Monday, January 20, 2014

Savory and Sweet...
...Keeping My Resolution

As I posted at the beginning of the year, I made only one resolution: to savor each day.  I'll be the first to admit it, some days are easier than others!  Our weather has run the gamut of snow, below zero temps, and cloudy, gray days; work has been busy; there's the usual plethora of day to day concerns that distract us from enjoying life, and there is still mountains of stuff that I need to unpack and organize from my move . Still, I have found plenty of opportunities to savor each day.

I am quite fortunate to be blessed with an amazing view of Lake Michigan and if nothing else, I try to start each day by watching the sunrise. Some days are a dazzling display of color, others are moody and gray, but nonetheless beautiful in their own right:

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

I also get treated to beautiful sunsets and moonrises! Taking time to watch the subtle changes as we go from night to day or day to night is relaxing and reconnects us with nature -- a connection that is easy to lose with our busy lives, especially when you live in a city.

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

One thing I have managed to overcome, at least for the time being, is my disdain for winter. When I was younger it was my favorite season, but when you're older, have to drive in the snow, pay for heating fuel, or worse, don't have the money to heat your home like you'd like, winter loses its appeal. I am lucky to live in a toasty apartment with heat included as part of my rent, and though most of my work day is spent driving, I have begun to re-appreciate the beauty of winter: the softness of a snowy day, the contrast of dark, barren trees against the bright white, and the cold, crisp light of sunny, January day.

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

Winter aside, I have also been savoring the day by enjoying my new apartment.  Not only by working on my art studio (as I posted the other day), but also be rediscovering my love of cooking.

Moving, work, the holidays, all took their toll and at the end of the year I felt like I was running on autopilot. Cooking among the chaos was just two daunting and I settled for a horrible diet of fast food.  Though I am still unpacking, I can at least prepare homemade meals again!

It hasn't been without challenges. Aside from the fact I have a much smaller kitchen, I also still have quite a bit in storage.  The other day while shopping, I decided to make a Bolognese sauce. I eagerly unloaded my grocery bags, only to remember that my knives were somewhere in my storage unit, probably at the bottom of a very big pile of boxes.  Fortunately, I was not without cutting implements and I was able to gather the following tools:

My limited arsenal of cutting implements!
(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved

Turns out the apple corer made short work of chopping onions and mushrooms, and though it was a bit awkward, the pizza wheel was able to slice my other vegetables. I would've of preferred to cook it in my enameled cast iron dutch oven, but as it was also packed, I settled for one of my heavier saucepans. Though the consistency of my chopping would definitely cost me points in a cooking competition, the end result was delicious!  To help take the edge off of winter, I garnished it with a chiffonade of fresh basil.

A lot of what passes for Bolognese is a tomato sauce with meat, but the true Italian Bolognese really is more of a meat sauce with a little bittle of tomato. Hearty and satisfying, it is perfect winter fare.

Pasta Bolognese, garnished with grated Grana Padano and
fresh basil chiffonade.  (c) 2014 Eric E. Paige
A good life is all about balance, so while a hearty meat sauce is a nice treat, it is not advised for daily consumption. As an atonement for my caloric indiscretions, I have also been making soups and stir fries.  I recently made a batch of turkey broth, but each day have enjoyed it different ways: from the classic turkey-noodle soup, to an Asian version with bok-choy and ginger, to a Mexican version with hatch chiles and chayote squash. They all used the same broth, but the add-ins made them a completely different meal.  Barley, faro, hominy, and rice are all great substitutes for pasta if you're looking to mix things up a bit, and the premade-stocks and broths are great if you don't have time to make homemade stock.

Ginger and Basil Stir Fry
(c) 2014 Eric E. Paige, All Rights Reserved
I encourage you all to try to do something each day to make the day special, whether it be watching the sunrise, cooking a nice meal (or going out), or simply enjoying a relaxing cup of tea or coffee. Find at least one thing for which to be grateful each day -- especially on those days when your feeling down. Yes, it's snowy and gray as I type this, and the polar vortex is supposed to drop the temps tonight, but it is all temporary-- the weather will shift. In the meantime, think of it as an OPPORTUNITY to stay in and read a good book, work on an art or craft project, or to enjoy your home and family.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Progress Report...
...Art Studio Update

Moving into a new space is always a challenge, especially when you are also downsizing.  My previous space was a two bedroom and the second bedroom served as my art studio.  In my new space I am using the dining area for a studio. The primary advantages are its proximity to the sink and the wonderful light.  The primary disadvantage is that there is limited wall space in a 9' x 9' room that opens to the living room and kitchen. 

The components that I kept from my old space are easily moved and can be configured in multiple ways. Anyone who has an artistic or other creative bent knows that the two key elements to a studio are horizontal work surfaces and easy access to supplies.

The north wall of my studio is the only uninterrupted wall in the studio. Fortunately, its relationship to the kitchen allows me to extend the kitchen counter into the studio and have 9 feet of counter space that can be used for art projects (or cooking projects if I am not working on art!).  

The East wall has a window 
taking up wall space.
(c). 2014 Eric E. Paige
The South wall opens to
the living room
(c). 2014 Eric E. Paige
The West wall opens to the kitchen, but the North wall is
uninterrupted. The Plan: extend the kitchen counter into the
studio, along the North wall. (c)2014 Eric. E. Paige

The base cabinets that I have for the studio are inexpensive storage pieces that you can find at most discount and home improvement stores. They are about 4 inches lower than a standard counter, but I found a way to use that to my advantage and gain additional storage space.

I started by placing the base units along the wall.  The open unit is in front of a wall outlet, so I don't have to give up access to electric. The units aren't very deep (about half the depth of a standard base cabinet) so I placed them about 4 or 5 inches from the wall. 

I then used a salvage door from IKEA to tie them all together.  As you will see this door will act like a shelf. Though the run doesn't go the full 9 feet, the end space will be good for tucking away larger items.  

Cabinets laid out, the top is a door from IKEA
(c) 2014 Eric E

For the countertop I used some maple shelves that I got from IKEA's as is department. I had to trim one of the shelves that was too wide, but one of them had a split, so I simple cut off the bad end. As luck would have it, a 1" x 4" board was the perfect size to make up the height difference.  I screwed two of the boards to the wall to act as a cleat, leaving a gap that allowed me to drop some wiring down to the outlet.
I cut three more boards to act as supports, and another to serve as a cleat along the East wall. For added strength, I will eventually connect all the supports with corner braces.

1" x 4" attached to the wall as a cleat. 
Note the gap left for wiring.
(c)2014 Eric E. Paige

These shorter pieces will help support the
countertop. (c)2014 Eric E. Paige

Ready to install the last piece! 
(c)2014 Eric E. Paige

Countertop and floating shelves installed.
(c)2013 Eric E. Paige

For easy access to supplies I use frequently, I installed 8 'floating' shelves that also came from IKEA.  Shopping the 'As Is' section saves money, but it also means limited selection, so two of the shelves are a different color, but I think it will look fine, and the primary concern is functionality!  

Though these floating shelves don't require brackets, I will install some underneath each shelf for additional support -- art supplies can be heavy, especially jars of paint!  

Serendipitously, the rack of storage bins I blogged about in an earlier post, fits perfectly above the radiator, and another floating shelf that I have will fit nicely above the opening between the studio in living room.

Repurposed rack, in my old studio. (c)2013 Eric E. Paige
Installed in the new space, just waiting for
the bins to get unpacked! 
(c)2014 Eric E. Paige

Because of the proximity of the entrance to the living room, the West wall won't accommodate a very deep shelving unit.  While I am keeping my eye out for something that will fit, I am also toying with the idea of running a series of shelves made from 1" x 4" that will allow me to maximize the space and achieve a built-in look.

Back to work for me, I still have a lot of unpacking and sorting to do. Check back for updates.  The kitchen should be finished this week and the living room is starting to look like a living room!