Life of Irony

Just when I'm getting ready to cloister myself from the world--poof. I get a job. A part-time gig--maybe for just a few months. What I have learned from my wanna-be Anchoress experiment? Isolation is a choice. We all need solace, time for reflection and sometimes feel lonely. But it takes a concerted effort to say "no" to people and opportunities in life. Doing that is not really in my nature and seems anti-life.


Snickerdoodle Cream of Wheat

Am I suggesting you make snickerdoodles for breakfast?

Not really. But close:

Snickerdoodle Cream of Wheat
Adopted and Adapted from a Portuguese breakfast joint in Cambridge, Mass.
serves 4

1/2C Cream of Wheat (see below to see how to make it yourself--easy)
3 T unsalted butter
4 T sugar (I used Splenda or Turbinado could work)
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t real vanilla extract
2 1/2C milk

Melt 2T butter in med saucepan over med/low heat. Add cream of wheat and stir often till just barely brown. Stirring, add 2 1/4C milk. Watch for a possible burst of steam. Turn heat to low and add salt, sugar, and cinnmon. Let cook slowly 10 min stirring often. Stir in vanilla and remove from heat. Consistency should be of warm loose pudding. If too thick, add milk. Cover and let sit 5min then stir in remaining butter. Add cinnamon and a tiny bit of nutmeg (optional). If you want to get "Fronch," place in bowls and carmelize a t of sugar with a torch to make it like creme brulee.

Mine was a bit thicker than loose pudding especially as it sits and cools like above. I didn't carmelize but I did add maple syrup--have you checked the manganese and zinc content of real maple syrup lately? Anyways, Soren scarfed this down--Ellery, the meat and cheese queen, is going to have to acquire a taste for it, poor thing.

Ok, so I buy red wheat thinking it's my ticket to the celestial kingdom and then I do nothing with it. I perpetually plan on buying a grinder and bread mixer at some point but I have previously opted to buy more shoes. My cheapo solution was to buy a $15 coffee grinder. I can grind 1/2C red wheat at a time from coarse to fine. I can also grind spices and of course coffee (for enemas--different post). Grind the wheat coarse for cream of wheat, fine for flour. Also, I have just pulsed wheat on coarse a few times for cracked wheat. Yummy too.


Occidental Ascetic Experiment

My first foray into ascetic experimentation will be to play Anchoress. I start with them, because I know the most about them. Anglo-Saxon (pre-Medieval Britain), usually upper class women would give their possessions to the church (no wonder the church encouraged women to take vows of poverty) and basically go through a burial ritual, showing that they were ready to become dead to the things of the world. They would stand outside a church wall while masons would brick an enclosure around them, usually attached on the NE (the coldest) part of the church. There they would pray, confess, teach, study, embroider priestly vestments, pray some more, think of something to make them more uncomfortable like a hair shirt or days of fasting etc. They did not work so either relied on the church to care for them or, more commonly, had money of their own to pay the church to take care of their needs (which were few with the amount of food, clothing, supplies needed to live in a 3'x6' cell the rest of their natural born life).

My plan is shaping up like this. For a week, Sunday to Sunday, I:

Start with some type of momento mori ritual. I don't want to be morbid, but I think it's healthy to consider one's own mortality every so often. Makes life seem more urgent.

Spend 7 hrs per day in complete silence and isolation-enclosed in a small room.

Wear plain clothes, no makeup, cover the head as modesty dictates.

No showers, spa treatments, body decoration or admiration--no looking in mirrors.

Write my thoughts during isolation, play music of the time period (circa) like plain chant.

Reduce food intake to subsistence level, no meat (Scholars of the time coined the term Holy Anorexia to describe the mindset of some ascetics who sometimes died of hunger.)

Sleep on a mat on the floor (Anchoresses had wooden pallets, but the hardcore ascetic divas slept on the stone ground)

Only speak when absolutely necessary

No phone, TV,email, blog can be scanned pages of my notes maybe?

Reading will consist of the Ancrene Riwle, Hagiography, the NT and writings of Julian Norwich, a famous Anchoress (No romance novels waa--only religious ecstasy allowed.)

You say, "She done loss' her mind." But, what I think I might gain and what I actually learn, I hope will be very different things. I have mixed prejudgements about women who chose to live this way--ceasing to be creative integral beings in the world. Christian based mysogyny at its best. But there must have been some benefit or women would not have done it. I hope to see things clearer, to edit and refine my priorities, to let myself be quiet. I realize that since I have children (that didn't stop some from choosing Vows and Enclosure--understandable sometimes isn't it?) I will be their parent and do whatever they need. And I have dogs that need care--Anchoresses were encouraged not to keep animals that required upkeep--the occasional cat was ok. And of course I'll have to talk to Cyler about the celibacy thing ouch. Now the trick is finding the right week to do this asinine thing. It's got to be before my friends' '80's party when I fully intend on dressing like Madonna and karaoke-ing till I puke (or more likely till someone else pukes.)

Cola-Braised Pot Roast

Hmmm. What to feed kids who are begging you for a red meat meal. "Please Mom, I want cow."

Serves 6 and comes via Emeril:

4.5 lb boneless chuck roast
3 .5 tsp kosher salt, divided
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 C beef stock or low-sodium canned beef broth
12 oz cola soda
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2.5 Tbsp flour

Season the roast on all sides with 2 tsp of salt and pepper. Combine salt, minced garlic and rosemary in mortar and pestle--mash to a paste. Make thin slits into roast on all sides about 2in. apart and fill holes with the paste.

Heat a Dutch oven over high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, add roast and cook till well browned on all sides, 10-12 min. Remove from pan. Add stock and cola and bring to boil, scraping brown bits from bottom of pan with wooden spoon. Add tomato paste and stir to blend. Return roast to pan. (Here I added a handful of dry sundried tomatoes). Liquid should be 1/2 way up sides of roast. Cover, place in oven (325degrees for 3.5 hrs. or 250degrees for 5.5hrs). Turn meat every hour or so and add water if necessary to keep liquid 1/3 up sides of roast.

Transfer meat to platter and cover loosely to keep warm. Skim off fat, reserving 2 Tbsp in small bowl. Add flour. Stir to make paste. Add 1/2C hot cooking liquid and whisk to combine. Whisk this into the remaining liquid in Dutch oven over high heat on stovetop. Cook till it boils and thickens. Cook 5 min more till thick enough to coat a spoon. Serve roast with the hot gravy (there's enough here for potatoes).

I would show you pics but it's all in our bellies.


Moving Midway

This man is a film historian and made a documentary: About his family house in North Carolina:
What it teaches about history, memory, film, family and the South is amazing. Netflix "Moving Midway" to see why I love this man:



My friend Becky made a horse bridle with a pool toy and some rope for a Family Home Evening lesson to teach about bridling one's tongue. It's been a while since I did a creative FHE but today at the sauna, I had an idea about how to teach about rules (the things I thought as a child were there to take my freedom away, hence quickly did away with some that I should have followed). I have been slowly but surely learning the difference between the rules that tyrants make and the rules the group makes to ensure safety, enjoyment and preservation of resources. I'll use the sauna rules to talk about how these rules are here so that people can enjoy themselves without infringing on someone else's freedom. Feel free to use the pic for your own FHE.

Also, per InStyle magazine (my favorite rag--grown-up, edgy, not vulgar), try reducing hair frizz by drying it with a cotton T-shirt. It absorbs water with causing frizz. I did it. It works.

Ok, there are my 2Tips2Try. This next pic is to show you how fun my volunteer church position is.


Eight Year Old Pygmalion

Or in other words, preemie pygmy. My preemie pygmy caught me in a mood. After thriftily purchasing a used leotard for gymnastics, we decided she needed a trim. She got the full monty. A wedged, bump-it bob and we love.
She looked so coot that we then went to drop some dollars off at some kid's clothing stores having not previously gone school shopping. THEN, I decided to take her home, sluff off the old nailpolish paint and shave her legs. Now, my preemie pygmy may not seem old enough for such a grown up feat. But after hearing how European her legs looked, she decided to remain American and say no to body hair. (Since she is German-American-of-the-long-dark-leg-hair ilk, I was glad to break out the razor and conditioner for my pygmy's first tutorial in the complex, time-consuming ministrations of modern grooming.)

For those still unsure of the propriety of this act, my church's children's group leader said she shaved her girls' leg hair this young too. Latinas and German Lowlands girls (and possibly Greeks and Arabs) should be given special dispensations here. Let my people shave!

My pygmy loves hats, like her mom, grandad, and great-grandpas. We couldn't decide between black and fuschia so we got both. She wears one to school virtually everyday so it seemed kosher to splurge here especially since I don't know how to knit this well. There is a bit of sequins on the brim.

Which color do you prefer?

Can you guess which one is my pygmy's favorite? Mine is the other one, don't tell her.

Mrs. G the Polygamist

If I were giving awards, this here click here post would take any of them that I could make up. Cheeky, hilarious!


Dad Flashback

When I was little, my dad lined us up and attached pendants to all of our necks. It was a gold disc with an oxidized pomegranate tree on it signaling the tribe of Ephraim (at the time, my parents thought the tree was the symbol for that tribe) of which they taught us we were literal descendants. All the lore behind it was cool, but what I really loved is that my dad had made them himself, our initials were on the back and it made me feel a part of something wonderful--a family. For years, Cyler has wanted to get a tattoo of the universal symbol, a martial arts based pattern showing straight lines and curved lines intersecting (showing the endless possibilities of motion from any given point). I told him no go on the tat. Too wrinkly when he gets old. So he had the symbol made for himself, Colby, and Soren. I think it meant a lot to the boys.
I had a flashback and now I am going to find my pomegranate tree.

Punkin' Pie

I had to get the house clean for a realtor's tour today, but I have had a manic baker in the kitchen for the past two days. For Consumer Science, Soren has been haunting my kitchen late in the evening and early in the morning to make pie dough, then freeze it, then make filling, then bake the crust, then fill it, then bake it al fin. Check out his shirt--what a riot.
His crust was pretty impressive. Can you tell he's looking forward to Thanksgiving?

Two punkin's. Cannibalism.


Addiction Recovery

Today at church I was weeding through the last speaker's comments, trying to decide where his teachings and my belief system intersected, trying to mark said intersection on the map of truth as I know it at this moment. As I was quietly either mildly agreeing or disagreeing with him, I found that his pronounced double chin began addressing me. Waving in a modern dance. "Look at me" it said. I imagined that it had grown a mouth and Little Shop of Horrors began playing in my ear. "Feed me Seymour" it said. (Can you tell I have ADD.) I immediately went down the yellow brick road of confusion as to why calorie/couch addicts can go to the temple and apparently hold positions of distinction in church service whilst other addicts are excluded. Inside I was growling. And then two things my personal life teachers have said came to mind--Jesus said to take the huge-ass battering ram out of my own eye before I endeavor to ask this guy to take the toothpick out of his pig-in-a-blanket. And Gandhi said to become the change I seek in the world. I stopped growling.

Since I want to get lean and mean for 40, I am going to put myself on an addiction recovery program. First of all my definition of addiction is thusly: "Something I do to feel good, that brings a net negative benefit to my life and that I haven't been able to stop at will." My list is long from nail-biting and self-defeating thoughts, to cussing, fatalism, narcissism, cheese/mayonnaise and beyond. I am using the Hicks' book "Ask and it is Given," the sacred writings of the world's great religions, and will start twelve stepping. I will also experiment on methods of a variety of religious orders that have proven over the ages to help one transcend out of balance desire--uh, short of self-flagellation. Didn't like it as a child, and will not as an adult I presume.

So this holding-pattern year (the one where I don't know what to do next, or where I will end up living, or whether to adopt/work/write a novel/get a tummy tuck) will not be a lost-year but one of self improvement and prep for a happy future. Should be interesting.


Homemade Softscrub

There's me in the little black dress. Dad, click on the orange 'there's.'


Reflection Pool

If I ever get a chance to custom build a home, a reflection pool would be high on my architectural wishlist. So today, here's me imagining I am sitting on this bench, reflecting:

*After I had spent an extra night in Reno I traveled to Yuma the day before the show in Winterhaven. I had to change in Phoenix where I spent a few hours at the airport. In the evening I had to walk across the airfield, where I could still feel the heat, and caught the plane to Yuma. It was only a very tiny regional plane. There were a few turbulences and the air-condition wasn't working which made it a very unpleasant flight. The view was slightly misty and all I could see was desert.In Yuma I had some problems finding a taxi. After I had waited for some time I got in an old taxi which crossed the border from Arizona to California. When I arrived at the hotel I went to bed pretty soon after I had ordered a salad for dinner.
After reading this exerpt from a blog, I have to seriously decide what my blog content is to be. Gods, help me to make it relevant, humorous, authentic and not 'scratch-my-eyes-out-and-wail' boring.
*Ellery decided to quit IrishDance. How am I feeling about it, I ask myself. I wish she hadn't but she said to me, "Look at it this way Mom, I'm not giving up on my dream. I'm giving up on yours." (Is this from a movie she saw?--beware the power of fiction.)
*Yesterday we had a circle of friends over in which there had been a recent rift between some of the individuals. It was nice to get together again, but I am wondering if it will ever be like it was. Friendship is like everything else--fluxy (I have created a new word).
*It was 1998-the last time until now that I had no outside, major life goal other than caring for home and family. I am relatively lost in that I usually have something occupying brainwaves in addition to whether the laundry needs to be switched to the dryer ,or what to offer for dinner, or what time to leave to get kids to their activities on time. Now I see why people have what I call "now or never" babies--that last one they squeeze in around age 40. "Since I'm already doing this, what's one more?" I like parenthood and homekeeping--I just usually have something else going simultaneously. 'Now what' is what I'd like to know.

Froogle Me

Look at what I did to save money and time. Maybe this will be a 'beginning-of-the-school-year' ritual.