That One Soup Experiment

October 30, 2013

This week I've been upping the vitamin D, because, sunshine: where are you? This might be the year that I invest in a happy light, although the one I want is pricy. Until then, I will coast on endorphins from the gym, and attempt to be Embracing Of The Season. Which means, open to and excited about the things that make late fall/early winter delightful: warm beverages, leaves, soup. Especially the soup. Ben's been in LA this week, working on a project for TNTP (pretty much the same as shooting a hollywood film), and I've had the temptation to split my solo meals between pizza, and the leftover curry from the weekend-- all eaten in front of some electronic device.

But last night I fought the grey weather blues, and went to the grocery store. I concocted a soup that combined the spicy coconut milk base of this chicken chili with the Caldo Verde (Portuguese kale soup) featured in this month's Cook's Illustrated. It was one of the best soups I've ever made (which a photo cannot do justice to), and definitely made me feel better about the weather.


Curried Coconut Chorizo Soup-- serves 4

Ingredients:
(Feel free to adapt these based on what you have on-hand. For instance, I used a diced chicken breast, in place of a 3rd chorizo sausage. You could use tofu, or even additional veggies in place of a protein.)

2-3 large chorizo sausages, diced up

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 onion, diced
a bunch of collard greens (you could also use kale), stems cut off and sliced
3 carrots, diced
a 1-2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 jalapeno, diced (I used seeds-in, but remove them-- or use 1/2 the pepper-- if you like less spice)

4-6 cups chicken or veg stock (or water)
1 can coconut milk

1/2 t. curry powder
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. paprika
Salt
Pepper
(Note: I don't actually measure spices. Season to taste.)

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1) Sauté the diced chorizo (or whatever protein you're using) in 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil (or some other high heat oil) over medium heat. (I used chicken chorizo, so I needed 2 tablespoons of oil, but if you use pork--which has a higher fat content-- you probably won't.)

2) Add the onion, and cook until slightly soft. Add all of the diced vegetables, except for the greens. Cook for 2 more minutes. Then add the chicken stock (or veg stock, or water), and spices, and crank the heat up to high. (You might need more liquid-- the stock should cover the veggies.) When the soup begins to boil, turn it to a simmer and cover it for about 10 minutes.

3) Add the collard greens and let them simmer in the soup for 10 minutes.

4) Add the coconut milk, and stir. Poke veggies with a fork, and see if they are tender. Continue simmering until everything appears cooked.

This was all very improvised last night, and maybe you can think of better methods (or even different ingredients).  I even tried baking the squash first in the oven, and then spooning the rest of the soup mixture over it, which I don't recommend. The best part of the soup is the ginger/jalapeno/coconut base, which you could pretty much put anything in.

What's your favorite soup? And have you used light therapy with success?

Let's Be Resilient

October 29, 2013

I prepared for my workshop at Giant Steps like a boss. You know?

It was all a bit manic: throw some information together...consider if Power Point really is the best option...study for that graphic design midterm (because there are midterms when you commit to a class)...prep the house for a guest...have callbacks and cast the dance...maybe practice speaking, even if it's just to your cats.

Practice speaking: Hm... Now that I think about it, I'm not sure if I've presented in front of a group of adults (other than when teaching dance, or directing a rehearsal) since college, other than that monologue I performed in 2007. So, although I feel very pleased with the information I presented in my workshop (and happy that so many people have reported it useful!), my next goal would be to learn to present without turning into a nervous crazy person. You know, the kind that speaks quickly, and almost aggressively in tone, and gets a little rambly at points. It's sortof like that time, years ago, when I waited on Josh Hartnett and his family. I was determined to avoid getting sappy over the sighting of a celebrity, but instead I got just a little bit aggressive and "so what will you have?" with him. Very undeserved, Josh.



There really was nothing to be nervous about, as I was surrounded by buddies on Friday-- people I've met via this blog, the twittersphere, and coffee dates. Oh-- and my lovely husband, who was wearing a tie! Minnesota is filled with exceptionally creative, big-dreaming, brave souls. I watched many of them in action (in awe of their calm, articulate, slow speaking styles), and was almost tricked into believing that bravery is a piece of cake. Then I had a flashback to last year's Giant Steps, during which I socialized little, kept my head down, and mostly felt like a creative freud. A total waste of energy, hey? But that's not the point. The point is: HEY! I'M FEELING WAY BRAVER! Having this flashback made me burst with pride for at least 30 seconds, realizing how far I've come. The panelists made the risk-taking appear easy, but I know the truth: it's damn hard work, every step of the way. Also: it's worth it. I insist that the more risks you take, the more the stakes feel a bit lower. As in, it's not all going to end if you fail. Also, what is failure anyway?

As speaker James Faghmous pointed out, labeling a result as 'failure' is "a shortsighted view on life. It might just be a steppingstone."

I completely agree. My failures have been immeasurably valuable. It's all about resilience: a willingness to get back up. Which brings me to my greatest entrepreneurship lesson-- the one I slid into my talk, regardless of how unrelated to content and storymapping exercises it was: 

The greatest gift you can give yourself is to learn how to separate your failures (and even successes) from your worth as a person. 

Learning how to do this will make you more resilient, because you will learn to avoid equating 'failure' with 'being a shitty person, who probably shouldn't have tried this in the first place.' You'll be more likely to spring back up and try again. Your endeavor is related to you, but it's not YOU, and when you realize that, the risk-taking feels less daunting, and more like a great possibility-- whether it's a first public speaking gig, or full-time self-employment. 

Thanks to everyone who took the time to introduce themselves at Giant Steps. In the next week or two, I'll be sharing more information from my talk. And, special thanks to Laura Brown for making me feel like a full-fledged adult with my fancy business cards-- they are hot!

Busy & Sane

October 21, 2013



Happy Monday! Today is the first day of my self-employment adventure. It's also a short week because of Giant Steps (Friday), and a mid-week visit from one of my best old friends. There also happens to be a silly amount of things that need to be pushed into my 3 working days.

Being very busy has always been a source of anxiety for me-- I never know how to enjoy it all when there's so much crammed on my plate. And that's the point, yes? Enjoyment? I'm thinking so, because I happen to love most of what's filling my days right now. I don't want to wish it away, or decide that life will be better when it's calmer. Two weeks ago I taught a residency that had me traveling to a new school in a different suburb each day. After my first couple of classes I thought, "only nine more classes to teach this week!" And then I self-corrected, because if I'm walking around with a continual mental checklist of what I need to accomplish before I can chill out, there's a good chance that I'm not going to be present for my own life. I might miss it all, and that would be a bummer, to put it mildly.

So that's what's been on my mind: being busy, but staying sane. Some thoughts that keep running through my head--
  • My anxiety around busyness is way worse when I don't allow enough time to avoid being late to meeting and rehearsals.
  • Commutes are a great time to listen to podcasts.
  • Although it's tempting to work all the time when busy, it's a lot more enjoyable when I leave a night or two unscheduled, or take the time to meet up with a friend for an hour.
  • A new motto: Discomfort isn't necessarily bad. It's easy to get anxious when my abilities are being pushed. But the best stuff comes from being pushed, yes? It's not all comfortable, and that's good.
  • Eat 3 meals a day, no excuses. There is nothing worse than being stressed and having low blood sugar.
  • Breathe. Listen to some Queen. Remember that this is fun. It's fun, right?
In other news, Laura Brown has made us beautiful business cards just in time for Giant Steps! I'm going to stand up in front of some adults and give my presentation. Kids are easy, adults are scarier for me. Maybe I will imagine everyone as their 6-year-old selves.

Also, a question:
What arts/creativity-related blogs should I check out? What about blogs from performing artists? Visual artists? Point me in the right direction, please.

I'm taking the week off of posting here. Have a great one!

Money, Honey: Part 1

October 17, 2013

Last week I attended one of Springboard For The Arts' Business Skills For Artists workshops. The topic was particularly exciting (drumroll please).....

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AND RECORD KEEPING FOR ARTISTS!!!!!!!!

Honestly, most of the workshop was a pretty good affirmation of the work I've put into having a clue about self-employed finances. This will be my ninth year of filing as self-employed, so I sure hope that I'm making progress on learning about tax rules. For six of those years I did my taxes with Quicken. Now I have an accountant at Fox Tax, where they specialize in working with artists and small businesses. I am so grateful I made the switch, because I want someone else in charge of the numbers. I like being advised on when to take a particular deduction, or who gives me gentle advice about future planning, and quarterly tax payments.



This will be our second year filing as an LLC, and second year paying quarterly taxes. I've learned that taxes necessitate a very noticeable amount of our income. And, I've learned that there's a lot I don't know about money. As I mentioned before, I'd like to know more.

I wrote about preparing for tax time over here. I was raised with self-employed parents, and I've learned a lot over the years watching them. Namely: save your receipts! And, keep good records of most things.

But there's still a lot I don't know about money management. I've never had a job where they put money in an 401K for me, or pay my health insurance. (OK-- I take that back: for brief periods of time I worked for restaurants where they paid my health insurance. Honestly, I'd rather pay my own: if they drop your hours, you lose your insurance.)

But the point is: how do I make future financial plans on a fluctuating income? How does money feel less daunting? How do we get ready to buy our own house (we currently live in one we co-own with family) or make having a kid a financially viable option (if we decide that's what we want) or plan for retirement or even plan for the repairs that my janky automobile requires?

So that's why I'm thinking about being money savvy-- because no one else is going to do it for me. I've decided to work towards knowing more about money. I'm channeling Tara King's advice: Do whatever it takes to befriend money, even if it means logging one receipt. I know from the past few years that this is a process. Going to the Springboard workshop reminded me that I've learned a lot in the past few years-- also, that I still have a lot to learn. We've all got to start somewhere, right?

Here are a few steps I took in the very beginning of my money journey:
  • Deciding on a good way of tracking everything I was spending: I really like mint.com.
  • Opening a business checking account: It makes it easier to keep track of what we're spending for the business, and what we pay ourselves.
  • Keeping a millage log for my car and an expense diary-- a calendar where I keep track of meetings, etc... that might relate to expenses.
  • Saving receipts. 
  • Checking in at least quarterly with our business (and personal) finances.
More Recent Steps:
  • Deciding on a business accounting/invoicing system: We started using Freshbooks (a cloud-based accounting system) for all business invoicing and income tracking. I love it-- I can see when clients have viewed invoices, keep track of sales tax (new for digital delivery of video in Minnesota), and organize business expenses.
  • Reading about money: Suze Orman looks pretty cheesy on the cover of The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke (oh, that title makes me cringe), but the information is great. I mean, I don't know anything about investing. Money therapist Bari Tessler is sharing money memoirs on her blog-- people sharing openly about their relationship with money. 
  • Meeting with savvy money people: My accountant is smart. In the past, I've always just met with him at tax time. I was reminded today that he's way more helpful before tax time. I've also entertained meeting with a personal financial planner. Do you have one?
  • Checking in with my finances on a regular basis, rather than dodging it and crossing my fingers.
I've written before about money and art. In the past I've looked for income solely outside my personal artistic projects, and sometimes gone into significant debt. My upcoming project is the first art-making I've paid myself for in 10 years. Depending on how you look at that, that's really gross or really exciting. Why would I work for good money for other artists, only to pay myself nothing for my own work? It seems problematic.

Future Steps:

Last year at Giant Steps, Kate O'Reilly taught a workshop that discussed pricing. In it she reminded freelancers/business owners to charge 40% more than we would if we worked for a business. For instance: if I work for a business, they pay for my computer, office supplies,  health insurance, etc... When I work for myself, I front that cost. So I guess my future goal is to excuse myself from money guilt. And to keep reading and setting goals for myself. I'm going to set one now: to create a new budget in the next month based on my income trends from the past year. That's been really hard for me, with the whole income fluctuation thing. I plan on posting monthly about my progress.

How did you get money smarts? Did you parents-- or some other role model-- teach you about money? Do you have a favorite money book?

Make & Enjoy

October 15, 2013

 


Last night I worked my last Monday serving shift, and attempted to be patient as I waited for tables to show up. This eventually led to scrolling through feedly, where I read a most exciting announcement from The Jealous Curator-- news about her to-be-released-in-January book!

The cover is particularly gorgeous.

I'd known Danielle was going to write a book, and I was mostly pumped because, although I know very little about visual art (save that one art history class in college), I really like Danielle's taste. We have similar jealousies. But now I'm REALLY thrilled about the book, because she announced that it's about my favorite topic: creative blocks. Danielle is showcasing the work and ideas of 50 artists, and their tips/exercises for working through creative stuck-ness. Holy awesome.

OK. So, I know a thing or two about stuck-ness, because that's why I started writing in this space. I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to create and enjoy the process. My little 10 minute dance back in May was the first thing I'd made for myself (meaning, not as a part of someone else's project) since June of 2011. I took a long break from making things, because it felt exhausting: it made me broke, lonely, tired, and generally frustrated. Gross.

Luckily I realized that most of my artistic struggles were about ME and my approach to creating, rather than actually being about art making itself. My spring project used a very different approach, financially, energetically, and mentally. I had so much fun! I felt really good about the work.

But that piece was 10 minutes, and now I'm making a 40 minute one that will be presented as its own evening. This brings me to my second point:

#2: I Started My New Project!

Well, a little bit. I'm halfway through the audition process, and I'm having a great time meeting new people and imagining what this project could look like. Reading about Danielle's book made me think a bit about my hopes for the next few months. Specifically: hopes that I can stay flexible, patient, and trusting. Even more specifically: hopes that I can enjoy the ride, apply my process from the Spring, and not get too caught up in the world of self-perpetuated pressure. Which brings me to a particular mindset:

#3: It's A Great Big Experiment

I loved working on Alison Anderson Holland's project because she totally embraced the 'It's A Great Big Experiment' mentality, which I think is essential to most art-making. With Alison's project, she never knew how many community members were going to show up to meetings or contribute ideas. She remained flexible, and open to different outcomes. I like this approach because:                   
  • Some things are outside of our creative control. --and--
  • Why not enjoy that/learn from that, instead of pushing against it?
  • It allows us to focus on the things that ARE within our control (like showing up to a rehearsal prepared).
  • It sets up expectations that are less...personal. The success or failure of said experiment isn't related to whether or not we're  smart/talented/capable/good people. We show up and do the work, and keep an open mind. 
This reminds me of when I make my six-year-old students raise their right hands and solemnly swear things regarding good classroom behavior. I, Laura Holway, do solemnly swear to enjoy this mysterious artistic process for the next five months...

What makes for a successful creative process for you? What have you made and enjoyed and not been tortured by? Why did you enjoy the process?

[Photos from making our dance film Tuesday.]

The Plunge

October 10, 2013


I've written here and here about my love of money jobs that support freelancing or a growing small business. Since 2005 I've supported my freelancing with serving and bartending at seven restaurants, a couple of nannying gigs, and an interim position as a middle school drama director. Before Ben started working for himself full time (at the beginning of 2011), he worked at a restaurant as well. I've loved working in restaurants because I've met awesome people, observed lots of different humans, and learned more about food. I like shaking a mean cocktail, and I adore talking about the perks of truffle oil-- it's worked out well.

But it's been my for dream for 2 years to transition to working for myself full-time. I've continued to wait for THE PERFECT TIME, half expecting a gigantic thunder clap from the universe when the move was deemed safe. I didn't get a gigantic thunder clap, though. Instead I got a feeling in my gut, which is much more ambiguous than a thunder clap. It was persistent. I asked myself a lot of questions before I trusted my gut (and checked our bank account and incoming invoices, naturally):

#1- What do I expect this change to look like? What will I be doing with those 10-15 extra hours? I got really specific, a la Kathleen.

#2- What do I need to do to make it successful? I know I need to make sure that I see/work with other humans on a regular basis, because I get a lot of creative energy that way. I also know that I need to avoid trying to work all the time just because I can. I will burn out really quickly.

#3- Am I expecting this to fix challenges that I'm facing? If so, what challenges, and how? I have a really realistic (unglamorous) idea of what this will look like, and how hard it will be. I think this is healthy. I do know that working 35-40 hours a week will feel more manageable than trying to fit in 50-6o hours a week, especially once I start more rehearsals.

#4- Is missing that extra income going to add additional stress to my life? Only a healthy amount. I think it will force me to take some risks that I might not otherwise.

#5- Will I feel huge amounts of shame if I have to take another part-time job in 4 months? Absolutely not. I can only do my best, cheesy as it sounds.

I'm reminded of my interview with Emma Freeman, when she talks about deciding to take The Plunge into working for herself. She said that sometimes you just need to throw your whole self into something in order to know if it will work. That's exactly how I feel-- I've grown tired of dipping my toe into the pond.

In all honesty, something that's really helping me make this move is that I've had a hella intense 6 months of life. The beauty of dealing with lots of big, scary shit is that sometimes you feel more willing to take risks-- the fears start to feel less daunting. And today I'm grateful for that, and for the opportunity to try a new adventure.

Growth Opportunities: Giant Steps 2013

October 5, 2013


I moved to the Twin Cities in the fall of 2005 after 7 months of living and working as a nanny in Wales post-college. My time was split between waiting tables at a failing wine bar, taking all the dance class I could fit in my schedule, and teaching at the Arts Guild in Northfield. Soon I started making and showing my own choreography. Soon I also felt really tired-- working too many restaurant hours to get health insurance, writing grants and applications at night, committing to too many projects, and feeling a little jealous of my old college classmates who had immediately gone to the security of full-time, salaried positions. It felt really lonely at times.

Eventually I began to find a community of other freelance artists, and eventually I got into the swing of piecing things together. I've learned that it requires a certain amount of reaching out-- that I only have to be as solitary in my work as I choose. Attending Giant Steps last year was one of those reaching out moments. I learned lots of helpful information in workshops, and took detailed notes from panel sessions. I met gobs of smart people, and felt jealous (in a good way) reading bios. But the most valuable thing I took away from Giant Steps were tons of great big 'ME TOO!' moments-- realizations that I had a shared experience with other creative people, and I didn't have to try to have it all figured out on my own. Simultaneously I felt proud of how far I'd come, and anxious to ask my peers for their wise opinions, because I was sure our collective wisdom could figure it out. The Giant Steps folks make flexibility, open-mindedness, and connection their approach, and it feels like there's an endless amount of possibility from that place.

All to say: you should be there this year on October 25th. Their early registration rate goes until the 11th. Information is over on the Giants Steps website. I highly, highly recommend it.

You can read what I wrote about last year's event over here. This year I'm teaching a workshop about Talking About The Work You Make-- for artists and creative business owners equally. I hope to see you there!

Hello October!

October 1, 2013


It is the sunny, breezy 70 degrees in St. Paul, and I shrugged off plans for a productive morning and went on a long walk. I am grateful for this month!

--In September--
  • September was a good month for starting new things-- a class I'm teaching, and two performance projects I'm working on. I'm asking the universe to send some good collaborators my way. I do love that I have NO IDEA how this will all come together.
  • Last week I got to see the NYC-based company Nature Theater of Oklahoma's 3 1/2 hour-long show Life and Times: Episode 1. The entire piece was the word-for-word transcription of a voice mail in answer to the question "Tell me about your life." And it was sung. And there was a tambourine involved! I really have to hand it the company for keeping my attention, for making me feel HUGE joy, and for filling the night with my favorite kind of gestural dance vocabulary. Also: they work with restriction in really cool ways (such as holding themselves to performing the voice mail word-for-word). Rachel Jendrzejewski shares her reactions to the night on the walker blog over here
--I'm Thinking About--
--Upcoming--
  • Next week I'll be working with Blank Slate Theatre in a handful of schools in District 287, a special education district in the western suburbs. We're talking about hope and resilience through movement. I expect to learn a lot, as every classroom and school I'm working with has different needs. In preparation, I'm thinking a lot about how theater and movement cultivate resilience.
  • Giant Steps is coming October 25th! I'll be teaching a workshop at the event (*gulp*). I'll share more about this tomorrow, but if you live in Minnesota, you should go over and check out their website (and register).
  • I'm pumped to visit the haunted basement at The Soap Factory.
Happy October!
 

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