New Normal

These last 2 weeks, although I’m working full time, I produced more drawings than the whole year of 2019. Being busy was not pushing back my art career, it was my emotional state.

Working in Canada has been intense

Being an immigrant is no vacation. Since I moved to Canada in 2014 I’ve been always working very hard and rarely take some time to evaluate my life and goals. In my first year as an immigrant I just survived, and it was tough. I had 2 jobs and lived in 4 different addresses. It was exhausting. At the end of that year I quit my job and went to Brazil for 5 weeks. I didn’t want to do anything, I just wanted to rest. That was when I had my first insight, I wanted to change my career, I wanted to become an artist.

I was travelling in Buenos Aires and I wondered… how artists make a living?

I got back to Canada and enrolled in a visual arts and illustration program. I applied for a new day job and I got 5 job offers for management positions in retail. Salary was reasonable but all jobs were full time and seemed like a lot of responsibility. At the same time I also applied for a part time job as a barista at Starbucks because I felt that just making coffee would leave my creative energy free for my art production. Starbucks called me. That was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I remember long conversations with my family and friends about how I could make my art career possible, how to balance day job and dreams. My mom was the one who reminded me that I could get a management job in retail anytime, but “if you want to be an artist, you need to try it now”.

Making coffee and drawing boards

So I got the job at Starbucks and started studying at a local university. In the extra time I worked on my own drawing projects and yes, it was tough. Awesome, but tough. I did that for 2 years and one day after a stressful shift I just quit. I was already doing exhibitions, got a few small commissions and a local newspaper even wrote an article about my work. I thought, ok, I can survive as an independent artist. I counted my savings and boosted my work for 6 months. It was great but I made some mistakes on the way. I got in debt when I did my first solo exhibition, I invested money on equipment for taking pictures of my art work, custom frames and art supplies. These things were necessary but my inventory didn’t move as fast as my expenses.

Living the dream as independent artist

At a certain point, I had to get another day job. That’s when I started teaching at an art school for kids. In the beginning it was part time and I was still producing a lot of illustrations and funding my independent career. I paid my debt, I got my work at an art gallery, pieces started to sell here and there, I was happy. I got married, moved to a cute house, things were moving well and I was moving towards my dream. But personal challenges came on the way. Last year, in April, I faced something devastating emotionally. I didn’t notice at the time, I didn’t see how it would affect me, but it did and it was very deep. I pretend nothing happened. When the art school offered me a position to become a manager full time, I accepted and I started working very intensely. I abandoned my drawings and illustrations. I lost all my hope. I firmly believe I would never be happy again. When people asked me what happened and why I was not drawing anymore I would blame it on the job. “I’m too busy”.

For one year and a half I didn’t touch a pencil

Then the pandemic came, I was temporarily laid off. Suddenly there was so much free time! But in my first month at home I just watched the news and got upset about everything. I didn’t touch one art supply. On my birthday, in April, it had passed one year after the tragic event from 2019. It was like someone was slowly turning on the lights of a very huge building, switch after switch. I started to eat healthy again, exercise daily, I lost 3 quilos. I did fun things like playing online games, watching cute movies. Suddenly, boom! Something turned on all the lights at the same time in my head! All the pain stopped. My drawings ideas were back. My art goals hit me like a thunderstorm. I realized I’ve been mourning for a full year and that was what stopped me. It was not my job, not my new routines, nothing. It was my emotional state.

Fênix out of the ashes!

Since things got clear, I see inspiration everywhere. I’m inspired by the stories that are happening now, the game I was playing, the movie I was watching, the advertisement I saw in a magazine. Ideas are flourishing everywhere. In the last 2 weeks I produced more than the whole last year. I am working full time now, exercising 5 times a week, eating home made food practically everyday and I’m on a spree of energy and creativity.

One of the works I did in this new spree of energy

People don’t see when depression takes over. It happens so slowly, we think things just changed for good. We changed. We gave up. That’s not true. Now that it’s over, I see clearly how I was affected by my emotional state. I’m finally happy again. I feel powerful and motivated, I feel I can do anything again. It’s just beautiful!

Healing takes time, don’t give up!

It’s hard to believe I’m drawing again. Now that it’s over, it just feels I had a bad dream. Emotions are important. I usually pretend things doesn’t affect me and then they stay in my subconscious poisoning everything. Some things we can face and deal with it, but others, we need to give time to heal and there is no way around. If I didn’t ignore what was going on, I wouldn’t feel so guilty about not making art, or feel so pressured about my routine and goals. I would have been more patient to myself and accept I was healing. I wouldn’t try to blame other people or other things for my lack of initiative. I didn’t produce because it’s was not possible due to my emotional state and I needed the time to heal. I’m happy I understand that.

From now on I’ll start posting these new illustrations here on the blog and speak more about my process and what I’m doing. I’m so happy about this new spree of creativity I can’t wait to start sharing everything. Keep posted and again, thanks for reading!


How to freeze home made bread

This week one of my friends asked me how I freeze and unfreeze my home made bread, she got a bit more adventures now during these pandemic times and I realize many people is baking bread for the first time now, so some tips might be useful for many people. Since I was a kid I watched and helped my mom making bread, she used to make 5 or 6 loaves at a time and we froze them as a whole. We were a big family and a new bread didn’t last long enough to get dry. Her bread was delicious, usually made using white flour, milk and eggs. I started making breads from scratch as soon as I moved on my own but I could never eat a whole bread before it gets dry, so I always freeze. Now a days my everyday bread uses whole wheat and seeds or grains, so I had to also learn a few new tricks. Today I want to share a few tips on how to finish and freeze your bread so you can enjoy in the rush or laziness of every morning.

It’s ok to refrigerate the dough and use another day!

Sometimes I don’t bake my bread on the same day. If I’m busy or if it’s too late, after my dough grew at room temperature, I store it on the fridge and bake the next morning. Some recipes (the ones with no eggs or milk) you can refrigerate for longer, two or even three days, but there is the risk your yeast will lose strength. So I make one day and bake usually on the same day or next. For my everyday bread I prefer to use a metal bake sheet so I can have more regular slices for my breakfast. I make bread in other shapes when I want something different for the weekends.

I just smash the dough on the bottom

Because the dough is still a bit cold I let it sit for around one hour until it doubles the size and looks nice and full.

Ready to bake!

Keeping the seeds on top of the bread

The secret for keeping those oats on the bread is to brush a mix of water and cornstarch before adding your toppings. This is valid for most breads with seeds on top. It works as glue and make the crust a bit more crunchy. (I use this mix for most whole wheat/seeds bread. For breads like brioche or breads with milk and eggs in the dough, the best topping is usually egg wash). Simply make your cornstarch mix and brush after the bread grew. Apply your seeds or oats and then make the cut on the top. The cut is there to help your bread open in that direction instead of crack on the sides, but not all recipes require that and if you forget it’s fine too.

My “drying rack”

Why use a drying rack for bread?

After baking I immediately take it out of the baking pan and place on a “drying rack”. I don’t have one now, I sold mine together with all my cooking gadgets before moving to Canada. So I’m using a dish in this picture, this way the bread can breathe and won’t get soggy underneath. The drying rack it’s much better because it distributes the weight of the bread and keeps its shape.

The crust is your protection!

Bread crust won’t let you dry

If you are going to eat the bread immediately, don’t let the middle be exposed to the air. Keep the bread “standing up” so it won’t get dry. Even if you leave your loaf outside for one day it usually will be all right as long as the middle is not “open” to the air. If I have visits I know we will eat the bread in just 2 days, so I don’t freeze, I simply keep in this position on a plate and cover with an upside down loose plastic or paper bag (just to avoid dust).

Get a slice from the middle, leave the ends for the end

Get your slices from the middle

Now if I’m freezing I wait until it’s totally cold and slice the whole bread. You should wait until it’s cold for 2 reasons: first because slicing a hot bread it will make a huge mess and it will crumble all over. And second because you will loose way more water and your bread will get super dry later. Use a serrated bread knife, if you don’t have one, buy one so you can slice it properly. A table knife will cut irregular slices and make a mess, a kitchen knife will smash your crust and make you angry.

If you want to eat a slice right now or any time later, always take it from the middle and keep the both ends of the bread. The crust will protect your bread from getting dry, so keep the crust around as long as you can.

Ready to freeze

Keep the slices together and avoid extra air

My breads are small and I usually keep them in a large zip lock bag. If I make a very large bread, I reuse a bag from my last store bought bread. While packaging, keep the slices together and make the whole as compact as you can. Take as much air from the bag as possible, you don’t want to open a bag full of ice crystals. Never ever freeze a hot bread, because the water vapor will become ice and your bread will lose the original texture. Find space on your freezer to keep your bread nice together and with a good shape. That’s it! Every morning take out a slice from the middle and put directly on a toaster for a few seconds and voila! Fresh bread with amazing texture every morning!

I hope you enjoyed these tips and you are having an amazing time baking! I believe the quarantine times are getting to the end for most of us, but some new habits are here to stay. Thanks for reading!


Corona life

Hi! I’m sorry it’s been a while since last time I posted. How much things changed in just one month! Last post I was planning to sew a quilt, organizing things for my family visit and excited about new projects. In just few weeks I lost my job, all travel is suspended and I’m in saving mode now, trying to work on projects with materials I already have. No prospect of visits, not going out. Just waiting quietly at home for all this to pass and thinking I’m lucky because I have a great house, EI will cover me for a while and I have lots I can do.

I love my cozy house

I cannot avoid feeling a bit depressed about the whole pandemic situation, but let’s talk about fun stuff: what was done this last 4 weeks.

The basement upgrade – few updates

Before all corona crisis I was able to go to Ikea and buy a few boxes and other things to organize my basement. Take a look on these adorable boxes they had.

I love my new boxes, they are so cute!

I know I’m still hoarding so many art supplies but I’ll try to slowly use my art materials or give them away. We will see. I have extra time and I hope to feel inspired again.

Still there is too much information!

I thought about stapling some fabric behind the shelves to cover the computer cables, make some curtains for the base shelf and maybe add some linen to the drawers on the left, I don’t like how everything is exposed. I’m still thinking about solutions.

Speaking about hiding ugly stuff, I’m quite glad about the new visual behind the sofa. I used 3 blinds from Ikea and now you cannot see the laundry from the office. It feels more cozy and now I also have some space to hide extra shoes behind the couch. Take a look:

The laundry totally visible before
Ikea cheap blinds now hide the laundry
And I got some room to hide shoes and other stuff behind the sofa

The last upgrade I did in the basement was to find a box with some pieces of wood floor. I simply spread around an old rug and it looks like I have new floor!

I had just 12 pieces of wood, so that’s all I could do but it looks cool!

Later I’ll add more pictures to the walls, I have tons. So far so good! A bit at a time.

Small traditional crochet table runner

I got a fine thread the other day just for fun and I actually loved! I didn’t start too ambitious, I found a pattern online for a table runner made with squares so I tried a few squares just to see how the thread works

Kinda wonky beginning

I was not sure how this was going to turn out but I was persistent and decided to keep working. What a surprise! I loved it! I like the feeling of working small stitches and also the delicate result. After a few hours of work this is what I got:

I love it! Can’t wait to get more thread and make many new pieces. I want to add crochet on everything now, towels, dishcloths, make a cover for my bed, I’m obsessed with the tiny delicate patterns. Its fun and easy, it just requires a bit of patience. However I got a huge pain in my arm and I need to be careful with my posture when I’m working. But isn’t it worth it?

Cooking life

I also did a ton of cooking during the last weeks, some are not so photogenic but it’s been fun to cook with no pressure (I have lots of time now that I’m unemployed). My husband said he is very happy with this “pandemic food”. We need to find some reason to laugh, right? Here are some highlights.

A delicious trout with vegetables and butter/lemon sauce
This super cute home made burgers in a home made bun

There was lots of other food I did, like cakes, salads, stews and even a moussaka but there were not so pretty on the picture (although they were delicious). Food has been just fine!

The dance lounge

Before the whole corona crisis I was planning to create an Arabic lounge downstairs for some of my guests. It would be an extra guest bedroom but stylish and fun. Anyways those plans are over for now. But why leave the space totally empty? I found some old coloured lamps and some Christmas lights and voila, now we have a dance lounge to enjoy during the isolation time.

It’s still messy but it’s fun!

So that’s how is how things are here at home. I’m sad about our cancelled plans, worried about vulnerable people and not very optimistic about the near future. But life goes on. I’m working on a crochet blanket and if I get motivated again I’ll paint the pictures I’ve been planning for my kitchen and bedroom for a long time. Keep in touch and stay healthy and safe. Good luck for all of us!