It’s all about the brushes and scissors and glue. But the what they don’t tell you about in “creative school” is your hands and neck and back.
Conversation with myself:
ME: Yes, yes, yes…color swirling, this way, blend, right-angles, numeric calculations, cut here, scrunch there…
MYSELF: Ouch, no, dang it thumbs, ugh, no, bad neck ergonomics, dizzy, stop scrunching…
ME: Hair frizzled, glasses smudged, elevated bliss, color, texture, inspiration, just a while longer…
MYSELF: Ouch, pinching, stop now, blurred vision, stretch again, frozen shoulder, ears ringing, locked finger joints, stop, stop, stop…
What is the one thing that cellists, facialists, writers and artists all have in common? We all lean over and curl around our creations. And while we all know how we should counteract this bad posture, 8 hours a day at one’s craft retrains the body for the worst.
I have been dealing with this accumulation of wear and tear on my body parts for these last number of months—which is why I have been writing these blog posts so infrequently. And after bouts of crippling muscle entanglements and resulting fractured vision earlier this year, this is what I have learned about the ergonomics of being creative.
- Lap top key boards are bad for most people and especially for those with a wide shoulder span. It forces our hands too close together resulting in a collapse of the shoulders and a pinched neck.
- All standard key boards and mice force your hands flat which trains your arms to hang at your side backs-facing-forward, like a gorilla. This pulls your neck and shoulder muscles out of alignment which pinch nerves and make your hands go numb. An ergonomic key board and mouse will force your hands side-ways preventing the gorilla stance.
- We should view our work straight ahead rather than leaning over with a tilted neck. I have elevated my computer monitor, put my sewing machine cabinet up on blocks and will finally realize the potential of my mother’s tilted art easel that has been stored in the basement all these years. Next project up…
- Standing is better than sitting so we do not cut off circulation through the center of our body. I have not yet figured that out with my sewing machine but make myself walk to the ironing board and design wall so I can cut down on my sitting time.
If we must sit (like many of us do all day) our body should be at a right angle. Back straight, thighs out straight at a right angle with lower part of leg straight down; arms also resting at a right angle straight out from the body. For some people this many mean an elevated foot rest. For me, since I am short-legged with a long torso, my seat is low and I wear clogs that lift my legs upward a bit.
- Lastly, stretch out those muscles that get over used to counteract the positioning. I use a hard rubber ball against the wall to create a release of tightness and a good chiropractor and a good Physical Therapist massage technician has also been so very, very helpful. Yoga, of course, is awesome but that requires daily discipline, something I struggle with.
Can’t stop creating though. From my studio to yours; a new painted and pieced quilt in progress…enjoy!
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The last of the spring asparagus, the largest wintered-over beets: I just had to grab my final taste before they disappeared at my Canterbury Farmers Market. As part of my self-imposed summer challenge* of preparing fruits and vegetables in a way I have never done before, I came up with this recipe. Grilled beets—sugars caramelized, smoky, meaty,, and enough as a main dish—mixed with barely blanched asparagus rounds that pop sweetly like a preview of summer’s first peas. Something new, something yum.
- Scrub 2 large beets clean with a plastic scrubber or sponge then peel them. Using a sharp knife, cut them into 3/8″ rounds.
- Just for fun, cut a few flower shapes out of the slices using a fine paring knife. Save the scrapes to add to a smoothie or juice.
- In a small dish mix 2 T. balsamic vinegar with 2 T. olive oil.
- Using a pastry or grill brush coat the beets on one side. Place the coated side down on a pre-heated grill pan or outside grill. Cook on low heat very slowly.
- When they are slightly tender when poked with a knife, coat the back side with oil/vinegar and flip them to continue cooking until they are tender. NOTE: as the sugars in the balsamic and beets caramelize, they will begin to smoke. This adds an unexpected flavor to the beets making a new way to taste them!
- Wash a handful of asparagus. Bend asparagus stocks near the bottom white part and where they naturally break; it separates the tough end from the tender stock. Slice the tender stalks into 3/8″ rounds reserving the tips for decoration.
- Bring a small/medium saucepan full of water to boil. To it, add the asparagus rounds and tips. Cook 1 minute, then drain and immediately put in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.
- To make the salad, arrange beet rounds, pile up with asparagus and decorate with “flowers.”
- Dress with dab of mayonnaise mixed with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.
*I LOVE produce. And it always amazes me how little people eat of it. But given the tasteless, cardboard varieties many of us grew up with—and is still in the stores—it’s no wonder. Sawing a slice of tomato only to have it stiffly lay on the plate looking back at you with its dead-pink, odorless flesh is unappealing, only worsened by the tree-branch chew of it. Who wants to fill 2/3 of your plate with that?
I have been inspired to create new ways to eat fruits and vegetables all summer long when their favor is at its peak. And because combining with additional flavors enhances the taste even more than its singular ingredients, recipes often help with produce that is less that perfect, a reality we are faced with most of the year here in New England.
It tastes better fresh. It tastes better local. But if you have to buy in the supermarkets, recipes help.
Although here in New England it is technically spring—a time when we think about body cleansing rituals—there is still a chill in the air that beckons warmth and comfort. So while all my west coast & southern friends are chugging their chilled green smoothies, we northeasterners can feel more comfortable downing soups for the same effect.
I dearly love creamy soups but know that too much dairy does not agree with me. Dairy sort of defeats the cleansing quality of greens but I love the smoothness and creaminess it adds to pureed soups. As an alternative I came up this recipe that, to my taste, gives the comforting satisfaction of a creamy broccoli cheddar soup yet still retains the health benefits of a spring green cleanse. Enjoy!
- 1 brocoli crown chopped; about 3/4 lb. or about 4 cups
- 1/2 medium onion chopped; about 1/2 cup
- 1 medium potato; about 3/4 cup
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 T neutral flavored oil (or if you want a little dairy 2 T butter really enhances the flavor)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (easily found at the grocery store in the Bob’s Red Mill section)
In large soup pot, heat oil/butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and brocoli, then cook for two more minutes stirring to prevent browning. Add broth, bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until potato is very soft and squishy.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is smooth and creamy. Alternatively, let the soup cool then add to your food processor or blender to puree, then add back into the pot to warm again.
Stir in the nutritional yeast and you are done. This yeast adds some protein, lots of vitamin B12 and a cheddar cheesy type flavor. Yum!