Monthly Archives: January 2015

6 Reasons Why My Banana Bread is Better Than Yours

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6 Reasons Why My Banana Bread is Better Than Yours

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First, I use my grandmother Blackwood’s recipe, and it is simply the best banana bread recipe in the world!  It is also a secret, so you’re out of luck there, but I will tell you how you can make your OWN banana bread recipe taste better by changing 5 of the ingredients.

The first thing is nuts.  Whether you add walnuts, almonds or some other kind of nuts, use the smoked kind with salt, and use high quality nuts.  Buy them as fresh as possible, and don’t use the canned kind that has all the preservatives.  Trader Joe’s is the ideal place to purchase good nuts.   The smoky, salty flavor matched against the sweetness of the sugar provides a complete yin-yang flavor profile that simply makes sense.  You’ll take one bit and say, “YES!!!”

almonds

You’re going to laugh about this next ingredient.

bacon grease

My recommendation for this product has nothing to do with whether you are or are not vegan.  The product is fabulous. It is a wonderful, strong flavoring agent that I now cannot live without.   Just add about a teaspoon of this stuff to the oil that you would normally use in your recipe, and WOW!  It adds just a hint of the same smoky flavor that are also contained in the smoked nuts.  It gives the bread substance and a sort of “bass note”….not bass the fish….bass the instrument.   It makes the bread  taste richer, more full-bodied…good….and oh, by the way, this stuff is great for all kinds of recipes, sweet AND savory!  You can purchase it online HERE.

The third thing that makes my banana bread so good is black bananas.

black bananas

Bananas contain tryptophan; a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.  When you allow them to ripen to the soft stage, the flavors are enhanced and the concentration of tryptophan is even higher.  Plus, they simply taste better when they’re baked.

And finally….and more importantly….the vanilla.

nielsen massy

ONLY use Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract and one fresh vanilla bean!

vanilla bean

Before you faint over the cost of the vanilla, don’t.  It is the most delicious vanilla extract I have ever used, AND it is worth every cent that you pay for it.  It really *does* make that much of a difference.  The fresh vanilla bean just adds to the vanilla goodness.

If you use these five ingredients with any banana bread recipe, I guarantee you will not regret it.  You will have the best banana bread on the block.  Mind you, it won’t be quite as good as mine, because I use Grandmother Blackwood’s recipe….but you will definitely love what you bake, if you don’t burn it.  Really.

It’s that good!

Put a Ring on It!

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Put a Ring on It!

Who doesn’t love onion rings?  I know I love them….but my husband loves them even more, which is why, out of concern for his health, I have been experimenting with BAKED (not fried) onion ring recipes. 8 or 9 fried onion rings can have as many as 276 calories, depending on where you get them.  No thanks!  This recipe yields a much lower calorie version.  They’re soft, tender and sweet on the inside, and light, crispy and delicious on the outside.

To make these, I just used one of the big onions that came in my organic produce box.  It was yellow…but I don’t know the variety.  Walla-Wallas or a Vidalia would be perfect, but I’m sure any ‘ol onion variety will do.

I sliced them into rings and soaked them in low fat buttermilk overnight.  Then, I beat 4 egg whites and made a mixture of whole wheat flower, cornmeal and panko.  To that, I added dried parsley, sweet paprika, garlic salt, sea salt, freshly ground pepper and lemon pepper. (Use the spices you love!) Then, I gave them a light spray of canned olive oil (to help them brown).  Popped them in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes, then squeezed a fresh lemon over them while they were still hot.

DELICIOUS!!!

onionrings

Give ’em a try!

Are Flea Control Chemicals Killing Your Dog?

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Are Flea Control Chemicals Killing Your Dog?

Do you dose your dog for fleas every month?  Most monthly flea products contain pesticides, organophosphates and a wide array of other  toxic ingredients that have been linked with thousands of pet deaths and diseases. In November of the year 2000,  the Nation Resource Defense Council (NRDC) Recommended that EPA ban use of Orthophosphates in Pet Products.  The report stressed that the pesticides in flea and tick control products needed to be eliminated because they were killing our pets and posing risks to the owners that were applying them. beebe headshot

Another reason to give up these types of flea control treatments is the cost.  I have been picking up a prouct from Beatrix’s vet each month that does not contain organophosphates, but it costs a steep $30!  That can add up over time, so I went on the search for a natural alternative.  I found the answer in lemongrass essential oil.

Every time I take Beatrix to my daughter’s house, she comes home with fleas.  Sarah has two indoor-outdoor cats, and while they are delightful animals, they do tend to bring fleas into the house.  Sarah is diligent about keeping them at bay inside her house, but they still manage to hop onto her cats and come inside.  Fighting them is a constant battle. When little Beebs picks them up, she becomes absolutely miserable, so I have to treat her right away.

I did my research and learned that lemongrass is a natural repellent for fleas and ticks.  However, it must be used more than once a month, especially at first.  I began Beatrix’s treatment with it by adding some to her all-natural shampoo.  Mind you, this is an indoor dog, and she does not require frequent bathing, simply because she stays clean and has no distinct unpleasant odor.  However, I do keep a gentle, all-natural dog shampoo on hand for those occasions when bath time is necessary.  I use one that has oatmeal in it, since this calms irritated skin, and simply add a little lemongrass oil at bath time.  (Chihuahuas are noted for their skin issues.  So far, so good, with little Beebs.)

I recently received a sample of Dog Logic’s flea and tick shampoo,  and because it had lemongrass in it, I decided to give it a try during Beatrix’s last bath.  The shampoo smells really good without the addition of artificial scents, and it made Beatrix’s coat soft and silky.  The trick is to leave the lather on for 10 minutes before rinsing.  Beebs wasn’t thrilled about this aspect at all, since she hates baths in general, but I must say.  The fleas are gone and she is a much happier puppy than she was.

barklogic

Ok….for the bad news….This shampoo is expensive.  At nearly $30 for an 18 ounce bottle, it costs more than any other pet shampoo I had previously purchased.

The good news is that it only takes a couple of pumps of shampoo per bath, so the 18 ounces will last a long time.  This shampoo does not provide a rich, thick lather, but do not be put off by that.  It works….and it works well.  The ingredients in this shampoo are exceptionally high quality.  As a matter of fact,  the ingredients and price of this shampoo are similar to that of the  Bumble and Bumble shampoo that I buy at my beauty salon for my own hair!  However, the high price is worth it.  I assure you.

Between shampoos, I add a little lemongrass oil to a washcloth and gently swipe it over Beatrix’s fur.  I do not apply it directly to her skin, and I do not use a lot of it, but it works very well to keep fleas away, which is why I wanted to share this information with my readers.

If you use an all-natural flea preventative measure, please let me know what it is and how you like it and I will update this blog with the information.

beatrixshy

Some Pithy Verbage – Tell Me Whose Writing Makes YOUR Heart Sing

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My friend, novelist Mylené Dressler, author of  The Medusa TreeThe Wedding of Anna F.  and other books,  posted this (following) wonderful Margaret Atwood quote on her Facebook this morning.

The beautiful Mylené was one of my husband, John’s colleagues at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.  I took a literature course from her and to this day, deem her as one of the finest teachers I have ever had.  She was truly inspiring, and opened up so many new doors for me, in terms of my literary perspective.

She is a former ballerina, and one of the most graceful people I have ever known.  Back then, she had long, long hair, and would sort of dance around the classroom as she enthusiastically spoke about the Harlem Renaissance and the other literary topics that we broached in that class.

mylene ballerina

We have kept in touch off and on through the years, and it has been fantastic to watch as she has produced novel after novel and has become successful.  I love seeing my friends succeed in their endeavors.  This friend, in particular, has been fun to watch, because she does so much to promote other writers.  Wonderful, intelligent person, Mylene is.  ( Her name is pronounced Me-lan <–and lan rhymes with ran.)  🙂  Isn’t that a pretty name?

mylene

Anyway….I sort of got off track there.  My whole reason for bringing her up is because I thought I’d share the quote that she posted…because it’s pithy:

“All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is . . . Think about it. There’s escaping from the wolves, fighting the wolves, capturing the wolves, taming the wolves. Being thrown to the wolves, or throwing others to the wolves so the wolves will eat them instead of you. Running with the wolf pack. Turning into a wolf. Best of all, turning into the head wolf. No other decent stories exist.”

–Margaret Atwood

Isn’t that great?!

I love Margaret Atwood’s poetry, and I love her fiction…but I do not love her sci-fi so much.  I mean, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was perfectly written and very interesting.  I’m just not into that genre.

Atwood recently worked on a project with an environmental documentary maker-friend of mine in Santa Rosa.  I was dying to meet her, but alas.  The opportunity did not arise.

However, when it comes to poetry, no one can steal my heart quicker than Pablo Neruda .  Wow.  What power he exudes!  He truly speaks to my heart….and I realize I’m jumping around in this post…probably because I am procrastinating about doing my homework…

 

This little verse is heavily on my mind this morning…

“Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.”

Even translated, Neruda’s words lose nothing.  They are magic….or more aptly put, he captures the magic that I already feel in my heart.

chihuly in sf

Art by Dale Chihuly

Seattle, 2014

Photograph by Stacy Alexander

©Stacy Alexander – All Rights Reserved
2015

Whose writing most makes your own heart sing?

 

Music to My Ears

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This morning, I taught myself one of the little tunes that always brings a smile to my face….like…every day, in fact.  I’m not a very good guitarist, but picking up this little tune was easy….and yeah…It DOES make me smile! 🙂

Feeling happy, loved and ready to face another day.

This is finals week, and let me tell you.  The amount of work that I have to do is staggering…but I know I can do it. Just have to remain positive and focused.   It baffles me why professors wait until the last week to pile on so much work.  ugh.   I must say, however, these classes have opened new portals for me, and I am smiling as I anticipate how this information will be used in my future endeavors. These classes have all been so interesting….ok…except for stat…but we won’t talk about that.

I feel happy, loved, excited and rearing to go!  Isn’t it funny how the power of love can propel you forward in life?  It gives me a reason to wake up and get out of bed every morning.  I am one lucky woman.

It also feels very good to be organized and to have the time to creatively explore my various projects. This has not always been the case, but over the last few years, something just clicked into place with regard to getting organized.  It all makes sense….and is easy for me, permitting me to do much more than I used to.  I can simply bounce from one project to another without its being any big deal.

I have almost completed another mosaic, and I let little Ingrid work on it with me.  I was amazed at her eye for design and the careful accuracy with with which she placed each tile.  She really enjoys these kinds of projects, and I always have something for her to work on with me.  Working on an entire guitar-themed installation.  It is inspired! 😉

I completed all but 3 essay questions on my final for Psychological Testing and Assessments yesterday and plan to tackle those this morning. I still have to complete and polish up my annotated bibliography for that same class, but I’ve made a good deal of progress on that as well.   Then, I have a discussion question for the Women in Leadership class which amounts to about 3 pages of substantiated discourse, plus my research proposal (6-9 pages) , and a journal entry about women being change agents….and as soon as I get all that done, my term will be complete!!!  Yay!  One step closer to my goal and I’m feeling so good!

Next term, I will be taking a forensic psychology course…You know…like on CSI.  🙂  That should prove to be interesting!  I’m also taking a business consulting course.  Then, it will be time for my final senior project (thesis) and I will graduate early July!!  I am beside myself with happiness as I complete each step.  I’ve never worked harder, but have never felt happier.  Really.  John wants to take me to Paris, but I want to wait a year before we go.

Have been invited for a night on the Oregon coast next week with three friends, so that will be my reward for accomplishing all of this.  Also looking forward to a celebratory drink with Kath, if we can both manage to get away. (She stays as busy as I.)  Of course, I’ll still be working, even during my “break”…but I’m thankful that I have the work.

Organic produce gets delivered today, so I will be spending some time working on my cookbook recipes as well. I have to stop and process everything the day it comes in, or else it will end up going bad.  I rather enjoy it.  A friend is coming over to help later.   I have onion rings soaking in buttermilk in my refrigerator as I type this.  They will be turned into oven-baked, panko onion rings later today.  Really looking forward to testing this recipe.  Have recently enlisted my cousin’s help with the meat portion of the book.  She will send me meat recipes and I will convert them into vegetarian and vegan versions.  This cookbook is for family and friends that have mixed diets, so everyone can have the same foods, but customized to suit their diets.  Good concept?  Bad concept?  We’ll see….

Ok….back to work for me.  Have a glorious day!  xoxoxo

 

Day #5 of 5 – Art Challenge

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Today is the final day of the 5-day art challenge and I have selected three of my very early pieces to show you.  This first piece is one of my first 3-D mosaics.  I made it in honor of my beloved granddaughter, Maya, and used this piece to teach *her* how to make mosaics.  She and her friend, Maddie, helped me with the grouting, and both of them stuck some tiles to it. I free-handed the flowers, and all glass is hand cut.

flower heart song for maya

This second piece is also an older one, and one that I did in a series of mosaic/mixed-media shrines for an exhibit that I did in California.

shrine dancing blue dog head guy

And finally, this piece was one of my very first mosaics, and is called, “Womb With a View” (for obvious reasons).

womb view

I hope you have enjoyed checking out my work.  I am currently working on a series of musical instrument- inspired mosaics for an installation.  Not a lot of time to work on it, since I’m still in school and working full time…but I burn the midnight oil, sometimes, and slowly plug away on my new pieces.  Hopefully, I will have more to show you in the near future…but who knows?  It is what it is…..  Art makes me feel good, and that’s why I make it.

Feeling…

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Right now, I feel very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very very, very, very, very, very, very, very very, very, very, very, very, very, very very, very, very, very, very, very, very  HAPPY.

It takes so little.

Ya know?

Day #4 of 5 – Art Challenge

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Here are three more pictures of my art in day #4 of a 5-day art challenge.  First, however, I would like to comment on the fact that this blog’s readership reached 642 this morning.  I would like to welcome all of my readers, new and old….not that any of you are “old” (since old is a state of mind…) and to say how happy I am that you are here!  Thank you.  I am honored.

This first piece is a stacked glass mosaic that was inspired by aerial photography.  It is many layers thick, and must be seen in person to truly appreciate the magnificence of the stacked glass technique that I learned from Seattle artist, Kelley Knickerbocker…who is one truly amazing artist!  I love Kelley’s work.

stacked glass mosaic

This second piece is one of a series of fish that I used various mixed media techniques to create.  It is on a birch wood panel and is called, “Bubble Fish.”

bubble fish

This last piece was in an exhibit at the 420 Gallery in Oakland some years ago.  I am honored that it is now owned by renowned artist, Darwin Price.  I call this one, “Noodle Girl,” and used many of the same techniques with this piece that I used with the “Bubble Fish” piece above.  She, too is on a birch wood panel.

noodle girl

Day 3 of 5 Art Challenge

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This is Day #3 of a 5 Day Art Challenge in which I have been asked to post 3 works of my own art.  These are older pieces.

This first piece was my interpretation of Calder’s Fish Mobile.  It was very difficult to make and the photo isn’t good…but this is the best I can do.  It was made of found beach glass, recycled jewelry, heavy-gauge wire and thin, silver wire.  The tail was painted yellow, but it’s difficult to see in the photo.

fishmobile

This next piece is a commissioned mixed media painting of a Jizo (sort of the Buddhist patron saint of travelers and pets) (but not exactly).  This one has gold leaf, acrylic paint and various imported papers and jewels on a wood panel.  Many of the details are etched into the wood using a wood burning tool.

jizo

This tutu mosaic is called, “Tutu Degas”.  I collaged images onto the substrate and silver leaf and stamping, then covered the piece with clear glass with iridescent glass and millefiori trim.  The piece is lying on one of my mosaic tables (background) which is not a part of this piece.  I sold this at an exhibit in California a few years ago.

tutu

A New Article About my Husband

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I am happy to promote this new article about my husband, Dr. John Freed, that was just published in the Brandman/Chapman University magazine.  It was written by Cindy O’Dell.  Click on her name to be taken to the original article. 

john at timberline (good)

Photo by Stacy Alexander

 

John Freed finds humor, meaning in history; turns it into theater

January 22, 2015 by Cindy O’Dell

Dr. John Freed, associate professor of humanities and liberal studies, finds it amusing that he’s immersed himself so personally in the very activity for which he describes himself as one of Brandman University’s chief boosters – being creative. But then Freed finds a lot of things amusing including the foibles of historic figures, the twists and turns his own career has taken and the unexpected but extreme pleasure of hearing himself introduced as “the playwright” by a theater director he admires.

Freed has been teaching college students about drama, particularly Shakespeare, for over 30 years. He’s also been a film and theatre critic. But it’s only in the last few years that he’s launched himself into writing plays, including “Figaro’s Follies” (a 2013 rewrite of the original Beaumarchais’ play on which the more famous opera “Marriage of Figaro” by Mozart is based) performed as staged readings last summer in San Francisco. “Creativity is a very important student learning outcome for our revised liberal arts core,” said Freed in a phone interview from his Bay area office. He teaches blended classes at the Walnut Creek, Fairfield and Travis Air Force Base campuses and online and divides his time between the Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, where his wife, Stacy Alexander, a mixed-media artist lives.

“This is an offshoot that links directly back to our mission of recovering the arts part of a School of Arts and Sciences,” he added.

“Dr. Freed has played an integral leadership role in the development and evolution of the School of Arts and Sciences,” according to Dean Jeremy Korr. “He’s developed a variety of innovative courses in online and blended formats and participated in the recent revision and expansion of the B.A. in Liberal Studies program for prospective teacher with our School of Education.”

Serious topics with a touch of humor

figaro

The characters of Susanna and FIgaro read through their parts at dress rehearsal.

Just as his academic interests range over a wide field, Freed’s plays defy narrow descriptions. They take on serious topics – the conflicts among classes, genders, ethnicities – but he does it by moving away from haranguing audiences and toward the comic.

“While Figaro (in both the opera and the plays) is a comic figure, he’s also challenging the hierarchy and class structure of his time. Nobody can read the original 18th century play. It’s five hours long. There are three-page long speeches that blast the aristocracy, but the play itself may well have been the catalyst for the French and other European revolutions that followed. My goal was to deliver Beaumarchais to a 21st century audience – to make the play fun and profound at the same time.”

Freed genuinely appreciated the comment forwarded to him by the literary director at Brown University: “On a personal note, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading “Figaro’s Follies.” I thought it was a fabulous adaptation, and that it both honored and enhanced its source material. Its cleverness and vitality made it a joy to read.” His other completed plays are “Love Me, Fuseli: A Play about Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Circle of Friends” (2012) and “The Merchants of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” (2014). Thanks to that trio of works, he was invited to join the Dramatists Guild of America in November. Freed prefers to think of himself as coming from the David Ives tradition drawing from both history and existing writings or plays to create his own works. In “The Merchants of Pittsburgh,” he drew on his own experiences with a Pittsburgh theater company and Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” to create a world where a Jewish theater board member takes over a production to create a more Shylock-friendly play. “You can see why somebody who has taught “Merchant of Venice” for so long can imagine a Jewish oriented version and have things believably come out that way,” said Freed. “At one critical moment near the end of the play, Shakespeare, in Portia’s voice offers Shylock that option to demonstrate the true value of the ‘quality of mercy.’”

Venturing into new worlds of theater

all hallows

 All Hallows at Hearst CastleWith his fourth work, “All Hallows at Hearst Castle,” which is currently in progress, Freed is venturing into several new worlds that are also fact-based. It’s a musical. He has a collaborator, the composer Jeff Dunn. And it’s based on redeeming the reputations of William Randolph Hearst and his life-long companion, Marion Davies, from the savagery of Orson Welles’ fictionalized version of them in “Citizen Kane.” “What he [Welles] did was horrible and just not true. They were incredibly hospitable people and very progressive in many ways,” he said and then adds, “I’m a huge San Simeon fan. In many ambivalent ways, it’s the ultimate icon of American exceptionalism.” There’s Charlie Chaplin developing a scene for “The Great Dictator” with a giant beach ball borrowed from the San Simeon pool and all the other comings and goings of the insulated world created by Hearst. “Welcome to this dear little, queer little world,” said Freed, echoing Davies’ greeting to her guests. Expect it to also include Clark Gable, Bette Davis – even Dagwood Bumstead – secret love, music, dancing, political intrigue, swordplay and self-discovery. “Things happen in history that you can’t make up. Nobody would believe it,” said Freed who wants to enlighten as well as entertain audiences.

This past year Dr. Freed has arranged with the following theaters to provide an on-going, greater than 50 percent discount on tickets for all college students, educators and members of the military (with ID cards). Contact the individual websites or box offices for details. CenterRep Theatre at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek: http://www.centerrep.org 925-943-7469 The San Francisco Playhouse in downtown San Francisco: http://www.sfplayhouse.org 415-677-9596 Island City Opera Company in Alameda: http://www.islandcityopera.org 510-759-9771 Enlightenment is also what he wants for his students, calling teaching a lifetime activity. “No one retires from what they love to do. I feel the same way about writing as I do about teaching. In my life and career, these two activities are converging very nicely,” he said. He makes sure his students “experience” theater as well as “read” it, working with San Franciso Bay Area theater companies to provide discounted tickets (see box for details).

He brings in Michael Butler, the artistic director of CenterRep Theater in Walnut Creek, to teach a master class to his students to help them understand the background and the effort that goes into an actual live theatre performance that they had just witnessed. From academics to housing and back again Freed began his university teaching career at Penn State University, but left after 10 years, having grown “exhausted by the banality of 18 and 19 year olds.” He renovated Victorian houses in Pittsburgh and was a low-income housing community developer for Neighborhood Housing Services. Then his life did a 360, returning him to higher education. He was hired as the dean of continuing education and that first semester assigned himself to teach adult learners in the evening at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. “That totally revolutionized what I knew,” he said. He begins his courses now by going around the room (digitally speaking, if it’s an online class rather than a blended one) and asking his students what they’re experts in. And they all have “phenomenal” answers. Then he tells his students, usually in their mid-30s or older, “You were all 18 or 19 and college-worthy back then, but what would you have said you were an expert in at that age?” Usually they say “nothing much,” although a few will candidly admit that they thought they knew everything at that age. “Now the challenge is to learn from and teach that classroom of experts and be creative enough with my own materials and assignments to tap into it.”

He also appreciates the School of Arts and Sciences’ multidisciplinary approach to curriculum development that encourages him to go from “The Iliad” to Google in a single, culture and media studies course rather than just “being marooned on the island of the 16th and 17th century literature.” That’s the fate he describes had he stayed at Penn State.

“All of these opportunities are why I love to work with my students and brilliant colleagues here at Brandman.”

Day 2 of 5 – Show My Art Challenge

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This is the second day of the “Show My Art” challenge, and I have selected three of my older pieces to show you.  This first piece is called, “Van Gogh’s Eye” and was painted by me to give to my now-deceased friend, William Paul Smith.

vangoghseye

The second piece is encaustic on burned wood.  I am honored that it now hangs in the home of artist, Arlene Elizabeth.

red crow

This last piece is a jeweled heart mosaic that I created several years ago.

jeweled heart

The Power of Empathy

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It can be very difficult to empathize with those people with whom you have no connection.  Fortunately, most people are not mean, and in most cases, I do try to connect and empathize with others. Do you?

Here is an interesting talk about empathy.

3 Arts a Day

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I am participating in a sharing challenge issued by a group of artists on Facebook wherein I was challenged by Kim Larson to post 3 pictures of my art every day for 5 days.  So….here I go….

 

This first mosaic is a guitar that I made for recording artist/friend, Amy Corriea, winner of a CMA award and a wonderful, soulful singer.  The guitar resides with Amy in Massachusetts.

art1

This next piece, called, “Martha”, which now hangs in Seattle, Washington, was inspired by the very materials that made her.  My friend, Karyn D. gave me a big box of those tiny little bathroom tiles that most mosaic artists throw out, and some broken chards of china.  This is what I created with it all:

art2

This next piece, called, “Winter” was a large piece that covered one entire wall.  I sold it to a designer in a show in San Francisco a number of years ago and it now hangs in a mansion overlooking the Pacific near Dana’s Point in California.

art3

And these are my three art offerings for the day.   Come back tomorrow for more.

I Could Say More….but ….I Have Self Control…

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kettle of crazy

Have you ever been in a situation where someone that was truly crazy, truly mean, was up to their typical evil because they falsely believe they have something over on you, and you just wanted to rub their nose in their own stupidity?  Don’t. Just ignore them…..Even if you have information that would make them re-think their aggressive bullying.

When you find a big kettle of crazy, it really is best not to stir it.  The crazies will beat that broth with a whisk themselves until it is frothy… so you don’t have to.  The difference between the nut-jobs and yourself is that YOU (or, in this case, “I”) have self-control.

Failure to control oneself is just that….failure…..and who needs to be around hot-tempered, drama queen losers? Attempt to be cool, folks.  Whether your definition of self-control involves stopping drinking or smoking or getting even with the person that keeps making an ass out of him or herself…… exercising self-control is the best answer.  It can be difficult when the other person is a bully who slathers the Internet with stupid memes depicting a reality that only exists in his or her own mind.  You can drop clues about the wrongness of it all until the cows come home, but they continue to gloat and believe lies….so just let them.  betty smokingWhen you feel a good retaliation coming on….even a DESERVED one, meditate! Meditation not only improves your emotional intelligence, it also trains the brain to become a self-control machine. Yes, meditation actually changes the chemical structure of the brain by flooding it with Dopamine, Seratonin and all the other “feel good” chemicals that are produced by the body.  Simple techniques such as mindfulness, that requires as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves self-awareness and the brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason!

Believe it or not, another way to control one’s self is to control what goes into the body.  The brain burns heavily into one’s stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control in those situations where you don’t really WANT to exercise self-control.

When some crazy has pissed you off so badly that you really, really want to flaunt your situation in front of his or her face, if your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses….so eat healthy foods!   Sugary foods rapidly spike sugar levels and leave one feeling drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn, such as whole grain rice or beans, will give anyone a longer window of self-control.

Getting the ‘ol body moving for as little as 10 minutes at a time releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes one’s brain feel soothed and keeps the exerciser in control of his or her impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to upload all kinds of incriminating evidence to your blog, or if you want to splash someone’s CRAZY name all over the Internet…. just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.

Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.

The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at this advice and giving these tips a go before you give in.  Exercise a little self-discipline.   The crazies will take care of themselves.  It takes time to increase your emotional intelligence, but the new habits you form with effort can last a lifetime.

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An Evening at Xico

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My 89 year old father (in another state) suffered a serious medical setback yesterday, so my heart was heavy with worry all day.  Fortunately, he came through the procedure with flying colors and was recovering rapidly last night, so I met a friend for dinner to celebrate that and to simply relieve some of the tension that I had been feeling.

It’s always a treat when my friend, Denise, flies in from Tuscon.  Last night was no exception.  We had a lovely evening at one of my neighborhood’s best restaurants, Xico.  Located at 3715 SE Division Street, Xico offers a small array of freshly prepared, gourmet Mexican food and designer cocktails.

The wait staff is highly knowledgeable about both food and beverage.  This is always a winning element for me.  I like it when the staff knows the food well and can talk about it intelligently.  Here is a little video of Denise and the waitress discussing some of the food:

After hugs and greetings, we started our meal with  smoky margaritas made with Sombra,  one of the restaurant’s “suitcase” mezcals from a mysterious collection that Xico owner Liz Davis hunts down in dirt-floored Mexican palenques where men still hack agave cores with machetes.   It also had fresh lime juice, honey and a half-rim of rust-red, “worm salt” or  sal de guasano, a condiment traditional to Oaxaca but little known here.

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3 appetizers accompanied our cocktails.  We had a small dish of the Queso Fundido, which is usually served with chirozo (Mexican sausage) but, of course, being a vegetarian, I asked that this ingredient be omitted.  It was a perfectly perfect blend of broiled queso barra and muenstar topped with serrano-tomatilo salsa, radish, cabbage and Xito’s fresh-pressed tortillas that were bursting with organic corn that they grind themselves, right in the back room. They smell like wildflowers. A lot of this restaurant’s ingredients must be smoked, crushed, pampered, or flamed before being blended into their masterful concoctions.  This dish was complex with multi-layers of salty, smoky flavor and bursts of fresh herbs.  Wow.  There are simply no words to fully describe how delicious it was.

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We also had the Blood Orange and Apple Salad, that consisted of tequila-infused apples, pomegranate, cucumber, chile arbal, queso cotija resting in a drizzel of blood orange vinagrette.  Mmmmm!  It was as delicious as it was beautiful!

salad

The third appetizer we tried was the Fried Cauliflower.  These were cruciferous  flourettes in an arbol salsa with queso cotja, creme and cilantro.  It was light, full-flavored and delicious.  It seemed the flavors of all the food at this restaurant are so perfectly balanced.  It is unbelievable how they do it.  For every tart flavor, there is a counterbalance of sweetness, and everything was so masterfully prepared and presented.

cauliflower

We each had a main entree, too.  I am not going to write about Denise’s entree because she had pork and fish…but my own was a delicious, roasted Chili Relleno with Amaranth and Black Beans.

chili

This dish was prepared unlike any chili relleno I’d ever tasted, starting with the fact that it was roasted and not fried.  The chili was filled with black beans, amaranth, sun-dried tomatoes and requeson.  It rested in a tomato-canela broth and was topped with sour cream, guacamole, sauteed hedgehog mushrooms and sliced vegetable escabeche garnish.  It was served with a side of Mexican rice.  By the time it arrived, however, I was so full that I could only eat a bite or two, so I had it wrapped and took it home to enjoy for lunch today or tomorrow.  It was light (despite the sour cream, which I pushed to one side…) and delicious!

Denise and I had the best talk!  I enjoyed her company so much, and especially enjoyed the fact that we talked about a future business that we are planning to do together.  She and I just click, in terms of our belief systems and the things that are important to us.  We both had such a good time.

I walked home, ever thankful for my good friends, for my family, for living as close as I do to restaurants such as Xico, for the crisp, cool evening and for just being alive.  Evenings like last night make all of my hard work worth every minute of it!   Oh….and speaking of hard work, I should get back to it now.

On Feminism

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On Feminism

I remember reading something online a couple of years ago.  It was written by a redneck nitwit about one of my friends, and it referred to the friend as a “self-admitted feminist,” in a way that implied that the redneck was somehow “above” my friend….that being a feminist was a bad thing.   I found myself wondering, “How could any woman logically NOT be a feminist and walk away with an ounce of self respect?” and I pondered this question for a long time before I concluded the answer in one word….ignorance.  The redneck is ignorant.  She doesn’t even understand what the term means.

feminism

Feminism is simply the belief that women are already, and should be treated as social and intellectual equals to men.  Many people do not realize it, but feminists can be either male or female.  For instance, my husband is a feminist.  He is very much a man, does guy things…..He just thinks that women and men are equal…and frankly, I like it that way.  It makes me work harder to please him…because he works so hard to please me.  See how that goes?  Feminism is not the same thing as “man hating”.  It isn’t anti-male at all.  People who believe that are fraught with ignorance.

feminist3The basic idea of Feminism revolves around the principle that just because human bodies are designed to perform certain procreative functions, biological elements need not dictate intellectual and social functions, capabilities, and rights.

Feminism also, by its nature, embraces the belief that all people are entitled to freedom and liberty within reason–including equal civil rights–and that discrimination should not be made based on gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, religion, culture, or lifestyle.

feminism2Feminists–and all persons interested in civil equality and intellectuality–are dedicated to fighting the ignorance that says people are controlled by and limited to their biology.

Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be intellectual equals regardless of gender. However, you should still hold the door for a feminist, man or woman; this is known as respect or politeness and need have nothing whatever to do with gender discrimination.
Get down with your own feminist selves, ya’ll.  It is time to embrace equality  for all people.  Deal with it, redneck.

Chasing Unicorns

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Are you a unicorn chaser?  Do you have your eye set on someone that is not interested in you?  That’s too bad….because being in a one-sided relationship cannot be very gratifying.  I can’t imagine having to walk through my life “performing” for someone else so they will love me more.   If it doesn’t come naturally, I don’t want it.  When you stop chasing the wrong things, you allow the opportunity for the RIGHT things to come into your life.  You should not have to change who you are for any other person.

One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.  Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you.  You have your own unique qualities.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right person will be the one that appreciates those qualities fully, not someone to whom you have to defend yourself.

unicorn

If someone wants you in their life, he or she will make room for you.   You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. My advice?   Never, ever insinuate yourself onto someone who continuously overlooks your worth.  I have never understood the concept of chasing after someone that does not want to be in your life.  If the other person is ready to move on or does not cherish you enough to even be faithful to you (without some kind of mutual agreement) ….then it’s time to move on!

chased

After all, what is the point?  How degrading it must feel to know that the person you’re with is only with you because you’re crazy, or because you’ve issued an ultimatum or because you’re vulnerable or because you’ve made some kind of threat. That is not love!  It is intimidation.

How awful it must feel to wake in the morning with the knowledge that you are a burden to someone else, that his or her heart is elsewhere.  I sure wouldn’t want to live that way.  It isn’t healthy…..not for you….and certainly not for the other person.

Why would anyone even *want* to be in a situation such as that?  Even when they “win” and the person stays with them, they are losers.  They can never feel secure about their relationships, and even upon those occasions when they feel the love is reciprocated, it doesn’t last.  There is always that next hurdle to cross, that emotional mountain to climb, that unrelenting insecurity in the pit of the stomach.  Why do people put themselves through it?

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I want to know who I am in a relationship, and I do.  I don’t want to have to suffer the indignity of chasing after someone that is not naturally attracted to or that does not want to be in a relationship with me….and if things don’t work out, I am happy to simply turn away and exit with a smile on my face.  I will never be one of those “clingers” that people shake their heads about.   If someone doesn’t love me, I bow out.  No questions asked.  Fortunately, I am secure in all of my relationships.

I’m very lucky  that way.

Ready to Grout!

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I finished sticking the tesserae onto my mosaic guitar last night. It is now ready for grout.  I am still contemplating colors.  Thinking of either doing a multi-colored, bright grout or charcoal gray.  Will have to think about it for awile….but I think I’ll probably go with the dark gray.

The front:

pregroutguitar

And the back:

pregrout guitar back

After the piece is grouted, I will be listing it on Etsy.  Will post a notice here.

The Age of Attention in the Music Industry

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The Age of Attention in the Music Industry

I have a lot of friends in the music industry.  The ones that have taken note of what is going on NOW are doing well.  The ones that are stuck in the past and still using the old tricks of the trade are simply stuck….and I don’t think they’ll be going anywhere any time soon.    Simply put, a new paradigm has formed and those that do not heed the call will get left in the dust.

There are a number of things that have caused this shift in how things are done in the music industry:

1. The Demand

Music is a business just like any other.  It follows and feeds on money. Don’t get me wrong.  Music doesn’t exist because of money….but the music business does.   Over the past twenty years, music has suffered through the invention of the CD, free torrents,  iTunes (with Apple’s  30 percent cut), Napster, and now, all of the new streaming services that lower sales below the already-low, low level.

The industry has been rocked by all kinds of new trends, and has recently succumbed to a state of  free-fall terror.   Industry leaders are clutching whatever straws are left in an attempt to still make a little profit from the remains of its now-broken business models.

As music becomes firmly embedded in the digital realm, Millennials have become the dominant music consumers.  They also dominate the most likely successful future market for music: mobile devices.  Millennials  use music and other kinds of entertainment apps more than 75 percent more than anyone else. They also use social sharing apps 20 % more frequently than any other demographic.

In other words,  Millennials consume more music than anyone else, and they tell the greatest number of people about it.   Why the sharing?  Why is this so important?

The old music industry had a banner metric of artist success: album sales. For years, album sales have been declining and the growth of singles and streaming services have accelerated the trend.

As we’ve transitioned into a digital music economy, new measures of success have emerged. A new generation of artists has hit the scene and they thrive on attention rather than units of music they sell.

The attention has become every bit as valuable as one’s likelihood to purchase.   The attention is what leads to festival and concert attendance, merchandising sales and other sources of revenue. However, they still won’t buy anyone’s music.

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Brands know this, too. Companies like GUESS, Red Bull and Steve Madden will pour more than $1.34 billion into sponsoring music venues, festivals and tours this year.

Over a billion dollars will be spent for the opportunity to build customer relationships and brand equity with digital natives. In contrast, the top 10 highest-earning electronic artists last year cumulatively made just over $240 million  —  less than 20 percent of what brands will spend in 2014 to capture Millennials’ attention.

What brands understand is that music is an important part of Millennials’ identity. It’s more than entertainment for this generation. The music they listen to can be as important as how they dress and influences who their friends are.  Going to festivals and concerts is an expression of identity. The brand will become part of the fans’ lifestyle.

The crux is that the music industry and the big brands are both chasing the new generation of artists; artists who can capture, retain and monetize attention — instead of album sales — and who can keep Millennials interested.  If you’re still trying to ride that old steam engine, it’s time to jump off and ride the new wave of music.


2. The Supply

These days, the only things required to make a sellable recording is a computer and a piece of  recording software.  One of the most powerful professional  digital audio workstations used to produce music is Logic Pro from Apple.  Get this…it only costs $200.   It has virtual instruments like pianos, synthesizers and drums, as well as all the necessary tools to edit and produce audio.

Most of the equipment required to create music has been absorbed into digital audio workstations while the software continues to get easier and easier to use. The end result is that artists can create music more quickly, more efficiently and less expensively than at any other time in history.

Gotye created “Somebody That I Used to Know” in his parents’ house in Australia.

The song reached #1 on more than 23 national charts and landed  inside the top 10 in over 30 countries worldwide.   By December of 2012, it became the best-selling song of that year.  That’s right.  A song recorded in an Australian basement with a $200 piece of software sold over 11.8 million copies! It was ranked among the best-selling digital singles of all time.

A young Dutch producer named Martin Garrix reached the top of the charts in more than 10 countries with his smash hit, “Animals,”

He  produced and released this song when he was only 17 years old. The song hit number one on Beatport, making Garrix the youngest person ever to receive the honor.

Millennials, who can simply record after class or work, are mostly familiar with this technology, but our open-source attitude toward learning is much more important.

Search “How to use Logic Pro” in YouTube and you’ll find thousands of free tutorials. Sites like Reddit have entire communities with tens of thousands of members who are dedicated to learning about music production.


3. Music Discovery Is At An All-time High

Music discovery and music production go hand in hand. However, as technology has enabled easy music production for emerging artists, it has also provided them with a way to reach fans all over the world.

There are the classic success stories like Justin Bieber and Lana Del Rey, of course, but below the YouTube empire rests an entire culture of Millennials who are discovering music online.

Platforms such as SoundCloud have more than 250 million active users each month and Millennials discover their music predominately through these digital platforms. Oh, and by the way,  when digital natives produce new music, they initially release it on the digital platforms.

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A key element to remember:  Millennials are creating more music than ever and releasing it onto platforms where their peers go to discover music.


4. Millennials Are Forming Powerful Musical Teams

Powerful songwriting and production teams exist to back popular artists such as Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Katy Perry. These teams are one of the primary drivers that sustain  the superstar artists on top. Working in teams allows writers to churn out tons of highly enjoyable music tracks at top speeds.

However, Millennials are breaking down this final barrier, too.

Services like FindMySong are connecting independent musicians so they can form their own dominant songwriting and production teams. The FindMySong model takes advantage of the fact that there are more independent musicians than ever before who want a piece of the major artist success without the major label strings.

With cheap recording technology and an effective way to distribute the music, these independents team up online to rival major labels.

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For the first time in its history, the American music business is firmly in the hands of the artists and the consumers. The power is now in your hands.  You have the ability to lead the industry wherever you want it to go.  Where will that be?

Nashville

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Nashville

Since Nashville has been the topic of a lot of recent conversation between a close friend and myself lately, I thought I’d let you in on the fact that ABC is seeking paid extras for its prime time series “Nashville” currently filming in Music City.

The network is looking for all ages and all types of people including music industry types and musicians, upscale conservative business types, hip Nashville scene types and general everyday people.

The job doesn’t pay much money, but promises to be fun.  Extras will be paid $8 an hour with a guarantee of eight hours plus overtime.

Filming will take place on a Monday through Friday basis.  Work days generally average between 10 and 12 hours.

To be considered for extra work on “Nashville”, visit OnLocationCasting.net and complete free talent application or send an email to nashvilleextras@gmail.com with a recent photo, your first and last name, height and weight and contact number.