Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Scraping Bottom

Art Journal collage, August 2014
I'm down to the last couple of images of recent work to upload here.  That alone is reason to start making art again.  Remember when I posted here everyday or nearly?  I was way more productive.  Not that that matters, really.  It's just a fact.

I'm making my semi-monthly trek into Eureka today for food shopping and other errands.  I'm also having lunch with one artist friend and later, coffee with another.  Yesterday I went to the Humboldt County Fair with another friend, and we listened to yet another friend and her partner play Hawaiian music.  Good friends, good times.  I'll be ready for my solitude again tomorrow, I'm sure.

And I do plan to be creative again, beginning later this week.

Have a great week.  xoxo

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back To The Future

And now, back to our irregularly scheduled programming...

Here's my new coordinated set of Gelli printing plates ~~ 4x6, 5x7, 6x6, 3x6, and 4x12.  They're a set because they used to be one 12x14 inch plate.  I never did much with that huge printing plate anyway.  Gelli, as you may know, has recently started selling several small-sized plates that I definitely wasn't going to spend even more money on.  So...you do the math.  I think the likelihood of my using any or all of these smaller plates is far greater than my ever using the huge plate again.  (I still have my original 8x10 inch plate.)

Here's what I did:  I used an Omnigrip ruler (one of those used for making cuts on fabric for quilting), and a sharp craft knife.  The gelli stuff was especially hard to cut at the top and bottom ends of my incisions, and I'm afraid I didn't do as clean a job as I would have liked.  I figured that if I really use one of those small sizes a lot and the slightly uneven edge bothers me, then perhaps I'd buy one that size!  I've already had a couple comments asking to know what I did, so here it is.

I actually feel a few minor stirrings of inspiration to Gelli print again...but then, I feel that way about several things at the moment.  Meanwhile, it's a lot easier to just lie down and read a book.

I'll be taking a book making class in September from one of our local NorBAG members.  Looking forward to that.  I've also wanted to do some Jude Hill-inspired hand stitching for quite a while, so will likely enroll in one of her online classes before August is out (all her classes are on sale this month).

Have a great weekend.  xoxo

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Long Story Short

A couple days into that writing project, and I began to get depressed...

Here's the deal:  Few of you know that I've already done that depth work on my past ~~ the introspective writing and Progoff Intensive Journaling (separate from all that other journaling I did), a few years in non-substance abuse 12-step programs, several bouts of therapy, and countless personal growth workshops.

I can't go back there again.  It's history.

Robin Williams' suicide has really gotten to me.  First off, I still can't quite believe it.  Here's this guy we all loved, and nobody really knew how much he was hurting inside.  The thing is, we've all been damaged in some way, everybody is suffering.  My early difficulties are no worse than anyone else's, and not nearly as bad as a lot of folks'.

I spent the better part of my adult life dealing with the hand I was dealt, and not dealing well at all in some respects.  But here I am, and I suspect I'm a better person now because of my past than I might have been if I'd had it easier from the get-go.

I will, though, give you a synopsis of my life in a nutshell ~~
  • My childhood and adolescence were difficult and painful.  My mother was insane.
  • I responded by trying to run away from the past, for nearly 20 years.  
  • Those years included two marriages and a third major relationship; physical moves from Santa Cruz to Maui to Boulder and back to Santa Cruz; numerous jobs with increasing levels of responsibility that I was always good at but which were never a good fit for me, alternating with times of creative enterprise in one form of another; other travels; and all that personal growth work mentioned above.
  • I made a lot of mistakes because I had had no guidance.  Those mistakes, though, were really nothing more than major errors of judgment.  I was never clinically depressed, I was never in trouble with the law, I didn't become an alcoholic or drug abuser, I hurt no one but, ultimately, myself.  I didn't know any better.
  • It took me a further 20 years or so to build a new life for myself.  I continued to do personal growth work during these years, made a few more physical moves,and had several more jobs of the same ilk while being as creative as I could be all at the same time.
  • I survived.  I lived to tell the story.  I'm better off now for all the shit and hard times I went through.

C'est la vie.

About four years ago, all the pieces of my life fell into place.  I'm settled, I'm happy, I don't work anymore, everything in my life is just the way I want it to be.  I love myself, I'm happy with who I've become ~~ which is really who I was to begin with ~~ and there's nothing else I need or want.

I'm still grateful, though, to those of you who suggested I write further about my life.  What you've really done is kicked me in the butt to let the past go and move on.  Many thanks.  xoxo

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shift Happens

I'm writing now.  I'm writing to tell the story of my life, and I'm writing to get my life back.

I wrote most of the weekend.  I've committed myself to writing my life.  I've made it my primary occupation until it's complete.  It might be the most important thing I ever do. 

I am very grateful to those of you who suggested that I do this, and for your encouraging words.  Buddhists say, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."  The timing is perfect.

I've already begun to notice an influx of energy, a kind of excitement actually.  I'm sleeping even less well now.  I wake up a couple times during the night wanting to write more.  And the more I do write, the more I remember.  And the clearer it becomes to me how all the earlier pieces of my life fit together.

I love to write.  I've been keeping a writing journal in one form or another, most of the time, for going on 50 years.  In many regards, journaling all these years has also been the telling of my life story, but from another perspective.  Perhaps the difference is that a large part of my journals portrays me as a victim.  Whereas writing my memoirs puts me in the role of protagonist in my own life story.  Big difference.  I suspect this shift in perspective is where my new-found energy is coming from.

This whole enterprise is a big deal for me.  I have to repeatedly remind myself that my life has been different from most people's, certainly from anybody I know personally or have come into social contact with during my lifetime.  (Yet even as I'm writing this, right now, I'm mentally comparing my life to what we see of the lives of people who are far more disadvantaged than I was...and thinking, "What right do I have to complain?")

Here are a few major themes from my life story ~~
  • My mother was insane; she wasn't a mother for me at all.
  • I came of age with a laundry list of neuroses that had been dumped on me.
  • I made a lot of mistakes in raising myself.  Essentially, I had to undo everything I was brought up with before I could start to build afresh.  Consequently I was, and always have been, a late bloomer.
  • I basically never had any help, financial, moral or otherwise, from any person in my life who might have been considered a mentor or guide.
  • And yet...there's a happy ending.
I'll leave you with that.  Have a great week!  Thanks for reading, thanks for being there.  xoxo

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Historical Review

I thought it would be interesting to see all my completed art journals together at one time.  And here they are, all 15 of them.  In these two images are art journals, a travel journal, and four shabby daybook journals.  Not bad for two years' work.

The pile below shows artist books I've done in that time.  Artist books are books in which the book itself is the content, i.e. not meant to be written in as a journal, once the book is complete.  There are 25 here, including the twelve Valentine minibooks I made in 2013, and six fabric books.

Plus, I have at least a dozen hand bound hardcover journals I haven't used yet.  I like to take a big-picture view of things occasionally, especially when I'm feeling as though I don't produce enough stuff.

I've actually begun work on my memoirs.  It's going to take a while but at least I've begun.  I notice that I keep wanting to edit out some of the most difficult parts, in my mind.  But I keep reminding myself that I am, essentially and most importantly, writing this for myself.  I already spent so much of my life varnishing over the truth...I can't, I won't do that anymore.  Even if I'm the only person who subsequently reads this, I suspect writing it might be the vehicle that enables me to finally let it go.  Lord knows I've been carrying this stuff around in my head and heart for a lifetime.

Have a great weekend.  xo

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The End of Creative Days

This is my latest shabby-style daybook, Creative Days, completed over the weekend.

These shabby journals are a real hodge podge of disparate elements.  I think that's what I like about them so much.

I've read a few really great books recently...

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng.  Her debut novel from this year.  Really terrific.
My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki's debut novel, from 1999.  Really loved it. 
The Good Daughters, another wonderful book by Joyce Maynard.

I'm in a bit of a creative lull.  There are a couple ideas percolating, but I'm not sure what to do next.

Meanwhile, I've been sleeping a lot, although not especially well at night.  Which is fine.  I've been enjoying luscious afternoon naps most days, cozy on the couch, watching the breeze wafting the ikat cloth I use for a curtain across my front room window.

Hope you're having a good week.  xo










Monday, August 4, 2014

Cheesecake Science

I finally did it ~ late last week I baked the perfect cheesecake.  I feel like I really accomplished something.

Recipe and tips below, as well as links to the two articles I read that I feel are indispensable if you're serious about baking a perfect cheesecake.
PERFECT LEMON CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

Crust:
1-3/4 cups finely ground graham crackers
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
1 pound cream cheese, 2 (8-oz) packages
1 cup organic cane sugar
3 eggs
1-1/2 pint sour cream
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Take all cold ingredients (cheeses, eggs) out of the refrigerator a couple hours before making cake.  Remove cardboard and foil from cream cheese.  These ingredients need to be at room temperature.

When you're ready to start making cake, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Crust:  In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients for the crust with a fork until evenly moistened.  Pour the crumb mixture into a springform pan and, using a glass tumbler, press the crumbs down onto the base and about 1-1/2 inches up the sides.  Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

Filling:  In a glass bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer on low speed for about a minute until cheese is smooth.  Add sugar and beat on low until mixture is smooth and free of lumps.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just mixed in well.  Add sour cream, continuing to beat on low.  Then add zest and vanilla.  The batter should be well mixed but not overbeaten (i.e. no bubbles).  Keep beater on low the whole time.

Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  Put pan on a cookie sheet.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  Then turn the oven off but let the cake remain in the oven for an additional hour.

If you bake it as suggested just above, you shouldn't need to test for doneness.  Once you've put the cake in the oven at 325 degrees, don't open the oven door until the entire "baking and cooling in oven with heat off" process is complete.

Remove cake from oven.  Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake to loosen.  Let cake cool on wire rack, still in the pan, until completely cool.

Leave in pan, cover with plastic or foil, and refrigerate for 12 - 24 hours before eating.  Remove sides of springform pan just before serving cake.

Slice the cheesecake with a thin, non-serated knife that has been run under hot water, then wiped dry.  Do this prior to each cut into the cake.  Once you put the knife into the cake, pull it out straight toward you.

Serve cake with topping of your choice, if desired.  Personally I'd rather eat cheesecake plain, so I can enjoy the tangy-sweet taste and the velvety texture just as it is. 


INDISPENSABLE TIPS

Cold ingredients need to be used at room temperature.  Take them out of the refrigerator well before you make the cheesecake.  Most recipes say 20 - 30 minutes, but I've found that isn't long enough, especially for the cream cheese.  Make it a couple hours to be safe.

Do not overbeat the filling.  Excessive beating creates too many air pockets which can cause the cheesecake to puff up too much during baking, and then crack during the cooling process.

Cheesecakes are just custards made with cream cheese instead of milk.  Once I grasped this concept, the idea of baking in a slow oven for a long time made perfect sense.  Bake the cheesecake as suggested in the recipe above.   Or, you can use the "bain-marie" process (described in the links I've included below), if you prefer. 

If the ingredients are too cold, if the filling is overbeaten, if the cheesecake is baked at too high a temperature or not cooked long enough ~~ any or all of these things will disrupt the fragile protein chemistry that takes place between the eggs and cheeses.

Cheesecake Hints and Tips ~~ http://thebakingpan.com/cheesecake-hints-and-tips/

Cheesecake 101 ~~ http://www.finecooking.com/articles/cheesecake-101.aspx?pg=1

BON APPETIT!

Here's the recipe in PDF format ~~ I just learned how to create a PDF to upload to the blog, so hope it works!  PERFECT LEMON CHEESECAKE

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hot Potato

"People are fed by the Food Industry, which pays no attention to health, and treated by the Health Industry, which pays no attention to food." ~~ Wendell Berry


A conversation about food, today, is the new conversation about religion or politics.  Something you can't do in mixed company, save at your peril.  Everybody has something in the domain of food that they're attached to or addicted to, something they feel they have a god-given right to eat, and notions about food and where it comes from that they are hidebound to change...even if it kills them.

The topic of food has become a huge conundrum.  It simply can't be discussed, though, without considering how integrally entwined it has become with all aspects of our lives.  After reading this post, you'll have to make your own decisions about what to eat.  But make those decisions informed ones.  That's my goal here.

There's an ever-deepening economic connection between the Food Industry, the Pharmaceutical Industry, the Medical Industry, Industrial Agriculture, the Insurance Industry, even the Financial Industry, the government and the media.  They're all owned by a handful of corporations.  Corporations whose only goals are greed, power and control worldwide.  This is Corporate America, the System.  It doesn't exist for your benefit, it doesn't exist to keep you healthy and happy, it doesn't exist to help you achieve the American dream.  It exists to profit its executives and shareholders.  Its mouthpiece is the mainstream media, whose role is to lie to the public, to obfuscate and confuse, to distract us from what's really happening with mind-numbing garbage 24/7, to make people believe they have no choice but to trust the System.  Think: Big Brother.

Whatever message the System wants to put forth, that's what you'll hear via all the media outlets: TV, radio, billboards, magazine and newspaper ads, spam emails and online ads (you even hear ads now while you wait for your cellphone number to be dialed), etc.  What you won't hear is the truth, about anything ~~ the real story, what's really happening in this country, the information you actually do need to make informed decisions about anything.  The System doesn't want you to be informed.  It wants you to be like a mushroom ~~ kept in the dark and fed bullshit.  Because if you do know the truth, the System loses.

Nearly all the food that's available now in this country is being and has been adulterated...for 30 or 40 years at least.  And it keeps getting worse.  In America, up to 95 percent of cattle routinely receive growth hormones, anabolic steroids and antibiotics, and animal feed is laced with herbicides, pesticides and insecticides.  Most beef cattle are raised in feedlots.  Commercial chicken operations and pig farms are no different.  All commercial vegetable and fruit farming relies heavily on herbicides, pesticides and insecticides, and now most, if not all, large industrial crops (corn, soybeans, sugar beets...) are genetically modified.  All of these toxins are systemic in the animal, vegetable or fruit ~~ they cannot be simply washed off.

Toxins and genetically modified organisms in commercial food are the cause of stomach, colorectal and other cancers, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, cardiovascular and countless other diseases, as well as lowered sperm counts and fertility rates, rising resistance to antibiotics, astonishingly high rates of food allergies, and child and adult behavioral disorders.  "You are what you eat."  What you eat is directly related to chronic illness.   Chronic illness is directly related to the need for expensive medical care and pharmaceuticals.  The ever-rising costs of medical care and drugs are directly related to the ever-rising cost of health insurance.

So who's benefiting?  Corporate America.  Think about that. 

Anything that comes from the government about what to eat or not, is disinformation, all based on corporate-sponsored research.  Any time the System tells you there's no conclusive evidence for a link between thus and such, that's disinformation.  Any time the System downplays the effects of toxins in the food supply or the environment, that's disinformation.  You simply cannot trust the System to tell you the truth.

If you don't manage your own health, if you mistakenly believe the System will provide you with healthy food, if you rely on the System to "heal" you when you get sick, you will never get ahead of the game.  And it is a game.  You have to learn how to play strategically, for your own benefit. 

This is what I think a person needs to do to stay healthy in the early 21st century ~~

  • Stay away from all meats, including seafood.  The oceans are polluted now and even fish is being factory farmed.
  • Eat as much organic food as possible.
  • Make your own, whatever it is, so you have control over the ingredients.  In other words, stay away from buying ready made food unless you know exactly where it came from; make things from scratch.
  • Stay away from sodas entirely.  All sodas consist of high fructose corn syrup and carbonated water.  Diet sodas are the worst because they contain carcinogenic aspartame.  Energy drinks can be lethal, with the addition of very high levels of caffeine.
  • Use organic cane sugar or honey or maple syrup to sweeten foods.  NEVER use sugar substitutes, they are known killers.  And agave syrup, a recent introduction to the realm of sweeteners:  it's worse than high fructose corn syrup.
  • Stay away from all fast food.  It's not even food.
  • Read labels.  If food has stuff in it you can't pronounce, stay away from it.
  • Refuse to watch television.  If food has to be advertised, stay away from it.  Do not ask your doctor about drugs advertised on TV or in magazines.
  • Refuse to read mass media magazines.  Far more pages in every issue are devoted to advertising drugs and non-foods than to magazine content.
  • Refuse to be the mindless consumer the System wants you to be.
  • Know what's in the food you buy.  Become an informed shopper.  Be vigilant.
  • Practice self care.  If you have a problem, investigate.  If it's something within your power to resolve without having to go to the doctor, then do so.  Empower yourself.
  • Research herbal and homeopathic remedies instead of relying on pharmaceuticals. Refuse to take drugs unless you absolutely have to.  Think about the potential for adverse reactions to drugs and the possibly lethal combinations of drugs that many people take.
  • Look into alternative healing modalities when you have a problem ~~ chiropractic, acupuncture, etc.
  • Refuse to take your doctor's word for everything.  Doctors know a lot less than people give them credit for.  Become an advocate for your own health care.
  • Listen to your body.  Do the research.  Think for yourself. 

In closing, I want to say that I am no saint when it comes to eating.  I've been all over the map in my adult life with weight gain and loss, diets, and different eating lifestyles (vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic).  From here on out I will be a lacto/ovo vegetarian, meaning I eat dairy products and eggs.  I'll never eat meat again, this I can say with certainty.  I have other reasons to not eat animals, besides toxicity.  Over the last few years, as I've gotten farther away from eating "bad" foods, my body has become vastly more sensitive.  So that when I do ingest something nasty, my body will react with an allergic response, as it did with achy joints recently following white sugar consumption.

Healthy eating is a journey, not a destination.  It's never too late to begin.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fully Vested

Some of you might remember this jacket, when it was a jacket that is, from three years ago, when I replaced the sleeve linings and covered over the lining on the center back with eco dyed fabric so the original flannel lining wouldn't show.

Yesterday it got remade into a vest.  I've wanted a non-fleece vest for years.  Yesterday morning, thinking it would be nice to have a non-fleece vest to wear on my walk, and then thinking how neat it would be to just cut the sleeves off one of my men's shirts, and then finding this jacket in my closet, still not worn since I replaced parts of the lining three years ago...less than two hours later I had the vest of my dreams.

A few of you have expressed interest in hearing what I have to say about food.  I'm planning that post for this Saturday.  It's also been suggested by several readers that I write my autobiography.  I'm not sure that I'm up for that ~ I'll need to think about it.  But I really do appreciate all your support and encouragement of my more personal posts.  And I'm loving your comments, as always.

Happy rest of the week.  xo