One to Watch

The Artist has been recently featured on Saatchi as “One to Watch”!  Check out a short write up and some awesome photos of him in his studio here: http://canvas.saatchiart.com/art/one-to-watch/steve-byrnes

He was also on the cover of Art Voices, you can go to their website to see where the magazine circulates.  You can also check out The Artist’s website: http://www.stevebyrnes.org

I just wanted to do a little shameless bragging, I am so proud of him.  He works so hard and continues to follow his dreams, no matter what.  I advocate for taking a little risk in life….you think you can’t afford to move?  You can.  You think you can’t go back to school?  You can.  You think you can’t get a different job?  You can.  And so on, you get the idea.  If you want something- do it.  You only get one life, don’t waste it being only half-happy, or not happy at all.  There is always a way to achieve your goals.  To quote Jan from The Office, “there will always be a million reasons to NOT do something”.

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Better Than Takeout Homemade Chicken Pad Thai.

A great opportunity has come up for the Artist and his painting career (it’s not official, so I am going to wait to tell you about until it is!), and I am so excited for him!  When I heard, I was so excited I was literally jumping up and down like a toddler, I couldn’t contain myself.  I couldn’t sleep that night either, I just lay awake thinking about it all, and how proud of him I am.  Now, you know me, I have never in my life had trouble sleeping.  I can fall asleep and stay asleep in just about any conditions.  So as I lay there in my first ever insomnia experience, I was thinking about how this is a perfect example of how excited I felt- so excited I couldn’t sleep.  It was a first.  Even as a child on Christmas Eve, I went to sleep no problem!  Just when I think I know exactly what love is, and that I couldn’t possibly love the Artist any more, I fall even deeper in love with him.  Being this excited, proud, and happy for him, for something that will change his career and have nothing to do with me, is truly a selfless feeling.  Being that happy for something that has nothing to do with yourself.  And I know the Artist is even more excited about it, he has worked incredibly hard for this for many years.  And because he more then deserves it and has worked so hard, when I thought about if something happened and this opportunity didn’t work out, the hypothetical disappointment he would experience would just break my heart in two.  I don’t think I could stand seeing him being disappointed.  We have been married for almost 4 years now, and somehow, we fall deeper in love with each year.  If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is ❤

So now onto the main topic of my post….haha.

The Artist has been making pad thais at home for awhile now, trying to master something similar to takeout.  The main problems that have been occurring include; the rice noodles are extremely sticky and are even worse the next day as leftovers, there isn’t a coating” of sauce on everything, it seems to get all soaked up, and the flavour just isn’t the same as takeout.  But he has cracked it- and has figured out solutions to all of these problems, creating THE most delicious pad thai at home.  He is the main chef, and I am the helper 😉  I don’t have exact measurements for the following, because we made a larger batch of it and constantly were adjusting it to our taste.  So be sure to taste often.  Very often.

First things first- most restaurants use a tamarind sauce for the pad thai, and this is usually in the description of the dish in the menu.  This is the key, well, one of them.  We have used both a liquid form of tamarind concentrate in a jar, and the kind that is like a sort of squishy brick.  In the end, the brick is best.  But be sure to boil it in a little water first to soften it up, and even though it says seedless, there are little “bits” everywhere.  So once the tamarind is all separated, use a fine sieve to strain out the bits and collect the tamarind “water” or juice or whatever you want to call it, in a bowl.  A lot of online recipes do not even include tamarind at all, but if you want a restaurant copy-cat version, tamarind is the way to go.

The next important thing to remember is that there needs to be sweet, sour, and salty flavours, with some spice.  Like I said, I don’t have the exact measurements because we added the ingredients to taste.  Most recipes we found said to have equal parts of each flavour component (except spice), but we didn’t necessarily do that, again, it was all to taste (the Artist was tasting the sauce every few seconds and after each ingredient was added to adjust it).  We used chili powder, but mostly red chili flakes for the spice portion, as this is the most easily adjustable flavour you can change after it is on your plate, so we just added a little at first.  All the other ingredients won’t work really once the dish is plated, so be sure to taste as you go!  I added extra chili flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper to my plate.  We didn’t do equal amount of the sweet, sour and salty, because that is a lot of salt.  For the salt, we used a bit of fish sauce, and a bit of soy sauce.  For the sour, the tamarind you prepared as above.  And for the sweet, brown and/or white sugar.  Since that is a lot of sugar, another reason we didn’t do equal amounts.  And we both like our pad thai on a bit of the sour side, but by all means, add more sweet or salty to suit your taste.  We also added a little garlic powder in there too, and a little extra water.

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For the rice noodles, don’t get a noodle that is too broad or thick, and not use anything else other then rice noodles.  Soak them in warm-hot water until they are pliable, but not mushy.  They will seem like extremely al dante, and seem not ready to eat, but they will soften up in the pan with the sauce and stuff.  Do not boil them.  That is how we got those super sticky noodles I was talking about above.  I think we soaked ours for 30-40 minutes to get the right texture.  The first time the sauce was perfected, the noodles were still a little too firm, so we soaked them a bit longer.

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For the protein, we like chicken, but shrimp of tofu could be used too.  Cut raw chicken breast into relatively thin slices, and saute in a pan with a little oil and some of the sauce, and a little water.  Add a clove of freshly pressed (or smashed and sliced) garlic.

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When the chicken is cooked, add some noodles, and more sauce.  Note: in your pan, make only 1 serving at a time.  This is another key part so the dish, it needs lots of space or it will get sticky and just not turn out.  If it is sticking, add more oil to the pan.  This come together quickly at this point, so doing 1 serving at a time isn’t too bad, and with just the 2 of us, there isn’t any waiting or in-between time.  Even if there were more people to serve, it will be worth the wait to do it only 1 serving at a time.  When it is almost done, push it to the side of the pan and add an egg, scramble it up, and then combine it altogether.  After the first dish is plated, I chopped up some green onions and peanuts, the Artist made the next serving and we garnished with each.  Another good topper is mung beans.  Another important thing to remember is to not over cook this.  When the noodles, chicken, egg, and sauce are all in the pan, if it is over cooking, you will notice it getting sticky and maybe smoking a little because the sugar is getting caramelized or burned.  You don’t want that “gummy” texture to start at all, so plate it promptly.

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I personally prefer loads of peanuts on my dish, and the Artist loves to have his with a fresh lime wedge to squeeze over it right before he eats.  You can also add the green onions into the pan in the last minute or 2 of cooking, which we like to do.

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This seems like a hassle, and it kind of is, haha.  It can be time consuming, and it has taken us many, many tries to get it to the taste we want.  So you might need to try a few times and adjust as necessary.  But if you make a large batch of the sauce, you can store it in the fridge for later use.  The sauce is the most time consuming part, everything else comes together in good time.  So we found that making a big batch of sauce to keep in the fridge works well for a homemade chicken pad thai dinner in about 30 minutes.

Good luck.

Women in the Working World

Lately, as an adult women who aspires for both a thriving career as well as motherhood, it seems as though having both is a puzzle I can’t figure out.  I am turning 25 in a few weeks, and the Artist and I hope to be fortunate enough to have children together in the future, and we both have big dreams for our careers as well, however, more and more it seems difficult to have both.  Things are different for women, we have “biological clocks”, and as we approach 30, or so I personally feel, our clocks start to remind us that time is ticking and the pressure of aging (as well as even more immense pressure from society) can be abundantly felt.  So here is what started my thoughts on all of this….

As my 25th birthday approaches, I have decided that I would like to further my educational career with a master’s degree and have been accepted to Washington University in St. Louis.  It is a 2 year MSW program and quite pricey, and I got a partial scholarship.  I am in desperate need of funding to even begin to be able to afford this, and have a deep gut feeling that I will not be attending classes this fall because I can’t afford it.  To read more about my situation on this: https://emilyandherartist.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/bittersweet/

So that is another year before I can apply to other MSW programs, and another year delaying the beginning of a career, would then put me age 28 before my careers even begins after graduation, and then building a secure lifestyle that allows me to try and get pregnant and be financially stable enough to take time off, and be able to afford it, to care for a child….pushing me past that ripe age of 30 that I mentioned above.  I know plenty of women have children well into their thirties, and I might be one of them, but wouldn’t it be nice to not feel pressured to have a child by the big bully called age?

Which is what sparked these thoughts for me in the first place.  It is like having to choose between having children in your mid-late twenties, or going to grad school during this time instead, and delaying having children until afterwards.  I know plenty of people have children while in grad school, but I don’t think that that choice is for me.  Or at least, it is my current thought.  So as of right now,  I plan to go to grad school at some point, we both want to get our careers up and running (which is really testing our patience, at almost 25 and 29, we just want to have established careers already!), and at that point, we will consider children.  I don’t want to have this feeling that I have to choose one or the other, so I just simply will not.  I am striving towards 2 careers; as a social worker with an MSW, and if I am fortunate enough to be able to bear a child, as a mother.  But you never know what life will throw at you, and the next day is never a guarantee, so although we have big plans for our futures, we try and live in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes.  Such as seeing a Shakespeare’s Henry V in Forest Park together, enjoying a picnic while we wait for the show, and having some quality time together, cracking open a fresh coconut, cooking a nice meal, celebrating birthdays, admiring the Artist’s thesis painting, chocolate chip pancakes and the best bacon I have ever had.  Because you never know what tomorrow will bring!

Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park

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Sweet and a little spicy, orange chicken with cashews.

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Best, yet healthiest, bacon ever!

Best, yet healthiest, bacon ever!

So I encourage everyone of both genders to embrace the women in your lives as they balance life 🙂  I applaud all the women out there who are rocking it in their careers and as awesome moms, I look up to you all. ❤

The Artist’s Process.

I talk about my Artist a lot, I know.  About how he is gifted, in a way that is unique.  A way that is so unique, it is not something that one can acquire, or learn.  It is not something that can be taught either.  But rather, something that just exists.  It can be guided by others who also posses this, and honed and harnessed over time.  I went to his studio the other day and starting snapping pictures of awe-inspiring moments.  Of moments where I can feel the vibes in the air, viscerally.  Where my body is physically feeling pleasure and happiness, and passion that can only be understood by feeling it- not explaining it.  I am dedicating this post to the images I captured of my Artist doing what he is meant to be doing, in his niche, and exploding with passion and talent.

There are different “phases” of his art-making, that occur in no particular order and each time is different.  I call them looking and thinking, curiosity, and going on a rampage.  Here you will see him looking and thinking.  Ever see the episode of The Big Bang Theory when they have to buckle down and get to work, and then Eye of the Tiger comes on and they are standing and staring at their white boards?  It is kind of like that, quite simply put; he is looking, and thinking.  And holding his hand or brush in a strange way, to imagine certain scenarios.  But the thinking that is going on is intense. Sometimes it even makes him sweat.  Sometimes he can’t think about anything else, and even asking what he feels like for dinner takes up too much of his attention to think about.  And one time, Eye of the Tiger actually came on the radio when he was doing this, right after I thought of the parallel between him and the TV show.  It blew my mind.

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And then there is the curiosity type.  He is curious as what will happen if…..or what will happen when…..often using his foot to smudge something around, or crinkle up the canvas and patina it with old paint, dirty brushes, or roll it around on the messy floor.  There is a large playful aspect about this, where is he having fun and exploring.  The Artist is very curious by nature in every day life.

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And lastly, he goes on mark making rampages where he literally throws paint around, splashes it, and goes into a frenzy of sorts.  Often times, this is where the bulk of the marks are done, and in a short period of time, because truly, he can’t stop.  Even when he is plagued with allergies and is wearing sunglasses at night to protect his sore and sensitive eyes with tissues stuffed up his runny nose.  But not always.  There is no real pattern or predictability to his process, he does what he wants, when wants to do it.  It is almost like an obsessive-compulsive thing, where he gets urges to paint, and regardless of the time of day, where he is, or what he is doing, he finds a way to make the magic happen.

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As you can see, the Artist goes from squatting to standing to bending over about a thousand times when he paints.  This makes for a nice pairs of legs 😉

You are probably thinking that all these photos look the same, that I am a lunatic, and nothing I have said makes any sense- what is so special about all of this?  It is something that cannot be fully explained in with words, or justified with writing.  It is something that needs to be felt, and I am trying to convey the Artist’s passion and talent with my words and by capturing him in action, but to truly experience this, to truly get it, one must feel it and experience live.

Think about the things that get your heart pumping a little faster, that make your body tingle, and that causes your brain, and your heart to explode with intense emotion.  It may not be art that does it for you, but it is still an experience of passion, of something beautiful.  And I am so incredibly fortunate to get to experience  this on a daily basis, on top of a million other things that make me happy.

As I read this post over, I am not totally satisfied.  It is missing something, something to really push my point across so share exactly how I am feeling, how the Artist feels, and what these experiences are like.  But then again, that is just it.  I can’t express that missing something with words about how I am feeling, the only way to experience it for yourself, is to to do just that- experience it.

 

Home Studio and Dining Room Swap

The Artist has been really busy making lots of art.  He is in this creative mood, that sometimes he forgets “normal” things.  But, who is to say what is normal?  For him, this is normal.  It is his normal.  Everyone has their own version.  I took a few photos as I saw some funny events around the house after the Artist left for campus.

Clearly, the best place to paint is the front entryway.

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Who needs a tool box when you have the bathroom sink?

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Gotta play the harmonica right before leaving the house and grabbing your keys- of course.

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The bookshelf serves as a better place for a coffee mug then the coffee table- obviously.

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What better place for a cup of water-colour muck?

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Our dining room used to be this room:

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No wonder he has rock hard quads….

 

Until the Artist decided the room he had for a “home studio” was too small and got too cold in the winter.  So we talked about switching the rooms.  I thought it was a great idea, because our table and chairs was so small it left the room empty and wasted space.  And the little “home studio” would be a great cozy dining room and we even put up a sheet, like so:

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Isn’t that so cozy looking?

 

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Candles and plants are a good touch.  It still needs some work.  I need to fashion something to put our record player on so we can listen to music in there.

 

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It is like a cozy little nook.  I love it.

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And even better because now the Artist has more space for art making.  We did this back at the beginning of summer, the Artist was cleaning out his old space and asked me what I thought about making this the dining room now that it was all empty.  I had been thinking about it anyways because I knew the Artist needed more painting space and our dining room looked kind of silly with such a small table in there.  It was a great decision 🙂

And now, the Artist is clearly booming with creativity.

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Look at it all.  I love seeing this sight.  And now, it seemed to have encouraged the Artist to be in this zone, his niche, much more frequently.  He never really leaves it, but this brings it out to the forefront.  I love seeing him sit in the middle of this and just explode with passion and talent, it warms my heart so much.  And I love seeing paintings all over the floor, sewing machine supplies and pieces of thread everywhere, coffee in strange places, tools spread all over the house, books everywhere you could possibly imagine, and drawings in every nook and cranny.

I love it.  Just love it.

I wouldn’t have it any other way ❤

I am having a hard time finding the words and the right way to describe why I love this so much, because I think a lot of women would find the scattered items frustrating.  I know my mother would, haha 😉  I would like to note, that he always cleans up after he is done with something, or contains it so I can vacuum or whatever 🙂  Perhaps, it is just him being him, and that’s why I love it?

Happiness is contagious.