A Side You Have Never Seen Before

I apologize for sending out more than one email this month- I promise not to make it a habit. I have included some really different examples of my work this time around. I hope you enjoy them.

For those who didn’t see my last newsletter, I have been recently diagnosed with a cataract in my right eye. Fortunately surgery is fairly easy and is covered by insurance, but the lens that my surgeon recommends isn’t. I have raised $500 of the $1500 with help from art sales on my shop at www.etsy.com and a generous gift from friends who are also collectors of my work, and now I am focusing on raising the remaining amount.

I’ve posted over 50 pieces on etsy, many of them small, including a number of color reproductions of my plein-air watercolors of French architecture for as little as $15 plus tax and shipping.

I’ve also posted several intaglio prints of natural and industrial landscapes, some for as little as $50 plus tax and shipping.
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If you would like to see my work in person, I am hosting an open studio 11-4pm, Saturday March 26  at 1015 Addison St. between 9th and 10th st. Yes, I feel foolish for scheduling it on  Easter weekend, but I have a few confirmations so I’m sticking with this date. I am happy to schedule a private appointment if you want to come but can’t make it. Write me at ilah@eatbetterfeelbetter.com with a day when you would like to come by.

Getting art professionally framed is crazy expensive. Shipping framed art is also a drag, so I have a special offer for anyone who can pick up work directly from my studio. I will mat and frame any piece you purchase from me that is 16″ or or under for $40. I would use acid-free, white mat board and backing that I cut myself with black metal frame and plexiglass for $40. The cost for framing larger pieces would depend on size, but I promise it would still be an excellent deal.


If you wish to donate and prefer feeling cozy to wall art, I would be happy to make you a warm cowl or hat as a thank you for donations of $100 or more. Here I am wearing a crochet cowl that I made for a friend who made a donation, as well as an available hat style.

Donations of any amount can be sent by check to: Ilah Jarvis 1015 Addison St. in Berkeley CA 94710. Send me an email ilah@eatbetterfeelbetter.com and I will send you a paypal invoice if you prefer to pay online.
To request a hat or a cowl, choose from the selection of non-itchy yarns pictured below and send me an email specifying your preferred yarn. I’m happy to make  adjustments to the patterns to accommodate your taste.

Lastly, let me know if you have a project that you like me to consider such as a watercolor of a loved one, place or thing, or a sewing project. My dear friend Beth recently commissioned me to make these pillow covers from her mother’s night gown and her father’s shirt. I created the design and added embroidery on the front and around the buttonholes on the back. She paid me $300 for three pillows. She is thrilled with the results as you can see from the picture below.

I’m afraid I’m not up for big crochet and knitting projects, however I would be happy to teach you the skills you need to make your own mermaid tail suggly, but I won’t make one for you. Private classes are $40 per hour in my Berkeley studio.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of my other talents, and you will receive  a new recipe and illustration from me soon.

Best wishes, Ilah

The Weekly Soup

 

The Weekly Soup

This soup consists of whatever needs to be used up in the refrigerator- the nearly forgotten onion half, the leafy center core of celery and those carrots that have become flexible, but haven’t changed color yet.  You can also add leftovers from previous meals such as broiled or roasted meat, vegetables and cooked grain.

If you are new to cooking, or are tired of watching vegetables die in your refrigerator, this is a good one to do on a regular basis. This meal may old hat for you- people have been cooking whatever they have since the dawn of time; however I hope I can offer some new ideas in the adventurous section below.

Here are the basic guidelines:
1. Go through your refrigerator every week or two and throw out whatever is clearly over the hill.
2. Examine what is left and put together a combination of ingredients that would make a decent soup. It’s okay to purchase and additional ingredient or two, like an onion or garlic, to ensure your soup really sings.
3. Put the chopped ingredients in a pot of broth or water and simmer until cooked. Add a little salt and an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to taste and enjoy.
The art comes into choosing which ingredients to include.

Here are some more tips to ensure your soup tastes like an enjoyable meal, not a weird experiment

  • Be honest about which vegetables are still good candidates for the soup. It’s fine if they are little flexible, but anything that looks faded, wrinkled or discolored should be thrown out.
  • Use a 2-quart or larger sized pot to cook the soup, and have some wide-mouth, freezable containers with lids to store leftover soup. This soup is a life saver for when you don’t have time to cook.
  • Chop  ½-1 cup of each vegetable to into bite sized pieces.  Buy pre-cut vegetables if you hate to chop. More than 1 cup will make that vegetable the main focus of the soup.
  • Limit yourself to 3-6 different types of vegetables. You can also add chopped boneless pieces of meat or drained canned beans (not refried.)
  • Onion, celery and carrots are a classic combination and mild vegetables like green beans, potatoes and mushrooms work in a variety soups as well. Garlic becomes mild and even sweet when simmered in soup, so add several peeled and chopped cloves if you wish.
  • You can use ground meat or sausage in soup. Be sure to break or cut it into bite-sized pieces before adding to the soup.
  • Cover ingredients with water, broth or a combination of broth and water. If the boxed or canned broth has been opened and sitting in the refrigerator for more than four days, give it a smell or better yet, start a new box. Or you can also add a spoonful of a concentrated paste like “Better than Bullion” which can live in the refrigerator for over a year.
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of an acid such as balsamic, wine or apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. The right amount acid will make the soup more flavorful, not sour.
  • Let the soup cook for at least 30 minutes or until firm vegetables like potatoes soften. Give it a taste before adding salt. If it needs to be saltier, add only ½ teaspoon at a time, give it a good stir and taste again before adding any more.

For More Adventurous Cooks

  • Soak a cup of dried beans, lentils or quinoa in a quart of water overnight and discard soaking water before adding them to the soup.
  • If you want to make your own chicken broth, place last night’s roast chicken carcass in a pot with at least a quart of water and a tablespoon of acid and simmer for an hour or more. You can also add a few peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, a couple of bay leaves for more flavor. Strain the spices and bones before adding the broth to the soup.
  • Start your soup by placing chopped onion, mushrooms and two tablespoons of oil in the pot on medium heat and stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms brown.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of dried herbs or ground spices to the pot and stir for a couple of seconds before adding the meat, broth and vegetables. I love Italian seasoning, which is a blend of thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage. I also like to use a teaspoon each of cumin, paprika and turmeric. Herbs and spices do lose potency with time, so toss any seasonings that are over a year old and purchase small amounts of your favorites.
  • If you wish to add uncooked brown rice or other grain, add it immediately after the liquid, since it will need at least 30 minutes to cook.
  • Think of favorite dishes you can replicate in soup form. I like pumpkin curry, so I combined left over cooked winter squash, coconut milk and curry powder to make a soup. If you love Italian food, tomatoes, basil, zucchini and garlic would be a good mix.
  • Let strong flavored vegetables be the main focus of the soup. If you have beets, make borsht. This also goes if you want to use a lot of a particular vegetable. If you have lots of mushrooms, let it be a mushroom soup. Look online and in cookbooks for inspiration.
  • If you have any leftovers, pour them into in wide mouth containers allowing at 2″ of space if you plan to freeze them. Fluids expand when they freeze, and allowing this space will help prevent the container from cracking. Fill the sink with 3-4″ of ice water. Place the containers in the ice water for 20 minutes. Move the containers to the refrigerator once they are no longer hot.
  • Once soups are completely cool they can bed moved into the freezer. To thaw soup, place them in a pot of warm water. The wide mouth prevents the glass from cracking and allows the slightly soup to slide out of the jar and into a saucepan to be reheated. Soup can stay frozen for over a month.

The Mighty Broil

Mighty Broil

roots

This is a great recipe for root vegetables. Peel rutabagas, turnips with tough skins before broiling.

Yield: Serves 4-5 people Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb boneless bite sized chicken strips, tilapia fillets or 16 oz

1 large yam or 2 cups of cauliflower, cut into ½-¼” thick slices

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

2-4 cloves of crushed garlic

¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper

Tools

Chef’s knife; cutting board; large bowl; measuring spoons; garlic press; baking sheet; parchment paper; metal spatula.

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler to low or 500 degrees F.
  2. Place sliced vegetables, meat or tofu in a large bowl and add olive oil, seasonings, garlic and salt.
  3. Toss ingredients with your hands until the pieces are evenly coated.
  4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place food in a single layer.
  5. Put the sheet in the broiler and set a timer for 10 minutes. The pieces of food will be slightly brown when they are ready to eat.

Variations:

  • Substitute the vegetables with carrots, zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, parsnips or white potato.
  • Green beans and asparagus can also be broiled whole, but may cook before the other ingredients are done. Check the oven after 8 minutes and remove them from the pan when they are done. Finish cooking the remaining ingredients as needed.
  • Substitute the spices with Italian seasoning, curry powder or other favorite seasoning blends.

Gluten-free Pancakes

Gluten-free Pancakes

pancakes

Yield: 12 pancakes, 6” in diameter

Preparation Time: 1 hour or less if multiple pancakes are cooked at a time
I’ve practiced and revised this recipe more times that I care to count, but we love this final version and I make them frequently.
This recipe that doesn’t rely on xanthan gum, tapioca starch or other weird ingredients to make a satisfying, fluffy pancake. Rice flour makes up the bulk of the pancakes, the protein in the eggs hold it together, coconut oil makes them rich and tender and baking powder helps them to rise. Salt, cinnamon and vanilla adds to the flavor, and I love the texture of the flax seeds. While you could use water, nut or rice milk make a tastier, more tender pancake.
Dry Ingredients
2 cups of brown rice flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons of whole flax seeds
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of salt
Wet Ingredients
11/2 cups of rice or nut milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of honey
Tools
Large bowl, small bowl, whisk, large spoon, a flat or shallow pan, flip spatula, measuring cup, measuring spoons
Directions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in the large bowl, and mix thoroughly with a whisk. In a small bowl combine the wet ingredients and whisk until eggs are completely incorporated with the other ingredients.
  2. Pour the wet ingredients into the large dry bowl and mix with a large spoon until they are fully incorporated.
  3. Put the pans on medium heat on the stove and place a teaspoon of coconut oil on each pan. Spread the oil around with a spatula or by tipping the pan.
  4. Test how hot the pan is by dripping some water on the pan. The pan will sizzle when it is hot enough to cook the pancakes.
  5. Scoop a large spoonful of batter and pour a 4-6” pancake on the pan. You may use a ladle if the bowl of your large spoon is shallow.
  6. The pancake is ready to flip when the edges become slightly matte and bubbles form. This will only take 30 seconds to a minute. The higher the heat, and the smaller or thinner the pancake, the faster it will cook. I often adjust the heat as I cook, turning it down if the pan begins to smoke, or up a little if the pancakes take too long to brown.
  7. Cook the pancake for 5 seconds on the second side or until slightly brown.
  8. Place the cooked pancake on a plate and pour more batter on the pan.
  9. It can take a long time to cook a big batch of pancakes one at a time. To speed the process, cook pancakes on several pans at once, or if you have a pan is at least 10” in diameter, pour three 2″ pancakes in a triad close to the center of the pan where it is hottest. If they run together, cut them apart with the tip of the spatula before you flip them.
  10. My husband likes to eat pancakes plain, but I enjoy them with a little jam or with sliced fruit and maple syrup.

Fruit Crisp

Fruit Crisp


Yield: This recipe will fill a large 12” wide casserole dish.
Taste and examine the fruit before putting it in the crisp. You may want to reduce the amount of sugar if you have very sweet fruit.  I like to combine very ripe and juicy fruit with chopped apples, which are high in pectin and will make the filling firmer.
Low-acid, bland fruit like white peaches would benefit from a tablespoon or two of lemon juice for contrast.
This can be a time consuming project if you use fruit that needs to be pitted or cored. Choose blue or black berries if you hate to chop.
Ingredients
Filling
2 quarts of pitted and chopped stone fruit, apples or berries
2/3 cup of honey or sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Topping
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup rice flour
½ cup of butter
½ cup of brown sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
Tools
Cutting board, chefs knife, 2 medium sized bowls, measuring cup, measuring spoons, large mixing spoon, small bowl or pan, 12″ casserole pan or baking dish, baking pan
Directions

  1. Set oven at 350 F.
  2. Place chopped fruit with sweetener and cinnamon in a bowl and toss with your hands until mixed.
  3. Melt butter in a small pan on the stove or in a cup in the microwave for 1 minute or until liquid.
  4. In the second bowl, place oats, flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt and mix with a big spoon.
  5. Scoop all of the fruit filling into a baking dish, pressing it down to create a somewhat flat surface. Sprinkle topping evenly onto the fruit, mounding it over any sparse areas. This recipe makes a generous amount of topping, which prevents the fruit from drying out.
  6. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and place the dish on top to catch any juice that may bubble over.
  7. Let the crisp bake for at least an hour and 20 minutes. Check to see if there is any bubbling juice around the edges of the container. This is a sign that  the fruit has cooked down and become a juicy, soft filling and is ready to eat.
  8. Let the crisp cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Molten filling very hot when it first comes out of the oven.

Open Studio

Here is some examples of art from my spring 2016 open studio. Please note that some of these pieces are no longer available, but it’s still fun to have them on display. You can check out currently available art on my etsy site under EatBetterFeelBetter.


MetalSphere

I painted this ball as a demonstration for a watercolor class I taught at Studio One in the late 90′s.

TrackRockThis was another demonstration painting for the same class. I found this rock next to the train tracks.

PIcklePaintingIt was inevitable that I would paint a picture of pickles sooner or later. You can tell this is fresh jar because the colors are still bright.

WatercolorPoppyI started collecting fake fruit and flowers for my watercolor classes, since they never go bad. This is a silk poppy. landpicThis view can be seen from the steps in front of the painting building of the CCA(C) campus in Oakland.

groundcherryWe once had a big ground cherry vine in the back yard. It was out of control, but it was a cool looking plant. The berries grow in little papery lantern shaped packages.

AddisonTreeThis is a tree outside my bedroom window. I made this painting while I recovered from surgery last November.

2MagnoliaPodsI freaking love magnolia seed pods. They are difficult to draw and paint, but I keep trying anyway.

CrossingFreewayI went through an industrial/freeway landscape obsession period during the early 20oo’s. This is based on a photo my sister took for me while I drove on the freeway.

LoquatBranchThis is a loquat branch from a tree outside a place where I used to work. I sneakily did this drawing on the job.

MedFigBranchI have a special relationship with fig trees. This is a large pastel/charcoal drawing.

MedGreenEggHere’s an early example of from my abstract egg period. This pastel  drawing is 22″ x 30″ on paper.

MedShadowEggI’m getting fast and loose with this abstract egg. This is India ink and pastel.

Materials Matter

There’s a dilemma that comes up every I teach a class to a group of beginning students. Newbies can be a nervous bunch. They question, sometimes audibly, whether they are capable of learning the subject. Their egos are especially fragile, and every mistake can seem like proof that they aren’t talented. On the same note, they may choose inexpensive materials since they aren’t sure if they will ever paint or knit again after the class is over. Besides, that set of 24 colors for $10 seemed like such a great deal. 

The choice to go cheap when one is learning a new subject is logical and understandable. Unfortunately it can also be a set up for failure. Here’s why:

People often think of talent like it’s a physical thing. Either you have it or you don’t, and there is the illusion that talented people have some magic gift that makes them able to do something with fairly little effort. I’m convinced that, while a talented people might understand the process more quickly not feel intimidated by it, real success comes from the willingness to practice regularly, even when it it feels difficult. Anticipation of how hard a project will be has a huge impact on the creation process. I’ve known beginning knitters who have successfully finished projects that I would find daunting, but nobody told them it was hard, so it was no big deal. On the other side,  many of my students who believe they aren’t talented were told that they were lousy artists as children. These students are terrified of failure even before the class starts.

Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, and we all need all the encouragement we can get. The first steps are the hardest. Everything is confusing, our tools may feel awkward and everything we make looks ugly. When I first got back into knitting a few years ago, my stitches literally wouldn’t stay on my needles. I’m grateful that my teacher was a friend who wouldn’t let me give up.

So what happens when we combine a painfully awkward person with poor quality materials? The student believes that any errors that are inherent to the materials are proof of their lack of talent. Do you see what a bad set up this is?

I recently taught a watercolor class to a group of 11 year olds. Now, you would think it wouldn’t matter if kids use the cheap materials, but these were talented kids, and this was a real watercolor class. Two of the six students used the cheaper Strathmore, rather than the better Arches watercolor paper that I recommend. The results between the two papers was so dramatic, I bought some Strathmore paper and did an identical color test on both papers, which I use to demonstrate the importance of paper quality.

Here is what Arches 140 lb cold press watercolor paper looks like. Notice how even and intense the colors are.

IMG_1935

Here are the same colors of paint on Strathmore 140 lb cold press watercolor paper. Notice how much lighter the paint appears. The paper literally resists the paint, and it’s even worse when you layer the colors. I felt like a lousy painter just making this swatch.

IMG_1937
Here are some tips for picking out materials for a new class:

  • If you receive a materials list, buy the exact colors and brands that the teacher suggests.
  • Beware of deals that seem too good to be true. I remember some students bought a variety pack of paintbrushes on Amazon for $5. There were endless numbers of hairs floating in their paintings.
  • Better quality paints contain more pigment and primary colors tend to be purer. This means that you can do more painting with less paint, and you may only need three or four different colors since you can mix vibrant secondary colors. Suddenly that cheap set of 24 tubes isn’t such a great deal any more.
  • Be willing to do a little work. Stretch your own canvases. Buy 22″ x 30″ sheets of sheets of watercolor paper in bulk and cut them down to your preferred dimension. Don’t forget to paint on the other side of the paper if you don’t like your painting.
  • Invest in the materials that matter most to you, and go cheap with the less important stuff. I use toothpicks or really cheap brushes when I work with encaustic or masking fluid since they destroy the bristles. I use expensive Golden brand acrylic paint, but I often paint on scrap wood.
  • Knitting needles are another expensive item that dramatically affects your creative experience. I often invite students to test out different needles in class to help them decide which ones to buy. Better quality yarn is also more tightly plied and less likely to split as you work with it.

If you really can’t afford better tools and materials when you are starting out, please keep in mind that your results don’t truly reflect your capacity as an artist or crafts person, and invest in the good stuff a little at a time as your finances allow.

Turkey Tips

Turkey Tipscornish-hen

I prefer to roast a tiny bird like the corning game hen above than a giant turkey. Anyone who has roasted a turkey before knows what a challenge this process can be without few special tricks. While a traditional, breast up, whole bird makes a beautiful image, the result is inherently dry overcooked white meat, undercooked dark meat and a ridiculously long cooking time.

Here is a quick look at the problem and tips for a delicious turkey.

The challenge: A hot oven is basically a dehydrator. The longer the cooking time, the more water will evaporate and the drier the meat will be. Turkeys are big birds, and most need four hours or more for the whole bird to reach a safe temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. While it is helpful to research cooking times in advance, a meat thermometer is the best way to ensure your meat is fully cooked. Be sure to test the upper thigh, inserting the thermometer at an angle, carefully avoiding contact with bone.

The breast is especially prone to drying out, since it is low fat, and it is traditionally cooked facing upwards, allowing hot air to dry it out. Gravity pulls moisture downward towards the bonier, slower cooking legs. What you get is overcooked, dry white meat, and undercooked dark meat.

This is why it is important to slather the whole bird thoroughly with a mixture of butter and poultry seasoning before putting it in the oven, and many cooks prefer to roast the turkey breast down.

My mother, who cooks meat better than anyone else I know, has decided that it is much preferable to cook turkey pieces rather than a whole bird. Cooks Illustrated agrees with her, and even gives advice on how to disassemble a bird.

While turkey parts don’t have the same visual impact as a whole bird, the advantages outweigh the less glamorous presentation.

  • Turkey pieces cook in about two hours, about half the time of a whole bird
  • You can cook as much or as little meat as you want.
  • If your grocery store offers a good selection, you can chose only the cuts your family loves most.
  • You no longer have to over cook the breast to get perfectly cooked dark meat. Remove the pieces from the oven as they finish cooking. Test for doneness with a meat thermometer.
  • Brining is a popular way to ensure delicious, tender meat. It is much easier to fit pieces in a brining solution than a whole bird.
  • Pieces can be easily arranged in pot if you choose to braise your bird. This is my mothers preferred method.

I hope your turkey is delicious, and you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Talent vs Skill

Some people possess natural talent. A friend of mine who runs a successful business turned his first profit when he was eight. My musician husband would make sounds with anything he could find when he was a toddler. I was obsessed with drawing as a kid. You could kept me entertained for hours with a box of crayons and a pad of paper. This is still probably true, depending on the quality of the crayons.

This isn’t to say that all of us didn’t have to work hard to become good at what we do. I think talent is mainly a motivator. We feel a sense of reward when we try, so we practice obsessively because it feels good. It is easy to feel like it isn’t worth trying if a technique is difficult to learn. This is doubly true if you are in a class where others pick it up easily, or you compare yourself with an expert. We feel stupid, our inner critic is going off, and our egos are bruised.

I believe this process gets harder as we get age, because we expect ourselves to know everything. We forget what the learning process is like; we forget how it felt to learn how to walk, read, ride a bike or even drive a car. We are so fluent in these activities we are barely aware of the skill required to do them.

Our inner critic gets louder as we age. A toddler doesn’t hesitate to get back up when he or she falls down. There is no inner critic to slow down the child’s process. He or she just gets up and tries again.

It’s not so easy for us adults. We become embarrassed and angry at ourselves if we don’t do it perfectly the first time. I see my students struggle with this in my classes, and I find that the biggest challenge for many people is not learning the skill, but getting the inner critic to shut up so they can try again.

Here are some things to remember when learning a new skill.
1. Don’t give up. It’s normal to feel discouraged if it isn’t working, and the person on your left is doing it perfectly, and the mean voices in your head are yelling at you. Stop, take a breather, and don’t buy into it. Look for a different instructor or book if you really feel stumped. Get curious about the process instead of beating yourself up. Finding out more if it doesn’t work is proof you aren’t stupid.
2. Increase the fun by loosening up. Treating your project like an experiment will open you up to different possibilities. Maybe that giant hat you knitted is actually a bag that needs a strap.
3. Start with small, easy projects. I keep meeting crochet students who want to make a blanket for their first project. This makes me nervous, because blankets are Goliaths to complete, and these students are still developing their skill and confidence. I recommend they start with something simple like fingerless gloves that they can finish quickly. A more manageable project will inspire them to crochet more. That won’t happen if their first project is an asymmetrical monster blanket that they couldn’t finish.
4. Skills are learnable, especially with practice. Math is not a natural skill for me, but I could do arithmetic at lightning speed when I worked in a retail store in my 20’s, and I have regained this skill once I started knitting. Anything you do on a regular basis will become easy and normal.
5. Do not compare yourself with others. You don’t know what transferrable skills a classmate may already have. Maybe they are a repeat student who did terrible the first time around, and now it’s finally clicking together. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. Compare yourself with yourself.
6. Recognize your own progress. Your work is probably better than you think. I remember in a watercolor class I taught, all of my students had grasped the technique and were developing their own styles. They were painting some impressive pictures, and they could admire fellow students pictures, but nobody could appreciate their own.
7. It does get easier. It is way harder to learn the most rudimentary steps of a new skill than to expand on a skill you already have. Don’t switch to knitting if you don’t immediately pick up crochet. Stick it out a little longer, and it will get easier. If you really want to learn how to knit as well, wait until you feel comfortable with crochet. The hand-eye coordination you will develop from crochet will make knitting easier. The actual process of learning also gets easier. Mistakes become less of a big deal, and you will bounce back more quickly. It is important to remember that experienced practitioners have felt all the same struggles that you have. I recently led students in a recent drawing class through a challenging drawing exercise. I had my own moment of terror that I would mess up as I did the demonstration. The thing that kept me going with the memory of all the times I had done it in the past. I just braced myself and kept going, and it turned out fine.

A mediation teacher once said, “There is a reason meditation is called a ‘practice.’ We are never perfect at it. We are constantly working on it.” The process of making art and craft projects doesn’t feel like the pretty pages of Martha Stewart magazine. While it can be fun and joyful, it has it’s ups and downs, similar to meditation.

Pain-free Crafting

Anyone who is artistic or crafty knows first hand that being creative is beneficial. The challenge of designing and creating the project builds self-esteem. Creative projects increase learning, brain development, and provide safe and healthy stimulation of feel-good dopamine receptors. Studies have shown that creative activity offers similar benefits as meditation. Crafting has benefited prison inmates, and has even been shown to improve performance at work.


But while creative activity may be good for our minds, our enthusiasm can cause us to overlook the effect the medium has on our bodies, particularly if our practice involves tight or repetitive motions. Many dancers, writers, musicians and knitters alike know the pain of carpel tunnel or repetitive stress. Injury from creative work is especially frustrating when that activity that gives us so much joy.

I have struggled with repetitive stress off and on for years. At first the pain was so crippling, I could hardly use my hands. Even gentle activity such as watercolor painting wasn’t possible. Fortunately, my interest in health and nutrition greatly reduced my symptoms. I can now engage in intense activities such as knitting, crochet, linoleum cut and gardening if I respect the following guidelines:

  1. Diet makes a huge difference in how prone we are to inflammation. Giving up soda and other triggering foods is essential to finding relief from pain. I turn to ginger and fish oil when my hands start acting up. Diet matters.
  2. Correct posture, stretching and exercise are critical for prevention and recovery. Little adjustments like proper back support and dropping your shoulders back and down as you work can prevent problems from developing in the first place. Consult a yoga instructor or physical therapist for stretches that are best for you.
  3. Allow time for rest and recovery. Your body must heal from intense activity before it can handle more. This means getting at least 8 hours of sleep at night, and scheduling rest days to prevent burn out. It may be frustrating to not being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, but it sure beats not being able to do anything at all. Your body is the boss of how much you can do, not your desire to do more.

 

Seasonal Recipes

Radishes are in season and are quick and easy to grow, but many people hate their spicy flavor. I tame their bite by pickling with vinegar or beneficial probiotic bacteria. I show how to do the latter process in this video.


Artichokes are in season early this year. Artichokes are basically an the unopened flower for a giant thistle. To prepare, place artichokes in a large pot with a couple of inches of water, and let them steam for 45 minutes, or until the outer leaves pull off easily. The process of eating an artichoke is a bit of work. Scrape the flesh off of the bottom of each leaf until you are left with just the fragile center leaves. Pull the center part off, scrape out the hairy bits and eat the heart. This is especially good dipped in garlic butter. Artichokes contain a chemical known as silymarin, the only known substance shown to rebuild liver cells. You can be a gourmand and be kind your liver as well.