CASA Gallery: Mid-Winter Light

dayShot1

I am pretty excited. This is my first art exhibit other than the mandatory Sophomore Project during college, at which I didn’t receive very good reviews, and as much as I hate to admit it, it was a bit traumatizing. I understand the concept of constructive criticism, but when you literally pour your sweat and blood and tears into something, and receive silence from the critics, as well as one critique that was mostly negative than positive, then it’s bound to do something to your psyche. A couple days after that show, I did receive some tranquilizing words. An older student came up to me and told me that she wished she had said something during the show, but she enjoyed my piece (I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t remember exactly what she said). She also said something that stuck with me. “Never let anyone tell you your work isn’t good. Just keep creating.” And that is exactly what I do. I create.

Anyway, the point of this post is to give a visual of one of my pieces that will display in CASA Gallery. It is a hanging mobile made from CD’s and metal stuff. While constructing this piece, I left it hanging outside the front door of my place. I thought to myself, “I really don’t care if it’s not chosen for the show; I freaking love this piece!” It’s peaceful and calming and I smile when I look at it. It casts beautiful, rainbow reflections in the sunlight, and at night it is equally as stunning. Let’s just hope it gets the point across in the gallery. We shall see!

So, if you’re in Santa Barbara, and if you like me, then you should go look at it. It will be up until December 27. If you can’t, or you don’t like me, then just look at this cool photo. I was able to see some of the other submissions when I dropped mine off and I think it’s going to be a phenomenal show.

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I Love Food

spaghetti squash

I cook nearly every night. I do not particularly like leftovers, and if it were economically and environmentally responsible then I would have a freshly cooked meal every time I eat. When I do heat up leftovers, I often do not use the microwave. When I reheat food on the stove-top I like to incorporate something fresh, that way it doesn’t feel like leftovers (oh, the strange tricks we play on our minds). Anyway, there was no point to all of that. Just talkin’.

I generally follow the diet that people call Primal or Paleo (my favorite food/lifestyle blog is Mark’s Daily Apple). Sometimes I eat things that are not considered “healthy” according to this diet, but if I do I try to make it something that is worth the damage I’m doing to my body. I’m not always successful with that. One of the worst feelings is after eating something “bad” you immediately realize that it wasn’t nearly as good as you had anticipated. That’s one reason I no longer drink soda. It is not satisfying in any way.

This month, I am going to reset my body, since I haven’t been eating as well as I would like. I’m am doing this by taking the Whole30 challenge. I have done this once last year and I felt pretty phenomenal. The rules are simple: No grains, no dairy, no legumes, no white potatoes, no sugar, no alcohol.

It’s not a difficult diet for me to follow. So why don’t you eat like that all the time (one might ask)? I ask myself that all the time. I could make a bunch of excuses, but I guess it just comes down to laziness. Processed foods are convenient so sometimes I eat them. It’s energy-consuming to resist these foods when you’re in a social setting and you’re hungry!

Once this 30-day challenge is complete I do plan on keeping most of those foods out of my diet. For instance, grains and legumes do a work on my digestive system, so I do not want to eat those. I have never been a fan of milk, cheese is not that important to me, and I don’t normally use butter (olive oil and coconut oil seem to be sufficient, and delicious!), so those aren’t a problem. Although, I may incorporate some all-fat Greek yogurt. That stuff tends to ease my seasonal allergies. Potatoes are fine (although I may stay away from white potatoes and stick with other kinds), I live a pretty active lifestyle and I burn calories just by blinking, so for my body potatoes are fine. I don’t use sugar for anything, but I’ll go through phases of eating a lot of chocolate or other sweet things (which usually have wheat in them). Alcohol is the kicker. I love red wine and like to have a glass with dinner, so I will definitely be adding this back into my diet.

So, what do I eat? I eat a variety of seasonal (and since I live in California, many foods are in season year round) veggies that come from the local farmer’s market or a farm located a few miles north of where I live, and sometimes things I forage. My fish come from the fish market, and my chicken, pork, and beef come from the grocery store (since, unfortunately, butcher shops don’t exist over here!) Last night I had grilled halibut with a lemon and mint sauce; grilled bell peppers, onion, and jalapeños; fried sweet potatoes (the ones often called yams and the Japanese Sweet Potato, I think); spaghetti squash fried with fennel and spinach; and let’s not forget avocados! Sorry no photographs of the deliciousness, I don’t plan ahead very well.

I know there are many people who think diets are evil and stupid, so I don’t normally share how I eat unless I am asked. I do love food, but it doesn’t control my life. I want to be healthy, which includes eating in a way that is healthy. If this means avoiding certain foods, then I will do just that. Life is short, and I want to live it in the best way I can; I don’t want to be a burden on anyone simply because I didn’t take care of myself; I want to produce healthy offspring. This is one way in which I can contribute to my life and to the lives of people with whom I interact.

Sequoia National Park

We left at 5:00 a.m. I am rarely awake at that time in the morning, but I do enjoy it on occasion – what I don’t enjoy is a 5 hour car ride. However, it was a means to an end, and that end was camping. At five in the morning, the Pacific coast is barely waking up. We had the road to ourselves. The sunrise was the perfect way to begin our adventure, full of promise and beauty. The photograph above is one of the few I was able to get without power lines running through it. The downsides of having power and electricity.

We arrived at the campground and found the perfect site (which was actually in Kings Canyon National Park). We put all our food in the bear box, quickly set up our tent, and went in search of fire wood. Last time when we went in the winter, we spent quite a bit of money on wood. Since we were now in summer with dry wood, we decided to do some foraging. In all actuality someone left a copious amount of wood in the site next to ours, so we foraged that (but we did search for kindling and more wood when we ran low!). Very soon after we arrived, we had some guests. A doe and her two fawns. We saw them, and at least two other does, every day. They did not seem afraid, let alone aware, of our presence.

Since we didn’t have a full day ahead of us, we decided to visit Hume Lake to relax for a while before we settled down to cook dinner. It was a beautiful lake day and even warm enough to take a dip in the water. It was quite a contrast to when we were there in the winter – the lake was frozen over and snow covered the ground at that time.

4 Hume Lake

Everywhere we drove, the clouds were unbelievable. You don’t always get these kinds of clouds in other places, but here it was commonplace yet awe-ful. The clouds don’t even notice how revered they are.

One place we always must go is Grant Grove to pay homage to General Grant Tree and all the other massive beings. The branches on these trees are the size of normal trees. That’s how big they are.

We wanted to swim in the river, so we stopped at a random place on Kings River that looked relatively private with calm waters. It turned out to be a great spot, albeit somewhat shallow. The air was warm, the water was cold, but we swam anyway, and let the water cleanse our hair and bodies.

When we were out foraging for more wood we heard what sounded like chainsaws (and I had come to get away from all that noise!) and saw a man wearing one of those orange and yellow working crew vests. Obviously, they were doing some work on trees. He shouts at us, “Hey! You want to see a tree fall down?” Of course we did. So, we witnessed it. And it felt remarkably like guilty by association to murder. Apparently the tree was a fire hazard because it had been struck by lightning at least once before. In order to protect the area, they cut it down. The crack of this tree was so violent in comparison to its normal, peaceful existence. I can understand wanting to protect the area, but at the same time, it was perhaps an unnecessary death, and fires in the tourist areas of these national parks need to take place as well. The land needs to be rejuvenated.

My favorite place was Buck Rock Lookout. It has an elevation of 8500 feet. You can drive up to the base of the lookout, however, it was a beautiful day, so we hiked from the campground, which was about 2.5 miles. The air was so fresh and clean and cool. You can only get to the lookout via a series of staircases leading up to the one-room building. It may sound frightening, but the stairs were very sturdy with guard rails the whole way, which, we read, wasn’t always the case. The fire lookouts used to get up there by climbing a pole with planks of board nailed perpendicularly to use as “steps.”

The woman who was currently the lookout was very friendly and answered all the questions we had. Such as, “Do you ever get struck by lightning?” And yes, she had. They have a chair with big, rubber tips at the end of the legs that they must sit on during a lightning storm. They are supposed to keep watch during these storms and once it passes, they plot on the map where lightning struck. All of these interesting jobs I hear about – how do people come across them?

All you could hear up there was the wind. I finally found it!

Yarn Bowl

Here is another of my ceramic masterpieces. It actually started off really well, then when I was trimming the bottom, I made a hole. Also, one of the sides was thin and broke (hence the swirly design). So I decided to turn it into a really cool yarn bowl.

yarn bowl 1

I think my favorite part about this bowl is the color. I used a glaze called “blue ice” and, although it has bubbles and is dripping in areas, it came out really beautiful and I like that the edges didn’t keep the glaze. Well done, me!

yarn bowl 2

Handmade Soap

In my attempt to limit the amount of caustic chemicals I put on, in, or near my body I have eradicated store-bought shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste from my hygienic regime. The areas I am still working on are body/hand soap, dish soap, and laundry soap. I finally got the supplies I needed to make bar soap and gave it the old college try.

I used a recipe I found on The Mommypotamus and altered it slightly, mainly due to my lye being in bead form rather than powder. The recipe calls for 4 simple ingredients: coconut oil, lye, essential oils, and water. Below is the altered recipe:

  • 12.54 oz. water
  • 32 oz. coconut oil
  • 5.6 oz. lye
  • 0.5 oz. peppermint, tea tree, and lavender essential oils
  • mint leaves

soap 1

Since this batch was my test/prototype, I didn’t take pictures or record what I did very well (typical me), but I’ll give you the quick and dirty description of what went down. When I make another batch, I will definitely be more detailed.

  1. First, I put the coconut oil in my designated soap-making pot and melted it. It is helpful later on if you let the oil reach a temperature between 120°F and 130°F. I didn’t do this and it caused the process to be a whole lot longer.
  2. Next, I dissolved the lye in the water while wearing protective gear, such as gloves and goggles (have you seen Fight Club? I don’t want that to happen to me! And I’m not talking about Dissociative Identity Disorder). The order is very important – you must always pour the lye into the water and not vice versa, otherwise it may splash all over the place. I poured in a little at a time while stirring.
  3. After the lye-water cooled for 10 minutes, I poured it into the pot with the coconut oil, which was still heating.
  4. I used my hand mixer to blend the ingredients together until I got to trace. This is the point at which the substance turns from liquid to a vaseline-type texture. If my coconut oil was hot enough, this would have taken a few minutes, but mine was taking so long that I took breaks and it ended up being an hour or so.
  5. Then, I covered the pot and let it sit on low-medium heat for 1 hour.
  6. When the hour was up I let the mixture cool then mixed in the essential oils.
  7. I poured/scooped the mixture into a small bread pan lined with parchment paper. I also pushed some mint leaves into the middle.
  8. Once the mixture hardened, I cut the the soap into slices.

soap 3

soap 2

Soap Saver

soap saver 2

soap saver 1

soap saver 3

Whole-y Snapper!

snapper1

I have always wanted to catch and prepare my own fish. Well, I am now half of the way to achieving this dream of mine. I did not catch the snappers, but I gutted, scaled, and cleaned them. Thank you, YouTube! The internet is the elders of our society. That’s a metaphor.

The first step was scaling the fish (the top photograph shows the scaled fish). I used the back end of a knife, which worked well enough, scales flying everywhere, but I think I would have preferred a scaler.

I proceeded to slice the stomach from the vent to the mouth and then ripped out the insides all in one fell swoop. Kind of. Since I had never done any of this before I was going slowly, trying to experience all of the squishy, slimey, slippery sensations. Gills are pretty cool and creepy. They feel as though they could slice right through your fingers, so I was overly cautious around them. The guts do come out easily though, if you get a good grip on the gills.

Once the gutting was completed, I used my knife to poke at any bloody parts on the spine that I wanted to drain. After that, I washed it. And washed it again. And washed it some more. I know it would have all been fine once cooked, but I wanted to be thorough.

There were two fish, so I stuffed them with different ingredients. Please note: I don’t really measure ingredients, unless I’m following a recipe, so for the spices I just sprinkled however much I desired.

fish #1:

  • lemon
  • onion
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • salt
  • pepper
fish #2:

  • cumin
  • ground coriander
  • turmeric
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • pepper

snapper2

Above are my beautifully grilled fish, which weren’t actually that beautiful, but the meat was perfectly cooked. The spices were subtle, so I think next time I may just grill it with plain, old salt and pepper and make a lemon-mint sauce to pour over it. (Side note: one of the eyeballs fell out as it was grilling! Super cool!).

All-in-all a very satisfying experience!

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