Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Slowly But Surely

How are you doing with your New Year's Resolutions? I didn't actually make any, but I took the opportunity to get a fresh start on several things around here. So far, I can't say that I've been doing so well, except for that first week.  Statistics show that 92% of people drop their New Year's resolutions before the end of the year. Many of them do within the first month.

This past week I pretty well goofed off.  I did clear out some clutter from a few areas, but never actually finished any of them. One end of my computer desk got cleared, and a working space on my studio desk got cleared so I could have a spot to make a bigger mess with paint and/or inks.  I did manage to sort through and file the bills and other papers in my inbox and filing slots, and I also got my business books to balance for year-end (on the first try too!) And just like the two desks, I have half a closet all cleaned out and vacuumed.  Half a job doesn't sound good, I know, but half a job certainly gives me the incentive to finish what I started.  Each half job happened because I was looking for something, which just proves I need to reduce the clutter.  Now I'll be looking to finish those jobs.  That's a goal, right?

I have been a bit more successful in the art department.  While my drawing class could have been finished within a week, I've been stretching it out, so that I don't feel rushed. It's been fun as I had to draw something complicated upside down, and draw something specific from memory and draw something else without looking at the paper at all. How any of that can turn out better than if I just tried to draw it the usual way, I don't know, but almost all of it did.  Apparently, I have to let go of the idea of what I'm trying to draw and just follow the shapes.

I remember doing an ink and wash years ago. My instructor wanted to challenge me and stuck a picture of a chipmunk on a stump in front of me. I sputtered, "But you know I can't draw," to which she replied, just make marks. Make more marks in the dark areas, and fewer marks in the lighter areas." I had no faith in that but somehow ended up with a chipmunk on a stump, without actually ever drawing a chipmunk or a stump.  I guess I just have to get out of my own way and connect my eyes to my hand and disengage the brain that is busy trying to make sense of it all.

In the meantime, I've found a Facebook page that teaches all the steps involved in mixed media. I've been interested in that for a few years now, so I'm working my way through the video morsels they offer that teach even the most basic of techniques. This will give me a good kick start on creating new works of my own as time goes on. Since the morsels are done on small notebook pages, they don't take long.  Sooner or later, though, I will need some stencils, which is something I don't currently have. I think I'll try making some of my own though. That could be fun.  

There's the problem right there.  I'm playing instead of working. I got all the Children's Fitness Tax Credit recipes done for the karate class though, and will install my tax software this week.   I will finish the three spaces I started. I need the studio desk for all this artwork.  I need the computer desk for the upcoming  tax season, and I definitely need my side of the closet cleaned out. If I start by getting rid of all the clothes that no longer fit me there would be a lot more room.  But wait....I did manage to lose another pound so maybe I can save some money and fit into those clothes yet.

So, as you see, I have not yet dropped my New Years Res.....er.....New Beginnings. I've slowed down a bit, but I'm still working on them.  What about you?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Heritage Pie

A long lost cousin I've reconnected with on Facebook posted a scan of an old recipe she found recently. Apparently she has been sorting through things and eliminating clutter, just as I have been doing.  Sorting recipes always slows me down because I have way too many of them and I try every year to find a way to get them more organized and get rid of duplicates. She was having a problem too, but it was more because some needed to be rewritten before being tossed. And how do you toss away a piece of paper with your own Grandmother's handwriting on it, even if it is damaged by oil and time? Such things tug at the heart.

The recipe was for a Butterscotch Pie and for some reason I downloaded it. Probably because I have my own fond memories of Vera Coughlin.

 It wasn't easy to read, so I tried running it through some editing software, but all I really succeeded in doing was to get the yellow out of the paper and changing the size. I printed off my best effort and went about trying to decipher the words that had nearly faded away. I had just rolled out the last of my Christmas pastry and needed a filling for a single crust pie. I decided this was a good time to try this heritage pie.

As I began to mix the ingredients together, I was suddenly aware that the dear lady had not spelled out tablespoon and teaspoon as even tbsp and tsp. I had to hope that "T" was tablespoon and "t" was teaspoon and that it wasn't just a quirk of her handwriting that caused her to capitalize one of the T's and not the other.

There was another part of the recipe that confused me. It looked like she wanted me to add the warm milk to the egg yolks, but if you've ever made lemon pie filling from a package, you know you would add the egg yolks to the mixture in the pot, along with some of the cold water, before adding the hot liquid. I decided to do this the same way.

In the end, it all worked out, and I will write out the recipe in a manner I can understand for future reference.

Butterscotch Pie
1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
5 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg yolks (reserve the whites for meringue)x
2 cups of milk, divided

Cream together butter, brown sugar, flour, salt and vanilla in a pot.
Beat egg yolks with a 1/2 cup of the milk and stir into sugar mixture until well blended. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk until it's hot but not boiling and pour into the pot with the rest of the ingredients.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When bubbles break the surface, cook for another 30 seconds. Pour into cooled 9" pie shell and top with meringue.

Beat 2 egg whites until soft peaks form.
Gradually add 1/4 cup of white sugar and beat on high for 2 minutes until stiff peaks form.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fresh Start - Week One

New beginning number one (art) is going to interfere with new beginning number three (losing weight). I have now signed up for an online art course, and between watching videos, and following links and doing assignments, I find myself firmly planted on my butt.  That's certainly not going to reduce the size of it.

For new beginnings number two (de-cluttering) I'm following the Home Solutions  Declutter 365 web page that breaks things down so you have a 15 minute mission to accomplish each day.  My first 15 minute chore went on for half an hour and still wasn't finished because my step stool had mysteriously disappeared over the holidays. But just the idea that it took that long to clean off, (and clean up) my kitchen counter meant it really needed it.  Yet I know my counter is much neater than some I've seen, so if you haven't done yours yet, get to it! Start at one end of the counter, take things off to clean under them. Sort through that stuff and put things that don't belong there away, or get rid of them.

After cleaning and decluttering surfaces, we have now moved on to the drawers. A couple of years ago, when I cleaned out my over-stuffed utensil drawer, I put all the useful things I don't tend to touch into a box and took them to the basement. If I found I needed something, I knew where to find it. Anything left in that box now will be disposed of. I suppose I should have done that sooner. This time, when I did that drawer, the only things I found that I felt I could remove, were a handful of plastic straws. They got moved to my studio, as now I like to blow paint and ink around to create interesting abstract designs.

The drawing course is a lot of fun, and not too hard, even for me.....so far, anyway. It's called How to Draw Without Talent, and I found it at Sketchbook Skool.  Some people are very talented. I think they inherit it from someone and are able to translate the world around them into some form of expression the rest of us can only marvel at. I may have some talents, but drawing is not one of them. It has taken me a long time to be able to paint pictures that I feel are good enough to even give away, but I've been working at that for years. I can't draw, according to instructor Danny Gregory, not because I don't have talent, but because nobody has ever taught me any of the basic skills. Yes, I can see, but I can't translate what I see to paper. I hope this class, or klass as they call it, will change all that.

Danny says learning to draw is actually easier than learning to drive. Well, I can't drive either, but then, I've never actually tried to learn how. This week I have learned the basic components of drawing.  I took steps to learn to copy lines, curves, angles and spots or circles. Instead of drawing actual things, I had to try to duplicate abstract patterns containing these elements. It wasn't easy, but it was fun. I had trouble with just one of them and thought I wasn't getting the angles and perspective right.  But when I looked at it the next day, I saw exactly what I had left out, and fixed it with no trouble at all. That gave me the confidence to try to duplicate an ad that had come in the mail. I don't think I did too badly. So already this course is working. 

Danny makes us draw with a pen, so that we will commit to our lines. That makes it even scarier for me, as I know I can't erase even the most glaring mistakes. I did this one with a ball point pen so it doesn't show up as well as I would hope, but I have just purchased a couple of nice new black pens to work with in the future.

So, to summarize week one: I'm learning the basic skills behind learning how to draw; the kitchen is looking neat and tidy and I've started on the drawers; and I've somehow lost three pounds, but that may be because I've been too busy to snack.  Hey, whatever works!

How are you doing with your project?

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year everyone!

At this time of year many people start making resolutions. I'm not going to do that, as promising to take a firm course of action would only set me up for failure. Instead, I've got some new beginnings to make.

The first is that I want to explore my art a little more than I have been the past couple of years. I am looking into a few courses that might help with that, and I have subscribed to some interesting U-Tube channels, that motivate me to just play and try things. You may get to see some weird stuff this year, but I'll try not to bore you with everything.

The second thing is my usual, declutter project. I start the year off like this fairly frequently. As we start to put away Christmas stuff (okay, so I have not done that yet), I get the notion to put away other stuff as well.  Stuff is something I have a lot of, and it tends to accumulate in messy piles here and there. Home Storage Solutions puts out a this guide each month on what to declutter and when.  I've followed it on numerous occasions in the past, and will be doing it again.  It's a good kick start, if nothing else. Their plan is never overwhelming as it breaks things down into small jobs that often aren't meant to take more than 15 minutes.

The third thing I want to do is to take another stab at losing some weight. I like to believe that a little extra weight at my age is probably a good thing. It gives me something to fall back on if I become ill.  Today I weigh in at 160 pounds, which is a bit too much for my 5'4" frame. I have sore knees and feet, so less weight would likely be helpful with that.  I have no intention of trying to get back to what I weighed in my youth. I was way too skinny back then, despite eating everything in sight.  I would, however, like to fit into at least last years clothes! I got a shock recently when I was going to a dance, and found I didn't have a dress that fit, where normally I have a hard time deciding which one to wear. I refuse to go out and buy a larger size, so I will work on slimming down, and then reward myself with a nice new outfit.

I plan to keep you updated on how things are going from time to time. Maybe I can inspire some of you to some new beginnings also. I'd love it if you shared your ideas and accomplishments on any of these subjects, or your other goals throughout the year.  Let's do this together. Start fresh.