Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

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On Failing and Dreaming…

I’ve spent the day sitting on the couch watching the snow fall in endless drifts, working on my computer, and thinking about what the past year has brought and what I want for my future.

This year has been one of incredible growth for my little textile shop – we’ve smashed milestone after milestone, and I have had so many challenges and opportunities both personal and professional.  I would love for my shop to growth to be linear (well, at least for a little bit), and to fling myself with abandon into the many new things that await me, but I find myself mentally hesitating and sometimes even sabotaging myself by being unfocused and not actually taking the steps needed to pursue my dreams.  In trying to figure this out, I keep coming back to one of Amazon’s mantras – Think Big.  This is a specific trait they look for in candidates – the ability to think way beyond the current reality and imagine a much bigger, better, reality.  My husband, who helped interview candidates during his tenure there, said that was the single trait that most sunk otherwise-promising candidates.  I, too, am struggling to Think Big.  My personal and professional dreams are accessible, all I have to do is reach out and grab them.  But apparently I’m afraid to.  And what really kills me about this is that THERE IS NO CONSEQUENCE!  If I try and fail I will be in literally the exact same position I am now – which is pretty damn good, honestly!  If I try and succeed, then that would be AH-MAZING.  Really, there is no possible way to screw this up, and yet, I’m refusing to jump.

Do secret fears of being unworthy hold me back? Am I afraid that if I try and fail than I will consider myself an utter failure so am trying to protect my self-image? I don’t have answers, but I’m going to try to get an early start on my New Year’s resolution: JUMP, DAMMIT!

I’d love to hear from you: What’s holding you back? What dreams are you still reaching for? What is your resolution? And especially, what are you going to do to actualize it?

BLOGLOVIN’

Now you can find and follow me on BlogLovin’!!

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HOME! (at last!) (Updated…)

When Raf and I married and moved to Seattle from Denver, we were so excited to be starting our new life together.  The moving company his work provided us was one of the biggest in the US, and although their packing worried me terribly, I was hopeful that the damage would be minimal – especially since trying to prevent damage seemed impossible – they kept brushing us off.

We moved, and found a lovely house to rent at a reasonable price (a rarity in Seattle – I’m convinced the owners only picked us over the other couples vying for it because they were Chinese and I spoke Chinese, so they were more comfortable with us), and waited for moving day…. Unfortunately, as the truck was unloaded and we began to unpack, we soon found that nearly everything we owned had been damaged!!!  Furniture was broken, garments slashed, priceless heirlooms smashed, antique family photos were scattered over the lawn and the mud puddles in the street… it was truly heart-rending and the start of a long nightmare.  We were hung up in court for 2 years fighting for damages, and in the meantime, we couldn’t throw anything away, so we lived in a still-packed home, surrounded by smashed and shattered bits for all that time, unable to unpack, unable to settle, unable to make our home.

When we moved away from Seattle, we were glad to shed some of the broken stuff, but others were still jumbled in boxes with good stuff, so it moved with us.  Because of the mess in Seattle, we were still moving two households that had never been combined and pared down.  We’ve been in our new house for 1 year now, and still weren’t ready to entertain or receive guests (to our great dismay and frustration!!).  All our boxes were mismarked (I only mentioned the big moves, but we moved 8 times in 5 years, and every mover relabeled the boxes – often erroneously), so unpacking has been a very slow process – and often a very dispiriting one.  Compounded by the fact that some basic painting and repairs were needed, so we were in the house 6 months before we could even make a dent in the unpacking. We kept trying to buckle down and unpack, but then another problem would crop up, and off we’d go to deal with that.  I’d told Raf we had to have the main areas done before he started school next month, but we were still moving slowly (for good reasons, but still…).  SO, when my sewing group called on Monday and asked if they could meet at my house on Thursday morning due to a late cancellation from our regular facility, I agreed, seizing the chance to FORCE us to be ready.

When we were done, we sat down and toasted our new house, and that was when I realized that it wasn’t just that we’d finally unpacked THIS house (main areas only, the rest still needs to be dealt with!), it was that finally, after so many years and so much heart-break, we had a HOME!!

Btw, I just came across this wonderful article advocating for “scruffy hospitality”.  I agree whole-heartedly, what these don’t show are the little piles and misc. odds and ends not put away.  HOWEVER, my personal taste in my own home is for a relatively clear and clean room.  But if I visit someone and things are not perfect, I have never broken off a friendship or stopped visiting because the house wasn’t immaculate!  So if this you, EMBRACE IT!

http://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/in-priase-scruffy-hospitality

 

Darcy’s Blueberry and Herb Salt Cheesecake!

I was so happy that my Armenian Fig Cheesecake was such a hit, and I had a log of blueberry cinnamon goat cheese sitting in the fridge and the fresh blueberries at Costco were delicious….so when I was asked to make something for my husband’s colleagues, I thought of trying a blueberry cheesecake version.

I was out of sour cream, so just substituted plain greek yogurt, then compensated by using heavy whipping cream instead of the milk.  However, when I tasted the filling, it was very bland and seriously lacking in flavor.  My husband suggested rosemary and more berries, so I put in Huckleberry jam and he ground some dried rosemary for me, but it was still lacking the right note… I seized on some dried lavender flowers, and some herbs de provence-flavored sea salt (Herbs de provence is a traditional herb blend from the Provence-region of France – and heavily features both rosemary and lavender, along with other herbs like savory, thyme, basil, and tarragon – though the exact blend varies by chef).  I think we got another winner with this one!  Hope you like it too!  Btw, this would also be delicious topped with a drizzle of rosemary simple syrup!

The blueberry cheese log was 16oz instead of 10oz, and I used a smaller pie pan, so I ended up with enough filling for THREE pies – 2 using the Keebler graham cracker crust, and 1 using the Cinnamon Chex Mix for a gluten-free option.  See the Armenian Fig Cheesecake recipe for directions on making the gluten-free crust.

(I got distracted, and left it in too long – so it’s a little too browned on top, and my husband stole a corner while I was trying to photograph it….)

IMAG5632[1]

Darcy’s Blueberry and Herb Salt Cheesecake 

MAKES 3 PIES!!!

Prep Time: 30 min.

Bake Time: 45 min.

Total Time: 4.5 Hours (3 hours of cooling after baking)

Ingredients:

3  8-oz packs of regular cream cheese

1  16-oz log of blueberry cinnamon goat cheese with figs (I used Celebrity Int’l brand)

1 11-oz jar of wild huckleberry jam

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

4 eggs

8-oz greek yogurt (I used Greek Gods brand Traditional Plain)

1/4 cup gluten-free flour

4 Tbsp dried rosemary – our rosemary was quite old, so very bland, so 4 Tbls wasn’t too much.  If your rosemary is new, try half of this and then taste.

4 Tbsp dried lavender flowers – see note above.

2 Tbsp Herbs de Provence sea salt – I used Chateau Provence Seasoned Salt by Urban Accents.

3 pie crusts – I used the Keebler graham cracker crusts – the 10″ size.

Fresh blueberries to top.

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Let cheeses stand at room temperature until soft.  Blend them together until creamy. Add the jam and cream and yogurt.  Grind the rosemary and lavender with a mortar and pestle until fine, add.  Grind the herb salt a little – you want to keep the large crystals and chunks, but you do want to even the size of the particles and release the flavors – I ground everything until about 1/3 of their original size, add.  Blend. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the flour – DO NOT OVER MIX – only blend as much as needed.

Divide the filling between the 3 crusts, and put into pre-heated oven.

 

Bake for 1 hour.  The edges should be lightly browned, and it’s ok if the middle jiggles a little when the dish is moved.  It will firm as it cools.  When done, leave the door closed, and just let the cheesecake sit a few hours until it cools.

Top with fresh blueberries before serving.

ENJOY!!!

In process photos:

The beautiful lavender and rosemary in my mortar:

IMAG5630[1]

The blended filling – note the texture is lumpy – that’s normal!

IMAG5631[1]

‘Tis The Season…

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and by “holidays” I mean Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Diwali (which is actually already upon us), Kwanza, New Years, and all the other holidays that all the various peoples of the world celebrate in winter, the darkest time of the year, and the time when we most need lights and cheer and the support of our communities.  Shorter days and longer nights combined with the colder temperatures tends to make us more depressed, and seeing all the happy families – especially the fantasies of “Happy Normal Families” and comparing where ours fell short tends to increase that.  This is the time of year when suicides are at their absolute highest, as is the consumption of alcohol (and not just because there are 10 people with a glass of wine around the table) and drunk driving.

In the midst of all this, we celebrate by trampling other people in a bid to get a Special Black Friday Deal of some toy we really could live without (and have been living without until a glossy catalog pushed through our mail slot convinced us how LACKING our life was), we mutter Bah, Humbug under out breath as we shove through the swollen crowds that seem to be everywhere – the mall, the grocery store, the streets, and we seem to go out of our way to actively LOOK to feel offended.  Whether it’s Starbucks’ now-infamous red cups (so much outrage over a disposable paper cup?!), or whether the correct greeting should be Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays (who knew that could be a big fight?! Why can’t we just say whatever we say and trust the other person is mature enough to take it in the joyful spirit intended?), or whether there is a large public display that is Christian or Jewish or Both or None or Other in the mall/city hall/park.

Truly, it astonishes and horrifies me.  We are among the luckiest people in the world.  If you are reading this, you probably have some shelter from the elements, food and clean water, an education, some kind of basic healthcare, and access to technology.  Odds are you have a great deal more than that, but that list alone is enough to put you in the privileged class. Hopefully, you have family or friends or SOMEONE who cares about you and loves you.  Even if you don’t, even if you are all alone, this time of year is still one to be celebrated, cherished, and carefully nurtured and tended.  Not rushed through as though the time between Halloween and Christmas is just extra space to be gotten over with as fast as possible.

This is the time of year to remember that after the darkness comes the light.  After winter comes spring, and many things need the cold and frost to start their life. Short days become long again. The cycle of the seasons continues endlessly and with it, a gentle reminder that no matter how bad our lives are right now, there can be a lessening of pain and slowly a rebirth and renewal of our own.  Now, when the pressing darkness makes us feel like little isolated islands and has us unconsciously hurrying home every night to our families or shelter, now is when we most need to remember that we are NOT little islands, but part of larger whole, and a greater good.  Charity giving increases around Christmas, but I don’t just mean that.  Stretch your hand out and make connections within your community.  Mindfully celebrate and enjoy each holiday in turn – without rushing through them just to get to the next.  Say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, be grateful for what you have and think long and hard about just how much you need that new gizmo, stay out of the stores around Thanksgiving so they learn to close and let employees visit their families, don’t give in to the retailers’ desperate attempts to force us into a buying frenzy now. Give homemade cookies, buy something from an artist, give the gift of your time.

Be one of the bright sparks of light that gleam against the darkness.

GAH!!! Why are websites so complicated?!

I’ve been trying for the past  SIX YEARS to create my own website where you can buy the art you like.  This shouldn’t be too hard, right?  After all, the internet is FULL of sites like that!  One of the major catches here is that I’m not willing to pay astronomical fees for it (I think $20K is too much for a basic set up where I’m doing all the work!!).  Still, this shouldn’t be that complicated, right?

I’ve tried a ton of free hosts and site builders, and I’ve even tried mainstream standards like Shopify.  Shopify is charging me (and not responding to my requests for help or instructions to cancel my account and stop charging me) for a site that will not do what it is supposed to – not sell more than I have.  This should be pretty basic, right?  If you only have 5 pieces, please do not allow someone to buy 6.  How complex is this?!

So, I’ve tried every site I can find that’s recommended, and still have no website with shopping cart.  I’ve even hired people to help with this, and not gotten anywhere with them either…. Yes, I’ve tried a WordPress site with cart, but got stuck and found that other people were complaining of the same issues in the forum and there was no fix.  Paypal integrates with many of the free site builders but does not allow users to add quantity – just one of anything.  How idiotic is that?!  Also, their customer service SUCKS!!!  A client tried to use them to checkout and something went wrong (with the technical Paypal end – charged them wrong).  Paypal refused to respond, so I had to just refund the whole order (couldn’t adjust it) – but of course Paypal kept the fees they’d charged me….

So, if you’ve got a brilliant solution that doesn’t cost ridiculous amounts of money when I’m doing all the work, please let me know!!!

I’m Baaack!!!

I just got back from a month in Europe… tried posting my adventures for you, but sadly, the site took one look at the foreign IP I was signing in from and shut it down as an attempted hacking.  Appreciate the security, did not appreciate being locked out of all my accounts….

Over the course of the month I went to: Frankfurt, Wuppertal (near Dussledorf), Prague, Crete, Luxembourg, and London.  Whew!!  It was exhausting but absolutely wonderful to see so many new places and try so many new things.  Europe really makes you feel in a visceral way just how young America is.  We ate in restaurants that have been open for literally HUNDREDS of years!  For context, the oldest restaurant in the US is the Union Oyster House in Boston, which has been open since 1826.  A mere 189 years.  We were in U Fleku brewery and restaurant in Prague, which has been brewing continuously since 1499… that’s over 500 years old!!

The churches were unbelievably magnificent – especially in Prague.  I have never seen the likes of the Prague churches – all baroque, dripping with gold and murals, and amazing artistic magnificence!  I even saw the grave of a saint – all festooned with silver angels flying above it!!  The outside of that church was a gothic lacework of the most incredible detail and delicacy carved in the stone.  It was mind-blowing to realize that the church, St. Vitus’ Cathedral, was built in 1344 on the site of 2 other churches, dating back to 930.  Here is the Wikipedia photo of it:

605px-Praha,_Katedrála,_JV_01

Now that I am back, I will be posting about my trip.  Slowly, as I’m still recovering… I need a vacation from my vacation!

The Hardest Lesson…

A number of events happening right here in the US and around the world have gotten me to thinking recently about “The Hardest Lesson”.  Nearly every religion in the world says something about the importance of Loving Your Neighbor (and most atheists have something like The Golden Rule).  This ‘commandment’ is often referenced alongside stories like the Good Samaritan – these stories and commands are generally understood to mean that the one should consider your neighbor as a brother (without the sibling rivalry), regardless of whether your ‘neighbor’ is just like you or not.  And there is where the Hardest Lesson lies.  Loving your neighbor who is just like you – who looks the same, comes from the same background, has the same beliefs, practices the same religion, dresses the same, loves the same – is so easy, and so natural, we don’t need any instruction to do that.

Humans are “herd animals” – we need to be part of a group, and for millennia, our survival depended on being part of a tight-knit group.  Our basic psychology DEMANDS that we create at least two groups in our minds – US and THEM.  There must be a Them, so we know who Us is.  So we look for ways to create that second group – people who are a different color must be Them.  Or people who are poorer.  Or foreign. Or a different religion (or even… NO RELIGION!). Or anything else that makes sense in the particular construct.  We aren’t bad people because of this.  Our brains are just wired for this because that’s what ensured our survival in the early days of human history.

But times have changed, and we don’t need most of these arbitrary divisions to keep our little herd safe from the big scary world.  And that is what these rules are about.  The most important, and hardest, part of Loving Your Neighbor is loving them WHEN they are different.  When they are different.  When they are foreign or poor or have different beliefs or dress ‘weird’ or talk ‘funny’ or look ‘odd’ or eat ‘gross’ foods….  THAT is when we need to really step up to the plate and practice Loving Your Neighbor.

So please stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and think about what has you riled up now – whether it’s immigration, gay marriage, welfare subsidies, racial issues, anti-X (whatever) sentiment, and take a deep breath, and remember that there are real people on the other side of that issue.  Real people with real families, who are Just Like You in more ways than you realize.  And please, take a moment to practice Loving Your Neighbor – invite someone you wouldn’t normally hang out with out for a drink.  Bring them a plate of cookies.  Stop and chat for a few minutes and see if you can find 3, just 3, things in common with them.  Because loving the Other is the hardest, and most important, lesson for us all.

Coming Soon…

Beginning July 1st, you will be able to find my work in the Village Fine Art Gallery at the Rochester Village Mall!

Very excited!!

‘Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment’ – Monet

I think this quote from Monet needs to go above the door in my studio… I’m looking for something anyways, SINCE THAT REMAINS THE AREA WHERE THE PAINT WON’T STICK!  Then I spent FOREVER in Home Depot, collecting paint swatches of EVERY shade of white, which I brought home and stuck up on the ceiling.  Found the closest match, put some on the wall paint that accidentally got on the ceiling and found it looked all wrong… so broke out another can of basic white ceiling paint – perfect match!  In high excitement, we started painting and found that the purple was coming off, the white REFUSED to blend into the ceiling and was not at all a perfect match, and nothing was right at all.

So our latest solution for the ROOM THAT WILL NOT DIE is not to apply paint all over the ceiling – trying to pounce cloud-like forms on it.  We hope it will hide our accidental paint damage (exacerbated by the painter’s carelessness), and hide all the errors made the previous people – whose undercoat still peeks through the white.

CAN’T. WAIT. TO. BE . DONE. WITH. THIS. ROOM!!

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