Thursday, December 20, 2018

Pen and Ink: Inspired to Draw with Sticks

Four sticks have been prepared for drawing with Pelikan ink.
Prepping sticks for drawing requires minimal effort

The mark of a clever art book is that it inspires readers to make some marks of their own. 

James Hobbs's book, Pen and Ink: Contemporary Artists, Timeless Techniques (affiliate link), inspired me to make a few marks.

Specifically, I was inspired to learn more about drawing with sticks, just plain ol' dirty sticks, of which I have an abundance.

Drawing with Twigs: Ch'ng Kiah Kiean

The image from the book that truly inspired me was an ink drawing of Ng Fook Thonk Temple by Ch'ng Kiah Kiean, and there are additional twig drawings in the book by the same artist. The fine lines and detail of the drawings belie the artist's humble tools, dried twigs. Yet there's personality and interest in the drawings that would not be there had Kiah Kiean used commercial pens, which create a more consistent line.

Preparing Sticks for Drawing

Googling "drawing with sticks" provided me with two videos that both showed how to draw with sticks, one that demonstrated how to whittle a tip and another that showed almost the same results with an unchanged tip. It seemed easy enough after that, almost "anything goes." I chose a variety of sticks from my yard; some oak, some cedar, and even some trumpet vine, and I pulled out my woodworking tools. In this instance, I used pruning shears, a fine sanding block, and a box cutter.

A variety of sticks can create a variety of line thicknesses and qualities
I used the pruning shears to clean up the tips of the twigs and the box cutter to make sharper points and flat tips. I used the sanding block to create more consistent surfaces.

An Experiment in Drawing with Sticks

To test my twigs I used a watercolor paper and a royal blue Pelican ink. I did try watering the ink a bit, but it created a bleed I did not really like, especially when using the trumpet vine. Using the trumpet vine created quite a "blobby" line, but it worked well as a "brush." On the other hand, the cedar, especially the small cedar twig, worked beautifully, as did the oak twig with the sanded tip.  As expected, the cedar twig I split created a lovely double line. Using the cedar and oak sticks made my handwriting extra lovely, and as an added bonus, I don't have to clean my pens at the end of my session.

With materials at hand, including a brand new "art supply" from my yard, I was able to follow up on an inspiring inclusion in Hobbs's book. The experiment was a complete success, and I look forward to hearing about your endeavors in the comments.

Want to read more about no fuss art projects and supplies?  Try
Adult Coloring Books
How to use Beautiful Buttons
Point of View and Emotion

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Comparison Essay: On Kaiseki and Haiku

Seasonal Kaiseki image by Nishimuraya Kinosaki used with
Creative Commons License 4.0.

Haute cuisine, much like poetry, has both internal and external form. In addition to how a dish looks, its ingredients and components, it's expected to be more than the sum of its parts: A fine dining experience of the highest caliber contains within it the chef's narrative and an essence of unity.  The same is true for poetry.

Japanese seasonal kaiseki is a lot like Japanese haiku, for example.

The Importance of Haiku's Internal Form: Kigo and Kireji

A haiku's external form is immediately recognizable.  Most readers of poetry can identify a haiku by its three lines of a set number of sounds per line: In Japanese, the lines are divided into 5-7-5 sounds, and in English some poets have adapted that structure into 5-7-5 syllables per line. However, the poem's internal form is much more intricate and contextual than its external form. A haiku's excellence and importance is judged by its use of seasonal words and cutting words, known as kigo and kireji, respectively.

A poet's seasonal words, or kigo, come from lists of words known to evoke particular seasons or even to draw upon the cultural context of famous poems that use the same seasonal words. These lists of kigo are called saijiki.

An excellent explanation of how to use cutting words, or kireji, comes from Michael Dylan Welch:

In Japanese, traditional haiku include words that function like a spoken sort of punctuation. More importantly, they cut the poem into two parts, creating a sort of juxtaposition, not only grammatically but also imagistically. The point is to carefully pair two images together in such a way that a shift or disjunction occurs between them. The art of haiku lies in creating the right amount of distance between the two parts, so the leap is neither too far (and thus obscure) or too close (and thus too obvious). By focusing on concrete images rather than judgment or analysis, the two juxtaposed parts of a haiku allow the reader to feel what the poet felt, without the poet telling the reader what to feel.

Just as the simplicity of haiku's external form tricks us and pleasantly surprises us as we dig into its images and meaning, a chef's internal form, narrative, or unity, can surprise and delight the palates of diners. An excellent haiku poet's use of kigo and kireji sets them apart as masters of the form just as a chef's knowledge of technique and ingredients creates renown.

Seasonal Kaiseki 

Lines of haiku are not the only inspiration that comes in threes. Appreciating a balance of three has been instilled in artists across all art forms, and cooking is included in that long list. According to an article by Elaine Yu and Amanda Sealy from 2006, kaiseki is an "evolving tradition," but initially, "a set consisted of meshi (steamed rice), shiru (soup) and mukozuke." In the traditional, diners started with rice and soup to "warm up the stomach," then would move on to sake and sashimi. Like haiku, the flavors and textures progress in an order determined by the maker, the poet, the chef. The meal is punctuated with a form of culinary kireji.

Traditional kaiseki has more in common with haiku than its Japanese origins, punctuated progression and lines of three, however. Kaiseki is based on seasonal ingredients. A hassun is a seasonal platter that sets the tone of the meal based on its ingredients, those available fresh in any given season. Just as the kigo sets the season of a haiku, the ingredients found fresh in a given season may become part of the hassun course. A yakimono is a course of grilled, seasonal fish. A ko no mono is a course of seasonal vegetables, prepared and pickled.  Being seasonal is part of the language of kaiseki, just as seasonal words are part of the language of haiku.

Culinary expression and poetic expression may seem miles apart as art forms and as experiences, yet haiku and kaiseki speak to one another and through one another. A haiku is a meal of seasonal words, punctuated and progressing toward a feeling of satisfaction in the images. Kaiseki is an edible poem, and those who appreciate it savor its available ingredients, its kigo, just as much as they savor the separation and pauses between courses.

Want to read more about poetry? Try

How to Identify a Sonnet
Denotative and Connotative Meaning in the Poetry of Denise Levertov
Diagramming Mina Loy's "Letters of the Unliving"

Works Cited

Welch, Michael Dylan. "Why 'No 5-7-5'?" NaHaiWriMo.

Yu, Elaine & Amanda Sealy. "A Beginners Guide to Kaiselki, the World's Finest Meal." CNN. Nov. 8, 2016, 

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What's a Research Narrative?

Research should be a quest to find the best evidenceA research narrative tells
the story of that quest, and all of its inevitable twists and turns.

A research narrative is a chronological account of your research activities. 

In the narrative you recount the story of your research, what happened when it happened, the sources you found and read, and your realizations or insights about the topic or process. This type of narrative is wonderfully suited for keeping track of your progress while you complete a long-term research project. It's less formal than an annotated bibliography, but it's more complete than just pages of notes.

Take Chronological Notes in a Research Journal

In order to recreate your process and realizations accurately, you should take careful notes while you work, reflecting on what you've already completed and what you're about to complete. Bullet points or numbered points work great for these kinds of notes. Always take a moment to record any realizations about the topic or process you have as you have them. Record quotations and citations as you read your sources. Once you've completed your research project and are no longer  actively working on gathering or reviewing sources, you can stop taking notes for your narrative and begin choosing the "important" parts of the story. Which bits of research lead you to a conclusion about your topic? Which realizations or insights added momentum to your process? What were the moments that meant the most to you or changed the direction of your research? You may want to highlight or circle or rewrite the important notes as a way to organize your thoughts or create an outline. After you organize your notes and make decisions about which notes to weave into a story, you can begin drafting the body of your narrative.

Drafting the Body of the Narrative

The body of the narrative will be your telling of the research story. Look closely at your notes and your decisions about which details were the most important. Let those important notes be your guiding principle. Following any outline or organizational principle you've created, include any and all details that emphasize or inform the importance of those moments and realizations you've identified as important. For example, you might not normally include going to the restroom as an important part of a story. However, if you met a friend in the restroom, discussed your research with her, and had an epiphany about the topic because of that discussion, you may want to include details about that trip to the restroom in the narrative.  Create the scene with dialogue. Likewise, you may not normally want to detail three hours of fruitless searching in the library databases. However, if the fruitlessness of your search informs your conclusions about the topic, those hours should be part of the story. Again, create the scene. Explain how your five senses played a part in those three hours. Let the scene show the reader your frustrations instead of just telling the reader you were frustrated.

Just as with any document that contains source content, be sure to use an appropriate documentation style to cite any source content that makes its way into your final draft.

Drafting the Narrative Frame

All good stories have a point, and all good stories have a genesis or "inciting incident." In a narrative, the point of the story, or the thesis, appears in the conclusion. The introduction generally includes information about why the writer is telling the story without giving away the point of the story. The goal is to make the reader want to experience the events of the story so that he or she can come to the conclusion in the same way the writer came to the conclusion - after the natural progression of events. The "trick," if it really is one, is simply to be honest and remain in the realm of  nonfiction. So, after completing the body of the narrative, you should think carefully about the overall lesson, revelation, or insight you gleaned from the research experience. Although information from sources should be shared within the body of the essay, along the way, the conclusion is not the place for recapping source content as it might be in an academic research essay. In a narrative, the reader desires a more universal and thematic thesis: a lesson about the topic that reflects "a universal" insight about life. Not only do you tell the reader what you learned about the topic, in other words, but you tell the reader what you learned about your broader world by completing the research.

A research narrative is a record of actions and realizations you have about your research topic as you are in the midst of the research process. By taking thorough notes, choosing important moments, and drafting content as scenes, you can complete the entire body of your narrative. Complete the narrative by explaining the impetus for your research in the introduction, and your insights about the topic (and life) in the conclusion. Get the reader to take the research journey with you, and you will have created a successful research narrative.

Want to read more about narratives? Try

Prewriting a Narrative Essay
Why Write a Narrative Essay: The Power of Narrative
The Power of Story: The Power of Narrative

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fallout 4 and The People: Gaming with Moral Compass

Fallout 4 screenshot of main quest ending cut scene:
War. War Never Changes

With this post, the cat that lives on the porch at Abernathy farm is permanently out of the post- apocalyptic cardboard box: I am a huge, nerdly fan of the Fallout video game series.

I give my characters thoughts,  and I help them come to terms with their decisions:

At the end of it all, I returned to Sanctuary Hills, not ready to face my synthetic son, Shaun. How could he ever replace the flesh and blood man I'd betrayed? He'd referred to his mother as "collateral damage," and I'd never really gotten over the sting of it. Was that what drove me, in the end, to destroy the Institute, his legacy? I don't think so: I think it was his insistence on creating his own "collateral damage" of the people I'd come to know and knew I needed to protect.  I removed my power armor, stored away my weapons in the workshop, and changed into a clean, blue suit. I ignored the congratulatory conversations; only Nick Valentine, with the conscientiousness of a prewar man, seemed to truly understand the heaviness of my heart and soul. 

Making Moral Decisions in Fallout 4

Fallout 4 has a permanent home in our PlayStation 4.  I've played through Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4 several times, each time telling myself I'm going to make different decisions, follow different paths, complete different quests, or complete quests differently.  Every single time, however, I play as though I'm Captain America, making decisions based on nothing more nor less than my own (and Cap's) moral compass. Where does my plan to do things differently go awry?  In Fallout 4, specifically, I can't bring myself to ignore Preston's pleas for help defending The Castle from The Institute, so I save The Castle, and I lock myself into the same ending I've seen each time I've played the game. All of those innocent settlers and Minutemen at The Castle need me. I cannot ignore the call for help from the people.

Speaking of the people, the main reason I cannot bring myself to work with a faction is because the factions don't care for the entirety of the Commonwealth, the entirety of the population, the people. The Brotherhood of Steel, though it would be fantastic to see Liberty Prime in action, again, have horrendously awful things to say to Nick, my synth friend, or Hancock, my ghoul friend. The Brotherhood would rather see them all eviscerated by Deathclaws than lift a finger to help them live better lives. The Railroad folks care mostly about the synths and eliminating The Institute scientists and civilians. The Institute wants to replace real people with synthetic people, create a dangerous nuclear reactor, all the while refusing to help the people of the Commonwealth. Each and every faction wants to destroy freedom, create and maintain strict control, and determine who does or does not get marked as an enemy.

Making Moral Decisions in Life

It pains me to say so, but in Trump's America, these "decisions" to take under my protection all of the people or only some of the people are too close to real life, are they not?  Of course I have to do the right thing: These aren't really "decisions" I give myself liberty to make. I have to remember that all the people of the Commonwealth, whether they are people trapped in irradiated bodies or people whose minds are trapped in synthetic bodies, all deserve the opportunity to live together in peace. Pitting one faction against another accomplishes nothing. It never does, and therein lies the lesson that makes me repeat all the same decisions I've made in the past, just more emphatically. Even when gaming, I must remember that this country is made up of the people. We have a moral obligation to help all the people.

Did I do the right thing? Only time will tell, just as time will make the sting of my decisions over the past several months fade from the forefront of my mind. Only after the memories fade will I be able to intellectualize this new world and what it has made of me and my moral compass.  In the end, I chose to protect the entirety of the people, and I cannot fathom ever regretting that.

Want to read more? try

Remove Mobile Strike Video Advertisements
What is Toyification?
The Power of Story: The Power of Narrative

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Make-up: Carmindize or Contour?

Are you living in a 3-dimensional world?

Does anyone remember Carmindy from What Not to Wear? She always exuded an easy-peasy confidence and an easy-breezy style. This translated, too, to the way she taught her makeover guests how to do their faces. Emphasizing what made a guest already beautiful was her thing.

Get Carmindized with the 5 Minute Face

I was so completely impressed with her and her "5 Minute Face" that I practiced it until I perfected it and could list all my favorite products and their shade numbers by using only one hand. When and if I received a compliment on my makeup, I proudly told the complimenter that I "Carmindized."

Fast forward five years, since the show went off the air, and I haven't worn makeup but a few times in all those years. I've been sick, really sick, and it just wasn't something I had the energy or inclination to do. Now that I'm feeling better and interested in wearing a little makeup, again, I'm absolutely horrified by new makeup trends. They're scary, created by celebrities I don't respect very much, and complicated. More than that, though, these new trends mimic a troubling trend in the way people think about their own faces and their own lives.

Contouring 2-Dimensional Faces

Why do women demonstrating makeup on YouTube look dirty, like an online army of  Mary Poppinses and their sooty rooftop compacts? Some of them look green, some purple, and most look startlingly grey. Yes, I've heard of contouring, and I'm good at it because I was trained in stage makeup and did an A+ Mad Hatter and an extreme aging sample for my final exam. It's not something I would wear to the local Mexican restaurant for enchiladas rancheras and a side of guacamole, however. What about when people look at the side of such a face from as close as the next table instead of the fourth row of a theatre? Dirt: It looks like dirt. In real life we don't just get frontal views of one another, but this look wasn't really meant for real life or anything other than frontal views, was it? I don't think it ever was.

In an age where each second of each minute of each hour of each day is captured by photographic evidence, people are thinking about faces in a frontal photographic way. They are thinking of themselves in two dimensions. Today's makeup is photographic makeup sans a lighting designer, talking head video makeup, social media makeup, character makeup - albeit not quite as extreme as the Mad Hatter. It's makeup for people hitting the clubs and taking duck-face Instagram images. It's not the easy-breezy "5 Minute Face" we saw practiced from 2003 to 2013 on TLC. It's not even about getting out into the world and being true to oneself, which is what Carmindy constantly emphasized. Is that advice to be oneself really that outdated?

We Live in a 3-Dimensional World

Give me back my "5 Minute Face," my naturally dimensional face, please.  Being a naturally multidimensional person and putting on a face that shows others I want to be in the world, the real world, is so much more my style than putting on a face that's meant only for living a series of two-dimensional photo ops.

Want to read more? Try 

Stitch Fix Review: Styling at 40
Product Review: MICA Beauty Cosmetics Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel
Hair Accessories to Finish a Professional Hairstyle

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

What if . . . ? A Brief Case for Learning Community Classroom Design

What if . . . we designed active learning spaces with collapsible walls?

Learning communities can take many forms. Some are based on grouping students by extracurricular activities and interests, some are based on course or disciplinary groupings, and some are based on the teaching philosophies and pedagogical methods of groups of faculty members.

No matter how a learning community is created, however, something that remains consistent is the need for those students in that community to learn together.  That need requires a space, and a space designed for learning communities will facilitate that sense of, well . . . community.

What if  . . . collapsible walls allowed for the expansion of learning communities, team teaching, and cooperative learning?

What if more institutions adopted the structure of learning communities, team teaching, and cooperative learning?  What would that look like?  One idea is to utilize one specific design element, the folding wall room divider, and one specific logistical consideration, block scheduling of students and faculty.

This solution requires each participating faculty member, in this case two, to teach two back-to-back sections of their class while their partner does the same. Classes happen concurrently. Students take one class, then the other, while their counterparts take the same classes in reverse order. As the semester progresses and the course materials begin to merge, the room divider can be opened, allowing for the faculty members to team teach for the day, both class blocks, perhaps offering lecture materials to the entire group, or perhaps allowing students to merge into large groups to brainstorm or collaborate on project-based learning assignments. The room can be arranged into areas that allow for faculty to mentor, meet, or otherwise assist individuals or groups of students. The room would allow for visitors, including community members and guest speakers, panel discussions, debates, and a whole host of collaborative learning activities.

What if . . . we opened our classrooms to community members as guest speakers?

The possibilities greatly expand, in this scenario, for facilitating the creation of working relationships among students, among faculty, and between students and faculty. These types of relationships increase engagement and student achievement, as faculty are able to become part of students' figurative and quite literal, circles.

What if . . . this is an option worth exploring? 

To read more about teaching and learning, try

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Active Learning Classroom Design and Pedagogy

Lithograph of Faraday delivering a Christmas lecture at the
Royal Institution. 
Maybe we've been doing things this way for too long? 

Active learning classrooms are spaces designed with student achievement in mind. As active learning is student-centered, so must the classroom reflect that orientation. The furniture is often mobile, designed with castors, making it possible to easily create tables for small groups of students to work together on projects, or to rearrange the set-up quickly for one-on-one meetings, speakers, or class discussions. Active learning classrooms are also equipped with all the technology necessary for faculty to seamlessly monitor student work, and for students to have at their disposal the tools and technology they might need to complete cooperative learning, experiential, service, project-based, or problem-based assignments. Active learning classrooms help shift the focus from the professor and the traditional lecture to the students and their peers.

To Assess by Sitting Down Beside

One key idea is to assess student learning and student progress from close up, as opposed to from "Faraday's stage," and as Dr. Ronald Purser reminds in his Problem Based Learning overview (n.d.), that requires sitting down with the students and observing them sitting down with one another. “To Assess,” he begins: “The Latin origin of this term, assidere, literally means to sit down beside. Another way of thinking of assessment is to use careful judgment based on the kind of close observation that comes from ‘sitting down beside.’” As opposed to outcomes-based assessment or assessment for the purposes of accreditation or program review, which too often ties faculty to sitting down with data instead of students, this real time assessment helps faculty keep students on track throughout a semester. This allows for real time improvement of the curriculum, and therefore greater engagement and student achievement.

The Learner-Centered Teaching Philosophy

Well known for her expertise in the field of active learning and active learning spaces, Diana Oblinger explains the importance of the pedagogy-design connection by simply stating that “Learning spaces convey an image of the institution’s philosophy about teaching and learning” (2005). These spaces are particularly important, then, for institutions looking to focus on learners and to engage underserved populations and minorities, as research made popular through the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning clearly shows. For example,

  • Active learning "has been empirically shown to decrease the achievement gap for underrepresented minorities and first generation college students, particularly in STEM fields; to reach 'a diversity of students'; and to build 'higher- order thinking skills' across engaged student populations" (Handelsman, et. al, 2007). 
  • "Active learning therefore can help improve class climate by promoting interconnections between students, which can enhance the sense of belonging and motivation for marginalized students and those with differing levels of academic preparation."
  • "Early quasi-experimental research revealed that teaching in an ALC can improve student attitudes, conceptual understanding, and passing rates, especially for female and minority students" (Baepler, et. al., 2016, Beichner 2007, Walker 2011).

Service and Experiential Learning

Benefits related specifically to service learning are reported by Yeh (2017) in Service-Learning and Persistence of Low-Income, First-GenerationCollege Students: An Exploratory Study. Her interviews with students gave “insight into the efficacy of service learning as a tool for improving college persistence,” which her framework equates with retention. Benefits related specifically to experiential learning are reported by Thacker, Berna, Torr, and Walsh in Experiential Learning: Benefits for Hispanic and First-Generation College Students (2017). They found that students in the studied experiential learning courses “report increased confidence, greater accessibility to and understanding of application of course concepts. And, perhaps of utmost importance, these pedagogical tools offer Hispanic, first generation students a lens through which they are able to view themselves as personally successful, intellectually empowered, and as productive community members.”


A shift from a  traditional lecture format to an active learning format of any type can often be challenging, but the benefits are innumerable. Active learning and active learning spaces often engage all students, including underserved populations, by offering them a chance to use soft skills and abilities that reflect the need for these same skills post graduation. Having spaces designed for this type of learning can make a great difference in bridging the gap between the two pedagogies, while at the same time proving an institution's commitment to student-centered learning.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

What's a Rhetorical Situation?

When writers write, they write to accomplish a goal related to an intended audience and a specific, narrowed topic. The way those three elements are mixed and matched is called the Rhetorical Situation. That means when writers write, they have to keep the Rhetorical Situation in mind from start to finish, or from prewriting to publication.

Three Parts of the Rhetorical Situation

Let's look at some examples of how changing the Rhetorical Situation changes how a writer writes, from the words the writer chooses to the citation style used to identify source content.

Example 1: Writing a Business Proposal

Intended Audience

When writing a business proposal, it's essential the writer understands the intended audience.  The person reading the document can make or break the business opportunity!  A banker will want to read about the financial acumen of the entrepreneur and will be interested in reading how the business will make enough money to pay back a loan. That information, therefore, will be essential, and it will need to be well researched in order to satisfy the level of knowledge of that banker, which is probably quite a high level of knowledge.  However, the banker will be less interested in reading an extensive list of sources on an MLA Works Cited page than perhaps a professor in an MBA program would be.

Narrowed Focus

That business proposal will need to have a narrowed focus, as well. A plan to open "some sort" of business will not impress the banker-reader. The banker-reader is going to want to know about a specific type of business, with a specific type of structure, located in a specific place.  The more details the writer provides, the more the banker-reader will be able to imagine the business operating on a day to day basis.  The writer will need to use concrete language and provide details about all facets of the business's model.  On the other hand, if the plan's purpose is to attract a business partner, perhaps the goal is to brainstorm ideas with that person.  That partner-reader will require a different type of proposal than that of a banker-reader. A change in either the purpose or the reader changes the entire document!

Purpose, Mode, and Strategy

The purpose of any business plan is to persuade, which means the mode for this proposal must be the persuasive or argumentative mode of writing. Within that mode there are a few strategies the writer can use to organize information. First and foremost, the writer must investigate whether or not the reader provides a template for proposals.  If so, the template should be followed as closely as possible. If not, there are other strategies for organization that can be used, like the problem-solution strategy. Every piece of information in this mode, to meet this persuasive purpose, must be aimed at convincing the reader to do or believe in the writer's plan. The writer wants the banker-reader to offer a loan or the partner-reader to join in the process of creating and opening a business.

Example 2: Planning to Write about Gardening or Earthworms

The following video explains the Rhetorical Situation and how it's used to plan a project during the prewriting stage of the writing process. Again, if any part of the Rhetorical Situation changes, the entire document must change.

Want to read more about quality writing?  Try

Adding Coherence to an Essay
Write a Unified Essay
Using Specific Language

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What to Eat While Fighting Lyme Disease - Detox Soup

Amy's "Detox Soup" Makes a Great Breakfast

One of the hardest parts of my Lyme fight has been eating, both finding things I can make myself eat and finding things that meet my dietary restrictions. I am currently eating only sugar-free, gluten-free and dairy-free in order to help reduce the amount of inflammation in my neck, knees, hips, and digestive system.  

One simple, tasty meal I've been eating for several months for breakfast is what I call my "Detox Soup." It combines several ingredients that help keep microbes at bay and help remove toxins from my system.  Whether or not you need as much help as a Lymie might need to stay healthy and keep at fighting weight, the key here is that it is tasty, and I happily eat it almost every day before leaving for work. I get three servings from the recipe. It reheats on the stove in a few minutes and tastes just as great the next day and the next.

Amy's Detox Soup Ingredients and Substitutions

  • 2 Cups Chicken Broth, Bone Broth, or Vegetable Broth (I like Swanson's or College Inn)
  • 1 Cup Uncooked Royal Select Rice Blend or Jasmine Rice
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro or Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1 Stalk Celery
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil or 1/2 Can Coconut Milk for a Creamy Soup

Making Amy's Detox Soup

  1. Add 1.5 cups water to a 4 quart stainless steel pot, bring to boil and add rice, or follow directions for cooking your choice of rice.  
  2. Add pressed or minced garlic and other fresh herbs while the rice is cooking.  
  3. Add sliced celery while the rice is cooking. 
  4. Add coconut oil or coconut milk, stir, and cover.  
  5. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the rice has absorbed most of the water.
  6. Once the rice is cooked, add 2-3 cups broth and increase heat to medium or medium high.
  7. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon and zest to taste.
  8. Once the soup boils for 3 minutes, remove from heat and serve or store leftovers in a glass or ceramic bowl.

Nutrition Information

I used the nutritional tool on MyFitnessPal to calculate the approximate values for this soup with my ingredient preferences at 3 servings.

If you need a tasty soup made to meet an elimination diet or dietary restrictions because of  inflammation caused by any number of diseases or conditions, give this soup a try and let me know how it goes! Of course, be sure to speak to your healthcare provider to make sure the ingredients and nutritional values in this recipe meet your needs.  Be healthy and heal well!

Want more recipes?  Try

Mizeria: Dairy Free Cucumber Salad
Easy Cauliflower Soup
Cheesy Kale Salad with Almonds and Blueberries

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Punch Needle Embroidery Supplies for Beginners

Embroidery punch needle and supplies
The Boye "I Taught Myself to Punch Needle" is a great value kit for getting started with needle punching!

Needle Punch Embroidery

Needle punch embroidery is a type of embroidery that mimics the look of a hooked or punched rug.  The main tool to use is a punch needle, a hollow needle that allows thread, floss, or fine yarn to pass through and leave a loop on the opposing side of the fabric, usually weaver's cloth (affiliate link) or a 14 or 18 count Aida.  As for a frame or hoop, it's essential for punch needle projects to use a locking or no-slip hoop (affiliate link) or frame - the fabric needs to remain drum tight as it's punched. Lastly, some people prefer to use a design or pattern that comes with the necessary fabric and floss. There are an overwhelming number of choices for supplies online, and the punch needles sold online range in price from about $3.00 to $20.00. Most come with the extra long threader needed to thread the needle.  It's hard to tell when shopping online, though, exactly which needle to buy, and putting together a beginner's kit can be a bit confusing.

Because I already crochet and have several balls of Aunt Lydia's #10 crochet cotton, I wanted to start with a needle and fabric that would accommodate the size of my crochet cotton. In order to really see the sizes of the needles and fabrics, I needed to go to a real store.  In my area there are three options for craft supplies: Michael's, Hobby Lobby, and Walmart.

Michael's Dimensions Punch Needle

The punch needle available at Michael's is the Dimensions needle, which is not adjustable, nor does it have interchangeable needles.  I did not purchase this needle, but if you'd like something simple and inexpensive, these Dimensions punch needles are also available on Amazon (affiliate link).  It is inexpensive, but it does not come with all the supplies needed to get started. A no-slip hoop, fabric, and floss, thread, or yarn, will still need to be purchased.

Hobby Lobby Artiste Punch Needle

The Artiste punch needle available at Hobby Lobby is adjustable and has interchangeable needles. At $16.00 (with tax), it is a few dollars less expensive than the Ultra punch needle, one of the best selling and most highly rated needle punches sold online. Like the Ultra, it comes with various sizes of needles, small, medium, and large, that can accommodate up to 6 strands of embroidery floss, fingering yarn, or crochet cotton.  Again, however, this needle does not come with the other supplies necessary to get started: It does not even come with instructions, so if you opt for this needle, be prepared to  find instructional videos and documents online.

Walmart's Boye Punch Needle Kit 

The Boye "I Taught Myself to Punch Needle Kit" (affiliate link) comes with not only the punch needle, but the locking hoop, patterns, and an instructional booklet with ideas for projects. I picked mine up for around $10.00, and picked up some embroidery floss and 14-count Aida fabric while I was there.  With the locking hoop that came in the kit, I was able to get stared on a project right away without the frustration of a loose project. Although this particular Boye kit comes with only one size needle (2 mm, the equivalent size to the large needle on the Artiste punch needle), I was able to easily use my crochet cotton and 6 strands of embroidery floss on the 14-count Aida. If I want to add to my needle sizes in the future, Boye also sells a needle kit that comes with three needle sizes.

Beginner's Punch Needle Shopping List

To review, in order to get started with needle punch, you will need a few special tools.

  • A punch needle
  • Weaver's cloth or 14 or 18-count Aida
  • A no-slip hoop
  • Thread, floss, or cotton, depending on your chosen needle size
  • A pattern kit or a healthy imagination

My recommendation is to start with the Boye "I Taught Myself to Punch Needle Kit," which will get you an inexpensive starter's kit that can easily be added to in the future.

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Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.