Cooking Can Be Creative Too – Greek Chicken

My all time favorite slow-cooker recipe and secrets for getting meals on the table when I’d rather be in the studio!

OK, we have already established that I have to work at being organized and Getting Things Done. An ongoing process that will only end when I do. Sigh.

One of the battles I have fought on and off, for many years, is getting dinner on the table every night. There are several problems that contribute to the issue;

  • I can’t think about cooking, or make myself do it, if I’m not hungry.
  • I don’t get hungry when I’m working on a project and concentrating.
  • I can’t decide what to cook when I’m really hungry and… Want. Food. Now.

If I’m madly artifying and deep into it, I will go for hours without even thinking about food. Then, the phone rings, or DH comes home from work and my concentration is broken. I’m suddenly so hungry, crawling as far as the kitchen to decide what to make for dinner is not an option. DEATH is standing in the archway with his hood and his scythe. Drama aside, I have learned a lesson from my better organized, younger self. Back in ancient times, I worked a real job in engineering. I was semi-organized and better at managing my time.

Meal planning. Yep, I hate it too. But, it does get easier as the weeks go by. First thing on Monday morning, as I’m in muggle-mode, doing my domestic chores and planning my week, I review this week’s menu and plan the next week’s meals. That way, I also know what I need to pick up at the grocery store on the weekend. I save my weekly menus and keep them in my recipe binder. If I’m pressed for time and not in the mood for planning, I pull out an existing menu plan and run with it.

My favorite Slow-Cooker cookbook!
My favorite Slow-Cooker cookbook!

But my real secret solution is my slow-cooker. I heard that groan, stay with me here. I’m not a fan of traditional comfort foods. Why do most slow-cooker cook books have 22 variations of chili and 13 ways to make pot roast? Yuk! As a result, I used mine very little until discovering this book; The Everyday Low Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook by Kitty Broihier and Kimberly Mayone – it’s fabulous, you must have it, ’nuff said. The photo shows my copy with all my bookmarks. Those are the recipes I’ve tried and love enough to make them again. BTW, if you don’t do low-carb, just serve everything over pasta or rice.

Back to why I love the slow-cooker. I can make dinner in the morning (when I’m having breakfast and in the mood to cook) and when that 7 pm “I’m so hungry I’m going to die” thing happens, dinner is on the table in about 10 minutes – or less. And there is usually enough for a 2nd meal (2 of us) – bonus! This system is working so well for me that I decided to share. Here is my favorite – modified to be even easier because that is what I do – recipe from the afore mentioned book.

Greek Chicken

2 tablespoons EVOO  (a splash of olive oil)
¼ cup white wine
⅓ cup of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 (or 2) tablespoons of onion flakes
1 teaspoon of roasted garlic
1 tablespoon of oregano
black pepper and salt to taste
2 lbs chicken thighs, boneless & skinless
1 can (big) of stewed tomatoes, Italian style is good
1 can (small) of black or Greek olives
1 large zucchini cut into bite size chunks
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

I also throw in a handful of Italian seasoning

Combine everything except the chicken, zucchini and the feta cheese. Mix together. Add the chicken, cover and turn to low, cook for 4 to 6 hours (mine has it done in 4). About ½ hour before serving, stir in the zucchini. Just before serving, stir in the feta cheese.

I serve it with a salad or fresh fruit. Sometimes over a brown rice blend (cooked in the morning and re-heated).

This kind of thing has helped a lot when I decided it’s time to get serious about my Etsy Shop. I’ve been photographing like mad, trying to make glass buttons looks good in spite of the camera’s love for changing colors and emphasizing reflections (grrrrr). It’s time consuming and tedious but progress is being made. It’s also keeping me busy this summer.

Greek Chicken is definitely a family favorite. If you give it a try, let me know how you like it.

Deb H

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Cooking Can Be Creative Too – Greek Chicken

My Epic Sock Challenge

…Or, Sock Binge Knitting

Apparently, if you are a habitual sock knitter, it is not healthy to go cold turkey for a couple of months. It can have some unexpected repercussions.

Feeling the compulsion need to knit a pair of socks, I re-wound a skein of Opal sock yarn into two equal balls. Then, I started a pair of simple ribbed socks in a yarn I thought would go well with a couple of outfits. I knit (almost) all my socks in the Toe-Up, Two-at-a-Time on One Needle method. I can’t face doing a second sock when one is finished. Two-at-a-time allows me to end up with a pair – and not a drawer full of sock orphans. These look a little bulgy because I store my yarn in the toe of each sock as soon as the toe is big enough to hold it. It saves on time spent untangling two balls of yarn – or worse, two ends of one ball (shudder). DH says these look like….

Well, let’s not go there.

Grey Socks In Work
Grey Socks In Work

 

But, one pair of simple ribbed socks was not enough to satisfy the craving. Hence, this pair is also in the works. Knitting on Tofutsie with a mini cable for summer.

Green Tofutsi Socks In Work
Green Tofutsi Socks In Work

 

I was showing off my socks to the girls at work. Someone (Clara!) challenged me to knit two pair at one time (4 socks on one needle). I knew this would be easy (you are still only knitting on one sock at a time) and fun (it’ll look cool and impress my not-so sock savvy friends) so I grabbed one more skein of sock yarn and split it up. While casting them on at knitting group the next day, my knitterly buddies scoffed at my four-at-a-time challenge and claimed it was too easy. They upped the ante to three pair and three different patterns; six socks at one time, on one needle, with three patterns to keep track of.

Six toes, one (long) needle
Six toes, one (long) needle

 

Now, I’m not a total idiot. I wanted the challenge to be fun and not make me a raving lunatic. I settled for two toes the same, standard figure-8 cast on, flat toes. The third (dark teal pair) are a spiral toe. I got them cast on to a 60”, US 1 Addi turbo lace, my weapon of choice for socks. While increasing the toes up to their requisite 64 stitches each, I planned the patterns for them. I looked through some of my favorite sock books for patterns that were fairly simple as I’m using printed (as in dyed to look like Fair Isle knitting) commercial sock yarns and I didn’t want anything too busy. In Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks, I found three patterns I liked for the project.

Socks, Two-at-a-Time yarn control and Traditional flat (figure 8) toe
Socks, Traditional flat (figure 8) toe and Two-at-a-Time yarn control.

 

For the Dark teal I chose Laburnum on page 43. A five-stitch repeat so, I had to increase this pair to 65 stitches.

Epic Sock Challenge 1
Epic Sock Challenge, six at a time on one needle, 1st sock

 

For the purple(ish) middle pair, I chose Open Work Rib on page 37, an easy four-stitch repeat.

Epic Sock Challenge 2
Epic Sock Challenge, six at a time on one needle, 2nd sock

 

The third pair, denim blue(ish) got Corded Rib from page 38, also a four-stitch repeat.

Epic Sock Challenge 3
Epic Sock Challenge, six at a time on one needle, 3rd sock

So, nothing too busy or complicated. In a rare moment of clarity, I also made sure all three patterns were 4 row repeats. This would make it easy to keep track of all the patterns with one row counter. The down side is that I’m spending a huge amount of time just keeping the yarns untangled. I know from past sock projects that keeping them in a sandwich bag until the toes are big enough to hold them will help control the balls. But even so, three baggies is a challenge! It will take me some time to work through these. Each round is 386 stitches.

Epic Sock Challenge - All
My progress so far…

Yep, a little time will be needed. But I’ll have three pair of socks, all done at once! Cool, huh?

Meanwhile happily knitting away on these 5 pair of socks, I open a project bag looking for stitch markers and what do I find? More socks-in-work. I don’t even remember starting these although I remember buying the yarn.

Migration Socks
Migration Socks

Sigh.

Deb H

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My Epic Sock Challenge

Juggling Projects, Staying Sane

So, when you have a million different interests, hundreds of subjects that grab your attention and make you want to dig deeper, tens of creative interests that you pursue, and projects that are mountainous and many – how do you stay sane, juggle it all and, most importantly, get anything done? Oy!

My Bohemian Sweater, a little artsy, a little random
My Bohemian Sweater, a little artsy, a little random

Pick and choose.

From Louet's pattern "Harmony"
From Louet’s pattern “Harmony”

Not in a life-long-committment sort of way, that would never work for someone who is scared to death of missing something. But sometimes I just have to say to myself “This week (day, month) I will focus on this one thing, and this one thing only. The rest can wait until next week (day, month).” I can do anything if I know there is a (reasonable) time limit to it. It’s those open-ended limitations I can’t cope with. “I will work on designing and building the worlds first fusion power generator until I find the solution, and work on that only, abandoning my interest in breeding killer earthworms for the rest of my life.” Yea, that generator would get derailed by day 3.

Bohemian Sweater, neck detail
Bohemian Sweater, neck detail

My Bohemian Sweater was a project that kept getting put aside for other things. I finally made it a top priority project and concentrated on it with a firm deadline in mind and a determination to finish it. I really wanted to wear it! The pattern is an older Louet pattern called Harmony that has been in my knitting queue for years. To be honest, the color changes and number of ends to weave in was a stumbling block for me. Then I found Stonehedge Crazy .

Stonehedge Crazy - their story
Stonehedge Crazy – their story

The perfect yarn and the perfect solution! Spun from mill ends grabbed at random, this yarn never has any two skeins the same. The colors are not carefully planned out and grouped to make a pleasing combination, they are random. And it works. The yarn is so fun to knit with, each row is an adventure. This sweater was also a very rare knitting experience for me in that I did not rip it back (or out) and re-knit it several times. Once through. Really. I just followed the pattern (also rare) and it all worked.

fused glass button, one of 5 mis-matched for the Bohemian Sweater
fused glass button, one of 5 mis-matched for the Bohemian Sweater

And, I’m a button maker. Part of that results in random single buttons that were experiments. I have a small (snort) jar of these hanging around. I decided that a sweater made out of random yarn needed random buttons so there are 5 totally mis-matched fused glass buttons to finish it off. I got to wear it about three times before the weather got too warm. It fits great and I love it – a total success. You can see it on my Ravelry page.

Detail of attached grosgrain button band and backing button
Detail of attached grosgrain button band and backing button

This was a project that hit the “I will work on this, and only this for one week” list.

See, even I can get things done sometimes  😉

Deb H

And just in case I didn’t use the word enough – random!

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Juggling Projects, Staying Sane

Just A Wee Bit Of Bragging

Jenny A. recently stopped in to see me at the yarn shop where I work 2 days a week. She had purchased a skein of yarn from my Etsy shop, a single hank of hand dyed silk noil/wool blend in a marbled green. She picked out a yummy ball of Juniper Moon’s Findley in Crocodile for the weft and warped up her Rigid Heddle loom.

Handwoven Scarf by Jenny A.
hand-woven Scarf by Jenny A.

The scarf she wove turned out lovely and it was such a boost to see one of my yarns in action! I think she may have added some solid green to the warp as well to give her more width but I can’t remember what it was. This 50% silk/50% wool scarf is light and airy enough for spring and fall but warm enough for winter. The perfect 3-season scarf – great job!

 

Thanks so much Jenny, for letting me share!  🙂

Deb H

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Just A Wee Bit Of Bragging

A Sweater For Mom

Winter is for cuddling up with hot tea (or coffee), a great book, or some fun knitting – it’s for hibernating. This winter particularly, as most of the world has had a go of it with the cold weather. But somehow it’s also always very busy. Lots of things to do and lots of projects to work on. Sometimes to the exclusion of keeping up with other things (like posting).

Mom's Sweater - yes, it's done!
Mom’s Sweater – yes, it’s done!

One of the things I neglected to post an update on was the saga of Mom’s Sweater. Since I have been asked, I thought I’d better put up a post to share the challenging and circuitous path of a (finally) successful venture. Hallelujah!

Raglan (mock) seams in the top down sweater
Raglan (mock) seams in the top down sweater look so much nicer than my attempts to sew them in were.

For those who have been following along, I posted last April that I was attempting a sweater for my Mom, a new pattern, a new technique. About a week later I posted that I was ripping it out and reviewed my favorite pattern book for top-down sweaters that would be the new pattern I followed. I actually put it in time-out for a bit and posted last in October about it’s progress and some more ripping (my fault this time).

It actually wraps like it should!
It actually wraps like it should!

I finally made it a priority and finished it for her birthday in early January of this year. It looked fabulous after being washed and blocked and fit me beautifully (we are very close to the same size). So, I was confident that it would work this time. I sent it off with a silent plea to the Lord of the Cosmic Jest and waited for her to try it on.

The glass button, no longer needed, was converted to a pin.
The glass button, no longer needed, was converted to a pin.

Success! She says it fits and she loves it. I’d like to show you a picture of her wearing it but she’s on the other coast from me. I must find  an elf who can snap a shot.

The yarn is Kathmandu Aran (sadly, discontinued) in a lovely tweedy beige and it is wonderful. I loved working with it, over and over again. 😉

Deb H

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A Sweater For Mom

Book Review – Intentional Printing by Lynn Krawczyk

Don’t let the title fool you, this book is so much more than some great printing techniques.

Intentional Printing by Lynn Krawczyk
Intentional Printing by Lynn Krawczyk

I have a long history of surface design dabbling. I’ve tired most techniques at one time or another. As things shake-out it’s screen printing, painting & dyeing that still remain my favorites. But, I’m always eager to learn something new if it will result in an effect I want. I’m not really a learn-a-new-technique-for-the-sake-of-it kinda girl (although; been there, done that, printed the T-shirt).  A new technique is only worth my time to explore if it will solve a problem for me or give me a result I’ve found elusive up until now.

So, when Lynn Krawczyk’s new book was announced, I hesitated. Could there really be anything new in there for me? I have 30 years worth of books on my shelves that I’ve been collecting since college (and before). Do I need another?

I waffled. I love Lynn’s artwork and style. I’m an avid reader of her blog. She writes wonderfully and her blog is full of tidbits of wisdom and insights as well as art and humor.  I love her “Where I Stand Sunday” series that she has done off and on for years. She is also an incredibly generous and sharing soul. OK, enough of the ❊fan-girl❀ stuff, this just explains why I bought the book, hesitations and all.

I got the e-book version with my pr-order of the print version because once the decision was made, I could not wait. I read it on my iPad, from cover to cover.

Twice.

The print version arrived and I read it from cover to cover. I’m a hi-lighter by nature. Books I use for educational purposes or reference tend to get pretty yellow (pink, green, blue & purple) very quickly. I’ve resisted the urge with my print copy but the digital version has not been so lucky. Hint: if I open it in GoodReader on my iPad I can highlight and annotate it – Adobe Reader wouldn’t let me do that.

Introduction

The Introduction and Chapter 1 was worth the price of admission. Lynn talks frankly about her journey as an artist and her challenges in getting to where she is now. It really resonated with me. Don’t panic, it’s not a long-winded explanation of a torturous path (unlike this review). Lynn’s writing is succinct and to-the-point, yet clear. If she wrote it, it’s worth reading.

As I have mentioned before, I am a Multipod: many, many interests and directions. Some call it attention splatter (apt). Lynn’s intro helped me see how reigning that in a bit was helpful, not squashing. A little more thoughtful and a little less go-with-the-moment could be a good thing. I’ve always been afraid I would kill the creative muse if I tried this.

Chapter One – Exploring Intentional Printing

Intentions and looking inward. Identifying my own art-making habits was illuminating. Taking stock of what I like was an exercise that was long overdue.

Color is an area where I feel comfortable, it does not scare me and I approach color in my work with confidence. The section on color was a little bit of a wake-up though. have I become complacent in my color choices? Maybe I should stretch my boundaries a little.

Imagery is my weak spot – her fresh perspective was very helpful. More intention, less random.

My sketch-book – it’s OK if it’s not a work of art in itself. Mine is a working tool, not a finished product. Pressure off (yea)!

But the crux of the book is best said by Lynn, herself.

“I can teach you technique until the cows come home, but I’m doing you a disservice if I don’t help nudge you toward assimilating these new skills into your personal vision.” – Lynn Krawczyk

Every time through the book I viewed it from a broader perspective (like a camera pulling back to give you a larger area to view). My insights were new and fresh and useful because I kept opening up my mind.

“Open your eyes. Then, open your eyes again.” – Miss Tick from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men.

The first time I read through it I was focused on printing fabric, paper, or glass. The second time, I pulled back. This is about how to approach making all of your components for art making, what ever the medium. Anything that goes into an art project.

The third time I pulled back more; this is about any creative endeavor – striking that balance – in any project. I realized that what she talked about had a lot more to do with all art forms and media than just fabric printing or surface design.

I found we had quite a conversation (yes, I had an entire conversation with her. In my head. She was no where around). And she gave me some great advice…

“Slow down, find our niche, stay awhile.”  -Lynn Krawczyk

I’m a combo of The Flower Child Artist and The Worrier Artist with rare but occasional attacks of the PH.D Artist (but that usually applies to business habits more than art habits). The fix? Narrow my focus (for just a while). Make art for me – what I like. Stop worrying about what the experts will think.

And that’s just the first 17 pages.

Intentional Printing by Lynn Krawczyk Book and digital version
Intentional Printing by Lynn Krawczyk
Book and digital version

The rest of the book.

All that said. I did learn actually some new techniques as well and I loved seeing what other artists had done with printed fabrics made with them (and their styles) in mind.

Chapter 2 covered Tools & Materials. Many were familiar but some were a delightful surprise.

In Chapter 3 she shows how to apply paint to fabric and presents some in-depth sub-techniques (?).  Many were new or refreshed from what I had previously learned and I had a few new ideas – yea!

Chapter Four was really new for me, I’m not much of hand stitcher but I have to admit, I’m eager to try some now.

Chapter Five; Layered Printing. I read about layered printing with great interest and care. For me, layers are the power behind surface design. I found a lot of insights in these sections.

The last chapter  has the projects. They are some fun and easy ways to practice the concepts and techniques presented in the book. They also will make great gifts for people on my giving list! The first thing I need is some desk weights – yes, I need them 😉 and some Petite Stacked Collages – off to have fun!

Wrap-up

I found it to be a brilliant and insightful book. It was soooooo worth picking up and I honestly believe that any experience level will benefit as I have. Thanks, Lynn!

Deb H

Book Review – Intentional Printing by Lynn Krawczyk

Long Term Goal Setting For Creatives

Exactly how do you define your long-term goals? Experts say the best way is to form a vivid picture in your mind (a moving picture, lots of action) of where you want to be in ten years. Then five years. Then one year. The five-year and one year pictures must include milestones that will help you get to the ten-year picture (or goal). But what if you have no freaking idea where you want to be in ten years? Worse, what if the very idea of picking something makes you feel like you’ve just cut off all other options that might pop up? What if the whole idea of picking a long-term goal means the only picture you can frame in your mind is a cage… with very tiny air holes?

At this point I want to take a photo break with a lovely photo of something totally unrelated to today’s post. Just because its my Blog and I can. 😉

"Shruti" by Sara Sally LaGrand
Shruti” by Sara Sally LaGrand, awesome glass and peacock feather pin

DH won this delightful glass and peacock feather pin by Sara Sally LaGrand at the silent auction held during our recent weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the Glass Act Winter Retreat. Thank you Sweetie – it’s lovely!

Back to goals. Start with a snapshot of your life now. What would you like to change, or wish was different? *Soapbox Alert* I’ve long been a believer that our lives are what we have made them. If there is something I don’t like about my life I can’t blame someone or something else – it all boils down to the decisions and actions I have made, or not made. I am responsible even if I had serious obstacles that were not my doing (dread decease, two heads, alien possession), how I handle them is totally up to me. This has a good side and bad side. On the bad side, I am responsible for my life and how it’s going. I cannot play the victim card and lay blame elsewhere. The good side is this realization/mindset gives me power, the power to change my life for the better. Power a victim thinker doesn’t have. That said, even if someone has the right attitude it won’t make their life a breeze overnight. Making the right decisions and always being responsible is work. They also have to figure out the how’s or we would all be Warren Buffet (sigh). *Jumping off soapbox.* So, start with the things in your current picture you’d like to change, we’ll stick with art career things for this post. Do you want to improve our art so you can sell more? Do you want a polished website? Do you want a large and naturally lit studio? Do you want your art hanging in Galleries or Museums? To you want to make enough money to take an awesome trip once a year? Do you want something as simple as more time to make art? See how one thing leads to another? Make a list of between 30 and 50 things you want to change or achieve. Yes, that’s a lot but it will grease the wheels and things will start popping into your head. Sort your list into six categories; Easy & Fast, Easy & Slow, Hard & Fast, Hard & Slow, Not Bloody Likely, and No Way In Hell. Things like “becoming invisible at will” would fall into the No Way In Hell category. Winning the Lottery would fall in the Not Bloody Likely category. Being represented by six Galleries nation-wide would fall in the Hard & Slow category, it’s hard work and it will take some time.

Next, take all the items you have listed and break them down into steps. The Hard & Slow goals may take hundreds of steps where the Easy & Fast goals may only take one or two. Organize the steps in the order they need to be executed to move forward. Don’t forget about the Not Bloody Likely category. If you want to win the lottery, your steps would be to pick numbers and buy tickets – it could happen! It’s probably safe to say you can dump the No Way In Hell category.

Say you want to organize your disaster of a studio. First, decide on the reason and your own fortitude for this project. If you decide it’s because you should and you can only tackle this for ½ hour a week over the next two years it goes in the Easy & Slow category. Easy because you don’t have to get a degree or build a new studio first, just clean up a mess that’s already there. Let’s face it, we all know how to clean up a mess, it’s the motivation and the ability to part with things that’s hard – and ½ hour a week is pretty easy. If it’s because you can’t work in there with all the mess and you have a deadline coming up you may decide the four day marathon is a better approach. Now it goes in the Hard & Fast category. Hard, because you have to clear the calendar and force your self to put on blinders and focus only on this one task for the next four days and, hardest of all, finish it!

Get the idea? A picture should be emerging, the majority of the Hard and Slow items will be your long term goals, the ten year picture. the Easy & Slow and some of the Hard & Fast items will naturally fall in the five-year goal plan. BTW, these timelines are flexible, you can make this a one-year/six-months/one-month plan if you prefer.

But what about that cage with the tiny air holes? What about the missed opportunities that a locked-in goal is going to cause? Instead of pulling on your hair and wailing “I’m a creative, I can’t cope with a long term goal commitment or a rigid plan”! Chill, baby – here’s the secret. “Things change, always do” (that’s a quote from The Last Star Fighter, btw). Make the farthest out goal(s) deliberately lacking in minutia. Maybe even a little vague. Make it a general target. The key to a creative’s long term planning is Reviews. Review your goals and game plan at least every year or even every six months. If you are really panicky you can review every month or even every day – but I don’t recommend too often or you will spend all your time planning and none doing. During your review, be willing to let the path wander if an opportunity has come up that you think is worth chasing. If you find your wants or needs zinging off in another direction, be willing to let the plan bend or change. Abandon a smaller goal if it no longer suits the revised long term goal. Be Flexible. Nothing is carved in stone, no one will hunt you down if you deviate. The important part here is that you make progress to somewhere. You can’t move forward without a target. The target can change, as long as you are moving towards something you are on track.

What goal setting/long term planning strategies work well for you? I’m always eager to learn more ways to accomplish… everything!

Deb H

Long Term Goal Setting For Creatives