Saturday, August 3, 2013

Reflecting on the First (of many) 365 Day Craft Challenge(s)

So I was a little surprised when I woke up this morning (at 330 because we were decorating yet more cakes).  At first, I was panicked because I had not blogged.  I was thinking I really needed to get on the ball because I didn't want to mess up my 365 Day Craft Challenge...

And then I realized that technically, August 1st was the last day of it.  It has been one whole year since I started this adventure.  I say technically because I knew about 3/4 of the way through this that I was not going to stop with just one challenge.  There was going to be a lot of things I did not get to, and there will always be more things to learn and recipes to tweak.  There are entire cultures of food I have yet to venture into, and a world of craft techniques I have never tried.

On Monday, August 5th, the SECOND 365 Day Craft Challenge will kick off! :) I decided to give myself a weekend off, that way I could catch up on some sleep and work on a few other projects that were not crafty so much as necessary (e.g. organizing for college which is creeping up on me).  The real fact of the matter is that I have learned a lot from this craft challenge and it has meant the absolute world to me to do something every single day for a year.

Something new, every single day.

So I want to take a moment and reflect on the highlights of the craft challenge.  To everyone who viewed that little puffy painted ornament, all thousands of you, you made the blog extra special.  I never thought I would have something that popular.  It was pretty fantastic.

Getting to interact with Chobani, a company that I truly love, and discovering that with such an outstanding product I could take food I love and sharply reduce the fat, that also meant the world to me.  Alfredo is good, light and protein-induced alfreCHO is way better.  Chobani in cheesecake made some fantastic lemon cheesecake pops that made me want to eat the entire batch. Healthy food does not have to taste bad, and in fact can taste far better than the preservative-filled junk.

I learned a lot in other things this year. I can honestly say that my entire way of cooking changed drastically.  I now consistently opt for less processed food and have found a ton of new veggies and grains that I really like.  I could easily see Quinoa replacing all or part of my rice in stir fry, as well as being a standalone side for other meals.  The apple granola bites and the carrot raisin bites mean I never have to buy another granola bar because they taste so, so good.

My most prized accomplishment was tackling macarons.  They were French and scary and I was just sure that I would mess them up.  But I tried, and they worked. There is a lot of perfecting of those for me in the future, but I am so much further along than I ever imagined I could be.  That's a takeaway tip, nothing is out of reach if you are willing to stretch a bit more.

So what I take away from this first challenge is this: Get out of your rut.  Whatever your food rut is you are limiting yourself severely.  There are so many things in this world to try and to get to the end of your life and to only have tried something as exciting as chicken strips would be pretty darn sad. 

I also learned that no matter what it is, and no matter how hard it looks, there are people out there doing the thing that you want to do.  They are living the dream that you want to live.  And they are cooking the food that you want to cook.  You can do absolutely anything with a little practice and a whole lot of patience.  For the most part, the things most people cook don't even involve a lot of monetary investment and use inexpensive ingredients- so why not try?

To me, food is what brings us together.  We celebrate life and death, holidays, family dinners, everything with food and meals.  The sharing of meals is a sharing of experiences, bonding, and something that cannot be replicated through anything else.  A great meal has the power to change your life, as far as I am concerned.

As a personal and somewhat humorous lesson, I decided that life is too short to eat low quality cheese.  A good parmesan or parm/reggiano will change your entire outlook. It tastes better, it is stronger and you can use way less, and it is infinitely better than that junk in the green duster ever thought about being.  If I never saw pre-shredded and pre-pulverized cheese again...I would be perfectly happy.

But it really is bigger than that.  Life is too short to settle for low quality products.  Look in to what you are eating, what goes into it, and ask yourself if you are ok with those ingredients.  For me, I don't want the mile long chemical lists.  I want something closer to the original.  And if that means having to make my own sauces or granola bars or whatever else, so be it.  That is quite alright with me.

People aren't always going to understand why you do the things you do, and that is alright.  It does not matter what a single other person thinks about your eating habits or preferences in cooking if you are happy and you know that you make a darn good dish. 

So as I said, the next challenge will kick off Monday.  If all goes according to plan, it will kick off like the first one did, with a craft as opposed to a recipe.  I am thinking about a few things, some might just involve my sewing machine (SCARY!).  After that, the following 365 days will include some goals.

I want to tackle making homemade ravioli.  I want to make the ravioli that brings me to tears.  And then I want to drown my tears and my ravioli in AlfreCHO.

I want to make a delicious focaccia.  I love focaccia. 

I will make a fancy macaron.  Not the boring vanilla that I made, but something fantastically strange and just so bizarre that it works brilliantly.

I want to sew something new I can wear.  That one might be toward the end of the challenge because this chick is a train wreck when it comes to that or any sewing machine.

And you better believe there will be more cake pops with eye balls.  I don't know what shape or animal they will be...but there WILL be googly eyes. Every good challenge has eye balls.

So thank you again for everyone who followed along with some of the posts, and I sincerely hope that you will keep following along.  I encourage anyone and everyone to do something new as often as they can, to step outside their cooking or crafting comfort zone and just go for it.  Try new things, learn new techniques, and sit back and enjoy the beauty of what you have created.  We all have so many unique ideas and perspectives, and there has never been a better or simpler time to share a little bit of ourselves through creating things.  And in all reality, there will always be someone out there that would love to know the information behind what you did.  There are people with similar interests around every corner.

Tune in Monday, this next year is sure to be a doozy.

And as always, happy crafting.

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