Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hair Sticks Day 1

This semester, I'm signed up for the Business of Art class.  There are two of us in there (Thanks for joining me, Angela!).  Part of our assignment is to plan, prepare and run the Art Club tent at TroyFest in April.

We'll be setting up, displaying and selling art work done by students in the Art Department at Troy.  But we're also welcome to make our own things, since we're going to be there all weekend running the tent.

I've started making hair sticks.  I finished 10 today.

See that disaster?  That's my table when I'm getting ready to craft (;  I realized as I was making them today that I have a variety of beads-- some of which are over 20 years old, others that are one of a kind pieces of art in their own right, and still others that have come from Egypt, Afghanistan  and other points not within the U.S.

These were all my shorter, equal pairs.

I've set them in white paper to keep pairs together, keep them organized and prevent them from tangling up.

made with bamboo, glass, plastic and metal beads.

made with wood, plastic and metal beads.

made with metal, glass and wood beads.

made with metal and plastic beads.

made with wood, plastic, and metal beads.

These are longer and mostly not exactly matching.  Their meant to be worn staggered like in the pictures here.

made with wood, shell,and nut beads.

made with glass, metal and lapis beads.

made with stone, metal, and glass beads and 2 decorative bells (:

made with glass, and metal beads and bells.

made with metal and wooden beads.

I'm going to try to make 10 more tomorrow.  And I'm rewarding myself with finishing off 2 pair of hair sticks that I started for myself months/ years ago (:   I'll post photos of those tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Life Drawing, A Month In

This week, we got to try different approaches-- prisma color and ink were added to our options of things to try.

The instructions were to use 2 prisma colors, but not yellow.  It was Mardi Gras.  I went with green and purple.  Tried them out for my 3 minute drawing.

Then we could use ink.  The first is my quick drawing (also 3 minutes).  The second is 20 minutes.

And then I went back to pencil for the longer drawing.

Thursday we had a different model.  I'm still working on faces and hands.  Like above, it starts with the quick drawings.

Then we had 15 minutes.

Then about 40.

At 40, we all stopped.  We were done.

Now, I'm not sure -what- we're going to do when we have 2 hours to work on a single drawing... I'll just have to wait and see (:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I'll Plant You Forget-Me-Nots

When I was younger, I didn't exactly think I was indestructible, but I certainly figured I was smart enough to beat the odds.  Early 20s are like that.

I had my first son.  Did everything right-- all the prenatal visits.  Everything.  One of our favorite memories is still the day we went in for our first ultrasound and there he was, our little dancing bean.  It was amazing.

Times got a little harder when we found out I was pregnant again two years later.  We didn't currently have insurance.  I couldn't afford all the trips to the doctor, so other than that, I was doing everything I had before.  Prenatal vitamins, etc.

Except that at the three month mark, just as I'd saved enough up to start getting ready to head in to the doctor, my weight gain was off.  In that three months, I'd gained a whopping 70 lbs.  And I wasn't 'eating for two' or any of that foolishness.

And then one afternoon in midsummer, after heading to the bathroom, I woke up on the bathroom floor.  Laying in a pool of my own blood.  I gathered myself together as best I could and rushed to the hospital sitting on towels the whole way.  I still remember apologizing profusely for bleeding on their floor and refused to sit in a wheelchair so that I wouldn't ruin it.  In fact, I cried because I was ashamed of the mess that I was making.  It turned out that I had miscarried and needed a d&c to make sure I didn't bleed out.

What no one talks about, what no one mentions, is that a miscarriage is almost exactly like a regular pregnancy and delivery.  It's just as painful.  It requires as much attention from the doctor and nurses.

...but you don't get to go home with the prize of your labors.

There's nothing.  Except guilt and sadness and a swirl of other unhappy emotions.  And medical bills.

Did you know it costs just as much to not have a baby?  Neither did I.

All of three months later, I found myself pregnant again.  And I was terrified.  I set up my doctor's appointments immediately.  And was scared for the entire first 3 months that it wouldn't take.  That it wouldn't keep.  That I would lose this one too.

Then the day came that we did the prenatal tests and they confirmed that my baby was healthy and there not a thing wrong.  And finally-- FINALLY, I could stop being afraid.  I could start hoping.

Because I blamed myself for the miscarriage.  Maybe, if I'd gone to the doctor, we could have run prenatal tests and found out what was going on.  Maybe there'd never been a heart beat.  Or maybe this was all just wishful thinking.  It will always be a mystery.  I didn't go.  I have no idea why I miscarried.

What I -do- know is that after passing the first trimester and receiving the clean bill of health on my third pregnancy I started to do what most women who want to have kids do when they find out they're pregnant-- I looked forward to meeting the new person growing inside of me. Without those prenatal tests, I would have been in fear the entire time.

Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to have, my answer was always the same, "Healthy and whole.  I don't care what the gender is, as long as it's healthy and whole."  And then at full term, I got to meet my youngest son for the first time, and he was everything I hoped.

As I started paying the medical bills for the birth of my baby, I still had three months of bills left for paying off the baby that wasn't.

I mention all this because it feels like we're living in a political world gone crazy.  I woke up this morning to news of Santorum wanting to get rid of those prenatal tests-- the same ones that allowed me to stop crying at night in fear.

Because of this, I take it personally.

I won't be having any more children.  I'm thankful every day for the two miracles that I do have.

But I think that other women, other new soon-to-be-mothers who still think they've got it all figured out, should be allowed the peace of mind those tests provide.  Even if they can't afford them out of pocket.

To help spare them the anguish, and guilt, and unknowing.  To alleviate -their- fears.

Santorum considers it a tool used for abortion.  I consider it a tool to relieve heartache.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taco Seasoning

So tonight's dinner started with a hunger for sour cream.  I figured I'd make beef stroganoff, so I started defrosting a lb of ground beef.

As I filled a pan with water, I realized that what I -really- wanted was a baked potato.

...But I was already thawing the beef AND I didn't want to wait an hour.

Then, I remembered that my mother in law makes baked potatoes in the oven and, lo and behold! my microwave has a baked potato setting! (Just stab each one all over with a fork so the steam can escape.)

Then I decided to go ahead and use the ground beef ...and thought, "Hey, how about putting -taco- meat on a potatoe?"

And so is born "Taco Potatoes".

...But I don't typically keep taco season in the house.... I -do- , however, have a pretty handy selection of spices.

Forever, I couldn't figure out what the spice was that was the difference between me trying to make tacos at home and using the packet at the store-- but last week, I was introduced to a new spice:  cumin.  THAT's it!

So, here's my at home taco seasoning:

Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper
--all to taste.

Mixed into the pan fried ground beef, onions and garlic and served over the baked potatoes with some shredded cheese and sour cream, it was absolutely delicious!

And both of my kids and I really enjoyed it (:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Laisse les bon temps roulez!

King Cake for Breakfast and Beans and Rice for dinner (:

I don't like Red Kidney beans.  And I'm very much experimenting with learning how to make dried beans.  So our Mardi Gras Beans and Rice are made with a new bean I found called cranberry beans.

Crock Pot Cranbery Beans and Rice


1 lb bag of cranberry beans
2 full boudain links, skinned and diced
2 tbsp bacon grease
minced garlic
1 large onion, diced
4 stalks of celery, sliced
1 green pepper, diced
1 tbsp liquid smoke
3 tsp of Cajun or Creole seasoning
1 can of chicken stock
Hot sauce to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooked white rice

First, soak the beans over night in 8 cups of water.   When you're ready to start cooking, pull out the crock pot (mine's a 10 qt), dump the beans in a strainer and rinse.  Once you've rinsed them, toss them into the crock pot and pour in the chicken stock.  Add enough water to have an additional inch of liquid over the top of the beans.

In a large frying pan, put in the bacon grease (or olive oil, or vegetable oil, or lard, or butter, you get the idea) and saute the onions, boudain, garlic, celery and peppers with the liquid smoke, creole seasoning, hot sauce and salt and pepper.  When the onions start to go clear, toss it all in the pot with the beans and give it a good stirring.

Cover it and set it for 6-8 hours at low.

Server over the warm rice and enjoy!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Learning to Wait...Sort of

Could you live an entire year eating locally or the food from your garden? Barbara Kingsolver transplanted her family from the deserts of Arizona to the mountains of Virginia for their endeavor. Join From Left to Write on February 21 as we discuss Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own. 

It's still winter in Alabama, even if the weather doesn't quite seem to know it.

What this means is that my local farmer's markets (and there are at least half a dozen of them!) won't open for another two months.

I can accept that I don't want to be a farmer.  But fortunately for me, I happen to live in the middle of farming country where there are plenty of other people willing and able, who love doing it.  And I can help us both by supporting them (once they open in April).

One of the biggest things I took from this book was the knowledge of Consumer Supported Agriculture-- CSAs.  It's where a local farmer offers paid 'shares' to the public, typically consisting of a weekly assortment of local produce for the duration of the season.

I thought they were only available to the big cities.  But we have one just north of us that will start accepting spring/summer applications in just a couple of months.  It, like most of the places I found locally through Local Harvest are organic.

And it turns out that we have a variety of other local producers:  God's Way Farms, a CSA for organic and heirloom meats, Boutwell Farms, another CSA for organic meats and vegetables, Sweetwater Pecan, for nuts and Horton Honey Farms, providing honey.  Though I'm much enjoying getting my organic honey from my local friend at Bev's Bees.

And I have to admit, I'm kind of excited to try the Ark of Taste Turkey.  According the Mrs. Kingsolver, I can place an order... starting in April (just like everything else!)

But that doesn't mean I have to wait until April before I can start making changes NOW:

Right after finishing this book two weeks ago, I decided to give up Wal-Mart and choose my local grocery store for my shopping.  Wal-Mart is so big, it won't miss me.  But I'm sure the local grocery store will appreciate the income.

They have a butcher in house with much better and fresher meats.  And an even bigger plus is that it turns out that they're already using some local and organic produce and meats.

And they also happen to be where my hometown farmer's market sets April (;

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!

Or "I Decided to Make a King Cake".

One of the things I enjoyed most about my years in Lousiana is the food.  And Mardi Gras.  (More for the time off from school and the chance to enjoy more of the food than for anything else (;   )

Since I left, I've made a habit of making my favorite dishes.  For the last 5 years, I've been ordering my King Cakes from Louisana on-line and having them delivered.  But this year, I found a recipe I thought I'd try.

I mildly modified Holly Clegg's King Cake with Cream Cheese Cinnamon Filling

With as well as this turned out, I'm going to order her cookbook from the above link!

Here's the modified Recipe


2 cans full size crescent rolls
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven 350°F. Cover a 10-inch pizza pan with baking paper.
2. Separate crescent rolls at perforations. Place slices around prepared pan with points in center. About halfway down from points, press seams together.

3. In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Spread on dough in center where seams have been pressed together.

4. In another small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over cream cheese. (I actually spread mine with a butter knife.  It never got 'crumbly'.)

 Fold dough points over filling,

 then fold bottom of triangle over points forming a circular roll like a king cake.

5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly, drizzle with colored Mardi Gras Icing.

For the icing, I took a can of  Vanilla Flavored Butter cream and divided it into 3 bowls.  Then I used food coloring:  3 drops of yellow in one.  7 drops of green in the next.  6 drops of blue and 9 drops of red in the third.

Once the cake came out of the oven,

(I have to admit, I was -so- pleased with the way it looked!)

I warmed the frosting in the microwave, all 3 bowls for 40 seconds and half power, gave them a good stir, then drizzled them over the cake.

It's a -lot- cleaner looking once it completely cools and you take it off the baking paper (;  None of that overflow icing.

It turned of really good, but I think next year, I'll use less sugar, if not skip the brown sugar step all together-- it was a little overly sweet for my taste (though I've had plenty of bought king cakes that were as well.)  All in all, very pleased with the outcome (: