Long-lost Art

Finally, after years of deprivation, I’ve managed to scavenge some drawing chalk from a long-forgotten stash. These were actually my “substandard” materials at one point. I used to use them for sidewalk drawings. I never thought they were good enough for my “real” work. Ah, how things have changed!
I know, “deprivation” sounds like hyperbole to someone who doesn’t get what art is: a deep, gnawing hunger in the soul. Not to be sacrilegious, but my need for art isn’t that much different than my need for my faith. Though my faith affects many more areas of my life than it once did, so I suppose in that way it has taken a step ahead of my art.
It’s also like my need for my other driving passion: ballet, even though my dancing ability has long been lost and since crumbled away on the dusty road of my past. And for years I’ve denied myself painting, drawing, even sketching, because there was no room, no time, no money for materials. Once every few years it would get to be too much, I’d scrape together a few dollars for some low-grade acrylics or drawing pencils, and knock out a few hasty paintings or fill the last few pages in an old sketchbook. Nothing I was ever really happy with. I even had a mediocre showing or two when my daughter was a baby. I can’t imagine sustaining that sleep-deprivation now, not after prolonged illness. But back then, it was easier to keep going than to stop and rest and have to get up again. So I would plow through, settle for less than my best, and defray the cost…until now.
Now, I’ve managed not more than a few scribbles in the past year. I thought the passion was dead, and maybe it still is, but the hunger is still there. Starvation. It’s worse than living without love. And, the more miserable my physical health makes me, the more I crave anything that nurtures my spirit and keeps me a little further from despair. My faith community is now a long, slow, hazardous, winter drive away, and with love and companionship, even friendship in scarce supply due to schedules and priorities, what’s left? After I’ve given all I have and more to motherhood every day, what’s left to replenish me?
Another pursuit I’ve been trying to resurrect is recreational reading: so far I can only focus on well-written fantasy. Everything else becomes a soon-forgotten blur. In the latter of two well written fantasy books I’ve managed, I found a few lines incisive:

“Beauty is no end in itself, but if it makes our lives less miserable so that we might be more kind–well, then, let’s have beauty, painted on our porcelain, hanging on our walls, ringing through our stories. We are a sorry tribe of beasts. We need all the help we can get.” (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. Regan Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, copyright 1999. p 367)–forgive me if my citation skills aren’t what they used to be–rusty.

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I finally worked the chalk over a large sheet of newsprint (I always hated working on brittle newsprint! but it’s cheap & disposable, lessening the artist’s reluctance and attachment), remembering what my art teachers used to say about getting the process going. That method consists of circles, mostly: large, shaded circled. I used to be so frustrated by them, but now they were all I had the confidence to start with.
The result was electrifying. Intoxicating. I felt like I’d finally been let out of a small, dark space I didn’t know I was in. What I sketched was crap–a few shading exercises and a quick–very rough–sketch of a woman’s head, soon to be joined by some contributions from my children. But it was something. A drink to a withered soul, a few crumbs to the starving. A passion I can maybe rekindle if it’s not too dead. And if my hands and shoulders will take the repetitive motion.
Even one rough sketch now and then might keep my spirit from drying up and blowing away. And my trees: my lonely, dead trees that almost no one likes or understands. I miss my trees.

Kasha (Buckwheat Groats) Cooked in Bone Broth

I’ve recently discovered a bizarre love of Buckwheat, a love completely unique in my family, it would seem. Other than sneaking ground kasha into my kids’ breakfast oatmeal, there’s no way to coax it past their grimacing little mouths.

Yet I love its nutty flavor, unusual texture, and high nutrient value (easily googled). It’s filling, satisfying, and almost as good as a fruit or vegetable, especially if it’s sprouted. Here’s a list of ways to use buckwheat, easiest first. 🙂

  • Simple Kasha: Roasted or raw buckwheat groats can be purchased through health food and bulk food stores. 1 cup of groats to 2 cups of water or broth makes about 3 cups of the finished dish: something between a pilaf and a porridge. Season with salt and pepper and add butter or coconut oil if desired.
  • Sprouted Kasha: Raw buckwheat grouts sprout quicker than most seeds I’ve tried: 1/4″ sprouts growing in as little as 2 days. To start, the groats need to be soaked overnight, then drained, rinsed thoroughly, and drained again. A 1/2 gallon sprouting jar with a stainless steel mesh lid works great! They need to be rinsed and re-drained 3-4 times a day, and it helps to turn the jar occasionally to encourage drainage.
  • Once sprouted, the groats need to be dried at a low temperature to preserve the enzymes created by germination. The best drying method I’ve found is spreading the sprouted buckwheat on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and placing in a conventional oven set to 200°. When dry to the touch, they’re done.
  • Cream of Buckwheat: Scornfully referred to as “Baby Cereal” by my 7-year-old, this simple porridge is actually quite tasty (and I theorize, if the little buggers were started on it young enough, they’d never know the difference). I’m happy to say my 5-year-old is more accepting.
    Lightly chop sprouted dried buckwheat in a blender or food processor. Using 1/4 cup chopped buckwheat to 1/2 cup water, boil water in a small saucepan. Add chopped buckwheat and turn off heat. Stir constantly until the cereal thickens and water is absorbed. Sweeten with maple syrup or honey and enjoy.
  • Bone Broth Kasha: My favorite, because of the health benefits of bone broth, this dish is prepared just like the Simple Kasha recipe above. For added flavor, saute chopped onions in grapeseed or coconut oil, add minced garlic, and, when fragrant, add bone broth and bring to boil. Skim off any foam that rises, add sprouted buckwheat, reduce heat to low. When thick and soft, toss with a fork, adding butter or coconut oil, and herbs and spices if desired.
  • A more traditional recipe calls for toasting the kasha in the bottom of a heavy pan or skillet, and includes a beaten egg scrambled into the buckwheat and cooked. In a separate pan, broth is brought to a boil, butter and seasonings added, and the buckwheat-egg mixture is added to this. It’s then cooked on low heat, covered, for up to 30 minutes.

Questions? Feedback? Suggestions for user-friendliness? Please post a comment below. 🙂

Gluten-Free Spiced Carrot Loaf

042Although baking is not one of my favorite activities, I’ve gotten reasonably good at it out of necessity. And fortunately, my mom’s recipes convert well to gluten-free. I will admit that there’s a sense of nostalgia in making things I remember from childhood, tasting them again, making them for my children, and continuing a family tradition of sorts. It brings back especially good memories in this season of family time and traditions.
I’ve tried two versions, one simply gluten-free, the other without eggs, sugar, and nuts. It’s a great low-sugar treat any time of the year, and a great way to use up the carrot pulp from a juicer…if you do that kind of thing…. : ‘
I’ve found that pumpkin pie spice works well in place of the other spices, if needed. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Carrot Loaf

Beat together 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 1 cup unrefined sugar or 1/2 cup honey

stir in 1 cup grated carrots or carrot pulp from juicer

mix together in separate bowl:
1 3/4 cup gluten-free baking mix
2 tsp baking powder (I use homemade or aluminum & corn-free)
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Pour mixed dry ingredients into carrot mixture–stir only to moisten.
Pour into 9x5x3 bread pan and bake 40 min or until toothpick comes out clean. let sit 10 min before removing to rack.
Store in plastic bag
Even more Allergy-friendly Version:

In glass or metal mixing boil, combine 2 Tbsp ground flax seed with 1/4 cup hot water and let sit for a few minutes.

Beat together 1 cup apple sauce, 1/2 tsp stevia or 1/4-1/2 cup honey. Add to flax meal mixture and mix

Mix together in separate bowl:
1 3/4 cup gluten-free baking mix
2 tsp baking powder (I use homemade or aluminum & corn-free)
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1/2 cup organic raisins

Pour mixed dry ingredients into carrot mixture–stir only to moisten.
Pour into 9x5x3 bread pan and bake 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Will be much heavier and more gooey than with eggs.

Let sit 10 min before removing to rack.
Store in plastic bag