Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Zen and the Art of Making Dinner

I am still on my project of cooking my way through the Zen Monastery Cookbook (hey look! you can still buy it on Amazon. Although don't pay $37 for it. It was like $14 when I bought it.) I ended up not cooking anything last week because the weekend got beyond me. This week, I only had one day off for my "weekend" but I managed to carve out the time to make yummy food. Here's what I made, again as documented in over-exposed, poorly-constructed food porn.

I don't know whether or not to be nervous that the soup is the same color as my kitchen table.

For lunch this week, I made Cream of Spinach soup. The main ingredients are - surprise - spinach and potatoes. It called for adding 1 1/2 cups of warm milk to it, but once I blended it I thought the potatoes did a wonderful job of thickening it up and didn't bother to add it. I did, however, add a less than 1/4c leftover sour cream. Mainly because I needed to use it up. Delicious!

Next I made the Meatballs. Which, because this is a buddhist cookbook, are made of tofu, grains, and walnuts. They are very good, although by the time I got around to making these my brain got a little scattered and I accidently left out the garlic powder. The next time around, I will definitely add it as I think that's exactly what these bad boys are missing. The recipe said it made 25, but I got 16 or so.

The recipe on the next page was "Chunky Tomato Sauce", which fit perfectly with where I was going this week so I made that too. I made this in the crockpot as I was too busy to sit on a pot of sauce all day long (cramming two days worth of weekend into one is tough work). It is absolutely delicious and I have plenty left over for next week's cooking challenge. I think the next time I made it, I might puree the onions and peppers as the sauce is a bit chunkier than I normally prefer. But then, it's so tasty I might not! Definitely better than store bought.

Once everything was cooked, the sauce and the meatballs were combined with some penne and mozzarella to form this bad boy:


Paired with a lovely salad, I shall be eating well this week. Noms to all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Root of the Matter

I think that - finally - I am coming to the end of this Root Chakra exploration. Well, this incarnation anyway. There's always something else, isn't there?

A few weeks ago, I came to a revelation that has since helped me reframe my responses to certain situations. I have noticed a positive difference in my attitude and other people's reactions to my attitude. This is still a work in progress as I am essentially retraining basic responses I learned a very long time ago, but I am able to catch myself now before I make a negative leap. Which is huge.

As big as that revelation was, I felt like there was something else related to it but hadn't revealed itself yet. So, as I've been working on the above one, I just kind of kept myself open to figuring out what the second one was. I didn't actively pursue it; I just figured when the time was right it would come.

So it did. Yesterday afternoon at the Laundromat some time before the rinse cycle.

I was reading this book when I looked up, and all of the separate pieces that have been floating around my brain suddenly fit together into a completed puzzle. All of these little bits that I have acknowledged individually and wondered about for years but never connected... suddenly it all made sense. I was able to see the cause and effect that influenced my behavior since time out of mind.

So yeah... mind blown sitting in a plastic chair waiting to transfer my laundry into a dryer.

I am not sure what next steps are at the moment. Although catching myself in this learned behavior is surely one of them. This will be a long-term project, as re-wiring tends to be. All I know is, as I was driving to dance class last night I felt lighter and a surge of energy opened my heart chakra nice and wide. At least I know I am on the right path.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Earning my Hippie Badge

A few weeks ago I ran out of hair conditioner. Which, if you are an owner of curly hair (especially naturally curly hair; especially especially long curly hair) you know that this is a BFD. No conditioner means good luck getting a comb through your hair. It means walking around in buns and hats and braids and pretty much anything to cover the extraordinary amount of frizz going on around your head.

A few days before, I had come across a recipe for homemade conditioner on Pinterest. I figured I'd get the ingredients, mainly because there were only three and two of them I needed to pick up anyway. Since everything was edible, I figured if this was a flop I'd just make a curry with the leftovers and no harm no foul. I purposely bought ingredients I'd eat because, well, if I'm going to have a lot of honey left over I'm not going to eat crappy honey. 
Recipe: 1 can coconut milk, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp olive oil

I've used the "conditioner" three times now, and with the exception of an unfortunate incident of over-conditioning (I know, I didn't think that could happen either) I've really liked the results. In fact, for the first couple days after I use this I don't need to put any additional product in my hair to tame the frizzies. Which, if you are an owner of curly hair, just sent you in to shock because that does. not. happen. EVER.
There is no product at all in my hair... and it's defined curly and not frizzy! What what???
I still can't get over at how smooth the curls are. My hair felt so soft, which is also a curly hair rarity.
My hair loves this stuff, and I am an official convert. I still have store-bought shampoo, but my next mission is to find a shampoo recipe to compliment this conditioner. 

If you are thinking of trying this conditioner out for yourself, a few notes:
  1. I'm guessing people with thick hair and lots of it, or those who have lots of curls/waves will benefit the most from this conditioner as it coats the hair with a fine layer of olive oil, which weighs down the individual strands (preventing frizz) and helps define the curls/waves. If your hair is the kind that needs to be washed every day to prevent oil build-up and is very fine, this conditioner will be too heavy for your needs. 
  2. I keep it in the fridge and bring it in to use when I wash my hair (every 3-5 days, depending on life). 
  3. It takes some guessing to figure out how much to use without over-doing it. DO NOT just pour it out of the jar over your head. Ahem. I found that out the limp, greasy, unattractive way. Luckily a simple shampoo fixed the issue. 
  4.  I have mine in a mason jar but I'm hoping to buy a pump bottle for the next time. It is a very thin mixture, and you should shake it before use because the oil tends to globulate a little. 
  5. I find it best to let it sit for a couple minutes on my hair before rinsing it out. I wouldn't recommend applying it and not rinsing it out, mainly due to #2. Although, my hair tends to the fine side so if you have very thick hair it might work for you.
Let me know if you decide to try it, and how it works for you! 


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring in Vermont

There's nothing like 17 degrees and sub-zero wind-chill gusts to let you know that Spring is here.


Some pictures of winter storm Vulcan (ps... will you people stop naming these winter storms? You've never done it before, it's annoying now).

Moving on...
Ah, Spring... when the wind gives you frost bite. Wait, what?

The wind, she blows.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another Oddly Appropriate Horoscope

My uncle passed away this morning. I was still asleep when I got the call so I've been dealing with the phone and IMs before my coffee has kicked in.

There is also this snow storm rolling through, which has started earlier than what they originally said. We're supposed to get a couple feet I think. I have to drive in to work today.

Death and a snow storm, oddly appropriate.

Where ever you are now Mike, I hope the pain is gone and there is peace in your heart.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Let's Talk Food (and how I Suck at Taking Food Pictures)

People keep going on about how Spring is coming. Since I'm choosing to believe them, it's time to start eating better and take some of this winter padding off my mid-section. I've decided to go back to an old habit I lost somewhere along the way: taking a day and cooking for the week.

Back when I still had a 9-5 job, one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday morning was going through my cookbooks and picking something scrumptious to eat that week. I got out of the habit during massage school; I barely had time to sleep, let alone lounge over a cuppa and a cookbook. It's time to pick the habit back up. I've decided that I'm going to go all Julie and Julia and start cooking my way through this book:

It's one of my all-time favorites and I don't think it's even available anymore. I already have a ton of favorites in it. Now I'm going through and making all of the recipes I've skipped over.

Last week, I made Enchilada Casserole. Delicious! It made eight servings and I was able to freeze half:
This recipe reminded me why I hate working with corn tortillas.

I've gone all out this week and have made three different recipes. Well, when I say "make" I mean I look at the recipe, see what I have/what I don't like/what's too expensive/what can be simplified and go from there. The first is "Super Salad with Broccoli, Walnuts and Feta":

The salad called for serving it over lettuce and including red bell pepper strips, but I wasn't feeling either so I just made the salad with essentially 2/3 of the ingredients. It doesn't have a dressing, and with the feta doesn't need it. Very yummy!

The second recipe I made is "Green Velvet Soup":
I kinda wanted to rename it Dark Green Muddy Velvet Soup.

I ended up making this in the slow-cooker because the split peas needed so long to cook. But following my obsession these days with blended soups, it is surprisingly good considering the ingredients: green split peas, spinach, and zucchini. I thought it needed a wee kick so I put some green hot sauce in it. A tiny little drop for the 6 servings was all it needed.

The final recipe I made for this week is "Black Bean and Spinach Burritos":

This recipe is supposed to make 8 burritos but I, ahem, ate four of them last night for dinner. Oops. So I halved the recipe. Still, it made plenty:
Taken before I added the salsa. I used a medium salsa for a little kick.

I had some of the filling left over for a fifth rice n' filling dinner. I substituted salsa for canned diced tomatoes and I didn't add any cheese to the filling, like they suggested. I am planning on serving this with rice and avocado, with some salsa over the top.

If you ever find this cookbook (for a while I was giving it out as presents because I liked it so much), I highly recommend scooping it up. All of the recipes are vegetarian. I find that I usually need to add a little more salt than they recommend, and they tend to not use oils when cooking (I use olive oil or coconut oil), but over-all the food is delicious. You can feel good knowing that you are making wholesome, good-for-you food from minimally processed items with virtually no preservatives or nastiness.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pushing Boundaries

We all have boundaries; things we come up against where we go "whoah! I'm not comfortable with this!" Sometimes they're big and sometimes other people are like "this? really? Are you kidding me?"

Like, say, for my thing about costumed characters.

There is a common saying around my woo-woo community: You know that thing you're afraid to do? Do it. I actually like this saying and try to follow it. There are things that I'm afraid to do that are standing in my way from being where I want to be. I can't explain them, but I can face them. As I'm increasingly coming to realize though, all things must be done in moderation.

All this is stemming from a conversation I had yesterday evening with a co-worker. We were discussing pediatric massage. Where I work, we don't get much call for treating children under 12, but it does happen. I mentioned that there are some therapists more comfortable with it than others and the conversation progressed from there.

I am, I freely admit, one of the therapists not entirely comfortable treating these younger clients. Where this hesitation comes from, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps a lack of training; pediatric massage was not taught at my school and I think most schools leave it for continuing education training. It's not that I am against it; quite the opposite. Everyone deserves positive, healing, compassionate touch. I've done them before, and if pushed I'd doubt I'd say no to booking a youngling. But my comfort level is not there.

All of this got me to thinking last night as I was laying in bed: maybe you should address this. Maybe you should do the thing you're afraid of doing. And then I thought: SCREW THAT. I'm pushing so many freaking boundaries right now that are so much bigger than this that I think it can wait.

The thing is... if the boundary genuinely needs pushing, it will still be there when you come back to it. Sometimes they just naturally fall away when other things shift and it becomes a non-issue. You don't have to push all of the boundaries all at once. We are all works in progress. Facing your fears can become a diversion if you aren't careful: you are so busy facing and blowing through all the smaller ones (spiders? BAM. Heights? BAM. Clowns? BAM) that the bigger, deeper ones are easier to ignore. Your Ego tricks you in to thinking you've done the work when really all you've done is teach yourself how to not run screaming at the sight of a clown. What's the fear behind the fear?

So yeah, I'm adding this to the list. It seems an easy enough one to face when the time is right. Meanwhile, there are a few other ones ahead of it in the line.

Costumed characters are last on the list, by the way.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Cult of Positivity

I am not, by nature, a positive person. I wouldn't call myself a Negative Nellie by any stretch of the imagination, but positive? That's a stretch. I usually occupy a gray zone that goes between "caffeine induced hyper-perky" and "self-indulgent moroseness". Sarcasm and I are dear friends, and I fully believe there are some days where it is for the Greater Good of Humanity that I do not interact with other people.

All that being said, I am trying to be better at focusing on all the positives life has to offer and less on how everything seems to conspire to kick me in the ass on a regular basis. It is a daily, conscious effort on my part, and some days I do better than others.

If you go on Pinterest these days, the board is a-wash with various forms of "happiness is a choice" memes.
Can I get one that says "Keep Calm and Don't Bitch-Slap the Person Who Says 'Stay Positive'"?

Buddha says choose happiness. Cute kitteh says "I iz happie." Ryan Gosling says "Hey girl, what you send out in the Universe you get back. Be positive." Keep that shirt off Mr. Gosling and you'd be surprised at how positive I can be.


Moving on.

On the one hand, I think it's great that people are saying "you know what? if we all chose to focus on better things, things would be better." Because to a certain extent it is true. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to stop focusing on all the things that bring you down (most of which are beyond your control and not intentionally doing anything to you anyway) and focus on all the good things surrounding you. You can do that. You have that option.

The thing is, you can't be happy all of the time. You can't be positive all of the time. Even Buddha knew that. You think he was always that happy laughing big bellied guy we all have come to love (which actually isn't even Buddha but a Japanese monk)? No. He suffered. He suffered a lot. But he did the work and found his way through to the other side and found out that what the other side looks like is your choice.

Let's face it... sometimes things SUCK. Sometimes they honestly can't get much worse. People go through some truly horrible, terrible things. Or, sometimes the reason for the sadness and pain is genetic or chemical. Telling them to "stay positive" or "choose happiness" is not only insulting and dismissive, it further denigrates them by insinuating they are doing something wrong because they can't simply choose to be happy.

Happiness is (sometimes) a choice. Suffering is (sometimes) a choice. Honor and respect the emotions and journey of the individual and know that they are doing the best they can with what they've been given.

So.... You Want to be an Artist.

For the last several weeks, I have been working through The Artist's Way . This book has been out since the 1990's and I've been...