Wednesday, July 30, 2008


it is never too late to become what you always should have been

quote (and variations) widely attributed to George Eliot, though a bit of research suggests this may be a misattribution? If anyone knows, please educate me via the comments, I'd love to hear from you if you know the source.

nonetheless, a good mantra. Embroidered this up for a friend who is struggling with decisions about what path life should take, and how much to sacrifice in the pursuit of the life one feels one should be living, etc. (also, finally found a use for the shadowbox I bought her in Mexico), but I realize it's as much a reminder to myself.

A conversation with my mother (those creatures of infinite comfort and wisdom) last night somehow made me finally hear and really accept what I haven't been able to - that I can't turn my summer into a job application, and that if I keep pushing myself this hard, I'll give myself a creative block. That I ought to be enjoying the fact that I got exactly what I wanted rather than making myself miserable over it.

So I ditched painting and didn't feel guilty. I decided I'll only do one more canvas this year since I really only have three months this summer, what with the long stretch of grading through June and the long stretch of orientations and etc. in September.

Instead, Cass agreed to get some tea with me (I'm attempting to use a tea-dye-bath to tone down some bright plaid flannel that I think would make a fetching fall dress in an empire silhouette). On the way, we stopped (and lingered) at Top Ten Toys, a completely wonderful local toy shop. We fumbled with marionettes, read about Quoridor and Quarto and Skybridge, attacked each other with puppets, looked at books of hand shadows, and I almost, ALMOST purchased a pack of fabric pens for T-shirt experimentation. There was some hemming and hawing and whining when Cass did not share my enthusiasm. I did pick up two little $1.50 books of stencils - those mini Dover booklets, you know? Expect to see one of them in action in the next few days, I have a plan and I'm going to jump on it.

When we got home, we popped open some wine, then tried out Ariel's new coffee drink of choice (chai with a shot of espresso. I have to hand it to her, it's really really good!). We made boxed mac n cheese (Annie's version of the Kraft standby - not as good as Annie's white shells, in my opinion, but definitely high on the comfort-food scale), and watched House DVD's while he drew on car bodies and I embroidered. It was a dark night, threatening to storm, and somehow this was the best, most perfect way to spend it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

serving up comfort on a cool night

thanks to Clareann, who shared her uncle's recipe. Here's my shorthand, with alterations to the original (cos I just can't leave well enough alone!)

In large mixing bowl, place 2 c. warm water. Add 2 tsp salt, 1 Tbl sugar (or honey) and 1 pkg. active dry yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand 5-10 min to allow yeast to foam.

Add 2.5 c. white flour and .5-.75 c. wheat bran. Beat with a whisk until well combined.

Add 1.5-3 c. flour, 1/2 at a time, beating with a wooden spoon to completely incorporate each addition.

Knead for several minutes.

Place in well-greased bowl and let rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk - about an hour. (Really. This was a good little riser, even in my iffy/kinda cool temps.)

Punch down, knead slightly, shape. Place on/in greased pans (note to self: just buy baguette boards, already), and let rise another hour. If that. I put mine in after about 30 min, as they'd swelled remarkably - again, a good little riser!

Bake at 425F for 25-30 min. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

it feels like I never get anything done

quiet. oilbar on (recycled) canvas. 12X15 (ish). 2008.

which, I suppose, is why it's so important to post here - I probably need the record/proof more than any of you care to see what I've been up to. As I type, my sunburnt back is nestled against a large pile of clean laundry that needs folding. The kitchen and bath have NOT been cleaned today (there's still time! there's still time!) and clutter is everywhere (we seriously need to find that entryway table, stat).

So I finished the canvas above and got started on the next, which is a landscape. I also got to a really important home task:

Now, that probably doesn't look like much. But trust me when I say it's about 5' deep. I spent Sunday moving the herbs that had been in the flower bed, then cutting into the turf and deepening the bed (hello, backbreaking labor - and sunburn). Monday I sifted out and removed any remaining plant matter, then worked 6 cubic feet of compost into the bed (hello compound sunburn - my lower back has one of those nasty red "smiles"). It had pretty good soil in most of it, so I figure this should be fine for this season; I'll mulch in late fall and turn and probably mulch again before I lay in another crop in spring.

Today I planted: laid in golden sage (far edges) and silver posy thyme (adjacent), the parsleys (center) and then, from the left edge of the bed just to the parsleys, I put in chard and beets. Tomorrow, I'm going to put radishes behind the parsley (and they should come up just in time to put in one quick fall pea crop) and do carrots, spinach, and kale on the right-hand side. It's rather late in the year to be starting, even for fall harvests, so this is a bit of an experiment and we'll just have to see what comes up.

just for kicks, here's the entrance to my studio. I paint with the french doors open in the afternoons - but not today. My back's too sore, my hand aching from blisters that were bleeding before I noticed them yesterday. It's a bit of a mess out there (my homebase for these gardening projects), but you might be able to make out the light-green leaves on the rose plants - one on either side of the building. They're called "blaze of glory," supposedly a pretty searing orange. The next step will be to put a trellis just over the doors and start training these fellas up and over. I really hope it works - can you even imagine how lovely that would be? To paint with the french doors open and the scent of roses wafting in in the afternoon? I really hope I manage....I've never grown roses before.

and finally, my other fun bit of ... well, fun (for today). My shoes came! I got these with graduation clothes-shopping-spree funds (ah, my parents are lovely people who encourage me to actually enjoy such vices). These shoes (by Remix, no less) were on a neat sale, knocked down to $95 or $99 or somesuch from over $200. I was worried they'd be too wide - and they are a little wide, at the heels (odd), but I'll deal with it. They're darling and I really need more colour on my feet! If you like them, there are only two sizes left: 9 and 10, so hurry along!
truly, are they not fab?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

homecoming, pt. II

I'm back to Seattle after a week in Boise with my family, and it feels like I've only just arrived here from SB again. Part of that was coming home to a house still exactly as I'd left it - the boy didn't exactly finish unpacking those last boxes, and things are still untidy, the curtains not hemmed, the rug hasn't arrived, etc. etc. So, I'm tired, but doggedly keeping at it, while trying to not lose track of my own personal summer goals.

It's mid-July, and the way I figure, I have two weeks to get the soil prepped and an overwintering/late-fall-harvest vegetable garden in the ground. Things like chard and kale and carrots should go in, and I want to do a bit of research to see what else I might manage. So perhaps there will be some gardening posts in the next few weeks - there's certainly plenty to do: paths to weed, dead plants to dig up (and replace?), pruning to do, and plants to move. Plus, one shrub, whose name will come to me, seems to have contracted some kind of blight while I was away, so that's going to demand immediate attention - probably research tonight and action tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me share with you a first project done in the new home, a kind of freeform organic choker. It's not for me, and I'm waiting for some feedback (and would love yours, too - there's still time for me to make changes!) before I settle on it - I'm frequently insecure when crafting for others, I find it very difficult. Anyhow, the necklace is actually hand-cut leather, treated with resin to make it stiffer (and more like vinyl - I realize that I've kind of defeated the purpose of using natural fibers). It's linked together and spangled with glass, freshwater pearl, and semiprecious stone beads, using both silver and base metals.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


moving in means eating out for the first few days, and then we begin to take those first tentative steps and break in the kitchen with first one, then another meal, simple things at first.

One of the very few things I refused to throw out when we left Santa Barbara (and instead, packed on ice in our tiny cooler to travel with us) was a jar of preserved lemons. Those babies aren't cheap, and we'd used all of 1 tsp, chopped, of one. We had a bit of olive tapenade hanging about, so I decided to play a bit in the kitchen, to come up with something to pair with artichokes. The result was so good I want to record it here for you to try - or at least for myself to remember later.

We have here a delightful simple second meal, dishes placed on a new cutting board and balanced over an open (and not yet unpacked) box. Cushions that had been couch cushions have been demoted to the floor, and the cat (who is settling in nicely) takes a bath behind. Oh, and see that yellow bit next to her? I'm learning to knit (again).

Globe artichokes from Trader Joe's, steamed. 1 Tbl butter, melted, each (in ramekins). Finally, a simple rice pilaf: while cooking jasmine rice (1 c. rice, 2 c. water), I added approx 1/3 c. chopped (not too fine) preserved lemon, and about 2 big heaping Tbl black olive tapenade (also Trader Joe's). After the rice had cooked, we fluffed it with a fork and added salt, pepper, perhaps 1 Tbl. olive oil and approx 1/2 c. loosely packed fresh basil leaves, which I had roughly shredded. Stir once more to mix everything together.

voila! Enjoy in your new (or old) home, cardboard boxes optional. =)

Friday, July 4, 2008

a painting break

It's past midnight, but since this is the second time I've been asked this regarding a single painting (and not the first one that has garnered this question), I thought I'd pop in to provide my thoughts on this most fascinating (to me, anyhow) question.

I don't do self-portraits, and I think I have three reasons for this that I can identify right now.

1.) as if my ego needed that kind of self-stroking.

2.) The closer to home, the more difficult the painting. I don't paint family. I do paint friends, but if they are very close friends, they are from photos from the past, or people I haven't seen in a while. There is something elusive about the self, do you know? The closer I get to myself - that is to say, in old friendships, in family and love relationships, the harder it is/would be to paint these people. There is something about what I think I know about them that completely overrides the surrender to observation that I find paint requires of me. I just can't paint them. It actually makes me I am painting strangers, and not those who mean the most to me. But that's just how it is, I can't.

3.) And the last, and possibly most interesting answer, one I'm still working out: I don't do self portraits because every painting is a self portrait. This is how I see it: despite this very real surrender of control to inspiration (and perhaps muscle memory or muscle knowledge, if you'll let me say so), every painting is the work of my hands. Therefore, however little control I feel I have over the work (which is very little. I always feel like I am the medium when I paint, and that the work asserts itself, merely using my hands to manifest. Is this crazy? I can't really explain it in any way that sounds rational, and I've given up trying. It's not a rational experience.), it must be expressing some part of myself. Or even if it's not tapping myself, but tapping something greater than myself, there is a manipulation through my body, which surely must leave its trace on the final work?

So in that way, every painting is an expression somehow of myself. I express myself through what I see in other people.

And then there's this curious issue of similar features. It still surprises me, and I think is incredibly flattering - the women I paint are generally strangers or near-strangers captured in a moment that I find strikingly beautiful, something that moves me. Either I am naturally drawn to women who resemble myself (entirely possible, and I'd bet that psychology has some strong findings to back this up, perhaps something about the familiarity of the structural elements of face that I am instinctively recognizing?), or I am grafting myself onto these faces. Either way, I never see it. Nope. But I have been receiving this question ("Is this a self portrait?") with increasing frequency - and each time, I see my painting with new eyes afterward - oh! she has my nose, or look, my mouth is there. Why is it flattering? Because I paint women that I find beautiful, and to suddenly have others pick me out of that beauty is an incredible compliment. As a woman with some body dysmorphia issues (which, I suspect, is more common than not), this is an incredibly affirming experience, too.

In a way, then, I don't do self-portraits but every painting is a self-portrait, at least a little.

And with that, I must get back to painting! The walls, that is - after two days of cleaning, we left our little apt. sparkling and perfect for the next tenant. We arrived in Seattle to a dirty apt with walls resembling swiss cheese, so riddled were they with the large holes of mollies that had been removed but not filled. It's terribly disappointing, I have to say, but we are plugging away at it, and it is going to be quite the little place in another week or two.