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Archive for December, 2010

Holiday Tablescapes: Feasting the Eyes

Monday, December 27th, 2010

The holidays over the dark part of the year, as a group, seem to me primarily about relationship and sharing. A big part of that is eating with one another… and making special foods to share. Sometimes, that special food is presented in a visually artful manner as well.

Thanksgiving table

As I have gone from gathering to gathering since Thanksgiving, these are some of the glimpses I have had at beauty on tables. Sometimes the food is the lovely part, sometimes a serving dish caught my eye.

pitcherturqinside

In the first photo, you see a Thanksgiving table put together by Brian’s sister and many helpers. Following that is a stylish small pitcher (containing salad dressing) with a turquoise interior, which was so lovely I had to photograph it. Next are platters of cupcakes, cookies and candies made by a number of folks and shared at a small music gathering we attended.

reindeer cupcakes

A Thanks-Christmas Chuckle

The next photo requires a bit of a story. In my family, we celebrate what we call Thanks-Christmas (which also includes my after-Thanksgiving birthday) early in November.

This year, we met up at a sushi restaurant in Ypsilanti, MI (near Ann Arbor) and enjoyed a good meal together. The table included all six of us who reside in Michigan.

I made a birthday pie which had only ingredients I can eat safely, which we had planned to share after the meal. I left it at home (over an hour away). Mom likes taking birthday photos every year, with us blowing out candles or at least sitting behind our cake/pie/crumble of the day.

thankschristmas10lynnwebWe asked the waiter if they  had cookies or anything we could put a candle in/on. Mom had brought candles that looked like little clowns, so they could sit up on their own even if on a hard surface. They had no dessert we could use that day, but the waiter came up with this:

It is a wax model of a chocolate chip cheesecake. Notice the clown candle sitting on top of it (not yet lit). No wonder I had a bit of a look on my face!

In the last photo below, you see my new teacup and daily teapot, with a cookie jar behind it which was a wedding gift from a dear music friend.

One or Many People, All Pleasant

The first photo involved a few dozen people. The last photo? Me, alone, in peace and quiet and serenity.

All were pleasant treats, no matter how many were in attendance. This sort of artfulness does help us get through these dark days, don’t you agree?

teapotcupcookies

Ooh, another Purple House!

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

It was a while ago, but I received this photo of a purple-painted house from Karin00. She noticed I had a collection of other purple houses on this blog. I think I will never get tired of discovering new ones!

purple_house_medium

I asked Karin where she took this photo. She writes:

This purple house is located in New Liskeard, ON, Canada (now called City of Temiskaming Shores) which is about 300 miles northeast of Toronto, on Lake Temiskaming near the Quebec border. (100 miles north of North Bay, ON)

Thank you for the photo, Karin! I’m happy you shared this cheerful photo with us.

Right now where I live, it’s rather monochromatic. The ground is covered with snow. the sky is covered with clouds most of the time, and in at least one place within a few blocks of our house, there are six houses in a row painted white.

(Edited later to add this photo. This is the view out our side living room window, noon on December 26. Yes, noon. This is the real thing.)

monochromesidewindowDec26

As I mentioned, December is not the best time of year for this ColorJoy woman in Lansing. The photo could not have come at a better time. Thanks!

World-Changing Dessert Recipes

Monday, December 20th, 2010

A Day when Everything Changed

In May of 2002, I found myself at a doctor’s office with a list of foods I was not to eat. I did not know for sure what I *could* eat. I felt pretty lonely.

For several years, I’d found myself weak enough to ration my trips up and down stairs. I was 44 years old, a dancer, a non-smoker/non-drinker, not overweight, in generally good health. In spite of that, my energy levels let me down. I somehow handled my work routine, but nothing extra.

A chance meeting with an artist acquaintance gave me hope. She gave me the name of a doctor who had turned her life around, and recommended I go. I was willing to do whatever it took, go to any lengths to get better.

The list of forbidden foods that day? Corn, Yeast, Milk, Egg, Potato, and any ingredients derived from those foods. Corn related foods can include the obvious corn syrup and cornstarch, but also baking powder, powdered sugar, maltodextrin, xanthan gum (in many salad dressings and frozen foods), and countless others. Yeast is grouped with fermented/aged foods such as soy sauce, vinegar, yogurt, and dried fruits such as raisins.

Giving up all of those foods? All at once? I had no other choice. Desperation made it so.

There I was, with a new way of eating in front of  me. I was willing. The possibility I could regain energy was all I needed.

It was worth it! Four days after giving up those foods, I found myself taking two steps at a time up the stairs. This, after a few years of avoiding stair climbing whenever possible! It was a miracle, worth any effort it might take. Eating right gave me my life back!

The Learning Curve

Thank goodness that my brother and I did the grocery shopping in our teens. Mother had high blood pressure. We learned to read labels for salt in those years.

In my 30’s, 1991, I’d realized that I felt much better if I eliminated mold/yeast/fermented foods. I had already learned to adjust my own food on behalf of my health. I read ingredients again.

I learned to bake with substitutions. If it called for sour cream, I sometimes could substitute applesauce (for moisture/binding). I learned the properties different ingredients contained.

The Challenge

When I got the news on May 30, 2002, I first turned to simple, plain foods: rice, beans, vegetables, stir fry, baked sweet potatoes. I like “real” food but I did not get enough variety at first.

Sometimes I craved baked goods, puddings, other treats. Sugar was not a problem for me, but most commercial baked goods (even at health food stores) contained items I could not tolerate. I was on my own.

First Priority

The first challenge was pumpkin pie. I am a “Thanksgiving Baby” and I do not want birthday cake. I want birthday pumpkin pie!

I read whatever I could find on substitutions. I made some VERY bad pies. At first, I was able to buy frozen crusts that worked for me, but the filling was challenge enough.

It took six months of bad-to-mediocre experiments. Finally I created a delicious pumpkin pie with no eggs or dairy. It used flaxseed meal and soy milk to substitute for eggs and dairy milk.

I Was on a Roll!

Since I nailed pumpkin pie, I have tackled other old favorites. I created a Brown Sugar Tapioca Pudding, and this year a chewy brownie that is wonderful. Chewy textures are a challenge to create without wheat, egg and milk!

Over the years I have shared many recipes with you, here on the blog. I have a recipe category with more than two dozen recipes offered for free, and I have received very positive feedback on this. In fact, though I discuss many artforms here, my recipes seem to get the most attention.

Holiday Challenges for Those Like Me

As the holidays approached this year, I realized that I have numerous friends and family who also do not tolerate one or more foods well. I have more celiacs (gluten-intolerant) in my life than I can count. There are many more in my world who are lactose-intolerant or who have sensitivities to any number of foods. It seems I run into one more every day!

I also have a growing number of friends who choose to eat vegan (no animal products at all, not even dairy or egg). Some favorite baked treats can be a challenge to a vegan who wants to keep additives (like xanthan gum) to a minimum.

Say Yes, not No!

Some of my food-sensitive friends have a hard time resisting temptation, even knowing they will feel crummy later if they give in. It seemed to me that holidays would really make things worse for those folks.

Some of these friends have  been willing sample testers while I have experimented in my kitchen. I wondered how I could make it easier for them to have healthy choices during challenging days.

As I thought of these friends, I also remembered myself in that doctor’s office. If I had a quality collection of recipes for special treats that day, it could have eased the transition dramatically.

Could I share what I knew, and rock someone else’s world? Could I change the personal world of someone facing a scary assignment such as the one I received? Yes.

My recipes can be world-changing to someone feeling lost and alone. I can’t change the entire world, but if I can change one person’s life? I’m enough of an optimist to think it could make a real difference.

My World-Changing Solution:
The
” I Can Eat These!” Dessert Collection

The result of that concern? I rounded up ten dessert recipes, and formatted them as a book.

Included are are tips on how to cook with alternative flours (buckwheat, teff, brown rice, sweet white rice, tapioca flour and more). There are tips on measuring. I included information on brands of flours which work best, and where to get the ingredients if you can not find them in your area. (In Lansing, MI, Foods for Living has everything I specify.)

Is This for You?

Are you the one I imagined, needing this book? Do you know someone who is? Do you know a mother trying to help their child adjust to new foods? Are you expecting company with a variety of food restrictions? Let me make life easier for you.

I experimented. I tested. I made this with you in mind.

I made Habibi brownies for the Sunday School Christmas program. I used carob because chocolate gives my youngest hives. I marked them as allergy friendly and assumed that would make people avoid them. We only brought 1 home and had a request for the recipe.
– Sally, mother of two

My standard guidelines:

  • Celiac-friendly
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Gluten-free
  • No Corn
  • No Dairy
  • No Egg
  • No Peanuts
  • No Potato
  • No Soy
  • No Tree Nuts
  • No Wheat
  • No Xanthan Gum
  • No Yeast

Recipes included:

Eudora’s Spiced Pumpkin-Orange Sauce or Butter
Brown Sugar Tapioca Pudding
Easy Cocoa Mix
Habibi Brownies
Victory Crust
LynnH’s No-Nothin’ Pumpkin Pie
Crusty Pumpkin Loaf
Light & Airy Cranberry Muffins
LynnH’s Teff Spice Muffins
Applesauce-Buckwheat Muffins

Which Serves You Best?

I offer the book in two formats.

  1. Many of us love a physical “Tree book” (paper) to hold in our hands. I offer a spiral-bound full-color print version. It includes a thick vinyl back and clear cover, on sturdy paper. The spiral binding keeps it open as you work.- This version is $11 plus $1 shipping. I send to the US and Canada via US Postal service. Priority mail to the is $3.90 extra, write me a note in your checkout process and I’ll make arrangements.
    Click this button to order:
  2. I also offer an e-book version, in Adobe PDF format.  You can save this on your computer and then print out just the page you need when it’s time to bake. Nine of the recipes fit on one printed sheet of paper. The page gets some oil on it while you bake? Print another for yourself. It’s formatted to work well on a home printer. You do need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the book, which is free.– This version is $9 as a download (from my shopping cart system, no wait for me to email it, no attachment)
    Click this button to order:

Even if this is not for you, I would really appreciate it if you could pass the word. Someone you know surely could use this collection, even if you can’t.
Thanks!

Sweetie-Licious Pie Pantry

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

sweetieliciousMikeRossAug10As I mentioned in my last post, I believe food is an artform, and making folks feel comfortable is also an artform. One place this happens for me is at Sweetie-Licious Pie Pantry in DeWitt, Michigan.

The owner is Linda, and she glows with enthusiasm and caring. Her staff is just as lovely, and the space they have created together is adorable. It has a feel, for me, of the large kitchens in the farm community where my parents grew up.

She has a small old refrigerator where she keeps the soda pop, for example… the kind with a tiny freezer in the center of the cooling space. She also has a tiny painted wooden kids’ play kitchen which sees lots of use.

sweetiliciousscene

And the pies! She won the top prize at the Crisco pie competition a few years ago, $5,000 for a pie. Yes, she has a flair for flavor as well as hospitality. Quality from A to Z, that’s Linda.

sweetieliciousMikeRossGuitaThe photos here I took one Friday noon, when our friend Mike Ross was performing. Mike is in the Scarlet Runner Stringband with Brian, but is a songwriter and poet on top of his amazing fiddle and harmonica skills. He is also wonderfully photogenic, I’m sure you can see.

If you ever get to DeWitt, check out this spot. It’s near a stop light in downtown. Sweetie-Licious. Yes, it is. Really ‘licious.

One Artful Act a Day

Monday, December 13th, 2010

veganneckwarmer800FishColorJoy, this blog, started as a big dream of mine. I hoped it would bring a way to share thoughts on artfulness with my world.

I had spent over 30 years thinking I was not an artist. After all, I did not draw or paint canvases. I thought those things defined the word “artist.”

After spending over 30 years being creative in three dimensions, decorative art, costuming myself and performance, I was informed by someone I cared about, that I truly was an artist. I lived creatively every day! Somehow that label had to come from outside of me.

Me?

At first, I had a hard time grasping this new idea. I joined some Polymer Clay guilds (at the time New York and Chicago were the closest communities) and received their newsletters. The file folder where I kept those newsletters, I labeled “I am an Artist.” The repetition helped me internalize what was already true.

picnictableWhat an odd world we live in! We garden, but we say we are not artful. We make the best soup within 50 miles but we can not see the creativity in it. We build safe and friendly spaces where folks gather and nurture one another. We raise a child as mindfully as possible. We clothe/costume ourselves with flair. We dance, we sing, we help another person smile.

In my brother’s case, he has his wife help him decorate his beard with battery-operated Christmas lights to work an overtime shift on the holiday. These examples and more are artful expressions. I dare call them art, and I would boldly state that those who do such things are artists.

nairobibottlecappursesmEmotional Labor as Art

I am not alone in this thought. The well-regarded author/marketing expert, Seth Godin, talks about something called “Emotional Labor.” This is when we do work which extends ourselves, which is not necessarily easy. This may take place at work or it may be in our personal lives.

When the yarn shop employee distracts a toddler long enough for Mommy to find the knitting needles she needs in peace, this is emotional labor (even if it is pleasant). A nursing home worker notices a patient upset because they think someone is spying on them, and helps them feel safer, is also emotional labor. Workers in school and community center offices calming down children with conflicts, again, exhibit the same.

march7snowmanMr. Godin calls the result of this emotional labor, art. I tend to agree. It may not be visual art, but one might call it performance art or life art. It is definitely a creation, not the status quo.

The ColorJoy Credo

When I started my blog, I subtitled it “Art as an Everyday Attitude.” Many people wanted to label me a “Renaissance Woman,” and then distance themselves from me in the same breath!

They would tell me how talented I was, and how they were not creative at all. That put a distance between us that made me feel uncomfortable.

I find the “I’m not creative, period” statement rather hard to believe. Even a person who loves order will embellish a cubicle workspace with things they love: golf, family photos, classic cars, something. It is in our inner being to express ourselves, to be different than others in at least a small way.

altu veggie comboFood can be Art

Yes, I have worked in many performance and visual arts. However, I maintain that my friend Altu who owns Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine in East Lansing, is an artist with food and with relationship.

I think there are other food artists who do not believe they are engaging in an artform. Why would you put these several ingredients together and then flavor them with these spices or herbs? It’s a creative choice which nobody will answer the same way.

Start Small: One Small Act a Day

For over 6 years I taught computer software classes. I worked in a different classroom every day, in many different cities. I might teach Word one day, Access another, HTML coding, Excel, you name it. The travel took a lot of time on top of the teaching. I sometimes had very little energy and time to sit still at night.

hidinglhI was shriveling as a creative being when I did not sew or knit or sing or dance. It started to make me feel smaller inside. After a soul searching, I decided that I must express at least one creative act every day.

Some days I could replace the buttons on my new suit with buttons I liked better. Some days I could go to an art gallery in another city after work. Some days I might just rubber stamp the outside of the envelope I used to pay my electric bill. I might consider dinner a creative expression, or a different way to tie back my hair.

ColorJoyful World!

I think that many others are where I was in 1991, thinking that art fits in frames which hang on the wall. The plan behind ColorJoy was to start opening others’ minds about art in nonstandard expressions.

Maybe if I say “Art as an Everyday Attitude,” you may give yourself credit for an artful meal. You might understand that calming down your nephew was emotional labor, and thus could be called art. The choice of flowers to plant in one pot on the back porch, the way you wore bright socks to peek out of the business trousers at work… all of those things, perhaps, might make you an artist?

Give yourself credit, OK? I already see it in you.

Photos: Anna-Marie styling my One-Day Neckwarmer in her own fine way; a picnic lunch I put together for friend Cynthia and I this summer, purse made with Fanta Grape bottlecaps which I purchased in Nairobi, Kenya;  Melting neighborhood snowman from March 2010;  veggie combo from Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine; me holding up a felt wall piece made with my mother during The Fabric of Friendship performance art experience, 2000; fingernail-polish-embellished Palm device I gifted to my friend Altu.

Months without a Voice

Monday, December 6th, 2010

LynnHByIsabelAugust2010

ColorJoy as a LifeStyle

I have written this blog since November 2002. My goal has been to talk about art as including much more than flat paper with marks on it, in a frame, on a wall. I still feel passionate about getting that message to as many people as I can.

LynnHLovingIsabelAug2010It may look to a new visitor as though my posts are scattered in subject matter. However, gardens and good food, dance and music, friendships and community-building, are all places where true artfulness can be expressed.

Why this Passion?

I did not call myself an artist until I was in my 30’s. I have always worked in three-dimensional media. I thought art was drawing or painting, and did neither. Now that I am sure that is a too-limited view of art, my passion is to open the eyes of others in this area.

My goal has been to write over 20 posts a month. I have done well with that goal, until this summer.

LynnHFootByIsabelAug2010A Hiccup on the Road

This summer was unusual. I have sometimes waited a week or more between posts. It seemed I was without words. In a real sense, I was. In another sense, I just did not know what to say.

Writing a blog is an odd artform. Sometimes it can feel as though one is talking blindfolded. One can’t know for sure if anyone reads it.

I talk to folks in person, and they mention they read my blog. I get your comments. Sometimes I get neither, but I continue. I know that some of you have been reading for years, and I appreciate you!

However, this summer I found myself facing something I did not know how to discuss. It was not life-threatening, but it was life-changing. I did not know how it would end. I grew silent here, after years of bursting forth with posts.

It Felt Pretty Big

What happened was that my voice stopped working. This spring it became impossible to function normally. Sometimes I would open my mouth to speak, and it sounded as though I was whispering. I have had weak times before, but never this. It did not hurt at all, but my speech system just did not function properly.

isabeltooklynnhI have said for years that I am a “professional explainer.” I teach knitting, most of the time. Once a week I teach computer skills in community education, the last vestige of my Y2K consulting business.

My joy is to bring understanding to others. Because I freelance, every week is different.

Finding My Strengths

Fortunately, I can explain with written words as well as spoken. I write this blog. I write knitting patterns. I do love to write, but there is NOTHING like being with someone who just figured out how to do something (especially if you helped them get to that point).

This summer I had to stop and look at my life, and make changes. I could not accomplish my normal schedule. I did not know if it would be temporary or permanent. I knew that I had the rest of my health and I was glad of that.

Looking Back to Stand Tall

I remembered the biggest unexpected life change I ever experienced, which was my divorce in 1991. That change was terrifying and painful at first. However, it opened a door for me to discover more about myself.

In the end, I think that the divorce was one of my most precious life gifts. By losing everything I thought I was and the future I’d believed in for 16 years, I had to start fresh. I found out who I really was inside, and I started living the life of an artist… followed by the guts to call myself “Artist,” with a capital “A.”

The memory of that painful change which turned into a life-enhancing experience, spurred me to find a way to turn this voice challenge into a growth experience.

So, What *Could* I Do This Time?

I looked at my life. At first, when I was still fighting the blues of uncertainty, I needed to do some physical tasks to feel as though I had actually accomplished something. I started decluttering/purging my house. I figured I could do that until the rest of my life direction became clear.

First I really cranked on decluttering the kitchen. I had already spent time emptying my cupboards of unused and expired items, so that task took only a few days.

papertogo

Then came the office. Oooooh, boy! That task took over a month and is mostly done now.

There is no “done,” of course. Life continues and every day brings more mail and more work to do.

The Harder Choices

I chose to stop teaching this summer so I could rest. I took about 6 weeks off from any classroom.

Brian and I had a few musical performances on the schedule, so we rehearsed two full hours of material which did not depend on me to sing at all. I could smile and play bass, maybe whistle, but not need to make a sound.

In the end, singing was much easier than speaking and we never had to do a concert without me.

I stopped going to social events so that I could rest my voice. I did not go to Dulcimer Festival. I did not attend Knitting night on Thursdays at Rae’s.

If a gathering was more than me plus one other person, I almost always declined, or made it a very brief appearance. Even though my network of essential friend/supporters is essential to my good humor, I even canceled some 1-1 meetings when I thought it would make a difference. Some friends would do an internet “chat” by typing, which helped.

Somehow, through this time, it was hard to blog. I feel that not saying the truth is a way to lie. I did not want to post as if nothing was wrong, but I had no idea what my voice weakness really was. I did not know how it would end. To deal with my uncertainty, I slowed down here.

brianandlynndance16My Beloved

Brian, as always, has been a brick. When he prepared to possibly carry our performances without my voice, he never complained. We went out and gave everyone a great show!

We never let down a single audience… everyone was happy. Let’s face it, when you have people singing along to “My Blue Heaven” or “Bye Bye Blackbird,” it is going to be a good show.

Counting Many Blessings

Through this whole process, I have had the BEST doctor I could have had, for me. She has pulled together a team of several health professionals to help me heal.

I am back to my old schedule. I can teach and sing, and still have a voice the next day. This is a huge gift. I did not know if it could happen.

Why Now?

So why do I finally take the time to talk about this now? I am better.

The team of health professionals my primary doctor has found for me, is actively helping me strengthen my voice. I am re-learning how to talk. I drive 3 hours round trip to work with them. They are worth every minute, every mile, every tank of gas.

And with that enthusiasm, I’m more inclined to write here again. It has been hard to post pictures of beautiful things when I felt I was keeping a secret from you.

Now that I have hope, I’m setting the truth free in the wind. I’m ready to connect with you again. I miss our two-way conversations in the comments. I appreciate each and every one of you… those whose names I know and those who pass by quietly without comment. You mean a lot to me.

Thanks

Thanks for hanging on with me while I was not saying much. Thanks for sticking through this long post. And thank you for being part of my life. You make my life richer!

The first 4 images of me in today’s post, were taken by my beloved “Fairy Goddaughter,” Isabel. She is 6 years old. Give a kid good tools, and see what they can do…