Friday, February 27, 2015

Cooking for Two - Another Delicious Recipe {...from the cookbook "One Pan, Two Plates"...}

The Preacher and I are happy empty nesters.  However, I do confess that going from cooking (pretty much) every night for anywhere between 6 and 12 people, to cooking for only TWO people...

...well let's just say there were lots of leftovers.  For a long time.

Then, I mastered the art of cooking for two.  I don't cook every night, like I used to when the kids were all living at home, but when I do cook - I often use the cookbook One Pan, Two Plates.

{please do Pin the picture above...I'd be delighted.}

Rarely do I ever feel like I have struck gold when I buy a cookbook.  But I did, when I bought this one:

Find it here.

Tonight, I made the "Braised Chicken Thighs with Wild Rice, Walnuts, and Grapes".

Delicious.  Here are the main ingredients, besides the chicken thighs:

5 or 6 skinless chicken thighs (boneless if you'd like)
1 TB olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced (I do two - I love me some celery)
1/2 C wild and brown rice blend
1 tsp. dried thyme
1C beef broth
1C halved seedless grapes (recipe calls for red - I use what I have)
1/2 C chopped walnuts
2 tsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
...I do not consider a glass of wine while cooking as optional...but I suppose it is.

{I am going to share it here with you, in several "video shorts", exactly as I will next share it on my Instagram, so be sure to follow for more like this:}

First, throw coarse salt on 5-6 chicken thighs, and brown them in the olive oil, about 3 minutes each side...


Then, you remove the chicken from your beautiful turquoise pot (or cast iron skillet, which truthfully, I usually use.  All the cold and snow we've had here put me in the mood for the pop-of-color cast iron enamel pot!)

Anyhoo, remove the chicken to a plate, and set the plate in a warmer or in your oven on its absolute  lowest temp...the chicken isn't done.  You are just keeping it warm while you sauté your veggies and wild rice (and thyme) in all that goodness that the chicken left behind...


Let me try to show you how brown I want the bottom of your pot to be, okay?

This brown (look below)!

Once the rice begins to smell toasted and the veggies begin to soften, pour in your cup of beef broth.  This deglazes your pan so nicely...

I want you to pretend like you are cleaning your pan with the tip of your wooden spatula!  Don't think "Dirty pan, ew!"...look at all that brown and think, "Delicious.  I am so about to deglaze you, you beautiful brown stuff..."


Next, you cover all that, turn your heat down to medium low, and simmer the veggies and wild rice and broth for 20 minutes (yes, your chicken is still in the warmer)...

After 20 minutes is up, add your chicken back in, cover, and simmer on low for 20 more minutes.  After your second 20 minutes is up, taste the rice for doneness, and add more coarse salt and a few grinds of peppercorn, to taste.  Garnish with the parsley, if you like.  We didn't have any, so I didn't bother.

Lastly, you better plate this stuff up - because your husband will be feeling impatient by now - it smells so good, you would not believe!



Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Unstyled Lifestyle {...a house tour for no real reason...}

So, I've never been invited to participate in one of those "Holiday House Tours" at Christmas.  I want to say that "that chaps my hide", just because it's hilarious to say "that chaps my hide".  But the real truth is, I don't care at all that my house has not been featured on a blog hop "holiday tour".

I was reading a blog yesterday (one I lovingly follow), and the writer described her site as a "lifestyle blog", and it certainly is.  Every shot is gorgeous and highly styled.  Advertisers love her.  She was, I'm sure, the first to be asked to participate in a 2014 holiday house tour.

My blog falls more under the "lifestyle blog" category, than pretty much any other category...but I can't make my blog be...all that.  I can't be a lifestyle blog in the way that all the other lifestyle blogs are.  (Look you see any advertising?  That should tell you something.)  I guess my blog falls more under the category of "Completely Unstyled Lifestyle Christian Art and Artist Who Has Never Been Invited to Join a Holiday House Tour Blog".

Make sense?  Thought so.

Then I had the crazy idea to host my own House Tour For No Real Reason.

Perfection.  See, this way I can do it my way, make up my own rules, and dance like mad to that beat of a different drum... I am prone to do.

Got yourself a cup of coffee?  Good.  Because you are about to age considerably while I take you on my First Annual House Tour.  I figure since I have never once been invited to someone else's Blog Parade of Homes, I ought to be able to get away with packing years of visual information into one. long. post.

Are you ready?  Is your imagination engaged?  Because I think I hear someone at the door!  Could that be you?


(see that chippy paint on the doorway?  So not changing that.  I love it.  I love it like I love my absolutely worn out oak floors.  You can't buy patina like that.  I. am. serious.)

Come in!  (Yes, I really do have a torn out piece of a picture taped to my front door.  It reminds me who I am, on days I am tempted to forget...)

Here is our living room.  Twenty-two years of living in it - ten years as its renter, twelve years as its owner (another story for another day).  And the roses are not a prop, gentle reader!  They were a gift from my Preacher, a couple of days ago, for no real reason.  (I am sensing a theme.  We do a whole lot around here "for no real reason".)

Remember...this is completely unstyled.  God and the Preacher as my witness.  I did not style one single shot in this entire piece - whatsoever.  It would ruin the whole point of this Unstyled Lifestyle Blog.

And apparently I have a thing for tearing quotes out of magazines.  And those are last night's paintbrushes in water.  (A girl has to have something to do while her husband watches The Blacklist.  Just sayin'.)

A close up of the paint water.  Because this is the Unstyled Lifestyle.

Pretty pile of magazines, too.  When I decide it's time for bed, I decide it's time for bed.  This is my living room exactly as I found it this morning when I decided to feature my own house on my own blog.  I figure it's my blog.  Everyone can just deal with it.

See the brown kraft paper on the coffee table?  That is for the grand babies to practice their art.  There are Stabilo fat-pencils in the antique drawer.  I find their colors to be the brightest, truest, and best.

And I proudly leave their doodles on that paper, all the time.  When they fill that piece up, we tear it off and unroll more.  Here is a detail shot:

Just a $7 roll of painter's floor paper and a curtain rod from Wal-Mart attached to the side of the coffee table.  See the sweet scribbles?   

 ...the other side of said living room...

Beat-up table, waiting for its coat of Annie Sloane chalk paint, and I want to glue antique papers in the bottom of the display drawer...

...which is where I display art supplies, and the treasures I collect on my nature walks - something I have done with my own children since they were very young.  Something that, now they are grown and have children of their own, I continue to do...and will do nature walks with my grandchildren.

Come on into the kitchen with me...back through the foyer entry...

See that quirky door?  Apparently, when they built this house in 1963, they decided that the living room and entry needed to be shut off from the whole entire rest of the house.  "Put a door there," someone said. "People for generations will think it's a great idea," someone said.

(Ignore torn piece of paper quote.  Seriously - what is my deal?)

Here is a better perspective of Quirky Door.  Every time The Preacher and I think of knocking it down, and creating the ubiquitous "great room", we look at each other and say, "Nah.  It's quirky.  Like us.  Let's keep it."

I have upper coat hooks on the wall - for PopPop and Mimi hats and scarves...
...and lower coat hooks for the g-babies' little hats and coats.

...heading into the kitchen, through the dining room, you'll see our chalkboard wall to your right.  I had a chalkboard wall when chalkboard walls were not cool, friends.  Ask my family.  It has been that way for many years - die hard homeschoolers that we were.

Pardon the coats.  You'd think we didn't have a coat closet.  (No pictures of the coat closet.  I'm not that unstyled.)

And I promise I'm not having a seance.  Not one candle was lit for this blog post that was not already lit.  It has been a terribly cloudy, gloomy day.  This whole entire post will have funky lighting in the pictures, because I refused to turn on lights.  I'm unstyled like that.  (Actually, I vastly prefer to shoot in natural light, however poor it may be.)

In fact, here is the view through my kitchen window:

The forecast is "snow, clouds, and gloom".  

Here's one side of the heart of my home:

The beverage bar.  It has an analog juicer (not electric), our Keurig, fruit bowl, and a tray...

...with straws, a lemonade, a root beer, and a Coke in the back (with more stored in the pantry).  Peppermint sticks, marshmallows, and unprocessed sugar (oxymoronic, no?) and cinnamon sticks in the front.  Anyone is welcome to anything here, at any time.  This one little detail has made more family members and guests feel special - probably more than any other thing in the whole house.  Everyone helps themselves to anything here.  Trust me...keeping this area well stocked is a labor of love.

And we use the vintage record player every day.  It's my jam.

The other side of the kitchen:

I am a copper pot snob.  I don't like to cook with anything else.
A real lifestyle blog would have polished the copper before the photo shoot.  Hashtag truth.

I actually do leave stuff out on my cutting board.  It sometimes lures me into actually chopping it up and cooking with it.

Sorry about the crappy lighting and the crooked plate.  Let's head to the other end of the house, shall we?

Back through the dining room - my boots by the back door.  It would make sense to you, if you could see the snow and mud out back.  It isn't just a decorating detail...though it kind of is that.  I do put them on, pretty regularly.  In fact, I am wearing them to church tomorrow.  Hashtag snowturnstorain.

Ain't  no lie.

The giant ruler is for measuring grandchildren.  Let's head back to the other end of the house.

Heading into the master.  Do not hate on the fake fireplace.  It is my heart and soul and I love it.  Ignore the Unstyled Woman in the mirror.

...the master bath is through the door on the right...

Heading into the room, the left half of my master bedroom is my home office.  The master suite is a huge room, taking up the whole end of the house:

This is one of my desks.  Unstyled and unedited.  Promise.  Why do you not seem surprised?

...desk detail.  This is where I keep the jewelry designs I am working on, plus anything that is available for sale in my shop.  I also keep a few department store pieces that I never wear.

It's a mystery why I even still have those department store pieces, because I never wear them.  I prefer wearing my own designs.  The only exception is my Brighton jewelry.  I love and wear it often.

Another desk detail.  Notice the dead daffodils in a Coke bottle.  Not even lying.

Yet another desk detail.  I also use this area to put the brown paper backing on my original art pieces.

Do you see my second desk, back there?  

This is where I work on the business end of my art.  I also blog and work on my book here.  Lots of hours get spent - right smack dab here, under the window.  I am here right now!  Weird, isn't it?

On the adjacent wall, to my right as you face that window, you'll find my supplies-storage area:

Here's the other side of the master - the part that really is the master:

This is an antique wardrobe that used to belong to my paternal grandma.  I leave the Preacher's shirt there to remind me that I need to sew a button on it.  I wish I were lying.

The spots on the wall are because we were going to repaint the master in 2014.  We speckled and primed some spots.  We sort of rolled that project over into 2015.

The night stand on the left is way too small for the space.  And you'd think I'd finish painting it, too.  I'm beginning to see why no one has ever invited me to participate in their Holiday House Tour.

We're so rachet, here.

The art on the wall is one of my originals, and is available for sale, actually.  I just haven't gotten around to properly photographing it and posting it in my shop...feel free to  email me if you are interested.  And please ignore the ginormous humidifier.  Would you believe I am still not completely well?  The Scourge of 2K14 got me, but good.

Speaking of art pieces, I'll show you my studio.  Let's head back down the hallway.  I'm not even showing you the wall on the left, as you walk out.  It's my vision wall.  It is full of... ::cough::...torn up pieces of paper.  Pictures of my life, as it will be.

Keep walking, please.  My studio is on your left...past the linen closet:

ohgoodlord.  This is embarrassing.  Yet another torn piece-of-paper-quote, taped up.  I am in need of some 12-step program that hasn't been invented yet.  I have it there to remind me that an optimistic person really does live here.  Um...that would be me.

See the little wall easel?  The grand babies make art in here, too!  (I know.  It's too cute to be real.  But it is real.  The realness is real.  And those essential oils have childproof caps, by the way.)

...this is the rest of the studio, except for the storage wall.  I want to show you that, too, but I fear I'm boring you with my one hundred and seventeen photos of Unstyled Lifestyle.

What?  You are ready to leave?  Wait!  Come back! I chase you back down the hallway...

...and around the corner...

...and I'll say goodbye as you run back out the way you came in!  
(You see the torn-piece-of-paper-quote on the left wall, under the little mirror...
...and you let out a muffled scream.  I don't blame you.)

Thank you, from my heart's bottom, for putting up with my House Tour For No Real Reason.  Hashtag cabinfever, hashtag snowedin, hashtag Iamlosingit.

At least I can now say that my house has been featured in someone's blog.

Shhhhhhhhhh.  It's our secret.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Three Inescapable Laws of Art-Making {...any art, of any kind...but only if you want to be truly original...}

{The image of the dandelion has huge significance to me, in terms of the creative process!}

One of my great passions is The Creative Process.  I have the same reverence for the creative process, that I have for the finished product....the "masterpiece", whether that masterpiece be an amazing twist on roasting chicken, or a book about string theory, or a mixed-media painting,  or a Taylor Swift song.  The nuts and bolts of creativity are sacred rudiments.  Even the mechanics are holy.

Because the Creator of the universe is behind it all - whether the artist understands this and acknowledges it or not, every person who creates anything can do so because he or she is made  imago the image of God. God is the original artist;  He is the source of it all from concept to completion, and He is behind all the messy mechanics that characterize the middle of the creative process.

So, at great risk of pulling the wings off the proverbial butterfly, I hope to take apart the process - breaking it into about three components, and putting it back together while still retaining the mystery.

Tall order.

The first law:

You have to put yourself in front of the best.  The best books, the best minds, the best music, the best art - and make it your life's avocation to cultivate an informed opinion, through comparison and contrast.  Most importantly:  get outside.  Let creation itself inspire and refresh you.  Let new (and even seemingly bizarre) relationships present themselves.  Let all of it - the ideas, the images, the recipes, the paintings, the trees, the mountains, the theology, the books - let it cross-pollinate all up in your head.

Yo.  Blow the dandelion.  Stir the soup.  (see the relationship?)

Every day.

If you don't, you won't have what it takes to be an artist.

The second law:

Know when to stop it.  Know when to put down the book on string theory.  Know that you aren't putting it down to watch TV or take a nap or check Facebook - know that you are putting it down to make up your own recipe, a new twist, say, on "40 Clove of Garlic Chicken".  (It can be done.)

Know when to fall off one horse, so you can jump onto another.

It's how creative people "rest".  They just give their brain a change of scenery - the bigger the contrast, the better the effect.

The third law:

Never.  Ever.  Never try to be creative.

If you have to try to be an artist, you aren't.

Hey...Shalom, y'all.  Embrace it.  The world needs engineers and administrators and literal people - stop hating on yourself.  It isn't healthy for you or anyone you love.   The whole world is missing out on the best parts of you, they are missing out on your gifts, because you think you need to be deep and find the metaphor in think you need to make stuff, and you end up just sort of making stuff up.

Just do you.  Be left brained.  The world needs you.  Even artists can't try to be artists...they just are.  "Art" really is a form of the verb "to be", and it's okay.

It really is okay.  It is okay for me to paint and write and be weird, and for you to organize and account and crunch the numbers and administrate and be literal and normal.  Every bit of it is a reflection of God - never let the clay say to the Potter, "Why have You made me this way?"

How is this third law a law of creativity, then?  Because making no overt effort to "be creative" is as vital to the process of art as not doing math equations all day every day is to the process of teaching math.

You have to let fallow ground, lie fallow.  It's the only way to a sustainable harvest, year-in and year-out.  Trust that it all will come to you, in due time.

I'm sorely tempted to add a fourth law - and call it something like, "The Law of Actually Doing It".  I'm tempted to add that law, because as an artist, I live in my head all the time, and precious few ideas I have actually make it to the light of day and the marketplace.  Confession is good for the soul - that's the cold, hard truth about me.  I have far more ideas than I have the discipline to grind them out and make them real.

I gotta work on that.

And since I can only teach what I already do, authentically...I will stop at three laws.

I will get to work on actually bringing a couple things I've been thinking about into concrete reality.

Thanks for, here's a "Pinnable" (thanks in advance for sharing):