Why I’m not crafting right now: the true Holland story

If you’ve been kind enough to keep reading my blog, you’re probably thinking “where are the crafts?” I am here to answer that question.

Maybe you’ve heard – or even told someone – that there is a difference between an excuse and a reason. The truth is that a reason is just a socially accepted excuse. The more people do amazing things and overcome dire circumstances, the fewer reasons we have and, conversely, the more excuses. All of this is to say is that I hope my excuses can, at least in this gallery, be socially acceptable.

When I first moved here, I was in desperate need of decompressing from the classroom. I was a terrible teacher – a great mentor and support for my kids – but a terrible teacher. I am not used to sucking so bad at things, and Arkansas was just such a miserable place, so I sought some time away from things. I rediscovered my love of making things then.

I was so excited to have free time, and I had so much pent up creativity that I dove into sewing and drawing and painting. It was a great time. But I am not good at staying inside, and I have had a job of some kind since I was 14. It was only a few months before I started buckling down and looking for jobs again.

For various reasons, I ended up taking a part time job in retail. I worked shifts starting at 5am, so when I got home, I was exhausted, and my bed time was 8pm most nights. Even though I had time to spare, I was always tired. I worked with craft supplies all day, though, so I was often inspired, and I found ways to fit things in. I also had every weekend off, and that made the summer months flexible.

Wanting a little less early morning and little more cash flow, I took a full time job – still in retail. I started during the holiday season, and while I had previously pledged to create all manner of Christmas gifts, I was suddenly working 40 or more hours per week and at fluctuating times. Some weeks I closed 3 nights, others I opened. I had forgotten how hectic a retail schedule can be and how hard it is to juggle life with consumerism.

And now…now I’m just worn down. I have always tended to be anti-consumerism, and yet here I am feeding it. I am still tired, but for different reasons, and most days, I come home, cook dinner, squeeze in what time I can with Eric, and then go to bed. I work most weekends, so my evenings (or mornings) are now precious commodities for laundry, dishes, or reading a book.

I feel guilty.

I am apathetic at best and nihilistic at worst lately, and my creativity is suffering for it. Even on days when I feel the spark, I go to my craft desk, and I end up staring at it for what seems like eternity. The only place I haven’t lost my drive is in the kitchen. I feel like that’s cheating though. I can’t very well be a polymath if I’m only ever cooking.

So consider this my reason for not bringing out the big guns. I hope that, once I start school (which seems like a far-away dream), I’ll be able to introduce a new type of craft through engineering. We’ll see.

Paczki Day 2013

Last year, while living in the dark place that is Arkansas, I had to make my own paczki for Mardi Gras. My Polish man deserved to celebrate in a style befitting his heritage, but Arkansas has never heard of a paczki, and they were nowhere to be found. So I made a lemon curd filled pastry that we called a paczki.

Although we are now in a Dutch area and paczki are available at every local supermarket, the ingredient list on these boxed delicacies make me blush.

So, tomorrow being Mardi Gras, and I having a day off, I thought some baking was in order. Here is the first batch:


Like last year, these are baked, so they are slightly healthier. However this year, to appease my coworkers who will be enjoying the fruits of my labor, I opted for a custard filling instead of fruit. I guess what I left out with the oil, we gained in the egg-milk-sugar filling.

I also went a step beyond this year by glazing the paczki to help the powdered sugar stick better.

Did I mention that I actually have an icing gun of sorts now, so I can bake and then insert the delicious filling, instead of having to make two thin pieces of dough wrap around the filling? I scare myself sometimes.

In case you are interested, here’s how I made them this year:

I mixed 2 cups of flour (1 cup of all purpose and 1 cup of quasi-pastry flour) with two packets of yeast, a quarter cup of a sugar, and a pinch of salt.

I melted a half stick of butter on the stove top with a cup of milk and two tablespoons of honey, cooked them together for about five minutes.

I added a tablespoon of rum, one egg, and two egg yolks to flour mixture, then the melted milky butter goodness.

These mixed together into a very very doughy substance, to which I added about another cup and a quarter of flour to make more solid. This I let sit for ten minutes.

After ten minutes, I rolled out the dough and cut out circles with my half cup measuring cup (about 2 inch diameter), and let those sit for an hour.

At the end of the hour, I started my first batch in the oven while I made the glaze to go on the paczki – quarter cup melted butter and a quarter cup honey.

Ten minutes into baking, I glazed the paczki, then let them cook another four minutes.

While the paczki baked, I also made the custard filling: 2 cups of milk (scalded), half cup of flour, two thirds cup of sugar, one egg and the egg whites leftover from those yolks. I cooked these for about 5 minutes until thick, then added a teaspoon of vanilla.

Once the paczki cooled a bit, I dragged them through powdered sugar, and a few minutes after that, I filled those suckers with some custard.

I haven’t tasted one yet because Eric’s not home, but considering the nearly 5 hours this has taken me, they’d better be the best damn paczki ever.


In other news, I got my letter from GVSU, so I am another step closer to collecting another degree or two. Woohoo!

One giant leap


I have officially applied to go back to school. This seems like such a trivial sentence to be so excited about saying, but for as many times as I have talked about it, thought about it, maybe planned it a little, I have actually done it. And who ever would have thought that this liberal arts-minded, crafting writer would go back for something so logical and technical as engineering? Not me. Probably no one in my family or circle of friends. Well…surprise!

I should hear back from the school in about 2 weeks.

In the meantime, I have a meeting scheduled with the director of the advising branch of PCEC to talk about how I can get the most out of my education. I spent a large chunk of today making a list of questions, looking into the various ways I’ll be able to fund the approximately $45k just for the undergraduate portion of the degree, and making this:


This is just a handy poster guide I made to make a loose guide for class schedules through the undergraduate portion of an articulated program. This does not include the year(ish) of graduate coursework that would come on the heels of this schedule.

I am going to bring this with me next Friday to see what the experts think. For the most part, I have kept a fairly light load. If I wanted to do what I did the first time around, I could cut out a semester of this, but I don’t know if 19 hours is a great idea for a math-heavy load. At least not at first, when I am dipping my feet back into pool that I stepped out of some time ago.

My reward for my hard work today?

I am going to do some math.

A little bit about perspective

If desire alone were not enough to lead me to a new degree, then all of the signs would do the trick. In addition to the divine intervention on Saturday, I had even more pieces fall into place today. Namely the director of admissions of the engineering department and I spoke today, and we decided it would be best for me to go and speak with him in person. “I am booked this week and out most of next week. The earliest I could meet with you would be next Friday. That’s the 14th.” As it happens, that will be the first Friday I’ve had off since I started my new job.

But as crazily perfect as that was, it is not what I am posting about. The application process required some very brief essay writing on my part, and I thought I would share the one I wrote about perspective because, well, why not?

As far as other crafts go, I have tomorrow off, and I will try to get started on Eric’s gift. I also got a text today from my aunt that she is sending me a craft that needs to be finished. Her exact words were “maybe you can figure it out.” So that’s great.

Without further ado:


Albert Einstein, of e=mc2 fame, discovered his theory of relativity partly due to perspective. According to his theory, the flow of time changes with an object’s speed. This helps explain why an object moving at a constant speed might look faster or slower depending on how fast the observer is going. In other words, perspective changes everything, and any two people moving at different speeds will have a different perspective.

By the time I return to school, I will be 26. It could be said that time will be moving faster for me than, say, an 18-year-old, because one year is a smaller fraction of my life (1/26 compared to 1/18). This fact has made me wary of returning to a brand new field that will require, at best, 4 more years of study. It means that I would be finishing and entering said new field at 30. If nothing else, this gives me a greater sense of urgency and a strong desire to do well.

I also bring, with these 26 years, a host of life and work experiences that range from the mundane to the uplifting or heartbreaking. I have worked for a company that employed people from 50 different countries; I went through Georgia’s fire academy and finished 3rd in my class; I entered a classroom in Arkansas as a teacher – and the minority – and won over 135 students. I have seen the absolute best in people, and I have seen the worst. I have moved across the country, 3000 miles from my home and everyone that I knew, and I lived out of my car for a month before making a life for myself in Seattle.

I am embarrassed to say that, even as someone with a writing degree and plenty of writing experience, that I found myself somewhat stumped with this question of perspective. I loathe a flat-out explanation of anything – what fun is there in simply stating a perspective? After all, writers must “show, not tell.” But how do I show a perspective that has grown and changed over two decades and through all of the joys, heartaches, highs, and lows of a typical human life? How to adequately explain what teaching in Pine Bluff has taught me about the world? Or perhaps I should focus on the struggles of the special needs community, how I have lost friends because of my request for them not to use the word “retard” as an insult because it hurts. Maybe I should point out my perspective on safety and how important it is to not take life for granted.

My perspective is one of a constantly shifting life. Life is not a static thing; it changes everyday, sometimes minutely and sometimes drastically. All of the plans in the world cannot stop change, and I have learned to simply be open to its inevitability. I have worn many hats, and I have been to a handful of places. I use this to my advantage; I like relating to people. I like talking to strangers and hearing their life stories, and I always find that we have something in common, despite our differences. I think it’s good to shift gears every now and then. I think it is necessary. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

In short, I bring the unique perspective of Samantha Grillo Safin (formerly Samantha Leigh Grillo) to GVSU – all of my ideas, dreams, fears, idiosyncrasies, experiences, and velocity. Albert Einstein would agree, and who am I to argue?