July 31: kitchen adventures

July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

What is the world coming to when I, a vegetarian of 15 years, am making chicken nuggets? Maybe it’s J’s persistent nagging to take him to McDonald’s where they have “cool lunches kids can take home.” Hm. I have heard about their chicken nuggets. While they are probably not made from pink slime, they are made of breasts of  “unusually large chickens” (according to Wikipedia). So I am postponing his full entry into the mainstream culture for as long as I can. And I am making chicken nuggets.

In fact, first I made a creamy herb dressing (thank you, Sunset magazine) from 1T canola oil heated with 1 1/2 t ground coriander, 1/2 C yogurt, 1t white wine vinegar, 1/2 C mint, and 1/2 C oregano (the recipe calls for mint, basil, and cilantro, but I pulled out all the cilantro from the herb garden and don’t even try to grow basil).  You blend it, and voila!

I also got some mustard going (thank you, Sunset magazine). Right now, it has yellow and brown mustard seeds, apple cider vinegar, fresh thyme and fresh rosemary, and it doesn’t look like much, but come back in two days to see it when it’s all done. In fact, ever since I have started making mustard, I am not sure why anyone would buy it in a jar. I am thinking taste and cost here.

And now for the chicken nuggets. The recipe is, once again, from the Homemade pantry book. I do recommend it. Strongly Here is the assembly line:

chicken, mayonnaise (actually vegannaise) with lemon juice, and bread crumbs (homemade from homemade bread — heck, yeah!). You dip the chicken into the mayonnaise then into the crumbs, and put on a baking sheet. You refrigerate for 20 minutes, then you bake. First I wondered why would anyone be so idle as to make chicken nuggets when you can buy them, but the process was actually fun, as most repetitive processes usually are. And, yes, they are cost effective. They are baking now, and I have no idea if J. will eat them, but this is what they looked like before going into the oven:

To tell the truth, I don’t really enjoy making all this homemade-from-scratch stuff, but I feel very proud, accomplished, and superior when I am done, which makes it worth it. I am still not sure if I want to count kitchen work as creativity then, especially since I am just following someone else’s recipe. But, I am making something new and good, and I guess that’s what counts.

If you are interested in any of the recipes, let me know, and I can send them to you!



July 30: Ninja stories and more origami

July 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

We had a quiet morning today, so the creative time happened early. O. is sleeping (I have her nap times figured out already; I wish I had done that when J. was a baby) and J. and I had some origami fun. First, I made him a book out of construction paper,  which he used to create  a Ninjago story that I took dictation for.  If you are wondering what Ninjago is, it means you have not been  following the world of Lego or hanging out with mainstream 5-year old boys. In any case, we wrote the book, whose epic title is Unleash the great devourer:

And since I already had him doing something other than playing with Legos, and since I don’t really have room for storing origami creations, we made cards out of the ones I made yesterday, and turned them into Thank you notes for the aunt and grandparents:

Making origami hearts is especially easy and rewarding, though I have to say that the origami dress has been cheering me up since I discovered it. And so the cards are on their way, O. is still sleeping, J. and D. went on a playdate, which means I have no choice but to enjoy some time on my own.

And, as J’s book says,


July 29: Origami

July 30, 2012 § 2 Comments

I had the kids by myself all day. This was a lot of fun except for the fact that J. has decided to stop eating and keeps saying that his belly is full and that he will eat tomorrow. So  this got me worried. Plus, watching kids all day  means no time for something as frivolous as art projects. But I did get to make some origami from some books I got from the library. One claims to be for ages 4 and up, but I had a hard time following instructions (maybe 4-year olds would do better?), so I only made a bunny, a balancing mobile, and a popping toy from that one (yellow paper in picture–the mobile is especially cool). Then I made a dress and star from another library book, called Minigami. This was much more enjoyable, especially the dress.

That’s it from me for today. I hope those who are following this blog were not expecting serious art to come out of my brief daily encounters with creativity.

July 28: Collage

July 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

It all started with buying some file organizers at a garage sale this morning. When I got home, I started to organize my mail, then my art supplies, then toys, games, clothes… It got a little out of control. All, of course, between O’s naps. Not sure what possessed me to do it, but it wore me out a bit. Oh, I know I shouldn’t complain. I know women who had to go back to work six weeks after giving birth, not to mention women with 4+ children, or women who work three jobs just to survive. And I am not really complaining, but I do wonder what possesses one/me to make up chores instead of doing nothing and enjoying the day?

I didn’t get to today’s creative project until the kids were asleep (read 10pm).  (No, I don’t consider organizing art supplies a creative activity. ) I did what was easiest: made a collage. I have been making collages in my tattered old notebook that looks like this

since 2007.  Sometimes I use collages to get my priorities straight or to dream. Sometimes I have fun with the images. Sometimes I am trying to say something to myself. It’s always good therapy. Here are some of the past ones:


resist and survive, says Linus


And here is the one I made tonight, and related to the first paragraph of this post:



I do not relate to this woman in a silk nightgown and fancy bed. I know nothing about extravagant lounging. But maybe that is the whole point of this collage. To find the place in me where this well-maintained woman, the dreaming goddess, and the playful, confident girl reside. At the top of the page is a piece of advice by Dr. Phil of all people saying that you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. Indeed.

It is way past my bedtime. The baby can wake up any time between 12 and 5, and so this post ends.

July 27: Museums

July 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

from the Mariani family exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum


Having dropped our budding scientist off at the science camp this morning, D. and I (with O. in a baby carrier) spent some time at the Tacoma Art Museum. They have an incredible show right now: Lodge by Marie Watt, a practitioner of  “social sculpture,” which “holds that art should be participatory and has the power to effect transformations in the self and society.” She uses blankets and felt to tell stories. The centerpiece of the exhibit is Engine, a felt cave in which American Indian storytellers, projected as holograms (a nod to Star Wars), tell stories of their peoples. Here is her website and here are some exhibit pictures:

The blankets, some or all, I am not sure, were donated. Donors included stories about the blankets, which are attached to them. One of the blankets was donated by a WWII prison camp survivor; the blanket was given to him in the camp. The whole exhibit is moving and powerful, but I don’t need to elaborate on that; that’s not the purpose of this blog.

The great thing about the Tacoma Art Museum is the art resource room on the second floor, where you can make art inspired by the exhibits using the toolkits provided by the museum. Being impressed and moved by Watt’s work, I chose Stitches, Stories, Shelter. Here is the visual story of the five-minute creative act that came out of that:

the toolkit

the instructions

my contribution

(Maybe what I meant to say with my fabric patch is this: that in parenting you have to be tough, soft, and fierce all at the same time. Maybe I didn’t mean to say anything at all, but liked the fabrics and the colors.)

the entire display

(You may also notice D’s blue fabric bike in the middle. After all, an image of a bike says a lot about who he is and what he does.)

other people’s work

By the time I was done, it was time to pick up our little camper. We all headed to the Museum of Glass, where they just happened to have a silly puppet-making activity. We cut out heads, bodies, and legs from different magazines and put them together using hole punches and brackets. Results? Here:





What a great day. I am grateful for museums, their participatory nature,and for the fact that they encourage creativity. This is not what museums are like where I grew up.







July 26: nothing special

July 27, 2012 § 4 Comments

Another day flew by. Precious little time to and for myself. It’s probably my fault that both my children just want(ed) to be carried by mom all the time. I did manage to create a little lavender project from a kids’ craft book:  I got a set of four craft books, one for each season, from the library book sale ($1 each — I love the cheap art accessories the library provides me with), and this project attracted my attention:

It looked pretty and easy, and used lavender, which I have an abundance of in the garden.

As is usually the case when I follow instructions from books, it turned out to be harder than I thought, and the end result looked very different from the picture:

One could call it mummified lavender.

But I didn’t give up, and tried again. The second attempt still looked nothing like the picture from the book, but it was fun to make, has a fabulous smell, and will keep moths away from the clothes in the closet.

Oh, and by the way, I had homemade granola and homemade yogurt for breakfast this morning, and it tasted fantastic. I guess the payoff from kitchen creativity is immediate and tangible.

It would be nice if these creative excursions managed to create some kind of a sacred space for me, kairos instead of chronos perception of time, but alas, they probably just add stress to my days. Not to say that it isn’t worth it. It is part of learning to slow down and listen to myself.

July 25: herbs and granola

July 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

Today was rough. O. seems to be going through a growth spurt, so napping in her bed or chair was out of the question. Instead, I put her in the baby carrier, and we spent a sizable part of the day in the kitchen. I dealt with herbs and food.

First, I pulled the dried lavender of the stems, for the sachets I will make for Xmas/New Year/Solstice gifts.

Then I prepared the fresh lavender for drying.



There was some oregano to take care of too. In the coming days, I still need to deal with marjoram, lemon balm, and mint. I still haven’t figured out how I will use all these herbs for the gifst, but I have some ideas. Stay tuned.

When this was over, since O. was still in some distress, I kept going in the kitchen. I decided to make my first batch of granola ever. I used the recipe from The homemade pantry: 101 foods you can stop buying and start making by Alana Chernila, a fabulous book recommended by my friend Laura, which I intend to use a lot in the coming year. The results were quite satisfying:

the mixing stage

prior to going into the oven

up close

The maple syrup smelled fabulous while baking, and the taste was excellent.

Now the question is, Can making granola and drying herbs be consider a creative endeavor? I say yes, but it does beg the next question: What is creativity anyway? Not sure, but I know that the kitchen wore me out today, and that I am looking forward to another short and simple activity tomorrow, if the napping schedule permits it.

Instead of a closing remark, here is the creative project the men in my family are working on:

cardboard castle




July 24: Poems

July 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

Today I sent a couple of poems to a literary magazine. The magazine deals with poetry of place, so I sent in two poems I wrote about places in Washington. I don’t expect much, as I’ve had my share of rejections, but it’s always exciting to send something out, and feel more like a poet than I usually do.
I am not posting the poems I submitted (I don’t think I am supposed to), but here are some that I wrote a few years ago, dedicated, loosely, to my firstborn:

Different dreams than at 20

To come to a playground early in the morning and see no one there,

no bullies going up the slides,

no pretty moms, sloppy moms, apolitical moms,

vigilant moms, negligent moms, screaming moms,

no rainbow-colored snacks, mini vans

(my heart used to be more open)

For J. to climb bars smoothly like an orangutan,

and be safe without a cocoon or a cord irreversibly tying us together

And for me to slip under the climbing structure,

lie in the shade and sleep a deep sleep

Or to have an infinite number of drawers in my house,

to store all the things I don’t need but can’t let go.

Who if not you

 I put the world in the oven and it shrunk and shrunk until it was big enough only for J. and me.

The next day D. came along and asked me to love him too, so I did.

The day after all my old friends showed up and I loved them for our past,

and then others came, and I let them all in, honored

for the pilgrimage ending at my door,

though they didn’t leave fruit for me or consider me holy.

Still, the world remained a little bigger than a chestnut,

and when we sat on a bus I couldn’t look anyone in the eye,

wondering who will love passionately every single human being in this world if not me,

but I couldn’t

(while gift wrapped packages kept arriving at my door, and the whole neighborhood smelled of ripe figs and I thought Why not?)

Apocalypse fiction

Some people are already happy

but do not live on any block

The world was invaded in 2038

hordes of Others marched on

taller than skyscrapers

Once having procreated

you commit to dread


it will end in a flash

or worse

and all future relations will be erased

or worse

it could be

mutants monsters Martians

an original disease

a handful remaining humans retreated to sewers

fighting to survive was worse than giving in and going under

In Hindu gardens certain deities copulate through all eternity and deny this future

Krishna especially keen to ensure all relatives of his 10,000 wives that

air raids sirens and severed limbs

and worse

reminiscent of London in 1942 (and worse) are not my son’s fate

July 23: Coffee cup

July 23, 2012 § 2 Comments

I live in the Northwest; of course I am a little addicted to my lattes. The other day I walked 2.5 miles (in one direction) to get one. I also annoy my family to no end regarding sustainable living, which means that I avoid paper cups at all costs. Since today was hectic — droppped J. off at camp, changed 2 very dirty diapers, answered work emails, put away the laundry, put the baby to sleep, and then realized it was almost time to pick J. up from camp, I had to do a quick project. I  made it a variation of the last two days’ projects: decorating the indispensable non-paper coffee cup that I get my lattes in. I did a bit of decoupage, with good old Mod Podge, using pictures from the Syracuse Cultural Workers catalog (do check them out if you haven’t already). Nothing spectacular, but easy and fun. Here are the results:

(the glue is still drying on the last one)

The whole experience was a little unnerving, as I felt guilty that I am not cleaning the house instead, and also wrote this post as I was out the door to pick J. up (I edited later). I guess that’s part of the process: learning to enjoy my creative time and not feel guilty about it.

Tomorrow, I will do something different. I am also thinking how to include my firstborn in these projects. I am not sure if I should push him, or just wait for his interest in making things to return.

July 22: button making

July 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

Recently I bought a badge-a-minit button (badge) maker for $29.95. Reviewers recommend other, more expensive button makers, but so far I am quite happy with this one, since I am making buttons on a small scale. Today, J. said he would help me but didn’t. My child chooses video games over art these days. Sigh. I did the project by myself, while O. was napping. J. and D. both ordered Buddha buttons, so this is what I came up with:

D’s Buddha

J’s Medicine Buddha

And I made one for myself, but the background was too dark and I wasn’t too pleased

Blessed Be

Though I don’t guarantee the highest quality, I do take orders: if you want me to make you one or three, just let me know!

By the way, this is what the button maker looks like:

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