Thursday, August 23, 2012

food for your blah

when you're down and out it's difficult to think clearly and make good, positive, productive decisions. i was reminded of a time like this the other day when i walked david past a mcdonald's and he said - ooo. perhaps it was a coincidence, he may have seen a dog or a squirrel or any number of other, ooo-inspiring things, but maybe not.

you see, when that big storm hit in early july leaving millions in the dc area without power, we were among them. and damn, it was hot. and damn, i was miserable. and damn, that misery was compounded by the already miserable state i was in (see the only one if you don't know what i'm talking about).

and so i wasn't thinking clearly and i made some desperate decisions and among them was to go to mcdonald's a couple times a day (yep) for food and hot (yep, even in a heat wave) coffee, and ice water (delivered in a thimble) for david. this ended when my mom arrived and whisked david and me off on a stay-cool-cation. but we were several days in by then. so when we passed by the mcdonald's and i heard the excited - ooo - coming from the stroller, my first thought was, ah crap.

and while i really do enjoy fast food from time to time, i know it's blah food. and if you eat it when you're blah it will make you more blah.

so the other day, as david and i continued our walk, i began to question myself: why did i go there so much? why didn't i think of something else? and the answer is that i simply didn't know what else to do. and if i was new and limited in resources today like i was then, but better in spirit, as i am now, i can't say what i would do differently. i suspect i would come up with something. but maybe not.

it's not fair of the me now to be super critical of the me then.

i was in a Dark Place. and here's something i wrote from there.

How to survive the heat-wave of the century w/no power:
1) Drive around in your car a lot. Sure, it's no good for global warming, but it gives you a chance to charge your phone, get the news, cool off, & support that good ol' McDonalds*. 
2) Hopefully you hadn't bothered to deflate your air mattress from the last time you had company. You'll need it! Move into your basement, you know, the one you dub "guest room." Ever stayed in a "guest room" that totally sucked? Here's your chance to give your own a try. Yes, it's 2 flights of stairs from the bathroom, but chances are, you've sweat it all out anyhow. 
3) Make sad, desperate postings on FB. The positive support you receive will validate your misery & that will cheer you up a little bit.
4) Be a little self-righteous. FU radio host & all your crappy advice! Go to a movie? With a 1 year old? Go to the pool? It's not even open! Stay w/a friend? We just moved here. AKA don't have any. Bask in the glory of knowing you would never give such shitty advice. You are better than that idiot & while it doesn't cool you off, it gives you something else to think/complain about.

poor angry helen. the saddest part is that i didn't even have enough paper to finish my thoughts. hence the * that never was explained.

and so,

in the spirit of overcoming blah, i want to share a couple of my recent favorite recipes with you. i'm not a food blogger, but i swear these are really good...

jesse's creamy black-eyed peas 

you will need:
1/2 bag dried black-eyed peas, soaked over night according to the package, drained and rinsed
can of cream of mushroom soup
2 T italian seasoning (or combo of dried parsley, oregano, thyme, and rosemary; go heavy on the parsley)
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
6 dashed of worchestershire sauce
enough stock (chicken, vegetable, whatever) to ensure beans are covered by a 1/2 inch or so

combine, bring to simmer, cook 45 min to 1 hour

serve this over buttered brown rice with a salad. you will be happy. (this can be made vegan by subbing vegan cream of mushroom, vegetable stock, vegan worchestershire sauce, and butter substitute in the rice. easy-peasy.)

helen's best dessert-for-breakfast breakfast

this is a three part breakfast treat consisting of who bread from, whipped cream, and blueberry compote. it sounds more complicated than it is. make your bread ahead of time, snack on it, and then use the left overs for this recipe.

you will need:
a couple thick slices of who bread, toasted, day old is just fine. (this can be made vegan by using a butter substitute and any vegan sweetener for the honey. i used pure cane syrup. it didn't disappoint.)

whipped cream, make your own. it's easy:
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 T powdered sugar
splash of vanilla extract

pour the cream in a large bowl with the beaters from a handheld mixer and stick it in the freezer for 5 minutes. add sugar and vanilla and beat on high speed until thick peaks form. done. (feel free to adjust the sugar. i like my whipped cream on the not-too-sweet side, but it's your choice, go crazy. if you want to make vegan whipped cream, google it and you will get several recipes all using coconut milk. enjoy.)

blueberry compote
1/2 c blueberries, frozen is fine
1/4 c water
2-3 T sugar

combine. cook in sauce pan over medium heat. the berries will break, the sauce will get bubbly. it's done when the consistency becomes thick and syrupy.

layer your treat from the bottom up: bread, compote, whipped cream. enjoy for breakfast if you want to start your day with a smile.


*mcdonald's stopped offering the $1 any sized coffee and would only allow you to buy a small. i thought then, and still agree, that that was price gouging. they had enough cups. they had enough coffee. and they told me i needed to be understanding. if ever i wanted to make a scene. i have been meaning to write a letter to someone about this, but it hasn't happened. my indignation has enabled me to stay away since then, however.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

things i desire for emmaline and all the babies of the earth

my friends, morgan and doug, welcomed a little girl into the world just a few days ago, so i've had babies and knitting and love and friends and parents and early days on my mind. and when i have this combination of things on my mind i often think of the max ehrmann poem, "desiderata," (latin for desired things) as well.

is this poem a cliche? ahh, well in any case, i think it is beautiful.

and so i share it with you in honor of emmaline.

welcome, sweet child!

by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

one thinging (and a simple knitting pattern)

i'm a doer: make, plan, change, move, go. i rarely ever do just one thing. are you the same way?

examples of things i do simultaneously:
  • knit, watch tv on the computer, surf the internet
  • cook, clean, check email on the phone
  • read a book, check back and forth to facebook (did they "like" me? how about now?)

it's as if nothing is sacred. i don't even bathe alone. 
  • take a shower, bathe david, sometimes add in: clean poop from the tub

because sometimes this guy poops in the tub.

i know it's gross, but what can i do?

so anyhow, i don't ever just do one quiet thing. but the other day i did.

i sat and knitted in seed stitch, which is simply: knit 1, *purl 1, knit 1; repeat from*. 

the computer was closed. the phone was away. no music, just a fan: whirl whirl. knit purl knit purl knit.

it's simple enough that if you can both knit and purl, you can do it. but engaging enough because it switches back and forth every stitch. knit purl knit purl knit.

it can pull you in. 

it took me a minute to surrender, but then i did. how nice.

and then david woke up (i was "one thinging" on borrowed time), so i went on with my day. 

simple seed stitch coaster

sidebar: jesse gets annoyed with me because i have no reverence for a recipe. i'm a cook of opportunity. a swapper, an estimator. he thinks i'm flippant. i think i'm practical. when i'm working in the unknown, i'll stick to the map, but if i have a feel for where i am, i feel completely free to meander. this also applies to my knitting, and i hope you will "abide" by this pattern in the same manner....

makes 4 coasters approximately 4x4"

you will need:
3.5 mm knitting needles
sport weight, or just not bulky, yarn (less than 50 grams for 4 coasters)
large needle (for sewing in the ends)

the pattern:
loosely cast on 19 stitches
first row: begin working seed stitch: knit 1, *purl 1, knit 1; repeat from*
repeat first row until you have made a square
cast off loosely in seed stitch
sew in ends

these are going to be a housewarming gift.
 brown paper packages tied up with string... eventually.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

the only one

we don't live in a place where people air their dirty laundry (or clean laundry) in the street (or back yard). instead, for the most part, everyone smiles, children play, cars are clean, lawns are mowed, flowers bloom, and, in my case, insecurities creep up like vicious mosquitoes (of which we have aplenty), biting before you have a chance to slap them away.

there is a lot of shame and suffering associated with the belief that you are the only one. 

i'm the only one who is lonely.

i'm the only one who resents her husband.

i'm the only one so bitter she can't even make a phone call.

i'm the only one this depressed.

i'm the only one going nowhere in her career.

add in a little...

everyone else is happy.

everyone else is sure of herself.

everyone else sits inside her perfect house smiling at her husband and children feeling content and fulfilled.

what a mess.

transitions are always tough (even good stress is stress), but transitions accompanied with excessively negative and faulty thinking are even worse. and i'm guessing i'm not the only one who has made these mistakes.

******let me put those of you who worry excessively about me (especially when you read my blog postings) at ease. i have changed my ways. i've seen the light. you can put down the phone and finish reading. no need to frantically check in. let's talk soon, but go ahead and get to the end. i'm fine. i swear.*******

so here's the story:

it seems crazy now, but once upon a time i left my job and moved to a land far far away to start a new chapter with my husband, child, and dog. and somewhere between athens and this far off land, i lost my mind and developed the idea that as a stay at home mother and wife my husband must now be my boss.

oh dear god. has anyone else made that mistake?

talk about wrecking your life and marriage with one single thought. bitter, resentful, insecure, ashamed, scared. and these words are only the beginning.

you don't like this meal? = i'm a failure. our baby isn't on a good schedule? = i'm a failure. your gym shorts aren't clean? = i'm a failure. i hate taking the baby to the pool. = failure. fail. fail. fail.


and then one day it wasn't so bad. and then the next day it was a little better. and then i realized that i'm the boss and now life is grand.

jesse can't be my boss. he's my husband and my partner. david can't be the boss. he's a baby and a tyrant and i already had a job working for a baby and a tyrant once and she fired me, so you can see that was no good. and sadie is a sad sack and a sad sack is in no position to be a boss. plus, she's a dog.

so i'm the boss. this works very well. i'm a good boss for me. i give myself lots of positive feedback. i'm very competitive, so i have to give myself challenges and good, constructive feedback. and when i deserve it, i try to make sure i give myself praise: i'm really tip top, a great hire, keep it up, that sort of stuff.

our cars aren't generally clean. our lawn gets mowed sometimes. our laundry doesn't get aired anywhere (but jesse's working on that, but just for clean diapers). we aren't exactly like all our neighbors, but my guess is that they aren't exactly the way i imagine them either.

just because they don't have laundry lines hung in the yard to sun bleach the poop stains from their baby's cloth diapers doesn't mean their babies doen't poop. to imagine it any other way is just silly.

this is not a boss i can take seriously.

 i'm not working for you.

and in the spirit of "the only one," you don't want to miss this....

(good work me. thanks boss.)