29 December 2012

90 seconds

That's how long it takes me to knit a metre of yarn in plain knitting.

That extrapolates to forty meters an hour.

Your fact for the day.

25 December 2012

Simple pleasures

Ornaments filled with history and meaning.

Snow on the tree.

Lights in the darkness.

Knitting by the fire, with my family around me.

~  ~

May I always be able to remember these simple pleasures.

24 December 2012

Merry Christmas, all

The mental health flu is slowly abating, and I have managed to free a few of my words … just in time to wish everyone a lovely holiday filled with peace and love.

The tree is lit, I baked a few cookies, the buns are made for tomorrow, and the giant genetic freak of a turkey that The Reluctant Farmer got as a Christmas bonus from his employer has been thawed and cut into pieces (I prefer hacking apart a turkey when it is uncooked) and made into a giant turkey roll. The drumsticks look like something Fred Flintstone would eat! I won’t touch industrial poultry, but the rest of the family don’t have the same qualms, so it’ll be enjoyed by everyone else and there’s plenty of side dishes for me to enjoy. At the market in early December there was a lady selling nylyshnyky and piereshke, and boy am I looking forward to those!

Time to stoke up the fire and get some dinner going, then it’ll be a quiet evening of knitting and looking at the pretty tree with The Boy and The Reluctant Farmer. The Small People will join us tomorrow.

In all the bustle and activity, may you find a few moments of peace to reflect on the things that really matter … which aren’t things at all.

Peace to all.

19 December 2012

A shortage of words

A bout of mental health flu has taken most of my words hostage.

Posts will return when their release can be negotiated.

14 December 2012

So much sorrow.

After reading about the shooting at the elementary school in the US today, I want to carpet bomb the world with tea sets and meditation cushions. A cup of tea and a bit of quiet for everyone, not guns and murdered children and murdered teachers.

So many heartbroken families today. So much pain and sorrow, because one person's pain was more than he could bear on his own, and the only way he knew how to cope with it was to hurt those around him. So sad.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of everyone around you, whether you know them well or not. Get help when you are hurting. Help others when you can.  Share a cup of tea. Sit for a bit in the quiet.

11 December 2012

German Potato Soup

Peel several potatoes (if necessary) and chop into bite sized bits.

Chop up an onion into small bits.

Put in pot with enough water to cover by about 1 cm.

Boil. Then simmer.

When potatoes are soft, turn off the heat and let it sit about 20 minutes if you can, but if you are hungry go ahead and skip this. It just helps the broth thicken.

Add salt and pepper and eat.

Super easy and more delicious than you'd expect.

Recipe from "the More With Less Cookbook", from MCC.

10 December 2012

Christmas Knitting: COMPLETE!

It’s done.

Ten projects, done.

Five already given away, five under the tree or en route to recipients.



Yeah, me too.

07 December 2012

Almost done

Christmas Knitting Project update!

Projects 1 and 2 were given out already (for my inlaws, when they were here earlier: socks and mittens) … 3 and 4 have also been delivered (to my parents: a sweater and another pair of socks), 5 was also given away (a little headband made of handspun alpaca, for my friend who knits and spins all the the time but sells or gives away everything she makes and has no hand knits of her own unless someone ELSE gives them to her!), and projects 6, 7, 8 and 9 are all wrapped and ready to go. Project 10 (the last one!) has just a little bit of finishing work left, then it, too, will be ready to wrap up.

Yes, folks, it is possible to get your Christmas knitting done before mid-December.

You just have to start in August.

Mexican Supper

I modified a recipe the other day and came up with an awesome, super fast, super easy, super inexpensive supper.


If you have dry beans, use those as they are the cheapest. I used black beans, but pretty much any kind of dry bean will work for this. If you are organized, soak the beans overnight. if you aren’t, then at lunchtime (or in the morning) of the day you want to make this, put the beans in a pot and cover with three times the amount of water as beans, then boil for a couple of minutes and shut it off. Let it soak for a couple of hours. Then, if you have a pressure cooker/canner, dump the soaking water off the beans and put them in the pressure cooker, just covered with water. Put the weight on the steam vent and heat it right up to 15 lbs of pressure, but just for 2 minutes. Take it off the heat (and set it outside if you want it to cool fast!) and you’ve got cooked beans. If you haven’t got a pressure cooker, just dump the soaking water and cover the beans with water plus a little bit, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until they are soft (see why you want a pressure cooker?).

If you don’t have the time to do all that, or don’t have dry beans, substitute a can or two of the beans of your choice, rinsed and drained.

You want some tomatoes: I put about half a can of leftover stewed tomatoes in the blender and made tomato puree. A jar of tomato paste would be fine too. Or some tomato soup.

Now, look in the fridge for interesting additions. I found a few mushrooms, and a bit of corn would also be nice, or whatever leftover cooked veggies you might have around. I think some rice would be good too: uncooked rice would work if you upped the liquid by a good bit, or leftover cooked rice would work fine as well. I grabbed a handful of dehydrated red peppers from the pantry and soaked them in the tomato puree for extra flavour.

Last but not by any means least, you need some salsa. I used most of a jar of the zucchini salsa I made this summer, nice and spicy. If you haven’t got salsa, use more tomatoes and add some salsa-ish spices: dehydrated onion, garlic, peppers, jalapenos, cilantro.

Mix together all the ingredients, mashing some of the beans if you want a thicker texture. Put it all into a greased casserole dish and then crumble some stale nachos or tortillas over the top, then add a layer of grated cheese.

Heat in the oven until it’s heated through – I put it in the oven of the woodstove for an hour, but half an hour at 300 would probably do it (maybe longer if you used uncooked rice). When the cheese is really melty it’s probably good.

Serve in bowls and be ready to offer seconds!

02 December 2012

At some point, you know enough

I went to visit a friend of mine a little while back, to talk about … well, life, the universe, and everything I suppose. He does personal coaching work and leads group spirituality workshops (after leaving a successful career in software development, believe it or not) and has generously offered to help me any way he can. He’s one of the few people outside of my family to have witnessed all of my story so far, and he’s been a great support to me through so many parts of this difficult journey. I am blessed by his friendship.

Anyhow, as we were talking, I realized that what I’ve been feeling most often these days is frustration: it seems as though further treatment is a waste of time (recognizing as I say this that I’m probably wrong). It feels like there’s no more to ‘uncover’, nothing else to ‘dig up’ or ‘unearth’ or ‘face squarely’. I’ve done all the thinking. I’ve processed all I can stand to process, at least for now. Yeah, there might be more stuff buried down in there (actually I know there are a few things that still need to be washed out, but they’re just now starting to appear, and I have the sense that it’s not quite time to do that work yet). He had a good answer for me:

At some point, you know enough.

You can keep reading the self-help books, keep attending workshops, keep searching and reaching and trying to find the answers … but at some point, you know enough. At some point, what you really need to do is just pick yourself up and start living. Wherever you are, with whatever you have, no matter how inadequate your resources may seem to be.

After all, life keeps on happening while we’re reading and attending workshops and meditating. Our inner lives most certainly need attention – even more so if we have unhealthy thought patterns that need to be changed – but maybe, just maybe, I know enough now to just get on with getting on.

My acupuncturist had said the same sort of thing to me: she encouraged me to stop thinking about “when I get better” and to instead focus on the moment, to realize that “right now, this is what my life looks like”, to learn to live right now with the resources I have, few though they may seem to be. Who knows what better will look like in another six months? Right now, this is what my life looks like. Better is a relative term. I am better now than I was before. I can do more. I sleep more soundly, often without waking at all in the night. The chest pain is now only occasional rather than constant. I can drive to town, do a bunch of errands, and drive home. I’ll be tired, but I can still make supper when I get back. These are major improvements.

I’m just getting on with getting on. I do as much as I can, and sometimes I do a bit too much and sometimes I don’t do as much as I’d like. Okay, I rarely do as much as I’d like, but we all know that my concept of “a reasonable day’s work” is badly skewed, so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. In the fall I was doing chores every morning, hoping that come winter I’d be able to be the farmer on duty. As it got colder, though, my body called a halt by taking my feet out from under me for a couple of weeks. I didn’t post about it, but it was kind of scary … the palindromic arthritis that occasionally affects my ankle joints flared up noisily for awhile, forcing me to walk with a cane for about two weeks, and to walk rather gingerly for another week after that. It passed, as it always does, but I took it as a clear sign that I had been overextending myself. The Boy has taken up the chores now – fortunately it’s not a huge job, just 15-20 minutes twice a day, and I help out whenever I can, but I had really wanted to do it myself this winter. I don’t like being unable to do the things I feel like I ought to be able to do … I feel like I ought to be well by now, like there’s nothing more to be gained by resting and I need to get off my lazy behind and get back to having a busy and productive life.

But when I overextend myself, I end up shouting at someone, or crying, or in physical pain, or putting myself to bed at 7 pm so as not to inflict myself on my family any more than is absolutely necessary. I do know that overextending myself isn’t a valid option. it isn’t a smart choice. The smart thing to do is to carefully try adding one more thing and see how that goes. Then adding one more thing after that, and seeing how that goes. Unfortunately, I still haven’t figured out the subtle clues that indicate “you are almost out of spoons, you need to slow down now” and I only realize that I’ve overdone it after it’s too late.

Presumably there are subtle warning signs that will tell me what “approaching empty” feels like, but I haven’t learned to recognize them reliably yet. I suppose that would be the next thing I need to learn … not quite sure how best to go about learning it though.

Hmm. Maybe that’s what I need to work on next.

I don’t want to do that work yet though. Right now, I’m going to finish my holiday knitting (projects 6 and 7 are both underway, and both are more than half done!) and drink tea by the fire. Maybe for today, that’s enough.

01 December 2012

Warm Things without the Microwave

I love Warm Things.

In our house, that’s a proper noun which describes a particular object, not a general class of items. A Warm Thing is one of those fabric bags filled with barley or rice or some such substance, which you normally heat in the microwave along with a glass of water (it needs moist heat, or else the barley pops like popcorn and smells weird).

We’re keeping the thermostat pretty low these days: we have the woodstove(s) to keep things warm and wood is free but natural gas is not, so we start the fire in the morning and let it help keep the house warm during the day. Still, at bedtime or periodically through the day I feel chilly anyhow, and I want to do something about that.  I am making conscious efforts to keep my body warm this winter: my friend suggested that perhaps part of the reason I have so little energy in the winter is that I may be dealing with low level joint pain, and it’s a good theory. Particularly since my acupuncturist also says I need to be warmer (more spicy foods, more warm tea).

In addition to the kettle that stays on the stove all day now, we also have a big pot of water. The house gets really dry in the winter and the extra humidity is welcome. I realized, though, that I could use the pot to warm up a Warm Thing. It’s easy: just put a cooling rack over the top of the pot, lay the Warm Thing on the rack, and plunk a large bowl over the whole shebang. Inside the bowl it’s nice and steamy and the Warm Thing heats up nice and quick with good moist heat.

So there you go; another way to stay warm this winter, without using any electricity or natural gas to do so!