Saturday, December 4, 2010

handmade yule

i hate commercial christmas. hate it. i hate it being all about money and stuff and being a failed psychic of other people's taste. i usually do some of my gifts handmade and most of the food for my yule party from scratch but this year i've decided all my gifts will be homemade. a bit of the food will be bought premade but most will be from-scratch indulgences. many of the recipients of those gifts read this blog so i wont detail them until afterwards, hopefully with pics, but suffice it to say this year it's about the time we spend together and the effort and care that went into a gift. take that, metrotown! and i'm not watching tv again until the boxing day ads are gone! so there!

gaaaaarlic knots

difficulty rating: bottle short of a six pack
been a while since i posted hasn't it? this is also turning into a mostly food blog but kinda boring since my camera is a piece of crap. oh well. this pic isn't *my* garlic knots, but they look just like them so good enough:

garlic knots, for the uninitiated, are garlic bread's sexy younger cousin. if done right they are tastier, prettier, and faster then the bread from scratch. i'm going to get so fucking fat because i can't stop making these and eating them all immediately:
turn on your oven to it's lowest setting
mix together
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 Tbs instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
set aside, mix separately:
3 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs salt
once your yeast mix starts bubbling, dump it into the four mixture along with:
1/4 cup oil (olive, canola, melted butter, whatever)
stir until a soft dough forms, then knead for a few min, adding a spoonful or two more flour if needed to keep it from being too sticky
cover the bowl with a clean towel (i like to wrap it under too since my bowl is plastic) and place in your warm (not hot) oven. turn the oven off and keep the door closed for 20-30 min
now your dough should be twice the size. punch it down and divide into two balls. place each ball on a big greased pan/cookie sheet and divide each ball into 16 even pieces. turn your oven onto the lowest setting again.
roll each piece quickly between your hands to make an 8 inch "rope" about 1/3" thick, then tie into a single knot. try to leave enough space in between so they wont be touching when they double in size again.
turn your oven back off and lay your towel over the rack. put your pans in to rise again.
once they're big and puffy, remove the towel and turn the heat up to 325 for about 20 min or until lightly golden brown. in the mean time heat in the microwave for two min:
1/2 cup butter (can sub half olive oil if desired)
1/2-1 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp fresh pepper
1/2-1 tsp oregano (or dill or parsley)
4-6 cloves fresh minced garlic
and yes 2 min is way longer then needed to melt the butter. we're also trying to partially cook the garlic and get all the flavors into the fat.
once the knots are cooked, take them out, turn off the oven, spoon the garlic butter over them (being sure to get some garlic bits on each) and top each with a pinch of:
parmesan, preferably fresh but the powdered type will do
and put pans back in the (off) oven for 5 min to let the cheese melt and the butter soak in.
now try not to eat ALL of them in the next two hours wouldja?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

oh dear the cider

difficulty rating: pint
we started some hard apple cider as one of the wine experiments and since then i've done it a couple of times. it is by far the easiest booze i've made and it's very tasty. something like a cross between mead and beer. it only takes a month and i even got good results with no-name brand apple juice and brown sugar. the first time i got drunk on this i woke up the next day not hungover, still drunk. it's a bit harsh and beer-y at first sip but is mellow a the second sip and soon tastes like more, as in, i want more of that. you simply take a gallon of good apple juice from the green grocer (comes in a nice sterile glass jug which is now your carboy), pour out a little to make some space, add a cup and a half of sugar(white or brown or whatever), and a pkg of champagne yeast from the homebrewing store. shake the crap out of it, top up with the reserved juice to an inch and a half from the top if needed, then replace the lid with a balloon that you've poked a few holes in. leave it in the closet for 3 weeks, then siphon it into pop bottles (sterilized with bleach and soap, rinsed very well. they can take the carbonation, wine bottles can't) leaving the sediment at the bottom out, and add another cup of sugar. cap it and leave it for another week. ta dah! chill it before serving and go start another batch, you'll want more. i did a 4 gallon batch in a water cooler jug (sterilized) with no-name apple juice and brown sugar and it turned out just fine too. you can use one pkg of champagne yeast for up to 5 gallons of cider so the 4 gallon one cost me around $20 and gave me 8 2-liter bottles. pretty damn good i say! i haven't measured but i'd say the alcohol content ends up around 10%, certainly higher then beer but not quite as high as some wines.

Friday, October 8, 2010

bwhaha goat cheese and sourdough!

difficulty rating: rolling in her grave
i love goat cheese. i love sourdough. i hate that they're both fairly expensive. nearly anything you make at home is better so why not try these too?
the goat cheese is stupidly simple. you just heat goat's milk to just boiling (stir constantly, watch carefully), remove from the heat and add vinegar to curdle, then drain (in cheesecloth or an old pillowslip) and add salt. i used 2L of milk to 1/4 cup white vinegar and a tsp or two of salt. this turned out a little dry (read: kinda rubbery?) so i'm going to stir in a little whipping cream i have leftover to add a bit of smoothness to it but it was still wonderful on the fresh bread with some red wine.
i've tried sourdough before but was never able to produce anything edible. this time i kept on the starter and fed it every day for three weeks till it was good and healthy. you can make your own with a cup of water and a cup of flour, stirred together in some kind of container that lives on your counter. to feed it you dump out half (or use half) and add about a half a cup more water and flour. i never bother measuring anymore. it lives in a jar. i'm calling him jeremy. he's my kitchen pet. all the recipes i've tried before led to bread that didn't rise or didn't taste like anything or gave me a nasty stomach ache. apparently there's some tricks to this:
1)give up on the measuring. you shouldn't be doing this unless you already know how to make bread and if you do know then you are perfectly capable of tossing in "that much" until the dough looks and feels right
2)be patient! it takes at least 3 hours for even the most active starter to rise your dough and the longer it rises the better the flavor will be. you can even put it in the fridge overnight to do it's second rise and then finish it in a warm environment the next day
3)give it a nice warm place to grow. like your oven that you turned on to the lowest setting for 5 min with a pot holder under the container so it doesn't get too hot. heat kills yeast, cold makes it dormant. for it to make bread you want it in a warm-sauna or just-above-body-temp environment.
4)don't tear into it immediately out of the oven! the wild yeasts are still active and will make you sick. give it a good 30-45 min to cool down first. it will still be warm, don't worry.
the "recipe" i did was pour 50-75% of my active starter into a bowl, added a bit of warm water (maybe half a cup?) a good splash or two of oil, half a palmful of salt, a palmful of sugar (makes yeast grow faster), and stirred it up, than added flour and stirred and kneaded until i had a solid, elastic, slightly sticky dough. i let it rise in a greased bowl for 3 or 4 hours, then shaped the loaf and put it in the fridge overnight (i don't think this made much of a difference to be honest), next morning it hadn't risen much so i put it back in the warm oven for a few more hours, till it was good and rounded over the lip of my loaf pan, then i turned the oven up to 375 for 35 min. it didn't sound hollow when i tapped it but it was getting pretty brown so i turned the heat down to 325 and baked for another 10 min, then let cool for about an hour. this turned out lovely but, like many breads made with basically just flour and water, it lacked richness. next time i'm going to add warm milk instead of water and maybe an egg and butter instead of oil to give it a nicer rich quality, kinda like my favorite buttery buns recipe but with a sourdough flavor. there's lots of ways to do this so don't let anyone tell you that it must be perfectly precise. sourdough takes time and effort and experience but it is satisfying and healthy. anyone who knows baking will tell you that off-book homemade sourdough is fucking hardcore.
i also have two different sour cream experiments a-brewing so i'll let you know what works best. and did i mention that the homebrewed hard apple cider turned out AMAZING? i have a 4 gallon batch brewing for samhain but i'm using different juice and sugar so we'll we how it differs. if it's not as good and/or i can't get the simple mead to cooperate in time i'll be making a 4 gallon batch with the organic apple juice and regular sugar to be drunk at yule

Monday, September 27, 2010

advetures in cheese and butter

as part of my intrepid homesteading, i want to learn to make cheese. i've made ricotta before and that's pretty idiot proof but it's not *real* cheese. so this time around i was trying to make mozzarella and while i was at it, butter.
the butter is also idiot proof: take whipping cream, whip it way past the normal point until the fat separates from the milk, squeeze the liquid out (rinse in cold water to get the last of it), and add a bit of salt. fantastic! it goes on the fresh banana bread and is wonderful.
the mozza i was making was somewhat hampered by the fact that i can only get junket-brand rennet here and that's not really meant for cheese making, it's meant for custards and things. it is rennet, just rather weak. knowing this, i added quite a bit more then usual and let it set a lot longer then normal. i still ended up with a weak and sickly separation between curds and whey but i managed to drain it. unfortunately, in the heat-and-stretch stage, it became fairly apparent that i could not extract enough whey from the curds to make it a solid and it wasn't melting to enable stretching. all this tells me that (i'm pretty sure) FOREMOST IS ULTRA PASTEURIZING THEIR MILK AND NOT LABELING IT AS SUCH! this severely annoys me, not only because i now have ricotta instead of mozza, but because ultra pasteurizing milk not only damages the proteins, it also makes it significantly less healthy! it would be one thing if it said on it that they'd super heated it to the extent that NOTHING could ever possibly live in it from now till the twelfth of never. that would be ok, i would have been informed and would have chosen a non-dead milk because i know better then to try to make cheese with that crap and i also know that it's sad and pathetic compared to normal pasteurized or raw milk. i now have the choice between trying dairyland or lucurne (big companies, probably same story), attempting reconstituting powdered milk, or seeing if any of my farmers' markets carry real milk. *sigh*. i was really looking forward to the mozza too. i bought some beautiful kalamata olives and i had rosemary trisuits and the first fresh tomato of my garden and wine to make a nice little platter. instead i had leftovers. *sniff*. my only consolation is that i can make very good stuffed shells with the ricotta.

update: I DID IT! it started out like the first batch and i really thought lucurne ultra pasteurized as well so i upped the temp to turn it into ricotta and it started solidifying and getting all melty and stringy just like it's supposed to! finished it off and had some with garden tomatoes and basil, so fantastic and deeply satisfying. i even got a bit of ricotta out of the whey leftover. i probably would have gotten more if i'd followed all the directions despite the not-normal-looking outcome. this was certainly easy enough to make again so more experiments will follow. eventually i'm going to fashion a cheese press and take on something more ambitious like parmesan.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

B12 update

so it really is making a difference! even when my life truly is sucking (hate my job, hate my apartment, have no life) i'm finding it much easier to stop the downward thought spirals and keep some perspective so i can do something about it. i suggested it to a co-worker who is also suffering from really bad depression and he's noticed a difference too (and he's not even a vegetarian, maybe we're onto something here!). i can't say i'm no longer depressed, but it now feels much more in control and circumstantial then all-pervading and unavoidable. it's opened an inch or two of space for daylight in my brain and for now that's all i ask. if you're having similar issues i highly recommend trying it out for a couple of weeks and let us all know if it works. our diets in north america tend to be deficient in many vitamins these days so it wouldn't surprise me at all if improving our nutrition overall would also very much help the increasing mental health issues as well as physical ones

name change update

the paperwork is officially in! i should have my certificate in a few weeks and then i just have to replace all my ID *groan*. it's annoying how people only take you seriously when you get a $250 piece of paper from the government, as if that somehow changes who we really are. course i find myself more adamantly correcting people and getting more annoyed with those who know better and use my old name anyways so it's partially my fault. i imagine most people who do this feel more justified insisting on their choice once it's "official". i've been introducing myself as my new name since my religious ceremony in march and nothing gets you used to it like answering the phone "thank you for calling, my name is..." 40 times a day. it's felt like mine since then and i actually bitched out my boss for trying to tell me i couldn't sign emails with my new name until the legal change is done and they change my email address, claiming it would cause confusion. i can't see how the change can possibly NOT cause some confusion. i believe my comment was "well that's a crappy reason to not respect someone's life choices" accompanied by a nasty glare and the paperwork in a week later despite not being able to find my birth certificate. it will all be easier with that one stupid piece of paper. have i mentioned lately that i hate the government and our society? of course i hate everything to do with my boss and workplace and company and field but that's besides the point. we all know i pray every day for the building to burn to the ground.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

turning of the seasons

is it just me or is fall in the air? we're supposed to have a long growing season and have it stay warm right into october but i'm not so sure about that. my tomatoes are certainly hoping for it but the sun is starting to get that sunset angle and golden colour as early as mid-afternoon and at night it smells like fall: like drying leaves and rain to come and the radiant warmth of the ground. indeed, i find myself writing out my list of stuff i want to do with the end of the summer and the coming autumn. i didn't get to make as much of the summer as i'd hoped but i'm already dreaming of sipping mulled wine and jumping in piles of leaves. i'm also learning how to make cheese just for the fun of it and i want to try out making some simple jam and maybe some pickles before produce becomes expensive. this time of the year i end up learning new subjects, letting go of things that are no longer useful or i've been clinging to for too long, and turning inward to hearth, home, and inner strength. i'm hoping to have a potluck BBQ for mabon and my homemade hard apple cider should be ready for tasting by then too. i'll soon be pulling up the last of the garden that wont overwinter and checking to see if there's any finished compost to mulch on top and feed the earth over the cold time. it's soon time to plant garlic and spring flower bulbs so they get the hard freeze they need and check the almanac for what kind of winter to prepare for. so how do you prepare for the colder time? have anything fun on your fall must-do list? anything you just HAVE to fit in before summer is officially over?

Sunday, August 15, 2010


difficulty rating: do you want fries with that?
i've always wanted to learn how to make wine at home and i'm told the best way is to just jump in and try stuff and learn from your screwups. so here we go. i did one bastardized red wine with wealch's grape juice and baking yeast, one simple mead with champagne yeast, and a fresh cherry wine with champagne yeast. i'm using sterilized milk jugs as my carboys and balloons with holes poked in them as air locks. all the homebrewers are spinning in their graves right now but humans have been doing this for a damn long time with much worse equipment and dirtier environments and it worked out just fine. i'm a little concerned that the cherry wine's balloon hasn't puffed up yet, which would normally indicate fermentation is taking place. could be i poked more holes or something. the yeast is all bubbly and nasty like it's supposed to look so i'm not going to worry about it too much. only issue is i don't really know when it's done without the balloon behaving itself. oh well, so we learn. i also learned that when you take a potato masher to a pot of cherries it squirts everywhere and the pizza guy thinks you killed someone :) the process really is impressively easy: mix fruit-type-thing what contains sugar with yeast, throw in some raisins, tea, and orange slices with the rinds for yeast health. add airlock, ignore for a month or two, siphon. that's it. you can age it longer and people go on and on ad nauseum about perfect sterile technique and specific gravity and and and...oh fuck it all. you're growing yeast and having them feed on tasty things and stealing the end result. stop making it into brain surgery. i'll get some pics up once i feel up to fighting with the stupid software for my phone again.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

one of my new favorite poems

i LIKE this girl! and i think she's a beautiful person, SO THERE

Friday, August 6, 2010

on spirituality and hacking your brain (so you want a god, do you?)

i was having an interesting conversation with an athiest friend of mine the other day who is struggling with feelings of emptiness and wondering if spirituality of some kind might help him in this. like any person with a brain in his head, he questions the logic of spirituality and religions and has a hard time thinking he'll ever really *believe* in anything he can't see or prove.
now i am a priestess and thus i think that spirituality and religion (not the same thing btw) do a lot of good in the world, along with the stupid and bad they also cause. i'm a pagan which means i don't believe in forcing my opinions on the subject onto other people. i also think that whatever path calls to someone and improves their life is the exact right path for them. i have a fairly eclectic and pragmatic outlook on the whole subject which means i think you should take in whatever makes sense for you, from any info you come across, and discard anything that doesn't work. some might call this cherry-picking. i'm ok with that. religion is a deeply personal and important thing, why on earth shouldn't you pick over it with a fine-tooth comb and make sure you agree with every bit of what you're internalizing? now, since i am, like my friend, a person with a brain in my head, i go through the same struggles of logic vs. leaps of faith that everyone goes through. i think anyone who is examining their beliefs will at some point say "what am i fucking nuts?". this is a good thing! a spirituality which is not examined is one not worth living.
i was never raised with the concept of god(ess) per say. i was raised with social and environmental responsibility and respect for other's religions, but my mother is an athiest and my father changes religions every other week and i never knew what he really believed. in some ways this was a good thing. i had no previous bias to one set of rules over another other then the ever-modern *logic is god*. in other ways this was not so good. if i'd been raised to believe in a god of some kind, maybe i would have an easier time trusting in their existence (or trusting in general? who knows). either way, i'm the kind of person who did not grow up with the notion that god was there so if i wanted that in my life it was something i would have to figure out how to do myself.
now why would i want to believe in something i can't prove? short answer: because it improves my life. it's comfort in bad times, it's a celebration in good times, it's a set of morals to live by, and it's an exercise in trust. belief, by definition, is a trust in something you cannot prove. if you could prove it, it would cease to be belief and become fact. but trust in general can never be proven to be a good idea before it's given, can it? you can trust your friend for years and do well, then they betray you anyways. does that mean that trusting at all was a bad idea? of course not. besides, what is the alternative? trusting in nothing? in no one? that is a slippery slope towards paranoia-ville and depression land.
the other thing about trust and belief that no one likes to talk about is that they are not in-born talents and they are not set in stone by how we were raised. they are skills we can learn. this is an exercise in controlling your thought patterns wherein we consciously and consistently choose the types of thoughts it is a good idea for us to entertain. for religion, at least for me, it starts by making absolutely sure that the things i'm telling my self on purpose make perfect sense to me and will improve my life. i have enough shame tapes and bad plan loops to battle, i don't need to add more while i'm reprogramming myself. that means we start by cherry-picking all the best bits i can find. the other reason behind this is that when i'm saying "what am i fucking nuts?" i need to be able to talk myself into it and say "no, because...." is this self-delusion? well, yes, actually. is it any MORE self-delusion then the shame tapes and low self esteem messages that normally play an annoying loop in my head? not at all. seeing the world as it truly is (the goal of our logic-centered society btw) may be a great idea but it is fundamentally flawed by our lovely little monkey brains (that's the part that throws random weird thoughts at you and never stops chattering). the fact is we ALL have biases, and lots of them. all of our thoughts and opinions and perspectives are coloured by our previous experiences which have built up our monkey brains. what i like to call our core self is the part that has these grand ideas like seeing the world as it really is (it's the part of you that looks at your thoughts or decides you want to control them). if one wants to see the world as it really is, without bias, one would have to learn to shut off ALL ones biases, not just the ones that say that the world is a happy place and god exists and gives a damn. "as it really is", without bias, means without opinion or judgment. you don't get to just toss out the good and think you're stronger for enduring the bad. now the monkey mind a is pretty big part of us, it's been around for a long damn time and it's not going anywhere anytime soon. the good part is that you can hack it and use it to change your life for the better. this is both difficult and terrifying. once you get a good start on it (insert huge internal battles here) you can change things much more quickly (insert terror of fucking it up here).
terry pratchet introduced in his book "small gods" the idea that we create our own gods by what we believe. that our belief calls them into being and when less people believe less strongly a god gets weaker until it eventually dies because no one believes anymore. i find this notion interesting and somewhat logical and disturbing all at the same time but it fits fairly well with my pagany structure that the god and goddess are in everything and everyone and tie us all to everything else. if the god and goddess live inside me then it makes sense that what i do and think and feel shape at least that little piece of them. fun things to think about anyway.
what really amazes me about all of this is how fast our minds really change, not just in the thoughts and opinions and emotions swinging through the trees, but in the landscape of our brains at large. i think most people have had personal epiphanies at some time or another. i don't know how many is common but i've had quite a lot of them. the interesting thing is that now i couldn't even tell you what they are unless i had them written down somewhere. these "ahHA!" moments where something clicks into place and you see the world differently and you know something fundamental about you has changed get absorbed so quickly into who you are that within a few days it's hard to imagine ever thinking something else. that means in times of deep personal change where you're having these moments all the time you could become a totally different person over the course of a few weeks or even days! that's a little scary when you start getting the notion that you (the core you) has control over this process. in actively re-programming the monkey mind i've found that i start having these personal revelations more often, and these are the things that change my core self. the fear that i'll fuck this up makes me examine my thoughts even more carefully and be sure to harbor only notions that i believe (trust?) are healthy for me. of course you can see how the pebble, once kicked, produces the avalanche (not all the time of course, it works in waves). this concept is also very freeing because you start to get the sense that you are in control of more then you thought and do not have to be a slave to the misery or boredom or whatever was caging you before. note that these changes have been happening much faster and more easily for me since hacking my brain chemistry a bit (which is a totally different set of scary) with the use of B12 vitamins. true chemical imbalances make everything much much harder. course then you get into the idea of is my natural state (b12 deficient and a lot more unhappy) more "authentic" then my current state (better brain function through nutrition? or is it really a drug?). oh authenticity. you are a fucked up subject unto yourself but the main conclusion i've come to is we are all constantly creating ourselves and reinventing ourselves whether we are aware of it or not. being aware of it, making decisions about the person i want to create and the life i want to have and the thoughts i allow to take up residence in me, is MORE authentic then not being aware of it and blinding swinging through the monkey mind i created without noticing. in other words the "true authentic me" is exactly who i am right at this moment, no matter how i got here and i CHOOSE to be happy as much as i can. you can choose to have any opinion on that you like.
the decision to change myself in this magnitude came about for me in a time that i was so depressed and self-hating i could not possibly imagine going on with my life as it was. i basically sat down in the road of my life and said "i can't walk another step. cannot. i will stay here until something changes or someone helps me" and the someone who helped me was my core self who gave me a smack upside the head and said "you hate you? then be someone else and stop whining about it". the something that changed was me, getting fed up with my monkey mind enough to tell it to shut up for two min and listen. it's amazing how once you set your mind to something resolutely (or desperately) enough all the info you need is everywhere you turn and the plans start falling into place and the things i wrote down that i wanted to be are starting to become "well, ya, of course" kind of things instead of "oh if only". i think this creative force that's blowing through me IS the little (and some days bigger) piece of my gods that resides in me all the time. so in short, i am a spiritual person because i choose to be, for the sake of my sanity. the trust part comes in the leap of faith that the little piece of my gods inside me will guide me enough to not fuck it all up too badly. i choose to believe that since really, it's too much responability for one little person and i'm not arrogant enough to think i can do this all myself.
and now the lovely elizabeth gilbert ('eat, pray, love' is a GREAT book btw) with more interesting random bits of wisdom:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

throw together easy quiche

difficulty level: do you want fries with that?
people seem to have this notion that quiche is hard or gormet. i think of it as simple country food and you can throw one together in about 5 min plus baking time using whatever is in the fridge. got eggs, a pie pastry of some kind, and some odds and ends? then you have dinner that requires no thought when you're exhausted:
1 pie pastry (i use a frozen no-name one. they come in packs of two so i often have a spare kicking around the freezer. you could make your own if you're good at that, i'm not. you could also use puff pastry or philo in layers or whatever)
6 eggs
spices like garlic, basil, oregano, rosemary, dill, pepper, or whatever else you like. i usually add at least a Tbs total
odds and ends of cheese, veggies, or cooked meats. i like thawed frozen spinach, feta cheese, olives, mushrooms, maybe some onion or tomato. cut into bits of whatever size you like.

let your pastry thaw while you mix all your fillings, spices, and eggs in a bowl and preheat the oven to 350f-ish. dump it all in the pastry, yes it really will all fit, it's very hard to over stuff it. i like to sprinkle some cheese over the top for a pretty brown "crust"
bake for 30 min or so or until set. let it cool a bit, it will finish cooking during this time. if you cut into it and get lots of liquid, you either added very watery vegetables or over-cooked the eggs. they're crying that you over-cooked them. it's fine. just pour off the liquid so it doesn't make your crust soggy.
cut into 4 or 6 and call it food. would go nicely with a simple salad and maybe some bread or soup if you feel so inclined.

there you have it! stop whining that there's nothing to eat and back away from the takeout menus. this will be done before the pizza guy would even get to your house.

Friday, July 23, 2010

gardening philosophy

i scan blogs of other gardeners now and then and my neighbor is always growing something too so i'm starting to really notice the contrast in how i garden vs. "the standard modern philosophy". mostly i don't see why on earth people screw with things so much. starting seeds inside, transplanting, hardening off, thinning, pruning, fertilizing, staking, de-bugging, and general fiddling is something i feel almost entirely unnecessary and way too time consuming. where did we humans get the idea that we needed to do any of this? plants require sun and water and healthy soil. period. love helps a lot, and by love i don't mean constant petting and interfering! i mean talking to your plants, passive energy work (i do this constantly so i don't even notice), and paying attention should anything require your care. water is good. compost is good. picking a sunny spot is good. so is planting a reasonable distance apart and in the right month (more or less). other then that i see absolutely no reason to fiddle with the great mother's, already perfect, design. plants have been thriving for a lot longer then humans have. where do we get this arrogance that without our babysitting it will all whither and die? and if modern "remedies" were remotely worthwhile, why are my plants a hell of a lot happier at a month old then anything next door that's two or three months along? the next person who tries to tell me that i should plant in straight rows or drench my green darlings in gross chemicals (yes miracle grown counts!) is going to get an earful, as well as some lovely comparison photos of my garden to theirs. those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people who are doing it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

vitamin B12 might just save my life

those who know me may be aware that my depression is flaring up something fierce lately. that's one of the reasons i've not been blogging much. i've also been calling in sick to work and crying for hours and hours. while i do have many valid reasons to feel like shit, i know that part of it genuinely is a chemical imbalance. not that that matters very much when you're suicidal, but it's true nonetheless.
i had picked up a fiber supplement a couple months ago to try to help my poor digestion and since it was the same price i happened to get the one with B12 added to it. i figured it can never hurt to get some extra vitamins. well my stomach doesn't like the fiber powder but i found that on days i take it my moods are a lot more stable! enter some googling and other research and we discover that not only are vegetarians much more likely to have a B12 deficiency, but it's a necessary nutrient for normal brain and hormone function. huh. also, that people who are deficient in B12 are much more likely to suffer from depression and other mental illnesses. HUH!
so i got me some B12 tablets instead of the yucky powder and on the advice of the pharmacist, am taking a whopping dose (1000mg/day). the nice part is there are no side effects, no adjustment period, and you can't OD on it since it's water soluble and you'll just pee it out. so far it's been working quite well. of course it's also much easier to be happy on days that i'm not at my soul-sucking job so we'll see how i do through the week. it would be so nice to have the energy, motivation, and positivity to find a less soul-sucking job and a more pleasant apartment. fingers crossed, it might just be the solution i've been looking for to stop wanting to kill myself every other week.

homemade yogurt

difficulty level: Rrrrgh . . . . Burns . . . .
my biological mother once said she used to make this in college when she was really poor. it certainly is cheep but i wanted to try it just for the experience and the fact that most homemade food is way better then store bought. i also have a thing for living food that keeps replenishing itself but have never gotten the hang of sourdough. i'll try that again at another time. i found a recipe on zaar for it that came highly recommended and was really easy so off we go. basically you just heat up milk, add a little bit of yogurt to start it off, and keep it warm for a few hours. THAT'S IT. the healthy bacteria grows and thickens and flavors and then you let it chill overnight and you have breakfast! i used one liter of whole milk, heated to just below boiling, let it cool down till i could touch it without burning myself, then added 1/4 cup of yogurt, wrapped it in a towel and put it in the (turned off) oven for some 6 hours. the recipe called for 3-4 hours but lots of reviews said longer=thicker so i went with it. i probably should have put it into it's final container when i mixed instead of putting in a plastic bowl to warm (thicken? cure? grow? whatever.) and then transferring to a smaller container with a lid to put it in the fridge. i've heard jostling it too much makes it form curds and i did get a bit of that but they stir back in just fine. paradoxically, i've heard adding LESS yogurt makes for a thicker result. maybe because the bacteria are more active when they have more room to grow? i'll try with two Tbs next time and see how it goes. overall though i have to agree that this does make a much better yogurt then store bought. it's thicker, creamier, and more mellow (less "sourness"). and best of all, i now don't have to buy any more. i can just use a spoonful or two of this batch to make the next one! i had some with blueberries, granola, and honey for breakfast yesterday and it was GREAT. i even used some in my henna hair dye and i'm going to look into making frozen yogurt treats :)

henna hair dye, take two

difficulty level: boy scout dropout
so i've been wanting to move away from using chemical hair dye for a long time but when i was going black it wasn't really an option. i've since found out that if you do red henna, followed by indigo you can get a really good pure black but i'm tired of black anyway and slowly growing it out. since i've been going for an auburn lately i decided this would be a good time to try henna again. my only previous experience was disastrous, making a huge mess, not dying my hair at all and being next to impossible to wash out. that was with lush "indigo" and it's the only lush product i've ever really hated. it was hard to mix, hard to apply, hard to get rid of, and did nothing for my hair at all. in take two i'm using body art quality henna powder and mixing up my own brew. i've done lots of research and thought we'd give this another go. so. i started with about 4" of roots that were medium brownish red and the rest dyed black with chemicals. my hair is hip-length and somewhat thick. i mixed:
3 cups henna (i thought this was an enormous amount but it turned out to be JUST enough, word to the wise, make way more then you think you need)
1 cup water
1 cup lemon juice (acid helps release the dye)
1/4 cup ground cloves (smells nice and supposed to intensify the red)
and let it sit on the top of the fridge for 24 hours.
the next day i added:
1/3 cup plain yogurt (conditioner)
3/4 cup water (could have added another 1/2 maybe for an easier texture to work with)
1/4 tsp lavender oil (smells nice)
2 tsp tea tree oil (terp oil, intensifies pigment with body art so it can't hurt)
2 Tbs olive oil (conditioner)
put the whole mess in a carrot bag, and slathered on generously with the help of a friend. we tried putting it in an old mustard bottle ala regular hair dye but the mix was too thick and it wasn't working very well. this is not at all like working with chemical dye. it's more like working with mud. feels rather primordial and ancient. kinda makes me want to do ritual henna body art by finger painting, ala tribal warrior paint.
i'd heard piling long henna-covered hair on top of your head will lead to a sore neck after a few hours and feeling how heavy it was i believe it, so i wrapped the ponytail in a plastic bag, then attacked with lots of saran wrap (looks like aunt jemima) and covered in a towel. if i was going anywhere i might have tried to find a nice dark coloured scarf to make a prettier turban but this is a good excuse to hang out at home and relax.
i'm glad i took a few min to cover my hairline and ears with some vaseline as it made wiping up drips much easier. i'm also glad we worked outside where there was plenty of room and we didn't care much if we made a mess. in hindsight it would have been easier if i'd worn a long-sleeved shirt as i kept getting drips on my arms. at least two or three changes of gloves per person are mandatory. so are at least three damp washcloths for mess management. only real staining that happened was when elena's glove apparently sprung a leak. she'll have a blotch for a while.
it's been on my head for about two hours now and i'm doing just fine. i expect my head will feel oddly light when i take all this crap off but it's not burning or itching or otherwise annoying me and the wrappings seem to be containing it pretty well. i'm going to leave it on as long as i can stand it and check back later.

well i lasted 7 hours with it on my head. it took almost an hour to wash it all out and i'm still finding the occasional piece of grit (feels like coffee grounds). using an entire bottle of dollar-store conditioner to dilute the mud helped a lot. it was a little scary how little it felt like hair at first. felt like dread locks or felt covered in mud. after three dousings with conditioner it felt like hair again, albi still very gritty hair. one wash and final condition with lush stuff and my hair feels normal again. and very conditioned. it certainly is red! i can see that even while it's still wet. it didn't stick to my scalp as much as i'd feared and seems to blend with the black better then chemical dye. it's supposed to darken over the next few days so maybe we'll go from ginger to cherry. that would be nice. i'm going to see if i can get some pictures going, especially since i have craft projects and decorating to show you too.

in conclusion: it's been a fun experiment. i think i'll do it again sometime. but definitely with proper henna powder and not the pre-packaged lush stuff.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

the veggie garden!

this is the cucumbers (that i really should thin, along with the zucchini), the red pepper (look, it has three tiny peppers already!), and the mini herb garden (big healthy basil and rosemary, healthy dill seedlings, very tiny oregano and chive seedlings that i'm not convinced will make it)

big beefsteak tomatoes, if you look closely you can see the little cherry ones coming up on the sides. the other pot of seedlings is spinach and lettuce. not sure why the lettuce decided to only come up along the sides. maybe i dislodged the seeds while watering in the early stages?

zucchini and nastursiums!

got a bit of a start (albi late) on some veggies and herbs in a little container garden today. i can't find seed for anything but i'll try to make a pilgrimage to rona asap or see if superstore has anything. for now i have some tomatoes, red peppers, cucumber, basil, and rosemary. with any luck i'll find spinach and lettuce and zucchini seeds and an oregano and dill plant. not sure what i'll do with these in the winter, hopefully the perennial herbs will survive. i think it will be too warm for them inside. next year i'll want to do an early planting as well as a later one but we should still be able to harvest before the first frost. hoping like hell the evil neighbors will keep their greedy little mitts off *my* harvest and don't do something stupid like kick over the pots or randomly decide to move them around. i decided to do pots only, in the front yard because the soil here has been raped for so many years with no one giving anything back that it has nothing left. there is also nonsense in the back yard of everyone deciding that only *they* know best where things should grow and that they have the right to take anything on the property regardless of who put in the time and effort to plant and care for it. it's not uncommon here to have all your harvest stolen just before you decided it was ripe or to have things coming along nicely only to have someone tear out your plants when you're not home because they don't like them or want to put something else there. i put a sign up telling people to keep their fucking hands off my plants and they're far away from everyone else's in a place they'll actually get light so we'll see what happens. oh how i want to live on the drive where everyone gardens and understands that you don't touch other people's plants! or trample them, or spray them with god knows what, or other wise interfere with other people's land!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

so that's what i've been trying to do!

turns out there's a name for us weirdos who prefer to do everything ourselves and dream of self sufficiency on our own little piece of land. we're called urban homesteaders and it's a quiet revolution that's been going on for a while. i love the diy attitude and living lightly on the earth. i dream of having a big vegetable and herb garden, a mini orchard, a chicken coup for eggs, maybe a goat or a single cow for milk, and honey bees. i love making bread from scratch, eating a salad with actual flavor that's still warm from the sun in the back yard. i want to make jam and dehydrate apple chips and sew my own clothes. it's not that i want to live on a big farm in the middle of nowhere. i just want to live a simpler, healthier life, reliant on my own skills and the bounty of the earth instead of being nothing but a consumer. and i love the flexibility of doing as much or as little as i want or have time and skills for. i love that i can ease into this. i love that i look at my current life and see a lot of things i already do that seem so normal to me but no one else i know knows how or bothers. i can see this growing throughout my life and one day someone new meeting me and pointing out how strange my lifestyle is. i get that sometimes even now and find myself going "huh, ya i guess it is, isn't it?". so instead of the crazy cat lady i'm going to end up the mini-farm city girl or something. whatever. i'm going back to learning how to make brew mead in my closet and grow tomatoes in a little pot outside my door. so there.

oh hello my people!

like to get my hands on this movie, it looks inspiring

Saturday, June 26, 2010

on art and creativity

something that came to me recently and it's one of those silly little personal epiphanies where you say "why didn't i ever think of that before?". maybe it's part of my healing and developing more self esteem and maybe it's just getting older and more capable and jaded but i find myself struck recently by the simplicity of the world. that when you understand how things work you wonder why they ever seemed out of your league and complicated. i watch workers "install" new windows and screens in my apartment and i get how it comes together and how easy it all is. perhaps it takes practice and precision, but it's not mystical or amazing. it's glass glued to metal, set into the frame of a hole in the wall with sealant to keep the water out. no mystery to it. building a house or other structure is just setting wood or metal into the ground with concrete, adding more wood and jiprock and insulation and putting a roof on top. perhaps this is one of those things that the rest of the world figured out before me and maybe it's my diy spirit but maybe the rest of the world thinks this way as well:that things you don't know how to do or create are mysterious and complicated and you should never attempt them. working in tech support and seeing first hand people's fear of technology leads me to believe such. maybe i've just had too much of this martini on an empty stomach. i find more and more that when i understand that nature of a thing it seems much simpler then i imagined and i can't fathom how i ever though it was otherwise. i find this kind of understanding and insight leads to interesting things in my crafts and art work. one of my more recent paintings is an abstract of bright tropical colours overlayed with a rough bird of paradise flower and looking at it i find myself thinking of a line out of a terry pratchet novel that talks about a rough sketch of a horse that is "not what a horse looks like, it's what it are". i feel the same about that painting. it's not what a bird of paradise looks like, it's what it IS: delicate and energetic and exotic and passionate. perhaps that's why i work in mixed media. sometimes to revel in creating something in materials where i understand their nature, sometimes in order TO understand their nature. to work with it and around it and feel my gift flowing through me and put something somewhere because 'that's just where it goes'. perhaps that's also why i'm drawn to plants and animals and all the other life around me. i can understand and work with and change all the lifeless objects around me to suit myself, i can never force a plant to grow or my cat to be happy and playful or the birds to come to my feeder. they will act according to their natures and i cannot control a thing about them. they create the world around me as much as i do and when i revel in their beauty i am also appreciating my own gifts and understanding. our talents are the goddess's gift to us. what we do with them are our gift to her.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

inspiring poem from somewhere or other

Dies Slowly by Pablo Neruda

Dies slowly he who transforms himself in slave of habit,
repeating every day the same itineraries,
who does not change brand,
does not risk to wear a new color and doesn't talk to whom doesn't know.

Dies slowly he who avoids a passion,
who prefers black to white
and the dots on the "i" to a whirlpool of emotions,
just those ones that recover the gleam from the eyes,
smiles from the yawns,
hearts from the stumbling and feelings.

Dies slowly he who does not overthrow the table when is unhappy at work,
who does not risk the certain for the uncertain
to go toward that dream that is keeping him awake.

Who does not allow, at least one time in life, to flee from sensate advises.

Dies slowly he who does not travel, does not read,
does not listen to music, who does not find grace in himself.

Dies slowly he who destroys his self love,
who does not accept somebody's help.

Dies slowly he who passes his days complaining of his bad luck or the incessant rain.

Dies slowly he who abandons a project before starting it,
who does not ask over a subject that does not know
or who does not answer when being asked about something he knows.

Dies slowly he who does not share his emotions, joys and sadness,
who does not trust, who does not even try.

Dies slowly he who does not relive his memories
and continues getting emotional as if living them at that moment.

Dies slowly he who does not intent excelling,
who does not learn from the stones of the road of life,
who does not love and let somebody love.

Let's avoid death in soft quotes,
remembering always that to be alive demands an effort much bigger
that the simple fact of breathing.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

what is this inner child thing?

sounds like a whole lot of psychobabble to me. the idea that we were frozen at the time of our childhood trauma and have remained buried and frozen at that age and with that unresolved pain even as the rest of our minds grew up. i would say "ya, and homeopathy is real" except that A)homeopathy seems to be the only thing that works for my cat and B)EVERYONE who has ever gone through healing from childhood sexual abuse agrees that it is so. huh. ok then, how does one fix this? i've been asking myself that for some time now and i think i might have the beginning glimmerings of a clue after last night. i couldn't sleep and i'm not getting any so i thought i'd masturbate and maybe then i could sleep, right? until my subconscious decided that my normal "well that was disappointing, i wonder if i'll ever have sex with anyone else again" thoughts warranted losing it and bawling my eyes out for no reason i could figure out. very odd sensation to not know why i was suddenly so incredibly heart broken but not being able to stop my body from responding. it was like i was watching myself have a nervous breakdown from some corner of my forehead that was unaffected for some reason. as this went on and on i decided to just go with it and observe, and i started seeing all this stuff come up. all these negative self-hate tapes i'm usually pretty good at shutting off now. and it started feeling distinctly like there were two me's. the adult me who was bemusedly wondering what all this was about and about a 12 year old me who was howling out her pain that she was unloved and unwanted and hurt all the time. how she felt her body belonged to someone else since other people use it and abuse it to their own purposes and it wasn't a safe place to live so she was numb most of the time. how she felt trapped in that body and hated to have anyone touch her for any reason. how she didn't believe that anyone could ever help her or love her. how she wanted to die. how no one ever heard her. strangely i found my hand stroking my own hair of it's own accord and physically flinched as the twelve (maybe twelve?) year old violently pulled away from anyone touching her or trying to comfort her, telling me comfort of any kind is just the lies people tell you so they can hurt you more. i felt like i was betraying her when i had to force myself out of bed to go read and break out of my head space so i could sleep sometime before work. i didn't know how to say "we have to go to bed now, please calm down" without sounding like every other adult who had ever dismissed her feelings and told her in so many words she was not allowed to be angry or sad or scared. i think i should pursue this further. going to go find the chapter on this in courage to heal.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

on feminism and periods

i find it this rather entertaining. at the same time i find it equally entertaining that the only difference between these and regular kotex products is the packaging (neon colours!) the price ($5 more!) and them making fun of themselves. at the same time, though, they have the traditional (read:cliche) ads happening in Australia with different packaging (black!)

so clearly the only thing that's changed is someone a little smarter works in the advertising department. i don't worry about the whole issue myself since i take birth control without a break (more on that in another post), and i do approve of busting the retarded decades-old ad styles and shame game, but i do think somewhere they missed the fucking point. there is absolutely no reason to use disposable period products of any kind. women have been using cloth and sponges for hundreds of thousands of years and had less medical problems from it. moreover i think the "change the packaging so no one knows it's a tampon and then seem hip by making fun of our old image" is rather insidious and neatly sidesteps the main issue of menstruation being a taboo topic of conversation. our history books have gone so far as to make it seem we're really nice and modern and tolerant now since "we used to make bleeding women stay in their own tent or building since they were considered unclean". this is another of those cases of history is written by the victors and just because it could be worse doesn't make the present better. those history books fail to mention the rich sisterhood that existed in that seclusion time. the time honored traditions passed from mother to daughter, the gentle time of rest and celebration. this was not a tradition of men screaming "EEEEW! BLOOD! throw her over there, out of sight!" this was a voluntary ancient tradition of female power and wisdom which the men who wrote the history books were so terrified of they twisted it out of all recognition. even if any of that "history" were true it would not excuse our current society's attitude towards healthy women of a childbearing age (which really is rather "EEEEW BLOOD!"). if we want to really take feminine power back where it belongs, it begins with owning our bodies. it begins with handling the hygiene of blood the same way we view any other body fluid: it's a fact of life. it's as gross or clean as you want to think it is. there is certainly no need to fill our landfills with disposable products that are harmful in their production, use, and decomposition. you want to do something really radically feminist? trade your tampons for a diva cup and your plastic pads for cloth ones you throw in the washer with the towels. stop blushing and averting your eyes when people talk about vaginas and bleeding therein. refuse to accept people implying you are not to be taken seriously due to pms or hormones and demand the respect you deserve as a competent adult human with valid emotions and thoughts. and most importantly: teach your daughters and sisters and mothers the same.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

craving passion

i actually dreamed last night. that's very rare in itself but even more rare was that it wasn't a horrible nightmare of the chased-by-a-serial-killer variety. it was a rather sweet scene of a first kiss with someone i know that i'm mildly attracted to in real life. as much as my sex drive feels like it has been taken out back and beaten to death, i do find myself finally craving tenderness and intimacy again. i often get this way when i'm single and i'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse since it has lead me to poor decisions in the past. i find myself desperately wanting to really FEEL something. i find my days to be generally...beige. i'm not doing much of anything, i'm not even trying for much of anything. i certainly don't feel anything other then boredom for the most part. as much as i know just how deeply it can cut i find myself craving a romance of some kind just for the distraction of feeling alive. as much as it can hurt like your dying, at least it's better then feeling nothing. that's the worst of the singledom for me, i feel dead inside. i want to LIVE. i crave the glorious highs and horrible lows. i feel like i'm locked in stasis and wasting my youth, too scared to do anything. that's not really true of course. to be honest i haven't been really attracted to anyone in some two or three years. i don't know if that's because i haven't bothered to meet anyone new or because i have cut myself off from the possibility. oh whatever. i will resolve to meet my need for emotion through striving to grow as a person and little adventures like rock climbing and camping. chasing after romance for it's own sake has never done anyone any good. i'm more then half resolved that i've had my last relationship and sexual experience ever anyways, best not to dwell.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

post consult

talked to the plastic surgeon today, he's a pretty serious guy (not a bad thing) with a limp handshake (not a good thing). thinks i'm a good candidate and i feel ok about him. sadly he doesn't do before/after pics but he has been doing this for over 20 years so that's good. wait time is way less then i expected, probably less then 6 months. this is all happening very quickly and i don't know if i'm more happy or scared. consoling myself that i can always freak out and change my mind right up until the surgery. guess i better get my head on straight and come to terms with this a lot faster then i thought *deep breath*

Friday, May 21, 2010

photographer i like

very interesting artist i found on the etsy blog: her name is sally mann and she's a photographer. best known for a controversial set she took of her own kids. very moving images and also very interesting perspective since this was featured for mother's day on the premise that mothers see the intimate moments in childhood; when their children are lonely or sick or hurt or angry. knowing and trusting someone is not measured by how you are at your best, it's how you are at your worst. anyway, check her work out here

stuff and things

so stuff. i don't know what i was trying to do with my days off but apparently i'm not doing it. instead i'm hanging out and sleeping and listening to this song because it's randomly stuck in my head. i think my b12 vitamins are helping stabilize my moods. strangely that feels weird and wrong. much as i really hate feeling crappy all the time i've gotten very used to it. neutral to ok doesn't feel authentic in any way. see how i feel in a few weeks or months i guess. try to get actual sleep since that helps a lot too. much as it means i can't have a life at all and i have to run all my errands and do all my cleaning on my days off, i'm not as miserable on night shift so i'll do that for a while too. things. and more stuff.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

oh zen.

you bring me peace. i am neither a Buddhist nor a Taoist but i love reading zen quotes. they center me and draw me out of myself and give me perspective. i find there's something very impressive about a philosophy which you don't have to believe in or even agree with to have it improve your life, if only by making you examine it.
read some quotes and say ooooommmmmmm

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

zomfg man!

aah parkour. the art of being both a gymnist and a street kid at the same time. this guy is fucking amazing. i wonder how many bones he breaks? i only wish i was this athletic and coordinated, maybe i'd hurt myself less while, you know, walking.

Monday, May 10, 2010

i r in urban dictionary

hey hey! i couldn't believe urban dictionary didn't have the definition of sundowner (or at least the one i was using), considering medical personnel have been using it for at least 20 years to describe people who go nutso after dark. that's been mostly me lately. i posted the definition and it should be found here in a few days, hehe.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

operation greek dinner party

it's finally nice out and i have to (grudgingly) admit that the patio furniture the evil landlord picked isn't bad. i've been craving greek food and the places around here suck lately. i wanted a greek variety platter type thing but that means making many different dishes and while leftovers are good it would be nice to share with a few friends while everything is fresh. the good part is that most greek food is really simple and can be made in advance therefore the menu will be:
tyropita triangles
mushroom triangles
spanikopita pie
fresh tatziki
fresh hummus with sun-dried tomatoes
pita bread
greek salad
lemon potatoes
kalimatas for nibbles
which is a lot of projects so i'll be making the mushroom and tyropita triangles in advance and freezing them, buying the pita bread pre-made, making the hummus and tatziki a couple days ahead of time and the greek salad the day before. this way we can have a feast and i'll only have to throw together the spanikopita pie (15 min prep), the sangria (10 min prep), and the lemon potatoes (15 min prep) on the day of and throw various things in the oven at the right times. i've made all of these before and i don't think any of them have more then 6 ingredients or take more then 15 min prep. wish me luck! i think i need platters of some kind. i haven't enough dishes to bring this all outside and still have plates to eat on. hmmmm...

well i acquired platters and more bowls and cups. unfortunately i have not acquired anyone remotely interested. two people said "i might stop by" and another said "yes! we'll talk later" and never did. i'm also several days behind in prep. something tells me this is not happening. i have all the ingredients so i guess i'll break it up into several meals and eat it alone over several days.

well it did happen, sort of. it was four of us, including myself, my roommate, my neighbor, and my friend who was over an hour late. the food was fantastic (if i do say so myself) considering i threw almost all of it together the night before. sometimes the measure-nothing-and-chill-the-hell-out school of cooking works best. afterwards another friend came by and we watched rocky horror picture show. it scares me that i remembered more callbacks then the resident expert in our group this time around.

hmmm, mothers day.

not having real parents, i always have mixed feelings on mother's and father's day. on one hand i don't have to deal with the hallmark-ness and arranging for outings or gifts or such. on the other hand i'm acutely reminded of not having parents to care about or who care about me. since the only mother i acknowledge is my goddess i think today is a good day to thank her for all the wonderful gifts and blessings she's given me. now i shall go find a tree to hug.

this song touches me on many levels, some good, some bad

Thursday, May 6, 2010

stuff i'm doing: the jungle

in the absence of being able to get into therapy for some months (stupid lack of government funding) i'm channeling my energy into redecorating my horrible apartment. not sure how i came to that conclusion but it's a good distraction. my phone has a piece of crap camera so no pics yet but we're going for a jungle theme in the living room and carrying the natural, foresty theme throughout the house. we have discovered that our apartment does not have enough light to sustain real pants so i'm contenting myself with silks for the time being. bringing home the 6 foot tree on the bus was loads of fun. i was telling people i'm taking my tree for a walk. it's amusing to see the generational gap when you do things like that; everyone over 30 was staring at me like i was an alien taking a crap in public, everyone under 30 was smiling at me conspiratorially (you're doing something fun and unusual and i've done similar). i also did a nice tropical painting and stitched a bunch of fake grass panels together to make a throw rug. the rug was supposed to be a bath mat but after testing it was judged too lumpy for bare feet so it's now a welcome mat instead. i picked up several inexpensive silk hanging vines which i painted the pots of. i also raided the dollar stores for realistic looking fake birds and butterflies to go on the plants and bouquet of tropical flowers. this all sounds like it will be full of plastic and old lady aesthetic but it's actually coming along quite organically. you'll see when i acquire a camera. a trip to ikea the other day yielded a couple of nice carpets, a new shoe basket, and some scented candles. next cheque i'll be getting a 6 foot palm to go in the other corner of the living room and maybe the big bamboo from micheal's which needs to live in my bedroom. i'm looking forward to my string of orchid fairy lights arriving from etsy as well. i think this is becoming a bit obsessive though and don't know what i'll do with myself when i really have done all i can to my house. luckily this is a time consuming and expensive process and will hopefully be dragged out until i find another distraction

update: we got the 6 foot palm today and i LOVE it! i want to get two of the 4 foot ones to keep him company and the hunt for green sheets to cover the walls continues (why on earth it's this hard i have no idea). we got some lovely moss green curtains and i think i want another set for my bedroom. $30 for the longer ones isn't bad at all. we also need to swap the dark red (stained and old) tablecloth on the coffee table for something blue and purple. maybe a swirly or paisley pattern. i think i'll need to raid dressew for cheep fabric since the sheet hunt is failing. so. next cheque will be two smaller palms ($35 each), a bunch more bamboo mats for the walls ($1-2 each at the dollar store) and some cheep fabric from dressew. it's starting to look really nice in here. once we have the green and blue flood lights, the waterfall fountain, another fog machine, and maybe some cheep wall decals off etsy this place will look amazing. and i'm fairly certain i'll have done all of this for under a grand over a few months. i think i'm getting good at this! maybe i should add interior design to the list of jobs i want to try in my lifetime.

finally got another palm and set of green curtains for my bedroom. better yet i have some pictures of my favorite completed bits! note how i carefully cropped everything ugly out of the photo. i've learned how to make my peace with the terminally messy house: it's just like a forest, it's too alive to be perfect. the lights from etsy never arrived (long story) so i made my own and i think they're way prettier then the etsy ones anyways. the pics are all at the top for some reason, i'm too tired to deal with this nightmare of a program right now, i'll sort it out later

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

on procrastination

so the apathy and depression bugs creep up on me insidiously on a regular basis. i seem to have developed this strange way of procrastinating which involves me setting myself goals, chosen from my to-do list and then somehow managing to do everything but those things. i can't entirely say i did nothing but at the same time i did nothing that i set out to do. this frustrates me. my goal for today is to clean the kitchen. it's disgusting and i can't move in there and i need to cook a lot tomorrow if the dinner party is going to happen. i know that it is never as bad as i think it will be. it never takes as long as i think it will while staring at all those dishes and it never bothers me that much while i'm doing them (as long as i remember actively to not resent the process). for some unknown reason, instead today i have bagged up all the recycling, tidied up a bit, did ALL the laundry, started the yogurt draining for the tatziki, make popsicles with the leftover strawberries before they went bad, and repotted a plant. granted i don't have to go to bed anytime soon and i'm currently drinking my second cup of coffee to try to motivate myself but WHY is it that whatever is the most important task for the day, that is the thing i will avoid by doing everything else i can possibly justify? even more irritating, when i don't give in to this and i do the most important thing first (you know, like a sane person) i feel almost no satisfaction from it. i am a strange little creature. i think i better force myself to get out of the house tomorrow and run my errands first and then forbid myself from turning on the computer or tv for anything but music until the rest of my crap is finished. maybe that will work better.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

living out of my body

survivors often split. we cut ourselves off from our bodies. they say some yogi masters spend years trying to have out of body experiences. i'd like to live in an IN body experience. as a child i did not have the capacity to deal with the physical and emotional pain of what was happening to me. i could not have gone to kindergarten and learned to read and play and act like other children if i had been fully experiencing the reality of my situation. it would have driven me insane. as a survival tactic i learned to not feel my body. i lived in my chest or in my head and was numb to a greater or lesser degree from before i can remember till the last few years. occasionally now i can be in my body and feel what's really happening. not often. not when anything threatening is happening. not when i feel in any way unwell or insecure. i still don't call my body home. i'm more aware of it now. it's like being anesthetized. like having an epidural or your face frozen at the dentist and being afraid you'll hurt yourself by accident because you are not fully in control of your limbs. i don't feel hunger until my blood sugar is so low i'm trembling and dizzy. then of course i don't feel secure so i'm all up in my head and honestly can't feel my legs whatsoever. i go down a flight of stairs and i cling to the railing and stare at my feet trying to will them to go where i say and not topple me to my death. i stop concentrating for a moment and i lose my balance and panic. i try to know myself through masturbating mindfully and find i can't stay present while touching anything more then my own shoulder. i don't feel pain the way everyone else does. i feel a nagging annoyance until it's suddenly unbearable. i don't know i'm tired until i can't focus on reading or keep my eyes open anymore and then i lie staring at the wall with every muscle tensed waiting for...what? i don't remember enough to work through it and i don't know how to. and i'm so very afraid to remember alone yet i can't possibly imagine being comfortable going through the darkest places with anyone else. accepting help and comfort feel repulsive and like i'm a failure who couldn't do it myself. so where the hell does that leave me?

why i feed my cats raw meat

i am a vegetarian. my cats are not. having natural predators for roommates and children poses interesting moral dilemmas for an animal rights activist. on the one hand i object to supporting the meat industry because i disagree with the way they treat the animals before and after their deaths. the concept of eating meat makes me a little nauseous but eating cat kibble would make me feel the same way. i really hate buying meat. i hate touching it, smelling it, trying hard not to think about the fact that this is a corpse of a living creature that thought and felt and did not have a happy life and now i'm chopping it up.
i also love my cats to the ends of the earth. they are my children and i want what is best for them. our vet suggested raw food to try to treat spook's bladder disease. after some 10 foods and 12 medications and nothing helping i was willing to try just about anything. even touching dead bodies. even homeopathy (i'm an herbal healer and even i think homeopathy is crap but it's working so i don't care why). after some research on how best to go about this i came across a lot of interesting studies on how much generally healthier cats were on raw food (i.e. REAL food) instead of kibble or packaged wet food. it makes a lot of sense. cats have only been domesticated a few thousand years. from an evolutionary standpoint that is nothing. their digestive systems are still very similar to small wild cats. have you ever read the ingredient label on cat food? 99% of them have some form of grain or carb as the first ingredient. that means they have more grain then anything else. what cat, in the wild, eats carbs? do you see lions raiding farmers fields and eating all the corn and rice? leopards digging up potatoes? cats are predators. they eat meat. the only grain or veggies they would naturally eat would be the stomach contents of their prey (maybe 1% of their diet?). as such their digestive systems were designed to live on this. we have this weird notion that cats should eat like humans and get their veggies and brown rice and such. cats need carbs like humans need fat; as the smallest component of their diet. giving your cat a bowl of kibble is pretty much the equivalent of eating a bowl of mayonnaise for dinner. your vet saying they should eat the prescription kibble? have you checked those labels? they're not much different from no-name stuff. that's like a doctor saying you should eat vitamin fortified mac and cheese for the rest of your life. it doesn't make good sense. drying or cooking the meat degrades it of a lot of the nutrients cats need. their systems were designed to handle eating scavenged, several day old kills. a little salmonella is not going to hold up under that immune system. as long as your meat isn't infected with parasites it really is the best thing for them. wet food has vitamins added so i do mix in a bit of it with the rest of their diet but it's made from the worst quality floor scraping meat and fillers possible. i think my children deserve better.
as much as i feel for the animals on feed lots, as much as i think the system is evil and wrong, i care about my cats welfare more. when it comes down to a choice my loyalty lies with those i have known and loved. i can only try to limit my impact by buying ethically raised eggs, meat, and milk, and be grateful that my cat is healthier on this diet then he's been in the last 5 years.

on perspective

oh several notes on paradigm shifts. one, my incredibly irritating customers who FREAK RIGHT OUT because their tv doesn't work for a few days. normally i would be compelled to tell them to go outside before your brain dribbles out your ears but one the other day one actually said "this is my worst fear, that the tv wont work! really, it's THE most important thing. i MUST have the tv working for the hockey game!" which both makes me feel very sorry for them, that they have nothing else of worth in their life (i have no idea when the hockey game is on and i survive just fine), and really it was all i could do not to verbally shake them with "wow, that's you worst fear? really? that must be so nice! can you teach me how to live that way?" i really really need to get away from this job before it destroys whatever is left of my faith in humanity.

favorite book quote of the day: 'a family in my sister's neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. when catherine told me about this, i could only say, shocked, "dear god, that family needs grace." she replied firmly, "that family needs casseroles," and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. i do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.'
which very much sums up my worldview on many subjects. these recent campaigns for awareness drive me absolutely mental because they make it seem like they are fixing the problem. they aren't. awareness of any issue is only the smallest first step. you have to actually do something about it to make any kind of difference. i don't object to raising awareness on subjects that need attention. i have a problem with making a huge hoopla about AWARENESS to the exclusion of actually fixing the fucking problem. i have an issue with campaigns that stop there. that take all the funding and effort that could be put to good use instead being spent on ribbons and walk-a-thons and other stupid shit instead of paying the doctors or researchers or therapists, changing curriculums, otherwise actually helping the people who really do need help instead of squandering money and time and effort trying to make the rest of the public understand that a problem exists. stop trying to figure out who's fault it is. stop trying to make the rest of the entire world hear you. focus on what's really important: what can you do now? today. this minute. right now is all we have. how do you want to spend your energy?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

on our reaction to emotions

as a culture we are uncomfortable with strong emotion of any kind. anger, sadness, even excitement and joy. we are taught to be quiet, to calm down, to take a deep breath and above all *control ourselves*. i think by doing so we rob ourselves and each other of the vitality of being alive. to fully feel an emotion we must and should express it. this is what makes us human and alive. even the most well meaning of friends cannot simply let you feel. they need to step in, to intervene, to fix it. there is nothing to be fixed. when we cry or yell or laugh for pure joy we are doing exactly what we were designed to do. sometimes you want to feel better, to have someone's shoulder to cry on and a hug from a close friend. sometimes that is the last thing we need. there is nothing wrong with feeling strongly and expressing it. we have somehow created a culture where it is not considered ok to do so, even in the privacy of our own homes, even around our closest friends and family. we are robbed of our humanity and crippled from fully living by this belief and attitude and i think we are wrong to continue it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

on humans vs. nature

we are the only species which makes a differentiation between nature and ourselves and what we have created. i think that separation in itself is a lot of our problem. it's not just what we do to the planet, it's the way we see ourselves as not a part of her. we see all other living things as a part of a whole but we are not? what makes us so "special"? our being capable of things which other species are not just means we have a responsibility to use that power carefully. just be cause we CAN do all manner of things a tree or a lion or a spider cannot, doesn't mean we SHOULD. we used to know this. when we were still a people who relied on the whims of nature and the fortune of a mild winter or a good hunt to survive we understood that we are not different from the food we eat or the land we walk. we are not special and this world was not created for us or as a personal playground to protect or destroy as it suits us. it is remarkably arrogant that we even have the word "nature" or "natural" as opposed to man-made. that implies that anything we create or change is somehow more or less or not the same as that which grew and evolved and changed without our touching it. because we ARE nature as much as the rest of the world we should be mindful of this and have the things we touch and change and build be worthy of that definition.

gebus bloody christ on a bicycle!

so my cat almost died this morning. i was woken by my roommate yelling that he needed me NOW and ran to the living room to find spook limp and glassy-eyed with bloody foam draining from his mouth. turns out he was eating so quickly he failed to chew a large piece of meat and got it well and truly lodged in his windpipe. aaron managed to pull it out and get him breathing again and took a nice puncture wound to his finger in the process (reflexive bite urge). the blood was only from aaron and he was breathing again by the time i checked him over. took him a few min to come to and get up, vomit the rest of his breakfast and get his bearings. he's ok but he's really clingy now and obviously very scared. thank god for having two first aid attendants in the house or we would have lost a very beloved member of the family today. what a way to start beltane!

Friday, April 30, 2010

changing professions

so i currently do tech support for shaw, where i am treated like a stack of numbers and spend my day being told to do things that are not my job while they take away are tools to do so. i tell idiots how to make their televisions and porn work and if i succeed they get to rot their brains. i hate the very concept that my job exists and believe i am actively harming society every day i go to work, yet i do it because it pays the fucking bills. this is a whole new level of job dissatisfaction.
enter what i want to do, which is healing. i already do a fair amount of it instinctively, i can't help it really. i am already a trained (if new) doula and ofa 3 first aid attendant and i have a pretty solid base on my own in aromatherapy and herbal healing as well as many years of energy healing and counseling (which is ironic since i can't find a therapist for myself). i would really like to make my living doing what i love: healing and art of various types. this is not an easy transition. most, if not all of these are self employed professions, which is part of why i like them. it also means trying to slowly start doing more of my own stuff and eventually making the leap and leaving my day job. that's really scary but it would be less so if my day job wasn't so soul sucking and/or allowed me to cut back my hours gradually (32 hour/week min if i want my job, and they call it part time?). at the same time i feel that if i had a day job i didn't hate as much i might be comfortable staying there longer and not taking those steps to what i really want. and on the other hand (you have more fingers, yes i have three hands here) maybe if i was generally happier it would be easier to reach my goals since attitude is really important in such things. i don't know anymore and sometimes i think i'm just making excuses for feeling like a failure and demeaning myself by working for *shudder* those people. i get through my more stressful days by remembering that i am better then that place and it is beneath my dignity as a healer to care what any of them think.

the beltane indulgence

i suppose it's officially tomorrow since it's 1am. i've discovered that most formal rituals in this group lack the solemnity or power to feel meaningful so i've taken to doing more like western family holidays with food and merriment among loved ones. course being pagan our holidays and traditions are different from others. beltane being the fertility festival of early spring we are reveling in sensuality with lovely food and massages. i'm hoping it doesn't end up so drunken that embarrassing hijinks will ensue but i do have red wine to go with the good cheese and chocolate, rose wine because everyone likes it, champagne for mimosas, and we created an evil concoction of lavender lemonade and vanilla vodka that tastes like liquid summer so we just HAVE to make a pitcher of that. i'm going to try to compensate by getting smaller bottles of red and champagne. course i am also tempting fate by having fruit with a bowl of whipped cream to dip which often becomes licking cream off fingers instead. i'm hoping i'll be in a good enough head space that i can accept a massage from someone. i desperately need one, my back and shoulders hurt so much. i get in this vicious circle where i'm depressed so i don't let anyone within 3 feet of me, so i get touch starved and more depressed. well anyway i can probably handle the hot rocks as that's less contact but plenty of people seem to have been invited that i wasn't expecting so we'll see how i feel. the plan is to pile all the pillows and blankets in the house onto the living room floor, pile food on the table, put on the zen cd or sound machine and neroli in the nebulizer and chill out with conversation and massages. oh i hope this goes well!

oh for fuck sakes. i should not have to tell people that if me or my roommate did not invite you, you are not invited. if i had wanted you there i would have asked. drama should never be a part of a chill holiday. it's a sensual event where we will be drinking and trading massages. i WILL NOT have people there that make me uncomfortable participating in my own event in my own house.

well overall it went ok. nobody got insanely drunk and embarrassed themselves. i didn't sink too far into depression, and no one unwanted showed up. silly disorganized impromptu ritual was fun and there was much merriment had by all. sleep deprivation made me very cranky this morning but everything has a price. didn't manage to let anyone within 3 feet of me for a massage but i wasn't really expecting to be able to.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

fresh greek foccacia bread

difficulty level: Rrrrgh . . . . Burns . . . .
i've been making this foccacia with just lots of dried herbs and sometimes cheese for years. this is the recipe that taught me to make bread, through much less trial and error then my previous attempts. i really think the best way to learn to make bread is by standing next to someone who does it but i didn't know anyone who did it. there's something about the time honored tradition and the way it makes the house smell. the history of child learning from mother or aunt over hundreds of generations. the warm silken pliancy of the dough, like shaping flesh with alchemy and massaging it into a healthy whole. anyway, this time it's all about the fresh beautiful ingredients and i think it's going to turn out lovely. it's rising now

fresh greek foccacia bread:
3 1/2 cups flour + more for kneeding
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped kalimata olives
3/4 cup light goat cheese, crumbled
2 Tbs fresh chopped dill
2 Tbs fresh chopped basil
1 head roasted garlic
1 1/2 Tbs instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil + a few spoonfuls for coating
-if you don't keep roasted garlic around you can easily make it by trimming off the top of a whole garlic bulb, just enough to expose the cloves, make a little cup around it with a 6 inch piece of tin foil, drizzle a spoonful or two of olive oil into the exposed cloves, wrap it up and bake at 375f for some 45 min or until soft. it makes the house smell so good and makes it so easy to add lovely healthy garlic to everything i often keep a head in the fridge. just squeeze out of the skin and you can do whatever with it.
-mix yeast, sugar, and water, set aside till it starts bubbling suspiciously. if your yeast is really fresh keep an eye on it or it will bubble over, you want it to just start bubbling so all that rising power goes into the bread itself. btw, yeast should be kept in the fridge in an airtight container once opened and not for more then 3 months or it wont rise properly anymore. i'm testing what happens with longer term storage in the freezer.
-mix the flour with the herbs, olives, cheese, garlic, and salt in a big bowl
-add the yeast mixture and the oil to the flour mix and stir till a soft dough forms. it'll be really sticky at first but that's ok. try to keep it mostly in a lump and not on your hands. sprinkle with a few handfuls of flour and kneed until it's pliable and elastic but still soft.
-let rise in a warm place, covered with a clean towel until doubled in size (about 45 min to an hour) if my house is cold i sometimes turn the oven knob just until the burner clicks on-not even to 170f which is our lowest, let it heat while i kneed the dough and clean up and then turn it off before putting the bowl (totally wrapped in a towel in case the racks are too hot for the plastic) in the oven and leaving the door closed to keep warm. i've also had good results with setting the bowl on the burner the oven vents out of with the oven on a low setting and a pot holder under the bowl but then my cats can get into it.
-once it's risen punch down the dough and kneed a little more, you might need to add a bit more flour to keep it workable and not too sticky but don't add so much that it becomes hard to kneed. it takes some practice to get the feel for the texture thing but this is a fairly forgiving recipe so don't worry about it too much
-divide in two and form into two smooth, round loaves about 1 inch thick, coat in a bit more olive oil and place on a greased cookie sheet, remember that they'll double in size again so give them room to expand. if you want you can freeze the dough at this point and when you thaw in the fridge it will do it's second rise at the same time
-let rise to double the size again, be aware that the second rise sometimes goes a lot faster then the first and heavily over-proofed bread ends up with large air pockets that collapse after baking.
-bake at 325f for 30 min or so or until it sounds hollow when tapped gently. if it's getting too brown turn the temp down to 310f. when done they should be just golden.
-let cool for 15 min or until you can handle easily. if you want a soft crust instead of a crispy one you can brush with a bit more oil after baking. this is a very soft bread so use a serrated knife to cut (ala sawing) and try not to press down too hard or you'll crush it,
-serve with butter or a shallow dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

i wasn't paying attention and over proofed them a bit on the second rise. this turned out fluffy and soft and lovely. the goat cheese flavor gets lost a bit, next time i might leave it in bigger chunks or lightly kneed it in just before forming the loaves. would have been great with fresh oregano but i couldn't get any. overall i definitely call this a win. could also have added more olives, more herbs, and maybe some feta. this was mild, fresh and decadent.