Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Writer's Block

There's nothing like a simple question, an email, and an unexpected visit with my high school English teacher to remind me that I like to write, I have a blog, and I randomly stopped posting over a month ago.  A month ago!?!  My how time flies!  I admit I kicked myself when the first week slipped by.  But after the second week crept up on me, I drifted easily into an apathetic underwater float -- holding my breath splayed prone in the water listening to nothing but the lilt of the waves on my body, the gurgle of an intermittent bubble escaping from my nostrils, and the silence in my head.  It's really quite peaceful.  But eventually you have to come up for air.

"Have you decided to abandon your blog?" my mother-in-law sweetly posed across the table at Sunday lunch.  Busted!  I had hoped to stay underwater a while longer.  "No. I just need a break," was the short version of the long answer I'd been mulling over for weeks.  Why had I abruptly quit posting?  I hadn't stopped cooking interesting dishes, I hadn't ceased to research natural health, the garden hadn't stopped growing, my days weren't uninteresting to me, and I certainly hadn't changed my philosophies about simple, intentional living.  But I had gotten the feeling that my posts were strained.  I was anxious about what to write next or how to keep it interesting.  I was concerned about being too preachy or elementary.  And the inkling that readers (however plenteous or few they may be) might not actually DO anything with my posts was discouraging.  What if no one is actually interested in how I make mayonnaise or that I'm an educated, accomplished young woman purposely living without conventional career aspirations?  More than the "How To" is anyone being influenced by the "Why"?  I let the cursor remain idle as these questions hung heavily in the air.

And in this moment of creative floundering, the weirdest thing happened...

My high school English teacher from Connecticut came to Louisville, Kentucky. Despite my inflated opinion of my moments of academic glory under his tutelage, his voyage to the Bluegrass State had nothing to do with seeing his former students.  He, a Harvard grad and valedictorian of his class, was here for a week grading 40,000 AP English Literature exams with a crew of other veteran English teachers.  Graciously, he got in touch with my sisters and me in hopes that we could catch up during a free evening.  Here I was covertly protesting the pen and one of my foremost influences literally comes to town!

To my relief, we spoke very little about my writing. (Though I did ask him to clarify a grammatical conundrum I'd been wrestling with recently.  I'm such a nerd!)  The small group of us enjoyed the evening telling stories and giving updates about family, school, work, and leisure.  Parting ways, I could have wiped my brow and skulked back into my corner, but the third spirit to visit this Scrooge-y author arrived this morning as I opened my inbox.  The subject of an email forwarded by my mother beamed: "Attention, Writers!"  It was a reminder for an annual statewide writing contest that I'd submitted to in the past.  Can I not have a moment's peace!?!

A part of me, the part that craves creatively organizing my myriad thoughts into print, got the message that I'd had my moment's peace and it was time to get back on track.  I remembered that I'M interested in how to make mayonnaise and why I don't have a "real job"...and a host of other things for that matter. And I remembered that I write as much for my own outlet as I do to benefit "the audience".

So with a bit of trepidation, I logged back in to once again post my musings on the web.  I prefer not to think of it as having had writer's block so much as having taken a walk around the block -- as in for fresh air and to clear my head -- which everyone knows is a good thing every now and again!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Garden Tour

April showers have brought May flowers…and the vegetables are following suit.   A momentous day arrives each spring when we can officially “plant the garden”.  Leaving our fears of frost behind, we set out with tools, seeds, and transplants to organize the mulch-covered plot into rows and blocks.  Unlike the cold frame that has been steamily growing cool-season crops for weeks, the garden has been home only to the garlic, asparagus, potatoes, brassica transplants, and pea shoots.  All that changed on Monday.  A handful of the family members bent and stretched, dug and watered, sweat and ached. But it was worth it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Eat Your Weedies

Weeds & Greens
Anyone who has planned a community event knows that people will show up if there’s food.  Better yet, throngs will appear if the food is free.  Until recently I assumed this was a cardinal social rule…but I've discovered an exception.  Imagine a garden growing in a neighborhood.  It doesn't have to be planted, fertilized, watered, or cultivated.  Sadly, it grows and decays each season without much more than a passing glance or aggravated huff from the humans that share its habitat.  Why?  Because this garden is hidden in plain sight.  It is the crabapples that litter the sidewalks, the dandelions that riddle the yard, the burdock burrs that tangle Fido’s fur, and the green haze that carpets the forest floor.  Somewhere between the passage of time and the progress of society, the wild plants around us have been demoted from life-giving nourishment & health to pretty ornamentals at best and noxious weeds at worst.  I've always appreciated this garden, but now I’m beginning to study it.  Like a preschooler looking at the jumble of letters that fills an encyclopedia, I’m facing the overwhelming excitement that is the plant world in my own proverbial back yard.  Plant by plant, part by part, one culinary and medicinal use at a time, I’m learning to utilize the wild garden around me.  I don’t have to be an expert, I just have to begin.  I’m writing to share that you can, too!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cold Frame Update: There's a Radish in My Salad!

February 17th
In chilly February, Weldon and I planted a variety of seeds into our first cold frame.  In chilly March we hovered searching for tiny emerald shoots to emerge under the glass roof.  For weeks we watched as erratic temperatures and sporadic sunshine struggled to coax our radishes, kale, chard, spinach, and beets from the soil.  Now April is here...and it's still pretty chilly. Thankfully, a good warm rain last week and a few days of bursting sun did wonders for our adolescent veggies...

April 7th

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Paste, Powder, & Pearly Whites

For the past two weeks I've been miserably consumed by the banal efforts to recover from dental surgery.  In all my years I've never spent so much time thinking about, let alone coddling, my mouth.  I went in for a routine appointment to remove my two lower wisdom teeth.  I came out with a golf ball in one cheek, a chunk missing from my jawbone, and bruising that a prizefighter would be proud of.  After nearly fourteen days of mushy foods and lethargic couch conquering, I’m finally feeling like myself again (despite the creepy stitches and cavernous divots in the back of my mouth).  It seems only right that after all this oral pontificating, I launch back into the blogosphere with a post about an old school dental product that’s making a comeback with homemade health nuts like me: Tooth Powder!  You may wonder why in the world I’d go to the effort to make my own tooth powder when convenient tubes of paste line the shelves of any grocery.  What on Earth could be so bad about the minty goop that advertisements promise will kill germs, fight plaque, and blindingly whiten my chompers?  Later in the post, I’ll get into why I've chosen to ditch conventional toothpaste (even natural varieties can be questionable).  For now, let’s take a look at how a few inexpensive ingredients and less than five minutes of effort can boost oral hygiene to a sparkling level.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Ice cream in March?  I have a medical excuse.  No, really!

Two of my wisdom teeth have been displaying such interesting contortions that my dentist insisted an oral surgeon remove them for exhibit in the dental hall of fame.  Lucky me!  I have an appointment for tomorrow.  In preparation for my open-mouthed marathon, I've been busy making a few healthful, nourishing dishes that I can consume (a.k.a. slurp) later this week while I hide from admiring dental enthusiasts (a.k.a. recover at home with ice packs strapped to my cheeks). Unfortunately, ice cream has yet to be lauded as a top ten health food, but I decided to add it to my list of recovery foods for this week.  I'm posting my favorite homemade custard-based recipe, comprised of (mostly) nutrient-dense and delicious ingredients.  There's plenty of good stuff in this sweet delight, so I have no qualms about eating it for this "special" occasion.  Besides, the soothing cool will be a welcome relief from the throbbing of my hole-y lower jaw.

P.S.  As a springy St. Patrick's Day spin, I've added organic mint flavoring and mint chocolate sandwich cookies to the classic vanilla base.  Get creative as you customize the ice cream flavors to your personal and seasonal favorites!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reading: Research or Recreation?

It's hard to justify a post about reading when it's 70 degrees outside and the sun's Siren call is beckoning many of us.  Attempting to live up to its schizophrenic reputation, March came into Kentucky as a roaring ice and snow storm last week and threatens to bring rain and freezing temperatures by tomorrow.  But sandwiched between these blustery spells has been a slice of heaven bringing the promise of paradise on the other side.  Last week's winter wonderland (the worst this season) had me snuggled seven-layers deep on my couch.  I spent hours reading, savoring the sedate activity before spring's bustle of activity catapults me into the kinetic and outdoor world.  In my opinion, reading is an oft-overlooked element of the auto-didactic, do-it-yourself lifestyle.  It is a fundamental homestead skill.  Blissfully, I blur the lines between research and recreation.  I admit I rarely have time for many of the bestsellers or latest novels, but works on How-To, witty philosophical musings, food, nature, and even classic literature keep me plenty busy.  I have an unending list of titles I'm eager to keep churning through.  I make time to read just like I make time to grow my garden, cook from scratch, or care for livestock.  The homesteading two-step of researching and doing is just that, a dance in which two indispensable partners must find their rhythm without overpowering each other. I don't consider reading a luxury; I consider it a gratifying requirement of the lifestyle I've chosen.  Despite the frenetic pace in which most of us live, there are subtle ways to lace the schedule with a good read.  So, dear readers, bear with me: Below are my tongue-in-cheek tips for How to Read.