Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Scenes From My Weekend (belated)

I spent this weekend upstate (only about an hour from the city), in the community where I do my teacher training, for the annual Waldorf Early Childhood teachers conference for people from all over the continent!! I did awesome stuff and kept my phone in my bag. 
 Crazy freak snowstorm Friday morning turned into a glorious sunny, no-coat-needed afternoon, making for a weird but wonderful drive upstate.
 Seriously, so pretty up there. Laid in a lot of snow piles laughing my butt off and saw incredible art and walked through the woods and it was so therapeutic.
The ground was crunchy and the snow as light and dry and sparkly as you could imagine. All in all, solid weekend. It's just going to take me a week of early bedtimes to make up for it. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Following the Wind

Sometimes I get this itch to run. Not literally, I generally hate jogging, but in a larger sense, to go somewhere without a plan, to just get out, to go fast and reckless and feel the wind bite my face. Today was one of those days. It was blue skies and muddy smelling and chilly damp air and I could barely contain my feet on the ground until I could hop on my bike and try to race the wind to Prospect Park.
It was exhilarating. I got out later than I had planned and the glorious unnervingly warm day had faded (bloomed?) into one of those chilly, humid, snow-melting evenings that smell of bare earth and melting ice and a little missing place where woodsmoke should be. The sunset lasted long in its pale glory, long enough to confirm that winter was on its way out. Surrounded by others pushing to finish their days outside, visions of cozy dinners dancing in their heads, I flew through the growing shadows, the condensing air. I felt strong wind through my jacket--not the biting cold of deep winter freezes, more a tap on the shoulder to remind me I was not impervious to the elements. There was no dinner in my sights, and somehow that thought made me move all the more freely.
Near the bottom of the park, I veered off my path, then off again, until I was stuck in half-frozen mud, around the corner from a clearing in the reeds surrounding the late. I took off my jacket and sat on it by the bank, watching the wind and the birds on the steely water, the sun dance through the grass at my side, more golden now than that pale light of November, it's light complete with warmth and substance, until the chill had thoroughly permeated my flannel shirt. On my way back to the main path I looked up to see geese flying overhead and when my gaze shifted back to my handlebars, I was surrounded by such a diversity of waterbirds I could hardly believe my eyes. Slowly I found my way to a log to sit and watched as a sole Canada Goose inched curiously closer. Four swans flapped their huge wings, surrounded by sassy little lady ducks, American Coots, mallards... all flocked to this spot where the ice had opened up.
I was buoyed back home by the glory of it all, the wonder that lives just minutes from my door. This funny little patch of contrived nature that still brings about the save visceral reminders of life's rhythms as life in the country. A place to feel the wind, to have nothing to pull your attention but the sky and the geese and the cold fog condensing around you as you race to nowhere. It's nice. Not the same, but that's not the point, is it?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Scenes From My Weekend

 Boxes on boxes on boxes on boxes at the coop. Unpacked and organized a huge delivery and let me bragginly say the back room has never looked better. (Well, not this back room. This one is a mess. The one with all the food that I never took a picture of looks, ironically, picture perfect.)
 Fighting a cold, no wonder with all the snot blown in my direction on a daily basis. Lots of cozy time spent in this coziest of beds, messy as it may look.
Devouring this book--started on Thursday or Friday and am almost finished with it's 400-or-so beautiful, bleak, magical pages. Based on/inspired by a Russian fairy tale our department did a puppet show of in December! 
On a fresh-air inspired cleaning spree, using the snow to air out my cozy things while it lasts. Likely not as effective here as I want it to be, but it still replaces the scent of stuffy winter dust with that of cold and snow and sunshine. 
Afternoon tea with a dear friend, such a lovely ritual. Grandmothers know what's up. Earl Grey and good conversation and maybe a doughnut and definitely a walk in the sunshine... does a soul good. (bird book turned trivet--making do)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Beyond Rice and Beans: Simple, Cheap, Gentle Meals--Butternut Squash and Grits and White Beans

I have been cooking for myself for five years now. Nothing insane, but still, I have some hours under my belt. Especially considering I have been living on a quite modest budget for all of those years. I have also been a vegetarian for 11 years. All of this to say, dear reader, that I know my way around a bowl of rice and beans. Bowls of hastily prepared canned black beans and rice, hot sauce and tamari thrown on top, eaten in a cold dingy apartment on the sofa by candlelight because the hell if I'm not going to make even this meal special can really just hit the spot. But every night? For a while I think I thought there was a divide between "fancy food"--recipes planned, farmer's markets attended, attention paid--and "ikea food"--things assembled, more than cooked from simple, often pre-made parts. Those were the two things I knew how to make and honestly, neither was that cheap or that sustainable.
Thankfully, I have learned to make from-scratch food without a recipe. Secret: recipes are not necessary and not always helpful. Learn to do basic things. Experiment. That's it. (maybe work in a Waldorf kindergarten, too. You'll get all the life skills) So I'm starting a series of non-recipes: ideas for food, priced out and linked to tutorials for kitchen basics, that you can play with, make your own. You should not be reading this while you cook.

Butternut squash and grits and white beans:
I made this for dinner this week, really yummy. It's in three fairly simple and hands-off portions.

I: Squash. Buy a butternut squash. They're not expensive. I got a huge one that made way too much for my family and it was $6. Buy a smaller one. Cook it. I cut mine in half, rubbed it down with some oil, put in face-down in a lasagne pan with some water in it. Put it in the oven at 400 until it was tender when I poked it, then skinned and cubed it. Maybe cube it first or cut it into smaller pieces if you're pressed for time because this takes a while. Maybe a few hours for a big one. Skinning uncooked squash is a bummer.

II: Beans. Buy some white beans in the bulk section of your local crunchy granola grocery store. I used $2 worth of beans to feed three people with two meals worth of leftovers. Bring a little pouch or something to put them in so you don't waste a plastic bag. Soak them. This is what I do because I don't plan ahead that well. But if you do just throw the beans in a bowl and cover them with water and let them chill for like 12 hours or more. Make sure they stay covered, they'll soak up a lot of water. Then cook them! You can do this on the stove, in the oven, in the slow cooker... whatever floats your boat. This is really hard to mess up. Throw some sage and garlic in while they're cooking. Add a bunch of butter when they're done. Notice I didn't tell you how many beans to use. You do you! Seriously, you don't need to measure things unless you're baking.

III: Grits. A 1 lb bag from Bob's Red Mill is about $3.50. Cheaper in bulk from said local crunchy granola grocery store Make grits. Grits=Southern polenta. A little more like porridge, too. 1 part grits to 4 parts water, dash of salt. I'd estimate 1/4 cup of dry grits per person. They cook quick. If you want to be fancy, let them cool and harden and then cut little squares and fry them. Yumm.

Make a pile of these three things in your plate or bowl or frisbee and eat it. Relish in your life skills.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On Pencil Cups

Pencil cups are a little bit the worst. Like, I get the idea, but in my experience they're just gross places that I allow myself to fill with junk I don't want to think about and then I'm trying to write a check and none of the pens work. In a fit of surface-tidying this weekend, I tried to tackle mine. It contained broken pens, temporary tattoos from my college pre-graduation boozefest (sorry, some sort of pre-alumni networking thing? There was free wine and fancy snacks and temporary tattoos and I literally knew five people there because #newschoolspirit), a bunch of art markers and fancy pencils, unsharpened pencils, erasers, spare change, a broken pocket knife, screws, an allen wrench, two pairs of scissors, chapstick... and like three functional pens. What? I have moved this exact pencil cup four times without emptying it out.
Once cleaning it out and returning errant items to their proper homes, I replaced the functional pens, sharpened pencils, a fat sharpie, and one pair of scissors (I donated the others to the kitchen, which had been making do with child's scissors for months). It still doesn't look great, but it looks better and is infinitely more functional. One might be tempted to run out and buy something like this. Or even it's prettier cousin, this. But really? Does that really solve the problem?
I think the pencil cup can by symbolic of a larger problem: when we allow ourselves a spot to collect clutter, collect it will. Things will be tossed there instead of put in the proper homes. Bedside tables, drawers, makeup bags... The obvious solution would be to not have these spots. Or not have the stuff that collects in them. But this isn't always practical or necessary. I mean, totally try to do that. I just think: give them a purpose (know what should be in there), clean them out regularly (remove and put away what shouldn't).  I have a basket next to my bed that used to just house the randomest of junk. I had set in down in my room one day and it just started to collect things... and soon it became a fixture that seemed like too much to deal with whenever I noticed it. But finally I did, and returned just what seemed appropriate for next to my bed: toe separator-thingies (weird but awesome and make me tired feet feel amazing), my doll (my mother made her for me when I was a child and now the four year old loves to come in and play with her), and my pajamas. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to put my pajamas properly away in the wardrobe every morning, so this is the compromise. It works. It is something's home so it doesn't collect other things. I look through it regularly to remove errant socks, etc. It works.
I think the pencil cup solution is to remove the cup. It's a great stroke of re-purposing genius, but not necessary in most situations. Long run, I plan to clear out a little spot in my one tiny desk drawer to fit this, filled with a few pencils, pens, markers, and a pair of scissors. Maybe these, while we're dreaming? But for now I'm relishing in the good-enough, the entirely free upgrade of clearing out the superfluous, the joy of knowing all my pens work.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Scenes from my Weekend

There was a blizzard, in case you didn't hear. This was the front of my building around 2pm. I went out for groceries about six blocks away and it took me an hour. 
...and this was a car, around 10 pm. The snow didn't stop until after midnight, drifts were up past my waist! So happy I own snowpants and boots. 
Crazy ice picture to represent the equally crazy sled ride (well, ride for the four year old, visceral experience of being a husky for the rest of us) through the neighborhoods. Too busy laughing and forging through waist deep drifts and wiping out to take pictures of it. 
From my backyard drift fort. Squeezed my way back there between some friends' rosebush and behind a tree, where the crazy winds had hollowed out a little hiding place. Watched the birds play in the branches, silhouetted against that brilliant blue sky of winter.  
This space heater, man. It's the best. My room is really poorly insulated and isolated from the rest of the heat in the house so it gets freezing. This thing finally melted my poor toes. Quiet house after two days of playing outside.