Jolie Guillebeau

Archive for May, 2012

2 of 4

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

One of the best parts of this project has been your responses appearing in my inbox everyday. I read your stories, and it makes my day. This week, since I’m celebrating my 75th story, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

After I wrote about Kristian’s trick to ending a story, he wrote me with the best story.


You know what?  The other day, at a coffee shop in the ground floor of an Amazon building, this guy dropped $20.  I ran over and picked it up and tried to get his attention, but he was talking to someone and they walked through security and into an elevator. I wasn’t sure what to do with the money (karma and all that) so I used it to buy everyone a drink at happy hour.  So there. I actually did find $20.  First time!
“20 dollars.” 4×4 Oil on Panel. $95

1 of 4.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

One of the best parts of this project has been your responses appearing in my inbox everyday. I read your stories, and it makes my day. This week, since I’m celebrating my 75th story, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Kristine wrote me in response to my roller coaster story with a story of her own bravery. It’s awesome.


She says:

In High School, I was shy and a scaredy cat.  A friend held me in line at a roller coaster, and I was terrified and didn’t want to go.  He convinced me that I could keep my eyes closed and hold his hand the whole time and it would be great.  I balked the whole way through the line, but finally did it – scary but exhilarating!  After, he bought me a keychain with the picture of the roller coaster to remind me that I was brave and could continue to be brave.  I carried that keychain on my keys for years as a reminder because he was right and I made more and more efforts to be brave all the time.

“Key.” 8×8 Oil on Panel. $140

9 dollars.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I was tempted to take the day off today since it was a holiday, but then I realized that Memorial Day is what this project is all about.


It’s about stepping in to the shoes of someone else and reminding yourself of the sacrifices others have made on your behalf.

I cleaned out my closet this weekend, and found these shoes. I bought them a few years ago in Park City, Utah. They were very cheap and I totally got my money’s worth.

So when I found them in the back of the closet, I was confused. These shoes are awesome. They’re a great color, they’re comfy and they’re cute– even if they are Crocs. I don’t have to worry about getting them dirty or ruining them in the rain, and if they get paint on them it just wipes right off.

So why wasn’t I wearing them anymore?

I put them on and walked out the door. Fifteen minutes later, I had my answer. Squeak, squeak, SQUEAK!

I heard that all day. Then they made one final noise. They made a very satisfying thud as they hit the bottom of the trash can.

“Shoes.” 8×8 Oil on Panel. $140

2 Tbsp.

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

After all my stories about macaroni and cheese, a few of you requested the recipe. I’ll happily oblige.

Be prepared for an empty pan– it’s so good.


8 oz dry cavatappi noodles
10 cups of water
1/4 tsp salt

Put the water on to boil. Once it’s boiling, add the salt and noodles. Boil 7-10 minutes until noodles are al dente. DRAIN. Meanwhile, start the white sauce.

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 c milk

Melt the butter in the saucepan, gradually add the flour until a paste forms. Add the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, making sure no lumps form. Continue on medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened. Then add half of the cheese.

1 c shredded cheddar
2/3 c marscapone
1/2 c shredded gouda
1/4 c parmesan

Stir in to the sauce until melted. Place noodles in oven safe pan, pour sauce over noodles and add the rest of the cheese– except for the cheddar. Mix well and then cover the noodles with the rest of the cheddar.

Place under high broiler for 5-7 minutes, until cheese is golden and lightly browned.

“Empty pans.” 6×12 Oil on Panel. $145

4 sides

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

There are so many ways to accomplish the same goal.

When I finally learned to make macaroni and cheese from scratch, I found a recipe with a four cheese blend. So I bought a block of cheddar, a wedge of gouda, a sliver of good parmesan, and a tub of  marscapone.

And I pulled out my grater.

I spent more time grating the cheese than actually making the recipe. It took nearly an hour to grate all that cheese. By the time I was done, we were both hungry and I was exhausted.

But that macaroni and cheese was amazing. Really amazing.

However, I didn’t want to spend hours grating cheese– I knew my knuckles couldn’t take it. So the next time I switched to the shredded cheese in the plastic bags.

And it was faster, but not as amazing. And if I’m going to go to the trouble of making macaroni and cheese from scratch, it must be amazing.

So as I’ve tweaked the recipe, I’ve adapted. I buy shredded cheddar, but still hand grate the other cheeses, because they’re faster. I also retired the old dented box grater and got one with a knuckle guard.

The process of making mac and cheese is a lot like painting for me. I know how to grind my own paint, and I can spend 60 hours on a single painting. It leaves me exhausted, but the results are usually spectacular.

I’m also okay with throwing paint on paper with a few stamps or a bit of glitter. It’s fun and a good way to remind myself how to play.

The work I’m happiest with is the work that comes together without the agonizing struggle, without scraped knuckles. It’s the work that appears when I still have energy to enjoy it. But it’s still work.

Like macaroni and cheese from scratch.

“Work.” 6×8 Oil on Panel. $140

Velveeta Vendetta.

Monday, May 21st, 2012

One of the ways I learned to cook was to ask questions of the experts. Which is why I know the cheesemonger at my neighborhood grocery store. And yes, she prefers the title cheesemonger. I called her the cheese steward (the title her predecessor preferred) and she corrected me.

“I’m a cheesemonger. That’s my proper title.”


Anyway, Susan the cheesemonger doesn’t always approve of my cheese selections. First of all, I ask for too little. She doesn’t hesitate to inform me that 1/2 oz of cheese isn’t enough for two people.

Also, I don’t like blue cheese. And she thinks I should. She pushes the blue cheese on me everytime, and huffs a bit when I decline. Because I always do.

So you can imagine her horror when I chose this cheese yesterday based on appearance only.

“But what are you doing with it?”
“I’m painting it.”
“What? I don’t understand.”

I explained what I do here, and then told her I might eat it once I’m finished, but probably not since it’s been sitting under the light and might dry out.

More huffing and a deep sigh from Susan.

“You might as well use Velveeta then.”

I’m thinking she’s taking the cheese a little too seriously.

“Not Velveeta.” 6×6 Oil on Panel. $120

1/4 cup milk

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

When I say I didn’t know how to cook, I really mean it. I couldn’t make a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese.

I knew how to boil noodles, and I could read the back of the box, so you’d think I could manage it. But every time, my mac and cheese came out slippery and bland.


I used less milk, I added more cheese powder, I eliminated the butter– nothing worked.

Gradually I gave up. But then I actually learned to cook.

I read Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I got a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated. I started working my way through the alphabet in pie, then pastry, and now soup.

And then I decided to try again. And you know what? I had learned enough to know that when you make macaroni and cheese, you must drain the noodles.

No wonder it didn’t work before.

“Krafty.” 6×6 Oil on Panel. $120


Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

In 2002, when we went to Thailand to teach English for four weeks, I recieved a small gift from my class on the night they graduated. I wasn’t quite sure what it was.


It looked like a little tiny salt shaker. I must’ve looked pretty confused, because my students all jumped in with an explanation. After a few minutes, I figured out that this was sort of like smelling salts, in an elegant little silver container.

I smiled and tucked it away in my bag, expecting to never use it.

But it was pretty and small, so I decided it would make a nice souvenir of our time. And on the flight back, I pulled it out with curiosity. And the euculyptus scent was lovely. The dry throat feeling after a long flight completely dissapeared. And I was convinced.

I kept up with it for ten years and used it on every flight. Eventually the smell began to fade, so last month when my sister Tera went to Thailand, I sent her on a quest for a replacement. Apparently, that was more complicated than I thought it would be, because she had to search high and low.

But last week in New York, she grinned triumphantly and pulled a little silver cylinder out of her bag.

“RE-gift!.” 4×4 Oil on Canvas. $95

$15 + $22 shipping

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

We’ve talked before about the cost of shipping things to West Africa, so this gift I gave myself was a little more expensive than I planned.


Our first couple of months overseas, I made do with mugs that we’d found after someone else discarded them when they returned to the States. The mugs were stained and chipped. One was a handpainted souvenir from someone’s trip to Budapest.Every morning, I made my tea, looked at the ugly mug I was carrying around and felt a little homesick. I wanted a mug that was mine. I wanted to feel settled, and I missed my collection of lovely, sentimental mugs that were souvenirs of places I’d been. I wanted to pour my tea in to something that held my history as I took these first tentative steps in a completely new place.

I remembered this one from our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and went online in hopes it was still available. It was. I hesitated once I calculated shipping, but pressed the checkout button anyway.

This handpainted Delft mug arrived in one piece and I promptly threw away all the other chipped and stained cups in our tiny cupboard. I went from feeling sad to feeling grateful when I poured my tea in the mornings.

Giving myself this gift was a big first step for me. It taught me a little about self-care and taught me that sometimes a mug isn’t just a mug. Sometimes it’s the thing that holds your history, and sometimes it’s the thing that holds you together.

“Delft.” 6×6 Oil on Panel. $120

A gift from a gift.

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Since I got home from New York last week, I’ve been sniffly, stuffy and sneezy. I spent the weekend mostly curled up in bed with my Kindle and Netflix.

This afternoon I opened the door to find a smiling face holding a bouquet of fruit– including chocolate covered strawberries.


Some people send flowers, but my mother-in-law sends chocolate. She knows me so well.

In fact, before I managed to take a picture on Instagram, I’d already eaten at least three of the strawberries, but I remembered in time to save this one for paint. And as I painted, I remembered the arrangement she sent the week my wallet was stolen. And the one she sent to congratulate us on the World Domination Summit,  and the dozens (or hundreds) of other times that her generosity has surprised and delighted me.

She’s a gift all on her own.

“Gifted.” 4×4 Oil on Panel. $95