Tag Archives: Pacific Northwest

green… but maybe not eggs and ham

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Not even the lure of a cup of coffee with fresh table cream was enough to convince me to brave the wet. The neighbourhood trees are growing into a riot of green, leaves bursting from branches like out of control afros and the petals of magnolia and cherry tree blossoms leaving a beautiful trail of detritus. But this is what the back balcony looks like today:

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A nap is sounding much more my speed (the cat has the right idea methinks).

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So on days like today one of my favourite things to do is to look through some books, and lately (perhaps ever), my favourite cook book has got to be Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and her blog a close follow up second for all things food inspiration

20140419-151240.jpgI often adhoc stuff in the kitchen. Yes folks, I have finally gotten to that enviable place that my mother was at (and who I was in awe of) in the kitchen to know enough about food chemistry and flavours to make ingredients submit to my will and have a dish turn out without the exacting process of following a recipe. Well, baking takes a little more finesse and accuracy, so I follow rules a lot more carefully there (as did my mother) but cooking dishes has become much more of an intuitive process. Which is why I love Deb’s recipes. She will pair things together that are intriguing to the palate and so obviously divine together in retrospect.

Last week’s double chocolate banana bread is still being talked about and lusted after (and will be made again just as soon as the bananas are ripe enough). But seriously… if it’s not on your cookbook shelf, and you aren’t afraid of embracing a variety of ingredients, this one should definitely be part of your repertoire. Tomorrow is Easter and I’m wondering what I should make for the two of us. Double chocolate banana bread for certain, but the rest? I’m not sure yet.

But what I do know is that I am now ready for that nap…

morning pages and cultivating roots…

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(pencil undersketch penned over and painted with tube gouache. #30DayJournalProject)

Slow. Rain. Comfort. Coffee. Dream fragments. Hunger pangs. Hair and clothes that need washing. Lists made. Things to be done. All folding into this space and time of semi-wakefulness. This moment. WHAT do I want? What do I want to DO? Besides sleep some more. Oh sleep, how I love thee. It took months before I broke out of the cycle of awakening early every morning, filled with anxiety as though I’d missed the alarm. My rhythms are different now… back to what they naturally are inclined to do – late nights and not wakening until it’s light, which on these shortened winter days is late. Ah, yes… light. Not much of it again, these days. I think that I ought to go for a run and try fitness again but all I want to do is sleep. Keep warm and cozy and dry. Definitely not wet. Why do people like running in the cold rain?

It’s almost 10am and I am only just dragging myself up and about.  It’s grey outside and the grumbling in my stomach reminds me to put the kettle on. Coffee first. Then, when there are enough neurons firing, something else… food. Yogourt and granola. Love this granola but seriously – $8 for the bag made me cringe, but I got it anyway because it has Good Stuff in it, and I don’t have much Good Stuff so I need to make it count. I have a sort of dietic apathy.  I love food but the preparing and cooking of it doesn’t interest me, so quick and convenient (which usually doesn’t mean healthy). I did buy some pita bread and will experiment with making my own chips (*must steep fresh rosemary in olive oil*). I do like the experimental aspect of it. And when people enjoy what I make. There’s only the two of us and it gets old always being the one to be doing the cooking.

*pausing to make some coffee*

The smell of coffee is still on my hands. I love how it smells. How it tastes, too, but the smell is what brings it all together – the scent, the taste, the way it’s warmth spreads as it progresses down to my belly.

I had an image come to me this morning, for my art journal page, as I laid in bed with my arms clasped together over my lower abdomen, feeling it rise and fall with each breath. The awareness of my breath made me focus on it even more, and I breathed relaxation into it. I saw it as if it was burning, like a fire enlivened by the wind from the bellows. I had until now thought that my creativity stemmed from the root chakra, the elemental connection of our bodily selves to the spark that materialized us, but I see now that it’s at the second chakra where my breath is feeding the raging fires that it births from.

I made plans. I wrote them out (in my Notes, on the iPhone).

One is to do these… morning pages. To write for an hour. Another is to write on one of my stories. I haven’t touched the Telescope story in a while, and I feel it’s time to revisit it again. I’m just going to write. What else can I do but write it out? Yet another to-do item is to research freelance opportunities for writers and artists. I want to know where the markets are, what they require, so that I can build a repertoire of material that will likely be attractive. Targeted work. I always thought that making “art” to order would take away from my creative process, but I think in some ways it will fuel it, make me stretch in ways I would not have had it just been for me and my being left to my own devices. I hope it makes me a better writer and artist.

And then there is the roast for dinner. I am going to put it in the oven around 4PM. It’s a mammoth rolled pork blade roast, and I now realize that I will have to return to the grocery store because I think it needs to be accompanied by brussels sprouts. Yes, definitely. It will be poked and inserted with slivers of garlic and resemble Pinhead – Clive would be proud. I wish I had some rendered fat to rub on its surface. I have some duck fat and it works well as a fat for many things but it just doesn’t sound like it would taste right with the pork, which is lighter and more subtle in flavour and the duck fat doesn’t ever quite lose that wildness. I wish I could find some juniper berries. Not tons.. just a bit. I had a recipe call for some and it’s not something that regularly shows up between the peppercorn and nutmeg and turmeric.  I have a serious spice hoarding issue. Well… not hoarding – collecting. But I use them. I’m the one who makes lavender and thyme shortbread cookies. I love lavender. In food. Well, in anything, Period.

*pauses to go grab the mail that just got violently shoved through the mail slot by the postal carrier – it always startles me*

Nothing particularly exciting, though Organic Gardening was in there, and I know that preparing for the next growing season isn’t all that far off. I’m so grateful that Tyler and Amanda are keen gardeners and that they allow me to stick my hands into the dirt here, and also reap some of the bounty. I’ve been thinking that perhaps my (two boxes of!) paper making supplies could be put to use during this lull and that I make some seeded paper to sell. On etsy, maybe. I always wonder about whether it’s worth opening up an etsy storefront or not. Whether it’s more trouble than it’s worth; whether you need the demand already in place for the supply to be worth the trouble. Not quite buying the “if you build it they will come” paradigm. But who knows.

Well, the hour is about up. I’m ready for some granola and yogourt. Maybe another coffee, and then I’ll tackle something else on my list. One of which should be to take a shower.

contemplating commitment

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Silver glints in my hair, finely threaded through my bedhead. I wash the gesso off of the foam brush so I can use it again, later, while observing my reflection in the bathroom mirror. It’s all about economy now. Of movement. Of expression. Of resources.

The sun is filtering through the low lying mist this morning, it’s presence an unaccustomed sight. Winter here in the upper northwest is weighted down with short days and even less light, the sun socked behind a haze of overcast that every once in a while miraculously dissipates – like now. It was cold overnight, frost etching the surface of all things with a crystalline sheen.

I contemplate my 30-day journal quote from a few days ago (because I am behind and instead of picking and choosing through the days that I’ve not done, I feel compelled to make up for all of it – yet another thing to explore when I have a moment).

The quote for Day 2 was :
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

(words by W. H. Murray from his book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition)

Commitment isn’t an easy word for me. I’ve struggled with it for a long time. Initially, I commit to things doggedly, so when I finally make the decision to do so, I want it to be the right one. Which leads to very little happening, and very little commitment. I think that by dabbling and avoiding the commitment I’ll actually get to a place where there is enough to pull together and make something from, and then I’ll commit to making it better. There never is. Enough. It’s all just a huge collection of structureless discombobulated bits.

And I realize, on retrospection, that I am much the same with relationships. I observe. I wait. I gauge. And invariably walk away. The cost for all of this, is several fold. Much of the good in life happens when one commits wholeheartedly. It is also something that I’ve never seemed to master. I chose partners who are commitment-phobic (much like me). I chose projects that either require little commitments or end up abandoning them when I feel the pinch of constraint – when things get too hard and require me to move past my comfort zone. I’m sure this must have to do with something from my childhood, a learned behaviour, but I have neither the time, money or inclination to invest in dissection, so I’m left with trying to figure out what it is that edges me past the discomfort and into that place of … danger … of uncertainty … and feeling okay with it.

So here I am, making yet another attempt at operating within the container of time in which to make something. This opens a space for the other things too, I think. Before the onslaught of life happens, and I am employed and become distracted with making a living and the usual grind of life (which wears on me and erodes my self-discipline in ways I can’t even explain), I want to establish structure. I want to figure out what works for me in order to make things. To finish things. So my word for the year, focus, comes into play. I can’t commit if I can’t figure out a way to selectively focus on things, successively, or remember why I committed to something in the first place. And it doesn’t all have to be perfectly executed upon the first attempt.

So… I’m off to make my second perfectly brewed cup of Starbucks Christmas Blend. Enjoy. Everything. xo

mango-oranges and the essence of happiness

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I was out and about, walking the neighbourhood on this semi-sunny winter’s day. I’ll take a break from the rain where/whenever I can get it.

Home now – early afternoon and it feels like late afternoon, what with the “golden hour” glow. The days may be lengthening but it still feels like awfully short days.

There was a huge bear of a husky type dog parked out in front of Starbucks, and I couldn’t help myself – we visited. It’s ears and head were soft and smooth, while the rest was wiry and downright huggable. I’m glad it allowed me to spend some companionable time with it.

I’m getting ready to journal. I lit some white sage and waved it around the place, brewed myself a cup of coffee and I’m ready to start on some pages – or at least the first.

I’ve started with a quote from Thoreau (“There is no beginning too small.”), provided by Lisa Sonora Beam as the first of her free 30 Day Journaling Project. I have also sketched the three runes that I pulled the other day (kenaz, dagaz, nauthiz), as I contemplated this new year from its crest.

I’m feeling contemplative and feel the need to – well – contemplate. I’ve been out of touch with myself for a while. I need to reconnect.

I paid my rent. I picked up a bit of food.

It strikes me that I seem to appreciate things more when I have to consider (very carefully) where my money goes and what it is spent on. Like buying a mango-orange (because I’ve never had one before) and then cutting it up and savouring it, slice-by-slice, because I had to pull from the little I have to purchase it. I had to choose it in favour of something else. It’s sad that I must always be at the end of financial fluidity to grasp this… preciousness. Somehow, when abundance flows, the magnitude of my appreciation diminishes. I know that is my issue (perhaps not just mine but the world’s in general).

When I have, I seem to become desensitized and less grateful, or want else and more. When I yearn, I feel like I am missing out. But here, in this place of barely having but HAVING, there is the sense of fleeting and immense gratitude. Things taste better; feel stronger.

Again… if only I could hold this space when I am not so desperate, when abundance flows and I am still fully aware of the gifts, every single one.

Perhaps my chosen word for the year : FOCUS : will help me with this. Because focus connotes so much more than it’s meaning at face value and is applicable to much, from choosing projects, then working on them in a concentrated manner, to figuring out what I can contribute to the world and make a living from it, to… the delicate taste of a mango-orange rolling on my tongue.

I suppose happiness is not a constant – things ebb and flow and it is the way, but I think recognizing it when it’s there and holding space and appreciation for it when it happens, that is the key to it.

through the trellis

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Years ago, when I first moved out west, the oddest thing about the Christmas season was the lack of snow. Something about seeing coloured Christmas lights reflected in mountains of white show is… magical. Snow acts as insulation and alters the acoustics of a home, lending an already quiet moment that much more.. quietude.

Growing up I loved nothing more than to sit in our darkened living room late at night, the curtains to our front window open to the street to watch gently falling snow outside all the while admiring the juxtaposition of that scene against the beautiful multicoloured lights of our Christmas tree.

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It took some getting used to, these snowless Christmases. Black is reflective when it’s slick with rain (which is often at this time of year), but it really doesn’t have that quality that reminds me of my days of yore.

Regardless, this is my favourite time of year, a time during which people’s hearts soften and they feel a little more compelled to think of others, and share their good fortune with others.

However you celebrate this time of year, I wish you all much joy and merriment — may the sweetness of these moments carry you through another year. Wassail!

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Makin’ my own sunshine

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Well… not much of a summer we’re having. I can count the number of sunny days we’ve had on hands, and I won’t bother with counting the rainy ones. It’s spitting outside (again) and I’ve finally decided to pull out my HappyLight and make my own sunlight. I’ve resorted to this for various reasons.

One is that my sleep patterns are messed up. I wake during the night, multiple times, and I’m exhausted by day’s end, which currently means around 8PM. I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I would consider following the “carpe diem” adage. Which really is my second reason… attempting to squeeze out maximum enjoyment from a 24-hour chunk of time.

So they say that a half hour sitting in front of this lamp will essentially do me, its 10,000 lux touted to shower me with just the right amount of sunny goodness to pull me out of my lackluster slump and slapping my cymbals like that pink bunny in the battery commercials… here’s hoping.