Monthly Archives: December, 2010

The Cooking Adventure Continues!

Piping hot and ready to enjoy!
Ok, I kinda got carried away!

My latest cooking adventures have included making a carrot ginger soup from a recipe in my Vitamix cook book.  It is the first more challenging thing I’ve made in my Vitamix.  Aside from this all I’ve made to date has been my hummus, which I’ve done successfully twice now and which I love.  Anyway, back to the carrot ginger soup.  It turned out to be absolutely fantastic although I didn’t follow the recipe.  So many of the Vitamix recipes I’d glanced through had simply given an list of ingredients and told you to put the ingredients into the blender in order and then turn on the machine, so that’s what I did (sort of).  I put in my 4 carrots halved, my 1/4 onion, my 4 garlic cloves (and at this point I was apparently supposed to stop and run the machine, then take the those items out and put them in a pan with oil and brown/cook them for a bit, I don’t really remember, but I didn’t do that as I didn’t see that, I just continued with my list, but did somehow skip over the tablespoon of oil), 1 tablespoon ginger (I just broke off a nice looking piece from my “hand” of ginger), a 1/4 teaspoon of salt (I used the cool sea salt my friend Paula gave me for my birthday), and 2 cups of vegetable broth.  Then I went back to the directions, saw my error, but figured I’d gone too far to go back, so I just turned on the Vitamix.  It took longer to blend, no doubt because the carrots were so big, but it did eventually blend completely and then I was to blend until steam came out the top vents, 3-5 minutes.  I really didn’t believe that the blades were turning so fast that it would make hot soup but I did as I was told.  Was I surprised to find that the Vitamix does really make hot food.  I had a bowl of my carrot ginger soup so pipping hot that I had to be careful not to burn my tongue and there is enough for today’s lunch as well.  And it was fantastically tasty, in my opinion, so I think in future I’ll make it the same way, but with the carrots cut into chunks rather than just halved.  It was quite magnificent and felt to me like a real accomplishment.  I know it was easy, but it was all fresh ingredients (well except for the vegetable broth which I poured from a container), and it was the first time ever for me to use real ginger, so I was quite proud of myself.

Turned out just fine!

Then for dinner I made another of my so-called stir frys and I’ve included a photo of that.  It was really amusing because I started with one size pan and then had to go to a larger one and even then the lid didn’t fit until it had cooked down a bit.  Again, I’ve ended up with two dinners worth which is just fine with me.  I did my usual emptying of the fridge with kale, celery, cabbage (I did restrain myself by using only 1/2 the head), the rest of the tofu left from my carrot ginger soup, and mushrooms with some assorted seasonings and it came out just fine.  I do have to work more on the seasoning angle, as it wasn’t really exciting, but it wasn’t just bland either, so I’m getting there.

Christmas and Birthday Wonders

I’ve posted photos of some pretty special gifts I’ve received from some very special people, for both Christmas and my birthday (today I turned 65!).

A wondrously cool math pop quiz clock from my son Eric,
his wife Kelly, and my 2 year old granddaughter Josie!
Can you do the math?
Sleeping garden gnome
Sleeping garden gnome from my dear friend, Kathy
Millicent the Mermaid from my dear friend Kathy
Millicent the Mermaid watching over me
Millicent the Mermaid and her dolphin friend.  She just
makes my heart sing!

Medicare and Birthdays!

I turn 65 today and my first thought upon waking up was that I really didn’t want to wake up to being 65.  Not much choice, I know, but I’m really not pleased and the major reason I’m not is the government.  I should be up front and admit that I have absolutely no respect for this country’s government.  We say we are a democracy but in fact that has never been the case and certainly isn’t now.  This country is governed by Corporate America and Big Business and anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken.  In fact we never did have a true democracy since for much of our history large segments of the population were denied a vote.  Now, the voters are controlled by Madison Avenue, etc., and the entire system is so corrupt and so beauraucratic that it simply cannot function.

I knew all this before, of course, but now that I’m 65 the government has taken over my medical insurance and I’ve been given no choice at all.  I can no longer carry my own private insurance no matter what kind of premium I am willing to pay, simply because I am 65.  I am forced into Medicare, run by a government which I find to be unconscionable.  And then it turns out I actually need three insurances with three separate cards to be carried because Medicare is so flawed.  I need a supplemental policy for what Medicare deems acceptable but won’t pay for and then I need another policy for prescriptions, again those Medicare deems acceptable but won’t pay for.  So now I have three cards, three policies, three separate premiums and why.   I have them just in case of some catastrophe because guess what, Medicare doesn’t believe in naturopaths!!  I have a wonderful doctor who knows me, understands my medical needs, and is easy to talk with.  I have absolute confidence in her, but Medicare says that even though she is a licensed medical practitioner, they won’t deal with her (well, not her personally, all naturopaths and alternative care providers, apparently).  So now I have three useless cards in my wallet, because I am not about ready to change doctors.  I will have to pay out of pocket for my office visits, for any lab work she orders, and for all my prescriptions from her because Medicare doesn’t believe in her.  I really find this offensive.  Someone who looked into all this for me said that in fact I might not end up paying any more than before (we still don’t know what the two supplemental policies will cost), but even if I don’t pay any more, it is still wrong that any of us should be forced to take something we don’t want.  I’d think Medicare would be happy to have fewer people.  It is the principle behind all this that bothers me much more than the actual expenses.  And now I shall have to write three premium checks, not to mention the additional costs at the doctor’s, the lab, and the pharmacy.  Why?  Just because I turned 65!  This is why I really didn’t want to wake up this morning.

Well, enough on that.  I’d better get in a different frame of mind now because my friend Paula wants to meet me at The Monkey Tree for brunch to celebrate my birthday.  The Monkey Tree closes today and that will be the end of an era on Vashon, so that too is bittersweet, but I am very grateful that Paula wants to celebrate with me.  Thank you, Paula!

Family and the Movie "Marley and Me"

I watched a great movie last night called Marley and Me and it was all about family.  I thought it had a very powerful message.  This golden retriever named Marley was adopted by a young couple when Marley was a pup and for whatever reason, he was the “clearance pup” of the litter.  And there is no doubt that Marley was a handful!  At one point, when the wife is coping with their second child being all colicky and Marley barking at everything keeping both the wife and the new baby from sleeping, the wife yells at the husband that the dog has to go.  After all it is only a dog.  The husband sensibly takes Marley to a friend’s house for two days and of course the wife, once the moment is over, realizes that Marley is family and for better or worse, he is a part of them and he cannot just be abandoned or given away.  Years later, when Marley finally has to be put to sleep, the wife places a necklace in his grave saying that her husband had given her that necklace as they were starting their family (at the time of her first pregnancy), but in fact, their family had already been started with Marley.  It was a very moving movie and I suspect lots of people would enjoy it just for the nice and very funny plot line.  But for me, with the family history I have had, it really hit home.  No, family isn’t perfect, and yes, there are family members you’d find difficult, etc.  I am seen by many to be such a person.  Nevertheless, the solution is not just walking away and slamming the door.  Family is not about abandoning, but rather pulling together, supporting each other no matter what the problems, working together to sort differences and find solutions.  At the vet’s office the husband tells the vet that one time when their second son was particularly colicky, Marley stayed right by the baby for 9 hours.  Marley, of course, turned into the very best dog, instead of the very worst dog which was his original label.  Who’s to say that might not happen to any of us, with love and nurturing.  The husband chose Marley’s name because there was a Bob Marley song playing on the car radio as he brought the puppy home, so it may just be a coincidence that Marley’s name was also the name of Ebenezer Scrooge’s partner, and it was Jacob Marley who, as a ghost, helped Scrooge learn the lessons of love and family which they both had needed.  However he came by his name, Marley proved to be the glue which held a young family together in the beginning, helped them weather many storms, and allowed them to discover the true nature of family.  Here was a family which truly understood what that word means, and I for one, really enjoyed the movie.  I recommend it if you haven’t seen it already.

What a Day! Dentist, Beams, Lots of Fun

Remodel progress with a new beam above Poosa 

Ok, I’m dental-phobic and the thought of having to be up in the morning early enough to be sitting in my dentist’s chair at 7:30AM just added to the misery.  I’ve had to be up early every day this week and I am not someone who functions at all well, for a variety of reasons including physical, before 10AM at the earliest, 11AM being even better.  But I’ve done it and I have to do it one more time tomorrow because of my son’s impending visit, but Saturday and peace are just around the corner.  

The new beam is above and the new post is in front of
the green wall.  The new wood looks new and smells great!

Anyway, I did get to the dentist office at 7:30 and I was then in the chair for 4 hours (yep, I said 4!).  It wasn’t Dr. Rasmussen’s fault.  He is gentleness personified and his goal (which was successful) was to have me not feel pain.  I had laughing gas as well as enough novocaine to knock out a small horse, but eventually he succeeded in making me numb and he removed my 35 year old bridge, cleaned up the small amount of decay which had set in (which is why it was so sensitive), took impressions for my new bridge (which I will get on January 13th), and put in a temporary bridge.  I did enjoy visiting with both Dr. Rasmussen and his assistant, Cindy, but I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got out of there!  I was also very hungry, but I hadn’t dared eat before I went (one of the physical reasons I don’t function before mid-morning), and now I was numb!  But I was able to shop at Minglement and then head home.

The new beam and post are visible as well as my lovely
kitchen island! The post on the left will go once the steel
beams are installed down the length of the room ceiling.

I discovered major work had taken place while I was at the dentist’s.  I timed things well in that everyone was off at lunch, but I could see where all the posts had been removed and new posts installed in the walls and it was looking fantastic!  All that had to be done in the afternoon was put in the horizontal beam and I now have a wonderfully clean look to it all, as these photos show!  I also now have a wonderful kitchen island (on wheels) which Leigh assembled for me yesterday, so that helps the kitchen congestion immensely!  And Leigh let me know that it will be days (not weeks or months) for the cabinet guy to build my pantry, my oven cabinet, and my dish cabinet, so that is wonderful news.

 All in all, lots happened today (which was possible because of all the prep work done all week), and I’m thrilled to have this progress as my holiday present to me!

To Be or To Do?

The reason you’re “here”
is not to be good, to be better, to be perfect,
to get “stuff” done, to saave the world, to save somebody, or to be
anything… other than yourself.
That’s all you have to work on. That’s all you
can do. But by doing it… all those other things
will happen anyway.
The Universe

I found this quote this morning on a blog I follow, the Radical Turtle, and I thought that the quote could have been written just for me.  I have spent most of my life feeling that I needed to justify my existence, that I needed to achieve something, and certainly I was raised with and assimilated a major chunk of perfectionism, which I’m learning now is nothing more than a recipe for failure.  And I’m learning from my Daoist readings that the push to change the world, continually to be forcing changes to happen outside of ourselves more often than not makes the problem worse.  I’m not saying that I stand idly by and watch all the raping, pillaging, and plundering, but that I think this quote is right.  If each of us works on ourselves, the universe will change.  The only thing we have control over (and some days it doesn’t even seem as if I have control over that!) is ourselves.  I can only know my own heart, or at least learn to listen to myself so I can find that.  I don’t have to be good or be fixed or save the world.  I only have to be (not do).  I need only be myself, which is a major challenge in itself.  I find this really hard to grasp much of the time.  I still have so much “doing” ingrained in me that when I spend a weekend, as I just did, “only” reading and not quilting or weaving, part of me says, look at all those names on your refrigerator, folks who really need your quilts, why aren’t you quilting!  But I’m learning that the value in my quilts is that they are made out of love and joy, so when I’m tired and when it suits my soul and body more just to be, then that’s what I need to be “doing,” so to speak.  I would like to explore this concept more and probably will in posts down the road, but for the moment, I shall just think about the quote at the top of this post, and probably have another “reading” day or two as a way to survive the holidays and the remodel chaos.

Not Sure What It Was–Not Stir-Fry I Suspect!

My current kitchen configuration

Well, last night’s dinner wasn’t a rollicking success.  I’m not sure all the places where it went wrong, but I think the major issue was in the timing.  When my beets were done, lots of the other stuff was overdone and kinda mushy.  On top of that I think maybe I added too much water in my efforts to be sure nothing burned.  I’d love to know how to do pan roasted veggies as I understand that is a real recipe, but anyway, what I had last night was edible, just not great.  I think the seasonings are also part of my learning curve as I just used the Italian seasoning mix which was again, ok, but not great.

This is what passes for my stove until the remodel is done.

Looks good anyway!

It would appear that I would be better off following real live recipes until I learn more about the overall process.  My problem is that while I have lots of books with great sounding recipes, I never have everything that the recipe calls for and I’m not sure if the items I’m missing are crucial or not.  This whole cooking thing really requires a lot of thought and planning and I’m just not used to that.  I did use my new paring knife and cutting board last night to cut up everything that went into my so called stir fry which was in reality pan steamed veggies and tofu I think.  Anyway, I managed to cut up a small head of purple cabbage, a parsnip, a yam, several stalks of celery, a couple carrots, broccoli, beets, kale, and two kinds of mushrooms, crimini (which I love) and king oyster (which may be cute looking but I don’t like–it was my first time to try them).  I also cut up a pound of extra firm tofu, and I put things into the pan starting with beets and I thought I’d done it ok, but soon realized at the end when I went to put in the mushrooms and tofu that the timing was off.  Well, I still have enough left over so that I can put it over rice tonight when I try out my new rice cooker, so that’s ok, and then I may go back to the hummus and the sauteed mushrooms for awhile and regroup.  That’s the cooking update and any suggestions, recipes, advice would be most welcome!

Cooking, Sasha, and Remodel Updates

Well, it has been a few days since I’ve posted to my blog so I figured I should catch readers up on several things.  First, my cooking is going along nicely I think and most importantly, I’m really having fun.  I’ve only used one actual recipe (for hummus and it came out great), but I’ve just winged it on a few other things and I plan to wing it for sure tonight with my first attempt at a stir fry.  I realize that this is also the way I quilt as well as the way I weave and so probably it will work just fine for cooking.  I now have lots of vegan cookbooks, some even gluten-free, and I’m enjoying reading them (another major surprise–who would have thought I would ever willingly read a cookbook!), so I’m figuring that some of the basics are no doubt settling into my brain, but I’m just taking ingredients I have a hankering for and combining them and seeing what happens.  I am going to try doing some Quinoa Flakes here in a bit for my late breakfast/early lunch, and that is sort of a recipe at least as far as the actual cereal goes, but I shall do it my way with cinnamon and raisins and then see what happens.

The other night when I was having a salad with my hummus and apple/carrots, I was delighted to have my own home-grown lentil sprouts to put on it!  Oh, what a treat that was!  It was so exciting growing the sprouts and seeing them happen and then getting to eat them was the best!  I now have more lentils sprouting and I’ve also got a sprouting kit where I have alfalfa sprouts started.  I think sprouting is going to be a lot of fun for me and hopefully I can get ahead of the game so that I always have some ready for eating as my patience isn’t always the best and I really want more sprouts now but have to wait at least another couple days before they will be ready.  It really is exciting and I’m sure enjoying all this!  It is also my kind of gardening–inside, instant or near instant gratification, and tasty as well.

Yesterday I also took both Chauncey and Sasha to the vet.  Chauncey got off easily with “just” an ear infection (which unfortunately Cockers get a lot), but his skin looks really good, which is a blessing.  Sasha didn’t end up with the antibiotic shot as the vet said there definitely was no infection with the tumor now and he wants to be able to save the antibiotic in case we need it later (or as he said, when inevitably we need it later), and I was glad for that.  But he said the tumor had definitely grown, which, of course, is worrying, although not unexpected.  However, Sasha, in her infinite wisdom, is having this tumor grow in a way that the vet has never seen!  It is on the outside edge of her mouth and usually those grow inside so that they interfere with chewing and get bitten all the time, but Sasha has seen fit to have hers grow outwards, allowing her to eat more comfortably, bless her heart.  And her weight has held steady, which is a very good sign.  We return to the vet in another two weeks when she will probably get the anti-inflammatory steroid shot to try to stem the growth.  Meanwhile, she is still sleeping on the pillow next to me and I treasure each and every moment I have with her.  I don’t know why we need to be reminded of mortality to tell others how much we care, but I guess we tend to take things for granted until we are brought up short.  Personally, I’m all in favor of letting people (and animals) know how much they mean to me all the time as we never know what the next moment may bring.

And on the remodel front, things are also progressing well.  We have had an enormous amount of rain lately (as in 2 1/2 inches in one day!) and the rain has come in deluges.  The result has been that my crawl space has water, probably because the downspouts had nowhere to dump themselves.  I am now getting a sump pump installed and we have temporary drains for the downspouts with real drainage to follow.  But now that the crawl space has been bailed out, we can begin with the concrete footing for the post to hold the beams so that the last of the studs can be removed.  The ankle bone is connected to the shin bone, etc.  The link at the top of the blog will take you to remodel photos if you are interested, but much of this week’s work is not visible (although extremely necessary).

So that’s the update for a Saturday!  Hope it finds you all well and happy!

Cooking Update

My cooking efforts started with last night’s dinner and I wish to report a complete success!!  I didn’t get home from tutoring at the library until 5:15 and that’s when I got to start opening all the boxes with my kitchen stuff.  It was fun if rather overwhelming!  By the time I got ready to fix dinner it was after 7PM, and I almost bailed and decided I’d had enough for one day.  But I kept hearing one of my students saying earlier in the afternoon that sauteing mushrooms was really easy.  So I forged ahead.  I plugged in the little two burner electric stove top which will be what I use until my gas line is run.  I found a suitable pan.  I located the Grape Seed Oil, and then washed off two 8oz boxes of Crimini mushrooms.  I heated up the oil in the pan, put in lots of sliced mushrooms (I really had a hankering for mushrooms), and then stirred them.  They seemed to want a bit more oil, so I did that.  Then I saw my new spice jars sitting on the counter and decided to try out the Italian spice mix.  Finally I thought maybe they’d like to have a cover on them and the heat turned down.  I left them on their own while I went to finish something up on the computer, but I listened carefully and I wasn’t gone long.  When I came back I was amazed!  I had a wonderful pan full of gorgeous looking and smelling mushrooms to go with my steamed edamame and I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed my dinner more!!  I know it was simple, but I did it all and it tasted fantastic!!  And for desert I had my favorite Chocolate Obsession soy ice cream so it was a big success all the way around!

Today I went to my local organic store, Minglement, and got help putting together the ingredients for hummus using a recipe in the cookbook from my new Vitamix, and I’m going to try that out here in a few minutes.  I figured that would be a gentle way to learn about the Vitamix.  While I was teaching my bridge class after going to Minglement, I realized that I didn’t have a can opener so that would mean I couldn’t get into the cans of garbanzo beans for my hummus.  However, one of my students has kindly loaned me one of hers, so I’m set, and the adventure will continue.  I’m also debating trying a stir fry with my beets, carrots, purple cabbage, yams, potatoes, and tofu which I bought on Monday, but I’ll wait until after the hummus experiment to see if I want to do that today or tomorrow.

I am pleased with having my first solo meal turn out so wonderfully well and I look forward to more adventures as I continue.  This was definitely the right decision.  I know I have a learning curve, but I have lots of wonderfully supportive people surrounding me, here on Vashon, and as well as on the internet!  Many thanks to all of you!  I’m also learning more about how my students feel when they are trying to learn math or whatever is causing them difficulties.  I’m reminded again about the panic of not even knowing what question to ask, the total bewilderment when entering a strange turf, etc. and I think this experience with the cooking will help me to work with my students.  It is also fun to share my learning with them (many of whom are already better cooks than I ever was before!), and we can then help each other.

Change and Balance

I was reading my blogs this morning when I came across a post which really spoke to me.  It may be found on Balance In Me.  I was especially struck by how it applies to my new efforts to heal myself by taking on my own cooking.  The author was writing about feeling stuck and I don’t know that I am feeling that, but I have been wondering what to do as my next step in my healing process, so I guess that is a kind of stuck.  Anyway, the author suggests 5 steps, and I’ve done them all today (and no doubt will have to do them again and again as that’s what it takes to heal).

I’ve already written about my big step in deciding to learn to cook and to cook for myself rather than having someone do that for me.  That was an absolutely huge step for me which I took over the weekend.  So in this blog post I read, the author says the first step is to convince yourself that it is possible to make the first step.  I am now working hard at convincing myself that I can do this.  A friend just told me that the very act of taking time out of my day to make myself nourishing food is an extremely powerful way to look after myself, something which I definitely need to do.

The next step according to Anastasiya, who wrote the post “Feeling Stuck?  Get Yourself Free in 5 Steps,” is to be prepared.  For example, in learning a new skill (as I’m doing), be prepared with support.  I have talked with friends, e-mailed friends, and visited with friends who have all said they would help me, and you wouldn’t believe the number of “really easy” recipes which have come my way already today.  I’m getting lots of excellent advice and encouragement and I’m also working on being prepared with the right tools.

Step three is to do something which I’m reluctant to do and I’ve sure hit that one running.  I’ve been extremely reluctant to do any real cooking (as opposed to my many years of cooking from box mixes, TV dinners, etc).  My reluctance is understandable given how much criticism my cooking has brought down upon me over the years, but still, I need to get past that.

Step four requires me to do something which I am afraid of.  Well, the entire concept of cooking terrifies me in the first place, so I sure am meeting that requirement.  More than that, I had to go to the market today to purchase some basics so that I’d have ingredients to cook with and it has been nearly 1 1/2 years since I’ve marketed.  That was a very frightening experience, but I did survive and I now have some veggies, some tofu, some grains, some spices, and we shall see where that takes me.

And finally, step 5 requires the changing of routines, which I’ve also certainly done.  I now have to plan ahead, think about what I want to fix, make time to fix it, etc.  Tonight I still have food from my friend who cooked for me, but not a full dinner’s worth, so I’ll need to supplement it with some steamed veggies (although after all I’ve done today I may settle for steaming a package of edamame).  By tomorrow I will be on my own, but that is when will be delivering (actually it is UPS and FedEx) my kitchen stuff, including a 2 burner electric cooktop to use until my gas cooktop can be installed.  So my tools will arrive tomorrow and I can then begin the adventure in earnest.  And since tomorrow I will be at appointments, yoga lessons, and Study Zone from 12-5PM, it had better be something simple that I attempt for my first dinner.

Anyway, I am now definitely overwhelmed and more than a little frightened, but still rather excited and I think this journey will be good on a number of levels.