• Category Archives My ‘Other’ Life
  • Believe it or not I do have another life beyond quilting

  • The Roots of Creativity

    Today, I want explore the roots of creativity – where do my ideas come from?

    Our minds are powerful computers – massive databases of everything we have ever seen, experienced or thought. The older we get, the more data that is filed away. Accessing it is the problem but even if I can’t remember creating a particular drawing it is filed away in the database quietly biding its time and whispering in my subconscious ear. There are designs I have created in recent years where the seeds were sown long ago in my past, seeds that germinated, put down roots and then faded in the winter season of my mind. The roots remained though and much like a perennial flower that slumbers for a time only to reawaken when conditions are right, these roots will sprout again.

    Some time ago, my brother who had been the ‘keeper of the family albums’, passed them on to me. “It’s your turn to hold on to these”, he said. Many were old photo albums with this generation’s pictures – my parents and grandparents, my siblings, pictures of myself – some triggering delightful memories and some embarrassingly awkward. Other albums housed older pictures, people vaguely familiar – old eyes staring out of young faces. Many I did not recognize and mourned the fact that no one had bothered to make notations of who they were; relatives – probably – but lost in time.

    One album did not contain photographs. It was a scrap book where my mother lovingly pressed all of our childhood artwork. drawings, Mother’s Day cards (prompted by teachers) and in some cases, class assignments. A surprising percentage of the artwork within was mine. I don’t think it was that our mother held a greater affection for me than my siblings but simply a matter of quantity; I was by far more prolific in my artistic endeavors than my brothers and sisters. Looking at all these pictures was a walk down memory lane; most I had forgotten ever creating until I saw them. My drawings and paintings spanned many years but as I almost never dated them I can only guess at what age I created them. There are clues – a cat I had when I was about 6 years old, the memory of when I received a set of pastels as a gift and first used them… most of the time I have to rely on looking at the relative skill in the artwork – as Monty Python famously said – “I got better” (in reference to a man claiming a witch turned him into a newt).

    What really surprised me was how many of the drawings have lain dormant for all these years only to blossom out again in the form of one or another of my quilt designs. Hand on Bible, I swear to you that I had no recollection of these original artworks when I created the quilts

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  • What to do while you are snowed in? Make Potstickers!

    I love potstickers, we always order them when we go to our favorite Chinese restaurant (Hunan Pearl in Lake Oswego – if anyone cares to ask). I had just cooked up the last ones from the previous batch I made and froze and though I have some commercial ones from Costco in the freezer, I have yet to find a brand I like as much as my own. Luckily, I had anticipated making them and had the raw ingredients on hand. My husband doesn’t eat pork so I use ground turkey, it’s a great pretender when trying to replace pork (plain ole ground turkey, not ground turkey breast, it’s too dry and has a very distinctive taste). I also have diabetic issues and try to steer away from white flour so I used a mixture of AP unbleached white with King Arthur Whole Wheat White flour (very finely milled so it’s a pretty good substitute for regular white flour) at a ratio of about 3/4 whole wheat to white. I like to make my own wrappers, I do not like the commercial wonton/dumpling skins and there is an art to making the dough. I found a great tutorial online at Steamy Kitchen Cooking Shortcuts. For the filling I used the ground meat, minced Nappa cabbage, chopped water chestnuts, scallions, grated ginger and a bit of toasted sesame oil and soy sauce, and as an afterthought, threw in a bit of a dried tangerine peel/Szechwan peppercorn salt mix I make up myself. We had some with dinner last night – YUM!!! The rest are in the freezer in zip lock bags.
     
    I just hope that this doesn’t follow a precedent set about ten years ago in another record breaking snowstorm where I had just made five dozen potstickers to freeze the day before we lost our power in the storm. We were without power for 6 days and our generator was not working. Authorities tell you to keep at least several days worth of non-perishable food for emergencies – which we do, but we never touched it. After the first couple of days eating whatever we didn’t want to go bad from the refrigerator food we put outside in the snow (it was colder out there than in the fridge) our daily meals consisted of deciding what had thawed out enough that it needed to be eaten NOW and we had nothing but potstickers for dinner that night. By the second night, they had thawed out – probably perfectly safe but they had congealed into one big mass of dough with little meatballs. It hurt more to throw those away than the expensive roast that had to go into the trash; the roast may have cost more but didn’t take hours to make.
    My partially whole wheat flour potstickers
    My partially whole wheat flour potstickers

  • Someone DOES Make Them Like They Used To

    OK, I’m going to digress from my usual cat or quilting commentary and take the time to give a product review (and – ‘no’, it is not a quilting product). Have you ever caught yourself saying “they don’t make them as good as they used to…”? I’m talking about GRAHAM CRACKERS! You remember Graham Crackers? Those yummy, crumbly flat ‘boards’ from kindergarten that we loved to dip into milk? My husband has been jonesing for some good old-fashioned graham crackers for the last year or so and we have tried EVERY brand we can find. The Honey Maid, Annie’s, Nabisco; the store brand generic, the ‘gourmet’, the organic… cheap ones, expensive ones, cinnamon covered, plain, we even tried a knock off brand from the Dollar Store… NOBODY makes graham crackers like the ones I remember from my childhood. Some came close but missed the mark, others weren’t even close (in flavor or texture – the Safeway house brand were the closest we found). Try tossing in trying to avoid high-fructose corn syrup and the playing field gets much smaller. Well, we finally found them! Good old Trader Joe’s wins again, Their ‘boxed’ Honey Graham Crackers are it. We just put them to the milk test and it was like going back in time to sitting around that circle painted on the floor and dipping our crackers into the milk – I could almost smell the tempera paint.
     
    Mind you, these are NOT the TJ’s cinnamon topped crackers sold in the clear plastic deli containers, these are plain and come in the box but oh the memories… These are just cardboardy enough, sweet but not too sweet, and have just the right ‘sandy’ ‘gritty’ texture, hold their shape when dipped in milk but crumble in your mouth. Heavenly!