finally made one when I came across a bag of heads at a thrift shop.

Darkness is almost always the problem for me-darkness of heart, mind, emotion and even physical darkness(I often sleep with a lamp on). So, my studio is bright, and reminds me that I am bright, loving, kind, happy, colorful and loved. You see, my husband painted my studio, to help me feel more ownership of it, that it wasn't just a room that anybody could inhabit. And my daughter's "studio" is a few feet away, so she often leaves surprises for me on my drawing table, that I find when she is at school.

Pretty much everything in this space has some sort of special meaning to me.

Like my apron collection, for example. Some are vintage, and I collect them because old aprons hanging limply on a Salvation Army hanger just scream "PLEASE RESCUE ME! I was useful once! I can still be of use!" I often feel the same way.

The newer ones are mostly made by Dot of Dotties' Diner. Her aprons scream, "I AM TOO BEAUTIFUL AND SEXY TO HANG UP HERE FOREVER!" So I try to wear them, despite feeling a lack of bravery, and in the end they remind me that age, "sexy" and "fun" are not "one size fits all". There are many sizes, many shapes, many colors, many definitions.

I'm going to have to figure out a better storage solution, though, as they broke the current one.

There IS a metal pole under the pvc pipe...
Surrounded by things I've made, things my loved ones and friends have made, and the elements of things yet to be made, I am quickly reminded that the weight of whatever is weighing me down cannot compare to the highs I feel when I complete a piece of art or craft and someone receives joy from that creation.

I have a major love of nature, and how it reminds me of my tiny place in the world, but I love my studio because it reminds me of who I really am when I feel like I am in danger of forgetting, when I fear I don't exist and "never was"(pretty, talented fun, whatever), or when I know I am becoming someone I do not want to be.

When I feel the darkness squeezing the life out of me, I go up to my studio. I sit on the rag rug my husband bought me for mother's day this year, and I look at all the things that I've made, my daughter has made, my mother has made, my friends have made. I survey the supplies-the hoops and textiles and found object that have taken years to acquire and will take years to turn into finished products and I ask myself, "Do you really want to let all of this get sorted into trash and thrift piles because you're too depressed to use it? Or too dead? Or do you want to be the person who keeps turning these things into unique art pieces that help people redefine how they look at trash, beauty and craft? Do you want to be the person who tragically gave in and nobody can understand why? Or do you want to be the person who overcame and helped others do the same?"

Reflection, then determination, then peace always overtake me.

"Don't you want to stick it out, and see how the ride ends?" I ask myself, as I survey the possibilities in my mind.

And, "I do," has always been the answer.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Chocolate Mint Chip Baked Spelt Doughnuts With Coconut

I made these this morning because...well, because.

Why does there always have to be a "because" when chubby girls eat sweet treats?

I'm chubby, and I made doughnuts for breakfast, because I like them and my family loves them.


And now, for the particulars.

If you too, would like to make these doughnuts, you will need

1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup whole oat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup almond milk(use less if you want a more dense doughnut)
2 Tbsp. melted butter or coconut oil
1/4 cup chopped chocolate mints(Andes, Nestle Delight-Fulls for example)

For Glaze

1 Tbsp. melted butter(or coconut oil)
3 or 4 Tbsp. chopped chocolate mints(Andes or Nestle Delight-Fuls for example)
1 or 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
dash or so almond milk if necessary


Finely shredded unsweetened coconut(sometimes called macaroon coconut) for sprinkling


All you do is mix up the doughnut ingredients(I've tried various methods but they all seem to come out the same so I usually just dump the wet into the dry then mix) and pour into a greased 6 cavity doughnut pan. I use the Norpro Twist pan, but the new Wilton twist pan looks like it would work just fine too.

Then bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes. Doughnuts are done when toothpick inserted into the tallest section comes out clean, or with the tiniest hint of moist crumbs.

These doughnuts are light and fragile when they first emerge from the oven, so I let them sit in the pan five minutes or so before removing to a wire rack, then icing.

While the doughnuts cool, mix your icing/glaze. In microwave or small saucepan, melt your butter and chocolate mints together on low heat until incorporated. You don't want to boil.

If you are microwaving, heat in short intervals. Chocolate can burn quickly in the microwave, so heat a few seconds, check, then heat again until you get everything melted together but not boiling.

When the mix is smooth, remove from heat and add your powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want. You may have to add a little splash of milk to get it just right(if your mixture is thickening too much).  If your powered sugar is clumping things up, return the mix to heat but keep a close eye on it.

Personally, I like my mixture to be somewhere between a glaze and a frosting. I don't want it thick enough that it adds a bazillion calories, but I don't want want it dripping all over the place until it dries, either.

After icing doughnuts, sprinkle shredded coconut on top. I recommend icing and sprinkling one doughnut at a time so your icing doesn't dry before the coconut hits it. You don't want your doughnuts shedding as you eat them, right?

Honestly, I don't think the twist pan produces "twists" so much as giant cat poop look alikes, but they DO taste good. And maybe theres an April Fool's joke waiting to be made...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Brandy Cupcakes Makes Things Grow

Or I try to, at any rate.

And isn't it amazing, how the smallest of gardens can produce the most wondrous amounts of fruit?

I never cease to be amazed.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Little Watercolor Ladies

I've been working on character illustrations and sketches for awhile now, and I've kinda fallen in love with these little portraits of bitty girls.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

About Plum Time

The best part of growing edible things is definitely the harvesting of them.

Well, that's my favorite part, at any rate. It is pretty exciting to take things I've harvested, combine them with other delicious things and create something new and nourishing and pleasurable, but nothing brings out the childlike wonder and awe and joy in me quite the way that harvesting does.

And it doesn't matter how often I harvest, it is ALWAYS fun and always amazes me. Plants are amazing. They DGAF. We can exist or not, they don't care. They're going to go on, with or without us. They are compelled to survive and reproduce, by a force that exists without the help of mankind. And some plants complete the cycle so quickly, you cannot help but be continually impressed. Sunflowers, for example. You plant a tiny little seed in the spring and by the end of the summer you can have a plant up to 10 feet tall!

I could wax poetic about my love of plants for hours, but life is short and blog posts should be too, so I'll get to the point.

Today was plum harvest day! It is truly one of my favorite days of the year.

Butt plums are definitely one of the reasons why.

My hippie kids taking an active and hands on part in the production of their food is another reason why I LOVE harvest days.

The gorgeous color of a polished plum is an inspiring blessing for an artist to behold, and one of the best things about plum harvesting. Our plums are such a dusty, dull, unimpressive sort of purpley blue velvet when we pick them, but with a little rub from a shirt hem, or a quick wash with a cloth in a bowl of warm water, they glow like the deepest amethyst jewels.

Some people are kinda like that too, you know?

With just a little bit of attention, they go from blending in, to shining so bright they cannot help but stand out.

We only have the one dwarf tree, so the processing that comes after the harvesting doesn't take nearly as long as it would if we had a full sized tree, but the pitting and packing for freezing does take a few to several hours depending on the size of the harvest.

This year's crop was smaller than the past two years' worth, so I don't think it'll take me more than a day to get them all cut up and stored in the deep freezer.

I literally do absolutely nothing to take care of my fruit trees. I just let them do their thing. I never remember to prune or spray or what have you, and anyway, it is hard to find them time with my son still being so young. It is pretty dang awesome that for the price of a few hours of processing time, I get enough plums to keep me in cakes and bread and galettes and kutchens all winter long.

As I start diving into my pile of plums tonight, I'm remembering the fair-trade vanilla beans I bought earlier this month, and thinking that some vanilla bean whiskey plum preserves might be in order.

I also have a buttload of mint growing in the yard as well. Mint plum preserves might make a lovely marinade for meats. Hmmmm...

On second thought, maybe I should put processing off until tomorrow, so I can explore all my options a little more. It is the last night of summer vacation, after all. I should probably be savoring it.

Yeah, Imma go with that.