small sick self

Those looking for coherency should turn back now.

I have had sewing and meditation posts rattling around in my brain for a couple of days but I can't write them, I can't write or do much of anything because of my 100+ degree fever. And that's with regular tylenol and ibuprofen. I did the typical 'why am I crying' thing? which always happens when I have a fever.

I am just amazed how illness can be like putting blinkers vision, my world seems to have narrowed to just the aching of my limbs. I feel badly about all the stuff I wanted to do and can't but at the same time I am too sick to care. I keep trying to gently accept my poor sick self where it is and then widen my view but it's not working too well.

ah well. I will attempt to shower today.

picking a pattern and falling for fabric

So the first step on the 'sewing the new dress journey' was finding a pattern. I haven't gone pattern shopping since I was a child with my mother and I was amazed to find the process hasn't really changed. You leaf through these large books of pictures, get the number of a pattern and go to the drawer and see if they have it in stock. It was almost comforting the way it reminded me of excursions with my mum. However it was very much self serve, in my memory there were always at least a half dozen ladies working the pattern counter who could tell you anything and everything about each pattern. Seems like those saleswomen have vanished.

After an overwhelming hour I had found two dress patterns that were billed to be simple and were made to take light summer-weight fabrics. Their regular prices were 16.95 and 15.95, that had certainly changed since I was young. Since they were on sale for .99 each I bought both and left feeling like I had done a lot. I found picking out a pattern exhausting. Still it was done and they both met with my wife's approval as easy, reasonable patterns for a beginner.

A couple of days later I went to a huge warehouse of discounted fabric and started the search. My friend who is also a non-sewing child of a sewer accompanied me for support. This was even more overwhelming than finding a pattern. The huge place was hushed, the fabric absorbing all sound. We yanked out intriguing bolts and fondled many fabrics. Then we stopped by the silks and I fell in love. Naturally with one of the most expensive fabrics on the shelf. An iridescent silk dupioni, [red and olive] with lovely drape and embroidered with red fleur de lis. My brain shut down, I loved the material and I was not going to pay hundreds of dollars for it. There was no way I could sew a dress made out of that even if I could afford it. I decided to retreat for the evening before my head exploded. I was glad to get out of there.

Part of me was ready to not sew anything, ever.

missing my bike

As soon as I wrote post's title I realized it could be taken in two ways.

I do miss my bike, the one that was stolen last summer. It's been over 6 months and because I spent so much time running I never did replace it or decide exactly what I was going to do about having a bike. I rode my wife's the few times I needed to get somewhere.

Now we have snow on snow here and for the past week or so I have been missing biking. Even though I don't winter bike normally, still I am just missing it. The activity itself.

I tried out the super quick ignition cycle class on my lunch break today and that was nice [and a great work out], but in a way it made me miss biking more. I guess it's more than biking. I miss being outdoors and sunshine and clear streets and smells of vegetation.

Oh well Imbolc is next week which means spring is coming and soon it will be clear biking weather. Until then I'll keep doing spin.

new challenge

I have spent most of the week pondering a new challenge [and not blogging] Now that the decision has been made I am petrified but have the mental space to share about it.

Like so many of life's challenges I am acutely aware this would not be a big deal to many, many people. My eldest sister, mother, wife, mother-in-law included. But for me it is a huge thing, one where all my perfectionism can come and play with every body image issue. Delightful.

For all that I am going to do it. I am sewing my own dress for the next Playford ball. I hasten to add that my wife is guiding me through this process as well as teaching me how to run a sewing machine. I have used a sewing machine about 3 times in my life and it's been over 15 years since the last time. Also my mil has volunteered her vast expertise, luckily she will be up visiting mid February, right in time to help me lay out and cut the silk.

So tomorrow: adventures buying pattern and fabric.

Is it a good thing that bread cools quickly?

I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not. Most people agree that fresh bread, hot from the oven, is delectable [and that it is very easy to gorge eat too much of it]

But it is such a tiny window of time, you remove your fresh bread*, cool it just enough so that you can cut it and then bliss. Bliss with butter and agave nectar.

Within a quarter of an hours it has cooled to nice home-made bread, but for me at least it is no longer bliss inducing. For those 15 minutes I find myself really wishing I could eat all the bread and feeling grateful that I can't possible do that**.

Also I like to think I am not overly suggestible but when you are standing next to a group of people in English County dancing who are all talking about the fresh bread they made that weekend well ....before you know it your mouth is watering and you are thinking that baking bread is a fine way to spend part of your day off. At least if you are me. I'm just glad they weren't talking about the cool bridge they were planning on jumping that weekend.

The bread is now cool and resistible at this point. Still can't decide if that is a good thing.

*there is no recipe here, any soft dough made with milk, eggs, yeast, flour, salt and slathered with cinnamon, agave nectar and butter will give you the same experience. Only you can decide if you want to do this to yourself.

**those with large households, if they are all present when the bread comes out of the oven, could probably see the entire batch disappear with ease in 15 minutes.

Accepting regret

In the spirit of noticing my human patterns I bring you my incoherent thoughts on regret and how I am attempting to include my regrets in a field of acceptance. I have a good example of it from last night, which does not have a high emotional charge so it is fairly easy to create some space around it and share.

The second Thursday of the month is resiliency followup. I have been looking forward to it for weeks, I had blocked off the time in my calendar and jealously guarded it from all.

Sometime after lunch on Thursday I realized I was getting a headache. After a bit of typically reaction 'why now?' 'what did I do to cause this?' and so forth I took some deep breaths and tried to sit with the headache a bit at my desk. I tried to notice it in a friendly accepting way although that was a pretty big stretch. I want to get better at self acceptance this year in a radical way and having a headache is a fine area to practice it.

That worked pretty well for me. On my way home I had to stop and get gas for the car and somehow I got gas on me. By the time I got home the smell of gas was making me feel sicker, verging into migraine territory and I knew I wouldn't be making my meeting that night.

I wanted to struggle. I felt deep disappointment but I did my best to bring some acceptance to that feeling. My head/neck were very uncomfortable and I noticed the waves of physical discomfort that I feel with that type of headache. But I didn't suffer.

Somehow I was able to feel my regret and have my headache but I didn't do the things to myself that make it worse. Like blame or berate myself, try to manage or control much, tell myself to feel differently. I just tried over and over to say 'yes' as I lay on the bed with my head on an ice pack. I did it very imperfectly and I said yes to that as well. I dozed and woke up feeling less sick but regretful still, I removed the now warm ice pack and eventually fell into a deeper sleep and when I woke it was morning, the headache was gone and my chance at an RT followup over until February...

and I still felt regret and sadness. I said yes to them again and again as they arose during the morning and I also noticed how impermanent they were. Because I also felt alive and loved by myself, safe I guess. Self acceptance in the end was/is more important to me than my plans.

I wish I had the words to communicate this experience better but they are eluding me completely so I'll just let them stand as is. peace.

Artichoke Dip

It has been pointed out to me that I have never posted my recipe for my artichoke dip and that people would like it please.

So here it is quick and eay. I created it back in 2006, I wanted something lighter than the normal run of dips. It's also very simple, so use the highest quality ingredients you can find/afford. You will taste the difference. I find it goes better with beer than wine...

It can be made a day ahead and baked when you need it.

EB's Artichoke Dip

Mix together:

~3/4 c high quality Mayo
~3/4 c plain Greek yogurt
~3/4 c shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese [not from a can please!]
~2t lemon juice
~salt and red pepper to taste

[It's your call how spicy you want this, you'll have to taste it]

Coarsely and quickly chop up
~2 cans of artichoke hearts [not marinated] and add to the above.

Bake in an oven proof dish in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve with whole wheat baguette slices or crackers and enjoy with friends.
You know, unless you want it all which is understandable.

Winter Vegetables

I feel the need to write about something simple but still be real. Immediately my attempts to get more veggies in my life jumped into my mind.

Winter has ups and downs as far as veggie consumption goes for me. On one hand I love virtually all winter veggies, on the other hand I don't like raw food in the winter so they really need to be cooked.

I have realized that if I cook big bunches of veggies and put them in my fridge we will eat them all week long happily. But I don't do that very often. I wonder where that resistance come from...

This week though I cooked some 'dinosaur' kale, my favorite of the sturdy greens. I saute the chopped leaves in a bit of grapeseed oil [or bacon fat] then braise them until done. Whatever done means to you I guess.

I also cooked up some green cabbage the same way, the only difference being I sauteed the thin slices in peanut oil. I love how that smells with cabbage, it reminds me of Chinese restaurants growing up in Pittsburgh. [the egg rolls I think] The cooked shreds of cabbage can be used in place of pasta for some dishes just for a change.

Then I will turn the oven on, which is good since I am freezing, and roast some sweet potatoes chunks, rubbed with a smidge of olive oil and oregano. I will also bake a squash and a head of steamed cauliflower, rubbed with butter and sprinkled with cheese.

And if the past repeats it will all be eaten within the week. But if I don't do it, if I try to cook them one at a time to go with certain meals, half of them will go bad before I get around to it.

Is anyone successful in cooking veggies along with their meals everyday, managing their pantries so that stuff doesn't go bad? [I just threw out two dessicated turnips and one moldy sweet potato, very sad] If you have a quick and simple winter veg recipe I would love to hear that as well.

I'm off to huddle around the stove. Stay warm.

another friend with a stroke

One of my ritual circle sisters had a stroke this week. The second of my friends in the past six months.

She got medical help immediately, TPA was administered and she is out of the hospital and expected to make a full recovery.

I feel both bewildered and relieved. And very, very grateful. She has asked all friends with an online presence to please remind people everywhere to seek medical help immediately if you suspect a stroke. Every minute counts in this case.

And I will now return to deep breaths and more gratitude.

feeling pain

So much is going on in world it seems. Although I acknowledged that in every age people have said that. But I suppose it can still be true for all that.

Another of my friends had a stroke this week. Sobering news of a shooting in AZ. I could go on of course.

I see people all around me filled with grief and I feel incapable of any coherency in this post but still I feel compelled to write it. Granted with little coherency, read on at your own risk.

I have the normal pain avoidance of my species but I don't want to respond to pain like a mindless automaton. I want to be awake while I live this life. At the same time pain, emotional or physical, hurts and I still have very little awareness of my flinch reaction.

And yet apparently 'all is well', the condition of the universe as these feelings crash around us like tidal waves. I am not awake but I guess I am grateful that I know it.

belated holiday gift

Not for me, but for you all. [that is if you like to cook sweets]

My recipe for Pecan Tassies [Tarts]

Backstory: While planning for xmas eve dinner I puzzled over what to serve for dessert. We were having a large crowd over, some who try to eat healthier and some who just like food to taste good. I was also trying to guess what people would be bringing. I guessed that people would bring cookies and sweets so I didn't want to overload on the dessert side. I was wrong by the way, people brought savories this year. It all worked out though, I had made tassies. These with cookies struck the dessert balance well I think.

Of course I did not create this recipe from scratch, the earliest one I know of is from Better Homes & Gardens magazine, some time in the '50s and they may be older, perhaps as old as pecan pie?

So then what makes mine different? The usual. Alternate flours, other sweeteners, and an overall sweetness level suited to those who can no longer handle hostess products and a 'more the merrier' attitude to fats and richness as opposed to sweetness. I also changed the proportions quite a bit in my version.

I have given two variations below and if you like playing with recipes these should spark about a million more possible variations. Instead of whole wheat flour or teff or spelt you could experiment with your own favorite flour. You could flavor it with bourbon. You could use walnuts instead of pecans. You could also make a one large tart in a pie pan. I remember doing that years ago. Or perhaps you do not have a standard size muffin pan, the recipe may then make more or less tarts for you. It's quite time consuming [especially if you only have one 12 muffin pan like yours truly] but it's not a hard recipe.

If you have some filling left over put it in an ramkin and bake it as an individual pecan pudding.

All your ingredients should be room temperature. Preheat your oven to 325. This makes 24 tassies using a common muffin tin.

Variation #1, a traditional version. [Variation #2, rustic version]

Mix together
-1/2 cup of softened butter
-3 ounces of cream cheese
-1 cup whole wheat pastry flour [or 1/2 cup each, teff flour and ww pastry flour]

Chill for at least an hour so that you can handle the dough.

For the filling mix together thoroughly [I used my mixer]
-2 eggs
-1 T softened butter
-3/4 cup agave nectar
-1/2 cup dark maple syrup [or 1-2T molasses]
-1 t vanilla extract
-pinch of sea salt

Then add 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans and stir. You should also have a small bowl of pecan pieces handy for topping.

Divide your chilled dough into the number of tassies you will be making. Press the dough into the muffin cup making a little tart shell fill with the filling and top with more pecans.

Bake for 25 minutes, turn pan once, until filling is set and tarts are a lovely brown.

Cool in pan before removing carefully to rack. Kept in a tin and cool [and hidden] they will last over a week]


well hello there 2011

The holidays can certainly lead to seriously blog neglect can't they?

Here we are all firmly planted in 2011 and I hope to start getting used to it. The new year seemed to sneak up on me, although I don't quite understand why. Could it be age?

There I was last Friday night out with my wife. [and 100's of other people] Since the weather was predicted to be cruddy and the roads worse we had a brilliant plan for new year's eve that revolved around not having to drive too much.

We had dinner at Pizza Biga, pizza and salad, wine, coffee, etc.
Digression warning: It was good, but why can I never find pizza as good as in Rome? I promise I am not being a food snob here. Pizza is not a complicated dish, and this was cooked in a wood fired oven, high quality yet it lacks something... is it the type of flour? and digression over. Anyway it was still enjoyed a light dinner after holiday indulgences.

Then it was easy to walk half a block to see Lizz Winstead, whose show was extremely funny. We were sitting there in the theatre and I looked at the stage and saw the balloons printed with '2011' and thought, oh my god, it's going to be 2011! in less than 3 hours, what the hell? I had to laugh, somehow I hadn't realized that fact until right then. Thank goodness for those balloons reminding me the year was about to change.

It's been a good year so far. It's time to get ready for the Playford so my legs are readjusting to English Country Dancing [3 hours last night] and Heidi's has reopened! Many reasons to rejoice already.

Today there is a gentle snow falling like a song in the air. It is beautiful. I'm enjoying a day fit for an introvert and testing my pecan tassie recipe for you all again. Fingers crossed it will be fit to share soon.

I hope you all can see some beauty where you are. xo