Tuesday, April 6, 2021

How a “Starving Artist” Learned to Give Back to Support Community: Artist & Founder Jordan Grace Robinson’s Journey (so far) as Explained on Ladies Who Lunch Conversations


How does a beautiful young woman, talented in so many ways, decide she’s not only going to create one-of-a-kind, artisanal, fashions, but to also contribute 10 percent of the proceeds to local fundraising efforts? Most artists are sacrificing so much just to stay afloat and focus on their artwork ~ reason enough to hold onto every penny.

Like most good fairy tales, this fable imparts its own charming, moral lesson…

As a featured guest on my Ladies Who Lunch Conversations ~ Jordan shared with me and viewers how as a Founder, she turns her talent for creating beautiful things into a force for good, too. 

Ever since Jordan was old enough to hold a crayon, she was always creating! 

Her parents introduced her to the world of fine art, fashion, dance, and musical theater at a young age. 

They took her to the Keith Haring "POP SHOP" in NYC, Broadway shows for her birthdays,  and to experience other, art-related events.  Jordan is always quick to thank them for immersing her into the art world in her youth.

Not surprisingly, Jordan studied ballet at Miami City Ballet School and The Academy of Dance Arts (formerly located in Red Bank) in her youth for a combined duration of 8 years.  Throughout High School she participated in school plays, musicals, art club, and was accepted into advanced art classes offered at the school. Jordan studied her college foundation year at The University of The Arts and then went on to earn her A.A.S in Fashion Merchandising from Brookdale Community College. 

In 2016, Jordan found a way to combine her passion for fine art and fashion by creating Art TuGo- Take Art With You! A line of handcrafted handbags, wallets, and wall art. Day At The Beach: Tote image 0Floating Hearts Open-Top Tote image 0

In 2019 Jordan registered her line as an LLC.

Jordan didn’t allow the pandemic to trim her sails; in fact, she used the time to create flying flags! Her flag art  became an award-winning design featured in the August 2020 Inaugural Rockefeller Center Flag Project in New York. I was so excited and proud of Jordan’s efforts that I featured it here in a Garden Glamour post. 

Jordan also exhibited her art at the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank, in the Garden State. Increasingly recognized for her art prowess and knowledge, she was as to curate her first art exhibition entitled, "Looking Ahead.”  

Jordan also premiered some exciting news during our Conversation. No spoiler here ~ you’ll have to view the show. (Hint, it is about being named an art judge! shhhh) 

And if that wasn’t enough of a heavy lift during a lockdown, she self- published two poetry anthologies. 

I purchased both of Jordan’s poetry books. I think you will especially enjoy “Like Flowers We’ll Boom Again: Anthology of Free Verse Poems.” It’s so spot-on for our time… 

Butterflies for Maddy

For the past 2 years, Art TuGo proudly donates 10% monthly earnings to Don't Shock Me- Maddy Massabni Foundation For Toxic Shock Awareness. A registered 501c3 nonprofit.  Not surprising then, that Jordan’s  humanitarian efforts contributed to her being selected as the Public Relations Chair for Don't Shock Me-Maddy Massabni Foundation For Toxic Shock Awareness. 

The foundation is the only one of its kind, raising awareness of Menstrual Toxic Shock Syndrome, mTSS, that is a direct result from tampon use.  

Last October, Jordan developed a fundraising event concept entitled, Butterflies For Maddy  ~ a garden fashion show, scheduled for May 23 to honor the life of 19 year-old Rumson, NJ resident, Maddy Massabni who tragically died of menstrual toxic shock syndrome in March of 2017. Maddy adored butterflies. And flowers. And life… 

With Jordan’s leadership and a passion she shares with Maddy’s mother and president of The Maddy Massabni Foundation / Don’t Shock Me, these women are on a mission to help dissipate the stigma surrounding this overlooked aspect of women's preventative health.  Please do plan to attend the garden party fundraiser. 

Still sheltering in place or don’t live nearby? No worries. You can donate directly to the foundation. We all have daughters, sisters, mothers… Let’s create awareness and prevent these senseless, preventable deaths. You can help. 

Further, listen and look with the Ladies Who Lunch Conversation and you’ll learn how Jordan plans to expand the creative side of her world by building a new look for her Art TuGo - Take Art With You, LLC. handbag line.  And in keeping with an outlook to better women’s health, it was affirming to hear Jordan talk about the need for Self Care. This astonishing talent highlighted how her past, daily anxieties (social and other) have dissipated within this passing year. She’s sleeping better (now a morning person) Yeah for more and better sleep. I often say that lack of sleep is America’s dirty, little secret. Folks think that working non-stop is cool. It’s not… Jordan further applauded the importance of seeking therapy. Good mental health matters. We go for dental check ups, after all. Let’s not overlook our mental health.  

Do enjoy her short poem about seeking professional help from her lovely book: Melancholy MeyZee.

And of course, no Ladies Who Lunch Conversation is complete without some tablescape magic and true to form, Jordan created a whimsical table decor, inspired by literature (wink) and perfect for the spring, Easter holiday. Replete with bunnies and flower pots and art! 

Thank you, Jordan. Cheers to continued success.

And to networking and sharing stories, and Ladies Who Lunch Conversations!

We hope you all are inspired by Jordan’s story.  

Saturday, April 3, 2021

How to Dye Your Spring Easter Eggs Naturally ~ Plus Recipe for the Best Deviled Eggs

photo courtesy: wallpaper flare

If one is a dedicated foodie; moreover a bit compulsive about sustainability and keeping chemicals off your family’s ingredients menu, then coloring Easter or spring eggs should be made using homegrown, pure ingredients, not synthetic food coloring. Some years ago, I set out to discover – or rediscover – how to color eggs with natural – plant-based dyes. Yes, the fizzie PAAS Easter Eggs is a holiday favorite or tradition. But those pellets are rather scary. 

In search of a better Easter egg, there was the year we pursued the Easter Egg Designs & Craft Ideas | inspired by Martha Stewart where one blows out the inside of the eggs and uses a wax crayon to inscribe the name of family and dinner guests -- I like to use them as place card markers sitting in a pretty egg cup with the beribboned monogrammed eggs hung from forced cherry blossom or pussy willow stems in a seasonal talblescape design.

This decoration is a bit more complicated than straight to dying but if cared for, they last forever.

My quest was to create a natural food coloring for the Easter eggs that will decorate the baskets and tablescape. After some research, including Junior League friends - the plan was to more or less follow the recipe or guidelines as provided by a Katie Fox, SimpleHomemade blog from 2010. Fox was unavailable for an interview.

However the recipe seemed quite doable and fun. Most of the ingredients were on hand, and the others are readily available from the garden or pantry or accessed from the market.

Dyeing Easter/Spring Eggs the Natural Way:
In addition to eggs, you will need white vinegar, water, and veggies, fruits, and spices for colors. Don’t leave out the vinegar – it is a necessary fixative, ensuring that the color will adhere to the eggs.
• grated beets
• chopped cranberries (fresh or frozen)
• Red Zinger tea
• chopped frozen cherries

• chopped frozen blueberries
• chopped red cabbage
• red onion skins

• yellow/brown onion skins
• chamomile tea
• ground turmeric
• saffron

• chopped spinach

How to ~ Next Steps:
Mix these together to create other colors, as well; for example, reds and yellows combine to produce orange shades. Customize your colors.

It’s a fun and easy way to teach children about colors.
  • Use about 2-3 cups of water in a saucepan for each color. 
  • Add one tablespoon of vinegar and the plant(s) of choice. 
  • Bring to a boil for fifteen minutes before adding eggs.
The chopping of the frozen blueberries and the spinach was easy. Likewise, the grating of the beets.

Rather than use four different pots on the cooktop (after all, there might be a big holiday dinner in prep for Easter!), the microwave was employed.

The natural ingredients were added to coffee cups, with the vinegar and heated for five minutes to a boil.

The best color was the chamomile and yellow onion skins. The yellow was a bright and happy hue.

The red turned out to be more pink. It worked better with the addition of the rest of the beet. Don’t shave it – just cut it up and add to the vinegar water.

The thinking was to turbo-charge the blue color and add a blueberry tea to the frozen chopped blueberries for the test recipe.

After all, the chamomile worked swell. But the blue turned out to be more grayish blue initially. The addition of more vinegar accelerated the blue color.

The only real failure was the green. Which is more than disappointing as the spinach even dyed the cutting board when chopped! Perhaps more spinach and a bigger container to accommodate the intensified plant dye ingredient.

The result was great Yellows, and good Red & Pinks and Blues. Happy spring. Enjoy the egg salad, sans colored shells.

Since I first created this post, commercial food makers must’ve heard the Mom’s cry for Natural & Organic. Consequently, there are now a few brands available and ready to use straight from the retail shelf or online. If the Easter Bunny has you hopping around with too many tasks, here are a few suggestions from which to choose:

ColorKitchen: Plant-based, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, Artificial Dye-Free, Vegan, and lots of deep, rich colors:
  • Blue: spirulina extract.

  • Pink: beet powder.

  • Yellow: turmeric.

  • Orange: turmeric, annatto extract.

  • Green: turmeric, spirulina extract.
Even the spice behemoth, McCormick offers all-natural food coloring pack derived from plants: vegetables and seeds.

Chefmaster Natural Liqua-Gels to create all-natural, vibrant food coloring -- they even offer Black in their line:

Egg Salad Recipe:
This is my family-favorite Duchess Deviled Egg Recipe that I’m asked to make every year and share with all for Easter Dinner. Placed on the special, pink, petal deviled egg platter - it’s a glamorous presentation. Don’t you just love single-use dishes and tablescape serving pieces? It’s a lost art to find and use them. A pity. My friend, Sean Sullivan, publisher of House Beautiful, Veranda, and Elle at Hearst - also had a blog, Spectacularly Delicious, (for the culinary chic) - more or less dedicated to these single-use, traditional serving dishes.

Back to the Devilishly Delicious Duchess Egg Recipe:

  • Place room temperature eggs into a pot with water covering the eggs. 
  • Bring the water to a boil, cover, remove from heat, allow to sit for 10-15 minutes. 
  • Add cold water to the pot and remove the eggs. Allow to cool. This method makes it easier to remove the shells, keeps the whites pure - especially important in making egg salad and deviled eggs (no grey or bluish whites.) It also provides a rich, creamy yolk.
  • Six eggs, removed from shells and broken up with a fork. 
  •  Add diced and chopped red onion to taste, even amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream -- I also add a dollop of creme fraiche, teaspoon of chives - or to taste. A ¼ teaspoon of dry mustard, and a splash of briny pickle juice (straight from the jar). 
  • Mix well and refrigerate. Can be used in lettuce wraps or on salad dish with arugula or market-fresh lettuces and asparagus from the garden. 
  •  Sprinkle with good paprika. 
  • Cut the eggs along the length of the egg using a warm knife (running warm water over knife after each cut so that egg debris doesn’t litter up the next egg white. 
  • Remove the yolks from the egg and set aside. 
  • Mix all the above ingredients into the egg yolks, (be sure to dice the red onion very fine.) 
  • Arrange the egg whites on a special deviled egg platter - or use a plate. 
  • Place edible pansies or other flowers around the eggs - not only is it pretty but the blossoms will prevent the eggs from sliding into one another. 
  • Using a pastry bag, pipe the egg yolk mixture into the egg white “shells.” There are swirls and scallops options that will elevate the deviled egg to elegant, edible, entertainment to grace the cocktail bar, brunch or dinner tablescape. 
  • Dust with paprika and garnish with cornichons nestled around those edible flowers.
Food Moves
While for many, there is still a sheltering in place due to the pandemic, albeit even if a bit modified, but if you are traveling or just eating outdoors, there’s the dodgy issue of transporting your homemade menu items to the other end of the celebration. And hopefully, there’s bound to be leftovers, so “Food Moves” is a challenge.

Some years ago I was introduced to the Snapware®: On-the-Go Collection. After all, we are all such a very mobile cohort. We need to take our homegrown food with us - to holiday celebrations - or now that it’s spring - out to enjoy nature at one of the your town or city’s many beautiful parks. The company says, “...The Snapware® brand helps you keep your everyday life in motion, by offering innovative storage products for food and craft supplies, to pet and home products.”

Early on, I test-drove the product line and can heartily recommend the solutions for a number of reasons. One is the containers are made of glass. In a world of too much plastic, including plastic wrap, it’s important to make the switch to storage solutions that are sustainable, clean - and easy to use. The dishes can go from refrigerator to the oven to dishwasher.

I use them at the counter when cooking to hold food scraps - for compost or for a soup’s mirepoix. This tip was given by author and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse at a Snapware cooking demo I attended. He also said using Snapware changed his life. Really?! That’s a bold statement. Lest you think this is brand advocate hyperbole, I can readily assure you it is not. From a cooking and storage and transport standpoint, there is could be no better friend to the home cook and kitchen manager than Snapware. At a recent World Kitchen event, their many American-made brands were on display, including CorningWare | Chicago Cutlery, Corelle and Pyrex. These products are like having your mother helping in the kitchen - smart, experienced and trustworthy - you know you can count on them; they won’t let you down. Further, the line continues to evolve and improve. There are now a number of transportable food storage Snapware containers with Ice Pack included that will keep the food food chilled. The company has designed the containers so that the ice doesn’t melt into the food: the ice pack fits underneath or top of the lid. The sizes range from a 3-cup to a 5-cup container with removable divider trays to keep food elements separated when the ingredients are distinct. All the products in the line are well-made, stackable, and the lids come in happy, bright, crayon colors of blue, green, aqua. Your food will love jumping into these containers and will return the fresh, tasty love.

Here’s Snapware’s impressive specs: The Snapware® Total Solution® Glass containers with inserts complement the growing trend of consumers switching from processed foods to fresh foods in the kitchen. These items combine the Snapware brand’s trusted airtight leak-proof lids with inserts that preserve freshness and encourage healthy eating.

Very affordable price points from $5.99 to $12.99.

There’s also a line of colorful, Snapware® Entertain-A-BowlsTM Line: The new Entertain-a-Bowls are spill-proof, are pretty enough to be used to serve right on the table, as well as storage for an on-the-go foodie obsessed with freshness and carrying handles provide easy chic transportability. All bowls are available in a fun pop of color outside with polished white bow interiors. The bowls are easy on the wallet too; $8.99 to $24.99.

Get these products now for an organized spring cleanup. And use them in your fresh-food prep - and get out to the parks and enjoy the season and nature.  


Happy Natural Spring. Enjoy the Holidays. Cheers!