A Gift

A few weeks ago when I hit the one year mark on this blog I wasn’t sure what direction I was going to take it in. I’m still not sure. My life has turned into something I never expected. It’s been a bittersweet week, and although I can’t explain what that means as of yet, it involves a major change. This blog has evolved from an art project into a daily journal of our life as a family going through the crisis of unemployment. Things had come to a head as of late and I was really feeling the stress of all of it. Things are no better as I write this. Dan and I are still looking for jobs without much luck. Just the other day I received a call back from a woman’s apparel store and was excited that something might be changing for us, but I didn’t get the job. The woman on the phone didn’t feel that I was qualified because I had never sold clothing before. That in spite of the fact that I worked customer service in a retail environment for more than eighteen years. I’m not quite sure what it is that she thought I was incapable of. I’ve been a wife and mother for thirty years, I have two grown children, I obviously have been in quite a few clothing stores, and have folded more than my share of laundry. In my job at the grocery store I handled thousands of monetary transactions, balanced daily sales reports, verified armor truck deliveries, and much, much more, but she wasn’t interested in anything I had to offer.

I’ve been losing faith. Faith in everything. Lately even my prayers are disrupted in my head by moments of doubt. There have been glimmers of hope, but I have seen them snatched away as quickly as they broke through the darkness. What has helped us through all of this is our deep love for each other, and the love and support of our families.

 

I wrote the words above three days ago and then I stopped writing. I quit, I let the weight of all of this get the best of me. I had given up. It has been so long since something positive has happened for us that I had fallen into a depression nearly as bad as the one I had suffered when my mother died. That was Friday. Saturday Dan and I headed down to San Diego. He has a job interview tomorrow and we were doing a little research on the product. He is well aware of the depths of my struggle, he is and always has been my lifeline. As we drove along I told him how much I wished something nice would happen for us, it has been so very long. Then we got the mail. Inside was a card from a friend. Inside the card was a gift beyond words. Yes there was money, not enough to start our business, but this isn’t about the money I found in the card, it’s about the hope. When I saw what was inside and read the words, I cried. It is enough to allow me to take a breath and believe in the future. We have gotten help from our families, they have been as generous as they can be both in support and varying amounts of cash. What made this different was that it was from someone who isn’t family, someone who knew my struggle and reached out to help. This person doesn’t want credit, and could barely take my thanks, but I have to be thankful to someone who gave me back my life, my hope, my faith. All we can do is move ahead. As our benefactor said, “Don’t look back, only look forward.”

 

So here we go. The burden feels a little lighter. Onward to better things.

As for tomorrow? Please pray for Dan for tomorrow’s interview. We need it, but in the mean time…The Curious Cat Books & Bistro is in the works. A few photos to share tonight, hopefully new art for tomorrow.

Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce

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For lunch? Grape Almond Chicken Salad & Macaroni Salad

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Afternoon Tea

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and a late night cheese plate to share…

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Everything but the bread made from scratch.

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The Things That Mean The Most

Lately I seemed to be a little obsessed with money, probably because we’re running out of it, but as I look around my beautiful home I know it’s only stuff. The things that are important to me are the people I love and care about. Dan, Brian, Jessica and her husband John (Happy 1st Anniversary to them today!), my family, and my friends. If I lost everything it would be ok as long as I have them. I’ve made it my mission in life to let those I care about know it. When my Mom died I was devastated. She passed away on a Sunday morning. That night my Dad went out to dinner with Dan and I, and our kids. While we sat at dinner talking about her I said that I hoped she knew how much I loved her, and my Dad replied, “Don’t worry, she knew.”

I always go above and beyond for the people I care about. I know when it is my time to leave this world my children will miss me, but I am also sure that they will know how very much I love and adore them both. I am by nature a thoughtful and generous person. Unfortunately in my adult life I have found that who I am sometimes intimidates people, women in particular. Several years ago I was seeing a therapist and when I talked to her about the way the women in my neighborhood were reacting to me, being mean, snide remarks, etc., she told me to stop showing off. I don’t do things to show off, I do things because I’m nice. I happen to have creative skills and I am grateful for the talents I was born with. I enjoy making gifts for people, and I have a passion for cooking. Somehow that gets misconstrued as me wanting to make others look bad. To be honest I let it bother me for a very long time. Now I don’t care anymore. If people don’t take the time to know me and realize what a truly generous person I am then it is their loss.

What got me off on tonight’s rant you ask? It happens to be the birthday of one of my very good friends, who also happens to be a neighbor.  I don’t have a lot of friends. I tend to be a bit of a loner, always have been. The few friends I do have mean the world to me. I met Lori at one of the neighborhood parties eight years ago when quite frankly no one was talking to me. I was on crutches, just days after surgery for a torn ACL. She saw me standing alone, got me a chair, something to eat and drink, and kept me company for the rest of the evening. I never forgot her thoughtfulness or kindness that night, and she has been consistently the same loyal friend since that night. Today is Lori’s birthday. She is here for dinner, I made one of her favorites, arugula with a balsamic dressing, pan seared medium rare steak, Parmesan cheese tuile and a horseradish cream sauce. Dan made some delicious salads with large tomato slices, fresh mozzarella and homemade pesto. I made her a cake, Devil’s Food with a homemade Dulce de Leche butter cream with a touch of sea salt. Like I said, I like to let the people I love know it.

IMG_6578 IMG_6571 For tonight, something else for Lori. A portrait of one of her other dearest friends, her dog Cocoa. (I should say a portrait in progress)

HappyIMG_6573 Birthday LorIMG_6569i!

Happy New Year!

Best Wishes to all, and may everyone have a good and prosperous year! Let’s hope that goes for us as well. 2013 has been a tough one, not sorry to see it end. Of course there were blessings, too many to mention, but this year there were many obstacles to overcome. The best thing I can say about this past year is that Dan and I weathered it together, and despite all of our troubles, we have never been stronger. That’s pretty good. Time to change our own luck. This will be our year. That is my final resolution to post on this blog. There are those private ones that I made mention of last night, so there is a rather long laundry list ahead. I can do it, we can do it.

For tonight a very simple project, a romantic dinner for two. Two years ago for Christmas, Dan bought me “Menus for Chez Panisse”, by Patricia Curtan. It is a lovely book filled with marvelous menus in both the food listed and the menu design. Right up my alley! I was so inspired that I had intended to make menus for every special occasion and the meal that accompanied it. Of course…best intentions. Although I have made a few. One for tonight, a really quick one because I spent much of the day on the phone, logistical planning for my Dad and his dinner this evening. I’m going to throw in a few old menus just so you get the idea, and possibly some food pics. I haven’t done that in a while, but it really is just another form of art for me.Dinner Invitation

A Summer dinner party#1

Our October Fest oktober fest menu

The October Fest Menu2013 Menu

Tonight’s menuIMG_3449Blue Cheese, Date and Bacon Tart-lets with Blue Cheese Stuffed Date, Bacon wrap and Blue Cheese Sauce…IMG_3450Avocado and Arugula with 20 year aged BalsamicIMG_3478And finally our entrée. Smokey spiced rubbed Filet, with Chimichurri Sauce, Lobster Tail and Roasted Red Potato with Garlic Aioli

Dessert will be in a while, crepes with coffee ice cream and cookie crumble. Happy New Year everyone!

Blending Flavors

I failed to get back to my watercolor portrait today, but not without very good cause. I was very busy pursuing my other great passion, cooking. As an artist I enjoy using all kinds of medium, and for me cooking is another medium. Ingredients are like paint, blending together to create a work of art on a plate. I created a new recipe today. We were watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain in Spain the other night, and by the time it was over I was in a Spanish frame of mind. I love tapas, and unfortunately for us our favorite tapas restaurant in San Diego closed down. We loved going down to the Gaslamp Quarter and sitting at a sidewalk cafe, enjoying some small plates and a pitcher of Sangria while watching the world go by. Of course as most couples do, we would comment on the people walking past. (All in good fun, because we of course are perfect….back to the food…) I created a shrimp dish with Mexican chorizo for lunch. A lovely, rich, smokey sauce, and succulent shrimp dusted in smoked paprika, topped with a little fresh guacamole and chipotle mayo.  Dan gave me a lovely compliment, he said, ” When we watch Anthony Bourdain’s show and watch him eat in these great little restaurants, I always think, “I wish I could eat there.”, and today I did.” Brian loved the base of the dish, but isn’t terribly fond of shrimp. He suggested that he might like chicken instead. So off to the store with my friend Theresa, for a very fun afternoon of ingredient shopping. By four fifteen I was back at the stove and created a different version of the same recipe for dinner. This time a gumbo of sorts with chicken, Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo, with some chopped cilantro and green onion. My guys loved it, cleaned their plates and went back for seconds, actually Brian cleaned the pan as well. Now I just have to remember everything I put in there. I’ve made some great dinners over the years, telling my family to enjoy because they will never have it again. Some of the meals in this house are made from what’s in the fridge and a little kitchen wizardry. I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from painting, but cooking for the people I care about is good for the soul. There are honestly days when I think if I could go back in time and choose a career path to follow, I’m not sure if it would be cooking or art. I guess I’ll just have to continue doing both.

Lunch….

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Dinner….IMG_1582

Not the portrait for tonight, but a watercolor. Just something pretty to look at.

Art…

 

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A Good Day

Not 100% today, but not nearly as bad as yesterday. I heard quiet whispering from the couch, but I had too much to do to answer the call. That and my inner Martha Stewart was talking over it. Every now and then I feel really inspired to cook. I have mentioned before that I love cooking, and that I’m quite good at it, but once in a while I have the urge to really create in the kitchen. Tonight I made Deviled Crab Cakes with a mango lime butter mayo, on freshly baked brioche, served with a small salad. For dessert Goat Cheese Cheesecakes with Rosemary, with a ginger snap crust, served with blackberry sauce and mango purée. I got the recipe for the cheesecake from a Food and Wine email, created by chef Sandi Reinlie. It is meant to be served with a lavender honey, but I make a terrific blackberry sauce that I thought would pair well with the cheesecake and I was right. Delicious. And since I was in such a culinary state of mind I chose an appropriate subject for tonight. I have a handful of photographs that I took at our local farmer’s market. I chose a photo of some beets, and painted them in watercolor. (I think I hear inner Martha telling me to alphabetize my spices, but I’ve decided to ignore her.) A day like today makes me feel terrific. I love feeling as though I’ve accomplished something. A very satisfying, creative day. IMG_1549

Deviled Crab Cake on BriocheIMG_1556

Goat Cheese cheesecake with Blackberry sauce and Mango puree IMG_1555Watercolor on paper

A Plethora Of Pen

As a testament to how much I am enjoying the process of pen and ink, I did not one, but three sketches today, and all in I day where I wondered where I might find the time. I was cooking dinner for Brian’s birthday tonight, and as always it is the choice of the birthday boy/girl to decide what it is I will be cooking. Pastitsio, for those of you who are unfamiliar it is Greek lasagna. It can be complicated, and definitely time-consuming, but well worth the effort. Brian also doesn’t love cake and requested a French Silk Pie. Also a little complicated and time-consuming. Between the two I wondered where I might find time for art, but I did. First in the form of a homemade gift certificate, the second sketch while I waited for the base of my Pastitsio cream sauce to cool, and finally at the end of the evening when all was said and done, and everyone was groaning from the amount of food consumed (did I mention that I also made potato ravioli, with a brown butter Alfredo, crispy sage, and a little crumbled bacon?) We were sitting around the kitchen table talking, and I started to doodle. Sketch number three. So this is the part where I tell you all that this will be a very short blog tonight. I was on my feet all day, I ate too much, and I’m tired. This is one of those days when I forget just how old I really am. Lots of energy first thing in the morning, not so much energy by nine at night. Goodnight, I hope you like the work as much as I enjoyed creating it. And just to make you hungry, a photo of my pie.IMG_1465

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A Worried Mind

Tonight was a struggle. I started and tossed aside several drawings, unable to find my artistic mojo. I spent the day on the phone with my sisters, our Dad is still having issues from the fall he had last month, in the last twenty-four hours he has been struggling with a great deal of confusion. In the end we discovered that he was suffering from several of the side effects from a new medication. I find myself again feeling frustration, guilt, and a tremendous amount of worry. It is frustrating not being near when my Dad is not well, and as I have mentioned previously my sisters are carrying a heavy load, I feel terrible that I am not there to help. When we made the decision to move to California we didn’t imagine what the future would and could hold. All of that worry got in the way of my creativity. As the evening wore on I tried several ideas, what I ended up with was a simple line drawing of a pot of flowers, and another quite small recycling project. Several weeks ago I had purchased some goat Brie cheese in a circular wooden container. When we were through I kept the container, it’s a bad habit of mine, again with the “I’ll do something with it” notion in the back of my head. As I was putting my pen away I saw the container, which is circular, and thought, “Man in the Moon”. I scanned it into my computer and added a few effects. Not sure what I’ll do with it, but it was fun and took my mind off things for a bit. My second passion, which is cooking, comes easy to me and relaxes me, so a photo of a small plate that we snacked on this evening.  Homemade pesto, peperonata, and sun-dried tomato pesto, with a goat/cream cheese mixture and some crostini. Delicious! Hopefully my Dad will be more himself tomorrow, and I can get back to work.8 31 (1)

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