My Easy 1 Pot Baked Mac N Cheez (Vegan, Nut-free)

When I’m in artist-mode I don’t take care of myself. I’m more than guilty of getting lazy and slipping up with my self-care. Self-employed people work endless hours, skipping meals and losing sleep over our work.

When it comes to being lazy and trying to cook, they usually don’t go together. It’s always the same thing: I need a break and go to make something to eat, I’m too tired to think of something to eat—never mind find a recipe—and then just order pad-thai for the second time this week instead.

If you’re finding yourself in a dinner-funk, this one is for you!

I will be using “cheez” rather than “cheese” because this is a vegan recipe. There is no dairy in this recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of elbow macaroni (or any pasta)
  • 2 cups of milk substitute
  • ⅔ cup of cheez powder (recipe below)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • ⅓ cup of vegan cheddar cheez
  • bread crumbs

Directions for Pasta:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil: set stovetop to medium-high until boiling
  2. Once boiling, add 3 cups of elbow macaroni (or any pasta) and cook according to package—I was unfortunately out of macaroni noodles and had to use penne
  3. Add a pinch of salt and stir occasionally
  4. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit
  5. Remove pasta from heat and turn stovetop down to medium-low for the cheez sauce
  6. Strain the pasta and put it in a casserole dish for later

Directions for Cheez Sauce:

  1. Add milk, salt, pepper, and minced garlic to your warm saucepan (the pot from before)
  2. Whisk all the clumps out before melting in the vegan cheez
  3. Melt cheez over medium-low stovetop, pour sauce over the cooked macaroni and stir evenly
  4. Press the pasta down to pack it into the dish before adding bread crumbs
  5. Add 3 fist fulls of bread crumbs and the rest of the cheez on top 
  6. After the last of the cheese, I added an extra fist-full of bread crumbs for good measure
  7. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, at 350° Fahrenheit

Ideas for variations:

  • Add buffalo wing sauce to your cheez sauce to spice things up (I’m the only spicy food lover in the house, which is the only reason I didn’t try it)
  • Add onions when you bake your pasta for some more variation in texture
  • Make it more kid-friendly by adding extra cheez and swapping macaroni for bow-tie noodles—I halved the recommended amount of cheez to reduce the cost-per-portion, but you can never add too much cheez!

So that’s my easy 1-pot baked vegan macaroni and “cheese” recipe for lazy artists and busy people. Let me know how easy this was if you tried this at home and how it turned out—if you’ve been looking for an excuse to use your pretty pyrex dishes, here it is!

My Tarot Journal: Entry 2

Saturdays are when I do my weekly tarot readings as a part of my self-care ritual. This is what my cards told me about the coming moon cycle…

Spread: New Moon Direction Spread (The Witches Fix)

Deck: Tarot Marseilles

  1. Starting Point: Prince of Wands (reversed)
    • Deceit 
    • Swift change is coming to your life, be prepared
  2. Direction: 10 of Pentacles
    • finance and family
    • money, success and material comfort
    • “unearned” money and profits
    • feeling inhibited by your background/upbringing
  3. Energetic Aid: 5 of Cups
    • something lost, something gained
    • a sad card denoting grief and emotional wounds
    • melancholy
    • “the cup is spilled and its contents wasted”
    • it’s time to explore other avenues
  4. Potential: The Fool 
    • cut yourself some slack
    • don’t worry about what others think
    • “however mad your plans may seem you are always in tune with yourself”
    • s in tune with yourself”
    • This is the start of a life-changing journey
    • Someone unconventional will make you think about things differently 
    • Nervous energy, unstable conditions
    • Can symbolize an unconventional sex life
    • Great, but undisciplined mental energy
    • Look before you leap, stay cautious
  5. Adjustment: King of Swords
    • Logical, clever and quick witted 
    • A love for rational thought
    • “Nine times out of ten you will find him working in some professional capacity, where his bright and restless mind can be put to good use.”
    • Requires lots of mental stimulation from company and lovers
    • Playing games to burn the remaining mental energy
  6. Lesson: 9 of Swords
    • Oppression, fear and anxiety 
    • A dark place of fear and suffering
    • It’s currently an extremely difficult time
    • There seems to be nowhere to turn to for help
    • This despair has grown out of control
    • This does not quell the pain, but points towards a solution for these problems must be faced
    • “A dark night of the soul”
    • Someone sensible must come up with a rational solution, or only time and courage will heal the wounds

Some words of wisdom:

  • Focus on fulfillment and wellbeing
  • Health and success are coming your way
  • A peak has been reached and your dreams are about to come true
  • Love will flow more easily in your relationships 
  • Ideas are coming quickly and you will have plenty of energy to execute them
  • Something you’ve wrestled with for a long time is now coming smoothly and effortlessly, at last
  • Beware of feeling smug

If you drew anything from this reading please let me know in the comment. Do you practice tarot or any other alternative form of spirituality? I would love to know!

After a very long year, I’m looking forward to 2021—to new opportunities and change—for everyone.

Until next time, you can check out what I’ve been working on here!

—J

Turn Your Coffee Addiction Into Your Skincare Routine: Recycling Your Coffee Grounds

After hearing I could use my used coffee grounds in my garden, my plant pots are now filled with more coffee than soil… So I had to find a new zero-waste use for them.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

My partner dried out an 8 oz jar of used coffee grounds to use as a scrub for the stovetops, but we had almost the entire jar left when we ere done and didn’t want to risk them going moldy. So when I found half a jar of coconut oil in the back of my bathroom cupboard, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it! I came up with this simple DIY body-scrub recipe that’s great for reenergizing and softening your skin!

This is the easiest, quickest body scrub you will ever make.

  • You only need 2 things: coconut oil and used, DRIED coffee grounds.
  • Take your used, dried coffee grounds and mix it into your coconut oil (the other way around is a mess)
  • I like a 1:1 ratio of oil to coffee grounds, but you can make the consistency as thick as you like.
  • Since I practice aromatherapy, I also added 5 drops of peppermint essential oils to make it a refreshing and festive scent. I don’t recommend buying essential oils for single-use cases as they’re very expensive, but it’s your call.

I have sensitive skin and eczema and this scrub not only left my skin soft as hell, but plumped up and exfoliated my skin without irritation or dry patches afterward!

I also see this being a quick and easy gift idea for the holidays

If you added some crushed candy canes and wrapped it in a nice mason jar with a festive ribbon, it would make a great homemade and zero-waste gift!

Until next week,

Joey Toadstool

Tarot Journal Entry #1

I thought to myself during the previous full moon while doing my regular spread that I should start a tarot journal, or at least some sort of record of my practice. It’s become very meaningful to me over the past year, as it has become a very bonding experience.

Despite the fact there are so many different decks, spreads and intentions I’ve bonded on a much deeper level with numerous people—becoming friends through the vulnerability we give to our decks.

The process of reading tarot can be cathartic and trigger a need for self-compassion and understanding. Reading tarot for yourself can so easily feel like reading for a friend or loved one. The care you put into interpreting each card to each situation—tarot can provide guidance in periods of self-doubt and isolation. A tarot deck you really love can become a close friend: a confidant.

Now that I’ve set out to spend more time on myself and working on myself I’m getting back into meditation, yoga and my spiritual practice. Crystals have an aesthetic appeal—and as a sensory-sensitive person their textures can be extremely soothing in my anxious palms—but their messages aren’t as clear to me as tarot. Crystals on my desk remind me of the intentions and goals I’ve set out for the month, but often nothing more.

  • Deck: Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Deck
  • Spread: Single-pull          
  • Guiding question: What energy can I manifest to ensure a positive birthday celebration?
  • Card: Buffalo
  • Element: Earth
  • GROUNDED YET HEAVENLY, PRACTICAL YET SPIRITUAL

Key message: “…the Buffalo does not fear death, illness or misfortune… Its gentle eyes look ahead, trusting every turn.”

Reflection:

This hit me hard. It had me burst into tears. I’ve been so scared about what’s wrong with me; so scared about what this illness could be and just trying to suppress my fears and anxiety. I’ve realized I can’t keep pushing it down.

Seeing doctors isn’t the only thing I need to begin healing. I’m realizing that now.

I interpret this is saying “tough times are ahead, but don’t let them ruin your fun. You’re still you, regardless of your illness.” I will somehow turn my hardships into opportunity. 

Making more time for myself on a spiritual level (meditation, sun salutations, foraging in my neighbourhood, tantric sex, etc.) is what will keep me grateful, reminding me that life is precious and worth experiencing regardless of my ability. I’m not sure how yet, but I’m working on it surely.

What do I do with my time?

**AN: This is an un-cut piece I wrote as a submission for ‘An Invisible Work Day And The Gig Economy’, a standalone-issue zine covering experiences of different self-employed people and the impact of the Gig Economy on our daily lives.

Some famous person once said, “If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life”, or something to that effect.

Whoever that person is, it’s their fault why I do what I do — which feels like nothing.In reality, I do a lot. I find as the years go on, it gets more and more difficult to describe what I do to people. Especially older people. My go to is “Oh, I’m a freelancer”, which just means I’ll do about anything for money. If they pry further, I move onto what I actually do.What is that? I write.I’m not a writer though, oh no. I’m a painter. Actually? Yes, actually.

Does selling my paintings make any money?

Not at all! Selling fine art is probably the most difficult thing to sell online — nobody wants originals anymore, they’re only looking for prints and custom work. So naturally, I do that now. I sell my prints and small works at local art shows and craft fairs. The craft fairs turned into its’ own entity entirely, causing me to branch out into digital illustration, apparel design, and open an online store to sell year-round. This is how I make a large amount of my income. Funnily enough, selling my own merchandise was enough to market me to other indie artists and small businesses as an artist-for-hire. These clients were asking for branding and logos, so I started doing that too.

A dirty secret I have is I spend a lot of time on content marketing — it’s easy to feel like it’s your only job, when really you should be making content to market. But that’s the thing, people need to see your content to buy it.

I spend about half my work-time on social media, which is very embarrassing for me to admit. I don’t enjoy the dependence my career has on my online presence, but the reality is that I get half of my online sales through my fans online which is something too valuable for me to neglect.

You may think painting an abstract painting on a four-foot canvas and writing web-copy are nothing alike? And you would be correct! Writing is still difficult and probably always will be. It’s dragged me miles from my comfort zone, forcing me to form thoughts into words, rather than images.

As a result of my many hats, my daily life can vary widely.

If I had to give you a snippet of my day, it always starts with walking my dog — he gets me out of bed at an acceptable hour every morning, like the good boy he is. We go for a walk and I take the time to sort my thoughts out for the day; what I’ll be writing, what I’ll be working on, clients to follow up with, invoicing, and whatever other administrative work I can get done that morning. I have trouble with taking breaks. I’ll work way past breakfast and lunch, until almost supper time before I even get hungry. It’s a horrible habit, but it’s so difficult to break that kind of concentration. If I do manage a to get a break in, it’s with some home-made cookies and dairy-free milk while I read or listen to music. My afternoons are filled with great natural lighting; warranting product photography sessions, fine art videos, and painting in my airy living room studio space. Social media management takes up more energy than I would care to admit, and a lot more time.

The clean Canadian breeze flows through my living space as I clean and cleanse my home in the late afternoon sun — the outside air always leaves my sheets feeling so fresh. It sounds dull, but it’s one of the best things I can do for myself regularly.I love what I do and the only thing I would change is the ability to stretch time! There’s so many projects I still want to work on and people I want to work with, and I feel like so many other self-employed or creative people can relate to that. We’re never satisfied I think it’s important for today’s ‘Renaissance Man’ to take the time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour, a thing I certainly struggle with myself.Enjoying the work you do is great, but you need to be able to enjoy moments without work even greater.

That’s why self-care has become a big part of my life, my writing, and my artwork. I enjoy my time snuggling with my dog under the Kotatsu while I peck away at my keyboard for my next article, but not nearly as much as baking cookies with my partner and playing video-games together on a Friday night. You know what I mean?

We could all use a bit more time.

I hope you enjoyed something a little different. If you did, you can support the creator and purchase a copy of the zine here.

Until next Sunday,

—J

November 2020 Playlist: Grunge Girl Fall

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted a new monthly work playlist.

That’s simply because I’ve had the same music on heavy rotation for the past 4 months. It wasn’t until about mid-October that I needed to change things up. My work days now look a lot different now than they did a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago.

After a two-month sabbatical from my business and clients, I have a much clearer vision and focus for my work. I’ve cleaned out my office, rebranded and was fully prepared for the Witches’ New Year. The pandemic has had a large impact on how my business has been forced to adapt and to find new, innovative ways to keep operating.

As per usual, here’s an entirely unthematic playlist of music I’ve been listening to while I work.

My top five from this playlist:

  1. Shut Up And Let Me Go—The Ting Tings
  2. Heads Will Roll—Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  3. Frustrerad—Agent Blue
  4. Rollerskate—Gurr
  5. Combat Baby—Metric

Listen directly via Apple Music.

My bullet journal spread for November 2020

I keep a bullet journal and wanted to show off my cover spread for this month.

Cover Spread in my bullet journal for November 2020

My standard layout and system are very simple, but I also indulge in decorating a spread to denote the beginning of a new month.

This month, I used exclusively scrap paper from my junk mail—all of the calendars, note pads, magazines and other miscellaneous paper goods random companies send you unsolicitedly—to create this monthly spread. This spread is inspired by Halloween and the Scorpio Moon, a period of death and moving on.

Learn the basic layouts and system I use with this video from the creator of the bullet journalling system.

Until next time, go check out my new shop look!

—J

I’m live-streaming on Twitch every Wednesday!

I can’t believe my new live-streaming set-up is ready. I’ve been t this for about a year and now I finally feel like I have everything the way I like it!

I finally settled on live-streaming video games only, rather than art or variety streaming. Live-streaming art has been work, but playing video games with and chatting is a much-needed break me.

The older we get, the less time we have for the things we used to love. My love of video games has never gone away, so I am forcing myself to take a break from whatever I’m working on every week, at least every Wednesday morning, to play my favourite relaxing video games and to answer questions live on Twitch.

Engaging with me on Twitch and Instagram are the best ways to support me right now, aside from supporting my shop directly. Follow me on social media to know when I go live!

I’m very excited to be live-streaming on Twitch with a whole new image! I like to play Animal Crossing, farming simulators and Indie games on Nintendo Switch. I look forward to seeing you weekly in my chat on Wednesday at 11 AM EST!

Until next Sunday,

—J

Welcome back to The Artist Journal!

As you may remember, The AJ turned 1 year old back in August! We reached our biggest content goals and surpassed many milestones along the way. And after a very long sprint, I needed a few weeks to relax my writing muscles.

A lot has changed in a year. The world seems to be an entirely different place now, even compared to just a few weeks ago. People’s plans have had to change. Many physical and online business have either taken a hit or had to close up shop altogether. I luckily still have my side-hustles going for me, but I’ve been needing major change for a long time.

I’ve felt my creativity being choked out of me over the past year and in an attempt to be seen as more professional, I’ve isolated myself from my audience and from you. I’ve taken the past few weeks to refocus and envision where The Artist Journal is heading within this new social and economical landscape.

I will be posting every week from now on. Whether it’s a full blog article, a casual note or some recommended media, you’ll be hearing from me far more often.

Because I wear many hats and am always working on many different projects, I have a huge backlog of content to share in addition to updates on my current projects. As a mixed media artist and multi-platform content creator I want to start sharing all of my work in one place.

Welcome to the new Artist’s Journal!

Until next time

—J

Effective Tips On Studying For People Who Hate Studying

It’s a time unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. There’s a thick layer of additional anxiety plaguing the world and it will take years to peel it away.

On top of everything, we’re all still mostly stuck online.

There’s no socializing with your classmates or chatting by the water fountain at work. You’re losing the small moments of joy that used to get you through the days… I get it. The last thing you want to do right now is study. After 6 months of quarantine this a huge adjustment, but is there something that will make this transition easier?

There is a new normal we all have to get used to and it will not be easy.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

If I can help you out, I will! Because if I am good at anything, it’s the art of taking neat notes and studying. I’m sharing the most important study tips I learned as a college tutor. Upping your study-game might be all you need to feel like you’ve totally got the hang of going digital!

So what’s the one thing you need to start doing right now that is guaranteed to help you be a better learner this year? Start hand-writing your notes—yes, it’s that easy! 

Let’s start from square one with how to take the best notes! These are habits that will benefit your memory and planning skills… Who doesn’t need that?

Apply My 7 Best Tips To Improve Your Hand-Written Note-Taking During Your Online Lectures and Meetings:

Graphic by: Joey Dean
  1. Pick a note-pad or note-book to work from. I jot my first drafts down a square-ruled paper pad. The vertical ruler lines enforce consistent indents and spacing while I’m frantically scribbling along to al lecture or absent-mindedly taking footnotes while reading. 
  2. Write in all upper-case letters. Why? You will save so much room on your page (and paper) if you I write in all upper-case letters—at about half line-height hight. This is a standard in science and engineering that is still a beneficial habit since leaving school.
  3. Rewrite your notes in 3-5 different colours—on lined paper for clarity when reading it back over. If Dolores Umbridge taught us anything, it’s that writing it by hand multiple times will surely instil a lesson in your head. Although, she promoted a very ineffective way of taking notes…
  4. Using different coloured pens to break up different concepts on the same page will make studying from your notes a lot easier later because you can use colour as an element of organization. 
  5. In between writing your notes and typing them up is when you should do your reading, studying or researching. You’ll be able to connect what you’re researching in the real world with the knowledge you’re trying to retain. The real world connections will come much more intuitively after you’ve done the initial work; by thoroughly understanding your subject.
  6. Now is when you type up your notes. Make final edits as you go: fix punctuation as well as grammar and so forth. You need to cut down your notes as much as possible so you can remember it. You only need to keep the details that you don’t understand or remember.
  7. Focus on what you need right now. It’s easy to get hung up on the small details, but I promise you that you will not remember everything at once. In most cases, you only need this knowledge temporarily anyway. In 6 months you can revisit your old written notes and review what you skipped over the first time.

Here’s a some quick examples of my own hand-written notes that I took for the worksheet included at the end of this article:

Living in a world of glass screens, it gets more and more important to avoid distractions while studying. It may seem like a waste of time to write your notes on paper and especially when you’re now only working online, but repetition is how we memorize things! The action of you processing and writing the information on paper is reinforced later by going back and transcribing your writing to a digital format. You pick up so many more casual language errors this way, rather than if you were reading it from a screen already.

I love working this way because I organically edit my writing as I type it into my keyboard. I usually end up adding additional notes and context and look for things to simplify. Rewrite your ideas so they’re more clear. This is also where I like to flesh out my notes with more tid-bits I remember from lectures, conversations or readings and things the professor explained better only after-the-fact. I get back into the flow of what I was thinking while I was writing. 

If you’re ready to peel away your pandemic anxiety just enough to keep moving forward, memorize these tips. Use this worksheet I created while you to create a study-routine!

If you need some more motivation to study, I will also leave you with this worksheet—Questions To Ask Yourself When You’re Overwhelmed—and tell you to read this article about How You’re Using Your Day Planner Wrong and why you need one in the first place!

Until next time,

—J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.