The Power of (Minnesota) Food

 
Minnesota Food Print

Last year I tackled a 100-day project titled #100daysofminnesotafood. At that time I had invested in the iPad Pro, an apple pencil, and a digital illustration app called Procreate. I thought it would be a great opportunity to commit to play and exploration. From the very beginning it was clear that this subject matter would be capable of sustaining my interest and motivation for a long time! The project was so much fun and I started thinking about how I could create something larger with the sum of its parts. The result: a new boldly colored print pictured above.

Minnesota has an incredibly rich local food scene which may be surprising to some given our long winters and harsh climate. Over the past few years I have become increasingly passionate about the power that our consumer food choices (we all have to eat!) can have to positively impact the local community and our beautiful Mother Earth. In another's words:

"[Eating] is . . . an ecological act . . . and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world - and what is to become of it. To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction." - Michael Pollen (The Omnivore's Dilemma)
  A small handful of the work I made for the   #100daysofminnesotafood  project.

A small handful of the work I made for the #100daysofminnesotafood project.

As with any new endeavor, education it the first stepping stone. Each day of the project I took time to learn about a specific variety of Minnesota produce or a local eatery. A few fun facts that I learned:

  • The University of Minnesota has been researching apples for over 150 years. They developed the Honeycrisp apple which is also the state fruit.
  • Raspberries are part of the rose family.
  • Wild Rice (a Minnesota staple) is the only cereal grain native to North America
  • So many culinary vegetables are actually botanical fruits: zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and avocados (who knew?!).
  • Orange and red bell peppers are just ripened versions of green ones (I think I may be one of the last to realize this, but it blew my mind).
  • Elderberries are native to Minnesota.
  • A cob of corn stored for just 6 hours at room temperature loses 40% of its sugar content. 
  • Minnesota is home to 5,000 kinds of mushrooms with hundreds of edible varieties

Sharing lovingly prepared food with family and friends has been a staple of my entire thirty plus years (thanks Mom!). I have been a vegetarian for more than ten. The past three years I have been asking more and more questions about the impact that my food choices have on the world: Does it really matter? Are my weekly groceries too small to make a difference? Is it worth pinching my pennies to afford locally produced food? I have come to strongly believe that as consumers we hold the power to encourage change within our food production systems. There are so many benefits of committing to the intention to incorporate more locally produced foods into your weekly grocery routine:

  • Educating yourself on the origin of the food you consume creates a mindful connection between your body and the literal fuel that allows you to enjoy each beautiful day. It also nourishes community by drawing a line from you to the source - the humans who grow the food you eat. 
  • Investing in local food supports the local economy and helps to keep these producers in business.
  • Buying local reduces the impact of harmful emissions when food travels shorter distances to your table
  • It tastes delicious! The fresher the food, the better it tastes! Who can argue with that?
  Last weekend's treasures from the downtown St. Paul Farmer's Market.

Last weekend's treasures from the downtown St. Paul Farmer's Market.

  A few of the local Minnesota food products featured in the   #100daysofminnesotafood  project.

A few of the local Minnesota food products featured in the #100daysofminnesotafood project.

A few local highlights that are often found in my fridge/pantry:

I have also been deeply inspired by local author and chef Beth Dooley's book In Winter's Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartlandthe documentary film Sustainableand Michael Pollen's The Botany of DesireMost recently I finished reading Eat for the Planet: Saving the World One Bite at a Time which is an informative break down of how the food you eat impacts the Earth (with an emphasis on industrial agriculture/the meat and dairy industries). I am always interested in learning more about food, it's origins, creative uses, and political implications so if you have any book or film recommendations please do send them my way!

Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires you to start thinking about the power of food (in Minnesota or wherever you live)!

xo Maria

    Nature Does Not Hurry // Mindful Coloring Page

     
    Blog - Nature Does Not Hurry.jpg
    Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. -Lao Tzu

    These words really resonate with me. I should probably repeat them daily. Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. It is so easy to be in a hurry. Too easy. It is much harder to slow down. To do one thing at a time. To pay attention. I try to practice these things and to be quite honest it is super hard. Most of the time I am only successful in very short bursts. However, no matter how many tasks I manage to juggle at once, more is achieved when I give one thing my full attention. I remind myself that mindfulness is a practice and that it may take years or even a lifetime to hone the gift of presence. In those little moments when I am actually able to slow down though, it is pure joy!

    There are lots of ways to slow down and pay attention: take a walk in nature, drink a warm cup of herbal tea, tend to a houseplant, listen to a loved one, read a poem, prepare a home-cooked meal, sit quietly and breathe, and the list goes on... On good days painting can be that for me. There are also lots of times when I am unable to paint without thinking of all of the other tasks that need my attention.

    Working with your hands can help to bring the body and mind back together. I remember writing, drawing, and coloring to my heart's content as a child. There was no rush or need to hurry. If only we could reconnect with our childhood selves. What is it Picasso said? Something about every child being an artist and spending the rest of our lives figuring out how to remain one as we grow older? Children carry the wisdom of being present in the world. They are filled with a sense of wonder. We should be so lucky! We can be (with practice)!

    I made a coloring page just in case you need to take a mindful moment for yourself to do one thing at a time and just be. Click below to download the PDF. Remember - don't hurry, everything will be accomplished. 

    xo Maria

     

    A Springtime Commission

     

    Now that spring has made a grand and colorful entrance in Minnesota, I thought I would share more about this seasonally appropriate commissioned painting that I completed a few weeks ago:

    Spring Day Reading Under the Trees.jpg

    When I received a message from a kindred spirit inquiring about a painting inspired by "a peaceful spring day reading under the trees" I didn't have to think for more than a second about whether or not to take on the project! Yes, please (cue: Amy Poehler)! I felt immediately inspired. The time for dreaming of green grass and picnic-weather was ripe - my yard was still covered with a thick blanket of snow and my puffy parka jacket was barely enough to stay warm. The project had a kind of energetic creative possibility from the very start. I had so much fun bringing this meaningful imagery to life. An artist's work is often extremely solitary. I appreciate and am well-suited for the quiet, contemplative aspects of art practice. However, I found the opportunity to break outside of my own head to collaborate and share incredibly refreshing and inspirational! It was a joy and privilege to create with another in mind. A practice in compassion and relativity. I loved it! In fact, I loved it so much that I am working on another big project for a client. This time I will really be exploring some new subject matter. ...but more on that later!

    Here is a little sneak peak into the process of collaborating on a commissioned piece:

    Before my pencil even hit the paper my client and I discussed her vision. We had a meeting via video chat so that I could see her space and imagine the work in it. Potential formats were discussed. I was able to get a sense of her style and the objects she had carefully arranged at home. We decided that a vertical format would draw the eye up and work as a great focal point with plenty of breathing room.

    From there, I began to collect imagery. I gathered pictures of spring-y things like lemonade, leaves, books, and cherry blossoms. I also had her send along images of some personal belongings like a favorite blanket, tote, books, scarf, and glasses. I loved including these individual touches to make the piece extra meaningful!

    reference.jpg

    Next, I drew up some tiny thumbnail sketches with potential ideas for composition, perspective, scale, and different objects to include/exclude. I absolutely love this stage when the possibilities feel limitless. It is an exciting time!

    Sketches.jpg

    Upon completion, I sent my sketches along for feedback and revision requests. I always have a bit of excited anticipation to hear which arrangement resonates most with the client. It is enlightening to learn which one they are drawn to and why. 

    We narrowed it down to a few choices that I worked into larger, more detailed sketches and ultimately settled on the second one below:

    Final Sketch 1.JPG
    Revised Sketch 2.jpg

    I found that the entire collaborative process feels a bit like solving a story problem or puzzle. I really enjoy the bouncing back and forth of ideas and getting feedback on the journey. It is super satisfying to watch a piece come alive and know that it will hold meaning for someone, bringing to mind what they wish to be reminded of every time they look at it. 

    One of my personal favorite moments is this little bumble bee buzzing around the freshly squeezed lemonade and wild strawberries. Can you spy another tiny creature below? (I think I just channeled my inner elementary art teacher with that last one. Sorry! hehe)

    Spring Day Reading Under the Trees - Detail.jpg

    I was also really excited to learn that my client is a fellow bookworm. Two of the titles included were ones that she already had read and enjoyed. I suggested Moments of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh and she approved. The words resonated with us both. I love the meditation of writing out text. I also appreciated the relevance of the words to the piece as a whole:

    Spring Day Reading Under the Trees - 2.jpg

    Don't say that I will depart tomorrow -

    even today I am still arriving.

     

    Look deeply: every second I am arriving

    to be a bud on a spring branch,

    to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,

    learning to sing in my new nest,

    to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,

    to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

     

    I still arrive, in order to laugh and cry,

    to fear and to hope.

    The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death

    of all that is alive.

     

    So, there you have it! Happy Spring to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere and I wish a sense of renewal and possibility to anyone reading, springtime or not. If you have any questions about the process or are interested in commissioning a painting of objects and/or an environment that is special to you, please feel free to be in touch via my contact form here!

     

    Keeping a Gratitude Journal + Free Printable Notecards

     
    Maria Rose Adams - Gratitude Notecards

    I have had gratitude on the brain. One obvious reason is my goal to create 100 Mindful Gratitude Paintings in 2018. However, my gratitude practice began in the form of a journal. I had tried many times to stick with journaling - and failed hard until I learned that successful habits always start small. Sometimes so small that they feel completely insignificant. Three years and eleven journals later I am still at it. Crazy! It may sound cliche, but introducing gratitude into my daily routine has transformed my thoughts and actions in an unbelievably positive way. If you have ever wanted to keep a journal but didn't know how or didn't believe that you could stick with it, let me share what I have learned along the way. Anyone can do it! I mean it.

     A painting that I made of my growing pile of journals.

    A painting that I made of my growing pile of journals.

     My daily journals IRL.

    My daily journals IRL.

    Why BEGIN?

    My initial motivation to keep a gratitude journal was searching for a way out of a gigantic heap of anxiety. I was navigating the new and intimidating waters of graduate school. The pressure was intense - both actual and self-inflicted. Each night before going to sleep in a 400 sq. ft. heat box of an apartment my head was swimming with the tasks left undone, words unsaid (or regrettably said), focus lost, or whatever other self-sabotaging measure of the day you can think of. Awful, right? I had dug a thought trench so deep that there seemed to be no way out. Until... You guessed it. Enter: The Gratitude Journal. Dun dun duuun! Whether you are an anxious ball of stress like I was, find yourself always focusing on what is missing, are looking to walk with your thoughts in a more positive direction, or maybe you are perfectly happy and plenty grateful already - give this practice a try. See what happens. You have nothing to lose!

    What should I write?

    What should I write? What do I have to say? Ugh, the pressure!  No, no, no! Don't you worry my friends. This is where the "starting small" comes in. I mean, reallllly small. Sixty seconds a day small! My journal began as a simple list. Sometimes I would literally write the same thing every. single. day. Just start with three good things. Three. If you have to write the same thing three times, go right ahead. What a beautiful thing that thing is! If you have to ask your friend, partner, family member, or cat what to put down because you can't come up with a darned thing - do it. If you are a morning person, reflect on the previous day. The act of putting your thoughts on paper and out into the world holds power. The gratitude journal is a simple habit with the potential for a HUGE impact:

    Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.  - Unknown

    THEN WHAT?

    The small, sixty-second list is enough to be transformative. However, if you are like me and find the act of writing (or typing!) to be meditative - here are some tips to add to the practice. My journal has evolved over time. I take about 20 minutes each morning now to write. I currently use the following structure:

    1. Yesterday, I... Since journaling is part of my morning routine, I take a moment to write down everything I did the day before. From brushing my teeth, feeding the cats and eating breakfast to making a painting and taking a walk - I write it all down. I basically have a written log of every mundane thing I have done daily for the past three years. Sometimes I imagine my future children reading through them long after I'm gone in awe of my inexplicable desire to document or completely baffled by cursive and unable to read a single word. If that doesn't excite you - the real power lies in ridding myself of the anxiety that I didn't do enough. Our fast-paced world places a premium on productivity that can leave even the most studious and hard-working individual feeling like a slug. This component reminds me that each day is comprised of twenty-four precious hours in which I am privileged to live life. Whether I ticked off everything on my to-do list or simply read a book and ate too many cookies, every day is meaningful and full. 

    2. Three Good Things... Next, I take a moment to pick out three good things from the previous day. Most of the time this is something really simple like "Eating dinner with my Love and sharing our days with each other" (yeah, I know - I'm a sap). Sometimes exciting things happen that are out of the ordinary. Sometimes a day was really shitty and I have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with something. ...but there is always something. This keeps my brain trained to focus on the positive and to be on the lookout for rainbows despite the rain.

    3. Today, I am grateful for... I turn my attention completely towards gratitude with a long list of everything that I am grateful for. To be completely honest, this list has probably stayed mostly the same for three years. You may find it crazy to spend five minutes each day writing the exact same paragraph - I am grateful for my Love, our health, home, kitties, family, friends, etc... However, this keeps me from taking things for granted - from heat and fresh water to music, nature, jobs, and cars - there is so much to be grateful for every single day. 

    4. Today's mantra... I write either a single word or short phrase to keep in mind for the day. Shine light. Be you. Breathe. Self love. Compassion. Whatever the day feels like it needs. This ensures that I begin the day mindful and focused. I try to remember the mantra throughout the day and repeat it to myself as needed. More fresh brain tracks. Feels good! haha Sometimes I totally forget about it and other days it is invaluable. Either way, the initial moment of taking the time to think over what is needed for the day has an impact.

    5. Affirmations... This last bit is where I take the time to practice positive thinking. Our own inner critics can be so harsh sometimes. A little self love goes a long way! I think my very first affirmation was My husband thinks I am a good cook. I couldn't even write something with an "I" because I was so self-critical. Years later my one of my affirmations is: My inner thoughts are powerful, compassionate, and wise. If that isn't progress I don't know what is! All because of a little journal. 

    What are you waiting for?

    Well? Hop to it! Sprinkle a little gratitude into your life and feel the magic happen. I am so grateful for each and every one of you (and if you have read this far - WOW. You are amazing!).  It means so much to me that I have the privilege and opportunity to share my art and thoughts with so many beautiful souls out there. What a gift! I wanted to make something for you and to share what has added so much meaning and depth into my own life. Here is a little gift and a friendly push! Below you will find a free downloadable PDF of printable gratitude cards that I designed to guide you through "One Grateful Week". Print them out, cut them up, and take sixty seconds each day to write down three things that you are grateful for. This could be the same things each time - keep it simple! Let the physical act of writing bring the words to life and shine a little sunshine on your day! Let me know how it goes (use #onegratefulweek on social media if you like)! I'm so grateful for you!

    xo Maria

     Free downloadable gratitude notecards to guide you through "One Grateful Week". Made with love from me to you. 

    Free downloadable gratitude notecards to guide you through "One Grateful Week". Made with love from me to you. 

    P.S. If you are still reading - you and I are kindred spirits. I always read until the very end. I take hours in museums reading through all of the wall text. If you are interested in exploring futher, you can find some great articles here and here. Happy reading! 

     

    Inspiration: Grand Marais, MN

     
    Grand Marais - Summer 2016

    Grand Marais, MN

    Inspiration, Travel Tips, and MN Wildflower Fabric Collection

    Grand Marais Minnesota - Lake Superior.jpg

    Inspiration can be such a fickle friend. Look too hard and she flees. Sit around waiting and you fall asleep, snoozing through the precious day. A curious mind and an open heart make for pure magic. So does getting outside of your head and breaking free of routine (although I swear by it most days). When I am lucky enough to get away, inspiration dances around me and laughs without fear. These days when a long weekend pops up, I inevitably turn to my husband and say, "Let's go to Grand Marais!"

    If you have never been, Minnesota's North Shore is the place that daydreams are made of. I may be biased as I was raised on annual trips to Michigan's upper peninsula (affectionately known as the UP) and schooled on the big lake's healing powers and awe-inspiring natural beauty. Inspiration always tags along when I head north. The latest fruit to come from these adventures is my Minnesota Wildflower pattern collection. I thought I would share some favorite Grand Marais spots for you inspiration-seeking travelers as well as a bit about my fabric design project.

    If you follow the North Shore Scenic Drive (Minnesota Highway 61) for 110 miles west of Duluth you will find yourself in Grand Marais. It is just under 4.5 hours from the Twin Cities. I am baffled by how many native Minnesotans have never been, as making this drive along the lakeshore was probably the number one item on my to-do list upon moving to the state. If you live here - what are you waiting for?! Go! The little town by the sea (Yes, I call freshwater Lake Superior a sea - the term lake does not do it justice. If you have been there, you know.) - is lovely to visit in any season: peaceful and snow-covered in winter, still brisk and quiet in spring, housing an abundance of all kinds throughout summer, and colored with brilliant autumn foliage to delight even the hardest of hearts. If you are lucky enough to find yourself there, make sure to check out these local gems:

    Grand Marais Minnesota - Pincushion Inn
    Grand Marais Minnesota - Pincushion Trails Inn

    Pincushion Trails Inn - Just up the hill from town you will find this charming bed and breakfast with wonderfully kind and helpful hosts Bob and Marlys. The inn sits directly upon hiking and skiing trails. It was walking these green paths at the height of summer where I found myself kneeling down in awe to inspect every brightly colored wildflower bud and bloom. We have been back to enjoy the winter weather as well, borrowing snowshoes to explore the Lake Superior Hiking Trail and taking full advantage of the sauna after time in the cold. My favorite room is the Pine Suite (above, right). It has a gorgeous view of the lake and forest and a writing (or sketching) desk. The common areas of the inn are warm and inviting and the breakfasts are absolutely delightful!  

    Grand Marais Minnesota - North House Folk School.jpg
    Grand Marais Minnesota - North House Folk School

    The North House Folk School - Upon entering town, right on the shore of Lake Superior you will see this little adorable little yellow building (above). It houses The North House Folk School office and store filled with books, art, and supplies. For over twenty years, the school has offered a vast array of courses on traditional northern crafts. From basket-making, bee-keeping, and canoe construction to birding, blacksmithing, celestial navigation, sailing, mending, pastries, and more - it is hard to keep from moving right in and taking every single class offered! The emphasis is on learning for the sake of learning rather than to earn credit or pass an exam (how refreshing!). I had the pleasure of taking a course on cooking local grains with Minnesota chef and author Beth Dooley last fall. I highly recommend signing up for a class or even just stopping by to explore the beautiful grounds and say hi to the friendly staff. You can browse upcoming courses here. Pro tip: If you do sign up, oftentimes you can receive a reduced rate on local lodging as a North House student.

    Grand Marais Minnesota - World's Best Donuts
    Grand Marais Minnesota - Drury Lane Books

    World's Best Donuts / Drury Lane Books  - Mere feet away from one another on Wisconsin Street are two of my absolute favorite Grand Marais stops: donuts and books. World's Best Donuts has been family-owned and operated since 1969. While I can't actually vouch that these are indeed the best donuts in the entire world, how can you not enjoy a delicious treat amidst such a gutsy claim? Mark your calendars for May 23rd - the 2018 season opening day. Only 88 days to go! It is probably wise to finish eating your donuts before browsing the books at Drury Lane so as not to cause a sticky sprinkled mess. Or do books then donuts. Just a thought. Regardless, a few steps from the donut shop you will find the independent bookstore with a view. The shop is cozy and filled with a great selection of reading material of all kinds. I don't think I have ever left Drury Lane without at least one book in hand. If you manage, let me know. I will be impressed!

    Minnesota Wildflowers - Spoonflower.jpg
    Grand Marais Minnesota - Wildflowers

    The North Shore / Minnesota Wildflower Pattern Collection - So, it was a summer walk through the wildflower-studded land behind the Pincushion Trails Inn and this book on the plant life of northern Minnesota's boundary waters that inspired a collection of eight boldly colored patterns  (you can see them all here). To come up with the designs, I combed through the wide variety of colors, textures, and other characteristics offered by Minnesota's many wildflowers. I chose species that ignited my interest in form, color, or other surprising characteristics. I made lots of sketches and refined ideas, choosing only my favorite imagery to incorporate in the final designs. It had been on my bucket list for a long time to create a collection of patterns meant for fabric and so I took a lot of pride in the accomplishment of this goal. I also learned a lot along the way. I didn't know that hummingbirds are the only pollinators of the columbine flower. That harebells were a symbol of devotion in Victorian times. I found out that bull thistle is an invasive species, but goldfinches build nests from its mature down and American quilters used it in their craft as well. Native Americans make tea with wintergreen as a treatment for rheumatism. Caraway carries the seeds used to give rye bread its distinct flavor. While this information was all interesting, I think what inspired me most was the surprise of finding the flowers. They weren't always obvious in a sea of green and - real talk - the swarm of summer mosquitos around my head. When I landed upon a delicate pop of color contrasting so boldly with its surroundings I couldn't help but stop, kneel down, and take a closer look. They were begging me to pay attention; to be in the moment, bugs and all. That is life though, right? A beautiful pop of color over here with simultaneous buzzing around our heads. How can we manage to find sustained enjoyment from the smallest moments of joy while managing our reactions to the inevitable friction of daily life? 

    Where do you feel most inspired? Is there a certain place you can go to find it?