Friday, March 27, 2015

Weekend Reading: Become a Better Person



This weekend's quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is in honor of the struggle, the mess, the hustle, the compassion that gets you up off the couch. Here's your quick and dirty weekend reading list from around the web, guaranteed to make you a better human being.*

Become...

A person with more time: No need to spend hours on the computer looking up recipes. Here's a collection of the best back-of-the-package recipes out there. Take that extra time and go for a walk or dance in your kitchen.


A more joyful person: You cannot watch this video and not feel joy. It's just not possible. Also, you'll build up a whole list of movies you want to watch just for the dance scenes.

A more caring person: It's true what they say - caring for yourself helps you better care for others. And these suggestions for a little literary self-care can help get you there. 

A less troubled person: Let the snapping turtle go. Find a bandage and release your soul. 

An inspired person: Make something new and special. Let these absolutely gorgeous prints inspire you to look at everything as a possible medium to be made into something else. 

A happier person (scientifically!)This isn't just me saying this stuff, folks. It's SCIENCE

*As I've said before, simply reading these articles probably won't make you a better person. But they're interesting, and anyway, I recommend seriously considering whether you're perfect already - just the way you are.


p.s. Thai red curry for your weekend cooking.


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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Messy Shot

not really that messy, but you get the idea

Over the weekend, I walked past my studio and said "Woooh, looks like someone's creating things in there!" Navah laughed, "Is that what we're calling messy these days?"

"When it's in my studio, it is," I smirked.

We both laughed. 

And then I thought about it for the rest of the day. 

When I'm really in my creative space, when I'm painting and scheming and cooking and making things, my home looks like a disaster. The mess is huge - it can spread across multiple rooms. And sometimes I have to leave it like that for a day or four or a week or more while I tend to other things or think about what comes next. 

And thank goodness I have the space (and the understanding spouse) to do that. To make an enormous mess in the name of creating something special. 

That's what I was thinking as I got back to my painting project on the floor of my studio. And as I brushed on the metallic paint, I had this realization. 

My life is messy. I'm always saying that. 

It's messy and disorganized and chaotic and difficult. I'm always trying to figure out some way to add more structure, to contain things, to clean it up. And I'm not just talking about my house or my car or my inbox or my desk. I'm talking about my life. I'm talking about my thoughts and emotions, my behavior, my dreams, and my love. 

I spend so much time wishing it would all make sense. I want to know why I feel what I feel, and I want to be able to turn it off if it doesn't suit me. 

I told my therapist the other day that every time I am feeling upset or experiencing anxiety, my first instinct (and often my only instinct) is to make it go away. Return to neutral. I almost never think This feels terrible, and then just stop and feel terrible. I feel terrible while simultaneously attempting to neaten everything up, to figure out (a) why I feel terrible, and (b) what I need to do to stop feeling terrible, and (c) how quickly I can do that thing. And I'd like to figure all that out in a way that can be summed up in an alphabetized outline.

When my life is messy, my instinct is always to try to clean it up. 

But guess what we're calling messy these days? 

Yep.

The mess is where the creation happens. Not the cleaning up. 

The mess is the indicator. The mess says Work in Progress. The mess says Take Note. Things Are Happening Here.

The mess is being made in the name of creating something special. 

Honor the mess.


p.s. No, I can't.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Painted Clementine Box



It took me forever to give clementines a chance. I've always hated tangerines (still do), and clementines looked way too much like tangerines for my comfort. But one day at work many jobs ago, a coworker offered me a clementine when I said I was hungry and had forgotten to bring an afternoon snack. I didn't want to be rude, so I took it. Of course, it was amazing. 

Now when clementines are in season, I eat at least two of them every day. Maybe four. It depends on how snacky I am and how sweet the particular batch I got is. Some days I feel like they're the only positive element of winter - that and getting to wear chunky sweaters.

Every now and then I buy them in one of those orange netted bags, but usually they're in a wooden box. By the end of the winter, I've thrown away perhaps a dozen of them. They're not recyclable (at least not here), and I feel terrible about it. So I've started to put them to use as storage containers. 

I had a perfect spot for one at the bottom of the new multi-shelf floor lamp in my studio, but it needed to look pretty. So I did a quick paint job, and now it's holding all of my stamping supplies (of which I have a surprising amount) and looking good doing it. 

You may have noticed a theme with my craft projects. For the most part, easy is the name of the game for me. It's not that I don't love more involved projects. It's just that I have a hard time finishing them - they're all in partially completed form in rubbermaid containers in the closet. Whoops.

No need to put this one away for later. You can finish it in an hour, tops. And most of that time is waiting for the paint to dry. 

Materials
Clementine box
2 bottles of craft paint in coordinating colors
paint brush
painters tape 



1. Tape diagonally from corner to corner across each side of the clementine box to mark off the bottom section of the box. 



2. Paint the taped off bottom section with your first paint color. I chose a metallic gold. 



3. Once that has dried, remove the tape and then tape again across the straight line of that gold paint from corner to corner to mark off the top section of the box. 
4. Painted the taped off top section with your second paint color. I chose a soft purple. 
5. Once that has dried, remove the tape and voila! 



Note: You could paint the box all over, then tape off the bottom section and paint that in the coordinating color to save yourself the effort of taping twice. But since the taping doesn't take much time and cuts down on the amount of paint I use, I went that route. 


It fits perfectly on that last shelf of my new lamp and corrals all my stamps and ink pads, which had previously been floating around in a giant bin that had a random assortment of crafty things. Organization win!

p.s. That crocheted bag. The sewing machine. The needlepoint save the date. 

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

5 Things You Can Do Today to Get Out of Your Funk



March can be rough, especially up here in New England where the promise of Spring rings hollow when you're tromping through the snow. If you, like me, are finding yourself knee deep in a classic funk, here are five things you can do today to help move yourself in a more positive direction. I won't call them easy because absolutely nothing is easy when you're in a funk. But these steps are short and straightforward and might give you just the jolt you need.

***

1. Go outside.

I know. It's cold and icy, and the fuzzy socks you're wearing are too thick for your boots. The couch and the blankets are embracing you in one giant soft hug, and they would probably be sad if you left. Also, you were just thinking about maybe doing some dishes. Maybe. And you can't do dishes if you're outside.

I know all of this. Go outside anyway. Look up at the sky. Look down at the ground under your feet. Put the palm of your hand against a tree. Breathe in. Breathe out.

2. Put down the food. 

Do not stop at the gas station for donuts. Shove that jar of peanut butter back into the pantry. And for the love of God, step away from the Cheetos. I'm not bashing the Cheetos - they're delicious. Except when you're eating them day after day after day to fill a void. Any food consumed for the purpose of filling a void tastes like cardboard dipped in nothing sauce. Even Cheetos.

This might be the hardest thing you have to do. Remember how it feels when the bag is empty and your fingers are orange and all you can think about is another bag. Hint: it feels like sh*t and not at all like being satiated.

3. Call a friend. 

Stop pretending that you lost your phone or that you can't hear me over the noise from the nine-thousandth episode of 30 Rock you've watched today. Put down the block of cheese, and dial the number for someone you like. Ask them how their day was, what's been going on with their marriage or their job or their kids or their art or the cute guy they've been obsessing over.

Listen. Listen to something other than the cranky ramblings of your own mind.

4. Dance.

I know. Your legs are sore from walking up and down the stairs to get more peanut butter. And dancing is the absolute last thing you want to do. You're tired - exhausted really - and not interested in anything so rambunctious. You're not even sure you could will your body to move in a happy way.

Maybe you're right. But try this for me anyway. Go into your kitchen (kitchen dancing is the best) and put on your favorite peppy music. No sad stuff. I know you like at least something with a beat. Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift or Sir Mix a Lot or the Four Seasons or the Beastie Boys or your Pitbull Pandora station. Absolutely no Adele. Give yourself ten minutes. No pressure. Just nod your head along to the music. See what happens.

5. Get it done.

Your to-do list is out of control, or else you've just stopped keeping one because honestly, you're so lazy and disorganized that what's the point? Your sink is full of dishes, your bedroom looks like it was robbed by a psychotic clothes whore, your inbox is a disaster, and everything you've ever promised anyone you'd do has fallen through the cracks.

I hear you. You're a complete and total waste of space. But just humor me on this one. Set a timer for 10 minutes. And then go. Don't think. Just do. Make your bed. Answer an email. Wash some dishes. Just for 10 minutes. Then this is the most important part: when the timer dings, pat yourself on the back. Literally reach your arm over your shoulder, pat yourself on the back, and say (out loud), "Hey, good job, you." Go sit back down on the couch or do another 10 minutes. Either way, well done.

***

Above all, be compassionate with yourself. You won't be perfect, and getting out of your funk takes time. Try not to berate yourself if you don't wake up tomorrow morning feeling like a million bucks. Also, one word of caution: when you're in a funk, being compassionate can get a little confusing. What seems like compassion at other times - hey, I had a long week. It's okay if I veg on the couch for 4 hours tonight watching a Friends marathon - might not be compassion when you're in a funk. When you're in a funk, your compassion might need to be a little tougher. Compassion might need to get you up off the couch and outside for a walk because staying there and watching the next episode guarantees you'll stay in that funk.

If you hadn't noticed, I could have titled this post "Dear Katie," but I thought there might be some other folks out there who'd benefit from the same advice I've been trying to give myself. And being nice to people is another thing that can help get you out of your funk. So there you go.

One final note: I'm not a therapist or a medical professional. If you think you may be clinically depressed or could just use someone to talk to, please seek out a therapist. Therapy is for winners.


p.s. Also, maybe you don't have a life that's meant to be gotten together either.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Project Pie: Whole Wheat Maple Apple Pie


Project Pie: I'll be baking 24 pies before Pi Day 2016 to get over my fear of baking pies. And to eat delicious things. You can join me by posting about your pies in the comments or tagging your twitter, instagram, or facebook posts with #projectpie. Make something gooey and delicious!

After I announced my pie-baking intentions last week, I got a super nice email from Elizabeth sharing a pie crust recipe that she promised was "crazy easy." It was so kind of her to send the email ("I figure if you find a recipe that works, share the hell out of it, because sometimes finding good yummy recipes is not always easy."), and it pushed me from thinking about baking another pie to actually baking another pie this weekend. 

And she was right. Crazy easy pie crust - even with whole wheat. 

I went with an apple pie for #2. And here's the thing about apples: I am super picky about apples for eating straight. An apple must be crisp, juicy, and sweet. Not tough or grainy or mealy or tasteless or soft or bitter. I simply won't eat it. And this time of year can be a little rough on that front. My favorites are Honey Crisp and Pink Lady, but those are difficult to come by. What I see a lot of are big bags of apples that I don't really love to eat - Macintosh, Macoun, Empire. Generally not good for eating (in my opinion), especially when they've been stored since the Fall, but they are excellent for cooking. 

Those bagged apples were just begging me to make an apple pie. 

And thank goodness because apple pie is freaking delicious. I forgot a little bit until my taste buds reminded me. 

Of course everything we make in this house is a little bit wacky, so our apple pie has a 100% whole wheat pie crust (delicious) and is sweetened with maple syrup and coconut palm sugar (also delicious) and no refined sugars. But I would happily feed it to guests with no food restrictions. It's that's good. 

Navah proclaimed it the best thing I've ever baked. 


Maple Apple Pie (whole wheat, without refined sugar)

100% Whole Wheat Crust


2.5 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
2 sticks (or 1 cup) butter or margarine (I used earth balance)
2 ounces cold water
2 ounces vodka

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 
2. Cut your butter into chunks (best if they're not all uniform in size) and put in the freezer for at least 10 minutes.
3. Add the flour and butter to your food processor and pulse 8-10 times, or until the mixture looks a little crumbly. Stop before it starts to look like cornmeal. You want some different sized buttery chunks. 
4. Pour in the water and vodka and pulse again 8-10 times until the dough starts to come together. Stop before it forms a big ball. 
5. Take the dough out of the food processor. It should all stick together at this point. Separate the dough into two equal chunks. Using a rolling pin, roll out 1 chunk of dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about an inch wider than your pie plate all the way around. 
6. Pick the crust up by rolling it onto your rolling pin and place it into your pie plate. Cut off any excess around the edges and put the crust into the refrigerator to chill while you make the apple filling. 
7. Wrap the other chunk of dough in saran wrap and put into the refrigerator. 

Maple Apple Filling

5-6 apples (I used Macintosh)
1 tablespoon butter or margarine (again, I used earth balance)
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Peel and cut up the apples - I used a simple corer/slicer and then cut each slice two more times lengthwise. 
2. Put the apples into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 5-6 minutes. 
3. Drain the liquid from the apples and then add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until incorporated. 

Putting the pie together

1. Pour the apple mixture into your chilled pie crust. 
2. Roll out your second chunk of dough until it's about 1/8 inch thick and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. 
3. Place the shapes onto the pie crust in a pattern that suits your fancy. 
4. Bake the pie at 375 degrees for 1 hour. If the edges start to brown or burn, use tin foil to cover them and continue cooking. 
5. Serve warm. 


As you can see from the pictures, I'm not perfect at pie crust making - the edges of my crust don't go over the edge of the pie plate. I underestimated how much crust (and how many apples) I would need to fill up the deep dish pie pan. But the idea here was to bake more pies and to stop feeling intimidated, not to be perfect. Remember the rules?

1. Make some pies.
2. Don't cry if they're not perfect.

Anyone else out there baking a pie this week? What kind? I need ideas for pie #3!

p.s. This vegan apple crisp is another great way to use those bagged apples.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Weekend Reading: Become a Better Person



Here's your quick and dirty weekend reading list from around the web, guaranteed to make you a better human being.*

Become...

A more inspired person: This is my favorite article ever, or at least this week. Never give up. Ever. 

A healthier person: Reconnect with your inner child and eat some fish sticks, but don't leave out your inner adult - make this baked salmon version

A believerIn love. In fate. In things working out according to some miraculous plan. 

A more grateful + compassionate personIn the grand scheme of things, you're kind of killing it at life. Say thanks and give yourself a break.

A more giggly person: No one will judge you if you watch this once every hour for the next few days. 

A more actualized person: Harness your energy. Know your own mind. 

*As I've said before, simply reading these articles probably won't make you a better person. But they're interesting, and anyway, I recommend seriously considering whether you're perfect already - just the way you are.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wooden Over-the-Door Sign Tutorial



I'm love love loving my THIS IS THE DAY wooden sign. I feel like it's cheering me on as I get ready for work in the morning. 

It was super easy to make, and I'm guessing there's a door in your house that could use a little up top decorating. So here's a quick and dirty tutorial to make your own over-the-door painted wooden sign. (I was inspired by this gorgeous table project from Domestic Imperfection.)



Materials
1 x 4 wood cut to width of doorway (mine was cedar cut to 2 ft)
White craft paint 
Paint brush 
Wood stain in color of your choice
Foam brush 
Paper towel
Printer 
Tape
Paper cutter or scissors 
Power sander or sandpaper 
Carbon tracing paper
Large sawtooth hanger

1. Lightly sand your wood board, either with sandpaper or a power sander. This doesn't need to be perfect. Just remove the rough edges.

2. On your computer, type out the words you want on your sign and choose a font. Increase the size so that the letters are slightly less than 4 inches tall and will fit lengthwise across your board. Because I was trying to save paper and not do a bunch of trial and error printing, I set my page view to 100% and put a ruler right up to the computer screen. 

3. Print out your words and cut off excess paper. Getting your cuts nice and straight at this stage will make things easier in the next step. I used a paper cutter. 

4. Tape the words together, leaving appropriate space in between words and then tape the whole phrase down to your board just on the two short sides. Because my paper edges were straight and even, I was able to line them against the edge of the board to make sure the phrase would be straight. Center the phrase by measuring the distance from the short edges. 

5. Slide your transfer paper underneath the printed paper taped to your board so that there is a layer of transfer paper between every letter and the wood board. (And please take note of my awesome vintage carbon tracing paper, a gift from my stepmom.)



6. With a pen or pencil, carefully trace around the edges of all the letters. When you're finished, remove the papers and transfer paper, and you should have transferred an outline of the phrase onto your board.



7. With your white paint and paint brush, fill in the outlines of all your letters. You may need multiple coats. Allow the paint to dry as long as necessary, according to the instructions on the bottle. 

8. Once the paint is dry, cover your work surface and brush your stain onto the board with the foam brush. Allowing coats to dry slightly in between applications, brush on stain as many times as necessary to achieve your desired color. 



9. Once the stain has dried, find the middle of the board and attach the sawtooth hanger. 


10. Hang in a perfect spot over your door. 


p.s. I love this almost as much as my needlepoint save the date, and this sign was way less time-consuming.

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