Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Portrait of the Artist: A Creative Identity Crisis

Yesterday I wrote about how I haven't created art for months now, which got me thinking....can I actually call myself an artist if I'm not currently creating art? Am I pretending to be something I'm not? Often when I tell people I'm an artist, they ask me what type of work I do. What happens when the answer to that question is "I don't actually create art, at least not right now?"

So, is being an artist something I AM or something I DO? I've been contemplating this question all day, and I've decided that yes, darn it, I am an artist 24/7 whether I pick up a pencil or not. Being an artist doesn't just affect what I create with pigment and paper, it affects the way I see the world, the way I approach all aspects of my daily life.

When I pick out my clothing in the morning and I'm selecting items with different colors and textures and patterns, I'm looking at the ensemble like an artist. When I apply my makeup with assorted brushes I'm painting my face just like I would paint a canvas. When I plate the meals I've made for my family, I add garnishes to increase their beauty, just like an artist adds final details to a sculpture. When I take long walks with my son, I look at my surroundings through a photographer's eyes.

And even if I'm not currently creating a work of art, I'm constantly looking for sources of artistic inspiration, admiring the beauty in the world, the amazing conglomeration of color and value, balance and contrast, shape and texture, pattern and line.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lori's Lovely Lists: 10 Steps to Awaken Your Inner Muse

I have a confession to make. I haven't created any art for months now....I haven't picked up a pencil or paintbrush, I haven't made my mark on paper or canvas, I haven't thrown myself into the world of line and color and texture. I haven't been living like an artist, I haven't been acting like myself.

It can happen to the best of us creative folk. Sometimes our muses are silenced by the requirements of the non-artistic parts of our lives. For me, art has been put on the back burner (actually been taken off the stove altogether) while I've been focusing on the amazing transition my son Dylan has gone through from being a slowly crawling baby to a rapidly running toddler.

He's changing so much every day, and because of it my life has been transitioning too. Luckily we seem to have made it to a new stage where he's on a somewhat predictable schedule, which means I now can set aside time to be an artist again.

So I have the time, but what I'm lacking is the inspiration to pick up where I left off months ago. Fortunately I've dealt with creative blocks before and have a list of almost fool-proof steps to help awaken my inner muse:

1. Take out the Trash - Get rid of the "stuff" that's cluttering up your head - your past regrets, your worries about the future, your never-ending mental task-lists. Get them out of your head and write them down. I first learned about the importance of mental decluttering while reading "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. Cameron recommends starting your day with "Morning Pages," 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. I use 750 Words, a fantastic website based on the concept of "Morning Pages." I write every day, and let me tell you, it helps...a lot.

2. Organize your Life - It's hard to find the time to focus on your creative pursuits when the rest of your life is a mess. I know routines and organization don't sound very "artistic" but these tools are as essential to me as my pencils and paper are. I highly recommend Mint.com for organizing your finances, FlyLady for organizing your home and Buttoned Up for organizing your life.

3. Go for a Walk (and Bring your Camera) - I try to go for one long walk every day, often two, sometimes three. Getting out of my own little world and into the universe always gives me something new and exciting to think about. Bringing a camera (in my case my iPhone) reminds me to stop and capture inspiring images along the way.

4. Join a Community - Find some folks that are just as passionate about creating art (or music, or poetry) as you are. Make sure you connect with experts who can help you to learn new things about your craft, and beginners who remind you of just how far you've already come. I feel blessed to have found an incredible group of colored pencil artists on facebook...these folks inspire me every day.

5. Find your Heroes - Whose work takes your breath away? Whose work fills you with awe and more emotions than you can possibly imagine feeling? Who would you love to meet? Study their work, and think about how you can use it to inspire your own art. For me, the artists at the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) are a constant source inspiration. I may never reach the level of expertise required to join this society of artists, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try!

6. Visit your Past - Take a look at what you've already created, remind yourself of your past successes, review your past failures, take stock of the skills you've learned and the materials you've already purchased. Just taking out my art supplies and looking at my previous works reminds me that I have what it takes to create beauty.

7. Imagine your Future - Think big, don't be timid here. Think about why your art form is important to you and where you want it to take you. I have some pretty darn big aspirations for my own art career...you'll just have to wait and see what those are!

8. Make a Plan - It's one thing to have a dream, it's another to have a goal. Goals are concrete. Goals are specific. Goals require careful planning, thorough research, and unwavering tenacity. I know that if I want to succeed as an artist, I need to treat the creative process like a legitimate job (even long before I'm getting paid for it). That means working for several scheduled hours every week, creating art every day, constantly studying and learning new skills, and spending as much time on business and marketing as I do working on art.

9. Set the Stage - Listen to music that's inspired you in the past (for me Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell always do the trick), light some candles or incense, make yourself a perfect cup of coffee or tea, create a special atmosphere that appeals to all of your senses. Just because you don't have your own studio doesn't mean you can't have a special place to work on your art.

10. Pick up Your Pencil - Get out your creative supplies (whether they're paints and canvas, a typewriter and paper, or a guitar and pick) and spend 15 minutes with them. It really doesn't matter what you do in those 15 minutes...you don't have to create a masterpiece, you just have to do SOMETHING. This is your time to get warmed up, to fool around, to make mistakes. When your 15 minutes are up feel free to put your supplies away and be proud of yourself for creating something. My guess is that you'll want to keep going after those 15 minutes are up!

I hope this list helps some of you out there to find inspiration...I'll be working my way through these steps this week!

Friday, September 14, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Days 11-13

This week I've continued my adventure with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's (NOFA-NY) 2012 Locavore Challenge, and have really been enjoying shopping for, cooking, and preparing local food (to the point where I've been spending so much time in the kitchen that I haven't had time to blog for the past few days).

Tuesday's Challenge (Day 11): Plant an Herb or Window Garden
I've grown container herb gardens outside before, but never inside on my windowsills. It's definitely something I want to give a shot though this fall/winter. There's nothing like fresh herbs to really add great flavor to big pots of soup, home-baked loaves of bread, and slow-roasted vegetables all winter long. I'll be sure to write a post about setting up my garden when I find the time!

Tuesday's Food: Mint
This is definitely one of the herbs I'll be planting in my indoor garden. I love fresh mint in the summer in mojitos and tabbouleh, but it's also great to have on hand to make fresh herbal mint tea all winter long.

Wednesday's Challenge (Day 12): Go Ahead and Cheat - with an Organic & Fair Trade Treat
My favorite organic and fair trade treat is coffee...I'm not shy about my addiction to the stuff (I limit myself to 3-4 pretty large cups a day), and I've really been enjoying it even more lately now that I've been adding local milk to it and sweetening it with local honey. I usually get my coffee at Trader Joe's, Target (their house brand Archer Farms has a decent organic and fair trade coffee selection), or I buy Newman's Own coffee from the regular grocery store. I really do want to find a way to purchase locally-roasted coffee though!

Wednesday's Food: Locally Crafted Chocolate
Chocolate is something I actually don't eat very often...but when I do I always get it from Lake Champlain Chocolates. I discovered these chocolates when I lived in a suburb of Burlington, VT. They're expensive, but are hands-down the best chocolates I've ever tasted. They're no longer considered "locally crafted" for me now that I live in New York, but I'll continue to enjoy my Lake Champlain Chocolates twice a year, in my Christmas stocking, and on Valentines Day,

Thursday's Challenge (Day 13): Create a Meal Using Local Grains
I've decided to start purchasing grains and flour from Cayuga Pure Organics once I use up my current pantry supply of non-local grains...that just hasn't happened quite yet. I'll probably be placing my first order with Cayuga early next week, and will definitely be posting some new recipes once I start cooking with their products!

Thursday's Food: Emmer/Farro
I've never actually eaten farro...I guess that's true of a lot of whole grains out there. I was discussing this with Ed the other day, how my grain experience has been severely limited to ground wheat in the form of flour, rice, corn, and the occasional barley in soup. I really want to push myself in the coming months to try a bunch of different grains, starting with some from Cayuga Pure Organics!

During Days 11-13 (Tuesday-Thursday) I:
  • Ate/drank local milk, eggs, butter, honey, apples, onions, parsley, beets, potatoes, carrots, garlic, maple syrup, green beans, beer, bread, basil, arugula, fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes (19 different foods).
  • Cooked 8 mostly-local meals at home from scratch (my in-laws fed us dinner on Wednesday.)
  • Got my first home milk delivery from The Hudson Milk Company...I've tasted the milk and I have to say that it is hands-down the best milk I've ever had!
  • Added even MORE foods to my milk order for next week...we'll be getting eggs, Greek yogurt and cheese delivered too!
I hope y'all are having a great week filled with lots of local food goodness, and that you have time to make to a farmers market or farm stand this weekend!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Day 10

Yesterday was the tenth day of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's (NOFA-NY) 2012 Locavore Challenge, and it was a fantastic day for me. We had all three meals at home, which meant I could really experience a whole day of eating like a locavore.

This challenge has been interesting so far because we've been eating away from home much more than usual, mostly due to Labor Day weekend BBQs, family dinners, and our trip down to NYC on Sunday. While I've enjoyed all the socializing with friends and family, I was really glad to have the opportunity to spend the whole day yesterday sharing home-cooked meals with my two favorite guys.

We had eggs and grits for breakfast, vegetarian stuffed peppers for lunch, leftover peppers and salad for dinner, apples for snacks (Ed and I each had one, while Dylan wolfed down four himself), and Ed and I ended our evening chatting about our lovely day while drinking Blue Point Brewing Company Pumpkin Ale.

I spent a LOT of time in the kitchen, chopping veggies, stirring steamy pots of yummy things, and washing a gazillion dishes by hand. That's the thing about eating locally...it takes time, and not everyone has the opportunity (or the desire) to spend hours in the kitchen every day. I'm so fortunate to not only have a natural interest in cooking, but also to be a full-time homemaker so that I have the time to explore my culinary abilities.

Yesterday's Challenge: Make a Local Vegetarian Meal
I'm already a vegetarian so this wasn't difficult for me! For those of you who are totally unfamiliar with cooking vegetarian meals I'd definitely suggest checking out Vegetarian Times....they have so many absolutely amazing recipes to try!

Yesterday's Food: Cauliflower
I didn't have any cauliflower on hand, but if I did I'd DEFINITELY make this Roasted Curried Cauliflower recipe.

Yesterday I:
  • Ate/drank local milk, eggs, butter, cheddar, onions, parsley, sweet red peppers, honey, apples, arugula, grape tomatoes, carrots, and beer (13 different foods).
  • Cooked all three meals at home from scratch using mostly local ingredients.
  • Froze six chopped up red peppers to be enjoyed in soups this winter.
  • Made the switch from using sugar in my coffee to honey...I'm not sure how I feel about this one...it's definitely going to take some getting used to, but I'm going to give it a shot!
  • Continued to read Omnivore's Dilemma...if any of you have read it, I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Days 8 and 9

I'm back after quite the busy weekend! Saturday was Day 8 of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's (NOFA-NY) 2012 Locavore Challenge. We really kicked the day off right, eating an almost-entirely local breakfast, and then heading out to Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard for our first apple picking trip of the season!
I've been going to this farm (which was formerly the Outhouse Orchard) since I was a little girl, and it's better than ever! The trees were filled to the brim with apples, waiting to be picked. The smell of cider donuts was wafting through the air. And the farm store was stocked with all sorts of local goodies including dairy products (local ice cream!), honey, maple syrup, tons of produce in addition to apples, freshly-baked breads and pies, and assorted cuts of meat and poultry.
My favorite part of our orchard adventure was seeing how happy Dylan was to eat an entire apple (which he's never even attempted before...thank goodness he got some more teeth before apple-picking season!) I love knowing that I can share the joys of eating local food with my little guy from such an early age.

We weren't home for much of Sunday because we were down in NYC participating in the Komen 5k Race for the Cure. I'm pretty darn proud of myself because I got up early enough to make us some 100% local brown-bag breakfasts to enjoy on our 5:30AM train ride down to the city. We had breakfast sandwiches made with local bread, butter, eggs, cheese and tomatoes, and I also packed us some apples that I picked on Saturday.

I'm even more proud of my dear friend Amanda Crain and her mom Andrea who were picked to be the Komen Foundation's co-survivor and survivor of the year! (You can read their absolutely amazing story here.) The day was a reminder to me that part of the reason why I jumped on the locavore band-wagon in the beginning was to improve my diet...something which can help decrease my own risk of getting breast cancer. I have a family history of breast cancer so I'm going to do everything possible to improve my odds for avoiding this disease myself!

Day 8 Challenge: Shop at a Farmers Market or Farm-Stand
The real challenge here was picking WHICH farmers market or farm-stand to go to! We ended up at Harvest Moon, but I would have also loved to go to the market at Gossett Brothers Nursery or the John Jay Homestead, or visited the u-pick garden at Hilltop Hanover Farm.

Day 8 Food: Grapes
I bought some local grapes at Muscoot Farmers Market last Sunday, and I have to admit, they're just not my thing. I LOVE the flavor of local grapes, but all the seeds make them a total pain to eat (plus there was no way to share them with Dylan who is too young to navigate the seeds, and boy did that make him mad as grapes are one of his favorite foods!) I'll probably just avoid buying grapes, and look forward to eating them as a treat when they're served at other peoples houses (which happens fairly often.)

Day 9 Challenge: Try Food Preservation
The race in the city meant I didn't have time to do any food preserving yesterday, but my freezer is already filling up with frozen summer goodies, including strawberries and blueberries I picked myself at Samascott Orchards, and sweet corn from my CSA from Roxbury Farm.

Day 9 Food: Pickles
There are two ways to approach this one...buy pickles from a farmers market - which I've totally done in the past, from Pickle Licious - or make pickles yourself. I've never canned pickles, but I have made quick-pickled vegetables (including cucumbers, radishes and carrots from our CSA). I'll be sure to share the recipe next time I'm pickling something!

Over the weekend I:
  • Ate/drank local milk, eggs, feta, potatoes, sweet red peppers, onions, honey, apple cider, cider donuts, apples, bread, beer, tomatoes, cheddar, and butter (15 different foods).
  • Bought some grown-in-the-US, roasted-in-NY peanut butter from Once Again Nut Butter.
  • Picked my first apples of the season!
  • FINALLY started reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan....I'm only a few pages in and it's already life-changing
I hope y'all had a wonderful weekend full of amazing local food!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Day 7

I officially made it through the first week of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's (NOFA-NY) 2012 Locavore Challenge. Yesterday, day 7, I really brought my A-game...I made three meals from scratch using primarily local ingredients, and they were amazing.

Yesterday's Challenge: Create a Locavore Blog or Journal
Obviously, this wasn't much of a challenge for me! But I have thought a bit lately about how I want to use this blog to not only inspire other people to eat more locally, but to also chronicle my own journey to become even more of a locavore.

Yesterday's Food: Acorn Squash
I love acorn squash, and I can't wait to get the first of it from our CSA. When I do, I'll be sure to post my fantastic squash soup recipe that I make with a whole variety of winter squash, not just acorn!

Yesterday I:
  • Ate/drank local eggs, milk, cheddar, onions, sweet red peppers, potatoes, peaches, grape tomatoes, salad greens, arugula and fresh mozzarella (11 different foods).
  • Found olive oil grown/made in California...there's no way for me to get local olive oil, but if I can't get local, the next best thing is to get sustainably produced oil from olives grown in the USA!
Yesterday was great, and today was even better...I can't wait to tell you all about it in my next post!

Friday, September 7, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Day 6

Yesterday was the sixth day of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's (NOFA-NY) 2012 Locavore Challenge. It started off great...I made an awesome breakfast and lunch almost entirely with my purchases from the farmers market and my CSA share, and I had a fantastic dinner planned. And then I got a migraine, and all my plans went down the drain.

I'm not gonna beat myself up about it. I'm a locavore and a migraineur, and I need to figure out a way to ensure that I have good local food to eat even when I'm too ill to cook. I need to plan ahead for migraine days, making meals out of local ingredients and freezing them, so that my wonderful husband Ed can take over dinner duty with I'm not feeling well (instead of me sending him out for pizza like I did last night.)

Yesterday's Challenge: Ask your Local Politician and/or Celebrity to Take the Challenge
Migraine brain prevented me from trying to figure out how to get started with this...I hope to get around to it this weekend...will keep you posted!

Yesterday's Food: Greens
I didn't cook any greens yesterday (I HAD planned on making some lovely Swiss chard for dinner...oh well). If you need a good recipe for greens, I'd suggest my Quiche with Golden Beet Greens and Feta recipe (you can substitute whatever greens you'd like for the beet greens!)

Yesterday I:
  • Ate/drank local milk, eggs, cheddar, potatoes, sweet red pepper, onions, tomatoes, garlic, bell pepper, fresh mozzarella, purple basil, parsley, arugula, salad greens, peaches and beer (14 different foods).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Day 5

Yesterday was the fifth day of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's (NOFA-NY) 2012 Locavore Challenge, and I really started to feel like I was really getting into the swing of things....cooking meals from scratch, finding new and interesting ways to use up veggies from our CSA share, researching and planning ways to eat even more locally.

Yesterday's Challenge: Download a Local Food App to Make Finding Local Foods Easier
Apps are super helpful for folks just starting out trying to eat more local foods....they can help you find local farmers markets, tell you what's in season so you can plan your shopping lists, and some even provide you with recipes using local in-season foods.

One app I've used on my iPhone is Locavore - it's available for both iOS and Android devices and is pretty helpful if you're a local foods newbie. I don't use it much because I'm already pretty familiar with the local farmers markets and seasonally available foods, but I'd definitely recommend checking it out!

Yesterday's Food: Cheese
One of my favorite foods to get locally is cheese. I love being able to talk to the farmers about their cows and learn about their living conditions (no cheese from unhappy cows please!) And the taste is incomparable. Local cheese may cost a whole lot more than cheese at the grocery store, but the taste is so intense that a little bit of it goes a long way, so you don't need to buy or eat nearly as much.

I used local feta in grits for breakfast, local fresh mozzarella on pizza for lunch, and Dylan ate local cheddar with his lunch (which he loves).

Yesterday I:
  • Ate/drank local milk, eggs, feta, bell pepper, parsley, garlic, tomatoes, purple basil, fresh mozzarella, salad greens, arugula, sweet pepper, carrots, plums, and beer (15 different foods!)

  • Picked up our CSA share from Roxbury Farm for the week - we got a huge winter squash, bok choy, rainbow chard, bell peppers, sweet Italian peppers, salad greens, arugula, beefsteak tomatoes, plum tomatoes, grape tomatoes, green beans and peaches.

  • Drank my first Pumpkin Ale of the season...and it was locally brewed by Brooklyn Brewery!
Yesterday was a day filled with fantastic local food and drink, and I think today's going to be even better!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Day 4

Today was the fourth day in the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's (NOFA-NY) 2012 Locavore Challenge, and it was a MUCH better day than yesterday. Cooking food from scratch in my own kitchen makes me feel so much more in control.

Today's Challenge: Share Your Challenge Via Social Media
This one was totally easy...I've already been talking about the challenge on facebook, twitter, instagram, you name it.

Today's Food: Fennel
I didn't purchase any fennel at the farmers market on Sunday (even though I love it) because our kitchen is currently overflowing with CSA veggies. Next time I have a veggie vacancy though, I'll be sure to get some, and will probably make this Apple Fennel Slaw recipe.

Today I:
  • Cooked three wonderful meals at home and enjoyed them with my family.
  • Ate local milk, peaches, raspberries, cheddar, tomatoes, garlic, broccoli, feta, and grapes.
  • Signed up for home milk delivery from Hudson Milk Company.
I hope y'all have had a great day, and that you're making steps in your own lives to eat more local foods!

Monday, September 3, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Day 3

So, eating local today was in fact a challenge...and I totally failed at it. These things will happen. I'm striving to improve my connection to local agriculture over the course of the month, not become some immediately perfect poster-child for locavorism (I think that's a word, right?)

Things started off well with breakfast made with CSA peaches and local milk, but I didn't eat at home for lunch or dinner, and there wasn't really any locally grown food options at the two places I dined. It's totally not a big deal, but I do want to re-think the way I can eat local foods when not at home.

Lunch we had at a neighborhood restaurant where we had a gift certificate that needed to be used. I definitely need to find some good restaurants in the area (around Katonah, NY) where they serve local foods...any suggestions you might have would be GREATLY appreciated!

Dinner was take-out food at my mom's house...not much I could do about that. And I'll always say yes when our family members offer to make or buy dinner for us, whether the food is local or not.

The good news, is that having the day off from cooking has given me a nice break from the kitchen, which will hopefully make me feel incredibly motivated to cook a whole bunch of local goodies tomorrow!

Today's Challenge: Grill Local Meats and Veggies
There was no grilling for us today...but I definitely enjoyed some locally-grown grilled veggies over the weekend! My favorite veggies to cook on the grill in the summer are summer squash, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, onions, corn and potatoes...seriously, I think grilling makes pretty much any veggie taste at least 20 times more awesome.

Today's Food: Watermelon
I wasn't able to find any watermelon at the farmers market on Sunday...locally grown watermelon is amazingly sweet. Some people don't like it as much because it has seeds in it, but eating watermelon with seeds brings back childhood memories of seed-spitting contests with friends, so I like it.

Today I:
  • Made an awesome breakfast with local peaches and milk
  • Realized exactly why they call this a challenge!
Tomorrow I'll be more in control of what we eat, cooking all three meals at home with ingredients from our CSA and the farmers market, and I'm really looking forward to it! I hope you all enjoyed your Labor Day weekend, and if you're making any steps in your life to eat more locally, I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Day 2

Today was the second day of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's 2012 Locavore Challenge...and it was a great day for this locavore.

Today's Challenge: Make a Locavore Game-plan/Shopping List
I already eat a ton of nifty local foods, so I could just keep going as I have been, but that wouldn't really be a challenge, would it? So, here's my game-plan for trying to boost my locavore street-cred.
  • Veggies - I'll keep getting them from my amazeballs CSA share from Roxbury Farm...we get about 20 lbs of veggies a week which is plenty!
  • Fruit - we get some from our CSA, the rest I'll be buying from Gossett's Farmers Market and Muscoot Farmers Market (plus a few apple-picking trips to Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard).
  • Dairy - this is a major change we'll be making...I've been buying some cheese already at farmers markets, but milk, yogurt and at least half of our cheese has been coming from the super market (we buy organic, but I know we can do better than that!) I plan on signing up tomorrow for home delivery of local milk and dairy products from The Hudson Milk Company. Milk is such a major source of calories for our son Dylan, I really want to make sure he gets the best stuff out there!
  • Eggs - I always get these at the farmers market, usually from Gaia's Breath Farm...I love seeing all the varying sizes and colors of the different eggs, and the amazingly golden yolk when I crack them open.
  • Sweeteners - I'm really going to make a push to start using local maple syrup and honey more in my cooking/baking (I use raw organic sugar now)...the real question is how does honey taste in coffee? We're gonna find out!
  • Grains, Flour and Legumes - this one is probably the biggest change of all. I'm really excited that once we start running out of our currently dwindling supply of these items, I'll be buying the replacements from Cayuga Pure Organics. This also means I won't be buying any pre-made baked-goods, bread, tortillas, crackers, pretzels, pasta, etc. I'll be making them myself from scratch. It'll be a ton of work, but I think it'll really help us cut back on the amount of empty carbs we consume.
  • Nuts and Seeds - there's no way to get these grown locally, but you can find organic nuts and seeds that are grown in the USA and locally roasted...I'll be checking out Tierra Farms (which also sells organic, grown in the USA, dried fruit), and Once Again Nut Butter.
  • Beer - this one's super easy because we have so many amazing micro-breweries nearby. I'll be getting lots of stuff from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Brooklyn Brewery, and Blue Point Brewing Company to name a few (and will be trying to discover some new even smaller breweries along the way).
  • Coffee and Tea - we also can't get locally-grown coffee or tea, but we can get fair-trade locally roasted coffee and organic locally blended tea at the farmers market...looks like it's time to finally buy that coffee grinder I've been eyeing!
That's my basic plan...it's definitely going to be more expensive and more work than what I have been doing, but hopefully it will be something enjoyable enough and sustainable so I can keep it up long after this month-long challenge is over.
Today's Food: Eggplant
I didn't have a reason to make eggplant today (had a big BBQ to go to so no need to cook), but I DO have two lovely eggplants from my CSA sitting in my kitchen, waiting to be made into yummy stuff this week. I'll be making baba ghanoush out of one of them, and eggplant cutlets to freeze out of the other (they're super handy to have around).
Today I:
  • Made my locavore game-plan which I'm super excited about.
  • Made a wonderful breakfast for the family using peaches from our CSA.
  • Went to the Muscoot Farmers Market to get milk and cheese and fruit and other goodies.
  • Sampled beers from a handful of local breweries at our friends' BBQ (P.S. our friends are totally awesome).
  • Watched Dylan drink cup after cup of local milk...he just couldn't get enough!
I'd love to hear from any of you if you have locavore tips for me!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

2012 NY Locavore Challenge: Day 1

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York has been hosting a nifty little eat local challenge for the past three years. I've wanted to participate in the previous two challenges, but the timing wasn't right.

Two years ago I was newly pregnant and my food cravings/aversions totally didn't mesh well with locavore eating (all I wanted was pizza, pizza and more pizza), and last year I was too sleep-deprived caring for my then five-month-old son, Dylan...making food at all was enough of a challenge for me, let alone making meals from scratch using locally-grown ingredients.

But things are way more manageable now...and I'm ready to take on this amazing challenge. I'm already a bit of a locavore, but I know that I still have a ways to go. I'm hoping that this challenge will help me find new ways to enjoy locally-grown, in-season foods.

Over the next 30 days I plan on writing daily posts about how I'm doing with the challenge...I hope y'all follow along!

Today's Challenge: Register for a Day, Week or Month Locavore Challenge
As part of the larger month-long challenge, you can sign up to try a shorter 250 Mile Challenge where you eat almost exclusively foods grown withing a 250 mile radius of where you live. I signed up for a day, but will probably do a week...we'll see. Baby steps, right?

Today's Food: Bacon
Each day of the challenge, there's a suggested local food for you to try...I'm a vegetarian so no bacon for me. But I did tell my brother (a self-proclaimed bacon enthusiast) about the New York Bacon Fest (which I think he may have actually attended) so that counts!

Today I:
  • Registered for the challenge
  • Bought NY, local, organic milk for the family (so glad to be feeding my growing baby boy such good milk!)
  • Ate tomatoes, grown by friends, directly off the vine.
  • Enjoyed 3 meals of awesome food made with CSA fruit and veggies.
  • Bought some Captain Lawrence Brewing Company Liquid Gold to enjoy later this evening.
Not a bad first day!

To find out more about the challenge, check out the NOFA-NY website...and while you're there, why not sign up for the challenge yourself?!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Still Life: Vacation Elation

Our family was lucky enough to go away on vacation to Long Beach Island, New Jersey during the first full week of August. Here's a little peek at our week on the beach.

On our way.
The ocean beckons.
Ferris wheel fantasy.
Crossing the bridge to get to LBI.

Beach bums.
"Do Me a Flavor" - I love saying that.
Coolest cop car.
My fabulous sister- and mother-in-law.

We drank a lot of beer....a lot.
I wish mini golf pencils came with erasers.
Random carpet rainbow.
Rest stop abstract.

Sunny flowers and cloudy sunsets.
Vacation smiles
We also ate a lot of ice cream...a lot.
Just can't get enough.

Dylan meets the beach...and loves it.
Mini golf master.
Largest sunflower ever.
Playing in the sand (and eating some of it).

This trip was full of amazing moments, most of them not captured in photos (it's hard to take pics when your hands are busy building sand castles or holding dripping ice cream cones.) Some of my favorite memories will be...
  • Introducing Dylan to the ocean for the first time. The name "Dylan" means "great sea" or "son of the sea." We definitely named our little ocean-lover appropriately.
  • Dancing around to live Irish music with Dylan and my mom, remembering how my Grandma introduced me to the same songs when I was a wee one.
  • Date night with Ed. I asked him how I looked, and he told me I looked like a summer princess. Best husband ever.
  • Watching Dylan make friends with other vacation kids at the park...there's something incredibly heartwarming about watching tiny little toddlers meet each other and embrace in a long hug like they've know each other forever.
It was such a great trip, we're already planning to go back again next summer!

I hope y'all are enjoying these last few weeks of Summer, and that you've had a chance to go to the beach, stare out at the ocean and have your breath be taken away by the beauty and the enormity of it all.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Still Life: Midsummer Moments

Here's a little glimpse at the past week in my quiet life as an artist and locavore.

Peach season is my favorite season.
Summer sunset silhouette.
Peace + Love = Joy
Dylan's "CSA Basket"

D dancing on a pizza box...awesome.
Recipe coming to the blog soon!
I totally had seconds of this.
Radio Flyer...classic.

Packing for vacation...piles of anticipation.
My lucky charm.
Pretty CSA pepper.
Saw these at Target and made me smile.

The McQuade family is going on vacation! We're heading to Long Beach Island, New Jersey, tomorrow for a whole week of building sand castles, eating way too much ice cream, and playing ski ball, and I couldn't be more excited about it.

This past week I was super busy running errands, making lists, cleaning, and packing for our trip. It was the good kind of busy, the kind that you move through with a spring in your step because you know that really good things are on the horizon.

Plus, I did manage to bake an amazeballs Peach Almond Crisp amidst all of the rushing around!

I hope the past week has been full of beauty, joy and inspiration for all of you too!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Locavore Kitchen: Peach Almond Crisp

That song by The Presidents of the United States of America has been stuck playing in my head on repeat ever since I got my first batch of amazingly golden juicy peaches from my CSA a few weeks ago.

It's peach season here in New York and I'm completely reveling in it. Peach-based desserts are probably my favorite...I pretty much love any recipe where you combine fresh peaches with butter and sugar and some sort of doughy-goodness. And that love is multiplied by a gazillion if you throw some almonds in there too.

This recipe is based on a peach crisp my mom would often make when I was growing up. It's pretty much the perfect combination of peach-juiciness, almond-nuttiness, and oat-topping-crumbliness. I could eat it for breakfast with Greek yogurt, but it's best for dessert with vanilla bean ice cream.

Strip your peaches. Dunk them in boiling water, then in ice water. Slip their skins off with your hands. Try not to drop the incredibly slippery naked peaches on your kitchen floor.

Halve your naked fruits. Take out their pits. Marvel at the deep bloody red of the peach cores.

Slice them up. Feed way too many slices to your hungry 15-month-old toddler. Stir in almond extract and brown sugar. Take a deep whiff...it'll smell like heaven.

Mix your dry ingredients for your crumb topping. Thank your past self for for setting up a mise en place....it makes everything so much easier!

Add butter....lots of butter. Cut it into your dry ingredients till things are all crumbly. Eat a spoonful of the uncooked crumbs, a LARGE spoonful. Then have another.

Spread your crumbs on top of your fruit. Bake it in the oven till things get brown and bubbly. Don't taste it yet, it'll totes burn your mouth...trust me on this one.

Bring the crisp to a family dinner so you're forced to share it with the people you love (thus preventing you from devouring the entire thing yourself). Serve warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Peach Almond Crisp
Serves 12-16
Recipe adapted from my wonderful mom, Barbara Lutkenhaus

8 cups peeled, sliced peaches (about 8 large peaches)
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)

To peel peaches, submerge in boiling water for 30-45 seconds, then submerge in an ice water bath. Allow to cool, and then remove the skins with your hands.

Combine peaches, 1/2 cup brown sugar and the almond extract. Spoon into a large baking dish (I used a 13 1/2 inch x 8 1/2 inch glass baking pan).

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, oats, almonds, salt and 2/3 cup brown sugar. Cut the butter into medium pieces and add it to the mixture. Use a pastry blender (or two butter knives) to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbs form.

Distribute the crumb mixture as evenly as possible over the peaches. Bake 35-40 minutes until the top is browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Portrait of the Artist: The Gift of Art

I painted this watercolor for my brother, Bryce, and his fiance, Vanessa, as a surprise gift for their engagement party. The scene is of a beach in the Dominican Republic where Bryce proposed, and I used a photo that Vanessa took as my reference image. It's a present that I spent hours working on, something that was specifically created just for them, and the first real work of art I've ever given as a gift.

Why is that? Why have I been so apprehensive about giving people art as gifts? Why have I spent years ordering things from Amazon.com and buying gift cards for friends and family instead of creating original works of art for them?

It's because of fear (isn't it always because fear?) I worry that if I spend hours creating something as a gift and the recipient doesn't like it that I'll be devastated. I worry that people will think I'm cheap if I give art instead of a gift that has an obvious monetary value (when in reality, creating art can be a pretty expensive process). I worry that my work might not turn out well, that I won't think it's good enough to give as a gift.

I finally set my fears aside when I gave Bryce and Vanessa this watercolor, and I'm glad I did, because Vanessa liked it so much that she cried. I've never had someone cry because I gave them a blender or a sweater or an iTunes card.

I'm beginning to realize just how lucky I am to have the gift of art, to be able to see beauty in the world around me, to be able to capture that beauty in ink and pencil and paint, and to be able to share it with the people that I love.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lori's Lovely Lists: 10 Recipes for Peach Season

Oh my goodness, it's peach season! We got our first peaches of the year from our wonderful CSA a few weeks ago and I was immediately in stone-fruit heaven. There's something so incredibly, tantalizingly seductive about peaches...the soft delicate surface, the firm plumpness, the sweet yet slightly tart flesh, the sticky nectar.

I have to admit, I didn't make any fabulous new recipes with that first batch of peaches...I ate them, as is, devouring them in their purest form as quickly as possible. I have no regrets.

But I know that in the upcoming weeks I'll get over my need to immediately stuff every peach I can find into my face, and will develop the patience needed to try and taste a myriad of peach dishes, both sweet and savory.

Here's my top 10 list of new peach recipes I want to try out (and for even more check out my Pinterest board).

  1. Bourbon Peach Hand Pies from Smitten Kitchen
  2. Peach Cobbler Scones from Joy the Baker
  3. Peach Almond Galette from A Cozy Kitchen
  4. Peach Crumb Bars from Two Peas and Their Pod
  5. Strawberry Peach Gazpacho from How Sweet it Is
  6. Boozy Frozen Peach Pops from Shutterbean
  7. Peach Raspberry Sorbet from Cookie and Kate
  8. Peach, Tomato and Mozzarella Crostini from Joy the Baker
  9. Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce from The Pioneer Woman
  10. Peach Salsa from Two Peas and Their Pod

Let me know if you give any of these lovely little dishes a try...and please send me any amazing peach recipes you might have...I'd love to try them!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Still Life: Scenes of Summer

Hello lovely readers! It's been a while since I've posted...a long while (7 weeks actually, oh dear)! I could go into a long explanation about how crazy and hectic and bonkers my life has been, but I don't want to stress you out. So here are some happy pictures instead!

A painting of where my brother proposed.
Celebrating his engagement!
Dylan likes parties cause parties include cake.
The colors....oh my, the colors.

Three generations of McQuades on Father's Day
New beer brings cheer!
CSA watercolor inspiration.
Festive fiesta flags.

Whole wood-grain goodness.
Picked from the garden....
...and cooked with love.
Just look at that reflection!

Hydrangea season!
A perfect day for a farm visit.
Mommy's little zucchini monster.
Blueberry picking on my birthday.

A rare picture of me and my monkey.
Dylan's first marker drawing.
Crayola's smell like childhood...
...and Carvel cake tastes like it.

Ice cream makes D happy....
....so does my homemade pizza.
Back on my yoga mat for the first time in months.
Rainbow sprinkles are essential.

Magic Hat bottle caps are way better than fortune cookies.
Dylan's last day in his cast (P.S. He broke his arm!)
We decided to do Happy Hour nightly...best decision ever.
Big beautiful lilies are EVERYWHERE these days.

Too hot for clothes!
CSA goodness.
It's quick-pickle season.
What a fabulous mess!

Looking back the past 7 weeks I realize that despite things being stressful at times, I truly live a wonderfully joyous life. And now that things have calmed downed a bit I'm really looking forward to jumping back in where I left off, working on my art, cooking delicious new recipes with the bounty of locally grown summer produce, and sharing my adventures with you on this site!

I hope your summer has been going well and that you're enjoying all of the wonders this season has to offer...picnics and beaches and stone fruit and fireflies and so much more!

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