Tuesday, March 29, 2016

It's Cookin'!

Recently, I rediscovered the fun of cooking. Somewhere among a kid with food allergies, a husband with food allergies, two arthritic hips and hip replacements, and a full-time job, I'd lost it. And I still refuse to provide everyone a meal every evening --I mean, we're all practically adults and can fend for ourselves several nights a week. Emma's become an expert at foraging :-)

When I started receiving Blue Apron meals, I found that I was really enjoying the process of cooking. The recipes were so detailed that you felt really confident in them, and then when the meal turned out with absolutely spectacular flavors, as most of them do, it was such positive feedback. I learned new techniques, and became more comfortable with techniques I'd used before.

Today I shared this post with Rob on Facebook:

I'm happy that the making isn't so much a "con" anymore. :-)

So in addition to the Blue Apron meals, I've been cooking some other meals as well. Sometimes it's just using ingredients in a way that I learned through Blue Apron, but combining that dish with other things we happen to have in the house. Sometimes I actually plan enough that I pick up ingredients while grocery shopping for a specific recipe.

One of my favorite Mexican meals is enchiladas with a cheesy sour cream sauce, instead of a red sauce. Enchiladas are good without onions or garlic, they don't call for nuts, and they make great left-overs. In looking for a recipe for the sauce, I came across the Pioneer Woman's recipe, and tried it out. It turned out very yummy, but Emma thought it needed more spiciness, and I agreed it could use something else in the filling.

So today I made the enchiladas again, but modified the recipe a bit. And while the end result is delicious, I also really enjoyed the process. Shredding chicken, roasting a poblano pepper, dicing a jalapeno pepper, chopping fresh cilantro. Grating the cheese, adding the spices, spooning the filling into the tortillas and rolling them up, and finally pouring that cheesy sour cream sauce all over the pan of enchiladas and putting them in the oven. 
Yum! and the remaining cilantro looks so pretty and green :-)
If you're in the market for a White Chicken Enchiladas recipe, I would really recommend The Pioneer Woman's recipe as a great starting point.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Working on it . . .

Well, it is a bit embarrassing, but I am going to make public my artistic attempts over the last week.

I really liked the journal page idea in that video I posted, so I started out with that. I used an old book that Rob and I had put out for recycling to tear up pages of text, and just arranged them willy-nilly. The paints she used have really intense colors, and I enjoyed playing around with them.
It's an interesting technique to give the background a bit more depth. After that, I tried out several different pens, to see if I could write or color on top of the paint. It did work, although the surface remained just a bit sticky. I like the look of the black ink with the colors, but I might try to do them in the other order on another page, to see if that works. I'm really more of a pencil-sketch kind of person (editing with an eraser is such a nice feature), and my pen sketches are not outstanding. But I figure this page is really more about seeing how things work. I didn't get the paint on nearly smooth enough either.
I'm going to continue to add things to this page, using different techniques, to see what works.

I also created a little felted picture. Really I just started randomly felting, but eventually it had kind of the look of a landscape, so I moved it in that direction. I used beads to add some details. Felting is interesting --you can leave areas puffy, you can twist the wool to give it a different effect, and you can blend colors. It's also super easy, so it's a bit like painting with the wool.

It's actually kind of terrible looking, really, but it did give me a good feel for how this can work :-)

So, now that I've shared these, everyone can feel perfectly comfortable sharing any of their artistic attempts :-)

Friday, March 18, 2016

One Of Those Days

One of those good days.

Friday, when I don't have to be on campus. I have lots of essays to grade --I don't assign many essays, because it's science. But also because I hate grading them. It's physically painful after a while.

So, I got quite a few of them graded, but in between ---

I washed and dried the sheets so I get to climb into a clean bed tonight.

I put a turkey breast to slow cook in the crockpot.

I cooked a sweet potato, and mashed it up with butter, salt, and pepper, and had it for lunch.

I walked around the (chilly) garden to check the progress of the spring flowers.

I had a catnap with Cinnamon in my lap.

I visited Facebook.

I had extra alone time because Rob picked Emma and a friend up after school and took them to a used record store that is a 45 minute drive away.

I started a mixed media page in my art journal.

And I felted some random swirls onto some scrap fabric to get the hang of felting before I start a real project.

Now that is an excellent Friday.
Gratuitous Flower Photo :-)
I hope everyone else's weekend is off to a good start!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Art Space

As part of our decluttering and cleaning process, I cleaned up my beading space. As a result of having a teenager with friends and no family room, I decided to modify my beading space into a general art space. I've moved most of my art supplies upstairs, and now I can disappear upstairs when the teens take over the house :-)

I've been working on a coloring page in my Secret Garden coloring book (by Johanna Basford), and especially on sunny days, the beading space is a great space for any art project.

I have also been feeling inspired lately to start working on some different projects --I'm particularly drawn to multi-media projects. I was feeling this way already, and then an art blog I follow (Art Jewelry Elements) sent more inspiration my way. And then I watched this YouTube video --I swear, you can learn how to do anything on YouTube.

I have purchased some small art tiles, ordered some felting supplies from Etsy, and am looking into the best kind of glues and backgrounds. I think polymer clay will be a good addition too. Now I'm looking forward to combining many of the things I've learned into a mixed media project. If the things I create aren't too embarrassing, I'll share them in later posts.

What is everyone else creating this spring?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Good for the Soul

A rare occurrence: Spring break for the college has coincided with a few warmer-than-normal-for-March days. This means I have the time and inclination to wander the garden, clearing away last years detritus, and uncover the beginnings of spring. It's been more than several years since these two things have coincided. I always tell myself that I'll just go cut back the dead stalks of one sprawling aster, and before I know it I've cleaned a whole bed and several enjoyable hours have passed. It's interesting how tasks like this clear my mind --I can't actually think about anything except what I'm doing, and sometimes it's a relief to get away from the things that normally inhabit my head.

Cleaning tasks this morning included pruning my heather. Unfortunately, I planted this heather about 10 years ago, and didn't know it needed fairly sharpish pruning every spring. When I did finally realize, my hips were making gardening difficult, so it still didn't get done. Now that I've done it twice, I realize I've probably lost the interior of the plants. It's a strange plant to have in a northern Illinois garden anyway --it starts blooming in late November, which is not an ideal time to enjoy flowers in the garden. Here it is in the photo below, just pruned. It appears mostly dead. I'll probably give it another year, to see if some of that will recover.

After trimming back the leaves from asters, Siberian iris, and day lilies, I found quite a few green tips poking out. These little yellow crocus are always up very early, and in fact all this growth happened overnight. Yesterday when I looked at them, you could just barely see green tips poking out of the ground. These are also the first to get eaten by the rabbits, of course. It's pure luck I got a photo first!   :-)

The clump of snowdrops in the woods that Rob photographed a few days ago has expanded and emerged more fully. I also found several smaller clumps in places I didn't plant them, which is great --a sign they've seeded over the last 10 years.

So after the clearing and photoing, I staggered to the porch on shaky legs and took a selfie. It's windy out today, and I was left a bit windblown :-)

I hope all avid gardeners will get a few warms days this March to enjoy being outside again!