Thursday, May 31, 2012

June Dots and Teapots

Tea Party

This is a project I am working on, a request for rosebud teacups.

I am learning a little bit about who I am as an artist and illustrator.

First of all, I like things loose and fast. And a little bit pretty, but with a rough edge. Kind of like a punk chick. I'm a little bit Debbie Harry.

How does this connect with making illustrations of rosebud teacups?

I guess that's why I was thinking about it. I think it's a good thing to try new things that you might not otherwise have tried. The truth is that the whole world does not see things the way I do, and that's fine, but sometimes if my view point and the world's viewpoint can coincide, perhaps we can learn something or develop a bit in ways that might not have happened before. Perhaps the collision of different mindsets can make something that is remarkable in some way, attractive in ways neither I nor the world might have thought of before.

Well, when thinking about teacups, I was wondering how I should make it happen, how to do it so that it still felt like ME, so that I could still draw on my strengths, so that it could still feel like me.

And that's why I went with a loose sketch and a fast watercolor, but with pretty colors and delicate curves.

Okay, so it's not really a punk teapot, but it is, after all a request, and I am doing it for someone else.

June Dots

I also created my own pattern to go with this mismatched tea set. Yes, it's green and white polka dots, almost swiss dots, but I wanted the natural variation and imprecision that comes from off the cuff, eyeballing, not a ruler in sight painting. Okay, perhaps it's more whimsical than punk, but maybe it's just the intersection of the different urges in myself.

I really like these little polka dots. They are different shapes and shades and not really even at all. To me, they are like a June day in the sun, with the breeze blowing and the kids running around in the lawn and the bugs crawling around, and a paintbrush in my hand and a drink in my other hand while sitting on the porch.

Okay, so my day isn't punk either. Apparently watercolor tea parties in pink and green are just simply not punk. And it's probably true that I am not Debbie Harry. Probably.

But that's okay, because I'm Rowena. And that's good enough. Dots, teapots and all.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Doodles on Brown Paper, The Value of Not Knowing

Yesterday, I got a new white pen. I used to draw with white pens all the time, but for a number of years, I didn't. Then I wanted to but couldn't find the right kind of pen. I am picky about my stationery supplies.

So when I put the kids down for the night and got ready to relax, I really wanted to try out my new pens. 

However, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had no idea what I wanted to make. To make matters worse, I had no idea what I should draw on, because, being a white pen, white paper doesn't work.

Then I remembered all the paper bags I'd gotten from the store that day. Ah ha! I said to myself. I love kraft paper, I love white pens. I bet the kraft paper will work with the white pens, and even if it doesn't, no big loss, since it's just paper bags.

So I grabbed myself a pair of scissors and a paper bag and chopped it up into little note-cardy type pieces. Little enough to draw on without feeling like I needed to have a plan.


Yes, it worked. Yes, I gave it a try even though I wasn't sure. Yes I went through almost all of my little scrap papers, trying out the pens and letting myself mess up and figuring out what I wanted to say. Look, I even cut it out with my pinking shears and now how cool does it look?

I always forget to believe. When I sit down with no ideas, with a blank page, with a big project ahead of me that I don't know how to tackle, I forget that this is part of the process and not knowing is important. I forget that it doesn't have to be perfect, in fact, imperfection is often more interesting than something that has been worked into its flawless state. 

I like things a little rough edged. I like the sketch to show. I like the asymmetrical and the wonky. I like to see the touch of the hand and the mistakes we make because we are trying things out and discovering where to go. 

This post here is just doodles, really. Practice sketches, a try out. The little papers are wrinkled brown paper bags and my lettering is crooked. 

But I believe in it anyway. 

Looky here.

I didn't have idea one of what I was doing when I first started doodling and sketching on recycled paper.

But there is something lovely here. There is something to be learned.

I don't know the answers. And that's fine. I can get far by just believing that I am enough, that my thoughts are enough, that even my mistakes and drafts have value.

That is a huge yes. Yes to me. Yes to you. Yes to life, in all its imperfect, messy process.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trust Your Wisdom, Owl Paper Doll Greeting Card

 Trust Your Wisdom, Woodland paper doll greeting card

Here is one more paper doll card.

I like him. We all know the owl is wise, that he sees and hears things in the dark that we do not. That he finds his prey and zeroes in on it in silence, with soft wings.  But do we trust the owlness in ourselves?

Do we trust our own wisdom? Our own knowing in the dark? Our own ability to focus in on our goals and get things done?

I think we generally know more than we think we do, it's just that we don't trust our own knowing.

Practice listening to your instincts. Practice believing in our own wisdom. Practice listening in the dark to the hints that say you are on the right path.
 These are the rest of my puppet animal cards. I call this the "Be Gentle" series. They're still in development. I should probably not post them before I have them completely developed, but oh well, I'm big on process here on this little blog.
 I'm not sure if everyone realizes that the floral deer/owl/bunny are actually the back of the painted ones. This was my brainstorm. I was dissatisfied with the plain back and found a way to give it some character. I like this character, particularly with the graphics of the stamped background.

This Be Gentle series is something that I needed to hear for myself. Many of the pieces I make are made because I need to hear something, I need to pay attention to a little bit of wisdom, either something I've found out there in the real world, or something I know inside of myself, but have not really gotten around to paying attention to.

Making these cards is a way that I trust my own wisdom. And posting them for you, believing that other people need to hear the same thing I do. It's a big leap, I know, to think that everyone is in the same place that I am, but I'd rather put it out there for the people who need it and will resonate with it, than keep it to myself out of fear and self doubt.

 Who Who Who
do you trust?
Trust yourself.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Handmade Stamp and Bookmark out of Scraps

I made my own shop stamp! It was a total whim I had one night. I wanted a shop stamp and I wanted it right then. I wasn't sure it was possible. I wasn't sure if I could carve something small like letters, wasn't sure if it would be possible with the medium, and wasn't sure if my stamp carving skills were up to par.

I also wasn't sure if I could put the whole name on a stamp the way I wanted, so it would fit the way I hoped. I did a lot of sketching to try and figure out a composition, but it all kept getting too fussy, so in the end, I just went with a simple, flat ribbon shape. 
In then end, I kind of like how it turned out. I like the handmade quality of it. It looks like my hand writing, which it actually is. I wrote it out on the stamp block and then I carved it. There are a few little blips in the carving, but I like it. I make things by hand and you can see the touch of my hand. That's what I do. I draw them. I paint them. I carve them. I sew them. I model them. I guess I should be keeping up with technology, but I like being able to figure out how to finagle stuff with my own two hands. It gives me pleasure.

When I tried out the shop stamp on some scrap paper from another project, I realized it was awful cute.
 This is the back of the scrap. It was so cute, I decided to cut it out of the scrap and turn it into a little bookmark. I always need bookmarks because I'm always putting them down and misplacing them, or sticking them in a book and picking up a new book. I used some left over greeny gold ribbon, cut some mirroring points in the end, and threaded it through the hole.

I like when a whim turns into something fun and practical.  Just like my candied orange peels.

I guess the lesson here is to take chances. Try new things, even if you aren't sure that they will work out. Look around for good things wherever they can be found. Learn to embrace the imperfections. Look for the lovely possibilities in the bits you might otherwise discard.

Hey! Not only does that go for creativity, but it also goes for living.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How To Make Your Own Orange Liqueur, and Bonus Candied Orange Peels

Orange Liqueur In Progress

One of the things about being a mom and being an artist and being a partner and being a worker and all these other hats I have to wear in this modern gotta-get-it-done world is that I don't necessarily take time to take care of myself. 

I do a lot of sacrificing. I do a lot of taking care of others. I do a lot of anxious, running to catch up. I do a lot of crashing, exhausted, feet up at night.

One of the things I'm trying to do is to remember to do things for myself. Things that are not just about crashing and watching tv anyway. Rather things I just do for fun, things that renew me, things that I'm not trying to find a way to turn into a business. Things that are not about money or responsibilities or work. I started reading The Giver, by Lois Lowry. That's one of those books I've heard about for years, and I'm finally getting around to it. 

And I'm getting back into my margarita habit. For some reason, margaritas and summer just seem go together.

And to feed my margarita treat, I am making my own orange liqueur.

 This is the first time I've ever attempted something like making my own liqueur before, although I've thought about it and always said I'd try. So I finally decided I would.

I was inspired by this recipe from pinterest, but of course, I had to put my own spin on it. It's very simple. It has only four ingredients. Vodka. Oranges. Water. Sugar. But it does take some time and patience in order for the oranges to infuse the vodka, and it is a two part recipe, first the orange vodka, then the orange simple syrup.   I am not all that patient, so, that accounts for my small adjustments to the original recipe.

Orange Vodka

One bottle of vodka. I just used a fifth of cheap vodka. Since it is my first attempt at this, I didn't want to make too much or spend too much.
Organic sweet oranges. Organic because you're using the peels in this so you don't want them to have anything unsavory on them. I used navel oranges.

Clean and dry a good sized jar.
Slice oranges into fairly thick slices.
Pour vodka into jar.
Add as many orange slices as will fit and still be covered by vodka. Pack them in there. I used two very large oranges and there was no room left. If you have more vodka or smaller oranges it will take more.

Cover and let sit in a cool dark place for 2 to 3 weeks.

Strain through cheesecloth or mesh sieve into a bottle. Squeeze the remaining pulp/oranges to remove all the juice/vodka, add to bottle. (I used the sieve, but I think the cheesecloth is better, because you can just wrap up all the pulp and squeeze that out without the mess. I had to squeeze mine handful by handful. Messy.)

The original recipe said to let this sit for another 3 weeks. Like I said. Impatient.  So on to the next step.

 Simple Orange Syrup

One cup sugar
One cup water
The rind of one orange. Try to remove as much pith as you can and just use the orange part.

Peel the orange, trying to remove only the orange zest, without the white pith. I did not zest the orange, because I wanted to remove the peels later. Cult the peels into fairly large pieces. Put in a saucepan. Add one cup water and one cup sugar. Boil the water, sugar and orange peels until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Continue to simmer for a few minutes to infuse the orange into the sugar syrup.  Let cool. Remove orange peels.

The original recipe just used plain simple syrup, but I saw an opportunity for another layer of orange flavor, and I took it.

Add orange syrup to the jar with the vodka. I had about 31/2 cups of orange vodka and started with 1/2 cup of syrup, tasting as I went until I liked it. All together, I added about a cup of orange syrup.  It has a little bit of a floral flavor to it, not nearly as sweet as most orange liqueurs and a slight bite of bitterness from the peels. I am still considering adding more syrup, because I want my margaritas to have a bit of sweetness, but not too much. Oh these are the things that you really need to work through with trial and error. Perhaps I'll err on the side of another 1/4 cup of syrup, since I have no idea what I'll do with that last little bit of syrup.

The original recipe says it will get sweeter as it ages...

Stop the presses.

I just went to add the last little bit of syrup, and realized I had these lovely syrup soaked peels. So I...


 HOLY COW. Candied orange peels. It's a quadruple bonus recipe day. Orange vodka, orange liqueur, orange simple syrup and candied orange peels. They're super yummy, too.

Plus, since I took the time out to make the candied orange peels, and S was putting some meat in a marinade and had sliced open a lime for it, I said, 'hey give me that other half of the lime, I should try a margarita with my new orange liqueur.' So that's what I did.

Uhm. Ohmagah!


This margarita is absolutely fantastic.  Note the pleased, slightly smug look on my face from a new recipe that not only works, but improves an old recipe and is a new skill never attempted. Plus, I'm also supremely tickled about the candied orange peel brainstorm.

Plus, I haven't had lunch yet and it is mighty early for a margarita and even though I only sipped it for a taste test, I might just be a little tipsy.

Anyway, happy Friday, happy Memorial Day, and remember to do something for yourself, something that makes you feel good, not just for the moment, but about yourself.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Say Yes To Life, woodland animal paper doll greeting card

Say Yes To Life, woodland animal articulated paper doll greeting card

Here is my bunny. Well, here is the bunny I made for my Bunny. My daughter thinks her real name is Bunny and insists we all call her Ivy Bunny. I made the bunny paper doll particularly for her.

But I like this bunny here, on this card, with the background of lush leaves.  

A rabbit is a sign of Spring. It's a sign that there is abundance, a sign that things are growing, a sign that we should go ahead and let our hope out to romp around in lush gardens.

Don't hide from the joy and the opportunity, get out there and raid that lettuce patch of life. You belong in the abundance that is out there. You are made of yes. You are made of growth and fertility and creativity. Don't let the little fears keep you hidden in your burrow. A rabbit is small and gentle and vulnerable, but every moment they are alive, every step they take into the world is full of bravery and chance taking.

What are you hiding from out of fear? What could you say yes to that might change your life? What chances could you take that would open up possibilities for you? Where could you be brave. Practice saying yes everyday to something that scares you. You might be surprised at how your world can bloom.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Be Gentle To Yourself woodland animal greeting card

Be Gentle To Yourself Woodland Animal Greeting Card
I've shown my little deer before, but I wanted to do something with her. I wanted to also do something with some of the stamps I've been messing around with. 

So this is what I came up with.  I'm creating a set of "Gentle" greeting cards. They come from my woodland animal articulated paper dolls that I made as a favor for my daughter's fairy princess tea party fifth birthday party. To tell the truth, the paper dolls skewed a little too old for five year olds. But I really liked them anyway so I wanted to find something to do with them.
I think one of the ways to be gentle with yourself is to look for the good in things that maybe didn't work out quite the way you wanted them to. Don't toss the baby out with the bathwater, to put it in the vernacular.  
It's very easy to only focus on the negative, and think that what you are doing is failure, or who you are is not good enough. But if you start saying, "okay, that didn't work so well, but let me look for the positives and see how I can use them the next time," then you shift your perception of your work, and yourself to something that is creative rather than destructive. And I have to say, this doesn't only go for creative projects and drafts of art work, but also for real life. I've seen this happen in work situations where people scrap projects because there were failures, without looking to see the benefits. I've seen women do this to themselves by only focusing on trying to change their physical flaws and devaluing their beauties. It happens in relationships where people focus on little things that bother them and don't give credit to the big good things that can fade into the background. I've seen it in pessimistic world views looking for how everything sucks, and missing how everything rocks. Oh yeah, and low self esteem and negative self talk.  You don't suck. You rock.
So practice looking for the positives. Remember that having flaws does not mean you are bad. Remember to pamper yourself and take care of yourself when you're sick.

Here's a photo of my daughter, sitting on the porch wrapped up in her comforter, watching the fog and the traffic, taking it easy, cozying up.  Not pushing. Just enjoying. I should try that. It would be a lesson in being gentle to myself and allowing myself to just be.

 And here's a detail of my card. The other side of the fawn puppet is a print of a small fabric. I made the card stock two ply. I like it for stability and I love the little pattern.

In the end, I want to have four of these gentle paper doll cards. And I'm thinking I'd like also four bold paper dolls... but I really haven't figured out how that will look yet. Luckily, I don't have to force it. I can be gentle for now. The time for boldness is coming soon. The gentleness prepares the way.

Remember to be gentle to yourself when you need it. Don't think you have to be bold all the time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In Transition, Traveling, or The Creative Process

 In Transition, Traveling

I have found that the process of creativity is a very fluid one. When you are creative, it feels unstoppable, as if it could go on forever and never end. This is just who you are. A creative machine.

But it is an illusion. Creativity ebbs and flows and it has its own journey that is not just about moving forward and being a genius. Creativity is a lot of silence. A lot of waiting. A lot of staring out of the window. A lot of quiet periods where things are growing, developing, and making their way into the light.

I think some people call these creative blocks, but I don't look at it like that. Calling it a block gives the blockage too much power. You focus only on what is not happening, and that is a sure bet that it won't. Instead, I look at these silent periods as fallow periods, part of the natural progression of the creative process.

To me, it is very natural, it is a kind of seasonal thing, although your fallow periods may not coincide with winter/spring/summer/fall. Mine kind of do. I think they are influenced by the mad crafting of the holiday season, the long days of summer, the get back to work time of the fall, and the... well... okay, spring is meant to be renewal and rebirth and all, but to me, so much of it is labor and letting the dark earth and cold rain do its job, while I wait for things to grow.

Hey, look. This is a picture of fields in spring. You notice that the grass is lush and green, but those fields are nowhere near harvest. They're barely even sprouting. I love when my photo/artwork sort of magically starts to fit with my ruminations of the day.

Well let me take my metaphor even farther. I don't feel very much like my fields of creativity are abundant right now. They're not, in fact. They're kind of just little germs of ideas, sprouts of inspiration. I want to be expressive and productive and bountiful in my creating, but right now, I'm just kind of picking at whatever is well formed enough to be something, even if it is not what I want.

But I am not doing nothing. I am thinking an awful lot about who I am, what I want, what I have done and learned and made in my whole life. I am tilling that soil. I am tending it. Fertilizing it with ideas that might work or things I want to try, even if they are not directly related to my long term goals. I am trying to get rid of the destructive or negative things in my life, purging things that are not useful, pulling weeds and clearing the space to allow things to grow. I am planting seeds, organizing those plans, starting work, trying different things, taking the first steps to make my creative goals come to fruition. (I just realized that you can really tell that I am the granddaughter of a farmer, even if I'm such a city girl, I learned a lot from him.)

This season in my creativity is a very frustrating one, knowing that I have to wait to get to the full fruited productivity I want. But at the same time, it feels good, itchy and antsy, but good, to know that the process has started over again, the first steps have been made, the journey has begun.

I think the most important thing about this stage of creativity, or about creativity in general, is to remember that you need to TRUST THE PROCESS. The silence is not wrong. It is a sign that something is growing underground and you need to sit back and let it. It is a sign that you need to prepare yourself for the hard work of tending and watering and harvesting. Don't resist the process, don't despair because you feel like you can't break through. Have faith that this is the way it works. Don't give up, keep working at it, keep looking for ideas, keep practicing new skills, keep organizing and planning, keep trying new things, keep being inspired by the world around you and the world inside of you. Keep showing up to the page. Trust and don't give up. This whole post is beginning to remind me of this one, from years back. But that doesn't surprise me, the lessons I need to learn keep popping up in my life.

What are some ways you've managed to break through those fallow periods and get back to creating?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Live Small, Dream Big

Live Small Dream Big
acrylic on paper

While I am living in my small house with my small kids, painting small paintings and doing small daily things that add up to living a daily life, I need to remember the big dreams, the real, important dreams that I have. The big dreams that inform who I am and the choices I make.

I choose to live small so that I can follow my big dreams. I choose simplicity and time rather than glamour and excitement. But sometimes, caught up in the necessary movement of a small life, that fills up with chores and have-tos and frustrations and routines, and I forget all about the big dreams and instead of a small life that is making room for big thoughts and imagination and goals, I have a small life with small tasks, one that begins to lose satisfaction.

So I say remember your dreams. When making your daily choices, don't choose only to fill your days with the small necessaries, but also with the expansive, inspired, purposeful, revolutionary, meaningful, fulfilling dreams that inform the small steps you make each day. Remember your big reasons in the small actions.

Baby steps to big goals. They work. Simplicity leads to beauty. Purpose drives a small good life.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fawn paper doll and Cultivating Creativity in Gentleness

Fawn paper doll, with mushroom

Sometimes, I feel like I am chasing inspiration, chasing down my aspirations, hunting them through the woods.

And I'm making a lot of noise, crashing through the woods with my clumsy intentions.

My inspiration runs off, faster than I can keep up, and disappears into the shadows, just a tease of an idea, a flash of white tail and what I want to do.

In the almost 40 years that I have been pursuing my creativity, I am still learning how this all works. There's no equation for it all.

Perhaps I should take my metaphor father, though. Perhaps instead of chasing after inspiration, I need to do more sitting quietly, hidden in the camouflage of my life, and wait for it to come to me.

Yes, I know I do. Sigh. Moms with little kids don't get to do much sitting quietly.

Yesterday I had so many ideas and so many intentions they were all crowding for attention. I made lists and ran around from one idea to the next, running around also taking care of my daughter and getting ready for work. Honestly, I almost forgot I had to go to work, so wrapped up was I. Then I went to work with the same amount of nervous energy, and was unable to do anything practical with it. I tried to stay away from more coffee, let's just say that.

Perhaps also what I'm chasing is not something outside of me. Perhaps it is inside of me, that creativity, that center of calm or that energetic intention. Perhaps I need to be gentle with myself through this process. Perhaps we all do. Perhaps we need to cultivate our selves, our creativity and our souls with a measure of gentleness, care, and feeding. Provide for our creative selves, offer safety, calm and sustenance, and instead of having to hunt down inspiration, it will come to us.

With that in mind, what are some ways that we can cultivate our creativity.

1. Provide time where we can be silent with our thoughts, dreams, visions, experiences, etc. In other words, stare out the window time, futz with our supplies time, do nothing and just exist time.

2. Provide space where creating is encouraged. A desk. A basement study. A corner in the bedroom set up for writing. A dining room turned into an art studio. Tell your creativity that this is the space reserved for it, and it is welcome to come.

3. Provide food for creativity. Read great books, fiction and non fiction. Watch films that engage you. Play music that fills you with energy. Look at art that makes you want to pick up a paintbrush.

4. Husband your physical well being. Eat well. Sleep enough. Get out and exercise. Organize your physical space. Declutter.

5. Provide the supplies that you need to create. Gather them so that they are available to you when you need them.

6. Set up regular time to be creative. Yes, inspiration is fleeting, but give it a comforting routine, a safety in the knowledge that it is welcome and will be fed, and it will come.

These are ways to cultivate our creativity in gentleness and positivity. And then we actually have to sit down and do. DO. Write. Paint. Compose. Cook. Whatever your creativity demands. Don't forget the do. It is good to be gentle with ourselves in order to reach our goals, but we can't get there without taking action.

What are some ways that you have for cultivating your own creativity, luring it to come to you?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Collaborating with my Daughter and a Girl Ballerina Articulated Paper Doll

Girl Ballerina Articulated Paper Doll

Yesterday was a girly day. Ivy stayed home with me and we hung out, danced, had peanut butter toast, created a painting of a purple, polka dotted squirrel.

I drew the outline of the squirrel in purple crayon and then she painted it and added polka dots. She actually use a pencil eraser to make polka dots, like she's seen me do with my stamps.
She stole my sunglasses and posed, I took pictures.

 I also printed and cut out this Girl Ballerina paper doll I painted quite a few months ago. I'd always intended it for Ivy, since she is the one who asked for it, commissioned it, you might say, but, well, I don't know what I was waiting for. I printed her out on cardstock, but found that too flimsy, so I actually used a fixative to add another layer of cardstock. So this is a two ply doll. I have wondered how it would work to actually laminate her, for real kid play, but I'm not sure that would make her better.

Here she is with plain feet and just her leotard and tights. She comes with pointe shoes (you can just switch the flat feet out for the pointe feet), flowers, a practice ballet skirt and a fluffy tutu. She also has two tiaras, one pink, one white. I did quite a few of these articulated paper dolls, but I didn't finish them all and some I never managed to put together. I think things just got in the way. But I've been going through my back log of art and projects and trying to do something with what I already have.
 She is a pretty girl, I think. Not a grown up like my other paper dolls. Because she's for my daughter to play with. And PINKPINKPINK because that is my daughter's favorite colors and if it isn't pink she isn't satisfied.

Here is my daughter playing with her Girl Ballerina. Instant fun. She was putting on performances in minutes flat. Then she came running back asking for the flowers, because the performance was done.

I wonder if she will enjoy playing with paper dolls as much as my sister and I did when we were little. She's still a bit young for delicate toys, but I guess she's old enough to start learning, and start learning to take care of her toys.

It seems Ivy and I had a very collaborative day. Our squirrel painting, dancing and photo taking, as well as the paper doll, which I executed, but really was inspired by and directed by her.

Inspiration doesn't just come from inside of us. The world around us can inspire us. The people we love can also. Kids, friends, family, students. My kids have asked me to paint them certain things in the past, and that has always taken me in different directions than I usually would have gone in. The paper doll I made before this was a punk rock chick... ballerinas are just not my thing... but even if they are outside of my current comfort zone (I seem to remember drawing ballerinas obsessively when I was 10 or so) they can express something surprising and unexpected once I take them on.  It can be a challenge to try to link your creativity with someone else's ideas, feelings and concepts, but the challenge can be good for you.

Think about how those around you can inspire you. Is there something your child would like you to make for them? Do you want to give a surprise gift to a friend you care about? Do you look up to someone? How about doing a project with someone you enjoy? Or give your kids/students a project and then do the project with them.

How can you collaborate with those around you in a way that feeds your own creativity?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Do It Yourself Honey-Aspirin Facial Scrub Mask

 Super Duper Natural Honey-Aspirin Facial Scrub/Mask

Every week, at least once, I give myself this facial scrub mask. I have very sensitive, slightly dry skin, and it has been changing as I've gotten older. I've tried a bunch of different things, but since so many of them don't work out for me, I hate buying new products, only to have them sting or make my skin tight.

Then I found this tutorial on pinterest, and I have decided I don't need to keep looking for and buying fancy skin treatments.

There are three ingredients. Aspirin. Honey. A few drops of water. Period.
 First the aspirin.

Over the months I have developed a technique that I'm very happy with. I use a small medicine cup, one that comes with cough syrup or children's medicine is perfect.   I put three aspirin in the cup. Three is perfect. It is enough to cover the entire face without waste. Then put two or three drops of water on each pill. I just wet my fingers and drop single drops on each aspirin, just looking to make sure each on is in contact with a tiny bit of water.

Try to use non-coated aspirin, but frankly, I use coated. I just need to let my aspirin soak a little longer, I'm sure. I usually wet the aspirin and then by the time I'm done with my shower, it's ready.
 Here is is dissolved and crushed with a finger tip. It smooshes very easily.
Add honey. I add just enough honey to hit the 1 tsp mark. 
It's in a medicine cup so it's easy to measure. Sorry for the blurry picture, I just wanted you to see that it's not very much honey at all. But it is enough to cover my whole face. The other thing about these measurements is that with three asprin, mere drops of water, and less than a teaspoon of honey, you get a mixture that is stiff enough to not drip off your face. I've tried it with more water and more honey and it can be quite a mess.

Mix the honey and dissolved aspirin together until it is a uniform texture. It will be grainy, that's the scrubbing power.

 Apply to face with a couple of fingers and gently scrub in a circular motion. Avoid your eye area. Then let it sit for a few minutes. 10-15 minutes is fine. This is why you don't want it to be too messy. If it's too liquidy it will drip off of your face and down your elbow. If it's a nice thick consistency, you can go do something instead of standing over a sink or holding a washcloth under your chin.

 You could, say, go browse pinterest. :)

Or watch a favorite princess give an impromptu dance recital.

 Then when that's done, wipe off the mask with a warm, wet washcloth. Rinse. Wipe. Rinse, until all the grains are gone. Your skin will be smooth and soft.

Honey is the moisturizer, the aspirin is the exfolliant.

Aspirin is also good because it is salicylic acid which helps clear the skin and is an anti-inflammatory. Honey also has antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. I love honey.

I have never had a reaction to this treatment, even though I often have reactions to facial cleansers and moisturizers that are labelled 'sensitive skin.'

Also, this is natural. No preservatives or anything funky in this facial scrub.

And it's cheap. I like cheap.

Do you have any homemade natural beauty remedies that you have tried and love? This scrub is so simple and easy it's easy to forget not everyone knows about it. As a matter of fact, I didn't know about it until a few months ago, and now I'm a convert.

What beauty secrets would you like to convert people to?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mama's Favorite Margaritas

Happy Friday everyone. I'm heading into my busy weekend at work and won't have time to post, although I hope to work on my creative projects as much as I can. 

I also wanted to wish all the moms a happy Mother's Day on Sunday, and in honor of the moms,( because a margarita is the kind of thing I would like for Mother's Day) I'm posting my award winning Margarita Recipe.* This recipe is adapted from the recipe I used back when I tended bar at a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn, when my customers raved about my margarita. Anyway, enough bragging. I tend to get over excited where tequila, fresh fruit juice and orange liquer are involved.

Mama's Favorite Margarita

One part real, 100% agave tequila 
One part triple sec.
One part real, fresh squeezed lime juice.
Splash, to taste, orange juice.
Ice cubes
Garnish with lime wedge and a salt rim if desired.

This is the basic recipe and you can make it for one person or for a whole party, equal parts, it's that simple, but I have some hints and tips that will help you customize your own margarita recipe to impress your friends and influence people. Tequila is very influential.

 This is not a recipe for frozen margaritas, although you could probably stick it in a blender, I can't vouch for it's excellence as a frozen drink. It is designed to be served over ice, or shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass. Come to think of it, my mom has a recipe for frozen margarita which is very tasty, but shares little with my own recipe. I'll have to get it from her.

It is key to get real tequila. It doesn't have to be the fanciest tequila, because you are covering up much of the delicacy of the tequila with juice, just make sure it says 100% agave on the bottle. Cuervo gold is not 100% agave, although it is a ubiquitous tequila. One of my favorite tequilas for margaritas is Hornitos. 

As for triple sec, I actually prefer the cheaper triple sec to the more expensive Grand Marnier, because Grand Marnier has a funny taste that reminds me of baby aspirin. That's just personal taste, but don't assume that because something is more expensive it is best for a great margarita. I do however enjoy Cointreau in my margarita, which is a higher end triple sec. 

Fresh squeezed lime juice is the best for margaritas and really makes the difference. You can cheap out on the other ingredients, but if you don't use real juice, I won't drink it. In my opinion, sour mix should be nowhere near a margarita. You can get away with frozen or bottled juice, but fresh squeezed is best. Here's another tip about my lime juice. Sometimes I use a mix of limes and lemons for my juice. It might not be a traditional way to go, but it tastes good. 

I add a splash of orange juice to my margaritas to sweeten it up a bit. I do like my margaritas on the tart side, though. You could probably add any kind of sweet juice here, like peach nectar or pomegranate juice and it would make a flavored margarita. Or blood orange juice to give it a nice rosy color. 

To salt the rim, take a wedge of lime and run it around the rim of the glass, then dip it into a shallow dish of salt. I think it might be fun to mess around with some of those fancy gourmet salts. Pink salt would be so pretty. Oh! A memory just popped up. One of my fellow bartenders and I used to go out after work, and the bartender at THAT bar used to rim her margarita glasses with brown sugar. I would make the margarita a bit more tart if I were going to add brown sugar, but it really was delicious. A shout out to Magda and Heather for the memory. Kisses.

Here's another hint. Sometimes I mess with my proportions. Most often, I shrink the triple sec and add more tequila. That makes it stronger and less sweet. Which is sometimes what you want, isn't it.  You could add more juice and less tequila if you wanted it less powerful. It will still be delicious.

There are many different margarita recipes and people can get really passionate about their margaritas. I don't say that this is "The" margarita. I don't even say that this is "The Best" margarita. I just say that this is my favorite. I like it juicy and tart. I'd love to hear other people's favorite margarita recipes. I'm always up for adjustments. In fact, I rarely stick with a recipe the way it is written. I almost always add my own flavor to things, even if it's my own recipe.

One of my favorite things to do is to make a mason jar full of margaritas, without the ice, and then keep it in the refrigerator, and when I'm ready for a drink, I pour my margarita over ice and enjoy. That's actually what this picture is, my mason jar and glass of ice. It is kind of a pain to juice and mix for each drink, so making it ahead saves a lot of trouble and doubles my pleasure. 

Well, I'm heading out for a long day at work and probably won't get to enjoy a mason jar of margaritas today. But it's Friday, so have a drink for me. And for all you moms out there, make sure you do something that makes you happy this weekend, whether it's drinking margaritas or sleeping late or listening to music or whatever it is that seems like a celebration. Because it's your weekend, and you deserve to celebrate yourself and all that you do.

Happy Mother's Day.

*The award I am referring to is awarded to me by me. Because I make a damn fine margarita. ;)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Upcycled Cereal Box-Glitter Crowns

Glitter Cereal Box Crowns

I made these crowns a while ago for my daughter's birthday and never managed to write a post about them. I think I wanted a better picture, and I was missing all the pink, purple and silver crowns that all the little girls at the party grabbed up and took home.

They were pretty simple, although I don't feel I have totally figured out the best way to make them.
You need:
a good sized cereal box
paint brush
clear glue, fixative or medium
plentiful glitter

First I took a cereal box of the appropriate size. Open up both ends and squoosh it into a less rectangle shape and then see if it will fit on the appropriate head.

If the box fits the head, cut 4" or 5" strips out of the cereal box vertically across the box, so you have a few rectangle shaped loops of cardboard. Then collapse the rectangle shaped loops so they are flat (like when you recycle the boxes). It is easier to cut the points out this way and have them match. Cut the points out of one side of you cereal box strip and open up again. At this point you should have a crown shaped piece of cardboard.

Cover you surface with newspaper, because this gets messy. Paint the crown, inside and out, with gesso. You want to cover over the print and the gray chipboard. It might take several coats of gesso to cover it completely and you need to let it dry between coats. The red dye from some cereal boxes seemed to seep through the gesso the most. I think generic cereal boxes might actually work better than name brand.

At this point, you could actually just paint these crowns in the desired color. Gold or silver or pink or whatever. I covered mine in glitter. You could also paint them AND use glitter, either contrasting color, or the same color, which means you'd need less glitter to cover the crown.

Once my gesso was dry, I painted the crowns with glue mixture (I just used elmers but I have used gel medium in the past,) and shook the glitter onto the glue to cover it. I did this over a paper plate, so I could collect the glitter that fell off and shake it back on. With the lighter glitter, this worked in one coat, but the darker glitter needed to dry and then have another coat of glue/glitter added.

In retrospect, I think I could have added the glitter directly to the glue and painted it all on. It might have taken more coats, but I think it would have kept the crowns from shedding so much glitter once they were on the heads of the fairy princesses.

There are actually many ways to make crowns like this. You start with the blank of the cereal box crown shape and from there you can do anything. I've done this before with just the gesso covered crown, planning on letting my then toddlers decorate them on their own as a craft, but they enjoyed the crowns just plain white, and I have to say, aesthetically, the plain white is nice. But you could decorate the crown blanks with any kind of fun addition... beads, gems, tinsel. You could spray paint them. You could collage them with pictures from a magazine. Come to think of it, that might be a fun artsy activity for grown ups or older kids. Creating a crown for yourself and covering it with images that inspire you or represent your strengths and powers.

Interesting. I never thought of this as a craft for adults, but it could be pretty cool, now that I think of it.

Also interesting is that I sat down today with nothing to write. My creative project for yesterday was posted yesterday, and I spent much of the rest of the day in overwhelm, as I am in the process of re-evaluting my goals. I had no idea what to do here, so I opened up my photo files of projects that I haven't managed to write about yet, and this was the photo I picked. And I felt just as unfinished and not quite right and work in progress about myself as I did about this glitter crown project. But as I gave the project attention, I began to make more sense of it. I began to see the possibilities. I began to see new steps. I began to connect it to successes of the past.

Maybe the lesson here is that things don't have to be perfect to be good. They don't have to be decided to help us move forward. Things that aren't quite right can lead us to steps that take us to just where we have to go. We are all a work-in-progress.

Now I want to make a crown for myself. It won't be glitter covered. But maybe it will help me remember what I want to create in my life.

What could you do with a cardboard crown blank like this? A project for kids? One for yourself? What kind of materials would you use to embellish it? Do you have any hints for working with glitter?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Be Brave, you are stronger than you think

Be Brave, you are stronger than you think
watercolor, ink, pencil, clear wax crayon

Some days, things just seem awful scary and overwhelming. The closer you get to things that really matter, they easier it is to invent fears that can stop you.

Today I woke up to face things (that weren't threatening) which made me me inexplicably nervous, so I painted this to remind myself to be brave. Courage is not about not being afraid, but rather about facing up to your fears and forging ahead.

Be Brave you are stronger than you think (detail)

This is the most important part of this little reminder, in my book.

The thing is that, even though we are afraid that things won't turn out the way we want, or things might go wrong, or we might be hurt or we might put something important on the line only to have to rejected, the truth is that even if things DO go wrong, we can make it through. We have before.

We are strong. We are resilient. We are smart enough to figure out what to do next. Even failure does not have to stop us... as long as we are brave enough to keep trying, to risk ourselves, to do what really matters and commit no matter what the outcome might be.

Bravery is how we overcome those odds. And every time we are brave, every time we conquer that fear, we get a little step closer to being the person we want to be. And every time we take that difficult step, we make the next brave step that much easier. I would much rather be in the habit of facing my fears straight on than hiding from them. Turning off the light. Pulling the blanket up over my head.

Being brave gets you a lot farther in life.

When's the last time you were faced with an opportunity to be brave and do something you knew was the best thing to do? How did you overcome your fears and find your courage?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Rowena's Easy Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Rowena's Easy Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Here I am trying to keep up with my blogging and all my artistic goals at the same time I am a mom who stays at home part of the time and works out of the house part of the time. It's kind of a difficult balancing act, much like being a mom just in general. 

But I have decided to count my cooking and organizing and repurposing and kid activities and photo editing and social networking and researching as part of my creative output, along with my painting, writing and crafting. I need to understand all the various parts of my life as being creative and productive. It makes me feel more productive, which makes me feel stronger and more capable which means I am able to tackle more and more challenging creative endeavors. 

It all goes together. It isn't separate. One of the things I'm trying to do, in addition to keeping to do lists and creative logs, is to plan ahead. Take photos of things as I am doing them and then saving them for when I am ready to post, or editing them, (I used PicMonkey here, due to the demise of Picnic.) Also to make my plans for Monday early, so I can get prepared and not feel overwhelmed when I sit down to do EVERYTHING I want to do on my day off. Unlike most people, my weekends are the height of my work week, and Monday is when I can get my personal work done.

And the truth is, I often devise my own recipes, and then I forget to write them down and think I'll remember the next time I try, and sometimes I don't, so I lose that dish that I liked so much (like that Linguine alla Rowena... black olives, lemon zest, goat cheese? I forget.) So maybe I'll start posting them here, a kind of illustrated extended creative log. 

So here is my crockpot chicken tacos recipe, which I made last week while also painting.... and which is inspired by this post and my own shredded pork tacos recipe that I've been making for years now.  I have a couple of secrets that make it super easy and super tasty.

Rowena's Easy Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Chicken breasts (can be frozen, no defrosting! save time!)
1 large can diced tomatoes (this time I used tomatoes with chiles, which is great, but you can use plain tomatoes, too.)
One diced onion
Chilpotle in Adobo (diced or food processed)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cumin to taste.

Toss your diced onion into the crock pot. Open a can of diced tomatoes, toss that in, too.  Add your chilpotle in adobo. I put in one heaping tablespoon of the food processed mix. That might be two or three chiles diced. Don't forget to add the adobo sauce if you are dicing. Put less in if you like it less spicy and more if you like it HOTT. Put in your frozen chicken breasts. I used 5 here. Again, adjust it to your needs and tastes. Salt and pepper to taste. Cumin to taste. The chilpotle in adobo adds a lot of flavor, but I put in cumin because it is a comforting flavor to me. You could probably skip it if you want. Or add some of your favorite spices and herbs.

Cook it for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

Shred with two forks.

Serve with slotted spoon on tortillas with desired toppings. Cheese, Avocado, Jalapenos, Pico De Gallo, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onions, Cilantro, Olives, Sour Cream....really anything that floats your boat. I used Cheese, Avocado, Jalapenos.

Bring a big napkin, it's messy and delicious.

You could use this chicken recipe in many dishes. A quesadilla with this, cheese and salsa verde is delightful. Or burritos or Enchiladas? Yum.

Like I said, I actually adapted this from my pork tacos recipe, and really the only difference is that instead of frozen chicken breasts, I use a big pork roast. Everything else is the same. And it's great with cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole and lime.

 But wait. There's more.

Get ready for my two hints.

 Chopped onions are great for cooking. Yes. They are cheap and flavorful and a necessity for many foods and many cuisines.

However, chopping a load of onions while you are watching two rambunctious kids can be dangerous. When my kids were toddlers, I actually chopped off the tip of my finger trying to prep a crockpot meal while my kids were running around. Not only did that meal take longer than necessary to get ready, since I spent quite a while clutching my finger and getting lightheaded at the sight of blood, it also caused a great deal of pain and stress.

Then my mom introduced me to the little bags of pre-diced onions in the frozen food section of the grocery store. Sometimes they come with diced peppers and carrots too. Once I started using those, my prep time could shrink down to almost nil with some dishes (like this one.) Frozen onions aren't good to eat fresh, but if you're cooking them, they lose nothing that I can see. If you want to save money and use up produce, you can also chop your own big batch of onions and freeze them for your own use later. Now instead of dicing onions while I'm trying to toss together a quick meal, I just reach into the freezer and grab a handful or two. Of course, I can still chop them fresh, like I did this time, because I was out, but it's nice to have the option.

TIP #2

Chilpotle in Adobo sauce is an amazing, flavorful addition to many dishes. I use it in Mexican dishes or in anything with a sauce or gravy. I make a great sherry chicken with chilpotle and lime using this. Or you can mix a bit of this with sourcream and lime for a tasty dip. Or just chilpotle with mayo, and you have a spread that makes great sandwiches.  But it can be kind of annoying to chop the chiles as needed for recipes which sometimes mean I won't do it at all.

So I buy a can (found in the Mexican foods section of the grocery store) and just toss the whole thing in the food processor and puree it.  Then I put the puree in a jar and keep it in the fridge for timely and easy flavoring whatever I want to have a smoky, spicy kick. I love my chilpotle in adobo.

I hope you guys like this recipe. It's so easy, especially with the tricks I added, and so tasty. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. In fact, I'm going to dig around in my refrigerator and see if I have some leftovers for a lunch chicken taco.
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