The big day has arrived. I am ready to share a painting that I did since beginning my watercolor art class five weeks ago. One day a week. Three hours a day. One amazing teacher.
Over the course of several weeks, Kathy Kovala has skillfully taught our class watercolor techniques by breaking down an entire painting with sky, trees, a field of wildflowers, and a log cabin... teaching us techniques that will transfer to other projects. Instead of a big painting of a scene, I decided to first practice a tree. Over and over until my tree began to look as I had envisioned. I lay down my paintbrush after completing a fourth tree and said, "Yes, little tree. We are one." Instead of my tree being part of a big watercolor scene, I cut it out to use on a page in my altered journal. My intention from the beginning was not to frame my artwork to hang on a wall. My work will be small. A size to fit upon the pages of an old book once read long ago. It shall hold my memories. Captured through watercolor, found items, and text. Once I paint a sky that I like, using the skills learned in class, I will place it behind my tree to create a collage. A cabin will follow. Soon, I will have a complete scene. Just in bits and parts.
Whenever Dick's and my travels bring us to St. Cloud (Minnesota), we have lunch at the Good Earth Food Co-op. Usually we choose soup, but most recently we had stuffed tomatoes. They were so very good that I decided to replicate them. My online search brought me to a stuffed peppers recipe on bettycrocker.com which I followed quite closely but subbed tomatoes for the green peppers.
However, I needed specifics on 1)how long to bake tomatoes vs. green peppers and 2)what to do with the pulp from the hollowed out tomatoes. Satisfied with online answers to these two questions, I got busy in the kitchen. Success! A keeper.
Stuffed Tomatoes with Rice and Meat
6 – 8 large tomatoes
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 large onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked brown rice
8 oz tomato sauce
1 tsp sea salt
Parmesan cheese, grated
Cook rice. Brown meat in a large skillet. When the pink has disappeared,
add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté about a
minute to soften but not browned. Slice tops off tomatoes. Use a paring knife
and a spoon to loosen and scoop out the tomato flesh (pulp). Be careful not to
pierce through the tomato skin. Process the pulp in a food processor until you
have a chunky liquid. Stand tomatoes upright in an oiled baking dish. Add rice,
tomato sauce, tomato pulp, and salt to meat. Bring to a simmer, then stuff tomatoes
with meat/rice mixture. Cover pan with aluminum foil. (Instead, I turned a glass baking dish upside down and used it for a cover.) Bake at 350° for 30–45 minutes. Remove from oven and
sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
Today was my fourth watercolor painting class. I am learning more from my art instructor, Kathy Kovala, than I could have ever in the far stretch of my imagination envisioned! My goal is to use my newfound skills to paint upon the pages of my altered journal(s). But, since I will be using the written word to convey thoughts in my journal(s), as well, I decided to take an online writing class which commences the day following my final painting class. The workshop called Write Now! is offered Nov. 1 - 28, 2012 through Big Picture Classes for a nominal fee of $25.00. The supply list includes a pen and notebook. Not just any notebook, though. The notebook should have a flexible binding, a sturdy cover, and visual appeal. The feel of the pages is important. The workshop's instructor, Amy Sorensen, says it should "speak to me." And speak to me this notebook did. I fell in love with the artsy cover and its message from the moment I spied it upon the Barnes and Noble display shelf.
A bonus is that my purchase supports a program that places workbooks in Haiti schools.
If you have interest in registering for this "speedy journaling workshop," click here. On the site's home page, click on "teachers," then scroll down and click on Amy Sorensen. At the bottom of her page, there is a list of classes that she teaches. Choose "Write Now." The class includes weekly lessons, handouts, and assignments, daily writing prompts, and a classroom blog with writing tips, information, and challenges. Amy is a former high school English teacher. She is now a professional writer and librarian.
Today, after cleaning the chicken coop, I trimmed my sedums' dried stalks and spread mulch in three flower beds. Having happily spent the better part of the day outside in the crisp autumn air, and satisfied with my accomplishments, I thought a little chocolate would be good. A recipe I printed from the web site Eating Rules would be perfect. Oh, yes. It was. Beyond Perfect. Self restraint. Gone.
½ cup of either pure cocoa butter or virgin coconut oil (I used Earth Circle Organics raw coconut oil.)
½ - ¾ cup raw, ethically sourced cocoa powder (I used 1/3 cup Earth Circle Organics raw cacao powder.)
2 – 3 tbsp honey or maple syrup (I used 3 tbsp agave nectar.)
¼ tsp vanilla bean seeds (I used ½ tsp vanilla.)
Optional: unsweetened dried fruit or raw nuts, 1/8 tsp cinnamon and/or cardamom (I used ¼ cup chopped walnuts and no spices.)
Line a small loaf pan with two strips of parchment paper that wraps up the sides. (I used a little serving bowl. See photo.) In a small saucepan, melt the cocoa butter or coconut oil. (To retain the coconut oil’s raw state, I chose to warm it by placing a small bowl into a larger bowl of hot water.) When melted, add cocoa powder, sweetener, and vanilla. Stir until smooth and thoroughly combined. Add optional ingredients, if using. Refrigerate until firm, approximately two hours.
I try to feel compassion for others, but it just slipped through, as I selfishly thought, "Better him than me." Dick had a colonoscopy today. The procedure itself is unpleasant enough, but ooooooh. The prep beforehand. The best I could offer him was a healthy alternative to the Gatorade that the Miralax (polyethylene glycol) powder laxative is mixed into. Have you ever read Gatorade's ingredients label? Water, sucrose, dextrose, citric acid, natural flavor (natural flavor does not necessarily ensure that natural ingredients are being used... it often takes many different chemicals to create natural flavor), salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, gum arabic, yellow 6 (orange flavored Gatorade), glycerol ester of rosin, and brominated vegetable oil. A 12 oz serving size contains 21 grams of sugar. It means that, during the two hour period recommended for consuming the 64 oz Gatorade/Miralax mixture, 112 grams of sugar are ingested. I learned from my Internet search that I am not alone in my quest for an alternative to Gatorade. Disappointedly, I wasn't able to discover an answer until... I intently, deliberately, focused my attention down the juice aisle at the Good Earth Food Co-op in St. Cloud. It was there that I found an R.W. Knudsen product called "Recharge" Flavored Sports Drink that looked suspiciously similar to Gatorade minus the scary stuff.
Ingredients: filtered water, white grape, orange, and lemon juice concentrates, natural flavor, sea salt, beta carotene (for color), and electrolytes. No sugar added (except what is naturally present in the fruit). An 8 oz serving size contains 17 g of sugar which is a total of 136 g of sugar in the recommended 64 oz mixed with Miralax. That's 24 g more than Gatorade, but it's sourced from fruits. During the colon cleanse, the purpose of the sugar is to supply an energy boost and help your body absorb the water and electrolytes as quickly as possible. The electrolytes prevent the risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. The Good Earth Food Co-op had another product called "Endure" Performance Electrolyte that could be added to fruit juice if you wanted to make your own Gatorade replacement.
The bottle recommends 2.5 tsp per gallon. Confirming the proper dosage with a doctor may be advisable. By the way, the entire pathway throughout Dick's colon looks healthy. No issues.
Some longtime friends were stopping by on this chilly autumn day. A perfect moment in time to try a new recipe torn from an October 2012 issue of Delicious Living Magazine that I had tossed into my shopping bag during a recent visit to our local food co-op. The recipe called for millet.
I had never made apple crisp with millet. I gave it a whirl. Oh, yeah. I'd do it again.
Millet Apple Crisp
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish. (I used a casserole dish with a cover.) In a large bowl, toss four cored, unpeeled, thinly sliced apples (such as Gala), 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 2 tsp arrowroot powder, and 2 tbsp natural cane sugar. Spread in baking dish. Very finely grind ¾ cup millet in a coffee grinder (as used for flaxseed); combine with ¾ cup rolled oats, 1/3 ¼ cup natural cane sugar, ¼ tsp sea salt, ½ ¼ cup melted coconut oil or butter (I used butter), and ¼ cup honey. Spread over apples. Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden and tender. Tent with foil if top browns too quickly. (I covered it with the casserole dish’s glass cover. After baking for 25 minutes, I removed the cover for the final 10 minutes to allow the topping to brown.) Serves 8.
"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right." These words have been zinging around in my brain ever since Tina, a recent bed and breakfast guest who inspired me to express myself using an altered journal, wisely spoke them. Ever since I painted a cabin in a summer school art class prior to my junior year, and my siblings made fun of it, I have told myself that I can't draw and I can't paint. Well, I am here to tell you that I can draw and I can paint. And because I believe that I can, I can. Today, I registered for a watercolor class. Six weeks. September 26- October 31. Three hours each Wednesday. I have registered for the beginners class. We will begin by painting an apple. Now let's get real here. My painting will not look like this masterpiece titled "Trails End," painted by Kathy Kovala, the instructor of my class. But...
I will continue to learn and I will paint a log cabin. I will proudly show my brothers and sisters. "See, I can paint," I will say to them. They will be so proud of me. They will say, "You can paint." Yes, I can," will be my reply.
Old books. A new friend.
At the end of August, my life became richer when a young couple from Iowa came to visit. While her husband biked the Cuyuna Trails in Crosby (Minnesota), my newfound friend crafted on the backporch of our bed and breakfast's main inn. I watched intently as she transformed pages in an old book into magical artforms. To embed in her memory and the memory of others who will read the pages in years to come, she records each day's events, emotions, and insights - big and small - using artist's tools, found objects, everyday items to create background texture and pattern, and the written word. Having not, at the time of her visit, been to the Storyhill Fest, which Dick and I attended a week later on Labor Day Weekend, where I was to be inspired to record things I believe in... things that are important to me, I had not conceptualized yet that this would give me the tool I needed to record my thoughts in a creative manner well beyond what I could have envisioned. Then, this project came together even more seamlessly when Dick and I attended a farm show in Albany west of St. Cloud (Minnesota) on Thursday and Friday, September 13 and 14. It was there where I found my treasured books that will become my altered journals... 6 for $1.00. Oh, let's show a little more excitement please. 6 for $1.00!!! My most treasured book, however, is the one I received as a gift from my new friend. She kindly created a helpful tutorial http://kaotickrafter.blogspot.com/search/label/tutorial that details how to prepare a book for use as an "altered journal," then she sent me the book that she used in the tutorial. The very one. So I could get started. And get started I did.
I will share random journal pages as I go along... here and there upon these pages of my blog. Little snippets that tell a story of my simple life.