And Now for Something Completely Different

I am definitely not a foodie and if you know me personally, you might be surprised to find me writing a post about food.  On any given day I would rather scrub every floor in my house with a toothbrush than think about the answer to that dreaded question “What’s for dinner?”

I haven’t always been like this. There was a time when I’d put more effort into meal planning and prepping. Having small children who demand to be fed forces you to prepare decent and nutritious meals at least once a day. But over the last several years, my aversion to cooking has reached an all time high, if it gets much worse, I think we’ll be left to forage for crumbs in the sofa cushions soon.

I wish I enjoyed cooking, but I just don’t. I can’t even fake it. I envy friends who not only serve up delightful meals, but find great joy and excitement in doing so. Dishes so inspiring and delicious! The look on my husbands face as he bites into a flavorful morsel… I see him glance at me from across the table, he sheepishly says “Wow, that’s good.” I know he wants to spare me any embarrassment, but I feel ashamed. To hide my guilt, I usually turn the dinner party conversation to the tragic, sometimes funny, stories of my kitchen fiascos. I leave the party vowing to never again serve a haphazardly thrown together last-minute meal. He deserves better.

But my enthusiasm and aspirations quickly diminish as my friend goes on to tell me how easy the dish was to prepare…”OH, it’s so easy! You just sauté some garlic, set that aside, chop up some lemon grass, set that aside, then you…” I don’t remember exactly, after the third step I sort of lost interest. I not only lose interest… I want to run away kicking and screaming, “NO YOU CAN’T MAKE ME DO THIS!!!” I mean really? More than 3 steps??? The only thing that should come after “you just” is “add water”. So, there goes my best intentions for preparing anything close to fabulous meals. What is wrong with me?

Dinner time frustration finally came to an all time high a few weeks ago as I hunted around for something to boil and serve when my husband suggested we try having meals delivered.  OH JOY! REALLY??? I was so excited, I had thought of the idea myself, almost nightly, but it just seemed a little ….extravagant? Lazy? I immediately tossed the can opener aside and headed to the computer. If I hurried, perhaps I could get a meal delivered TONIGHT? No such luck… but I did a little research on meal delivery services, if you can call reading one review research, and since we knew people who used and were happy with Blue Apron, we decided to go with that.

Sadly, we’d have to wait a week for the service to start. What were we supposed to do until then? Starve?

Finally, after a week of anticipation the day finally arrived. There wasn’t a more glorious sight than seeing that little box waiting for me as I pulled up in the driveway.

I opened the box.  DSC_0712 3

I have to admit, I was more excited about the actual box than its contents. The thought of having at least three meals right there in front of me, along with instruction cards, was reassuring. Even if I was a slightly doubtful this was three whole meals for two adult people. But hey, what do I know? The folks at Blue Apron are the professionals.

I tried to be positive. It was a Wednesday, a busy day for me, so I started cooking at about 6pm. It was also a very hot day, too hot to cook. The heat always zaps my appetite and I would have been happy to have eaten a few crackers and some cheese for dinner, but I couldn’t bag out on the first day. Where was my gratitude? My sense of adventure? I tried to convince myself this would be fun. Having all the ingredients right there along with the recipes would reduce some of the guess-work and make this more enjoyable. More joy, less stress. I might even learn something about spices and seasonings.

Day 1-Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches
I decided to go for what looked the easiest. I’d like to say it was good, I’m sure it was delicious, but the hot weather and my less than upbeat mood made it hard to enjoy the meal. Plus, I am not a big meat-eater, and I found the meal too heavy for such a hot day. I should have opted for the seared salmon.

I considered day one to be only somewhat successful. I managed to get a meal on the table. I can’t say I felt very enthusiastic about it.

DSC_0713 2

Day 2 – Curry Spiced Chicken Thighs
 I managed to suffer through it and made a really tasty meal that could have fed a mouse.

Day 3 – Seared Salmon
Well, by now, I was just a little over all the chopping of onions, zesting of lemons and  peeling of garlic… but I could do this, even though it was still too hot to cook and I got a late start on the meal again. 

Day two and day three were about as successful as day one. I still lacked enthusiasm. I managed to fumble through the first week of meals and tried not to complain too much.

I was less excited about our second delivery. I was thrilled to see the box there waiting for me, but I was also filled with just a little dread about what I’d find inside. Oh Well…

Day 4 – pan Seared Cod with Basmati Rice
This day seriously made me rethink the idea of ordering food I have to cook. It was stressful. I was trying to juggle getting the basmati rice cooked, but not overcooked while I chopped veggies, deseeded lemons and sautéed snow peas to a nice bright green.The heat only added to my stress level – that and trying to include a 16 month old in on the cooking session, I forgot 16 months is still just a little young to actually be considered helpful, especially at chopping vegetables. How in the world did I ever manage as a mother? Really – I used to cook, clean take care of kids – – and did it all quite well. Where is that woman?

Day 5 didn’t happen. It looked complicated. And it was too hot to cook.

And the rest of the days are somewhat of a blur.

I have to say, after 3 weeks, it was time to cut the Blue Apron strings.

Over all lessons and Critique

Here is a sampling of the meals we had delivered over the course of the month….ALL very tasty. I have no complaints about the quality or flavor of the food.

blue apron

At first glance it appears the meals can be prepared in just six steps, which is really four too many.  However, I quickly found each set of steps involved two or more steps. This is where I learned my very first lesson: recipes are deceiving. Aside from that little fact, I also learned a few other things:

2- Follow the recipe and don’t alter it in any way – like omitting key ingredients that seem insignificant. I always figured if a recipe calls for a minuscule amount of something, how important can it be? Maybe pretty important.

3- Ghee isn’t just a uniform you wear in Karate class. That would be a gi.

4- There is a difference between a shallot and a green onion. Not only that, some people think the difference is so wide, an average onion should never be used as a substitute for a shallot. Whatever… (should I refer back to lesson 2?)

5- Sorrel is not just the color of a horse.

6- We may be extreme over eaters – I am always blown away (and a little disgusted) by the portion sizes I see served in restaurants. I find it easy to share a meal with a friend or two. But the meals from Blue Apron had me questioning my eating habits and ideas about portion size. Perhaps one cup of barley and two asparagus spears IS a full meal.

7- Lemon zest is a staple ingredient for just about any recipe, though only a small amount is used, don’t omit it.

Overall, we were satisfied with the quality of the food and variety of the menu. My main complaint, other than having to cook every meal, would be that the portion sizes were very small.  I think for a single person who enjoys cooking, but has little time to plan and shop, this is a very good service at an affordable price.

About the price:  I’m certain the meals would have cost more had I gone out and bought all the ingredients. True, some of those ingredients wouldn’t be purchased every week and would just be added to my spice cabinet, which currently consist of cinnamon, Old Bay and cream of tartar. The cinnamon and cream of tartar were purchased for a craft project (go figure). But the meats and vegetables alone may have added up to more than $60.00 a week, especially if I had purchased enough to make a filling meal for each of us. However, when feeding more than two people, the price of the service goes up and I am not sure this would be a cost-effective way to feed a family, or anyone with a hearty appetite. Not recommended for lumberjacks.

So there you have it, my adventure into the world of the culinary arts.  It lasted about all of a month. I’ve come to accept the fact that I do not enjoy cooking and never will. I remind myself  my husband didn’t marry me for my cooking skills – he could have taken the high road after the first meal I made him (steak and kidney pie) – don’t ask… basically he grew up in Scotland and always went on about missing steak and kidney pie, so I surprised him with my home-made version. Yep- he should have known right then and there.

And now, I am off to hunt for tonight’s meal – unfortunately, the dog may have beaten me to the sofa.

She’s a Catch…

twistnpout:

Happy Friday!

Originally posted on Twisted Elliot:

I posted recently about the kokeshi dolls I have been making. The ideas keep coming. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with ideas. To the point where you really get nothing accomplished. It’s important to do one thing at a time. Get organized, make a list and get to work. Yes, it is important to make lists and check them twice. If I didn’t I’d never get anything done.

I wish I could take my own advice. As I type this I realize I have a few commitments coming up and I need to get on the ball with these dolls and the tins. As well as the blogging and photographing and other things I am forgetting.  I am feeling just a little overwhelmed because the ideas and orders keep coming in. This is a good thing right?

I thought I would share the latest creation here with you, I…

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All Doweled Up

I found some dowels and bun style armoire feet in the garage the other day. I decided to make kokeshi dolls out of them. Or, scroll dolls in this case.

spring kokeshi  doll Collage

That was so much fun, I decided to buy a few more dowels and feet and make more.

creepy kokeshi Collage

raven kokeshi doll

And then I had a crazy idea of what to do with my itty bitty paper scraps.

kokeshi peg people

Incase you are wondering, scroll dolls are referred to as Sayonara dolls. They are scrolls – and are generally presented to a person as a goodbye gift – the doll gets passed around to friends/coworkers who sign it and offer sentimental phrases about how sorry they are to see you go… but they are also presented at special occasions such as weddings, graduations… you get the point. I think they are a more interesting alternative to a boring old American style card. Don’t you?

As for the peg dolls, I decided not to make scrolls out of them – for right now.

Now I am off to find my sense of humor, which seems to be hiding from me these days.

Hope Untarnished

I thought I’d ease into my new-found interest in paper cutting by creating the piece here. When I say ease in, I mean this isn’t exactly what I would consider a true paper cutting. I simply cut out the flowers from decorative paper with scissors. The small, detailed flowers were cut using a die cut machine, very little skill required. The butterfly is hand cut from a scrap of cereal box, then hand painted.

As usual, I wanted to use salvaged items. The frame is actually purchased from Ikea and was to be used for signage, but I decided to rough it up and use it as a support for the Altoids tin that houses the butterfly.

I titled this piece “Untarnished”. I wanted to call it “Hope”, but I did a painting a few years back with that title, so “Hope” didn’t seem original enough.

Perhaps it was the ghost of Dante whispering to me “Abandon all hope…. ” You know the rest. But this isn’t about a trip through the hell, nor does it attempt to explain a great literary work. It’s more a reference to personal growth or regeneration; “here begins new life”. That Dante. At least, I’m pretty sure it was Dante, the voice was speaking English, so I can’t be too sure. But I suspect that in the after life we’ll be capable of speaking and understanding all languages. 

Now, with my reference to Dante you may expect me to get all philosophical and existential.  Ha – no chance of that happening today. Believe me, I go through an existential crisis regularly. It’s all quite boring, so I will spare you the pain.

I only felt compelled to project an idea that under the rubble of a damned, fallen humanity there is still an unwavering certainty that all hope is not lost. I decided to go with the title of “Untarnished” because lets face it – life is full of little “surprises” that can take a toll on our spirit, mind and body. We may feel like that old rusted out clunker, which long ago lost its usefulness. Yet, if you look closely you’ll see that old abandoned rust bucket has sprouted its own perfect ecosystem. Which is really the point. Difficult situations may lead us to see nothing but the rust and ruin. But deep inside we remain untarnished. Under the tarnished debris, germination of a new world occurs and we find that those difficult situations can also be used as fodder a beautiful metamorphosis. Well, the hope is that it would be beautiful and not a Kafkaesque nightmare. No, wouldn’t want that. 

So what do you think? Should I go with “Hope” or does “Untarnished” work just as well? And does any of this even matter? Oh wait. I’m NOT going to get all existential, remember?

untarnished 1

untarnished

untarnished back

Elliot’s New Dress

twistnpout:

Seems my absences here keep getting longer. Here is the most recent post on Twisted Elliot. Hope you all are off to a great New Year. Cheers!

Originally posted on Twisted Elliot:

Well, Happy New Year. As this was Twisted Elliot’s first holiday season, we were so super busy making preparations we neglected to share with you all the fabulousness happening in the shop. Before we knew it, the New Year had arrived and we were so lost in a whirl of ribbons, wrappings, glitter and glue we just couldn’t make our way through it all to Word Press and then, poor Elliot was looking in need of a much deserved makeover.

As we waded through all the trappings of the season wondering whatever could we do to rejuvenate Elliot, a friend dropped by to show us her latest creation, Edwina – a beautifully designed and meticulously crafted mosaic skull. Well, it was love at first sight! We realized it was exactly what Elliot needed. That and a new party dress – nothing lifts one from the doldrums quite like a party…

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Bates and Switch

Remember this?

paperowlCollage He was to be an addition to an altered Altoids tin paying homage to a classic American film. In keeping with the mood of that film though, I realized he should be in black and white, so it was back to the folding board for me. The second time around you think I would’ve been quite proficient at the folding and cutting. NOPE. Those tinny talons became nothing but a challenge to my patience. After three attempts and several days, I finally had an acceptable specimen.

The Idea

I first saw the movie Psycho when I was a kid. Of course, the most memorable scene in Psycho is the shower scene. While it is the scene many of us think of first, it wasn’t my intent to recapture that particular setting. For me, it was the eerie setting of the parlor, with its shadows, tense ambiance and of course those ominous birds looming in the background; trapped, hinting at not only what was to come, but also of characters seen and unseen. My little feathered friend was to be the perfect prop for that scene.

Then, a funny thing happened. While rummaging through the bins of one of my favorite “junk” stores,  I came across a small glass tile. The feel of it was smooth, the view through it was tinted, but just enough so as not to distort an image placed behind it. Its slick surface and tint led me to think of a window, a voyeur and finally, the slickness of shower tiles. It was also the perfect size for the inside of an Altoids tin.

Looked like it would be the shower scene after all…

I decided to recreate the shower scene using the glass tile, but I also felt the need to capture a hint of that creepy parlor idea. However, I thought an owl perched in the shower would be a little odd. I had to find another element to use as the backdrop for the setting, which meant I’d have to switch out my owl for something more fitting for the scene.

You may remember Norman spying on Marion Crane through a peephole hidden behind a painting which hung in his parlor, or perhaps “study” is a better word. According to my research that painting was Susanna and the Elders and is based on a biblical story from the book of Daniel about a woman bathing in her garden. Susanna is spied on by two elders who threaten to turn her over to the authorities for the crime of adultery if she does not have sex with them. Throughout history this scene  has been studied and painted by many artists, but I chose to use Artemisia Gentileschi’s interpretation.  Artemisia went through her own trials and tribulations at the hands of a man and a biased judicial system as well, in fact it is believed she painted her version of Susanna and the Elders (at the age of 17!) as an expression of the turmoil she experienced.

Aside from the history of this particular painting, I liked it because I felt it perfectly referenced both the parlor scene and the shower scene. I wanted to use it as a collage that would bring the two scenes together.  I made a black and white copy of the painting, cut it up and began playing around with the pieces.  I was happy with how the billowing robes became an extension of the shower curtain and how Susanna’s torso and right hand fit nicely with Marion’s head and left hand.

I debated whether to use the red paint. We all know how gory the scene was, I didn’t think it was necessary to recapture that element, but I did end up choosing to use a bit of red, for no other reason than to give a little color.

 

psycho altoids tin

 A Little Background

I had this Psycho themed idea in my head for a while, I spent months collecting bits and pieces; keys, tapestry, curtain hooks, even an actual fly. I also spent a lot of time researching the movie Psycho as well as the story and painting of Susana and the Elders. Over a period of 4 months I spent several hours arranging and rearranging the pieces only to toss it all aside then return to at a later time, usually with something new to add. Weeks would go by with no progress, but it was always in the back of my mind.

I tend to get stuck on an idea and develop tunnel vision, ignoring anything that might be a  another alternative to my original idea. I’m also a little impatient and want to complete a project in a day. However, after being taken in a new direction with this, even after having to switch out the main focus of the idea, I’ve learned to be patient and I’m beginning to feel ok with the fact that I have many unfinished projects, which I will finish someday.

I share this part of the process not to pass myself off as a tortured artistic genius and I realize this piece lacks any artistic qualities at all; it doesn’t serve to educate, raise awareness or challenge an ideology and in all, it is simply put together using basic skills. But, in the process of making it, I learned patience, to pay attention to my surroundings as I’d hunt for that one thing that would bring all the pieces together. Though my owl didn’t make the final cut, the process of putting him together (more than once) also taught me patience and perseverance –  and that I really do enjoy working with paper.  I’m learning to not let frustration defeat me. The final product looks nothing like my original idea, but that is part of the process as well I guess.  I believe all this has a purpose and someday I may figure out what exactly that purpose is.

I’d really like to hear about your creative process. Do you have a special formula for bringing an idea to fruition? What have you learned about yourself through the creative process or on the path of creative / artistic self-expression?

 

 

 

We’ve Gone Batty!

twistnpout:

Hi everyone, thought I would share with you what I have been up to these days. I really have been doing stuff :) Here is a post from a new blog I manage for our store Twisted Elliot.
Thanks for reading!

Originally posted on Twisted Elliot:

This is Twisted Elliot’s first Halloween! Hillary and I are excited because, well, Halloween is kind of our thing.

We were off to a good start at building an inventory of hand-made Halloween items, then something happened. We began to freak out a little about the upcoming holidays, so now that Halloween is just around the corner – so, pretty much over with – we’ve started to focus our attention on end of the year projects and events (which we will be sharing with you soon, I hope). But for now, we thought we’d offer a peek into what we have been up to for Halloween.

I started a few weeks ago by making these polymer clay bat pendants. Each one is formed by hand, so they are all unique. In other words NOT perfect.  I rarely use molds for any of my polymer clay items. There is something about…

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