I’ve had so much I’ve wanted to say and write and blog about, but just haven’t had the time to sit down and get my thoughts out about it all. This summer has been a crazy whirlwind and it has a lot to do with a big announcement (that you might have already seen on my Instagram a couple months ago):

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This fall (or in less than a month now), I’ll be moving to Savannah, Georgia to attend graduate school at the Savannah College of Art & Design in their Fibers department. (!!!)

Attending SCAD has been a dream of mine for a long time and it seems I’ve been on quite the adventure to get there. I first toured SCAD (the Atlanta campus) my junior year of high school and completely fell in love with it. I didn’t end up going there for undergrad because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study and I got a scholarship to Tulane. It wasn’t until I had moved to New Orleans and was part of the way into my study at Tulane that I realized I wanted to study graphic/pattern/textile design. I was frustrated that Tulane didn’t have a program for that and for a while I looked into transferring to SCAD or RISD, but I had already started a life in New Orleans and had an amazing scholarship to Tulane. I kept telling myself to just make it through and one day I could go to graduate school at SCAD to study design.

My senior year at Tulane, Drew and I took a weekend trip to Savannah to tour the Savannah SCAD campus and see the Fibers building and get a better idea of what I could study there and what I needed to do to make that happen. I left disappointed, because although I loved SCAD, the information I was given was a little disheartening. Because my undergrad degree was in English and Studio Art (Painting concentration), I was told I would have difficulties having the background info I needed to pursue a graduate degree in fibers/textile design. I was so overwhelmed at that time in my life (I had just gotten married, was having a really tough senior year of college, was crippled with the debt we already owed on Drew’s school, and had unresolved health issues – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) that I just gave up on my SCAD dream. I was convinced I’d never have the money to go or the ability to get into the program without an undergrad degree in textiles.

I graduated from Tulane and started working in graphic design and enjoyed that just fine for a while, but I kept being pulled into the world of pattern and textile design. I was so inspired by what my favorite designers were doing and I wanted to have more creative freedom in my career (I love graphic design but also find it very artistically limiting). I was really inspired by Bonnie Christine (one of my favorite textile designers for quilting cottons who has an undergrad degree in business and taught herself Adobe Illustrator and surface pattern design via online tutorials and now is a very successful fabric designer). I followed along with Bonnie’s journey and was inspired to learn as much as I could on my own. I didn’t need grad school, I’d just teach myself! I had already worked in graphic design for several years at that point, so I knew Photoshop and InDesign well and the very basics of Illustrator. So I started taking online surface pattern design courses, attended Quilt Market, did a textile design workshop in NYC with Anna Maria Horner and Heather Rossmet all the designers of Cotton & Steel at another workshop and learned to quilt. I got to the point in my journey that I knew the basics and what I needed to do to move forward, but working full time I didn’t have the extra time to work on developing my signature style and to create the pattern portfolio I wanted to.

Last fall, as we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel of our debt pay-off plan approaching, Drew and I started to seriously talk about what was next for our lives. Over the past few years, I had always imagined that after paying off our debt, I’d finally be free to switch jobs, buy a house, and have kids. I wanted to work in textile design, but it was taking such a long time to get there with only being able to put in such a small amount of time towards that dream in the evenings and weekends. And after working a full-time job all day, I wasn’t always excited to get home and spend more time in front of a computer screen designing patterns. I did actually try to apply to some dream jobs with the small portfolio of work that I had created so far and was sad but not surprised when I never heard anything back. I started thinking two things: 1. that I didn’t want to have kids until I at least had my foot further in the door of the textile design world and 2. that if I was actually going to make it happen, I needed to quit my full-time job and focus fully on creating patterns and building a portfolio of work. This was when the idea of grad school came back into my life once again. Once we were debt free and didn’t have to rely as much on my income, I wanted to pour myself into making my dreams happen, but I was worried about doing that on my own. I was worried I wouldn’t be disciplined enough to make progress fast enough, about my mental health sitting at home alone all day making patterns, and I started to realize that making it into the textile world wasn’t only a beautiful portfolio, but it relied a lot on connections and although I had done a great job in the past year of making connections in the world of quilting cottons, I really needed the connections that SCAD could give me to appeal to my dream employers. I started to feel that to move my career forward, grad school seemed like the right option for me. (A special thanks to Kelsey from Pinegate Road for sharing her own SCAD story with me!)

So long story short, I started the application process to SCAD last fall. I told myself not to overthink it, to just apply and see what happened. If it didn’t work out this time, then it wasn’t meant to be. I submitted my initial application in November, reached out to a couple of my Tulane professors for recommendations and had my transcripts sent over in December, spent the entire month of January designing my fibers-specific portfolio and writing the written parts of the application, and submitted everything on February 1. I was told it typically only takes a couple weeks to hear back about their decision and at the same time I would be notified if I was awarded any academic or portfolio related scholarships. February and March were a weird flux period in which I had no idea which direction my life was about to go. It took almost two months before they got back to me, right before we left to go to Europe in April. It was worth the wait though (and all the effort I’d put into learning design on my own!), not only was I accepted as a graduate student in their Fibers department, but I was awarded one of the highest amounts of academic/portfolio based scholarships that they offer! (enough to cover about 30% of my tuition cost).

So eight years after first touring SCAD for undergrad and four years after touring it again for grad school, it is finally happening! It has been a long time coming, but I’m so happy with the way things have worked out. For me personally, the timing is really great. Looking back, I’m so grateful for the way our lives have been shaped by being in New Orleans and I think Tulane was exactly where I was supposed to be for undergrad, as frustrating and difficult as that time was. I think I needed the the last three years out of school to get over that stressful experience and look forward to being back in school again. I also think it is so essential how much I’ve evolved as an artist and designer in the last few years that I’m really excited to do grad school at SCAD now that I have a better idea of where I want it to take me and what I want to make of it. I’m so ready for a new adventure and I’m so glad I’m jumping in and doing this now, because I feel like if I waited any longer, Drew and I would be into the buy a house/start a family part of our lives, and it would be so much harder to make this work.

Speaking of Drew, even though I said the timing for me was really great, the timing for him to pick up and move somewhere else is not so great. He got a promotion at work the week before I found out I got accepted to SCAD. He is now the Director of Information Technology at all four ISL campuses, something he has worked hard for several years for. I’m so proud of him and the work that he does. He really loves his job and where he works and wants to have more time to be the IT Director before moving on. So things will be a little crazy for us for the next year or so! Drew will be staying in New Orleans a bit longer for work while I move to Savannah to start my program. Not ideal, but I think that we will be able to make it work just fine. It gives me the opportunity to really pour myself into my work and make the most of my time at SCAD and gives him the ability to work in a job he loves with a title he’s worked hard for. After being together for almost ten years, we rely a lot on each other and I think it will even be good for us to spend some time being a little more independent and appreciative of the time we have together and the things we do for each other. And with SCAD being on the quarter system with big breaks between quarters and Drew working in a school with a lot of breaks, we’ll still be seeing a lot of each other.

And since I know some of you may be thinking, “Grad school? But you just paid off your debt! Are you going into more debt!?” The answer to that is that no, we don’t plan to. We’ve continued to live on a minimal budget, and without any debt (no credit card, car, or student loan payments), we’ve been able to save up a pretty good amount of money pretty quickly with us both working (all the money we would have put towards our debt pay off has been going into savings for my tuition). The scholarship that I got from SCAD also helps a lot, as does the raise that came with Drew’s promotion. Our plan is to be able to pay for my school as I go. It is a little tricky with us now paying for housing in two separate cities, but we are making it work (and will be eating a lot of rice and beans yet again for the next while). We may have no money to spend on anything else, but we are chasing our dreams!

We’ve already paid the tuition for my first quarter, I have less than two weeks left at work, just three weeks left of living in New Orleans before I move to Savannah, and just a month before school starts. Things are getting very crazy, but also very exciting around here!

More to come of my adventures at SCAD!

Roasted Cauliflower

June 1, 2016

Roasted cauliflower is my latest vegetable obsession. I can’t get enough of it roasted with herbs, onions, and garlic. So delicious! I love that it is healthy, but also hearty. It is substantial enough to almost be a meal by itself!
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Roasted Cauliflower with Onions and Garlic
adapted from this recipe, makes 3-4 servings as a side dish

Ingredients:
-1 head cauliflower
-1 medium onion, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
-1-2 tsp thyme or Italian seasoning (I just throw in a little of both)
-6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
-3 Tbsp olive oil
-salt & pepper to taste
-fresh Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Wash and remove leaves from cauliflower. Place cauliflower head on a cutting board and slice top-down into 1/3 inch slices. Break up cauliflower slices into florets and place into large bowl.
3. Add sliced onions, whole garlic cloves, herbs, olive oil, salt, and pepper to bowl with cauliflower. Mix well.
4. Spread cauliflower mixture into a single layer on prepared baking sheet.
5. Roast in 425 degree oven, tossing occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned at the edges, or about 30 minutes.
6. If desired, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top and return to oven for another 5 minutes to melt.

Enjoy!

Green Smoothies

May 30, 2016

Recently, I’ve been trying to eat more Paleo (basically eat more veggies and less carbs). That wasn’t difficult to incorporate into my lunch and dinner plans, but breakfast really stumped me. My usual breakfast was cereal (usually Honey Nut Cheerios) with almond milk or oatmeal. Both are a very carb/sugar rich way to start my day that I wasn’t super happy with. My diet is further limited that I can’t eat wheat, eggs, or much dairy (I’m gluten-intolerant and eggs and dairy also agitate my digestive system). I tried a few other Paleo breakfasts – including a potato/sweet potato/onion/bacon hash and pumpkin/banana pancakes. Both were great, but time consuming to make — so not sustainable for regular workday breakfasts.

At the perfect timing for my life, one of the blogs I read posted about incorporating green smoothies into her diet. I’d obviously heard of green smoothies before, but I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before to try them for my breakfasts. My sister Kelsey makes a similar smoothie for her breakfast occasionally. But it started the wheels in motion and I’ve been green smoothie-ing for breakfast for a couple weeks now and LOVING it!

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Part of the reason I hadn’t tried this sooner is that we didn’t have a blender (Drew broke ours trying to blend a spoon in it while making daiquiris for a party he threw a few years ago when I was out of town, lol!). I tried to blend my first smoothie in our food processor and that turned out terribly! I did a little research on small blenders perfect for smoothies and narrowed it down to these two: NutriBullet ($79.99) & Bella Rocket Blender ($24.99). The NutriBullet is a little more expensive and probably better for the long run, but since I wasn’t even sure I was going to like smoothies, I went with the cheaper, but still well-reviewed Bella Rocket Blender. So far, I’m perfectly happy with my choice! At just under $25, it has been working great (and I’ve been using it daily for the last few weeks). It is super easy to clean, comes with multiple cups, and even includes an extra grinding blade for grinding small seeds and such. I like that it is small enough to leave out for daily use and the design is simple and looks nice.

P.S. Feel free to use your regular blender if you have one! No need to buy a specific smoothie blender for this! I will say though, that the super easy to clean design of this is what has made me actually stick to it. If I had to take a blender apart every day to clean it, I wouldn’t do it (Drew washes the dishes in this house!).

There are a million ways that you can make green smoothies, but this is the recipe that I’ve found perfect for my daily use:

Banana Spinach Green Smoothie
makes one single-serving smoothie

Ingredients: (all rough measurements – feel free to modify as you wish!)
-1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves (probably more, I use a generous cupful)
-1 cup unsweetened almond milk
-1/2 tsp honey (if your bananas are super ripe, you can omit honey)
-1 tsp ground flax, chia, and hemp seeds (I pre-grind these myself and keep on hand to use throughout the week)
-1 Tbsp almond butter
-1 banana (fresh or frozen)
-3 strawberries (sometimes I leave these out if I don’t have on hand)

Other ingredient ideas:
-raspberries, blueberries, peaches, pineapple, pear, apples (fresh or frozen)
-coconut milk
-nuts or other nut butters
-cinnamon
-dates
-avocado
-vanilla
-cocoa powder
-oats
-coconut

Directions:
1. Place spinach, almond milk, honey, and ground seeds into blender cup and blend until well blended. (I’ve read that mixing the spinach and liquid together first before adding other fruits helps to get a smoother blend and avoid small bits of spinach in your smoothie).
2. Add banana, almond butter, and other fruit or mix-ins as desired. Blend until well blended.
3. Enjoy!

Notes:
Using frozen bananas or other fruit will make the smoothie thicker and colder. Using fresh bananas will make it thinner. I like both, but might almost prefer the thinner, easier to drink, result of using fresh bananas.

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I honestly can’t believe what a difference this has made so far in my routine. It is still quick and easy to make and drink (the small smoothie blender makes it so quick and easy!). It doesn’t take any longer than making and eating a bowl of cereal! But I feel SO MUCH BETTER! I’ve noticed that I have so much more energy lately and this is just such a refreshing way to start my day. I like feeling like I’m being better and healthier to my body. I’ve even started to crave and look forward to my morning smoothie — so much so that I’ve even had another for an afternoon snack some days! I’ve been drinking a bag of spinach a week!

This is my own take on a dish my family would always have at holiday meals. It seems like most families (in the Midwest especially) have their own take on this dish – called Texas Potatoes, Funeral Potatoes, or as I like it simply put, Cheesy Potato Casserole. It had been years since I’d had it, mostly because I can’t have cream of chicken soup (its not gluten-free!). I think condensed soups are an odd ingredient in food anyway, and I would prefer to avoid them, gluten-free or not. So here is my more whole foods version of this family staple. Drew and I don’t make it often, but it is the perfect thing to bring to potluck family or work meals when you need something cheap, easy, transportable, and that stays warm or reheats easily.

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Cheesy Potato Casserole
makes one 9x13in casserole

Ingredients:
-2 lbs (32 oz) Southern style frozen hash browns/diced potatoes, thawed
-2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
-2 cups sour cream
-1/2 cup water mixed with 2 tsp chicken broth base/bullion
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1/2 tsp onion powder
-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
-2 cups cornflakes (make sure they are gluten-free if making gf)
-1/2 stick (4 Tbsp) salted butter

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix together potatoes, cheese, sour cream, water/broth base, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning in large bowl.
3. Spread mixture into a 9×13 inch glass baking dish.
4. Sprinkle cornflakes on top.
5. Cut 1/2 stick butter into slices and spread slices out across the top of casserole.
6. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

Enjoy!

Beef Barbacoa

May 28, 2016

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Beef Barbacoa

Ingredients:
-3.5 lb beef roast (de-fatted, if fatty)
-1 med/large onion, chopped
-3 Tbsp butter
-2 cups beef broth
-1 cup water
-salt & pepper to season roast

For seasoning paste:
-6-8 cloves garlic, finely minced
-2 chipotle peppers (sliced open, de-seeded, and finely chopped)
-2 tsp salt
-1 tsp ground black pepper
-1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
-1 tsp chili powder
-1 Tbsp cumin
-2 Tbsp Adobo sauce (from chipotle peppers)
-1 Tbsp tomato paste
-3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Optional ingredients for serving:
-cilantro
-sour cream
-lime juice
-avocado
-hot sauce
-salsa
-black beans
-Mexican rice
-white corn tortillas

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix minced garlic, de-seeded and chopped chipotle peppers, salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, adobo sauce, tomato paste, and lime juice to form a seasoning paste.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. In dutch oven, melt butter. Lightly salt and pepper both sides of beef roast. Sear the roast on both sides in melted butter until browned.
4. Add chopped onion to the sides of beef roast in dutch oven and lightly saute.
5. Rub seasoning paste over all sides of roast.
6. Add water and beef broth to pan, pouring beside meat, leaving seasoning paste intact on top.
7. Put lid on dutch oven, and cook in 350 degree oven for around 4 hours, or until tender.
8. Shred with a fork (I usually shred it around 3 1/2 hours in and let cook for another 30 min after) and serve!

Enjoy!

P.S. You can also make this in a crock pot, cooking on low for 8-1o hours. 

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