Heal Your Life with A Cow Bone and a Chicken Toe

Know what’s on my mind lately? I’ll tell you.

Everything is split. Not just into FOR or AGAINST, but a million different shards of opinions.

There is no pleasing everyone, in any situation. Also, it’s very difficult to change someone else’s mind. And no amount of angry arguing with an un-like-minded individual is gonna make it happen. I wish I could give that word “angry” a spiky font to illustrate how uncomfortable it makes me.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe in and work toward change. That is a wonderful and powerful thing, and that’s how change happens.

But I do wish there was less anger everywhere. I can feel it’s spikes jutting out from people as I pass them on the street. Spikes poking through my phone as I scroll through facebook conversations between people I love. Heck, the spikes are even manifesting in the weather patterns these days.

I wanted to do my part to bring some shiny light into the internet world with some happy little blog posts about positivity and health and looking forward to things. Because these are what I want my life to be full of. But I can’t help but fear that I’m going to say some little thing that’s going to offend someone looking to be outraged. “How can you be so positive when the world is ending?! You are selfish to think you can enjoy life while so many terrible things are happening! Rainbows cause cancer and smiles killed my Dad!”

These are the words of the imaginary dude who lives in my head and proofs my writing before it gets typed onto the page. Seriously though? F this guy. I never even hired this guy. He just started showing up every day, that was four years ago. (Any High Fidelity fans?)

I don’t write for that guy, I write for anyone who is looking for a little softness in their world. Anyone who has a suspicion that joy is beyond powerful and changes worlds. Anyone who is open to the idea that joy is born from joy alone, and multiplies exponentially when practiced often.

If this doesn’t apply to you, then you may go read some more angry words and let this little blog float off on its lily pad, never to intend harm on anyone.

ANYWAY the whole point of this post is to share with you how I make bone broth. But when I went to brush up on my research, amid all the glowing reviews of bone broth, there were a couple articles that couldn’t wait to tell everyone that bone broth is a HOAX! Like “First of all, IT’S NOT EVEN BROTH. It’s STOCK. NEXT, Everyone who thinks bone broth good for you is A PSEUDO HIPPIE IDIOT (and yes, technically it does have amino acids that help build your skeletal structure, and it has lots of electrolytes and sodium so it’s good, like, after a workout) but IF YOU REALLY THINK DRINKING COLLAGEN IS GOING TO GROW COLLAGEN IN YOUR BODY, THEN YOU ARE SO MUCH DUMBER THAN ME!”

I’m exaggerating obviously. Perhaps I feel a bit defensive when it comes to this sort of thing, mainly because it appears to me that these folks are just getting worked up over people drinking home-made stock. The tone of these articles do feel condescending to me and even made me feel like I’m an idiot for wasting time on bone broth. It may not be a cure-all miracle tonic, but it’s a good source of amino acids and has been proven to improve joint flexibility, and most importantly it’s a home-made food that’s ingredients can be traced back to your own kitchen cupboards.

So the title of this blog post, “Heal Your Life With A Cow Bone and A Chicken Toe” is me having a bit of satirical fun. Sorry if I got your hopes all up for a quick-fix witches brew, but alas, healing seems to only come from within ourselves.

From my Pollyanna-silver-lining perspective, the spiked interest in bone broth is a happy sign that people are becoming more drawn to the natural, the original, and the organic. Since the Green revolution in the early aughts, more people have been turning their cheeks to processed foods, chemicals, and the like.

Yes, there is more knowledge of health sprouting up in people, and corporations are having to adjust to fit us! That’s what I’m most excited about! There was once a time when we could be convinced by a simple magazine ad that we could eat fried food every day  with a clean conscience as long as it was fried in Crisco, because “medical tests” prove it’s healthy!

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 6.56.18 PM

And to show how far we’ve come, let me tell you about this Panera Bread commercial I saw. They were bragging about how their food is REAL FOOD, no chemicals or dyes. (Who the heck knows if it’s true or not, but I’m just happy to see that that’s what is testing well in their focus groups!!)

 SO getting back to the whole point, here is how I make bone broth.

Bonebrothpinterest

First, I go to the Rochester public market and buy a bag of bones from the nice guy, you can usually get two big bags for $6. Then I pick up some chicken paws. That’s right. The feet of a chicken. They have them at Price Rite. They add the gelatin you’re looking for when you make bone broth, but are not essential. They are… difficult to look at. The bones aren’t great to look at either, hence this crisp pot-handle and blurry carcass parts pictured below!

Bonebroth1

So first things first, I dump the bones and feets in this big ol’ pot. I fill it with water, just covering the stuff (these were frozen in a log shape but fell under the water when they defrosted), and bring it to a boil and simmer for an hour. And surprise! This isn’t going to be the actual broth! Tricked you!! Aw man. You were like “but you said crockpot, not STOCKpot!” Shoulda seen your face. Anyway, there are WAY more steps involved. This is just to get rid of all the “scum” that will mess up the taste in the end.

Bonebroth2

Here is the scum-water, looking pretty appetizing, but trust me, it smells kinda weird in here. And then this gray foam forms on top that you have to skim off.

Bonebroth3

So next, preheat your oven to 400. Once your scummy hour is up, drain the bones. I usually just pour out most of the water because there are too many bones for a colander to hold. Then, get a 9×13 baking dish. Use tongs to put the bones in the dish. I don’t roast the chicken feet, because I dunno what the hell would happen to those freaky things in the oven. God, they’re gross. I’ve heard recommendations to roast the bones, but not the feet, so I just let them chill off to the side for this part.

Roast the bones for apx. 1 hour, but the longer the better tbh. The roasting gives the broth more flavor.

Once they’re roasty toasty, let them cool a bit before FINALLY putting them into the crock pot with the chicky feet. Cover everything with COLD water, and add a splash of the good stuff:Bonebroth4

Now you gotta let it sit in the cold water for ANOTHER hour. You pretty much need a free day to do this, by the way. This step sucks minerals from the bones that otherwise would be missing from the broth!

K, it’s been an hour. Now you can add any aromatics and flavor-boosters you want, although I’ve read it’s best to keep it simple with just some onion, garlic cloves, and black peppercorns, so that’s what I do. But feel free to add carrots, celery, etc.

Bonebroth6

Next, switch the crockpot dial to “low”, go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and discover that you never plugged the thing in. This IS an essential step!!! (JK, Mommy messed up) PLUG IN, make sure it’s set to “low”, come back in 24 hours.

Bonebroth5

Ah, yes. This time I woke up to find broth.

Bonebroth7

The next step is to get a bunch of big glass jars, a strainer, a bowl for discard bones, and a few shallow glass containers, like the pan you used to roast the bones in. Ugh, you have to wash it. Sorry.

The reason we need shallow containers is because at this stage, the broth needs to cool quickly, or it’s in danger of growing bacteria. Also, have a few ice cube trays filled and waiting in the freezer, too. Here’s my little set-up.

Bonebroth8

Now begin ladeling the broth through the strainer and dump the strained bits in your garbage bowl. Or your recycling bowl if you want to re-broth the bones, which you can do by all means.

Bonebroth9

Once all the broth is ladel’d, drop a bunch of ice cubes in to help cool the broth faster. This is a pretty potent broth, so adding water won’t dilute it too much.

Bonebroth10

Then, carefully ladel the broth into your mason jars (I always make a mess everywhere so don’t feel badly if that happens) and pop them in the fridge, careful not to put them next to anything that might spoil with a little extra warmth. When they cool they will have this layer of fat which isn’t harmful, but you can scrape it off if you want. If all goes according to plan, it should have a jello-like texture. This broth will be good for about 5 days in the fridge, months in the freezer.

Bonebroth11

So there you have it! That’s how I make bone broth, and I use it to make rice and quinoa and soup, and sometimes I drink it by itself! Make it or don’t, but please don’t shame the broth-drinkers. We’re just trying to figure out way to be better to our bodies.

Softly,

Your Peacefriend

Donuts and Dresses: A Success Story

Today began with donuts.

One of our fav Rochester businesses doubles as an art gallery and café. It’s called Makers, and from them we glommed a Strawberry cheesecake donut, a Crème brûlée donut and a Caramel-Apple glazed with crispy proscuitto on top. Also two amazing pour-over coffees from locally roasted beans.

donuts
That perfect strawberry slice fell on the floor but I still ate it anyway.

Alex and I have this monthly ritual called “donut day”, and the general rule is one morning each month is dedicated to these amazing donuts, but ONLY one. Oh, and only a couple donuts. We learned that the hard way, you cain’t cram a dozen donuts into one day.  Just cain’t.

I’m a strong believer in following one’s bliss, but more often than not mine leads me to the dones, hence the once-a-month rule.

This ritual started out great 6 months ago. But as time went on, we’ve slipped up here and there. One donut day per month turns into 2 and then 3. And today was one of those naughty illegal donut days. Because I’m weak.

I’ve noticed this pattern in my life where I’ll have a brilliant, powerfully charged idea for some routine or project or lifestyle change to ultimately improve my situation, but as time goes on the idea loses steam. I find myself rebelling against my own rules, like an angsty teenager yelling “You’re not my Mom!” at the responsible half of myself.

I’m getting pretty sick of it. It’s actually kept me from starting new projects, knowing the chance of my actually finishing the project are in the devil’s favor. And for some reason the devil doesn’t want me to knit TWO pairs of socks, just one and a half.

So when I challenged myself to sew my first dress from scratch, I approached the project cautiously.

I got a great sewing machine for my birthday last year from my grandparents, and though my wonderful Grandma helped me learn some basics when we made an apron together this past year, I’m still a bit of a clueless baby when it comes to sewing. I would love to be able to make most my own clothes, not just because it’s economically responsible skill to learn, but also because I’m a show-off!

I’m sort of kidding, but real quick note: The phrase “show-off” has a negative connotation, but my belief is that there’s nothing wrong with being proud of yourself and “showing off” your success to the world. The notion that you should hide the fact that you’re proud of yourself because it might come off as “braggy” has always seemed super OFF to me.

I meeeean … Don’t we all want success? Unique talents are what make humans so cool, so shouldn’t we be encouraging that in people? Society is made up of individuals who need support, don’t we want our society to thrive? And here’s something to consider: In sharing your successes, you will probably inspire people to make their own success happen! And that is how we grow and change and evolve. So long as you’re not hurting anyone, no one should ever take offense to your success. If they do, that is entirely their own baggage.

So GET READY for me to practice my very best showing off! Because I am so proud of me.

And although I’m still struggling with all that… donut stuff…

…I did show some personal growth in finishing my very first dress! It’s by no means perfect, but it’s good enough for my first try.

And I am going to proudly wear it to a wedding this summer.

dress5
The skirt has plenty of room to expand so I can appear larger and scare off predators.
dress2
“Can’t wait to yellow the pits of this beaut!” says my glands
dress6
BTW It has pockets.

dress7

dress3

dress4

dress1

And if anyone reading this is inspired to make this dress now, here is the pattern I used. Number D.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-12-00-18-pm

You are Living Creativity

“What keeps life fascinating is the constant creativity of the soul”

– Deepak Chopra

Today I am feeling so grateful for the drive within me to create. Create art, create clothing, create conversation, music, delicious food, these posts. I am grateful for my creative spark, and I am grateful for your creative spark.

I can’t help but notice that we are constantly creating new ways of living, and thinking about things, and finding joy. Even if it’s just a small change you’re making in your own life, I believe these small changes do effect the whole.

Whether or not you consider yourself a “creative” person, we are all creating all the time.

img_4084

img_4109

img_4118

 

Listen up. Evolution depends on creative thinking. Things very normal to us today were once absurd ideas. Think about cell phones, air planes. Heck, I mean we have 3D printers that can print skin cells for crying in the night! Who thought of that? My guess is it was a  creative person who’d probably been told they were “weird” more than once in their life.

The people who first thought of these things had a strong belief that the future can be amazing. What a bunch of weirdos, huh?

These types people are the reason we evolve and learn and move forward. Even if it feels like we’re standing still, or even taking steps backward, I have a strong suspicion that the feeling of moving backward is actually progression in disguise.

As an artist, I get the impression that people think I, and other artists like me, are more creative than other people.

Here’s my thought about that: I have devoted my life and career to being creative, but I don’t think that means I have more of it in me than anyone else. I am practicing creativity daily, and working it into every area of my life. And like anything, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

img_4062

img_4069

img_4065
Portraits of Alex’s creative outlets

This is true for playing an instrument, and writing, and playing a sport, and drawing figures, and cooking, and meditation, and being joyful.

And the more you practice, the better you become.

And the more you practice, the easier it gets.

And the more you practice, the more IT comes to YOU.

And the best part is: it’s never too late to begin!

To summarize, you have the same creative spark within you that Picasso had. Want to find that sucker? Simply begin practicing.

Do things that excite you and are even a bit daunting. Find creativity wherever it presents itself to you. Experiment with fashion. Try cooking something you’ve never made before. Learn a new language! Learn a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, like armpit farting.

My dudes, this is how we are MEANT to live! And more and more people are waking up to the idea every day.

I have heard a number of stories about people who were devastated to lose their safe and well-paying, but bland and unstimualting corporate job, but found joy in something creative, and made a happy, rich and successful path for themselves as a VCP (Very-Creative-Person)!

And if I haven’t convinced you yet, according to real actual SCIENCE, neglecting to practice our creativity could severely impact our health.

“Those who continue learning new things throughout life and challenging their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In essence, you need to use it or lose it.source

img_3986
This earth fuzz is creating so hard, you guys.

So, I guess, like, if you want to live a long time, you have to actually LIVE. None of this sad, bland rice cake of mere existence. How ’bout a funfetti cupcake that’s piped full of fresh, tasty fulfillment? Or maybe there’s like a cool toy inside, like a whistle… or a tattoo of a dog on a skateboard or something.

So as I listen to Alex drumming along to jazz upstairs, even though it can get loud at times in our little old apartment, I am so proud of his passion and willingness to express himself.

I hope this inspires you, even a little bit. I get so happy every time I hear about someone’s new-found creative passion, and I want more! I want the planet to be filled with creative people, chasing after joy with all their hearts!

Tell me in the comments what you do to practice creativity. But only if you want to make me happy.

Making progress,

Your Peacefriend

 

 

Cyclical Advice and Being Your Own Best Friend

It’s mid-February and I regret to inform you that I’ve contracted a totally harsh case of the drearies.

Normally around this time of year, the sky remains a dim gray overcast, denying everyone the essentail vitamin D and general, you know, colors that sunshine brings.

But the past few years the weather has become more unpredictable, and this year is a real show off in terms of fluctuation. One day, it was 40 degrees and the sun shone until warm rain melted away all the snow. Two days later, I could barely brave the cold.

I’m not sure which is worse… a predictable stretch of depressing gray sludge, or a bi-polar roller coaster (note: possible band name?) of icy-cold-stingy-needles-of-frostbite tag teaming with mild-goopy-mud with a side of DECEIVING sunshine? And then the full moon happens and LOOK OUT.

In short, quit frontin’ on us, nature!

It’s easy to become negative when you’re getting thrown around like this. Luckily for me, I have a level headed Alex who is great at keeping his cool when I’m melting down. He’s the best kind of partner, because he does this cool trick where he listens to me when I’m feeling my best, and then gives me my own words back when I need them most.

This is what I mean by cyclical advice.  It is so wonderful to have someone in your life who can remind you that you’re a shining light by using your very own words, be it a relative or friend. But what about when that person’s not around?

I often find myself giving advice to friends when they’re in a predicament, but feeling clueless when I’m in the same predicament later on. Why do we forget what we already know so often?

It’s easy to read a motivational quote when you’re feeling great and think “Yes! I get that. I can feel that and reach that and be that. I am this quote on Drew Barrymore’s Instagram.”

But then when you read the same thing when you’re feeling down, it just doesn’t break the skin and get in there like it did before. It might even sound dumb, or empty this time around.

Also, your favorite song sounds worse somehow.

Anything too cheery is just uncomfortable.

Does this sound familiar? Yeah, that’s me right NOW, you might be saying. Shoot, me too, girl.

I’m no expert on feelings, and I didn’t do college so good, but I’m going to try something and you can feel free to join me in this experiment. I am going to begin to treat myself like my own best friend.

You would never tell your best friend she looks ugly. You would never tell them things are only going to get worse from here. You would never tell them everyone thinks they’re selfish, or that they suck at the thing they love doing. So I suggest we treat that part of us that is saying all this nonsense like our best friend. OR a small, confused, baby animal. Tell it what you know to be true: It’s so cute. It’s still learning. It’s not the end of the world. It is loved.

This is that voice in your head saying “Man, I suck! I’m the opposite of fluffy! I’m never going to be as cute as that other bird. Everyone probably thinks I’m annoying.”

Here’s something I believe that you can take or leave:

(that sounded like lyrics from a 90s rap in my head)

The part of you that is spouting off janky crap isn’t the true you. You can actually, with some practice, take a step back and observe these thoughts as they come in from a separate consciousness.

This separate perspective is the true you.

Or… The Trou.

I’ve done this a few times. Something in my brain might be telling me, for instance, that I hate my apartment and how small it is. I do my best to actually look at that thought as something that doesn’t belong to me, and think “Focusing on this is making her feel worse and worse. She doesn’t deserve to feel bad! I’ll talk to her (taps mic) Ahem! Hey, Alison. Higher consciousness here. It sucks that your apartment is so small, yeah. Just wondering, though, what do you like about your apartment?

And then I look around and say “Well, I like that I live here with just Alex and no roommates.”

Yeah, that’s really lucky, not many people your age can do that! What else?

“I like that even though it feels cramped sometimes, it has an upstairs and a basement and attic… and I like that I decorated it with cheerful colors, and that there’s a bath tub, and I love the new fridge, and blah blah blah…”

And before I know it, I’m feeling a lot better. And my higher consciousness winks at me from the clouds and mumbles “Tricked ya.”

I think the key here is reaching for the best feeling thought at that particular moment. Whatever makes you feel a little better than you did. It’s like a ladder, with each step up, it will be easier to reach the next rung of the ladder. You don’t skip 4 rungs when you’re climbing a ladder!

Try it if you want. Let me know how it works for you.

 

Before I go, I’m going to share a couple pictures from the painfully cold, but suuuper pretty walk Alex and I took the other day. The sun was setting and throwing pink gold light over everything. The Moon had risen on the other side, and it was all duality-ish and symbolism-y.

goldenhourresevoir
“Marco”
goldenhourmoon
“Polo”

 

Giving it the old college try,

Your Peacefriend

Meet Your Peacefriend

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading this brand new baby seed of a blog! My name is Alison. Above is a plain old phone picture of me the other day after my Mom cut my hair. It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there for the world to judge, but these are the kinds of worthless fears I’m working to banish. I’m a freelance artist, which is a very broad term that could mean any number of things. And it does.

I grew up with two freelance artist parents who made it easy to believe that I could make a living doing whatever I love the most. I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be an artist, because I was from the artist family. I remember in Kindergarten when the teacher told us to each say what we wanted to be when we grew up, and all the girls were saying “nurse”, and all the boys were saying “firefighter”, I felt I should be devoting myself to the future army of nurses our generation seemed to be cultivating, but I said “artist” anyway.
After high school where I was voted “Most Creative” AND “Most Vintage” in my class (thank you, thank you) I went to Pratt MWP in Utica, NY for one and a half years before deciding I didn’t want to go to art school anymore. My wonderful parents who support me in everything I do were toats cool with this. My Dad was actually so excited to get his tuition money back that he immediately booked us a family trip to Pixar in Emeryville, CA.
Since then, I’ve dabbled in illustration, caricature, portraiture, oil landscapes, greeting card design, as well as write music for Sesame Street and Fast Company Magazine, and most recently, cartoon writing, character design, story-boarding, and voice acting. As you can see, I was extremely certain about my path to becoming an artist someday, but upon realizing there are so many sub-categories within the that word, I can’t seem to make up my G.D. mind!
If you want to see my artwork, go to http://www.alisoncowles.com, because on this blog, I’m not going to talk so much about my work, but rather what I do when I’m not working. This is where I want to share how my creativity spills over to other areas of my life, because I have a lot of creative juice (ew) and it manifests itself in my cooking (creative juice recipe coming soon) my nesting rituals, my belief system and my visions for the future. My hope for this blog is to not only have yet another creative outlet for myself, but hopefully to motivate readers to find the special little inspiration fountain within them to create their best possible lives, just as I’m working to do.
Now I’ll bet you’re wondering where the word Peacefriend came from. The answer is: Mystery Science Theater 3000. My Dad immersed me in pop culture my whole life and I was watching that good good stuff when I was 6 or 7. There’s an episode where some kind of animal appears on screen, and one of the MST3K guys, as the animal’s voice-over, says “How’s it going, Peacefriends?” Sometime later, I was playing with an Aphid on a trampoline, and my Dad called the Aphid a Peacefriend. Brilliant! A small bug totally IS a Peacefriend! It soon became a household word. In 2nd grade, my friend and I called each other “Peacefriend”, and it kind of meant “best friend” to us. There were a lot of hurt feelings when one day I started calling another girl Peacefriend. Whoops.
The term got thrown around a lot after that, tossed and tumbled like a stone, edges smoothed until Peacefriend had one main definition: Well-meaning and adorable creature. To give you a visual, think about that sloth who hands that lady a flower. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please, please google it. It also would apply to a sweet old man who raises lambs and has memorized a lot of really cute wholesome limericks that he busts out when necessary. This is a hypothetical example. If anyone knows this guy, though, tell me where he at.
I hope you enjoy my posts to come, my Peacefriend. Much love and light to you and all the Peacefriends in your life.
-Your Peacefriend