Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in review and dreams for 2013

Supplies for working through Unravelling the Year Ahead - 2013

I  can't believe that 2012 is coming to a close in just a few days!  About 5 years ago I started doing a year-end review and a look forward to the new year at a day-long urban retreat.   We used prompts to write in our journals and created vision boards using images clipped from magazines to celebrate the highlights of the year, contemplate the difficulties, reflect on the lessons learned and dream of the possibilities for the new year. As an avid list maker, I find this exercise to be immensely helpful in organizing my thoughts and ideas and has helped me bring many of my dreams to reality.  

To do this at home, here is a link to by Susannah Conway's website where she offers an amazing free 20+ pages workbook called Unravelling the Year Ahead - 2013.  The workbook will step you through this process.  It took me just a few hours to complete this activity while I was a captive audience in the car on the return road trip from visiting family for the holidays.  Now that I am done, I can see that I did actually accomplish many of the things that I set out to do back in January 2012.  I also see things some things that didn't turn out the way I envisioned and some I didn't even get started at all - and that's okay.  Then there were the things that I hadn't expected or planned for that made for a very enriched year.  I encourage you to  print out the workbook, light a scented candle or incense, gather your favorite pens, scissors, glue and a couple of magazines to clip images from along with your favorite beverage and explore where your journey has taken you over the past 12 months and dare to dream for the new year.

More resources for exploring goal setting or journaling: - Washington DC area retreats, podcasts, workshops and ecourses at  including the Urban Women's Yoga Retreat -  Online courses including an interactive e-course version of Unravelling - retreats and ecourses on journaling including Inner Excavation - ecourses on journaling

I think that no matter how large or small your dreams may be that you'll have a better chance of making them happen if you put it down on paper in some way: words, pictures, lists, poems, drawings - whatever speaks to you.  You'll have something to guide you and remind you to take even one tiny step at a time towards your dreams when everyday life puts you on autopilot.

Wishing you a happy and creative new year!  

Thanks for reading!  

Snow storm in southern Indiana - December 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thrift Store Adventure

 Corduroy skirt, Ralph Lauren knit sweater and wool jacket

I am an avid thrift store explorer and on a recent excursion, I came away with lots of great finds.  The DC thrift store scene is plentiful and full of treasures to be discovered.  I took advantage of a holiday discount of 50% off offered at the Unique Thrift Store chain.  At the Wheaton, MD location, I was able to come away with some fantastic finds for a niece, two nephews and myself.  None of the items was more than $7 each and there were some great designer labels in the mix.  My total came to about $65 and here are some of the outfits I put together from the haul.

Ann Taylor cotton sweater and bootleg jeans

 Cotton sweatshirt and long sleeved polo

 Cowl neck wool tunic and Eileen Fisher knit skirt

Tommy Hilfiger cotton sweater and button down

We're all going to be cozy (and stylish) this winter with these great finds.  Check out the thrift and consignment stores in your local area for great bargains. For a few more DC area thrift stores, check out my resources page.

I hope your day has a little dose of creativity.  Thanks for reading! 

Landscape in Indiana viewed through the windshield on a road trip

Monday, December 17, 2012

Volunteering with One Brick

Volunteers with One Brick at the Capital Area Food Bank, Washington, DC 

My son and I are members of One Brick which is a non-profit organization that brings volunteers together to support other local non-profit organizations.  There are no long-term commitment so you can participate as your schedule allows and there is always a social event afterwards if you would like to hang out a bit and get to know the other volunteers  in a relaxed atmosphere.  This past weekend, we volunteered at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, DC in their new facility.  Our group of about 12 was tasked with making up bags of fresh fruit for children to take home during the upcoming week.  During our 3 hour shift, we packed 700 bags into 118 boxes weighing in at approximately 4,200 pounds.  It was a workout for sure!  In the past, we have volunteered at the DC Central Kitchen preparing food that is distributed throughout the community to various shelters and organizations that serve hot meals to those in need and also worked at a local organic farm weeding, watering and harvesting crops.  There are all types of volunteer activities so there is something for everyone.  One Brick has chapters in several large cities throughout the U.S. so check out their website if you would like to find out more about getting involved or want to donate.   

I think it has been a busy December for everyone, but I hope you find a little time to add a dash of creativity to your everyday.

Thanks for reading!

Carrots harvested in December

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Carrot Ginger Lemonade and Inspirational Women

Carrot ginger lemonade

Recently, I saw the documentary, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead about Joe Cross' journey to health by juicing.  You can watch the movie online for free on Hulu which you will find on the website at the link above.  I pulled my juicer off the shelf and was inspired to create this refreshing, nutritious cooler.  It will give you a quick pick-me-up anytime...much better than a cola or cup of coffee.

Carrot Ginger Lemonade

2 large carrots
2 stalks of celery
8 cups of watermelon chunks including rind
1 inch piece of ginger, unpeeled
1 lemon, unpeeled
1 lime, unpeeled

Juice everything and serve over ice.   Makes about a quart.

Inspirational ladies

The afternoon turned out to be a bit dreary and I was feeling a little uninspired.  My husband had put an article on my desk that he thought I might find interesting...and I think you will too.

Therrell Smith studied ballet in New York and Paris.  She opened her own dance studio in Washington, DC in 1948 because segregation prevented any opportunity to join the large dance companies in the U.S    She wanted other students to have the opportunities to study and perform dance so has been teaching ever since.  She celebrated her 95th birthday by performing at a local church.  Read the rest of the story about this amazing lady by clicking the link on her name or the photo below.

photo courtesy of The Washington Post

Therrell Smith's story reminded me of another inspirational woman, Ernestine Shepherd, who still competed in bodybuilding contests at age 74.  I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Ernestine a few years ago when we were both participating in a health and fitness fair.  She is very gracious and incredibly strong.  I certainly couldn't even begin to keep up with her as she did push ups in the fitness demonstration.  Read the rest of her story from a feature article last year.

photo courtesy of The Washington Post

Thanks for reading!

Summer flowers

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Creative Inspiration in Philadelphia

Bread at Di Bruno Bros House of Cheese

I love getting out to visit places to spark my creativity.  We took a little trip to Philadelphia the weekend after Thanksgiving and here are some photos of my old favorite places and a few new ones that have me itching to do some creating.  I love to visit the Italian Market to gather ingredients and equipment for culinary exploration.  Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese is an experience not to be missed.  The aroma is intoxicating, and every ingredient you need to create an Italian culinary masterpiece can be found here.  They will give you a sample of any cheese or cured meat you like.  It's crowded but orderly as people shout their orders to the staff and it's a delight to walk out with your treasure wrapped in butcher paper just like I remember when shopping with my grandmother years ago.

Cheeses, pickled vegetables and olives on display at Di Bruno Bros.

Outside on the streets of the market, you will find every kind of produce you could want.   I also always make a stop at Fante's Kitchen Store for any kitchen gadget or equipment one might ever need or not even know you need until you see it there.  It's worth battling the crowds just to stare at the displays of gadgets and cookware which gets me daydreaming about whipping up something tasty.

 Produce for sale at the Italian Market

My trips to Philly always include a stop to browse in the quirky boutiques along South Street with a visit to the Philly AIDS Thrift Shop a must. There are always unique treasures to be discovered and the proceeds go to a good cause.  I scored these practical, but funky ballet flats for $4.

Thrift tore find

Also in the South Street area is the Magic Garden which, at this time, is the largest public mosaic installation in the world. The longer you look, the more interesting things you find embedded in the artwork.  Maybe I can make something for my garden with the fun colored bottles I've collected.

 Magic Garden entrance

Mosaic detail in the Magic Garden 

A great place to get a bite to eat is the Reading Terminal Market.  You will also find produce, teas, an olive oil and balsamic vinegar bar and other culinary related items packed into this historic market.

 French bakery display at Reading Terminal Market

Nothing but cookbooks at this stall in the Reading Terminal Market

And finally, I discovered that Philadelphia has many more healthy options for dining out than I remember from my previous visits.  We had an excellent veggie burger and salad at HipCityVeg and for brunch we found a cute vegan cafe called Miss Rachel's Pantry where the food was delicious and the decor got the wheels turning in my head about some thrifty decor to add to my own kitchen and some recipes to experiment with later.  

Farmhouse table made of 2x6 lumber at Miss Rachel's Pantry

Creative chandelier made from a produce crate, canning jars and off the shelf pendant lights

BBQ seitan with slaw and fresh lettuce

Vegan breakfast burrito

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend was full of inspiration, and I am looking forward to working on some new projects over the cold, dark winter months.

Thanks for reading!

Fall sunset

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Save the Tuna Salad and fall colors

Save the Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomato

We just had a few warm days of Indian Summer and that had me craving something light and fresh before we head into the warm soups and stews of the cold weather.  So I took advantage of some of the last of my summer tomato harvest.  I only made a couple of changes to this recipe for Save The Tuna Salad on Rye from Kris Carr's website. (While you are there, check out some of the other recipes and information on eating healthy.)  I omitted the agave nectar and substituted a heaping tablespoon of sweet relish, added some chopped pickled banana peppers and radishes and a large dollop of vegan mayonnaise.  I placed a large scoop of the salad in cored tomato and served on a bed of baby spinach with some pita wedges for scooping up the salad. This recipe made enough to fill 2 large tomatoes and   3 large tortillas along with spinach, tomato and avocado wedges for sandwich wraps for lunches.

Just a few days later, the weather has turned cooler, but there are a few trees still providing some fall color when I'm out on walks with the dog in the neighborhood.

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is already upon us...this year has just flown by.  I had to share this image of a Thanksgiving tablescape that is bursting with color and creativity.  It may be a little wild, but it just made me smile.

Thanks for reading!

Tablescape courtesy of Maxwell Tielman of Design*Sponge

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Late fall garden harvest and iced chai tea

Late fall harvest of cilantro, mixed greens and lemongrass

We are having a few days of warm weather after a preview of the cold weather to come this week. I took the opportunity to check on the plants I put in for the fall/winter garden under hoop tunnels.  The spinach is coming in a little slower than I hoped, but overall things are looking pretty good.  After watering, weeding, and harvesting a bit, I tucked them all back under their protective fabric covers in hopes that we will continue to have some fresh produce until there is a sustained hard freeze.

Carrots, broccoli, arugula and radishes 

Cilantro, savory, mint, spinach and kale 

Fennel, leeks, garlic and onions

The final tomato harvest of the season ripening in the window

Before I switch to warmer drinks for the cold winter months, I enjoyed a refreshing glass of iced chai tea. A prefect treat after an afternoon in the sunshine.

Iced Chai Tea

makes 3 servings

4 chai tea bags
2 cups of boiling water
2 cups of milk (I used almond milk)
1/2 cup of heavy cream or the white layer of coconut cream (optional)
sweetener to taste (I used agave nectar)
splash of vanilla extract
ice cubes

Pour the boiling water over the tea bags in a heatproof container or teapot.  Let steep for 15 minutes.  Remove the teabags and into a blender add the brewed tea, 2 cups of milk, heavy cream, sweetener, vanilla extract and about 4-6 ice cubes.  Process on high until the ice cubes are crushed and there is a frothy head of whipped cream on top.  Pour over a few more ice cubes in a glass and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.     

Flowers at the Eastern Market in DC

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fried egg and greens sandwich and mixed media meetup

Open-faced fried egg sandwich with greens 

One of my favorite quick meals, is an open-faced fried egg sandwich with greens.  It comes together in about 5 minutes using just one skillet.  It is a perfect combination of warm comfort, crunchiness and healthy ingredients and is filling enough to get you through many hours of activity.  This is a meal I often have before a high energy dance or exercise class or spending an afternoon working in the garden.

Fried Egg and Greens Open Faced Sandwhich

1 slice of bread (I used a country olive bread)
1 egg 
small slice of cheese (this one has smoked gouda) 
handful of greens, washed and dried (spinach, chard, kale or arugula like this one)
olive oil
fresh tomato or salsa 
avocado slices or chunks (optional - darn! I forgot to add some)
salt, pepper and red wine vinegar to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spread around.  Put slice of bread into hot pan to start toasting.  Break the egg into the pan and cook as desired (this one is over easy).  Place the slices of cheese on top during the last minute of cooking to melt slightly. Wilt greens in the pan during the last minute of the egg cooking time tossing around to coat with the olive oil in the pan.  To serve, layer the greens on the toast and sprinkle with a few drops of vinegar if desired.  Next layer the egg and tomato or salsa and avocado.  Salt and pepper to taste.  

Open-faced sandwich ingredients all cooking together in a single pan

After I had my sandwich, I headed over to the Pyramid Art Center for a Meetup event that I found for collage artists in my local area.  This group of artists meets every few weeks for 3 hours, each member working on their own projects, sharing tips and ideas and creative energy while getting to know fellow artists.  The only cost was the rental of the studio and we all chipped in so it was only a few dollars each to be able to create in a beautiful studio with lots of windows and space.  For this meeting, the organizer shared a technique for printing using gel plates that she learned at a recent workshop.  She was nice enough to bring extra supplies for us to all try it out.  There are meetups for every interest, so I highly recommend exploring to find a group that might spark your creativity.

My work space for the meetup at the art center

Some of my experiments with the gel printing technique

I hope you found a little inspiration this week.  As the days grow shorter and cooler and we spend more time indoors, this is the perfect time to curl up with a good book or explore one of the creative projects that you might have been contemplating (perhaps a knitting or sewing project, exploring your neighborhood and taking a few photographs or trying your hand at baking some fresh bread).

Thanks for reading!

 Fall decorations on a stoop in Washington, DC

Monday, October 29, 2012

This week's sources of inspiration and hurricane Sandy preparations

 Garden harvest in preparation for Hurricane Sandy

This week has been one of preparations for the impending impact of Hurricane Sandy.  I harvested all the vegetables that I could to save them being blown away or damaged by potential high winds, and made sure the fall vegetables were snug in their hoop tunnels.  I've also stocked up on materials to keep me entertained should I be stuck at home or if the power should go out as it often does when you live in a neighborhood with many old growth trees that take out the power lines as they fall.

Reading List

The Book Thing

Last weekend I had time to take a trip to a place I love to go that's a free source of inspiration - The Book Thing in Baltimore, MD.  (Yes, I did say free.)  Their mission is "To put unwanted books into the hands of those who want them."  We dropped off a few boxes of books I cleared off the bookshelves and I found a few to fill up the empty space including a classic and a newer memoir that were both on my reading wish list along with a stack of magazines to peruse and use for art journaling and mixed media projects later.

Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Product DetailsA memoir of a young woman's solo hike on the 1100 mile trail after suffering from personal catastrophe.


Product DetailsA classic that I never had the chance to read that seemed appropriate for the continued struggle between civilization and nature.

Current resources for creative inspiration

After the Jump podcasts and Design*Sponge website

Check out both the podcasts and website by the Grace Bonmey,  Her website is full of inspirational art and design eye candy and diy projects.  The podcasts feature interviews of designers, business owners and up-and-comers in the art community which are great to listen to on my commutes to and from work.

The Next List

CNN has a television show and blog featuring innovators in technology, science and social change.  I really enjoy seeing how people can start with one small idea that can grow into a something meaningful for many.

Other books on my shelf to read:

Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life
Product DetailsThis book is about an innovative approach to reinventing yourself at any stage of life.  The book outlines 7 key strengths that some of the most creative minds in history shared that can be used by anyone seeking to cultivate change in their life.

ECOpreneuring:  Putting Purpose and the Planet before Profits.  
Product DetailsI serendipitously met the author of this book at the Mother Earth News Fair when one of the workshops I wanted to attend was completely full and I found myself at his display table.  He and his wife are innkeepers and authors and this book offers advice on starting small eco-businesses that incorporate values and priorities while creating income and meaning.

I'm all set to hunker down by the fireplace to ride out the storm, explore these creative resources and cook up a few tasty meals with my harvest.

Thanks for reading!

Fall decorations in the neighborhood