Mini-Explosion of Ideas

A few months back when I flew out to California to visit my sister so we could make holiday cards together, we saw some cute needle felting projects in one of the stores. I mentioned I didn’t know anything about it and I was curious. My sister took note and got me a cute little needle felting kit for Christmas. This weekend I finally got around to using it. I made this funny little pig. I actually kind of love this funny little pig. When I first started the project I thought it was kind of boring and repetitive, but the more the little pig took shape the more delighted I was with the whole process. It started sparking ideas for what other things I could make, and suddenly I had a growing list of ideas. The fun part is that they are not all felting ideas. Creativity does indeed spark creativity. Nice.

New England Style Fish Chowdah’ – Gluten Free & Dairy Free

We had some frozen pieces of Atlantic Cod in the freezer and in the interest of not eating chicken three nights in a row (I made southwestern style chicken and black bean soup on Wednesday and will be making chicken cacciatore tonight) I decided to make some New England style fish chowdah’ (I’m a Masshole, remember). Some complications are that Mike is allergic to dairy proteins, he is celiac, and he doesn’t eat any meat other than chicken. So things like rendering bacon fat, adding flour to make a roux, and then adding milk isn’t possible. I’ve gotten quite good at making adjustments to the types of dishes we both like to eat so that Mike can enjoy them and I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I have to say this was one of my better adjustments.

Quickly, and from memory…

Scrub and cut up into medium size chunks some potatoes. I use the white ones so that I don’t have to bother with peeling them.

Chop up one small or half of a large onion into a medium dice.

Chop up 3-4 ribs of celery.

Use a large soup pot and heat some olive oil up. Saute the onion and celery until they just start to wilt. Add the potatoes and stir again until they are coated in the oil and have begun to heat up. Add just enough chicken stock/broth to cover the potatoes. Add about 1 tablespoon of dried thyme and one large bay leaf (or two small ones). Cover the pot with a tight lid and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the cod and push them down until they are surrounded by liquid. Cover the pot again and simmer for 5-7 minutes more until the fish is tender. About a minute or two before the fish is done you can throw in a cup or so of frozen peas. It isn’t traditional, but I always like to have something green at dinner and in the interest of making a one pot dinner I decided to do so.

Remove the lid and pour in some coconut creamer or soy creamer (So Delicious brand is one we like); not flavored of course. Don’t confuse coconut creamer with canned coconut milk! There is a world of difference in flavor. We absolutely love the coconut one and prefer it over the soy, but its a matter of personal taste. I actually didn’t need to add too much – maybe somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. It is mostly for color and to add a touch of richness.

Turn the heat off and then add some instant potato flakes to the pot and gently stir the chowder until it has reached the desired thickness. I like my chowder thick and I added at least one cup to mine – possibly more. I love having instant potato flakes on hand for thickening soups. There is a really wonderful and natural one that Bob’s Red Mill makes that I am very grateful for. It is simply dehydrated potatoes with no additives. Bob’s products are so widely carried these days you don’t need to go to their store here in Oregon, but it is actually fun to go there if you ever get the chance. He runs a great company and his employees are treated very well. A 16oz bag of potato flakes is $3.59; not too bad.

I Take My Job Perks Where I Can Get ‘Em

Wearing this type of attire to work is definitely a big perk. Again, what a cool boss I have. Hey, I dressed it up with a jacket, right? Honestly, no one has even noticed. It does feel good to not have to dress the way I used to have to when working in the corporate world.

Last night we had one of those blissful day in the life moments where Mike and I were just cuddled up next to each other on the couch. I was playing a game on my iPad and Mike was reading through some of his blogs on his iPhone and our dogs were cuddled up with us too. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to – or take for granted – the peaceful and wonderful little moments in life. I make a point of noticing them. When we moved off the couch to make and eat dinner we got into some fun discussions about this funny idea I had once for a comic book with a female protagonist. Then we got to talking about some fiction I was reading and then joked around about collaborating on writing something together. It was a fun idea and one I am giving some serious thought to. There hasn’t been a lot of  opus going on lately to post about. Well, that might be slightly unfair…

Some projects I have been working on mentally and physically…

Making Hats – Each year Mike and I go out to the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, Oregon (just outside Eugene). Mike has been a volunteer for close to ten years and so I now tag along with him. It’s a wild time filled with costumery, good friends, and fun. I’m not much into wearing costumes and crazy clothes, but it turns out I am into making them. Mike is great because he will wear stuff so I don’t have to. Last year I made him a kilt out of Superman fabric (don’t have a good picture handy). It was a challenging project that took a lot of time but was totally worth it. This year I’m thinking about making hats. Fanciful, wonderful, crazy hats. Hats with horns, glass beads, feathers, lights…all these ideas are percolating. I’ll begin working on them hopefully this weekend.

Cooking – man I’ve been cooking up a storm lately. Maybe my favorite thing so far has been the coconut curry soup with basil lime chicken. So good!

And now I have the writing stuff to think about.

So many ideas, so little time. Which is so much better than no ideas and tons of time. What a nightmare that is!

Torch Work on Saturday

Last Saturday we utilized some open-torch time at Bullseye Glass. I made about fifteen beads and these are the seven I am pleased with. Mike thinks I’m too critical of my work, but in my opinion being satisfied with nearly  50% of anything I make is awesome. I’m quite sure my satisfaction rate with painting is significantly lower. Same goes for the hand made books.

Girls Night In

Tonight Mike and I are splitting up. Not forever, just for the evening. He is going to a comic book signing event and I am headed over to a friend’s new condo in the Pearl district for a girls night in (there will be four of us and her adorable dog Brody). We plan to eat snacks, drink wine, watch Bridesmaids (this will be my 3rd time but one of us is a newbie), and laugh our asses off. I am really looking forward to it.

One of the perks to this girls night is to wear comfortable clothes. I think the word sweatpants was mentioned. Yeah. I am not one of those people who can pull off sweatpants in public. So I have been giving this way more thought than I probably should be.

I created a Polyvore set just for the occasion, and while I don’t have these exact items, I actually do own versions of these things. A side benefit of creating this set made me remember this very cool pair of black cargo-ish pants that are vaguely sweatpanty, but have cute pockets and structure all the while being comfortable.

The weekend is looking like it will be fun but not too overloaded with activities. Friends coming for dinner Saturday night which will put the pressure on to tidy up the house. Sometimes I need the pressure of company to clean. Don’t judge me. I live with two dogs and a man. There is always cleaning to be done. I need to think about what to cook for dinner. I’m feeling like it might need to include mushrooms. I am craving something earthy on this cold and damp day.

Sunday we might meet friends for lunch at a local fish house. That is still in the development phase.

Anyway, it looks like enough plans to keep it interesting but enough downtime to relax and do personal projects and maybe a few errands too.

Hope your weekend is enjoyable!

Canadian Invasion Wrap-up & Catholic Guilt

Did you ever take a vacation from work when it really wasn’t a very good time?

Mike’s parents visiting was really great. We all had such a wonderful time and Mike’s parents got to see him and the new house (even though we have been in it over a year it still feels new). We did Portlandy things. We tried some great restaurants, went to the big Farmers’ Market over at Portland State, and saw Live Wire at the Alberta Rose theatre. We cooked and his dad helped us with weeding. Mike’s mom also picked out some of the glass beads Mike made and we trekked to the local bead store and she bought supplies, brought them home and made a really beautiful bracelet out of them which was beyond flattering and very sweet.

Overhanging the visit, however, was the need to check in with work and manage some time sensitive things. One of which I made a mistake on. Most people handle mistakes with grace, and outwardly I am handling it that way. But my stress levels shot up and internally I am pretty upset. Mike reminded me that I am currently trying to do the work of three people and I should go easy on myself. This is true. I can also remind myself that I originally wrote out a time-line that allowed for my former staff person’s replacement to be intact and trained by her before she left, and that through no fault of mine the time-line was not adhered to. I can also honestly say that trying to work remotely on the types of projects I am working on is not easy given the rather poor quality of the remote systems. It doesn’t really help me feel better though. Why is it that we are so hard on ourselves? I rarely make mistakes and these are weird circumstances, but still I can’t seem to let it go.

I spent the morning fixing it all and have to log back in later today to finish up one more project.

We finally saw Mike’s parents off at the airport and I am doing little things around the house – laundering sheets and towels, loading the dishwasher, snuggling my pup Emma (Serena is on a sleep-over at her other mom’s house), circling the idea of going in my studio to do some preliminary sketches for a painting I am loosely planning, and popping ibuprofen for those vicious cramps that love to present themselves every month.

Tomorrow I have one last vacation day and I have plans to visit with friends in Washington. I feel some guilt for not going back to work when we are so short staffed and busy, but I also know one day won’t make a difference in terms of the work-load and it will make a huge difference in my physical, emotional, and mental health. Guilt is indeed my personal plague. I have to wonder if it is a personal issue I would have struggled with even without the catechism classes I had as a child and young adult, or if I can lay the blame firmly at their feet…

Oh, and the picture at the top of this entry is my first ever fused glass plate, which is how I kicked off my vacation the evening before Mike’s parents flew in. Not bad for a two and a half hour class (90 minutes of instruction, and 60 minutes of constructing the plate itself).

Weekend

It wasn’t an exciting weekend. It was productive, although not the most productive weekend I’ve ever had, but not exciting. At all.

I cleaned the downstairs portion of our house. This was a bigger event than you would imagine since I really haven’t cleaned in about three weeks. For normal people this wouldn’t render the house as gross as ours was, but we have a dirt yard and two dogs so it was quite intense. Like most people I hate cleaning, but I absolutely love having a clean house. I leave the vacuuming for the very end and in the middle of dragging the ridiculously heavy thing all over our house I begin swearing out loud about anything and everything. The dogs pretty much hide while all of this is going on of course; Emma because she is afraid of the vacuum and Serena because it interferes with her napping. I’m also clearly a lunatic so they leave me to it.

Besides the cleaning I managed to finish a small painting I have been sporadically working on for the past 6 weeks. It isn’t a six week kind of painting I was just really slow working on it. It isn’t earth shattering work, but it is interesting and the colors are luminous and I’m feeling pretty content with not only the work itself but with having actually painted something. (I’m so sorry for the horrendously bad photograph – I’d like to tell you that over the next few days I will replace it with a better one, but I’m 99% sure I’m going to be lazy about it so don’t count on it.*)

Other than that I had a shade too much free time and really started thinking about what I am accomplishing in life. I’ve been frustrated lately with feeling like I’m not really doing anything beyond going through the mundane motions of day to day living. I usually have one big long-term goal I’m working towards, but right now I just have a series of small projects going on. This feeling of discontent is good in that it will at least motivate me to keep digging inside of myself to ferret out what that next step in life will be.

In the meantime we are harvesting the last of our tomatoes (there are more than we are prepared for so I have been giving them away to friends and colleagues), and with the cooler weather I am getting excited about cooking again.

Mike’s parent’s are planning to visit this week and we are looking forward to it, but the visit is pending the looming threat of an Air Canada strike. We are keeping our fingers crossed.

*I can promise I will put more of my art work up on here at some point. I recently backed up some old photos on my little G4 laptop and grouped together some photos of my paintings and books so it is a matter of choosing what to put up and then finding the time to post them. Not too big of a project so it shouldn’t take tons of time.

“For Your Age” & Update on the Studio Makeover Project

Last year I had a very significant rite of passage when I visited a specialist for the back pain I have experienced off and on since I have been thirteen (yes, thirteen not thirty). When we looked at pictures of my spine the doctor started off pointing out the areas with problems and then said, “For your age…” and then I really can’t tell you what the heck he said right after that. It is interesting how age creeps up on us. Aside from the physical limitations I’m pretty okay with growing older. However, every time I have a back flare-up I hear that doctor’s voice in my head. The reality of the body breaking down is sometimes a bitter pill. What do you mean I can’t lift heavy furniture anymore?! I’m in the middle of a studio makeover in my house and I just want to get it done!

On Thursday of last week Mike and I and our friend MV went to Ikea to pick up some of the furniture I decided to put in my studio. I barely did any of the lifting but still managed to tweak my back slightly. Then when I got home I decided to straighten out the bedclothes before getting into it and whatever slight movement I made threw things out of whack.

I have a pretty high pain threshold so it didn’t entirely slow me down and on Saturday I still went ahead and began cleaning out my studio, shoving tables and bookcases around, then building the giant wood puzzles (a.k.a. Ikea furniture) to go in the room. I was pretty sore, but was still functioning. Then on Monday I went to work and after sitting in a torture device an office chair for two measly hours I had to go home and was flat on my back with a heating pad for two straight days which was useless and boring and it isn’t any better.  So back to the office chair; it beats being bored.

The studio is coming along a lot more slowly than I want it to. I originally planned to have a day bed in there, but once it was in it dominated the room way too much and so I’m going to put a couch in there instead. I’ve been on the hunt for a couch now since Sunday and I am no closer to making a decision. I found this lovely item from Dania Furniture:

So far this is the front runner, but I am slightly concerned it might be a little big for the space. Mike was great and helped me tape off the floor in the studio to the dimension of the couch to get a sense of the scale, but I am still undecided.

I did take some photos of the room for the “during”  aspect of things. It is so chaotic that I almost want to post them now. But the end result of this makeover will be an organized, streamlined, zen-like room and I think I’ll post all of the photos at the end for more of a a drastic-contrast effect. So stay tuned!