Category Archives: Reflection

The Obligatory Beginning of the Year Post

So the holidays have passed.  They were lovely, thanks.

I had some much-needed downtime to enjoy spending time with my clan. More importantly, I was able to really focus getting back on my regimen, my needs and how they will shape my upcoming year.  This isn’t really a resolutions post so much as it is I’ve sorted out my plans for the year and want to write about it.

I have a few loose ends to tie up on the work front.  Some odd things happen last year.  I wasn’t sure what to do,  so I did a whole lot of nothing while thinking about things.

I know a lot of people talk about phlegmatics being able to change course fluidly when they encounter an obstacle.   I tend to experience it as being split into trickles of indecision moving less powerfully, until coming to rest in a deep dark pool.  But I would guess that neurodiversity plays into that.

So I did a whole lot of nothing, while waiting to gather my thoughts again.  It was refreshing. Eventually the pool overflows and thoughts gain momentum. Water can’t sit still for long, without getting brackish.

Rebecca something the other day along the lines of not being able to move when undecided and it was like she was speaking directly to that deep, still pool at my core.  (By the way, have you checked out her new website? ) Anyway, that spurred me into making some decisions.

I took the first several days of the new year to get my website transferred and updated.   This was not a small task, I do all the work myself, with Adobe Muse.  I am pretty excited to be able to cross it off my “to do” list. Hopefully, this will be the end of my communication woes.

I suppose the biggest change over there is that I am really mixing  up the way I work with clients.  You can read more about it there if you are so inclined. I am trying to free time up for other work-related projects that I prefer to focus on this year, and more travel.  I really want to start “doing” more and sitting at a computer less.

I will try not to neglect the blog.  I have new posts for the ethnomedicine/bean feasa series and a lot of herbal history articles to pepper the blog with.  People seemed to like those, despite being long and heavily references. Other projects I have going that I might explore here on the blog include:

Growing Community
growing community Iowa City Urban Homesteaders I think a lot of you know that I believe helping people make meaningful connections is part of my work. I was considering titling this project “cat herding” because that is what trying to get people together in real life feels like around here, sometimes.  I have  intentions to attempt to re-build a sort of defunct community organization, but I have set boundaries for myself that if no one steps up to help, I am not going to burn myself out on the project.  I need a slytherin friend to remind me of that later in the year.

Homesteading Projects
We have all sorts of new things brewing here, literally.  I got my husband big boy beer brewing equipment for the holidays. We just started our first couple of gallons of mead brewing over the weekend and will start our first five-gallon batch of beer, soon. I got a dress form so I can get back to making my own clothing, properly. A corner of the classroom is slowly morphing into a sewing nook. I have this daydream that I might go back and turn some of the old recipes into proper tutorials but I doubt that it will happen this year.

Gardening Projects
Faoi is in sad need of some tender loving care this year.  My raised beds are falling apart and we have to build a new trellis for our hops vine and do some repairs to the grape trellis.  I also made a lot of bare space last year for planting and am still waiting for another load of mulch from the utility company. I am crossing my fingers that I will find someone who wants to do some work-trade to pay for a class, so put the word out there for me.

My Shiny Old Tea Kettle

Chances are if you’ve been around my blog for any length of time,  you’ve seen this tea kettle.   It is the first thing my husband and I bought together for our kitchen.  I suppose we’ve had it for fourteen years, or so now.   We use it every day.

It had started to get a little dingy over the last few years. It  wasn’t whistling properly any longer and it was taking forever to heat water. One day, back in early November, I noticed that my tea tasted funny that morning and I really inspected the tea kettle.   I realized that a lot of gunk had built up on the bottom while I was ignoring it.   I thought about throwing it away and getting myself one of those fancy electric tea kettles.   I actually had it sitting in the Goodwill pile and had a fancy new kettle in my Amazon cart.

But you know,  I thought about watching it spit and sputter in a vain attempt to whistle and  I felt some compassion for it.  Odd isn’t it,  to feel compassion for something that is failing you?   Having been a broken thing once in my life, I get it.

I looked at it closely and I was pretty sure I could make it work again.   More importantly, I really love my  tea kettle. It has been there for me every groggy morning for a very long time now;  I have  pretty much built my morning routine around the amount of time it takes to whistle.  It has helped me nurse sick little children and make ice tea for special visitors.

The kettle definitely needed some work.  I took a little screwdriver to it and fixed the whistle.  I cleaned it and got some fine steel wool and polished until it was shiny, again.  Every week since then, I’ve been boiling white vinegar in it- cleaning out the gunk that had built up the bottom.

Today, as I was making my morning brew,  I realized that the little kettle is looking pretty shiny and new.   It’s been heating water a lot faster and it tastes better, too.  That’s not to say that there isn’t still some gunk to clean out,  but I love that I was able to make it work again, when others would have given up on it.

Some of my friends accuse me of being afraid of change, or putting too much effort into reclaiming things that are old and broken. I find it ironic, sometimes, that these are the same people who value me for my loyalty.  I am not without common sense, though.  If it quits working again, I will have to replace it.

Today, though,  I am just happy to watch my shiny old  tea kettle whistle.

 

Giving Thanks

Sample imageI rarely have time on Thanksgiving to spend time putting together a meaningful post.   It is a busy day in our home.   We will wake having a breakfast of sausage rolls and breakfast strata, while watching the parade Then we set out snacks-clam dip and lots of pickles and olives-and play board games.  We end the day with a big turkey dinner.   We’ve spent the last couple of days baking and cooking to get ready, so that we can all relax and enjoy the day.

So I thought I would take a moment, tonight,  to reflect   I have a lot to be  thankful about this year.   I have a wonderful, healthy family.   I’ve spent time with dear friends in beautiful places and taught at some truly inspiring conferences.  I’ve had new opportunities arise and made new friends.  I graduated from college-something I was beginning to think I wouldn’t get around to.

Of course nothing is perfect.   Life is  messy. There are tears, struggles and blow-ups, but sometimes this is the only path to healing.  They can be a blessing too, even though that can be hard to see when you are in the thick of it.  I am most thankful that life seems to be progressing down that path for my family, right now.

I’d like to think that recent events in the country represent those types of struggles.  Only by committing ourselves to unified goal and having compassionate discussions with people whom we disagree with, can we move towards a better society. Despite the narrative the media feeds us,  I believe that most people are inherently decent.  That doesn’t always mean they do the right thing, but I believe that very few people truly set out to harm other people.

If you listen to a person’s words, but only focus on trying to understand the  feelings that are creating their  narrative, you begin to see them in a whole different light.   You feel more compassion toward them.   Similarly, when  you stop and think about the emotions that motivate you,  you can be more patient with yourself.  It is a  useful exercise.  If you’ve never tried it, have a go at it.

I guess I will leave this  hoping that all of you experience today in a way that is meaningful to you.   I am thankful to have this chance to connect with you.

Shifting Down

Now we are at my favorite part of the season, the days of shifting down into hibernation mode.   Yesterday was not quite our usual Little Christmas day of relaxing as we woke up to a blown out tire and had a little fire in the oven in the evening.
Today, I am listening to the new CD that my Mom and Dad gifted me and working on New Year’s greetings to put in the mail.  This  reminds me that I meant to share the annual family letter Happy Holidays  here for friends who move so much that I lose their addresses. ( I am looking at you, Quinn) The only thing that is bringing me down is that my husband wasn’t able to use his vacation time to take the week off like he usually does.   I hope you are able to take some time this week to do something for you.

This is when it won me over.

This is when it won me over.

We usually spend this week eating up the leftovers and playing with new toys and games.   I have a new toy to figure out, myself this year. The girls got us this Keurig thing and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure about it at first.  It is not the sort of thing I would buy myself, that’s for sure.    I think sometimes my children pay more attention to me than I realize. I like for my drinks to be hot and I am always warming things up in saucepans and forgetting about them.  Apparently this has not gone unnoticed.  They also pointed out that I throw away a lot of tea and coffee because I make a pot and only drink a cup, or two. They got us a re-usable basket and I can use it to make  hot water for little pots of tea, too.  

 

Speaking of tea,  this was the recipe that I have had the most requests for out of all the goodies I handed out for the holidays.   The key here is for the tea to be quite strong.  You want to make it in the morning and let it sit all day.   I usually use Irish Breakfast tea, but I’ve made  it with Earl Gray, too.  

Irish Tea Bread, Barm Brack Irish Tea Bread (báirín breac or barmbrack)

12 Tbsp very, very strong tea
1 pound dried fruit – currants, raisins, cherries or any other dried fruit you like combined with 1 tsp grated orange zest
6 ounces light brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice 
1 egg
1 ounce melted  butter or olive oil
9 ounces unbleached organic flour  – (or any flour-like substance- almond meal works well in this recipe)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Brew the tea.  You should know that the original recipe calls for both whiskey and tea.  Two tablespoons whiskey and 10 tea works nicely. I prefer 4:8 but probably shouldn’t feed that to children. Mix together the hot tea and whiskey and pour over the dried fruit and orange zest in a bowl that can be covered. Allow to sit an hour. Add sugar. Let this mixture sit overnight.In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Then mix in the remaining ingredients.   This dough is going to be sticky and traditionally you hide a ring in the loaf.  I bake little loaves to hand out to friends and they take about 20 minutes.  A larger loaf will take 30-40 minutes to cook.