365 Somethings Project: Week 5

And so, I have made it to week 5. Each week, I keep a short list in my notebook of what I want to accomplish creatively. This week, the list didn’t happen, primarily because I have a book to review and reading takes up my precious bits of creative time. Still, I did find ways to be creative.

1. Rachel Reinert’s Color Workshop: I managed to complete Rachel’s highlighting and shadowing project. I like how this turned out. Furthermore, I genuinely enjoyed the time I took to work through this project. I was very happily absorbed, and that feeling counts for a lot with me.

The highlighting and shadowing project in Color Workshop

2. William Sonoma’s The New Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken with Lemon Vinaigrette Couscous with Raisins:  This one is absolutely delicious. The house smells fantastic with spices I don’t typically use, and hungry teens seem to be lurking in the shadows around the slow cooker. I’m calling that a win.

Moroccan Chicken with Lemon Vinaigrette Couscous with Raisins

3. Photography: I posted an entry in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge for the subject of variations on a theme. I have also been goofing around more with my Nikon D500 and Picasa and posted several pictures that made me smile.

4. Daily Prompt Books: This week I dabbled in some of my daily prompt books. I certainly didn’t do so with any consistency. Still, grabbing a prompt and writing or drawing for a few minutes let me exercise my creative muscle without feeling too invested in an outcome. The books I’m working through at the moment are Draw Every Day Draw Every Way and A Writer’s Book of Days, and they seem to suit me quite well. That said, I will not post any pictures from these exercises because I need a place to simply learn without an audience watching. (Thank you, Pierr, for the good advice.)

With that, I’ve completed my fifth week of the 365 Somethings Project. I think I’ve created enough of a fledgling habit to justify to myself announcing my goals and parameters for my project in my sixth week. So, it’s finally time to reveal my master plan . . . . 😉

365 Somethings Project: Week 4

This week’s report will be very concise because I’m feeling particularly worn. Still, progress was made. As always, if you want to know more about the underlying challenge, see iHanna’s post.

  1. Rachel Reinert’s Color Workshop: This week I used petroleum jelly to blend oil-based colored pencil. Per Rachel’s suggestion, I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils. I found these much nicer to work with than my usual wax-based Prismacolor pencils, and I liked the result:

    Polychromos pencils blended with petroleum jelly

    2. Hoisin Pork and Vegetables from Prevention’s Ultimate Quick & Healthy Cookbook: I bought this cookbook not long after I married, and it quickly became a favorite before we had children. After that, the recipes seemed a bit labor intensive and the quantities too small for the time I had to cook and number I had to feed. This week, however, I found this recipe. After changing the proportions to twice the meat and noodles, three times the sauce, and at least three times the vegetables, it turned out really well, and I have leftovers for another meal.

    Hoisin Pork and Vegetables


3.  Ashley Cowl: Okay, we aren’t going to discuss this one, let alone photograph my progress this week. Let’s just say I learned that, as much as I’m determined to make progress, it’s better to stop when I’m tired or distracted. :/

4. WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: This week, the topic was silence. I’m still a bit on the fence about my photo, but I suppose it sometimes counts just to show up.

I’m toying with adding a daily or weekly writing prompt from one of my writing books and/or carrying a small sketchbook with me so I can doodle or make a fast sketch when I get a moment away from home. I think there is a balance to be found between being spread to thin among various endeavors and having different avenues of creativity for whatever circumstances I am in.

Project 365 Somethings: Week 2

(I’ve decided to post the purpose and parameters of my Project 365 Somethings when I’ve reached week 6. That way, I can refine the details and confirm my commitment to myself before announcing it here. However, if curiosity is killing you, I can say that my fellow blogger, Ihanna, suggested the challenge, and you can head over to Sweden and read what she proposed here.)

This week, I set a couple of goals for myself to have opportunities to infuse creativity into my day wherever I am.

1. Rachel Reinert’s Color Workshop: When working on this project, I discovered that I like to focus with good light and few distractions. Therefore, working at home in my office makes the most sense. Unfortunately, two-thirds of my homeschooling sons returned to their normal schedule this week, so I had far less time at home. That said, I still accomplished a little. I worked on Rachel’s burnishing project:

Rachel Reinert’s Color Workshop Burnishing Project in progress


At first, my internal critic immediately piped up that I hadn’t accomplished enough for this week . However, some of this challenge for me is about enjoyment, and, although I’d like to finish everything, I enjoyed what I did and I’m going to make the choice to focus on that.

2. Ashley Knit Cowl: If the Color Workshop is best accomplished at home, this little cowl project is perfect for portable creativity. It fits neatly into my backpack and the pattern is simple enough to accomplish in a noisy, distracting environment like my sons’ alternative school. Best of all, I get a lovely sense of achievement and the tactile and visual joy as the yarn runs through my fingers.

Ashley Cowl in progress

3. Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken with Potatoes and Mushrooms: I decided an easy and useful way to add a bit more creativity to my week could be as simple as dusting off one of my numerous cookbooks and trying a new recipe. This week I chose Lemon Chicken with Potatoes and Mushrooms, which was fairly quick and easy. I intended to take a picture of it when it finished in the slow cooker, but, with two male teens and one male preteen in my house, I was too late. Then again, I think that might say enough in itself. I did manage to get a photo before the adults took their portion, so I suppose that is something.

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker




Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker: Lemon Chicken with Potatoes and Mushrooms

Whenever I make a new recipe, I follow it exactly the first time.  After that, however, I can’t help but start making it my own. In this case, I would switch from a whole chicken to chicken breasts to lower the fat and add broccoli florets and diced bell peppers in various colors to increase the variety of vegetables and add some color.

4. WordPress Weekly Photo Challenges: I decided to join the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenges because it nudges me to play with my Nikon D5000 and a handful of lenses. The topic of the challenge this week was growth, and I was pleased with how my entry turned out.

Overall, I’m generally happy with my progress this week, and I think happier for the 365 project overall.

Creative Every Day Check-In Recipe

1-001-001Here, I started with the recipe for oatmeal pancakes with maple fruit from The Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook, but I can’t leave any recipe alone. Instead of putting sliced bananas on top with the berries, I mashed three to four bananas into the batter. I also skipped the sugar-free maple syrup in and on the pancakes. Instead, I microwaved frozen mixed berries and let the juice create a syrup and added a couple of slices of turkey bacon.



It’s What’s for Lunch!

Okay, my posts are getting a bit redundant, but cooking is about my only creative outlet at the moment. I’m having fun trying to find new and interesting ways to empty the freezer and pantry by creating new combinations before we leave.

Today, I steamed a large amount of CSA broccoli, browned a package of turkey burger, and made a large pot of pasta. After that, I whipped up a quick cheese sauce using sharp cheddar and combined all the ingredients for a tasty lunch. Yum! And I have enough leftovers for one more meal!002-001

More Delicious Food

In a continuing effort to use what is on hand, here is my latest concoction. 061

In this particular dish, I sauteed summer and crookneck squash with zucchini, red onions, mushrooms, and minced garlic. In a separate pan, I browned turkey burger and chicken sausage of a mild, but indeterminate type. Finally, I mixed it all together with organic spaghetti sauce. Fantastic!

Delicious Food!

I have a small announcement. We’re moving to Washington State!

Yes, after two years of relentless searching, we found the place for us.

As a rather obvious result, we are spending our summer organizing and packing. I also have one pantry, two freezers, some fairly productive fruit trees and a short-term CSA box subscription to liquidate.

Bottom line, with a bit of creativity, we are eating well these days!

This is a quick mix of diced turkey bacon, Swiss chard, minced garlic, diced tomatoes, red onion, diced mushrooms, and leftover rotisserie chicken. I mixed this with two pounds of black beans and served on whole grain tortillas with guacamole and shredded cheese.


This breakfast scramble has three eggs, one cup of egg whites, a good handful of jack cheese, diced bell peppers, diced mushrooms, and diced potatoes fried with garlic and a little olive oil. Fantastic!


This fruit salad has organic peaches, plums, apples, grapes, nectarines and grown-right-on-our-own-tree apricots. I dressed with organic vanilla yogurt. A fabulous dessert!


We got a nice bunch of kale and green onions in our CSA box, so I sauteed the onions and some mushrooms in olive oil, white wine, and minced garlic and wilted the kale on top. Yum!

011I’m sure the move will have its rough moments, but food wont be one.

Recipe: Food & Wine’s Garlicky White Bean Soup with Chicken and Chard

My good friend, Cyber Momma at Homegrown Minds brought Food & Wine’s Garlicky White Bean Soup with Chicken and Chard recipe to my attention a couple of weeks ago, and I decided to give it a try tonight. I followed the recipe exactly with two exceptions: I added portobello mushrooms and a little white wine. Per the recipe’s suggestion, I paired the soup with a fresh loaf of Dutch Crust and a green salad. It turned out to be a delicious meal about which I could feel good.

Garlicky White Bean Soup with Chicken and Chard

Cooking Adventures

I’ve been experimenting a bit in the kitchen of late.In the last two days, I’ve backed two loaves of Honey-Whole Wheat Bread from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook.


and Coq au Vin from Clean Eating magazine’s November/December 2012 issue.

003Truth be told, I’m not too thrilled with either endeavor. I prefer my bread to have more texture. Although this was wheat bread, it had the texture of white. So, I’m now in search of a bread recipe with more twigs and bark. 🙂

As for the coq au vin, it’s delicious, but somehow mine has the consistency of mush. I’m trying to figure out where exactly I went wrong. I’m thinking it has something to do with the potatoes. The picture in the magazine looks much more appetizing. Still, as I said, the flavor is good, and this dish wont go to waste.

P.S.: I think I finally realized why my coq au vin became mushy. The recipe called for new potatoes. I used larger potatoes that I peeled and diced. If I had used new potatoes still in their skin, I think they would not have become mushy. Next time!

Chicken Stew

After all of the sugar and white flour that was our Christmas, I craved some healthy food. At the same time, I didn’t want to brave the shops just yet. So, I put together this fabulous stew from items on hand. Since I made it up as I went, the proportions are imprecise. This made two large crockpots of stew.

6 chicken breasts
4 stocks of broccoli
5 large yams, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large red onion
2 cartons of sliced mushrooms
a colander full of assorted red, yellow, and orange mini bell peppers
1 pound kidney beans
1 pound white beans
2 cartons of chicken broth
1 cup white wine
2 boxes of Pomo diced tomatoes
garlic salt
4 bay leaves

Soak and cook the beans according to directions. Divide between two pots. Dice the onion and bell peppers and saute with the mushrooms in olive oil. Divide between pots, along with the broccoli and yams. Pour one carton of chicken broth in each and split the wine between the two pots. Place three chicken breasts in each pot and pour the tomatoes over the chicken. Make sure the chicken is submerged. Season to taste. (I threw in liberal amounts of each spice.)

Cook on high for two hours and on low for 10. The chicken should break up with a fork.