Burgundy sunflower

Burgundy sunflower
Crescent Moon Designs Henna Art

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Art or Craft

Art or craft.  This is a topic that comes up a lot among henna artists, and today I was hanging out with silk painters and the same issue arose.  One person complained that there were people "out there" who don't take the art seriously and they production paint and sell things cheaply -- which cheapens the Art and devalues the Artists.... so they should charge more.

Seriously? I think there is a wide spectrum between art and craft and FINE ART and low-end art.  My parents are fine artists.  They SEE something universal and try to convey that with their artwork.  My father has never achieved his goal and thus has never exhibited his artwork.  If fact, I've never seen his paintings and sculptures, but he talks about them a lot.  My mother hasn't quite reached Nirvana, yet, either, but that hasn't stopped her from sharing her art photographs with others.  Me, I'm not sure I do art.  I make things because it makes me supremely happy, and I like to share what I make with other people because it makes them happy.  I can draw flowers for 6 hours straight and if my clients are happy, so am I.  I get into the moment of creating that henna drawing and try to infuse each one with joy.  But none of us are confused about whether or not it's Fine Art.

I draw henna designs on shirts and bags and lamps and silk.  They make me happy.  But I don't see them as ART.  I'm a craftsperson.  I do the best I can, but no-one is going to see the meaning of life, the universe and everything by looking at my henna or other drawings.  However, if they make people smile and they buy them, then my work is done.

Money. The silk Artist who was complaining today said that the other folks who sell things for prices that most people can afford were selling themselves short and cheapening all the other artists' work as well. 

I'm all for charging what an item is worth.  But I have to admit that my t-shirts which take 1/2 hour to draw are not worth as much as the blouse I hand-dyed, took 3 days to embellish, and encrusted with swarkovski crystals and glitter.  If I charged what the blouse was worth, it would not sell.  The silk Artist would say it's perfectly OK for it not to sell because you maintain its value that way.  The practical person in me says, "Um, I have to contribute to the mortgage payments and food budget..."  The silk Artist lamented that there are no real patrons of Art anymore....me, too.  I'd love a sugar daddy...um, patron.  But for every Michealangelo who was patronized, there were a zillion guys out there selling their stuff by the Tiber trying to earn enough to pay their mortgage.... and who is remembered now?  Did those popular artists who hawked their wares by the Seine cheapen Michealangelo's work?  No. But I sure hope they were able to pay their bills!

I think there is a place for all of us on the art spectrum.  There's the stuff we produce with as little labor for the results as possible (my t-shirts) and there's the labors of love (my silk blouse -- which I did not sell; I had to give it to a friend b/c I knew it would make her supremely happy.)  The silk Artist creates such beautiful and intricate things.  She pushes herself and her techniques and the artform in bold directions.  The rest of us are inspired by her, but we can't afford her work.  I hope she has a patron....

Anybody want to be my patron?  Hmmm.  Guess I'd better keep making things that sell...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Henna designs

I really WILL do more henna soon.  Probably tonight on my left hand.  And I'm also planning to go to Spanish Village in Balboa Park on Saturday if I can find and load all my stuff (table, umbrellas, table covering, signs, etc.) that got piled into the garage when we moved in last December...

Right now I'm enamoured with Pakistani-style designs.  I go through phases and right now I'm all about flowers and paisleys strung together.  Love those flowers and paisleys. 

I'm still planning the design I want to wear into surgery.  I drew a phoenix on my shin for my last hip and it helped give me courage.  I could always do another phoenix.... or maybe some lotuses... or probably paisleys and flowers.... I can't reach my shin these days b/c I'm not allowed to bend more than 90 degrees, but I could do my thigh... however, I need to know whether the surgery will be anterior or posterior first!  The doctor said I could have henna anywhere but the surgery site.  Last time I was completely hennaed up!  Right arm was done by local artist, Wardah Halim, and the left by me.  And I had somehow managed to reach my feet and decorate them as well.

Speaking of surgery, I realize how lucky I am that my husband has excellent insurance -- or even insurance at all!  There have been tough times in my life when I had no insurance and even though I was young and healthy, I still needed to have my wisdom teeth removed.  I paid for that for years!  And once I took a bad job because they offered me insurance coverage -- and then it turned out that because I had been treated for gynecological issues in the past, I had no coverage for ANY gyno care!  I didn't stay at that job long... it just wasn't worth the worthless insurance.

When we lived in England we were covered by socialized medicine.  I could go to a clinic whenever I needed at no charge.  And when I had a horrible miscarriage, I was checked into a hospital no questions asked, no forms or cards or copays.  It was such an excellent safety net.  I have heard complaints that only the major problems are covered and that people are on waiting lists for all kinds of things for years.  However, I currently have Kaiser Permanente HMO and the same is true. 

Someone I know is in a bad way.  She has a severe tooth infection with no insurance, neither health nor dental.  She can't afford to pay for her anti-biotics and painkillers because the full cost is too much.  She just lost her job and has no income at the moment.  It's a really scary situation: out of work, in excruciating pain, and unable to afford care or prescriptions.  And I know she is not the only one out there.  There, but for the Grace of God, go I....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Confessions of a foodie

Perhaps I should have called this blog, musings from a food-aholic... I love food.  I love making food.  I love eating food.  I just don't like the dishes.  Oh well, can't have it all....

Unfortunately, a love of food and eating has facilitated weight gain.  I used to be very skinny.  In high school, I barely weighed 100lbs.  But after a blissfully foodie wedding at the age of 30 to the love of my life, we have been blissfully chomping our way through life.  When we lived in Baltimore, we ate crab cakes and kung pao chicken from China Chef in Catonsville (which might not still be there...) -- and Vaccaro's.  Bill brought me Vaccaro's cannolis and pignoli cookies for our first non-date.  We went there for later dates and talked into the night over hazelnut cappucinnos and The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria -- ridiculously large sundaes made with homemade gelato and topped with deliciousness... I knew he was my man.  I made him garlic pizza and he pledged to love me forever.

Now, after 17 years and much culinary delight, I find myself at 166lbs.  Which at my height makes me dead center average for my age group, but 25-30lbs overweight according to the BMI charts.  I've gone up, but it's hard to get below the 166 threshold.  And, of course, it's mostly on my belly (the most dangerous place for fat) and under the arms... I used to not care so much.  But osteoarthritis has changed my mind.  Each extra pound adds extra pressure on the joints, predisposing natural ones to arthritis and artificial ones to wear out faster.  I just got a new hip, and I'm getting another one.  I want these to last as long as possible, which means I need to lose about 25-30lbs.

This is not an easy task.  I wasn't able to exercise before my first surgery because my hips just hurt all the time and movement didn't help and I had such a pronounced limp that it strained muscles.  Since my left hip was replaced, I started exercising again -- at first with exercise dvds with Leslie Sansone, and then to timed outdoor walking, and now I do about a one-mile loop around the neighborhood (which takes about 19 minutes) and a half-hour video between 3-5 days a week.  I think things are starting to fit better, but my DH says he can't see any change.  How frustrating.  But at least I know that an hour of exercise 3-5 days/week is really good for my cardiovascular system (and my whole family has high cholesterol and a history of heart disease), bone density and muscle strength -- so even if I get frustrated with my lack of weight loss progress, I can notice a lower resting pulse and lower blood pressure (just in 5 weeks!).

So I must admit that since I'm exericising enough to stimulate weight loss, and I'm NOT LOSING... then it must be what I'm eating.... or rather the portion sizes.  We eat healthy food.  Lots of low-fat protein, vegetables and whole grains. We cleaned up our diet as soon as we moved out of the dorm and into our own kitchen. (except for the month-long ice cream binge before surgery...) But I must be eating bigger portions than I should.  This is tricky.  I must learn to be satisfied with less, to not leave the table with that happy, full feeling, but to learn to eat less.  Not easy, esp. since I like food and eating.....

Tonight's successful experiment: New Mexican Frittata
1 8 X 8 pyrex dish
1 large potato, sliced into thin slices and layered on the bottom
a light coating of shredded Mexican cheese (low-fat version)
a layer of posole (cooked hominy)
and 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
a light coating of shredded mexican cheese
5 roasted Sandia chiles from Hatch, NM
2 yellow squash, sliced
1/2 can red enchilada sauce (actually, for the next time, I'll use a whole can and add it to layers in between)
more shredded cheese
1 medium carton of eggbeaters
1 egg
Layer ingredients as you go. Pour egg mixture over top.  Bake for about 1 hour at 300F until golden brown and puffy and a bbq skewer comes clean.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Here we go again

Kaiser called today to give me my appt for my second hip replacement: Sept 30.  9 weeks after my left hip was replaced.  Two weeks notice is a bit sudden, but I'm not gainfully employed so there's nothing really to plan.  I'm actually looking forward to the surgery and recovery and the being able to walk without pain again...

This all started in March of 2008 when I was trying to get fit by jogging.  I had started adding miles to my routine and rediscovered the 6-mile loop at Lake Murray.  One day I decided to push myself a bit and I ran 5 miles without walking and at 5 and a half miles, I felt a ping and then a sudden sharp pain in the groin.  I limped back to the car and drove myself home, took 2 advil and thought that was it.

But that wasn't it.  So after a few days of severe pain, I went to the Dr. and got a diagnosis of groin strain.  4-6 weeks of rest should do it.  But after 6 weeks and some strong painkillers and a week off work, I was not doing any better....after a few months of pain, I switched doctors and got an x-ray which showed that I had severe arthritis in my hips.  How can osteoarthritis, the degeneration of cartilage happen so fast?  In one moment I went from pain-free to deep, chronic pain.  But apparently, cartilage has no nerve endings so as it is wearing away, there is no pain until the bones touch -- and that's what must have happened that day in March, the last of my cartilage rubbed away, and my bones clashed...

I went through Physical Therapy, standard for a new diagnosis of osteoarthritis, but it only exacerbated the pain.  The surgeon recommended replacement.  The physcial medicine doctor recommended alternative pain control. I wasn't ready for surgery.  I'm too young, I thought.  But a few months later, I decided that the pain was too great to continue with guided imagery and cox2 inhibitors....so I asked for surgery.

6 months later, I was checked into Sharp Coronado for the best healthcare experience I've ever had.  The aneasthesia wore off without major side effects.  The nurses were devoted and kind.  The food was great.  AND, there was aromatherapy!  Lavender shoulder massages, peppermint to help keep me from getting queasy, lemongrass lotion for a morning wake-up.  Delightful.  They even gave my Mom free lunches!  But what was better was as soon as I was conscious I knew the deep pain was gone.  All I had to do was heal from the surgery.

It has turned out to be a very fast recovery.  Within 3 days of coming home, I switched from the walker to a cane.  After 3 weeks, I ditched the cane as well.  I was cleared for driving as soon as my stitches were removed. And right now, at 7 weeks post-surgery, I have no pain in my left hip and a wide range of motion.  I'm still not allowed to touch my toes...but I can do practically everything else...except the right hip hurts....

So I'm grateful that my surgery was scheduled so quickly.  I'll have to miss vending at the Bedouin Bazaar -- which is a shame b/c it's one of my favorite events.  But it's a small price to pay for getting my life back.  Chronic pain is exhausting and it contributes to depression.  It certainly interfered with my ability to work since I could only stand for 15 minutes at a time. And it's, well, painful -- even with cox2 inhibitors and narcotics.

Looking forward to my regularly scheduled life in about 5 weeks....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday is when I get things done.

Most of the time, I feel that time just slips by.  I check my email and facebook and the next thing I know it's time to make dinner.  But Sundays are different.  On Sundays, the husband sleeps in and I can tiptoe out of bed and change into my exercise clothes and go for a brisk walk.  I love these morning walks.  Often the marine layer is just beginning to clear and the light is getting sharper as I progress through my standard 1-mile loop.  I love seeing all the variations in my neighbor's lawns.  Some are perfectly manicured (in fact, my neighbor across the street putters in his front yard every day!) and some are more like ours -- unmowed, dry, but not too chaotic.  And then there are the yards that make our yard look wonderful.  I like that our neighbors are all different; we fit right in.

After my walk, I make the coffee and feed the cats and start making breakfast.  Sunday morning breakfasts are delightful.  My husband wakes to the smell of coffee and muesli toast and we spend about an hour eating, talking, listening to NPR week-end edition and reading the paper.  It's sublime.

Then he heads to the office to work on his research and I do the weekly cleaning.  Today I was more energetic than I've been in a long time so I managed to clean both litterboxes, vacuum, wipe down the sofa, water the garden, do 4 loads of laundry, dye 2 lots of silk, wash the dishes, wipe down the kitchen, spill dye on the floor which made it necessary to mop.... and then I made the Hatchbakus which DH will grill when he returns home.

Hatchbokus are a new invention, a variation of the Hamboku.  Hamboku is the Korean word for hamburger and Bill's halmoni (grandmother) made fabulous hamboku with scallions, fresh chopped garlic, more garlic, an egg, some sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce.  My innovation was to put kimchee on the grilled hamboku.  My mother-in-law said she'd never heard of such a thing.  Kimchee ON a hamburger?  Now she thinks it's the best idea since rice cookers.

Hatchbokus are hamboku with the inclusion of chopped New Mexican roasted green chiles from Hatch, NM. This is the first year we have found them fresh roasted in San Diego and we are trying to collect, eat and freeze as many as possible.  If you have never tried them, you might be lucky because roasted green chiles are like crack, heroin, and cocaine...though I have never tried any of those substances.  Roasted green chiles are flavorful with a great pepper taste, a smokey overtone and just enough heat to make sweat pour down your forhead and onto your enchilada.  And then, after that first chile tasting, you crave them.  We spent 2 glorious summers housesitting for a friend in Taos, NM back when we lived in Austin, TX.  On our first night we had dinner at Fred's.  Green chile chicken enchiladas.  The next morning, we sought out a cafe that served green chile sauce over fried eggs and potatoes.... then we had to have green chile tacos for lunch.... and the addiction was established.  When our job was finished, we filled our cooler with fresh roasted green chiles and smelled heaven all the way home.....

Austin is a foodie town with eclectic tastes.  And it was not long before we discovered that Chuy's had a green chile festival every year.  So we were able to satiate our cravings.  Then we moved to San Diego.

What a culinary shock!  No tex-mex, no Texas bbq, and no green chiles.  Over the years we have adjusted and grown to love Rubio's and Smokin' Joe's bbq, but we had no access to green chiles.  It was a tough withdrawal, but we managed.  Last year I discovered that a few Albertson stores carried frozen green chiles.... and they were an acceptable substitute.... but this year, we found Richard Utter and his chile roasting stand at the farmer's market in Little Italy!  And yesterday, he was roasting at Whole Foods in Hillcrest.  We are in green chile heaven!  But the season is short, so we must work quickly to fill our freezer for the winter.  And in the meantime, we are inventing new uses for the chiles and today's invention is the Hatchboku....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The beginning

The first post always seem so momentous, as if I must make a grand statement or at least explain the meaning of life, the universe and everything.  But I am not so large-brained as to have any answers...or even good questions.  But I do know a good recipe for sesame noodles, and that sounds like a good start.

Sesame Noodles, serves at least 4
2 tbl sesame paste (found at your local Chinese grocery; it comes in a small jar with lots of Chinese writing and the friendly words: Sesame Paste.  What differentiates this from tahini is that Chinese sesame paste is made from toasted sesame seeds and the flavor is rich and round.  You can substitute tahini or peanutbutter for sesame paste if your area has no Chinese grocery, but the flavor will be VERY different.)
1 tbl soy sauce (read the ingredients; must include soybeans.  If there are no soybeans on the list, it isn't soy sauce)
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbl brewed tea (either black or green or iced unsweetened)
2-10 cloves garlic crushed (if you have a Chinese or Korean grocery in your area, you can find fresh minced garlic in the frozen or fresh vegetable sections.  It's much easier than crushing your own.)
1 tsp grated or minced ginger
2 tsp toasted sesame oil (my favorite brand is Kadoya, found in Chinese and Korean groceries)

1/2 thin noodles (linguine or the noodles that look like linguine in the Chinese or Korean grocery)
1/2 lb mung bean sprouts
1 tbl toasted sesame oil
4-6 cups of water.

Directions:  Make a cup of tea.  Put water in pot to boil.  Mix sauce and set aside.  Water should be boiling by now.  Add oil and noodles.  When noodles are almost ready, add bean sprouts.  Bring to a boil again, then drain and rinse.  Rinsing with cold water keeps the noodles from becoming a large sticky clump.  Add sauce to noodles.  Garnish with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds.  Chill thoroughly.

Even if you choose not to use chopsticks, do make slurpy noises while eating!