My love affair with cooking started when I brought home my first cookbook (ordered from the Scholastic books fair at school, naturally). It was theBetter Homes & Gardens New Junior Cookbook! The image of a red checkered cover with two children on the front will forever be burned into my brain.
There were a few times I found myself talking to other people in college about this cookbook.
Everyone always said they tried the snickerdoodles recipe.
For me, it was the french toast.
This here french toast recipe changed my life.
Making French toast at 8 years old was a major life skill to have. A skill my brothers had not yet figured out. A skill that would serve me well in life, but most importantly throughout my childhood, when I had to barter/bribe my older brothers. French toast, while we were watching Saturday cartoons, could get me out of washing my dad’s car sometimes. I imagine I easily weaseled my way out of clearing the dishes with a batch of French Toast. We’re Italian. Food is our everything.
I have to say, that I had a few things preventing me from reaching my french toast potential as a youth. We only ever had whole wheat bread in our house and margarine was the preferred spread of choice. French bread with and butter was reserved for when my parent’s had people over. And BOY DID WE INDULGE.
Now, our french toast is mostly made from sourdough bread (my husband’s favorite bread) and we use real butter.
One Friday night, with a little extra bourbon in my glass, I inadvertently found my first cookbook on for sale Etsy. It arrive last week!!!!!!!!!!!!
Feast your eyes on some of the illustrations from the book!
I posted a video of this on my Instagram stories and a few of you also cooked from this book too!
Do you remember it too??? LOOK AT THE R in FRUIT!!!
Cooper has been at home this week from school with a really bad case of poison oak. Our schedules have been thrown off and we’re busy doing a lot of catching up with school work.
I thought that it would be fun to throw a Shutterbean cooking lesson in the teaching plan while we’re at it.
(This is an old picture. I would never put a picture of him with poison oak online!)
Yesterday morning we made French Toast together and he said it was one of the best french toasts he’s ever had! It’s an Easy French Toast recipe. Totally simple and uncomplicated. We’re cinnamon lovers in my house so I add a little bit extra on top of the final result.
It’s a special thing to teach Cooper how to make one of his favorite breakfasts. The best part is that we live in the house I grew up in, so we get to be in the kitchen where I learned how to cook. We stand in the same exact spot where my mom taught me so many important life skills I use to this day (Thanks, Mom! I owe you!!)
My hope is that he remembers these moments of magic in the kitchen when he takes these skills with him into adulthood. Maybe eating french toast on sourdough bread in his first college apartment will remind him of staying at home and spending quality time with his Mom, who did whatever it took to help him heal and feel better.
We’re getting a few sunny days sprinkled in with our rainy days!
As I write this, I’m sitting in the back of the car as we drive home from visiting family in Idaho to surprise my mother-in-law on her birthday. We had a blast! I ate and drank too much, but we were with family, so WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
Cooper has poison oak. It’s really bad. The worst of it is on his face. Poor guy.
Also! I had a Ladies Craft Night–Valentine’s Day. I am going to try to put together another one soon. Thinking Easter candy might be a fun situation! Or maybe dyeing eggs?
We’re happy that Billions is back! I’ve fallen asleep during the first few episodes. Sometimes my brain just checks out when there’s too much information to absorb late at night. But I have to say, I love falling asleep while watching something.
We’re also really excited to have new episodes of This is Us to watch. Are you watching it too??? The last episode had me bawling!!!!!
Another great show I watched this month— Z: The Beginning of Everything. Christina Ricci is so fun to watch. I’ve always loved her. The costumes and the set design are just dreamy!
Sneaky Pete has also been good. We’re working our way through it slooooowly.
Casey has been watching This Old House on youtube this month…..it’s always on in the background and I catch myself watching too.
Old cookbooks! Vintage cookbooks! Been reading through old recipes to see how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. I’m fascinating out simple older recipes used to be. The directions are always a lot shorter with a lot less description of what you’re supposed to do. I also love looking at all the photography. So much has changed in the way people present/style food!
I picked up the book the Tao of Leadership at a thrift store this month. When I was in college, I studied Eastern Philosophy and really loved learning about Taoism. When I’m out thrifting, I feel like the books pick ME. This one has been quite enjoyable. The information is bite-sized, so I read maybe 1-2 pages a day. It’s a nice addition to my meditation practice.
Doing the Whole30 again. Or maybe just going without bread for awhile. I gotta work more on my self-control. I’m noticing that I can be disciplined when I give myself some rules. The problem is I’ll be like…. NO BREAD STARTING TOMORROW!! And then I have toast at breakfast. I’m trying not to be hard on myself, but I also gotta get REAL with myself.
Taking a floral class online. I want my flower arrangements to be less boring. For some reason they always look the same even when I try to do something different.
I really need to color my hair and cut it. It’s overgrown!!!!!! I’ve gotta lot of gray! I NEED A SHAPE.
Nothing fun to report. I haven’t been remembering my dreams when I wake up.
But I am daydreaming a lot. Hopefully, I’ll make some of my daydreams happen.
I’ve been into eating arugula salads with feta, tomatoes, and marinated artichokes (see below!). Sometimes I throw some sunflower seeds up in there. I toss it with a lemon juice and olive oil. I think I’m gonna throw some chicken in this week.
And I gotta get myself back on the kombucha making cycle. I traveled and was thrown off of my routine and I’ve just let my scoby GO/GROW!
SO! Tell me what’s up with you!
How was your February?
Leave your stream of consciousness in the comments
Just know that whatever you use, use good judgment. You don’t want crayon toxins in your food. My heating tray is just used for crayons. CRAYON ONLY!!!
Use the ones you’ve got!! My mom saved a lot of my crayons from my childhood and when my niece was little, so we have quite a ton to go through. If you’re looking for a particular color scheme, you can buy crayons in bulk on Amazon. I did it for my ladies craft night last month to get all of those Valentine’s colors.
Crayons have a lot of oil in them. If you’re not careful the oil will get into your heating tray. Before I turn on the heating tray, I place a piece of aluminum foil and wrap it around the top, making sure to cover the edges to prevent the crayon oil getting into the heating element. Put on the aluminum foil before you heat it up or else you’ll burn your fingers trying to put it on a hot heating tray.
This is what we melt crayons on. If you use regular paper (like we do sometimes) the oils will soak up in the paper. Using parchment paper makes a better print. It’s also really easy to use/makes for a quick cleanup.
Taking the wrappers off of crayons is a pain. Use an Exacto knife and cut the wrapper off.
(I find it to be VERY satisfying)
You’ll want to move around colors, but you’ll burn your hands if you’re not careful. Use sticks!
GLASS OF WATER
Keep a glass of water nearby. You never know when little impatient fingers will strike!! Dip your finger(s) that have wax on them in cold water. The wax will harden instantly, and you’ll prevent some burning from happening. Watch your sleeves and clothes. Wax is hard to get out of cloth. Use common sense and be careful!
For our crayon projects, we always use a heavy cardstock or large index cards. You’ll want a paper with some weight. It will make the process a bit easier if your paper is thick.
Ahhhh the smell of crayons.
Speaking of crayons, you should watch this crayon video from my childhood:
Here’s my heating tray!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So, I wrap it in foil.
Then I add parchment on top.
I cut it to fit. Heat up the tray. AND GO.
Now you can melt the crayons on top of the parchment.
Takes a few minutes for them to melt fully.
Use a stick to mix it up.
Swirls are fun.
When you’re ready to make a print, place a piece of paper down.
We use big index cards!
Pull the paper up slowly. I find it’s best to pull from an edge.
Pretend you’re peeling back the back of a poloroid.
AND WATCH THE MAGIC HAPPEN.
We find that each color batch can produce 4 pretty good prints.
You can see that the bottom right is the last print pulled.
The first prints are pretty dense.
And sometimes you find beauty in whatever is leftover on the parchment paper.
Last year I wrote a post about how I keep creativity alive. A lot of the practices I talked about still keep me going, but there’s something new I added to my creative routine.
Making time to learn.
Learning from others and figuring out how to incorporate these new tricks/techniques/perspectives into my own work inspires me to keep working through my creative endeavors.
Last month I started challenging myself to take a new Skillshare class each week and I can already see it making an impact on my creative life!
Skillshare is an online community for learning & teaching creative skills. Skillshare connects expert practitioners with students around the world who collaborate on everyday skills from culinary arts, photography to design.
So far, I’ve taken 6 classes. They’ve mostly been photography classes so I can refresh some of my skills and force myself to see things from someone else’s perspective. I’ve also taken a few drawing classes and I can’t wait to dive into some of their illustration and hand lettering classes.
Most of the classes are an hour or less, so the time commitment doesn’t impact my schedule that much. A lot of them have homework assignments if you want to challenge yourself even more
I really enjoyed this class. I’ve actually linked to some of Henry Hargreaves work in my I love Lists! He is the photographer known for creating vignettes of bands/musicians riders and photographing what the last meal of death row inmate could have looked like based on their requests.
His work inspires the heck out of me!
During this class, you get to see how Henry conceptualizes Elvis’ DECADENT Fool’s Gold Sandwich. Henry sets up the shot, makes the food, styles it and walks you through his process. It made me wonder what it would be like setting up a shot in my kitchen to show you how I do what I do!
When I’m taking notes, I go back & forth between writing and watching. I always write in pencil and then follow it up with a pen. When I go over my notes in pen, I find that I absorb the information better. It’s like a re-cap of what I just learned. This is very important for me as a visual learner!
A few things I wrote down that stood out:
No one knows the creative process. You have the luxury of the journey to that product to explore.
(This is in regards to getting overwhelmed while being in the process of working out your concept. The journey leads you to the end result. Don’t get stressed out about the journey.)
“If I’m not comfortable doing something on my own, I collaborate.”
(Yes. I need to do more of that. I just need to find the right people is all.)
After taking this class, I am currently trying to figure out what recipes(s) from my childhood I’d like to put on my blog. I’d style them so it looks like it’s from our dinner table in the 80s. Wouldn’t that be fun?
I loved that his course made me think! There’s so much fun to be had with food, and he is right- Food is a great common denominator.
I’ve admired Daniel Krieger’s work for some time. He’s wildly popular online! I wanted to take this class because he always has such well-lit photos in his restaurant shots and I sometimes struggle with getting things just right.
His course forced me to look at the restaurant as a whole. Instead of focusing just on the food, sometimes you gotta get an ambient picture to paint the scene.
I took his advice when I was out to breakfast the other day and I really like how the action plays out in the background.
He also talked about how you can use the lines of the table to create positive & negative space.
Check the corners and edges of a table!
The biggest takeaway from that class (and it’s actually so simple!) was to ask your waitstaff what some of the prettiest/most appetizing dishes are at the restaurant you’re shooting at. It will help dictate what you shoot instead of hoping the pasta dish you want to shoot looks the way you want it to.
This was a quick class with a lot of good bite-sized information.
Leela does a really great job at explaining the 5 different food styles to food photography.
She breaks them down into:
Airy + Bright
Dramatic (High Contrast) —- my favorite
Bright & Clean
The cool thing about Skillshare, is that teachers can give assignments to students and you can interact with the teachers! So in this course, Leela challenges her students to create a few photos on two of the styles she demonstrated.
I’d like to work a little more on my lifestyle shooting. Human interaction can add character and movement to a scene.
Dirty kid fingers and the angle add some life into the scene.
We’re eating hot dogs at Home Depot. Very glamorous, I know. But we’re doing it on a rolling cart and the sun was perfect. We’re just lifestyling! Hot dogs on the go!
With the help of her course, I’ve been more diligent about mapping some of my shots (visually) before I get started shooting. I know I should be doing it, but sometimes I just jump right in and then force myself into a manic position to get stuff done.
Here’s an example of getting my head in the game before I shoot:
What I learned while taking classes with Skillshare online:
Sometimes listening to someone else’s descriptions of what they do helps me realize how I have my own processes.
This creative practice I’ve built for myself reminded me how much I love learning. As someone who has taught a few workshops, I really appreciate watching different courses to see how each teacher delivers their particular information. Sometimes I really miss all the note-taking I did in college, so it’s been a good excuse to fill my sketchbooks with notes. Learning new things while practicing my handwriting has also been very rewarding!
I hope this inspires you to set some time out each week to learn a new skill. I can’t wait to see how far these courses take me!
This post was sponsored by Skillshare. As always, all opinions are my own.
Skillshare is offering Shutterbean readers two free months of Skillshare Premium, so you can enjoy these courses as well as 15,000 other Skillshare classes at no extra cost. Check out the promotion here!!