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.