Building Creative Stromboli

Monday, March 7, 2022

“…a calzone is like a taco and a stromboli is like a burrito. Tacos and calzones are always folded. Burritos and calzones are always rolled.”

from bon app√®tit, “What’s the Difference Between a Calzone and a Stromboli?” by Alex Delaney

I scroll through my Notes app and find this gem. Building Creative Stromboli. I open the note and find that I had made a note to self: It really was “Building creative stamina” ūü§£. But what was it that made me write such words? Was I listening to a podcast while on my afternoon walk or in the middle of cooking dinner, but most likely not stromboli? Bren√® Brown? Did it come from her? Did she say this or did she make a reference to something? Is it a book title? Is it something I want to do or am curious about doing?

Note to self: Take better notes. My phone autocorrected the original snippet of whatever my brain needed, but this time, I like the correction. Makes me think. Either way, what am I doing to build creative stamina? What is it? This SOLSC where I write for 31 days? To top it off, I’m a late night slicer (shout out to all you night owls!) so getting to my computer at the end of the day, every day for a month certainly builds those writing muscles. But I tend to get cramps. Aha! I should order a calzone or stromboli or both to get me through it.

If I’m to build creative stamina, could it mean that I need to do something besides writing? Should I make my own pizza dough (I found a great recipe I frequently use) divide it half and make a calzone for dinner one night and save the other for stromboli? Kneading dough by hand is cathartic, unleashing new ideas through the push, fold, turn, push, fold, turn motion for a good ten minutes the recipe suggests. I have about an hour to myself while the dough rises, but that usually isn’t enough for me to switch over to writing which will soon be interrupted with pizza making.

That’s as far as I’ve taken it. That dough can become any kind of pizza, but I have yet to lead it to become a calzone or stromboli. I don’t know why. I’m stuck with my favored Neapolitan style pizza because I’m a creature of habit and when I get comfortable, I don’t like to explore much.

I’ve been reading about creativity for a few years. My favorites: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron; Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon; Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. One of the ideas that keeps getting repeated is to do something else besides [insert your creative endeavor here.] To get better at writing, I need to do something other than writing. Not all of the time, of course, but when feeling stuck-making pizza dough and only making pizza-do something else. Make a calzone. Make stromboli. Or tacos. Or burritos. Play with clay and then watch it break, like I wrote about here a few weeks ago for a Tuesday Slice.

A Google search for “building creative stamina” will tell you a lot of the same things in a lot of different ways. One thing I’ve learned is to let that creativity out, even if it isn’t great. It’s better for those ideas to come out to play. Ever watch a kindergartener draw or paint a picture? They don’t care how it looks, they care about the process. They get into the zone. Like kneading pizza dough. The end result may be good, but releasing those creative bubbles is the point.

Calzones and stromboli are the culinary bonuses for late night writing sessions. Roll with it.

Mi Crafty Corazón

Mi Corazón quebrado

I broke my heart this morning. Not on purpose. I grabbed my phone and charger in a rush to get out of the house on time because, you know, always running late. The cord yanked it off the ledge and plopped it straight to the floor. Broke in three pieces, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and… I threw my phone into my bag, picked up the pieces, and put them back on the window ledge. I didn’t even think twice about it. Had this occurred last month, I might have cried. I would’ve overthought the implications. It broke into thirds. The petals of a flower fell off. The thorns on the vine were fine. But what awful thing awaits, the day after St. Valentine’s Day? My literary brain overanalyzes everything.

That might have been the case before I even made it. The heart. But once I decided to grit my teeth and sign up for an online craft retreat over Zoom (despite how I HATE online meetings now), I paid my money and waited for my package and February 5th. One of my favorite bloggers and artists, Kathy Cano Murillo, known as the Crafty Chica, hosted a mini-retreat to create five Mexican-inspired crafts. She’s in Arizona, I’m in Texas. Zoom is the closest I can get to participating.

Work in progress

She sent supplies for all of the crafts, one being a clay heart. We rolled, sculpted, trimmed, and shaped while asking questions and learning about techniques for using terra cotta colored air dry clay. It got messy and I loved it. While it wasn’t (isn’t) an artist quality piece, everything stayed intact. If all else fails, she suggested gluing pieces back in case they break or fall off during the drying process.

I was proud of myself. Everything dried well. I planned to paint it this weekend, to get the gist of it. My preferred medium is the written word. I stepped out of my comfort zone while comfortably crafting in my home where no one could see what I created. Advanced crafters and artists attended. My art skills sit at around those of third graders. Not a joke.

The point was to play and learn something new. I repeated this to myself multiple times. I knew many of the pieces wouldn’t turn out well and I breathed in and accepted that-not an easy feat. Kathy mentioned how sometimes you get “the first batch of cookies” when you make something new. As you keep practicing, it gets better. My daughter snagged the leftover hunk of clay, so I only had one shot. I wouldn’t have enough to make another.

Little Intentions Pillow

The day continued with sewing a heart pillow with a pocket on the back featuring her new fabric. I have hand-sewn before, but this was my first time for a blanket stitch. It took three sets of turquoise colored thread before I finished. Somehow I managed to tangle the thread useless and thought I’d have to patch up the final stitches in a completely different color. I haven’t completed the final step: writing an intention on a slip of paper and tucking it into the pocket to save for next year.

Tin Matchbox Shrines

The matchbox tins seemed easy until I tried to “emboss” a simple shape onto the back of a piece of a Bud Light can. With the right tool, it might have been easier. I managed. Painting on wood earrings seemed easy. The flaming heart didn’t look at all like a flame. I attempted to create my own pattern at the top and wound up with what resembled blotchy Texas bluebonnets. I didn’t put the earrings together; I doubt I’ll wear them.

Mini Journal

We ended the afternoon with a mini-journal. This was the easiest of the projects since I’ve been making and teaching kids how to make their own journals for years. I didn’t expect an online retreat to be so enjoyable. Fortunately, I wasn’t required to leave my camera on, but we still experienced those group meeting glitches from the early online meeting days: microphones on, talking to the boss during the break, pinning the speaker, co-hosting… Overall, I’d do it all again.

My heart broke, but it’s more of a burnt cookie I’ll toss into the garbage. I kept the template and I have ideas on small pieces I’ll try making and painting. I ordered two tubs of the air dry clay. It arrived yesterday, on Valentine’s Day. Just in time to replace my broken heart.

Shh…Listen Already!

I’m not a great listener. I’m worse at it with family than with strangers. Worse still, listening to my Self. This weekend, I tried a technique Julia Cameron suggests in her newest book, The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention. Similar to The Artist’s Way, Cameron includes exercises to practice the skill as a way to tap into creativity. Being silent. Listening to everything, rather than hearing.

One way to listen to that inner voice is to write to one’s Self, or inner child. I did that on Saturday, asking some big questions I’ve been trying to figure out. I wrote in script form and gave my Self the name of Little Cat, using pink ink with responses in purple.

What am I doing? This is wonky. But, it’s my notebook, I can do whatever I want. I wound up with five pages of questions and answers, dialogue. Some I thought I knew and others I didn’t realize were options. Skeptical during my writing, I had to tell Little Cat to shut up already. Let it flow. Stop and listen. Respectfully. Attentively. Fully.

Sounds easy.

Today, I continued thinking about my questions. I haven’t returned (yet) to my notebook to re-read answers, but I have the gist. After a conversation, in the silence of my being, they shouted at me. They were whispers on Saturday, but I wouldn’t listen.

Okay, Self, I get it. I’m listening now. Forgive me for dismissing you.


Adult Fan of LEGO

SOLSC Day 26

As a kid, I loved all kinds of toys. Etch-a-Sketch, Fisher Price Little People with the school house, a cow you could milk, a crawling doll that my great aunt broke soon after I opened it on Christmas morning, Play-Doh, Lite-Brite, the Easy Bake Oven I never received, and countless others. With my own kids, I hit the jackpot. I could buy toys again. E was four when I bought (his, my, our?) first LEGO set about fourteen years ago, a 3-in-1 race car. We assembled it together and he played with it for days on end. Later I found a SpongeBob set on clearance, perfect for his fifth birthday. It was a complex set designed for older kids.

One day, we worked on the Boating School set. He threw fits because he couldn’t figure out some of the steps. I threw fits because he didn’t want my help. I wanted to help because, you know, it’s a toy. I didn’t have any growing up. They were expensive (they still are on the pricey side). And they are so cool! Of course, I couldn’t say that out loud. Didn’t want to be the adult fighting with her kid over a toy. With tension reaching tantrum proportion, on his end at least, I put the set away for another time.

Five months later and groggy with pregnancy fatigue, I needed something for him to do the week of spring break. I retrieved the set again and reminded him about how to handle frustration. I didn’t help much this time. I needed sleep. The kid spent the day working with that set. I helped with a few sections, but he built it. We both became fans.

As E continued requesting different sets for every birthday and holiday, he figured out all kinds of building tricks. He learned about various sets, names of each brick type, printing techniques, when certain pieces began going in and out of production, the company’s history, and value. They do go up in value. He also taught himself how to make stop-motion LEGO videos when he was in fourth grade.

Harry Potter sets were around before he could crawl and I saw them as I walked through toy aisles, but I didn’t consider buying them. Once he got old enough, I’d of course try to sway him to choose those sets. It didn’t take much swaying. E swayed me to get him as many sets as possible.

It didn’t occur to me to get my own until I saw the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter sets with new eyes. Several years ago, I made my first for me purchase. We made a trip to the LEGO store and I found a Wonder Woman key chain. I couldn’t leave her there. E accused me of becoming an AFOL, Adult Fan of LEGO. For one of my birthdays, he chose my gift: LEGO Harry Potter Quidditch Match.

My small collection consists of LEGO Star Wars Episode VIII Chewbacca, Harry Potter minifigures, LEGO Brickheadz Wonder Woman, Harry Potter and Hedwig, Charles Dickens Tribute Set (yes, it’s the book with a scene on top, squee!), and LEGO Ideas Central Perk. It took me an afternoon with several cups of coffee to build Central Perk. If you like putting puzzles together, LEGO is similarly satisfying.

At 18 years of age he’s still a fan, an official AFOL. He has spent Christmas mornings over the years seated at the kitchen table, clear empty bags strewn all around him, instruction book open, box to one side, and a play-by-play, or rather build-by-build commentary as each section gets completed. He has completed homework with a little help of his (LEGO) friends. I still find pieces on the floor at times, but they’re contained in his room. For graduation, he has requested a LEGO set.

Thanks, LEGO. This is one way we’ve been able to connect, a common bond we’ve built, brick by brick.

Spring Outbreak 2020

I’m billing Dad for my room.

Day 1 of Spring Outbreak 2020 and The Hubster worked from home. He evicted Sophia from her bedroom, which she rarely uses other than for throwing her clean laundry on the floor and housing her private library of books, stuffed animals, and abandoned craft projects.

“Why can’t you use Ethan’s room?” she retorts.

“Ethan’s room is a hoarder’s room; there’s no space!” True. LEGO are strewn all over the place, pieces in all phases of LEGO project life: spares, in progress, and completed builds. His book cases are full of books, LEGO, empty QT cups, towers of empty cereal bowls he eats from at midnight, and yes, laundry on the floor. But it’s dirty. His three roommates consist of a keyboard, a cello, and a guitar, leaving little room for visitors. Not that we want to visit.

I’ll visit Ethan’s LEGO room any day!

We don’t have a desk in our bedroom. We bought our home without a dining room, spare bedroom, or home office. Out Sophia went.

Boredom begets creativity. I have plenty to keep me busy. Sophia on the other hand, after watching too much Disney Plus, charged her dad for use of her bedroom.

We’re tight on space to offer Sophia Suites to non-family members, but for those of you having to work from home, maybe a trip to the QT for a cherry lime Freezoni is enough compensation for kids you may have to evict from their, ahem-your, spaces. I’m ready to try it as a beverage mixer.