• link love

    Wordfull Wednesday, Insta Edition

    Life has been pretty on-the-go the last few days. How does August always manage to do that? I miss doing Wordfull Wednesday posts, but I’ve got some lovelies to share from Instagram instead. Go check out these wonderful artists and accounts!

    A post shared by brandi (@brandi_kincaid) on

    A post shared by brandi (@brandi_kincaid) on

  • the kitchen arts

    Quanto basta

    RB: I always talk about options and substitutions. I’m trying to pass around the word quanto basta, which is basically this principle from Pellegrino Artusi in L’Arte di Mangiar Bene, a book that has been in print for 170 years in Italy. He uses in many of his recipes, as I have as well throughout Autentico, q.b. – quanto basta – meaning “as much as is enough,” “as much as is needed,” or “as much as you like”.

    The Splendid Table, July 26, 2018

    ***

    I was listening to the most recent Splendid Table episode on my way home from Paraklesis last night. It’s not something I would have really ‘sought out’ to listen to, but I find myself listening to it most Wednesdays as I drive home from Church. We don’t have a classical station anymore and most of the radio stations around here leave a lot to be desired. I’ve slowly become a fan. It also makes me ridiculously hungry for dinner, as I usually haven’t eaten when I’m listening! Ha.

    This particular section of the episode fascinated me, as I had never heard of cold rice salads. But it was Rolando’s note on “quanto basta” that really got me thinking.

    One of the interesting side effects of our forced gluten free lifestyle is that we truly know what food tastes like now. It would surprise you how bland your palate becomes if you’ve mostly been accustomed to the standard American diet. Even if only a third or a fourth of your overall diet is processed, the general thrust of what you eat is just so bland and has so many fillers in it, all robbing the food of its real taste.

    We were fascinated by this as we began to cook mostly from scratch. Things suddenly had taste! And lots of it. Take spaghetti sauce out of the jar. We have to be careful because gluten fillers are often used as a thickening agent (sign #1 that you’ve taken too much out if you need help to thicken it!)- gluten is just literally everywhere in things you’d never imagine. Like toothpaste. And lotion. And cheap chocolate chips.  Spaghetti sauce out of the jar is ‘good’. It works in a pinch. And I still use it sometimes. But, if like us, you have to make it from scratch until you find a ‘safe’ jarred version, it will blow your mind. It’s beautiful little explosions on the tongue. The garlic! The oregano! It just pops.

    Anyways, quanto basta was so interesting to me because I actually knew what he was talking about, for once. It is a very real thing, and even more interesting, it is completely different for each cook. I used to watch my good friend, an eminent foodie, cooking. He would season and taste, season and taste, and he would mutter not enough. Taste. Heat. Stir. Season. Stir some more. Taste. Mutter. And then all of the sudden, boom. He would call it enough and move the dish along to its final stages. It was utterly mystifying to me! I was truly stymied watching him, because, how the heck do you write a recipe from that? I tasted the same stuff as he did and I could never tell the difference. I’d make it exactly how he did, and follow his instructions, and it would never come out right.

    Understanding quanto basta has nothing to do with cooking or even recipes- it has so much more to do with your palate, your sense of taste and smell. You have to develop the palate before quanto basta ‘clicks’. You’ll know by the taste and smell of things if it’s where you want it to go, or if it has farther to go. You’ll also quickly know if you’ve over-seasoned or pushed it too far. You can smell it before you even taste it.

    Again, though, it’s taken four years of me cooking this way (and learning basic cooking skills like saute-ing) for my palate to get to the point that I can do this from muscle memory…and a bajillion mistakes along the way. In cooking, you learn so much more from the mistakes than when you actually get it right. It takes patience. I never, ever, wanted to be a cook. I’m not a foodie. Cooking dinner for my family will always be a sacrifice for me because it is just not something I like to do. All that said- it has been so worth it to truly learn the cooking arts. It makes the sacrifice easier, I guess you could say. It reduces the time I have to spend in the kitchen. It has reduced the guesswork and the flops and mistakes that used to put me in tears because dinner was late and everyone was growling and tired. It has reduced the visits from the pizza guy. It also makes it so much easier to create something from nothing when the pantry and refrigerator get sketchy.

    I just love the idea of “as much as is needed”. I am seeing so many connections, not just in cooking, but life in general. The only way you’ll know quanto basta in your cooking- and in life? Pay attention. Stay in the moment. Taste and see.

  • the home arts

    The roads of quotidian faithfulness

    “Things take the time they take.
    Don’t worry.
    How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?”

    ― Mary Oliver

    I got to thinking this morning while refreshing our master closet that while Mary may have been talking about the existential realities of the soul, this poem is also quite true about the work and art of making a home.  It always takes so much longer for me to find a comfortable rhythm in a new season, a new place, a new home, than I ever think we’d need. Until the rhythm is found, everything feels off. Often overwhelming. I struggle to master the balance of the needs of the home, the needs of homeschooling, the needs of family until I find it. And then…it just clicks. Things run so much smoother after that.

    I can’t write a “do these five things for happy homemaking” post because it just does not exist. No two homes are the same. No two families are the same. You could have the exact same house, structurally, and two families will live in and use that house completely differently. Different rooms and appliances will need cleaning at different times based on who uses them. And the seasons families go through are profoundly different too.

    So much of what makes a house a home isn’t even quantifiable in a measurable sense. It’s the way light is set about a living room, the cozy blankets tucked waiting, the books lining the bookshelves, the soft classical playing, that invite rest for a family. It’s not the things themselves: the lamp, the blanket, the couch. It’s the sum of it all, and more.

    When I focus on the sanctifying aspect of home keeping, it makes it easier for me to focus on the whole of it. Each day, take it up, work hard at it, let it go. Ora et labora. Work and pray. Threads of a larger tapestry that I may never see in this lifetime. How many roads did St. Augustine follow? So it is with sweeping the floor, and I don’t think the venerable saint would disagree with me.

    It has been almost a year now that we moved in to this house, and it’s only this month that I finally feel like I am getting a grasp on a workable rhythm. A year. It’s a bit staggering looking backwards at it. But I didn’t see the year before me, I just kept trying. And now I have come out the other side of it. It’s a lesson I need to carry into and remember in other areas of my life.

    I’ve really liked Amanda Watters’ blog, Homesong, for a while now, and her weekly cleaning rhythm printable has been a guiding light for me for a few years. She came out with an editable one, and I’ve slowly been adjusting mine over this last year. I think the thing to note about any sort of home care rhythm is that it should make things easier, not harder. It should get to a point that a reasonable amount of chores are done each day, and no one day is loaded up with so much that you can’t think about anything else. That’s not helpful. (It’s also why I could never understand why people will wait until Saturday to do all of the chores. No wonder they hate Saturday! Ten minutes here and there each day, and Saturday is all yours, no chores required.)

    If a rhythm is really working, it will almost become invisible, without any real thought applied to it. It just becomes the thing you do to a point that you don’t have to actively think, okay, now it is time to water the plants. You just walk and do it because your brain has become so used to it. And when that happens, your brain has so much time for other things! More time to read. To homeschool. To paint. Whatever it is that truly brings you joy, you’ll have time for it. Does it take work to get there? Yes. And probably more time and diligence than you think. But once you invest the time, the payoffs are enormous.

  • the learning arts

    Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac

    My dear friend Christy Mandin sent me a prototype of her Mrs. Thistle’s Almanac early this year. I have been using it for our homeschool planning and tracking since, and it is by far my favorite one to use of all I have tried over the years. I hope that she will be producing one for this upcoming year. I have fallen deeply in love! Her brain works like mine in the way I group things and what I need where and when, and it is so beautiful while being entirely helpful and functional.  I also deeply appreciate the BIG spaces for each day in the weekly layout. I need space!

    One of my absolute favorite parts of her planner is the opening pages to each month, which has lists of flora and fauna that one might find each month. This alone has encouraged me to simply pay attention as we are out and about,  and makes nature study each month a rather easy prospect without a whole lot of forethought or preparation. We have done so much more in this area since and it is entirely due to this planner. I’ve wanted better outcomes in this area for years and now it happens naturally and organically each month, thanks to Christy.

    My other favorite part has to be the monthly at-a-glance she did. I had been meaning to make a similar sort of landing pad for years in my bullet journal and never got around it to it, and I love how hers is laid out. It has the relevant things I want to know as a homeschooling mom, with quick reminders as to what is needed when and goals we might have for the month. Christy is Catholic, and she includes all of the Catholic feast days and celebrations for each month, as well as the readings for each week and a Saint to focus on each month. I’ve found this easy to adapt for our Orthodox needs and I love the encouragement to keep a liturgical focus each month, too.  I can’t wait to see where this planner goes in future!

  • Art,  WIP Fridays

    Art Friday Returns!

    Well, technically it never left, exactly. It just wasn’t here.

    If you follow me on Instagram you know that I never stopped making art over the last year. There was a significant lull from August to December-ish. Part of that was due to illustrating a book for a dear friend, Vince Costa. I couldn’t manage any more brain space than that! Towards the fall it was sheer exhaustion and keeping one’s head above water, as Elliana steadily deteriorated and was just not sleeping well, which meant I wasn’t sleeping well.

    I kept drawing and painting as time allowed, but not in any significantly formal way. I picked up my 365 Handbook project again sometime mid-March, and finally filled in the second of the two Handbooks. If I had kept to the original intention, I would have filled up six of those little sketch books in one year, but that clearly didn’t happen. I’m happy with the two I have now. I don’t know that I’ll return to that project ever again, but it gave rise to such fertile ground for further explorations.

    I got a bit sidetracked after I finished the Handbook project on my watercolor work, because the sketch book I chose that was supposed to handle wet media profoundly did not. Oh the bleed! The muddiness! The wrinkling! It was awful. I had made my choice oh so carefully because of my limited finances and was so disappointed when it turned out so bad and wouldn’t be fit for watercolor or gouche at all. I resigned myself to having to use it for awhile.  Funny thing, though. It was perfect for charcoal and pencil work. And would you know it? All of the sudden, these little characters came pouring out on the page. These old-timey ladies and gents. They’ll come for a visit next week, but you can see them over on Instagram.  Somehow, I can’t help but think that the sketch book snafu was the best thing to happen to my art process lately. I had no idea these people lived in my head!

    Thanks to my brother’s kindness, I was able to purchase another sketchbook for watercolor, and I chose the Handbook Journal Co. Watercolor 8 x 8. I should have known after using the smaller 4 x 4 Drawing ones for my 365 project. They were meant for charcoal and pencil work, and they held up to all sorts of media throughout the project, even when they weren’t intended for it. The Watercolor is dreamy. It takes the media so beautifully. I am itching to get to work in it! I never thought I’d have two sketchbooks going at one time, or have a billion more ideas for both sketchbooks than I’ll ever get time to do in them, but Glory! What a wonderful ‘problem’ to have.

    I told you yesterday of my intense artist’s crush on Breezy Brookshire. I have been following her for ever so long, all the way back to the olden blog days. She is self-taught, and it was her illustrating style that I first fell in love with. There’s a direct line between my ever starting an art pursuit and Breezy’s work. She inspired me so much! Without her, I wouldn’t be here, three years into pursuing art and illustration. I still have such a long way to go, but the journey is so much fun.

    The other artist that I just discovered this week via Jeanne Oliver is Mish Wooderson. I am falling head-long down the rabbit hole of her IG feed and blog! I love the sense of rootedness and place you get from her work. It’s making me think. I love her decorating style too.

    I’d love to see what you’ve been up to lately! Share in the comments. It doesn’t have to be “art” either- poetry? Good bread? A delicious steak? A cozy corner? I wanna see!