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January - Getting Creatively Organized

Homegrown Style

Great Garden Hobbies

When I worked for the Chicago Botanic Garden there was an endless stream of creative classes and often, I'd see visitors doing something that always seemed enjoyable: painting in the garden. Many of Chicago Botanic Garden classes are not offered online so you can enjoy them and learn from wherever you may be. Setting up an easel as if you were Claude Monet and letting the brush fly out in nature or perhaps the idea of this always appealed to me although I never took the time to do it; I spent many days writing (mostly journaling) and photographing the garden before I worked there. Now that I live in a milder climate I have experimented more often with paints and truly enjoy the meditative quality of this artform. This Winter I am working from photographs in a lovely book titled Seeing Flowers. It's been a wonderful way to keep my eyes on blooms during the colder months. Another hobby from the garden is collecting seeds, we are fortunate to have a community garden here in our subdivision so I have designated myself to collect flower seeds that we can plant in the Spring to fill in our gardens. I do the same with edible seeds and look forward to multiplying the yield with these precious seeds.

new approach to a home art installation

This project takes our homegrown style to a new level- It is a multi-tasker too and here's why. Canvases given to me by a co-worked that were to receive a coat of white paint to be reused. Once I saw some of the artwork, I decided to actually hang some of it throughout our house. I wanted to add some organic identity to the paintings, so I collaged with floral photographs from a book I found at a library book sale. Not only did this save us a ton of $ in artwork to hang on our walls but it also became a yearly calendar by adding the names of each month to the canvases. Once that project was done; it quickly evolved into the bucket list (aka editorial calendar) for this month's issue of Little by Little. This winter Michael and I spent one morning going thru dream files from publications we purchased at our local library book sale. It was a local give back for the holiday season. We marked pages of anything that was of interest to us. There were no rules as it was meant to be a fun exercise, but I couldn't help but notice that most of Michael's images focused on recipes and food images. If he hadn't gone into the hair business, I think he would have been a chef or working mechanically and cars and motorcycles.

I started to think about new ways that we could get busy with content for Cooking Per Tutti and decided a section of each e-zine issue would be dedicated to the kitchen and cooking. Those tear sheets from books and magazines were grouped by month and became the guideline for this year's editorial calendar. A very simple process that translated to a lot of creative work. Now that's what I call workflow. A special thank you to Ross Burnham for creating all of this artwork; Ross did a virtual art collaboration without even knowing it. He also opened up our eyes again with these colorful abstractions. Another thanks to Maureen Burnham for sharing the artwork with us.

"Creativity is the new literacy" is my quote of this month's issue, and it was shared by Brene Brown on a talk show. It was one of those statements that upon hearing and contemplating simply resonated in a way I thought worth sharing. Years ago, I remember hearing that a future world would rely on creativity in a way that intellect has been relied upon for years. I think the future is here with the arrival of so much technology and change; it has become a necessity to think differently and in the midst of a pandemic to embrace the unknown. These days it seems our success in moving through the day-to-day world depends on it.

Getting an early start to greens

A recent stop at a local community garden had me flabbergasted at what was still growing heartily at the end of December. If you've been following along here, you know that I am still learning about this new growing zone and how it differs from the Midwest in the North. So instead of cleaning out the garden beds in March right before planting begins (allowing for compost to further break down) I changed the plan and cleared out 2 of the raised bed to prepare for lettuce plantings, brassicas and Brussel sprout seeds may become part of the experiment as well These cold weather crops may just surprise me and I figure if I plant indoors now they have a chance to mature before they are put out into the raised beds. My experience tells me that many lettuce varieties that I grow begin to sprout in about 10 days and within 2 more months I will have some mature plants worthy of transplant. Looks like our last frost here in Arkansas is temporarily scheduled for February 16th when it dives below freezing to 29 degrees. Sounds like transplant time is right around the corner.

This year I opted for a more sustainable Christmas tree - I considered finding a fresh cut or a thrift store tree that could be reused and donated back rather than stored. After all was said and done; I decided to go with three live rosemary trees in two sizes which will be added into the garden in the Spring. Beautiful and useful, this lovely herb adds a woody flavor to our cooking, makes a pretty garnish and intoxicating aromatherapy.

Rosemary candles anyone?

Sitting around a fire pit in the Winter is a lovely way to spend a late afternoon when the temperature is at its most mild. A good way to get rid of fallen branches and an excuse to spend time out of doors with dear ones during the pandemic.

What perplexes me about a sunny day and why a rainy day is so wonderful.

Have you ever noticed how much you have to do on a sunny day? I have and to the point where I started to make to do lists based on the weather- indoor and outdoor days is how I refer to them. For me, certain things just make more sense to do on a rainy day like laundry, cleaning and all those practical duties and chores that need tending. With than being said I often have so many things I love and want to do on a sunny day, and they range from outings to activities I can do out of doors around the house. It's also a great time to get out and see things. Instead of being overwhelmed by so many enticing choices I now plan the day in chunks as to when it's a warmer part of the day and what activities only make sense to do at that time. The rest of the time I fill in with other activities we want to experience. Recently I spent a rainy day giving myself a spa treatment (Facial). A home spa day or hour is something I rarely take the time out to do. The products were courtesy of a family member who knows this about me. What a relaxing and reinvigorating experience. Here's to more of that in 2024!

Cooking Per Tutti

Leftover tricks good cooks know. I like the concept of zero waste although like many I find it daunting in day-to-day real life. So, like much of what I do I take it little by little. When I slowdown in the kitchen and take my time preparing a dish, I tend to think smarter about how I am working and making something. I plan ahead a bit more if only in the moment in my mind. Here's an example of what I mean. I recently had a couple of leftover pieces of chicken from dinner. Not really enough to serve as dinner of next day's lunch but enough to make a chicken salad of some sort, I thought. I decided to give it some savory appeal with pesto and added some cooked red potatoes, fresh organic spinach, kalamata olives, artichokes and feta cheese. Before I knew it; I had a gourmet salad in the making. A second version was this salad which was made up from a leftover piece of cod that Michael had made the night before in a cast oven pan on the stovetop. Again, not enough to make a meal out of but when I added spinach, romaine, kalamata olives, potatoes, feta and artichoke hearts and a lime yogurt pesto dressing it quickly became a hearty enough meal that I will finish up as a side salad this evening. Okay and if you want one more example lets go back to that roasted chicken with a couple pieces left- I took that salad and stretched it. This is a term I use when I don't quite have quite enough, but I know that I can make it work with a few modifications- I'm guessing it's a trick many parents that cook also know about and college students could benefit from knowing. I took that savory chicken salad while I was making that morning's juice. As I pulled out carrots I thought well if I put these thru the juicer, I can take the shredded carrot and add to my salad and I did the same for the apple that went into my juice. Dicing any pieces that may have stayed too large in the juicer. Remembering that I had purchased a pecan/cranberry blend for making trail mix I added a spoonful into the chicken salad along with 3 sliced dates. Another variety of chicken salad was born only a little bit sweeter this time. Less waste from the juicing and more dishes were created simply by adding a few ingredients we had on hand. When I first started cooking, I read a ton of cookbooks and experimented with so many types of dishes and cuisines. Eventually I learned that if I started to use ingredients that I had on hand; even if they weren't the exact ingredient the recipe called for, I could save myself time and money by not going to the grocer quite as often. In recipes this is often referred to as substitutions and those quick modifications completely overhauled the way that I cook. I have seen Michael influenced by this concept as well starting by trying new spices we have on hand and then moving into modifying leftovers. All that stretching is good for our food budget. The trick is to think about like ingredients and their actual purpose- is the called for ingredient an acid or something to brighten the dish like citrus? Ok so it calls for orange, but you only have lemons think of what you are making and whether that substitution might make a delicious, tasty flavor even if it's a different flavor the recipe called for. Is it a protein substitute- you see this concept at many restaurants that offer the same dish with pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu. My suggestion is that you think the same way about modifications in your own kitchen.

A new way to ring in the new year - Ginger Brew and Apple Juice with a splash of Prosecco unless of course you are in Dry January mode. I am finding at this stage of life that wine brings on the hot flashes and so I am modifying my intake with more water, fresh fruit juices and non-alcoholic beverage options than ever before. I like the concept for 2 reasons- it lowers and dilutes my intake of alcohol (a glass or two on the weekend) and adds more nutrients into my diet with the fresh fruit juices. A sprig of Rosemary and a few iced cranberries act as ice and a festive presentation for your next gathering.

Let's get Juiced! One of the favorite gifts of the holiday season was a Black & Decker juicer that is incredibly powerful in a tiny way. The juicer does not take up much space, but it takes on carrots, pineapples, apples and other fruits with just a gentle push. One of the things that smoothies and fresh squeezed juice provide is a true garden variety to the start of the day. You can mix and match your fruits so while you get a daily dose you don't have to get bored with the flavor. Some of the favorite recent combinations have been carrot, apple, mango, pineapple, orange and berries. This is a good way to put frozen fruit to good use although I find thawing first eliminates the slushy texture of the ice. It's a quick clean up and ensures we are getting some nutrition in every glass. Cheers!

Tonight's dinner was simple chicken tacos with rice and pinto beans, homemade guacamole and salsa along with a side of sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, caramelized onions and bacon. Our very own version of succotash.

Outrageously Practical Style


Barakat Bespoke is the premiere custom clothier for gentlemen that offers meticulously designed custom clothing and ready couture. Clients are able to fully customize their own bespoke suits and accessories down to the smallest detail.

The boutique features menswear, grooming products, jewelry, and accessories. All reminded me of the first trip Michael and I took to Italy. Visiting an Italian tailor's shop, the major difference was that the suits, dress shirts and silk ties were made right on the premises. Since studying fashion design in college it is always fascinating to see these craftspeople at work. What I thought was a lost art in this time of fast fashion meets the concept of sustainability it is good to see that there is an uprising of quality made goods in the clothing world. Another way to look at sustainability- paying for something that lasts. To be honest this unique store concept was not something that I expected to find in the River Market area of Little Rock but there it was a true gem; a standout facade from the street view did not disappoint once we walked inside. A store for one who truly appreciates the finer things in life or has cause for a custom-made suit in order to carry out their daily routine. Or perhaps for an occasion where one must rise up or perhaps be remembered in extraordinary fashion. This is your spot.

In the Garage

Michael is spending the shortest winter of his life working on fine tuning the new motorcycle and TR6 for better weather. Here's his holiday message from the new garage in Arkansas. A couple new go to YouTubers for Michael are Aaron and Emily's automotive romance on Flying Sparks Garage and the hilarious Derek Vieri's Vice Grip Garage. It's the perfect season for evening viewing here in Arkansas so Mike is definitely checking them out.

Domesticity, Necessity, Simplicity

When I was in my twenties and just getting started in home ownership and maintenance, I read all kinds of books and magazines on home keeping and cooking that ranged from Natural Living to Martha Stewart and Hints from Heloise. There was something about all that practical useful information that made me feel prepared for the endeavor of home ownership in my younger years. Much has changed now that I am married and have a true partner to share the responsibilities with, but I do still find myself falling back on some of that practical magic from my first homeowner days. Here's one such recent project that was perfect for my decluttering intentions this month. Instead of tossing out a permanently stained yet beautiful heirloom table linen

from someone dear try cutting it down into smaller table linens such as hankies, napkins, dish towels and bar cloths. It's an easy and effective way to make something last a bit longer and get some further use from it while refreshing the parts of the cloth that remain like new. Our grandmothers cut down cotton t-shirts to use as cleaning cloths and diapers were made of cotton in those times as well.

Domesticity, Necessity, Simplicity cont'd

Our kitchen pantry is both command central and the heart of our home. It needed a ruthless makeover, and I knew it would likely be January before it would take place. While it can be daunting to eliminate the clutter out of any space it is pretty satisfying when it is complete. Admittedly I had unloaded our kitchen essentials and stockpile when we moved into the new house telling myself I would get back to refine and better organize the project at a later date. As you may know when you move there is so much to deal with that some projects will overwhelm unless you give yourself the grace to get back to them once you've found a place for everything. Such was the story with our new kitchen pantry. Starting with emptying everything out of the space and I do mean everything; it was given a thorough cleaning and sweeping before better organizing its contents. This emptying process allows me to go through it all and really categorize and eliminate what is no longer needed. It also gave me a chance to repaint the pantry and give it a refreshed look for the new year. I was able to do the project in one day and had time for organizing and donating while the paint was drying so putting everything away went that much faster. I had decluttered drawers a few days beforehand- tackling a couple drawers or cabinets each day so the project never became stressful. Although the entire kitchen took a few days to complete I knew the reward would be in the way that it better functions for us this year and the menu plans I can tackle when I know where everything is. Oh yes, there is the added bonus of being able to tell Michael where to locate things quickly when he asks, and I know he will.


Every year I try to get the year off with a fresh healthy start - fresh juice every day is a good way to begin but taking time to take care of myself with some meditation and yoga makes a big difference in how I handle the day and whatever comes my way. I've been a long-time fan of Yoga with Adriene and am already more than a few days behind on her new 2022 DAILY YOGA program she calls MOVE. What I like is that she is incorporating a bit of meditation before or at end of some of the segments and for those of us who need more practice at slowing down our lives and being mindfully present this seems like a good way to go.

Dario The Dog

Any scraps that aren't suitable for Dario's Zero Waste treats go straight to the compost and next year's garden. P.S. Just in case you were wondering; Mom's cozy but cool sneakers and Birkenstock's are from J. JIll

Creative Couples

After watching several of their YouTube videos I was completely enchanted by the little piece of Italian inspiration they have created in California's Ojai Valley. From Brooke's tours of the lush gardens and menagerie of farm animals to Steve's extraordinary attention to architectural design at their family home and guest house. You'll be as ready as I was to visit their idyllic farm that looks as if it should be sitting in the rolling hills of Tuscany. But alas you can visit here through armchair travel via a beautiful collection of coffee table books that capture the essence of all they have created. Photos below courtesy of Patina Farms website.


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