Bliss Connect #3: New Goods in the House and Two Recipes From Yesterday’s Pics

Well, I seem to be consistently posting something for the Bliss Connect Challenge right at the eleventh hour! It just so happens that this week’s Challenge ties in beautifully with something I wanted to talk about today anyway, with a little personal tweaking. The week’s challenge is to mention the health or wellness item that tops my wishlist this year and will make next year the healthiest ever, and to give a virtual gift!

It so happens that four new items have made their way into our household recently, which are definitely improvements to life. And I want to share two recipes for goodies pictured in yesterday’s post, for Shannonmarie and Amber, who asked. This might make it a fairly long post, but it’s lots of pictures and deliciousness, so please bear with me.

Three of the new things are better replacements for things we had already, and it’s kind of coincidental that they arrived during the holidays. They are all certainly health and wellness related. The number one would be…a new rebounder!

I’ve mentioned a few times how much I love rebounding. The old one was a super-cheapie, though, and I’ve barely rebounded for several months, because I kept having to mend it after every ten minutes of use, and mending it was very difficult. It lasted about six months and cost $50. If I pay $300 for one that lasts ten years, that’s actually cheaper! This one is a Cellerciser and it was a demo model, so it was actually a little less than $300.  Extras include that the legs fold, the whole thing folds in half, and it comes with two spare springs, a carry case, and a bunch of reading material I don’t have time to get into right now!

I did have time to jump straight on the rebounder itself, though, when we picked it up yesterday evening. I got straight on and bounced and bounded and jogged and flew for fifteen minutes. It was SO MUCH FUN! And infinitely better than the old one.

Here’s the really wonderful thing, though: after that fifteen minutes of bouncing at 6pm, together with a beach hike earlier in the day, I had my first good night’s sleep for about two and a half weeks! It’s not that I hadn’t been exercising before, either–I sure had been. But I read somewhere that improved sleep is one of the benefits of rebounding. I’ll have to try that again!

Other new things: I think I mentioned that during the power outages in the storms a couple weeks ago, our tea-kettle and my beloved immersion blender both bit the dust. Well, they’re replaced, with improvements!

Our old tea-kettle was very communicative. It had a temperature gauge, which I really liked, and turned color as the water heated up. What I didn’t like was that it also squealed. A lot. Every time you put the jug on the base, it would squeal. Every time the water boiled, it would squeal. Every time you turned it on or off, it would squeal. No making tea in stealth while Phil slept!

Its replacement doesn’t tell me when the water reaches 175-180 (my preferred temp for tea-making), but I can actually pretty much tell that by ear. The replacement tea-kettle is not communicative, but silent. And every time I put the jug down on the base, I’m so grateful for the silence. Every time! It’s been a couple weeks and I’m still not used to it (Ms Oversensitive to High-pitched Noises that I am…).

The immersion blender was the third Kitchen Aid model I’d blown out in as many years, and I was ready to look elsewhere. The Juiceman cost about the same, but has 550 Watts, which is a big step up.

 It comes with the same useful goodies–the wand that does most things, the whisk, and the mini food processor, which is actually not so mini–it’s probably twice the size of the Kitchen Aid one!

 The wand has four blades instead of two, and they’re shorter, which makes it easy to clean.

I haven’t had it long enough to really put it through its paces, but it actually seems a little quieter than its predecessor, and definitely does a good job. One thing I’ll need to get used to is that the wand, whisk and mini processor attach to the motor by twisting on and off rather than snapping, like the Kitchen Aid did. With the Kitchen Aid, I sometimes had trouble with the motor and part separating, which was freaky and horrible (nasty grinding sounds and a whirring, unattached motor in my hand), but it’ll take some time for me to get used to the much tighter and stiffer, if safer, twist-on-and-off attachment. I liked being able to snap the motor off real quick and leave the wand standing in the mix (with the motor still attached, it would fall over, taking everything down with it. Don’t ask me how I know that).

The fourth item: I finally got a food scale! It is tiny–my chef knife next to it is for scale (ha ha).

It only goes up to eleven pounds, so it’s not going to be a major all-purpose scale, but it means that I can finally make a bunch of recipes from Sweet Gratitude without guessing what I’m doing.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the Pomegranate Fondants. No, they’re not in Sweet Gratitude–they’re out of my head! But I was looking at what Sweet Gratitude does with Irish Moss in terms of weights and ratios in order to give me some ideas.

I wanted a soft fondant as opposed to a creamier, denser truffle. Some of it, I made into hearts; some, I simply poured into an 8×4 pan, cut into squares…

…and finally covered, mostly with chocolate, but some I covered with carob.

The hearts are definitely the prettiest, though!
And here is the recipe:
1 cup pomegranate juice
1.5 oz soaked, chopped Irish moss (about a cup and a quarter)
1/4 cup xylitol
pinch salt
pinch vanilla powder
1/4 cup cacao butter, melted
2 tablespoons non-gmo soy lecithin
Blend the pomegranate juice and Irish moss very well. You’ll need to stop a couple times and scrape the moss fragments down the side of the blender.
Add the xylitol, vanilla and salt, and blend again; taste test ad adjust if necessary.
Finally, add the cacao butter and lecithin, and blend very well.
I think I might have added a half teaspoon of xanthan gum as well, but I honestly am not sure!
Pour into molds of choice, or simply into a pyrex dish, and refrigerate to set.
The fondants are soft, and it’s really nice for them to have a coating. I used my home-made very dark chocolate to coat them, and also home-made carob “chocolate” for a few. But you can use any kind of chocolate that you love most to cover it.
I hope the recipe makes sense!
And here’s the recipe for the Not Quite White Chocolate:
1 cup melted cacao butter
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup xylitol, powdered in a coffee grinder
7 oz of a combination of coconut cream powder and lucuma (maybe a cup of coconut cream powder and a quarter cup of lucuma)
2 tablespoons tocotrienols
Small handful goji berries, chopped
1 calimyrna fig, finely chopped
Mix the vanilla powder into the cacao butter. In a food processor, gradually add the coconut cream powder and lucuma. About halfway through, add the maple syrup and xylitol, and tocotrienols, and pulse gently until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Pour into molds or into a dish, and mix in pieces of goji berry and fig.
*Note: the coconut cream powder contains a tiny amount of a milk derivative (casinate). It’s not more than 1%. I’m pretty allergic to dairy, and I don’t seem to have a problem with this in small quantities. I don’t feel entirely comfortable using a product that contains dairy, but it’s such a minute amount that I’m kind of skating by with it.
As you can see from the photo, I over-processed this and the cacao butter separated. Never happened to me before, and initially I was mortified. But I added some shredded coconut, some sunflower lecithin and more tocotrienols, and decided that I didn’t mind the less smooth texture and two-tone color effect. These work especially well with the bits of dried fruit in there, and the two-tone roses are cute, I think. Better luck next time, though!
There’s something I really want to talk about on here related to something I said in my last post. But I also think I may have to post the recipe for this thing I made this morning. Simple, replicable and really, really good.

Maybe I can do both!

What’s at the top of your Holiday wish list?

Holiday Goodie-Making: To Proselytize or To Pander?

Many people think of the Holidays as a good time to influence their loved ones into making healthier choices by sharing healthy, or healthified, nutritious goodies that will “convert” them. Some go as far as to request their loved ones improve their diet, or even go vegan, in lieu of a gift! Others take the attitude that it’s the holidays, there’s a glut of all kinds of goodies, junk or not, and people are going to eat what they prefer at this time of the year if no other.

Where do I come down in the debate? If you know me at all, you’ll know that I tend to be very “live and let live” about food choices, partly because I recognize that I can’t change anyone else’s mind, and partly because my own definition of “healthy food” has changed so many times in my life. There’s also another element in the equation. When it’s the holidays, I tend to get excited and think “Yay! Now’s my opportunity to make a huge batch of x really elaborate raw food dish, since I’ll have lots of people to eat it! I can make the Tirami-su from Sweet Gratitude or… or…”(no, I haven’t made it yet), and multiply that by a lot of ideas, and I’ll end up with boxes and boxes of goodies to take everywhere, everyone will get overwhelmed, there will be tons of “mainstream” desserts on the table too, and I’ll take home enough leftovers to last for months.

I’ve now realized that I also need to think about what I want to eat. When you volunteer to make a whole bunch of goodies, you’re also volunteering to take a certain amount of control over what’s going to be available on the spread. Do I want there to be lots of “Ela-friendly” foods to tempt me? Do I want there to be dairy-free homemade chocolate to tempt me, when I’m already as manic as heck and have barely slept for two weeks, and chocolate pushes my brain chemistry further in that direction? If I use regular chocolate chips instead, they always have a trace of dairy taste that I can’t stand, so wouldn’t be tempted. If I don’t bring it, you can be certain it won’t be there otherwise!

And then there’s the “know your audience” piece. I think virtually everyone in my “audience” would prefer the regular dark chocolate chips for chocolate coverings, dairy and all. I know that all my friends love at least one of the “healthier” goodies that I make. But I also know that possibly all of them prefer the “regular” stuff. Which basically means more dairy and more sugar. I have some boundaries, though. I’ll never use hydrogenated fats or corn syrup, even for people who would probably prefer the resulting goodies if I did! And I don’t care at all if it means that there are fewer options on the table for me. As I shared in the “know your audience” piece, I derive far more pleasure from preparing and giving the goodies than I do from eating them myself, so I don’t care that much whether I can eat them or not. The only thing I really mind is that sometimes I get butter on my fingers, and can never seem to get rid of the smell, and it’s a smell I hate almost above all others…

I think this “control” element is a really good thing to bear in mind when you are making goodies and food for people. You can help to ensure that you don’t end up eating something you won’t feel good from, simply by making sure it’s not on the spread. Other people are responsible for their own choices, and are affected differently by the food they eat anyway, so when you put the goodies out, let them enjoy!

Pictured above are two kinds of chocolate-peanut butter fudge. The kind on the right is made with coconut cream and has almonds and craisins through it. The two-layer kind on the left has no nuts and fruits (because two “audience members” don’t like those but love the pb-choc thing). They are not my recipes, and I made them solely as expressions of love.

Below are licorice caramels, which I also made last year. This year, it’s been so much more humid with all the sleeting and thawing that the caramels are much runnier than last year’s. I coated some of them in chocolate and the caramels escaped and oozed through!

When I was making goodies to share with my Naturopath, I did make some carob-ginger macaroons (in the tub on the right below), some white chocolate (bottom right), and some acai truffles (on the plate below) coated in carob chocolate.

It was actually fairly easy to make a carob couverture chocolate using carob and mesquite in place of cacao powder with a typical very low sugar chocolate recipe. It’s just a little grittier than cocoa chocolate.

But to be honest, after I’d packaged up the goodies, I looked at what was left and thought “Oh no, all of these are ok for me to eat!” The good thing is, they all keep practically indefinitely. It’s not like I need to eat them all now. And some of my regular “audience” might even be willing to try them (although we do have several carob-haters).

 I do think I’m on to something with the pomegranate fondant hearts, though.

 I’ve posted the picture of the finished product so many times…

If I can remember what I did, I’ll definitely post the recipe.

Do you make only goodies that you would eat yourself, or do you make what you know will be appreciated? Am I “pandering” by making goodies I would never dream of eating but I know will be loved?

“Big Game Hunting” on our Beach–Exciting Find

Phil’s recent appearance in the local newspaper was actually his second time in the papers this fall. Last time was in September, when the Redoubt Reporter interviewed him about the 37,000-year-old mammoth tusk piece he found about a decade ago up in Deep Creek, 40 miles north of here.

With the length of day and the weather so salient right now, I sometimes feel like I’m brought closer to other times, as if we’re riding a spiral. Every Solstice, we get to revisit the previous Solstice on the previous round of the spiral. If we celebrate or think about traditional festivals, we’re also invited to look deep into our collective past. One of the reasons I love collecting rocks so much is for this reminder of the depth of time beneath our feet. And this post is about a very special find from the past.

I’ve alluded before to the fact that Phil’s always “shopping” when hiking out in the wilderness, and he has found some incredible treasures on his travels, which he shares as unique gifts for people he cares about. Well, on our Monday beach hike with our friend Sue, we made a very special find. I’ll explain why I say “we” in a moment.

It was the first time in several days that we were hiking without constant, intense wind in our faces in one direction, accompanied by stinging sleet. Although it was cold, the absence of wind made it feel luxurious and pleasant. We were hiking a little slower than our usual pace, stopping frequently and admiring all the new erosion. That’s an admiration tinged with apprehension, mind you!

I was tending to hike slightly ahead: I run cold, so our slower pace was putting me at risk for chilling. But I was “scouting.” I would point or call out anything that looked interesting. As I passed one pinch-point where a whole chunk of bluff had spewed down to the beach, leaving an apron of new gravel gabling toward the shore, I noticed a very interesting-looking piece of something. I pointed at it, and walked on. Phil, just behind me, picked it up, took a close look, and said, “This is part of a mammoth’s tooth!”

 It’s about the size of my palm. Weathered and layered–petrified, you could almost say.

 Its top and bottom surfaces are so smooth.

This is majorly exciting: there’s been a recent upswing in interest in fossils from Pleistocene fauna (hence the interview about Phil’s mammoth tusk). Geologists used to think that there were no mammoths in this area in the Pleistocene. Phil’s mammoth tusk, because of where it was found (an inland location, so it couldn’t have been washed ashore from elsewhere) had a big part in proving that there were mammoths here back then. Now, people are out on the beaches looking for more “evidence!” The local Geologist found another tusk fragment on the beach this fall, and Phil goes several times a week just to look. Well, he looks for other things too, like cedar logs, but he likes to say he’s going “big game hunting.”

This is his mammoth tusk–from a different mammoth than the owner of the tooth, but probably similar vintage.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to imagine how this world would have looked when those creatures were alive. How different from now. And yet, part of them coexists with us in this world. It makes my lifetime seem very small…

Happy Solstice, Happy Chanukah, and watch the days begin to get longer!

You Don’t Have to Braise the Braising Mix!

First of all, my sincere thanks for all the caring comments on my previous post. That wasn’t an easy topic to write about, but I have some hope that talking about those kinds of issues might be helpful to someone out there. One thing I might clarify on the subject of “pills” is that I’m so grateful to work with holistically minded practitioners, and that we’re using “elementals” rather than pharmaceuticals. If things deteriorate, pharmaceuticals are an option, or, more accurately, a threat–so let’s see how well we can avoid that.

I am grateful to have had my first few opportunities to give homemade goodies to people. I don’t consider myself good at presentation, but I’ve tried a few different ways. This one is four layers of different goodies, with a chocolate-coated pomegranate heart on top. Each layer is separated from the other with a little note about the ingredients/what it is.

 …And there’s quite the array of possibilities to go in the box–these are just a few!

But as the post title suggests, today’s recipe is actually about greens. It’s good to show dessert first, I guess.

In my box from Full Circle this week, as well as some gorgeous pomegranates, a purple cabbage and some beets, I got a bag of braising mix–beautiful baby kale leaves: dino kale, red and green curly kale; some chard. And I didn’t braise any of it, delicious though braised greens and balsamic vinegar can be.

Instead, those leaves (augmented with the spinach in the box) were the basis for two delicious salads: a massaged balsamic salad, and a massaged salad with a creamy dressing.

The principle is very similar to the by now so popular “massaged kale salad:” you shred up the greens, massage them with oil and vinegar/lemon juice and maybe some salt, or massage them with a dressing, let them sit and soak and soak; then add tomatoes, avocado, what you will, and enjoy the delicious meld of tastes.

For the balsamic salad, I also put mushrooms in at the “sit post-massage” stage, so that they would marinade too.

Balsamic not-braised salad
3 cups mixed greens, torn
4 medium cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
6-8 grape tomatoes, sliced
1/2 an avocado, sliced (or more, or less)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Simply massage the oil and vinegar into the greens, then add in the mushrooms, and let all sit for 2-3 hours. When ready to serve, stir in the sliced tomatoes and avocado.
I happen to think that raw mushrooms, especially marinaded, go particularly well with tomatoes, (and avocado, of course), and that flavor combo was definitely a good feature here.

The creamy salad featured pomegranate kernels.

Creamy not-Braised Salad
3 cups mixed greens, torn
6-8 grape tomatoes, sliced
1/2 an avocado, sliced (or more, or less)
1/2 cup pomegranate kernels
fresh chopped parsley

Lemon-Black Pepper Dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons flax meal
2 tablespoons macadamia nut butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or a date, or stevia to taste)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon miso
1 teaspoon black pepper
Blend all the dressing ingredients together and pour over the torn greens; massage in by hand.

When ready to serve, stir in tomatoes, avocado, pomegranate kernels, and sprinkle with roughly chopped parsley.

I’m so grateful for all these zesty, fresh and hearty flavors. And of course, these recipes are “raw” and power-packed, hearty and light all at the same time.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone, and Happy Solstice! Are you looking forward to the light returning?

Maxine Kumin on Anne Sexton; In Praise of Pills; This Week’s Herbal

With my holiday goodies-making well underway and now that my camera is found, I’m feeling an absolute logjam of food-related posts building up.

So I’d better slide in something non-food-related while it’s on my mind.

At our poetry group on Tuesday, we listened to an audio recording of the poet Maxine Kumin, who continues to be lucid, potent, trenchant and poetic, now well into her eighties. She talked about herself, inevitably, but the focus of the talk was her friendship with Anne Sexton, which lasted from the late ’50′s until Sexton’s suicide in 1974. As might be expected, it was some very inspiring and also very poignant listening. Meeting as we were to support one another in our poetry practice, we listened with delight to Kumin’s description of the intense intimacy with which they workshopped one another’s poems. The fact that they would workshop over the phone and thus receive aural impressions of the poem long before they saw it laid out on the page (which, Kumin said, was wonderful ear-training) was intriguing to all of us as a way to add another dimension to our appreciation and critical faculties.

I felt a little wistful for a time and place in which the big poetry world was so much smaller than it is now. I’m not saying they had it easy at all, especially with the gender bias they still encountered. Kumin received a rejection note from an editor saying he’d have loved to publish her poem, but he had published a woman writer last month and had to wait a few months before he could do so again!!! But the fact that it was a smaller world creates the impression (illusion?) that entry to it might have been easier then.

Kumin’s freshness was most inspiring: she said a couple times that she almost felt like she had to apologize for the fact that she was still writing and publishing new poetry, “dinosaur” as she was.

Her words about Sexton’s suicide were both difficult and important for me to hear, since I have some experience with both sides of that coin. I’ve had a best friend commit suicide, and have narrowly missed it myself. I was glad for Kumin that she didn’t experience the intense guilt that most friends of suicides experience: she explained that she’d rescued Sexton from several previous attempts, and had been warned by her in no uncertain terms that next time she wouldn’t see it coming. But, as she said, here almost forty years later she’s still writing it out. It’s something you never get over.

She lamented the state of medication at those times and, when speaking of Sylvia Plath (who killed herself in 1963, aged only 31, and with whom they had interacted a little at the Boston Poetry Society), lamented her short life, her genius and how little time she’d had. “Think of what she’d have been able to do if she’d just had the right pills,” she said.

That got me. It’s probably obvious from my earlier mentions about pills that I have some resistance toward them, and I spent years avoiding them. It’s also true that lately I’ve been having some compliance issues around my own pill program, and the results have not been pretty. It’s easy to feel paranoid about ‘what they’re doing to you,’ and to want to be ‘yourself,’ unmediated, unmedicated. And then it’s annoying when your treatment team chorus at you that your behavior is a symptom of your disorder… But finally, these last few days, with another increase in dosage and a little consistency, I’m feeling evened out and actually more like ‘myself,’ even if it takes this intervention. I’m still not sleeping much, though.

Kumin’s “pills” comment came from her position of deep friendship with Sexton. I sometimes feel I have to protect people I’m close to from myself, or even avoid getting too close, to spare them that potential heartache. But Kumin’s words actually might have persuaded me that just taking the pills might be the best way to ‘protect’ the people I care about. I just need to remember this for the times when I don’t care anymore if I’m nice to be around or not (or if I’m around at all)…

Speaking of sleep, my hops tincture/syrup seems to be working like a charm for several people around here–a bunch of people having trouble sleeping got their gift early! As I mentioned, I can’t use it because it’s not compatible with my brain chemistry.

I realized that the herbal project I had been planning was a non-adrenally-impacting “pick-me-up,” when what I really needed was to calm the heck down.

So, very very simply, I made an infusion of chamomile and lavender flowers.

They’re so beautiful–I find them calming even to look at.

That’s about a tablespoon and a half of each, in a quart of hot (not boiling) water. I added it to my regular morning brew of Rhodiola powder and Gynostemma leaves. (The Rhodiola seems to help with anxiety, and the Gynostemma is a great all-round tonic herb, and delicious.)

 But you’ll need a strainer for this–the Rhodiola and Gynostemma behave themselves and settle to the bottom (roots and leaves) but the Lavender and Chamomile float up top (flowers).

I hope you’re having a lovely weekend, enjoying the quiet of midwinter, preparing holiday goodies if that’s your thing.

Bliss Challenge #2: Destination Present

Here’s my tardy response to this week’s Bliss Challenge (last week’s is here). This week’s challenge is to post pictures of where you would go if you could get away from it all.

Without ever making this a conscious choice, I have lived just about my whole adult life in places that are popular as vacation destinations (and at that, I grew up between London and Herzlia, Israel, which are both on the tourist map too). I did my undergraduate degree at Oxford, where in the summer months the tourists were thicker on the ground than students, and sometimes so careless of students hurrying on bikes that I dubbed them “Meanderthals.” Yes, that was back in my twerpier days. Then, I lived for many years in the CA Bay Area–less concentratedly touristy, but definitely a “destination.” Then, Big Island, Hawaii. Tourists and transients in vast numbers. And now, least likely of all for me, here I am in Homer, Alaska, where everyone says they’ve “always wanted to visit.”

On a day like today, when it’s been sleeting and snowing by turns, the attractions are less obvious.

But we get to see both sunrises and incredible sunsets like this one from our windows during the winter months.

And views like these gorgeous mountains…

 …and teeming salmon, are on our regular route.

I spent many years always imagining where else I might go, how I might be different in a different place, this moment, moving so frequently. But that’s all in my head! Nowadays, I find it far more helpful to focus on being present where I am and to use all my tools to keep me in the best possible mental space in that place.

If I could be anywhere else, it would be my grandmother’s apartment in Israel, on the right of this picture, or in the yard outside–this view is one of the few constants of my entire life. And I was just there!

Meanwhile, foul as today has been, Phil and I caught a break in the precipitation and went for a longish hike on the beach (which is right below our house–also pretty cool as locations go). We found three rocks that were “keepers.”

I’m kind of obsessed with rocks with holes in them. As you can imagine, they’re not that common, but there’s a certain spot on the beach with enough reddish sedimentary rock with holes that I don’t pick up every one I find anymore.

This one’s bluish basalt, though–first one like it that I’ve ever found!

 I hope my choice of “being here now” doesn’t seem unimaginative. Everyone knows how much I love warm weather and coconuts! But that would be a whole other story…

What’s your favorite “get away from it all” destination–either a location or a metaphysical space?

Picture This…Spinach Dal and More Heroics from Phil

Frazzled morning, phone appointment first thing, and the certainty now that my camera was lost. Getting my essays and poems proofread and sent in for the “packet” deadline was an even more pressing priority, but how was I going to blog without a camera?

Well, picture this…
…a cup of red lentils, soaked for a couple hours and rinsed…
…a cutting board, with a chopped yellow onion, and three cloves of garlic and a half inch of ginger minced on the side.  Also on the cutting board, a bunch of Full Circle Farms spinach, roughly chopped, and some chopped parsley.

Now picture the onions sauteing in a little coconut oil, with cardamom seeds, crushed chilis, and turmeric. Picture the onions getting nice and yellow, and slightly translucent. Picture the lentils added to the pan, stirred around with the onions, changing color and getting a little shiny.

Listen to the roar and sizzle as water hits the hot pan–about 3 cups of water, and then imagine the pan covered, allowed to come to a boil, the odors of cardamom, turmeric and onion wafting invitingly as it simmers.

Imagine taking the lid off the pan, letting any excess liquid boil away. Imagine folding that beautiful spinach into the lentils, and adding the garlic and ginger, and a good teaspoon or so of black pepper, a little salt. Imagine serving it steaming in a bowl with parsley sprinkled over the top.

Does that sound yummy? But is it a reasonable and sustainable format for sharing recipes sans pictures?
I thought not.

I was shamefacedly preparing to email all my friends around here, to see if anyone might be willing to loan me a spare camera until I bought a new one, let everyone know what a loser I was. Phil was looking for used cameras on Craigslist. He turned over to eBay, then handed me the controls. A moment later, Phil said “Hey, let’s just do that later…” and handed me my camera!

It had been in one of the side pockets of my bag, where I’d carefully stowed it when I came down from the car. I’d checked the bag at least three times, but he just gave it a little speculative feel from the side, knowing that I tend to pack things along pretty carefully. I hadn’t even thought to check the side drink bottle pockets! This is so unlike me–not the putting the camera in an unfamiliar place, but both that I forgot it was there, and that I didn’t find it there. I think with our tea kettle and immersion blender both having quit working a few days ago, I just jumped to the conclusion that this was another small domestic disaster, and was wondering what was going to go wrong next.

So, it’s an execrable picture of the last remaining little bit, but here is a picture of the creation!

And Phil is the hero of the hour. It’s a sweet role reversal, as usually I’m the “finder,” but it’s also a sweet regression for Phil, as in most of his other relationships throughout his life, he’s been the finder!

Speaking of Full Circle Farms, I hope you enjoyed their Thanksgiving eBook. I was a little concerned that it would be meat, wheat, potatoes and no special diet accommodations, and was thoroughly impressed that most of the recipes had a gluten free and/or vegan variation. I’m so grateful that they were sensitive to that. Now they’ve put out another free eBook with recipes, tips and techniques for the holidays. You can get it here. Enjoy!

Have you ever thought you lost something and then discovered it after all?

Famous Phil; I Flounder

I’ve misplaced my camera. I seriously have no idea where it is: haven’t seen it since I came home from our Poetry group yesterday, having taken it with me running errands but not even used it. I never lose things! Just like I never leave anything behind, like I did twice during my recent trip… Scary to me it is. And how am I supposed to post recipes or landscape pics now?

Meanwhile, Phil is famous! He’s on the front page of the local newspaper…

…and here’s a link to the article.

Phil is a very fine public speaker, and could have been an amazing demagogue: he knows almost too much about how people tick (and how to make them tick). It’s budget (cut) season again, and with a daughter working at the library and decades of experience as a librarian himself, he went along to the City Council meeting and spoke eloquently and persuasively about why the City should not cut the library’s already tiny budget. Evidently he made quite a splash: his presentation was widely cited as key in the Council’s decision not to cut the Library budget this year.

I’m proud of him, and it’s also thought-provoking and admirable to me that Phil doesn’t choose to do very much of this. He knows he’s very good at it, but he doesn’t enjoy it very much. Generally, Phil is very successful at focusing on what he does love to do, and doing that. Quite a radical choice, when so often the message is that if you have a talent, you are obligated to use it.

I have two or three recipes backed up now that I haven’t been able to photograph, plus more holiday goodies. I woke up later than expected this morning, the horror of which it’s taken me most of the day to recover from. I have a “packet” due to my mentor tomorrow and an appointment in the morning. I realized today that I have a whole lot more work to do than even I realized for my Linguistics course.
What am I doing on here?

Apologies for this frazzled posting. What do you think? Should someone use a talent they have, or should they choose to do what they enjoy?

T.S. Eliot’s Prose and Knowing Your Audience–Food-Making as Metaphor for Writing

The weather continues to drive activities and conversations here. Sidewalks are sheets of ice, and I executed a graceful 180 degree turn on a (thankfully empty) road in the car this afternoon. We’ve had several power outages today too, but they’ve all been brief, and strikingly silent, with the abrupt stop of the dehydrator’s hum.

As I’m busy making my first batches of holiday goodies…

…I’m also down to the last couple days of finishing up my fourth “packet” to send to my MFA advisor. One of my readings for this month has been some of T. S. Eliot’s essays.

I read a lot of Eliot’s poetry when I was about 19; not so much since then. Reading his prose feels very educational and edifying, and sometimes alarming and startling. Some of what he says seems to make so much sense; some of his presuppositions on which he bases his forthright pronouncements are either falsifiable, or wrong, or outrageous politically.

What I did get from Eliot was one of the best arguments for using “conversational” language when writing poetry. I’ve often been irritated by people stigmatizing or proscribing “flowery language” or “big words” as excessive gestures in poetry: I happen to use words of more than three syllables in my regular speech! But Eliot’s argument is connected to the music of poetry, and of the language that is poetry’s milieu: that the music of poetry has to sound musical to speakers of the language, has to answer to the changing idioms of different periods.

In other words, we’re back to the question of “knowing your audience,” that I’ve worrited on about at least once before here. And with the two endeavors of holiday treat-making and Eliot-crunching going on side by side, it came home to me that as a culinary artist, “knowing my audience” is absolutely key to what I do. Before I lived in Alaska, I was a raw food chef, and often had to dance the line between my preference for using lighter, local, “what’s on hand”ingredients, less oil, salt, garlic; and my “audience’s” preference for more of those things and heartier fare. Of course, in the raw food environment, you’d likely come across sub-groups with “my” kinds of preferences, and at big events I often took it upon myself to make sure that there was something at each meal to suit those people.

Now, living here, I still enjoy turning out raw creations and light, plant-based food, but most of the people I make food for most of the time prefer the bread, meat, potatoes, lots of sugar and salt–and I make it for them!

There are some compromises–I did use the horseradish dressing I posted a few days ago to make a beet/cabbage slaw. It was just one large Full Circle Farms beet and one medium cabbage, julienned, with a double batch of the horseradish dressing.

And it was so wonderful, I forgot to photograph it until almost all gone. But–I knew that the people I was going to serve it to would like it even better with dried cranberries and (cover your eyes, vegans) bacon bits! And here’s the compromise: this was going to be my main dish, likely for several days, and if it had those two added ingredients, I wouldn’t be able to eat it! The bacon’s obvious why not; I don’t have a problem with dried cranberries per se; I do have a problem with the added sugar and especially the often added sunflower oil. So I brought the slaw along “straight,” and brought a jar with those two “additions” to put on the side for people to add. Everyone was happy.

As for the goodies in the dehydrator, the bars pictured up top are, of course, delicious. But they have cacao nibs in them and chocolate sauce on them, and I really need to stay away from chocolate, as in not even lick my fingers, practically. And aside from that, they’re mostly nutty bars, and I barely eat nuts at all because I’m afraid of omega-6.

The other two trays of the dehydrator contain teriyaki pumpkin and sesame seeds, and horseradish sunflower seeds…way too salty flavors for me and same omega-6 block for me!

But as I said recently, I get so much more pleasure out of preparing food than I do out of eating it that this is satisfying to me: I know that this food will be enjoyed. (And I believe that when it’s enjoyed as food, things like “omega-6″ are just technicalities.)
Now, how to bring this back to writing? How do I add the craisins and bacon bits to my writerly beet slaw so that my audience loves it too? How do I make the chocolate sonnets and candied essays without starving myself? 
Of course, part of the truth of the answer to this is that I don’t want to write poetry that’s the equivalent of McDonalds–or even of a mainstream upscale restaurant! In the food-preparation arena, the circumstances of my life situation have steered me to all the bread-and-meat-making. In the writing arena, I would liken this to having a tech-writing or other less-creative job involving writing that I took on just to pay the bills, until the writing that’s closer to my soul can start to pay them. 
But making the nuts and bars is utilizing a skill in which I’m trained and believe I have some abilities, and for which there is an audience. Is there a kind of poetry like that that I might not so much enjoy writing, but through which I would have something cogent to offer?
I don’t yet have the key to unravel this metaphor completely, but I hope you’ll agree it’s intriguing. And I think that acknowledging it’s OK that not everyone likes my writing–that perhaps I don’t want it to be the kind of writing that appeals to everyone–is an important step.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Weather Day Gratitude

It’s a weather day. Weather several days, at that. Sleet then snow then rain repeat repeat, power outages, the frozen ground a sheet of ice under all the helter-skelter precipitation.

Even Phil, who couldn’t help himself and had to go out across the bay in his tiny inflatable boat in a short break in the weather yesterday, is saying that it’s not a good day to be out and about. And our kettle quit working yesterday and my immersion blender died this morning (just as I’d been so appreciating and loving on it!), so I’m motivated to see if they can be replaced locally!

Meanwhile, I’m appreciating the challenge to focus on Bliss, and to make lemonade from life’s lemons. Honestly, I haven’t been all good. But coming here is like a toll on the bell to remind me that I don’t need to feel helpless in the face of the weather, either outside or within my own head! I’m grateful that our power is mostly on. I’m grateful to be warm, and to be able to heat water for tea even without the kettle. I’m grateful that the dehydrator is humming with the first batch of goodies I’m planning on sharing as holiday gifts. Grateful to have people to give them to.

To Phil, I’m sorry that I’ve been difficult lately. Parallel to my breadcrumb trail of pills, I’ll aim to build a trail of reminders to try to do better.

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