Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bok Choy Roses

The last time I cooked with bok choy, I realized the cut ends look like an arrangement of green roses or hellebores. It simply amazes me how nature surprises us with its simple, unexpected beauty.

Creative Life in Progress

Summer is on the wane. You can hear it in the crickets and the cicadas, the crows and the tall, ripening corn. The days have been getting shorter since June, and blissfully cooler mornings are returning to give us brief respite from the notorious August heat. As time goes on, super moons come and go, I've been working as usual on writing and life in general. Nothing terribly earth-shattering or noteworthy, just life. And that's okay.

Sometimes, I realize, I don't run and hide from this little blog so much as drift away from it, enjoying a bit of insular creativity. I've not been writing in a vacuum per se - no one can really do that. This summer has been an exercise in Not Caring (so much) What the World Thinks: untangling myself from the habits of reading tweets and visiting beloved blogs, avoiding online "advice", and making my own way on this creative path. For a person who gets easily confuddled and stressed out the more "voices" are speaking, this was the sanest choice.

One thing I re-learned this summer - which happens to be my first summer in my solo apartment - is how creativity isn't just about working on a novel, coming to the journal on a daily basis, or even strictly for whatever art may be your heart-work. Creativity is a way of living, of solving problems, of stretching little skills. When you're a writer working a not-so-lucrative job and move into a small solo apartment, you find ways of making up for things you need that roommates previously had (i.e. a juicer). It's also nice to discover what things you don't need and won't miss. Life suddenly becomes flexible, manageable, and fun.

I didn't have a spice rack when I began to stock my tiny kitchen. I love to cook so I had a fair number of little jars of thyme, nutmeg, cloves & cinnamon. As I get older, I seriously questioned the logic of buying something brand new just to hold a bunch of spices, although, frequenting Michael's and other crafty places it was darned tempting to fork over my money for something that was simple and cute and maybe made out of chicken wire. I stopped, had a think and realized I had a CD rack sitting idly by, pining away without a purpose. An idea was born. Probably not the first time such an innovation was made, but sheer brilliance where I was concerned. After all, I use iTunes like I use air and CDs have long come to be nothing more than ultimate wasters of space. These were sequestered into storage and out of my hair. Then, I cut up pieces of binder cardboard, covered them with craft paper and voila:

Many innovations have followed. That old wooden pizza paddle? A cutting board. The tea kettle that is missing a handle? Utensil holder. No lid for a sauce pan? Use that little skillet. What about this useless (except for Christmas) pudding tin? Look: it's a reservoir for all my chargers. What about these pretty but broken tea cups and saucers? Soap dishes and make-up holders. The vases that seem to multiply every time I visit my elderly neighbor? Holders for pencils, silverware. That chipped tea pot (I have two nicer-looking ones)? Planter. Paella pan? Tray for the living room ottoman. Old tea tins? Again, pens and pencils, loose change. What can I use for a rolling pin? A wine bottle. A juicer? The top of a tea pot or your fist. Fruit bowl? That bundt pan I use twice a year. When you think about it, the possibilities are endless.

I have to admit that I was in such a repurposing frenzy that I almost, almost used the back of my old (cheap, Target, fiberboard) book case to make a room divider. I waited ten minutes, the scales fell from my eyes, and into the dumpster it went.

Another big innovation, which raises eyebrows in some circles, was my headboard. It's one of those bookshelf headboards - great if you like reading in bed but not if you happen to have a wily cat who likes to explore and drop things on you as you're trying to sleep. Besides, it rattled. And it looked funny against the windows. And I don't read in bed all that much anyway. One day I unscrewed it from the bed frame and hauled it into the closet to serve as a dresser, which I desperately needed.

I have no pictures of it because my closet is rather unslightly. I've decided that the shelves don't really work to organize piles of tights and t-shirts, so plans are simmering in my brain to find tote-boxes or baskets that fit the headboard's particular dimensions. I also want very badly to paint it a softer color. Wood is great, but this "piece" is beat up and in no way interesting, and I'd like it to flow with the rest of the closet. A little walk-in, I'd like to give the space a more opulent look. For now the closet is cleanly painted but acne-pocked from decades of wear. The headboard, you see, fits into a much larger make-over project that will involve paint, temporary wallpaper, tension rods and shoe racks. A "before" picture would be embarrassing, especially before an "after" is possible.

Recently, I've been conscious of the blank walls in my apartment. A few weeks ago, I remembered the hideous framed poster I'd stashed behind my cubicle. A coworker found it in an unused office and needed to get rid of it. I'd casually said I might be able to do something with it, but it was hideous. A 1988 "desert flower" (or something) print. It lurked nearby for a year until I realized, yes, I could do something with it, or at least the fairly decent black frame that came with it. See? Hideous:

I discovered the poster was glued to the backing, so I once again utilized craft paper and covered it over. Then, I went through my old calendars and took apart three-years worth of radiograph flowers (Stephen Meyers), arranged twelve of them and patterned them with cardstock. I painted the frame a warm grey. Hanging on my dining room wall, it is a nice eye-catcher.

Radiograph flowers (calendar pieces). Left to right: top row- cyclamen, brugmansia, alstroemeria; 2nd row  - rose, clematis, lily; 3rd row - iris, tulip, anemone; bottom row - calla lily, cup and saucer, columbine. 12 down, 24 to go.

Another project of note was making the best use of my tiny kitchen. A tiny kitchen doesn't bother me, but awkward shelf space does. And as the landlady has given an absolute "NO!" to screws in her walls (which is understandable), I had to find a way to nail things up in an orderly fashion.

This photo pretty much shows the extent of my kitchen. To the left of the sink is a "bar" or a window of sorts, and to the right of the stove is the fridge. The wooden shelves go up to the ceiling but they're hard to get into if you've got something cooking. The obvious solution was to use the space immediately behind the spice rack. That strange corner used to be a coal shaft. 

Then I experimented with picture nails and hooks and baskets. Yup. That is my kitchen. Blink, and you miss it. You can also see the (green) kettle that holds utensils, the pizza paddle cutting board, and the spice rack sitting in a shelf. I'd like to figure out how to make a back splash without putting adhesive on the walls.

In order to maximize space and keep the cat off the "bar", I bought a few little shelves and decided my dishes would be there, within immediate reach. Nothing is worse than finding cat hair (or worse) on your clean dishes. Ninja can no longer get up there - victory!

What I'm proud of most of all is a new found ability to use and reuse the things I already have. My philosophy is "sure the label says it's a CD rack, but does it have to be a CD rack?" or "What is the fundamental difference between a utensil holder and a vase?" I'm not looking into these solutions to be trendy, but savvy. I get a kick out of that kettle, by the way. I thought it was absurd to throw it out.

The nailing and hammering, painting and glueing down, rearranging and repurposing are skills I apply every day to writing and rewriting my novel, penning my journal and blog entries. Nothing is wasted, nothing is meaningless... and if by chance it is, then I don't hesitate to get rid of it. (Okay, perhaps I hesitate a little bit.) There is always more than one solution to a dilemma. This goes for storage space in a tiny kitchen and a scene in a novel that just won't work. All it takes is a little time, a little patience and a little creativity.


to a blog by three people who write, for anyone else who wants to write. It's a cruel world for creators, and here we promise support, whimsy, and curiosity that will hopefully keep your pen moving and keyboard tapping!

To read more about why Daedalus Notes exists, click