Cooking Is My Art

I started to wonder where all my creative energy was going, since it wasn’t going to writing.

Then I remembered what I’ve been doing lately.

Making pomanders for Christmas presents:

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Putting together homemade cards for birthdays and occasions throughout the year:

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Knitting on the cardigan:

019But more importantly, cooking. Like, all the time. Compulsively. (It’s like I need to eat, or something.)

Three-Squash Soup (Butternut, Acorn and mystery squash–my own random recipe):

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Butternut Squash Lasagna (original recipe here–I subbed pumpkin for the butternut):

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Pumpkin Custard with Brulee Topping (best food ever):

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My own random Sun-Dried Tomato, Olive, and Cauliflower pasta (with the addition of garlic, parsley and kale this time):

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White Bean Stew:

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Tofu Chocolate Mousse:

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Spicy Gingerbread Cake:

018I think that cooking has taken over, first out of necessity and then out of creativity, as my current art form. Being a vegan means I have to be a lot more proactive about my food than an omnivore would–vegan convenience food, when available, is usually a lot more expensive and less tasty.

So right now, cooking is the art I practice. I practice it faithfully. I have to. Many days I don’t want to. Sometimes my art is more like peanut butter and jelly than Quinoa and Black Bean Stuffed Peppers with homemade Enchilada Sauce. My art is a lot less visible and a lot less permanent than I’d like it to be.

But the day will come when I can invest in that kind of art, too. And maybe spending time in something transient and overlooked will have given me some kind of skill I can use.

Until then, I’m going to fiddle with that Spicy Gingerbread Cake recipe. Because I’m just not a fan of the peanut oil, and I think I want to add some powdered ginger with the fresh stuff, and my friend and I agree that a maybe a vegan whipped cream would be nice on top…

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Knitting the Perfectionist Way

A few years ago, I was given some amazingly beautiful yarn from my aunt. This yarn was so incredible, so deeply color-saturated, so soft, just the perfect amount of fuzzy (but not too fuzzy) that it required the PERFECT pattern.

After a fruitless search (because I had determined that this yarn wanted to a zippered hoodie), I decided to make my own pattern. It couldn’t be too hard, could it?

038It was too hard. I got about ten glorious inches into the thing before admitting that it just wasn’t right. And with a yarn this amazing, it had to be done right.

So I put it aside for a while.

And then I tried searching for a pattern again.

I searched Ravelry. I searched Knitty. I tried Twist Collective and Knit Picks. I even branched out to Vogue Knitting and did google searches.

Nowhere was there a pattern I liked.

Apparently a shaped (not boxy), zip, hoodie, in about 6 SPI gauge, was too much to ask.
I tried again this fall.

043That was when I determined that the yarn was not going to show itself off well unless it was stockinette. I loved the way the seed stitch looked on the model sweater, but mine was not so well-favoured. I had to return a gorgeous pattern book when I discovered the one I wanted to make had more purl stitches than I expected.

When I came across Hollywell Cardigan on Ravelry, I was willing to give up the zipper part of my preferences for buttons since this pattern has all of my other required elements. I’m not doing the stripes, but that’s my only change. I could probably swap out the button bands for a zipper but at this point I’m considering that maybe my love of zippers has waned.

So this is my current project, so very many false starts in the making. I have hope that it’ll be finished before hot weather sets in. Or, you know, before next fall’s chill comes along.

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Do you have a craft project you’re working on right now? Or a project that’s waiting for the perfect Something before you can start?

Brave

SF Flower

Anyone else heard about the thing where you choose one word to go with you through the new year?
For a couple of years I only heard about it when the year was about halfway through and I forgot about it afterwards. It sounded cool: choose a word that means something to you (or pick a word from their list of ideas) and use that word to inspire or motivate your life.

Last year I joined in and chose the word “brave”. It was choice I wasn’t entirely sure of at the time, because it seemed rather cliche and possibly bland. Then there was the disappointing movie that had recently come out.

But I decided to go with it anyway.

Then Sara Bareilles came out with her song.

And Neil Gaiman posted his New Year’s Wish:

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And all through the year, when I had a choice to do something easy or do something brave, it inspired me.

  • I applied for promotions at work, even ones high above my current ability level. I started building relationships with those managers, putting a framework in place for the future.
  • I dove headfirst into my romantic relationship when I didn’t know what I was doing, because growing and being in it with him is more important than staying in my comfort zone.
  • I volunteered for extra work trainings to grow my skills.
  • I said yes to acting in a Christmas show even though I hadn’t been in front of an audience in 15 years and didn’t know what I was doing.
  • I set boundaries with people.
  • I insisted on getting some medical assistance, changing doctors when the one I had wasn’t listening to me (and as the recently-returned tests show, I was right).

I really like how this year turned out. I like how “brave” became such a part of my life.

My new word for 2014 is another one I’m not totally sure of, so I’m going to go with it.

My word for 2014 is “energy”.

I think it’s partly about having more physical energy and focusing on things I can do to boost that. And partly it’s about rejecting negative energy and embracing positive energy. So it’s a word with more than one meaning to me.

Have you joined One Word in the past? Are you doing it this year? Share your word!

Three Down, Five to Go

1) It’s been nine days solid of rehearsals and performances. We’ve done three full public shows (and one tiny preview show) and the fun isn’t over yet! One more for this weekend, then we can all rest our voices til next Friday.

2) And we do need to rest our voices. Mine is starting to feel it. Unfortunately, the remedy our Director suggested (Barenjager, in a hot drink) is not vegan. I’ve gone with Disarrono instead.

3) I’ve failed at my personal challenge to look for ways to help others for the last two months. Both October and November were so jam-packed I forgot to fit this in, too. I’ll try to pick it up again this month.

4) I’ve come up with some shockingly simple plans to enhance my creativity and lower my stress level: work less. I know, revolutionary, right? Seriously, though, work stuff has given me the impetus to make a new decision that I will hopefully stick to. More details later.

5) I like numbered lists.

6) It’s gotten very cold here, though not as cold as the rest of the country. The boyfriend has gone to the coast for the weekend. I worry about him.

7) Anyone else been watching Once Upon A Time In Wonderland? I find it delightful, if slightly lagging at times. The original Once Upon A Time is much faster-paced but almost everything about it gives me major eye-rolls these days.

8) I finally found a sweater pattern to knit that works with the yarn I bought three years ago. My aunt gave me a gift certificate, and I knew what I wanted to make with it but it didn’t exactly exist in pattern form. I even tried to write a pattern myself. It didn’t end well, but I wasted a lot of energy before I realized that. Now I’ve found it, and I’ve cast on, only to realize that I really do need a circular in a size smaller instead of trying to cobble it on DPNs.

9) In case anyone was interested, the count for work interviews stands at, now, nine. Since March. This last one has been a train wreck starting back in June, and no matter the different people who get involved it just keeps being…odd. One day I’ll write a whole post about it. Right now it’s an HR issue.

10) There is no ten. I just didn’t want to end a numbered list with less. I’ve had too much Disarrono to make sense of why this really doesn’t matter.

How To…Add Something Nonsensical to Your To-Do List

Another completely random project: homemade vanilla extract. The dishes aren’t done, laundry is piling up–but at least I made something I could have run out to the store to buy, right?

002I followed (mostly) the directions here. I neglected to check on the origin of my vanilla beans when I was at the store, so I’ll do that next time.

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And after one week it looks like this:

001(I’m actually supposed to cover the vanilla beans with vodka, but I ran out and haven’t replaced it yet. So when I do, I’ll fill the jar up the rest of the way. ‘Til then I’m making sure to shake it often and stare the beans down as if that’ll stuff them below the surface.)

All Hectic on the Western Front

The last month has been interesting.

I’ve had rehearsal three days a week, which was a lot more fun than I expected. Rehearsal days are now my favorites.007The Boyfriend and I celebrated our One Year Anniversary.

023I applied for four new positions at work and got turned down for three of them. I’m still waiting to hear back from the fourth, and I have an application ready to turn in for another. Ambitious or a glutton for punishment? We don’t know.

002aI recently changed departments at work, so there are lots of new things I’m learning there. It’s been awesome, but brain-consuming. I’m continuing to train as an assistant for yet another department, so my skills are diversifying.

I’ve tried new experiments on social responsibility, namely: using vintage hankies instead of facial tissue. It was slightly more work to start out (ironing my line-dried hankies, remembering to pack them in my purse and workbag, setting them aside to wash separately so they don’t get stained blue with my jeans, etc.) but I think I like them better. Next up: People Towels.

001I also attended World Veg Festival with my fellow vegan roommate and discovered the most amazing Sjaac’s Chocolate. (I bought way too much and ate it way too fast.)

wvf_cardAnd I discovered Peet’s Maple Lattes, which is a delightful fall treat since I don’t care for the Pumpkin Spice Lattes everyone else is crazy about.

005(This particular Peet’s location has the added advantage of roaming chickens. I don’t know where they come from. But there were chicks!)

011All in all, it was a pretty busy month but I didn’t go under. October should be slightly easier, fingers crossed. I might even dig myself out from under the pile of Things to Do on my table…

I (Don’t Want To) Listen

listening-ear
(From PublicDomainPictures.net)

I love the synchronicity of the internet.

Lately I’ve been following a lot of conversations, some about strong women characters, some about the “real” definition of Fangirl, some about gender roles in faith communities, and some about the voices of minorities in all communities.

It’s been the conversations about voice that have been the most important to me. They seem to transcend their own corner to apply to just about everything.

Lack of female superheroes in media? Let’s listen to what “fangirls” are saying before labeling it an unprofitable market.

Lack of women in faith conversations? Um, have you met the internet? Maybe get with some of the women leaders who exist (trust me, they’re totally there) and ask them how to broaden the conversation.

Lack of minority writers in SFF? Yeah, they’re there, they’re just not getting coverage. Seek them out and acknowledge their voices.

Lack of minority characters in SFF? It’s a problem, especially to get ones that aren’t stereotypes intended to fill a certain, pre-conceptualized role. Listen to the problem before trying to fix it and going about it all wrong.

So, voice. Listening. Affirming. Acknowledging that (almost) everyone has a valid viewpoint, and those who don’t still feel as if they do. Everyone’s emotional position feels legitimate, and sometimes what we need most is not to be right or wrong but to feel heard in that.

It’s been a very big thing with me lately, leading to passionate discussions about feminism and transgender issues.

But my own inability to listen was right under my nose.

One of the problems of being unashamedly open-minded is that when one has a bit of closed-mindedness it is hard to spot. Like a rusty mechanism, my radar didn’t turn on myself until I read this in a post this morning:

What if we responded like that more often? I think that would be beautiful, don’t you?

When someone tells us that we hurt them. I’m listening.

When someone is crying out. I’m listening.

When someone disagrees with us. I’m listening.

I’m in the middle of a disagreement with someone close to me, someone whose opinion on a situation seems totally unfounded. It feels like it’s unnecessary, that it’s inconvenient, that it’s a violent reaction to a small instigation. It’s right in front of me all the time, though, so I can’t just step past it and move on. I don’t want it to be there, and I’m impatient that it remains.

Part of me equates “listening” with “changing to make another person happier”. I need to find that middle ground between whole-hearted acceptance and whole-hearted resistance.

I’m trying to remind myself that it’s not about being right or being wrong. Other people do not need my permission to have “correct” emotions.

And maybe if I actually listened, with no other agenda or intent to convince, it would accomplish all it needed to.