Things I Really Like:

  • Rainy days, when I don’t have to go anywhere
  • Coffee, always
  • Taylor Swift’s latest album
  • Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh
  • Snuggling
  • Comic book movies, esp Marvel
  • Pirates, Ninjas, Witches, Robots
  • 19th Century European Literature, primarily British
  • Colorful flowers
  • Baking sweets for others
  • Writing
  • Mysteries of most descriptions: books, movies, TV shows
  • Ocean beaches
  • Being silly
  • Kittens
  • Reading really captivating books
  • Loving; Being in love
  • Vodka, Honey Whiskey, Red Wine
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Bringing joy to other people
  • Experimenting
  • Jane Austen
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“Coffee Stains”, an artist’s statement

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My submission for this year’s Sketchbook Project with the Brooklyn Art Library: “Coffee Stains”.

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The following is my Artist’s Statement as written on the Sketchbook Project website:

My lifestyle causes me to move every few months.  Sometimes I’m returning somewhere familiar, sometimes I’m lucky enough to stay with friends and family, sometimes I go somewhere completely new.  Everywhere I go: I drink coffee.  When I chose the “Wanderer” theme I had the idea to chronicle my travels through drawings of cups of coffee in each location.  Then, I couldn’t find my sketchbook.

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On my travels went, though, and I found myself outside Portland, OR for two months, wherein I inadvertently found myself making what I called the “coffeehouse tour of Portland”.  I visited a different coffeehouse nearly every visit into the city, I sat there with my drink and wrote, or drew, and soaked in the culture of the coffeehouse.  At each establishment I took pictures and posted them to Facebook.

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I believe in “coffeehouse culture”, that it is good for a community.  It doesn’t have to be a coffeehouse, it could be a tea-house, or a bar, or a bookstore.  I believe every community ought to have a place where people can visit, and pass the time, preferably with caffeine.  The places I have enjoyed living the most have all had something like this.  In Cazenovia, NY it was a coffeeshop, in Canterbury, England it was a pub, in Andover, CT it was a Chinese restaurant, and in Wakefield, RI it is a bar.  In each of these places I would feel as comfortable reading a book as I would talking to a stranger.

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When I returned to New England and found my sketchbook, I was glad I took so many hipsterish pictures.  I was able to draw some of my favorite Portland coffeehouses.  The idea to actually use coffee to paint stemmed from meeting a man in Seattle who uses a coffee/bleach solution to make tee shirts, and a blog about a woman who uses coffee in lieu of watercolors.  Using actual coffee to paint drawings of coffee was too meta to pass up.  I also used tea and hot cocoa mix, don’t be alarmed if the book smells like chocolate.  

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So much of my life can be counted in cups of coffee, as can, I think, many other’s; it is so ubiquitous that we rarely think about the coffee itself, where it comes from, how it’s made, which method we prefer.  How a region feels about their coffee or tea and how they make it is an interesting reflection of both the culture and the individual.  Is it a quick Dunkins drive-thru, or are the beans ground with each cupful?  What time of day is it drunk?  Cream?  Sugar?  Black?

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I am fascinated by coffee.  I love learning about new ways to make it.  I love watching experts make coffee.  I love talking with a friend over a steaming cup.  I believe coffee, and tea, have the power to bring people together if we let it.  So if we ever meet, show me how you make yours and I’ll tell you how I make mine.  <3 <3 <3

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#RobotsDrinkingTea – what I’ve been drawing lately: Robots & Tea & Coffee

Mabel Arthur

Yes, indeed.  Then, apparently, opening pictures in Paint and added fun captions.  Or, what are supposed to be “fun” captions.  I was tired when I made this one.  I was trying to come up with something the blue robot would find shocking.  Mostly though, my coffee and tea drinking robots look jittery, as though they’ve ingested too much caffeine.

Ah well, c’est art!

It’s My Birthday!

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It's My Birthday!

I turned 29 today. Hard to tell, right? (I know, I’m so damn youthful!)
I thought I’d share this (lovely) picture of me waiting for the candles to be lit with you lovely people.

The things I spent my day doing:

  • Drank ALL the coffee (all of a sudden the pot was empty – I have no idea what happened, I swear!)
  • Writing
  • Writing
  • Writing
  • Tabled the scene I was working on for about an hour because I suddenly realized it didn’t work in the place I was writing it and moved on to the next part
  • Writing
  • Ate BBQ chicken and pineapple pizza
  • Didn’t finish the pot of tea I brewed
  • Went out for cow with my household (parents & one sister)
  • Cut the cake (and took the creepy picture above)
  • Responded to all the FB messages I received today (amazing how popular we are on our birthdays… — no, for real: once, in HS TWO SEPARATE groups of friends had me sent balloons at lunch; granted it was awkward considering the balloons came in bunches of 12 and I had to go around the rest of the day with twenty four balloons… still, I was supes popular for a day!)
  • Shared the creepy knife photo with the Internet.

Thanks for helping make my bday awesome!

Happy reading and Writing, friends!

Xx Bex

Don’t Look at Me Like That

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
You’ll still be thinking that
of me twenty years from
now.
We’ll see each other in
a bar, and I’ll admit
I stole your hall pass sim-
ply because it was yours.
Too embarrassed to con-
fess, I hid it in a
hole.
And I fear the day they
find that ceiling; and I
live my embarrassment
again.
And you’ll make me feel as
incompetent as you
always did back in the
day when I took it.
So don’t look at me like that
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
Twenty years from now you’ll
feel the same when you see
me in a coffee shop.
And I’ll just want to die
because it will be the
one time I wear your sweat
shirt;
the one I ‘borrowed’ the
night I let you go where
no boy had gone before.
Hopped up on caffeine, I’ll
admit that I took it
meant to be in exchange.
Then you’ll know what you didn’t
(’cause I never told you);
it will be so strange.
So don’t look at me like that,
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
And nothing will have changed
in twenty years when you
nervously edge toward me
to make awkward small talk
about work and family.
I’ll tell you I have your
DVDs, as if I
just found them. But the truth
is I’ve found and lost them
a dozen times since then.
And you’ll make a joke that
will put neither of us
at ease. And I’ll admit
I think of you every
time I post a letter
and laugh every time I
walk because I know how
you’d balk at me walking
alone down the street.
So don’t look at me like that,
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
That’s how you’ll feel about
me in twenty years when
you see me again at
our friends’ vow renewal.
We’ll drink red wine as we
discuss the pink-hued past,
and share the sepia-toned now.
And I’ll admit that I
donated your sweatshirt
years ago ’cause I thought
we were a hopeless case.
You’ll laugh, shake your head, say
‘you’re right, of course’, and I’ll
feel like I’ve let you down
even though we both know
it’s the other way around.
So don’t look at me like that,
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
Nothing will have changed in
twenty years from now, when
our work will overlap;
You’ll be there with her; you’ll
see I’ll be there with me.
And by then I won’t want
to punch you in the chest.
But I’ll tell you how I
fantasized I did.
And I never listened
to your music again,
But I kept the earrings
you gave to me back then.
And if you read between
the lines, you’ll finally
understand just how much
I loved you.
So don’t look at me like that,
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Bubble Tea = Weird

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Bubble tea is weird.  It’s weird, right?  I can’t be the only one who thinks this; well, apart from my bro-in-law, but he sort of doesn’t count (Kidding! You totally matter, S!)  But bubble tea is bizarre.

Assuming what I’ve learned from the Internets is accurate, “Bubble Tea” was created in the 80’s in Taiwan at some teashop or another when someone decided to dump tapioca pearls into a cup of cold tea.  The reaction they got was: “Hells, yes, this bev is mad awesome”, or some Taiwanese equivalent of such a statement.  And it took off; wildfire!  It spread from Taiwan to Asia and Australia and on to Europe and the US.

I remember hearing about bubble teas some years ago and being royally confused as to how “bubbles” made it into a glass of tea and how that was meant to be an awesome thing.  I mean, what sort of bubbles are they?  OR were you supposed to blow bubbles in the tea then drink it?  It’s not like I ever lived in a place classy enough to have bubble tea anywhere so I remained in confusion for a long time, studying candid photos of celebrities in magazines carrying strange looking drinks with spots on the bottom.

Then someone explained tapioca pearls to me.

There are many varieties of “bubble tea”, it seems.  Some are actually made with tea or coffee, with or without milk.  Others are on the fruit smoothie bit of the spectrum.  But the common thing is some sort of chewy bit included in the drink.  That chewy bit is most commonly some version of tapioca pearls, but could also be green pearls*, jelly pieces cut into fun shapes, aloe, custard, sago, or taro.  They add flavor and texture to the drink, give it a little something to set the beverage apart from other teas, coffees, and fruit smoothies.

Today: 30 January, my oldest friend decided to inflict on me bubble tea.  We had a date to get some weeks ago, but those plans fell through.  Today she disguised her endeavor by inviting me to a “pho place” — ok, she did say upfront bubble tea might be involved; I shouldn’t paint her as scheming (this time anyway).  After our tasty Vietnamese meals, Amy ordered an Avocado Bubble Tea (pictured above… and below, for that matter) and let me try it.  My very first bubble tea experience.

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Look at those bastards making their way up the straw!

But, no.  Weird.  The Avocado smoothie wasn’t so bad, but the sticky, chewy balls were pretty, sorta, mostly gross.  I kept making a face and trying to get the taste out of my mouth.  I’ve only had tapioca pudding once when one of my past roommates decided she wanted to make it and it just seemed to me to be weird chewy bits in milky substance (gross).  And this tapioca pearl experience wasn’t much different from the last.

Needless to say, I am not a convert.  I do not belong to the Church of Weird Pudding Accessories.  I have not drunk the Kool-Aid.  I did test the waters, but I’ve decided not to swim.  Bubble Tea is not my drink and it’s because of the chewy bits.  It’s sort of like how I don’t want fruit chunks in anything other than a bowl or trail mix.  There is a time and a place for chewy bits and there mostly isn’t one.

In my book.

But maybe I’m being too harsh.  What do you think of bubble tea?

*I’m not sure what ‘green pearls’ refers to exactly.  Best guess: Green Tea Pearls.  Which might be something like this, but it might not be.

Professional Aunt

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I have an uncle who is, I swear, a Professional Uncle.  My other grandmother (not his mother) even calls him “Uncle B”; his email address is “uncleb***@”.  He IS “Uncle”.  Sometimes I feel like I am following in his footsteps and becoming “Auntie”.  I mean, it’s not that far a step away from my usual role of “Little Sister”.  But now that I’m so close to having one foot in thirty, I should probably stop being everyone’s Sister and start being everyone’s Auntie.  I mean, I’m already likely to slip you some coffee after 6pm and feed you meat if you ask for it.

And I bake some killer cookies:

I can't believe I'm sharing my recipe.

I can’t believe I’m sharing my recipe.

As I said the other day, baking makes me happy.  Give me some butter, flour, sugar, vanilla and baking soda and I can probably whip something together.  Chocolate is a good addition as well.

We’re waiting here for my new baby nephew to grace us with his presence and some days in the past week have been longer than others.  The other day I decided to make some Chocolate Chip Cookies for my very pregnant sister, bro-law, and little nevvy (the two year old, not the fetus – although when mommy eats them so does he).

Ever since I lived in Vermont and we didn’t have any sort of mixer, I’ve had this inkling to forego electric mixers most of the time when I am baking.  Through doing so I have found a strange kinship to my foremothers who had no other choice, but to mix by hand.  In my Romanticized view of women from the Great Depression and further back in History, they all resemble my image of Antonia at the end of Willa Cather’s My Antonia: a solid, strong, buff Earth Mother, made strong from all the hand kneaded bread and home ground grains; tough women with strong arms from mixing dough with spoons in bowls and tired backs from standing over fires to cook and lifting solid farm babies.

It’s a mite ridiculous, I know, but my Romanticized vision of the women who came before helps connect me with the past.  My own grandmother (the Professional Uncle’s mom) said something to me once that I found very profound at the time.  We were talking over the phone about pie crust:

Gram: Now, are you sitting down?
Moi: Yes?
Gram: I use lard.

Ok, that’s not the profound statement, but it was awfully funny.  Her profound statement to me was essentially this:

Gram: It takes practice.  Just keep trying it.  We all had to do it.

Suddenly I was them and they were me.  They.  The women who came before me.  Just like me, they weren’t born knowing how to make the perfect pie crust or cake or cookie, they learned through trial and error.  Years of practice and perfecting has made my grandmother a world class baker and cake decorator.  Born before the Crash, my grandmother grew up the second oldest, and only girl, of five children.  She learned how to cook and bake and take care of her brothers and father.  She’s been doing this thing since the ’30s.  She raised three boys who each love them some sweets; made my parents’ wedding cake; and taught me to love Squash Pie and Date Nut Bars (note to self: get that recipe).

I am relatively young and still have time to perfect my baked goods.  The best part of that is even if I totally mess up my baked goods I have brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews that will happily eat whatever I ruin.  But not my chocolate chip cookies: those things are Magic.

Magic

Magic

I made the cookies while the nevvy was at daycare so he couldn’t help me make them, but hopefully, what with Christmas nipping at our heels, I’ll be making more baked goods and he can help me with them (especially if that keeps him out of Mommy and Daddy’s hair while they tend to Baby Brother).

I'm telling you: magic.

I’m telling you: magic.

I can’t really say why I love baking so much.  It could be a control issue.  I have control over the entire kitchen for roughly an hour and a half (depending on what I am making) and after that time is up, I have delicious treats that other people can eat and enjoy; treats that will make them happy and make them forget about their stress and complaints and bullshit for awhile.  Because a good piece of pastry can do that.  A well cooked meal, a delicious piece of chocolate, a slice of pie, a piece of cake can make a person forget their worries while they marvel that anything can taste that good.

But no one is born knowing how to create this sort of magic: it takes time and practice (I’ve been baking chocolate chip cookies for nearly sixteen years).  I laugh when people tell me they can’t cook or bake because that statement is bullshit.  If you can read and follow directions, you can cook or bake.  It’s the easiest and best chemistry, right up there with blowing stuff up and setting it on fire.  Men and women have been cooking forever; that a modern person can’t boil water for pasta or make a cake from scratch is laughable.  If my nieces and nephews can assist me mixing together my ingredients then a full grown adult can make spaghetti and meat sauce.

Even though he didn’t get to help me make them, the kid sure has enjoyed the fruits of my labor.

That’s him saturating his cookie in a glass of milk. Kid knows his stuff.

Now, if only his mom would go into labor….

A Coffee and a Cheese Danish

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A Coffee and a Cheese Danish

I used to get this all the time at the coffee shop in college and it was the best!

Yesterday, I sat in the Roadrunner Cafe all-freakin-day. It was two parts awesome and three parts amazing. Although it took me a long time to be able to write creatively. First I had to journal everything that has happened to me since Friday night in my notebook (not pictured).

A lot has occurred over this past weekend, a lot that will get the writing juices flowing and a lot that will get my tiny female brain spinning it’s wheels. But after a few hours of handwriting the events of the weekend and my thoughts on the situation I was able to get down to writing.

I haven’t worked on this story (not really) since before Thanksgiving (lame!) and I’ve been a little stuck. But I think I’ve got the ending down; I’ve reconciled everything that I wasn’t sure about and we’ve got a nice little bit of weirdness to end my super weird story with – it’s perfect — maybe. Nows alls I have to do is sort out the events that lead up to the ending.

The really confusing part is that I have written all three separate storylines in a jumble. I’m getting confused. But apart from separating them into three different documents and sorting through them that way (which feels tedious) I’m not sure what else to do in order to organize the events. I’ve fucked with the timeline; I’m jumping all over the place. Which, for the structure of the story, I sort of like, but its my own sanity that is getting screwed up. When I get home I might make a giant timeline and tape it up on the walls at my sister’s house. Actually work on organizing my writing.

I’ve never been very good at that.

But I am getting better at disciplining my life, so hopefully my writing will follow (or lead the way?).