Wednesday, October 31, 2012

139/365: Oil Free Baking: Autumn Bread

Today I made:

Autumn Bread...
(AKA pumpkin banana cheat bread)

I call this a "cheat" because it's not exactly from scratch, but the creative substitutions and add-ins make it from the heart and perfect for Fall. It easily makes my "I'd Rather Be Painting" recipe book. It's short on time, low on mess and has a healthy tweak that I love!

I wish I could provide the exact ingredients for the bread mix. I buy the 17.5 oz Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix from Trader Joe's. I'm not exactly a baker, but I imagine one could figure out the basics. Maybe flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, "dried pumpkin flakes"...the box isn't too helpful.

Anyway, my favorite parts are the tweaks. Along with the two eggs and cup of water the box recipe calls for, I add one over-ripe banana and 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts. The magic ingredient that makes it even more awesome is to use 1/2 cup of applesauce (unsweetened) instead of vegetable oil. You won't actually taste the applesauce. The bread will just be slightly sweeter and softer. Not sure how it works, but I feel better eating it and it's just as delicious. Bake in a loaf pan or muffin tins at 350 for 55-60 minutes. Careful, over-baking will dry out low fat recipes. (Sneak in an hour of studio time while it bakes! :)

Apparently you can substitute applesauce for oil in most oil-based baked goods. Do a 1:1 swap. It works best in breads, muffins or cakes. It will also work in cookies that call for butter if you don't mind them soft and cakey.

Pumpkin spice, apple, banana, walnutty goodness! Enjoy with a glass of milk or your favorite hot beverage.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

138/365: The Art of Self Care

Today I made:
the decision to pause...

"When the well is dry, we know the worth of water." ~Benjamin Franklin

I woke up this morning to a ridiculous pain in the neck- not my alarm, but an actual pain that's had me wincing all day. I can't turn my head to the right or look up. I must have done some crazy acrobatics in my sleep last night. A day of first graders tugging on my arms (oh, the pre-Halloween excitement) and a dive into the bushes to save Banjo from a possum (or the other way around) didn't help matters.

My dear friend is coming to visit on Thursday and I have quite a bit to do. My initial instinct earlier today was to push through the pain and just work harder to catch up. This is my M.O.: push through the pain, the stress, the overwhelm, the exhaustion. Get it all done, despite the signals my body is giving me. When will I learn? We can't give our best if we wear ourselves down. It's vital not to let our wells run dry! Self care is listening to your body and spirit, knowing when to take a step back, to nurture and let heal that which feels broken or imbalanced. Tonight for me it means the laundry and cleaning can wait. It means alternating hot and cold while petting my possum attack dog and contemplating what other parts of me could use some self care. For some of us (ahem...yours truly) it takes dipping into the well and pulling up an empty bucket to realize the value of proactive, not reactive, self care. It's been a tough lesson for me. I am my own pain in the neck.

Monday, October 29, 2012

137/365: Zombie Makeover

Today I made:

like a zombie...

I came home from work to a zombie version of my husband. He goes all out around Halloween, so I was not surprised. He'd dug up his old effects making up from acting school and was practicing for tomorrow's staff zombification. I was delighted to be his next victim. It was rather gory, but oh so much fun. Then we had ourselves a good ol' fashioned zombie photo shoot. I was either laughing or looking very confused in most of the pictures. I need to practice my walking dead face.


So the trick (that all zombie make up artists must know) to getting nice deep gashes is cotton. After you've painted some liquid latex on your skin, twist thin strips of cotton ball, paint one side of the cotton with liquid latex and stick it to the latex on your skin. Repeat with another piece of cotton to form the edges of an open wound. (eeeew!) Cover the whole wound with more latex to blend and get creative with make up (layer black, dark red and blood red for wounds) and fake blood.

yeah, that's gonna leave a mark...
To get a lovely rotting flesh effect, (equal parts of gross and awesome) paint liquid latex on your skin and allow to dry fully. Then rub parts of the latex, which will stick to itself and look like peeling skin.
Paint inside the peels (getting the color under the "skin" with a small brush) using the same three layers of colors as above.

It's sure to make the kiddies scream. ;) Happy haunting!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

135/365: She Was Inclined to Make

Today I made:

a painting and poem in response to a discovery...

In Autumn, nature lets fall that which is no longer fruitful. We can also learn to let go of what no longer serves us in this time of new beginnings. 

Thank you to Jill for helping me strengthen this connection.

"She Was Inclined to Make"
mixed media: acrylic, vintage book paper, tissue and dried leaves on 11"x14" canvas
copyright Mila Bowman 2012
"She Was Inclined to Make" found text poem, copyright Mila Bowman 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

134/365: Sacred Places

Today I made:

time to visit a special place...

There is a place called Palisades Park on the grassy cliffs overlooking Pacific Beach and (my own personal part of) the ocean. This is one of my happy places. I try to visit often. It's hard to stay away for long. Everyone I bring here agrees, there is an energy about this place. This is where I come to breathe the deepest, to be quiet and still. I release my worries, my fears, my doubts and my responsibilities. They float away on the sea breeze. Only the most real parts of me are left. I come back to my center. I connect with nature. I am present in the moment. Even with the wind blowing off the Pacific, the sun warms my cheeks. The cool, soft grass grounds me, the fresh air cleans my lungs, the rush of the breaking waves drowns any unproductive thoughts. This place restores me.

It's not exactly private. People come here to walk their dogs, witness sunsets and wiggle out of wet suits. They park their beach cruiser bicycles, yoga mats and picnic blankets for a spell. I imagine they are all drawn by the same energy that calls me back. I hope they find just as much inspiration and rejuvenation. I hope they are reminded that we are all part of something grand and beautiful. There is room for all of us there.

Down a couple sandy steps at the North side of the cliffs, there is a little path carved into the cliff side. I like to think it is symbolic of my creative journey: steep and winding, but surrounded by so much peace and beauty. From my perch on the grassy cliffs, I can only see up to the second bend on the path. I like it that way, just being able to focus on what is right in front of me, learning to trust that the rest of the path leads to just as much sunshine.

Do you have a sacred place that you visit when you need to reconnect with what really matters?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

131/365: An Attitude of Gratitude

background art piece: mixed media encaustic & image transfer
Today I made:

some creative reframing of negative thoughts...

1) It's too early to be awake. -------->  I love starting my morning with pumpkin coffee!

2) Boo to the morning commute! -------->  The sunrise over the bay is breathtaking!

3) 4th graders are whiny! -------->  4th graders make me laugh.

4) It's too chilly to walk the dog. -------->  Hooray for fuzzy socks!

5) My art space is lonely tonight. --------> It's time for a meeting of the creative minds...

It's not always easy to look on the bright side, but even a little effort diminishes the not so awesome in our days. Make a little room in your heart for the creative and transformative practice of gratitude.

Monday, October 22, 2012

130/365: The Dust of Everyday Life

Today I made:

a clean sweep...

"Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life."
 ~Pablo Picasso

I've been kicking up a lot of dust around here lately. Since I began my 365 Days of Creative project, there hasn't been a dull moment yet. Writing, photography and mixed media are my art forms of choice, my dust brooms, if you will. I haven't let the dust settle for long before washing it away with these tools that I've gathered. All the nooks and crannies of my soul get a regular cleaning. It's hard to keep things from yourself, like secret fears and unproductive habits that you've been sweeping under the rug, when you're spilling your soul out onto the page, or canvas or through a lens. I'm discovering all sorts of lost treasures in here. There's more room to play and relax when I let art sort out the clutter. My life feels more honest, more wide open and in focus, more full and fulfilling.

These creative practices allow me to stir things up when I begin to feel like I'm just going through the motions. They also encourage me to slow down from the hectic pace of the day-to-day and appreciate the small and ordinary moments that make up this life that I have grown so fond of. Now that I'm cleaning out the cobwebs and taking the time to really see it, this beautifully imperfect life feels more my own.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

129/365: Surrendering to the Creative Process

Today I made:

progress on my painting...
(two sneak peeks)

finding my voice...

and learning to see...

Taking my time adding layers of color to my painting. Today it called for some mixed media. I also discovered, by happy accident, that the strips of book pages I had left over from another project could be arranged into a found poem that connects beautifully with the painting. I'm having the greatest time getting a glimpse into my psyche by surrendering to the creative process through painting and poetry. This is what it's all about! Can't wait to share the finished piece.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

128/365: Changing with the Seasons

Today I made:
the gloom lift...

I've been in a funk the last month or so, feeling a sense of detachment and loss. Couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I attributed it to the imbalance caused by a more hectic schedule, the stress of taking on new responsibilities and the lack of time for contemplation and art making. Surprise, surprise- I have had a hard time adjusting to these changes. I spend an exorbitant amount of time in a weird limbo of uneasy feelings when my "normal" gets disrupted, stumbling my way painfully slowly to getting a grip on new situations and circumstances. I know this about myself and suppose this could be the case for many of us faced with curve balls that life throws our way. Even if we see the change coming, like I did, it's still often an uncomfortable adjustment. I figured I could remedy this some by spending time reassessing my schedule. Problem is, I haven't had the focus or energy to do so. Even when the inspiration is there, the motivation to move forward is not.
There's something more to it.

I think I might have gotten a clue today. I was walking my pup after a morning rain, jumping over puddles and breathing the crisp air. I had finally gotten a good night's sleep and had set aside the day for thinking, both of which I've been desperately needing. Because my spirit was able to look on the bright side, I was more aware of the beauty of the day. I noticed this leaf lying among the yellow ones. I marveled at its color and instantly thought of the pink-orange hue that found its way into my painting last night, the one that sprung from a need to create to move past the frustration. I was reminded of one of the many reasons why I love the Fall. Suddenly, something lifted. I felt more connected to the moment, and the many other moments that have been building this season for the last month started to make more sense. I have to stop lamenting about the loss of the warm long days, easy-going lifestyle and creative freedom that filled my June, July and August. I have to shift with the seasons and find a way to make this new rhythm of life work for me. It was as if, in that moment, I made my peace with the loss of summer and the joy I always find there. I let go of what was and accepted what is, and the gloom seemed to lift instantly. This is what I needed to get a better perspective over my current situation.

So it turns out, when the summer went and turned to autumn (against my wishes) it threw me all off kilter. I don't exactly live in the harshest of climates for season changes, but that doesn't seem to matter. I think it's entirely possible that all this time, my spirit has been reacting to the subtle changes of the seasons, and the change in light and temperature that come with them. I am so very much like a plant in this way. Looking back, I can see a pattern. This happens every year at the shift of most seasons, and somehow always manages to catch me off guard. It doesn't last long, but it's enough to throw me off balance and affect my perspective, which totally zaps my energy and motivation to act on inspirations. I become unsettled, unfocused and impatient. This is not prime time for creativity and that just adds to the frustration. Until now, I hadn't really made the connection, so it was easy to beat myself up for being in a funky mood, thinking I should have built better coping skills for small life changes by now. But this idea of being so connected to the rhythms of natural cycles kind of fascinates me and encourages me to be more gentle with myself to let the inspiration and energy find their way back into my days. Now I can get back to the happy business of celebrating a new season and new undertakings. I'm looking forward to working on my painting again tonight and I know this discovery will feed my inspiration for it.

The big dreams I'm learning to be brave for, the adjustments I'm having to make to have more room for my creative life, they are all part of the shift to becoming an artist and part of the journey of a life by design. Now I understand, this is the season for leaving the warmth, comfort and ease that I've gotten so used to and for stepping out into the chilly unknown. It's not going to be all sunny skies from here, but I'll be rewarded with glorious colors, from Autumn and an artful life.

Friday, October 19, 2012

127/365: Paint Therapy

Today I made:

work in progress, acrylic on canvas
Lately I've been thinking, "Something's gotta give." And today it did. It's been a while since I've painted in earnest. I've been frustrated and unable to get past the usual excuses that flood my mind: ("It's too late; I won't have time to get into it." "I'm not inspired; I don't know what to paint," "What if it's horrible and I waste a canvas?") It's like an itch you can't scratch. This evening as I lay on the living room rug, staring at the ceiling, too tired to make a move on my to-do list, to committed to send myself to bed, I got a sudden jolt of energy to spread paint on a canvas. Before the usual road blocks to creativity intervened, I picked my drowsy self up off the rug and went to work in my art space. What followed was a messy dash of paint smearing. I put down several layers of paint before a form began to emerge- another girly face in abstract colors. All of a sudden my energy was back. The dam had broken and a flood of color and emotion rushed out. There was no stopping it once I put the brush to the canvas. I guess that's what had to give. I'm feeling better now. A painting born out of a need to release frustration...paint therapy at it's finest.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

126/365: How Dare We Let Fear...

Today I made:

a cozy spot on the couch & an unexpected connection...

I was craving a night of relaxing with the hubby. Chicken pot pie and catching up on The Office was sure to cheer me right up. It's funny how inspiration finds me when I decide to take the break I've been needing. The show never fails to crack me up, but today it totally caught me off guard in a different way. We were watching the Halloween episode from season 8 and at the end, one of the characters says some very honest words about fear that made me think...

"Fear plays an interesting role in our lives.
How dare we let it motivate us?
How dare we let it into our decision making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships?
It's funny isn't it? We take a day a year to dress up in costume and celebrate fear."

~Robert California
The Office: Season 8, Episode 5 "Spooked"

That's right. How dare we let fear do that to us? I love Halloween and have nothing against getting spooked in that sense, but the fears that creep in the other 364 days per year- the ones that keep me from living up to my full potential- I'm not too keen on entertaining those much longer. I wonder if the quote would have affected me as much if I weren't living through some fear-facing times. I'm ready to clear out the cob webs and scare off some of my own spooks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

125/365: Seven Truths About Today

Today I made:

a list of truths...

My husband and I have this phrase that we use, when we need to expose what feels the most real at the moment. No matter how scary it is to admit, no matter how vulnerable it leaves us, when we're ready to drop our guard and give ourselves permission to experience every way of being on the journey and to share it instead of keeping it bottled up. It's kind of a "get ready, this is my serious face" type of question. It always feels better after, so here goes...

"Can I tell you a truth?" (or seven?)

1) This is hard (this staying energized in my creativity)
2) I am tired
3) and overwhelmed with choices (and juggling too many things)
4) and uncertain of where to focus and how to proceed
5) and a little dried up
6) and a lot burned out
7) and still hopeful that I'll make sense of it...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

124/365: Photography- Documenting Our Journeys

Today I made:

time to look at our vacation photos...

Playing catch-up today. It's hard to come back from vacation to day jobs and bills and to-do lists. It made for one grumpy Mila.

It was nice to sit down at the end of the night and sort through the photos I snapped on the trip. All the tiny moments I might have forgotten by now, (because "real life" seeped back into my brain the second we unpacked the car), were captured in the pictures. They brought me back to that quaint old wine town and the peaceful forest where we camped. Someday we'll return there, let our feet get dirty and our hair smell of campfire. We will marvel again at how quiet it gets at night and we'll stare at a patch of sky until we all see the same shooting star.

The travel art kit I packed didn't get much use. I'll save it for my jaunts around town. But I'm starting to think there's something more to my obsession with light and shadow and storytelling photos.
My latest photos have inspired happier thoughts and maybe even a little poetry. It's a good reminder that photography is a simple way to appreciate the ordinary moments in our lives, to help us notice the beauty in the little things and bring back the sparkle that caused us to take notice in the first place. Vacation photos or everyday life photos- they are both about documenting our remarkable journeys.

Monday, October 15, 2012

123/365: The Sweetness & the Light

Today I made:

a borrowed silhouette...

Strangers at a rest stop, pausing to watch the sun set over the Pacific, made for a perfect end to our weekend photo journal. They helped capture the sweetness and the light of our woodland getaway...hubby and me and doggy makes three.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

122/365: The View From Up Here

the view from my sleeping bag
Today I made:

a study of perspective...

peaceful forest
clean air
clear mind
fresh perspectives
on art
and life

the view from my yoga mat

the view from up here: Figueroa Mountains, Los Padres National Forest

Saturday, October 13, 2012

121/365: Adventures in Los Olivos

Today I made:

a quest for colors and contrasts...

sky & ground: Figueroa Mountains - Los Olivos, CA

pops of color
that stop me in my tracks

snapshots of
the whimsy in my ordinary

snippets of moments
on our great adventures

...this is what my camera found.

leather & lace: the historic town of Los Olivos, CA
glass & gourd: wineries - Los Olivos, CA
wood & vine: Los Olivos, CA

Friday, October 12, 2012

120/365: Travel Art Kit

Today I made:

a travel art kit...

Hubby and I are extending our anniversary celebration by escaping for a weekend camping/wine tasting adventure. Cell reception will be shoddy, so I may need to update my posts when I return, but the creativity will continue. I'm sure there will be countless opportunities for photography, nature inspired writings and wild forest dance-abouts, but I thought it would also be fun to bring some travel-friendly art supplies so I can get my mixed media on in the great outdoors.

Here's what's in my kit:

- camera
- art journal (I like Strathmore "visual journals" with 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper. They hold up to mixed media and come in different sizes.)
- glue stick & mini scissors (for snipping and gluing mementos)
- sketching pencils & sharpener
- PITT waterproof black India ink pens in 4 different tip sizes
- water-soluble colored pencils
- watercolor water brush (this nifty brush has a barrel that you can unscrew, fill with water and squeeze to allow water flow through the bristles. It can blend dry watercolor pencil on paper and it can lift color from water-soluble crayons or oil pastels. Perfect for travel!)

Aside from the camera and journal, it all fits in a little zipper pouch that I can tote along with me from car, to winery, to mountain hike, to tent.

Nature inspirations, here I come!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

119/365: Right as Rain

Today I made:

a study of the raindrops...

A fresh start to a new season, this first cloudburst of autumn.
Raindrops perch patiently on yellowing leaves, in waiting for a conference with the sun.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

118/365: His & Hers

Today I made:
a photo journal for my better half...
Happy 4 year anniversary my sweet!!

The muse of procrastination blessed me with a visit. I'm very happy with the result. Will post the rest of the pages soon...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

117/365: Miniature Chocolate Cheescakes

Today I made:

a delicious mess...

Hubby is sick in bed tonight, and since my art studio is in the bedroom, I had to put anniversary gift making on hold. Hoping for some major inspiration to finish up the album tomorrow, but tonight I busied myself with baking. Each year on our anniversary I attempt to recreate our wedding dessert. We served the most incredible mini chocolate cheesecakes in lieu of a traditional wedding cake. They were made for us by two of my darling girlfriends, who turned out to be quite the pastry chefs. The recipe came from a parent of one of my former students and it's by far one of our favorite desserts around here. I'm pretty sure this dessert is one of the reasons hubby and I are happily married. ;) So I dug up the old heart-shaped tins tonight and made a chocolaty mess of the kitchen. The cheesecakes are cooling, so I'll post a photo of them later. Here's the recipe.

*I use a "Chicago Metallic Gourmetware Sweetheart Pan" that has helpful little finger holes at the bottom of each cup that allow you to push the base up and lift out the cheesecakes. I believe they come in round cups as well.

Miniature Chocolate Cheesecakes Recipe

Cookie Crust Ingredients/Instructions:
- 8 whole chocolate graham crackers
- 3 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli or Guittard brand)

*Preheat oven to 350

Chop graham crackers in food processor until fine crumbs form. Add melted butter and sugar. Blend.
Transfer mixture to a bowl. Chop bittersweet chocolate in food processor and stir into graham cracker mixture. Divide mixture equally among molds in 12-mold mini cheesecake pan, pressing evenly into the bottom of each cup.

Bake 5-7 minutes and allow to cool.

Chocolate Cheesecake Ingredients/Instructions:
- 14 oz. cream cheese (not whipped)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (it melts easily in the microwave, about 90 sec.)
- 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 eggs

Put all ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth. Scrape bowl and blend again. Scoop mixture onto the baked and cooled cookie crusts in the mini cheesecake pan, dividing evenly and filling almost to the top.

Bake until set, just under 15 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Transfer to refrigerator and chill thoroughly.

Serve plain or with cream and berries. Chocolate lovers enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

116/365: The Joy of Handmade Gifts

Today I made:
you & me as shoes

plans for a handmade anniversary gift...

This Wednesday, my special fella and I are celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary. You know what that means?! It's time to shower my love with handmade gifts!!

I was huge on drawing pictures and making macaroni necklaces for family birthdays as a kid. The urge to give something handmade and from the heart to celebrate someone's special day has never left me. I would rather put my energy into creating something meaningful and personal than shopping aimlessly for the boy who has everything. Luckily he's a maker too, so he accepts all my little handmade treasures no matter how bizarre, imperfect, cheesy or girly they end up being.

So hubby has been instructed to steer clear of the blog for a couple days while I get my creative on. I've been contemplating this little photo album project for a while and collecting quirky and whimsical photos of what makes him him, what makes me me and how delightfully we complement one another. I'm going for a scrappy photo journal feel that should whip together in...oh, two days. (Only problem with these handmade gift projects is that I tend to get my best ideas and inspiration to work on them rather last minute, but it adds to the energy of the finished piece!) Tonight I spent some time sorting through photos. Just a sneak peek for now...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

115/365: Spontaneous Dance Parties

Today we made:

the living room rug into a dance floor...

I walked into a dark living room tonight wondering why all the lights had gone out. Next thing I know my husband is doing his best DJ impression while flashing a little LED ring and dancing wildly. (Where does he get these amazing toys?!) There was laughter, there was song, there was more silly dancing. There was also a great deal of barking. (Let's add strobe lights to the list of things our dog objects to, along with vacuums and ironing boards.) We had a ball and relieved some stress. Dancing is a fantastic form of creative expression, even the silly spontaneous kind. Thanks hubs, I needed that.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

114/365: Love Note to Self

Today I made:

artwork for a special quote...

"Dear Human..." words by Courtney A. Walsh

"Love Note to Self"- art by Mila Bowman: crayon resist illustration and watercolor on watercolor paper

Friday, October 5, 2012

113/365: Quotation Inspiration

re-arting of a quote, in progress
Today I made:

wet ink on the page...

Once in a while, I'll come across another's words and they'll speak to me, as if responding to my search. They'll call out from a place of knowing, from having seen and felt and lived through. The words reach right out and knock on my heart and ask for a soft opening. They ask that I consider the possibility of them in my life, in my circumstances. So I do consider, I connect, I find peace. I harness their courage and continue on my path. These are the words that I like to collect along my travels.

I was inspired by just such a passage tonight. Re-writing it as a "note to self" helps me internalize the message. Sharing soon...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

112/365: Make Like a Morning Glory

full bloom 7:50 a.m.
Today I made:

early art...

Is there any truth to the theory that we are at our most creative in the morning? I've been contemplating this a lot lately while trying to design my daily schedule to include more creative time. I myself am not a morning person. The alarm clock is one of my greatest foes. So it would take some serious habit breaking and auditing of my schedule to get used to having a morning creative practice. But the claims of great success with morning yoga practices and mediation rituals, or "morning pages" journaling, are starting to make me wonder. Are the artists who go straight to work in their studios each morning more creative and successful? 

It makes sense if we consider that we are fresh from dream land in the morning, and perhaps we are able to tap into the imaginative  thoughts and images that came with our dreams when they're not too far gone.  Maybe you have insomnia like I do and you are up at night thinking up ridiculously brilliant ideas that are still fresh in your mind each morning. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to act on those ideas before they end up on the "Oh, I'll get to it later" list? 

Morning glories are known for their brilliant bluish-purple hues and bloom gorgeously in the earlier hours of the day. By late afternoon, they look tired and wilted, much like I do on my evening drive home from work. I am not at full bloom at that point, but for some reason I keep thinking I should be going home and trying to make the best art. This might be totally counterproductive! I feel that as the day goes on, my mind begins to get cluttered with day jobs, errands, to-do lists, family obligations and all the little dramas I let distract me. Not to mention, I'm just plain tired! I surely lose focus and motivation after a long day of teaching and tutoring. My mind is no longer fresh and alert after giving so much energy to the little people that consume my day-time hours. Maybe I slip further away from the potential I have to form my most original and inspired ideas as the hours tick by. 

I definitely don't think this is a hard and fast rule. There are very creative, productive and motivated night owls out there. I have had many successful late night art sessions myslef. But I'm really wondering if a morning art ritual or creative practice is something I should explore. I am beginning to see bits of evidence that this could really work for me. I sometimes wake up to lines of poetry floating through my mind in the morning. By the time I'm in the shower, I'm taking mental notes of blog article ideas. When I walk my dog before work, I so often notice things in my environment that I want to capture with my camera. Maybe this is the time of day I should turn the lamps on in my studio and put in an hour of mixed media art play.

I think it's worth a try to make like a morning glory and allow ourselves time to reach full creative bloom before we really start the rest of our day. What an awesome way to start the day, with a creative accomplishment before day-to-day life gets the best of us. What a great way to remind ourselves that our creativity is so important that it should be one of the first things we make time for in our busy days.
It's important for those of us trying to build a more creative life to pay attention to when we are our most creative, focused, productive, motivated, inspired and inventive selves. When do your brilliant ideas flow most freely? Can you pinpoint a particular time of day and arrange your schedule to include creative play during that time? For me it means sending myself to bed early and getting up before the sun. This will  not be a delightful retraining, but it could do wonders for my creativity.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

111/365: Squashing the Blues

Today I made:
Spaghetti squash...

Cooking two nights in a row?! Someone check my temperature! Wanted to welcome hubby home with a delicious meal. Stuffed peppers and spaghetti squash were a perfect choice. Can't claim the stuffed peppers; they were a fresh and ready find at my neighborhood Trader Joe's. I haven't done much cooking with squash, but I recognized the name of this big yellow gourd and had to try it. (The variety is actually called "spaghetti squash"for good reason.) I'm sure there are loads of recipes online for baking and topping ideas, but I prepared according to the directions on the sticker:

Poke squash 5-6 times with a fork. Microwave (yes microwave!) for 12 min., turning every 3 min. (Skin should release pretty easily when cooked through.) Cut squash in half vertically and scrape out seeds. (Careful, it's hot to handle!) And the fun part- scrape inside with a fork to loosen long "noodles." Top with favorite sauce. I used marinara, parmesan cheese and basil.

Holy moly, was it good! You wouldn't know it wasn't real pasta. What a great and healthy side dish, highly recommended for gluten-free diets! Hubby gobbled it up and even wanted to help scrape the "noodles" out. (It's like getting your hands on bubble wrap and not being able to stop popping;) This would be a super fun food for kids to help prep.

I am officially a fan of squash, spaghetti style! Another easy recipe for my "I'd rather be painting" cookbook...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

110/365: Soul Food for Busy Creatives

Today I made:

"moody mac & cheese"...

Feeling a little out of sorts with hubby out of town, so I decided to treat myself to some comfort food for dinner and some more comfort food for my creative soul. The second bit was easy. Kelly Rae Roberts' e-course and blog are packed with wisdom & inspiring messages that are putting my anxious mind at ease. That is where I want to spend my creative time tonight. Even during my art lull, I feel like I'm still making progress on my creative dreams by learning and dreaming about a creative business.

"Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body."  ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

The dinner part was pretty simple too. I used what I had on hand and concocted something that would fill my cheeks with yummy bites and smiles. This could have been made with much more of a gourmet flair, but for a solo dinner I always reach for quick and easy.

- a box of macaroni & cheese or Velveeta shells & cheese (or if you're feeling motivated, you could make it from scratch)
- feta cheese, 1/4 to 1/2 cup 
- mushrooms, 1 to 2 cups
- spinach, 1 or 2 large handfuls
- applewood smoked bacon (I only had turkey bacon and it still turned out yummy, but go with the real deal for added "comfort" ;)
- onion
- pepper
- milk & butter optional for box mac & cheese 

I used the lower end of ingredients cooking just for myself. The beauty of this recipe is that once everything is prepped, you can stir in however much of the ingredients you like, adding more or less of whatever you like to fill your bowl with.

Prepare mac & cheese according to package instructions. Once you've mixed in milk, butter & cheese packet, (or stirred in the Velveeta) sprinkle in the feta cheese so it melts in a little; add pepper to taste. Chop bacon into little strips and fry (or fry whole & crumble after); degrease on paper towel. Chop mushrooms (I like 'em chunky) and a little onion to taste; saute together. Add the spinach to the saute towards the end, just enough to cook it down a tad, but leave it a little leafy. I totally forgot to add spinach to mine tonight until I was looking for a garnish. It was yummy without, but the greens give it some substance...and I like to pretend that it balances out the not-so-healthy ingredients. 

This recipe is going in my "I'd rather be painting" series. It's short on time and big on comfort and flavor.
Bon appetit! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

109/365- Permission to Begin: Say It Like You Mean It

Today I made:
a breakthrough...

As far as one year anniversaries go, this is a pretty special one for me. I lost track of it until recently, but I found it again in time to celebrate. One year ago today, I posted this message on my personal Facebook page: 

"OK my friends, I'm putting this out there so you and the rest of the Universe can help hold me to it, however long it may take. Creative Business Plan, Step 1: Today I decide to let go of fear and doubt, and choose instead to follow my bliss.  And away we go..."
~ Me, October 1, 2011

I don't know what came over me that sunny Saturday morning in early Autumn. It was a magical feeling. I was sitting on the couch in my pjs sipping coffee and contemplating my happiness, and the future seemed ripe with possibilities. For the first time (ever) a creative life seemed very attainable. What had changed? I wish I could put my finger on it. I think it was a combination of factors. I have a hazy recollection of the weeks that led up to October 1, 2011. There were solo beach walks, long talks with my husband (my greatest cheerleader), searches for quotes that spoke to me, the discovery of creative bloggers who inspired me and a book on the chakras. These ingredients fueled a fire that had been burning for a while, and helped me dispel the doubts and muster up the courage to see myself as an artist beginning on the creative path. The couple years before that consisted of  creative dabbling and doodles, artful gifts for friends, sporadic  journal entries, a lot of standing in my own way and a good dose of false starts. Those were the first stepping stones on my path. Now I see that they were all necessary.

Reading back through the comments a year later, I smile at my responses to friends' questions about what my creative business would be. I didn't know! I didn't have to know. That day, I was simply giving myself permission to begin and figure it out along the way. I was deciding that art needed to be a bigger part of my life. Setting the intention and sharing it with my nearest and dearest made it real to me and brought in the accountability factor.

A year later I'm still figuring it out, but I have these experiences to strengthen me: big goals and baby steps, serious conversations with family and friends, months spent envisioning the life I want, so much soul searching and deeply personal art journal entries, brave experiments with various mediums, learning from dozens of incredible books, an encaustic painting workshop and a hugely inspiring e-course, collections of my work to share online, my first little art show, documenting my process in a creative journal and eventually a blog, the sharing of my thoughts and voice with the world, successful efforts to reach out to like-minded creative people, collaborations with a creative friend to start a business, the building of a creative community in my city,  my name and "art" on the same business card, more artful gifts for friends, a cozy art space all my own.... 

As I sit here typing this list of milestones, I am thoroughly surprised at myself. I had no idea one year ago that I would have the enthusiasm to accomplish all this. I don't share it to brag, but to illustrate a point that even the most undecided, fearful, inexperienced, undisciplined procrastinators (like yours truly) can make things happen when we chase after something meaningful. These are all baby steps in my humble beginning that brought me to where I am now- feeling a little more confident. Today I honor them and my commitment to follow my bliss.  

I think I understand what this year has been about for me. I needed to get really honest with myself about what makes me happy. I needed to establish my creative existence and identity, and to choose to share what is truly important to me.  As I sit here typing this I am getting a bit emotional (in a good way!), a weight is lifting, a self-imposed anxiety is releasing. I spent this year agonizing over finding my voice and style as an artist. Now I realize that is the next direction on my journey. I had a few unique prerequisites to fulfill  first.  {Breakthrough...sigh...}

I imagine all our initial stepping stones look a little different, but we all have to start somewhere. Whether it's the beginning of a creative business or the commitment to live a more joyful or creative life, we can decide that we want to move a bit from where we are right now, to give ourselves a chance. We can declare that we are setting a coarse for greatness. We can draw up a rough map and prepare for a long journey with many twists and turns. Deciding and declaring feel like good first steps. 
Mine was a sloppy beginning, wobbly and unsure, yet spirited and hopeful. It felt like the first conscious, independent decision I had made toward my happiness in ages. It was liberating and terrifying. It still is. I think beginnings are supposed to be.

Give yourself permission to begin, without having it all figured out. Just decide that somehow, you will follow your bliss, your truth, the thing that makes you come alive. Don't know what that is yet? That's OK too. Simply decide that you want to create a life of happiness no matter what. Maybe, to start, it's just a change in attitude or a shift in perspective. 
What would you like to declare when it comes to discovering your potential and achieving your greatness? Say it out loud. Don't you just love the sound of that? 
Give yourself permission to begin. Set the intention. Say it like you mean it
And away you go...

"Begin today. Declare out loud to the universe that you are willing to let go of struggle and are eager to learn through joy."  ~Sarah Ban Breathnach