Sunday, March 2, 2014

Soulful Sunday - Initiating Mindful Thinking

It has been my inclination for these past couple years to be full. By full, I mean, to have a filled schedule, and to live a full and fulfilling life. I accomplished this by accepting a full-time job offer, and beginning a full-time masters program. I also began planning a wedding with my beloved, and attended to my usual suburban farm chores and more impulsive, short-term projects.

Now, I work two wonderful part-time jobs (gladly leaving the full-time job behind), and my classes are done. I am near to graduating from my school of study, and I find myself with less structured time. This, of course, has been an adjustment. My dog and my cat are obviously thrilled with the amount of time I spend at home (as one of my jobs requires I use my home office for most of the time), but it took my easily distracted mind some time to adjust. I could sit down at my office desk and complete work tasks, or I could check out Facebook just one more time. (Or Twitter, or Ravelry, or Pinterest...) Social media is an easy dopamine dump in the brain. Sitting to focus on the task at hand is not so easy.

I still manage to complete my work, but it was taking me longer to do so, than if I wasn't so taken with distractions.

To battle this "monkey mind" of mine, I practice mindfulness. When I feel the impulse to pick up my phone or open a new tab (I opened a new tab three times while writing this), I remind myself of the task at hand. I put down the phone or close the tab, and I take note of the feeling. I bring my focus back to the object - the current object being this blog post. I continue the process, gently bringing my focus back to the object just as I accept the urge to connect to a social network. I have the urge, it is there, and now here is my focus coming back. It has been very helpful not only to my professional work, but to my creative work as well.

I break it down into steps:

1. Note the feeling. (I want to connect!)
2. Accept the feeling. (Yes. That's right.)
3. Bring the object back into focus. (Here is what I'm doing now.)

It's working for me.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Second Loom Scarf - Stripes

I finished the scarf on the loom.

I'm very happy with the way it turned out. It's comfortable to wear and light enough for spring weather.

Pretty soon, I'll have made enough clothing and jewelry items to be able to wear something handmade everyday. I'm excited about embarking on a long-term project to connect the art of handmade with daily life.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Foodie Friday - Soups and Stews for the Cold

Hello all!

This has been one helluva winter here in New England. Each week for the past month and a half, we've had anywhere between 6 and 12 inches of snow dumped on our coastal CT neighborhood. Now, there's a melt happening, and flood warnings are happening all over the state.

Just as I'm writing this, I've spotted a robin on the fence outside the office window. She or he is chirping. Though snow is mounded everywhere and the day is grey and misty, the robin seems to be trying to convince me that spring is just around the corner.

I know it is. It's nice to have the little reminders, however.

Onward to the food. Over the fall and winter, I become a soup addict. It's warm, it's nourishing, most of them are easy to make, and some are made using the crockpot, which can be so wonderful to come home to after a full day and an evening meeting.

I made so much soup, that eventually D began protesting. He's a man who likes his stir-fries, noodle dishes, and tacos.

I still plan about two soup recipes on the menu a week. Because I can. ;)

Without further adieu, and in no particular order, here's a collection of my favorite interweb soup recipes I've made over the past few months:

Mushroom and Farro Soup
This mushroom-centric soup is brothy with a slight tang and a delicious flavor. It was a big hit with D, and I never got a chance to freeze any leftovers.

Portuguese Kale and White Bean Soup
This soup was a surprise - as in, I wasn't sure how much I would like it. I'm not a big fan of fennel, though I do like the subtle flavor fennel seeds can give to a soup or stew. This soup turned out to be a winner. I had a lot of kale from the garden and from the winter CSA, so this was a great way to use it.

Shiitake Ramen
I love the simplicity and flexibility of ramen. D loves noodles. I can swap out ingredients and toppings very easily, depending on what I have on hand. This recipe is a scrumptious and fairly basic ramen.

Lentil Vegetable Barley Soup
This is an easy and filling crockpot recipe. It's also nutritious and yummy! It is vegetarian, but D complained that it didn't have any chunks of beef. Lentils provide enough protein, but you can always add beef.

Slow Cooker Harira
Harira is a tangy Moroccan soup with a focus on lemons, lentils, and tomatoes. This was delicious, and I made a big batch so that I could freeze some and eat it later.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
If you like tacos, tortillas, nachos, all those tasty things, this soup is for you. I added extra limes, because I love the limes.

I would add a chili recipe, but D and I make our chili from scratch using whatever vegetables, spices, and beans delight us in that instant. I promise you, this haphazard way of cooking chili always turns out for the best.

Of course, there are soup and stew recipes I have prepared that are found in books - most noted is the Vegetarian Pho recipe in the "Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook." You can find pho recipes online, of course, but this book has a number of fabulous and filling vegetarian recipes.

On the horizon, I will be trying out the Roasted Jalapeno Soup, the Hot and Sour Dumpling Soup (replacing the shrimp with tofu), and African Sweet Potato Peanut Stew. I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

I leave you with a photo of that scintillating harira soup.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

WIP Wednesday - Loom Project 2

I am loving the weaving.

I decided to use Spunky Eclectic Panda Sock yarn in the color "Vampire Kisses." It's a self-striping yarn with short bursts of color going maroon to white to grey to charcoal to white and back to maroon.

This color way lead to a surprising effect in the pattern of my scarf once on the loom:

The warp is simply 220 Superwash merino yarn in a worsted weight. I added white stripes between the charcoal strands. The weft, which is the self-striping sock yarn creating the horizontal weave, has created these unexpected stripes of maroon, white, and charcoal in an almost uniform pattern.

Weaving continues to be a delight.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Harvest Monday - Feb 2014

It's February. All I can show you is the state of my garden beds:

Yeah, that's a whole lot of window screen. Sorry about that. But you can see my beds and trellis are just shrouded with show. It's beautiful. No good for planting and harvesting, though. We received one foot last week, 7 inches another week, 8 inches in the week before that, and 6.5 inches in the week before that. Tomorrow, we get three inches. 

Instead, I try to harvest other things in winter. Ongoing creative projects, my relationships with others, and probably even more importantly with all the hours indoors, my relationship with myself. 

Creative projects include crochet, knitting, jewelry making, embroidery, weaving, sketching, and writing.

I crocheted a set of fingerless gloves using soft, warm angora wool. 

I have another project on the loom. 

Let's not forget the bounty of food. This is a wheat berry and pinto bean soup made with the last of the potatoes from the garden, and a homemade peasant bread. Though I have started growing parsley indoors, this fresh bunch is purchased from my local Trader Joe's. 

This week I will start some onion and cole crop seedlings, and I am looking forward to it. Pretty soon, my Harvest Mondays will have more green.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Foodie Friday - Superb Owl Edition

It's Friday, and I've decided to claim it as a Foodie Friday.

This past Sunday was my least favorite secular/consumer holiday. I don't care for most sports, and I'm not all about the commercials. (Hooray for the culture of capitalism for creating a sensational, national celebration of a consumer activity - "oh, you don't like football? Watch it for the commercials. They're the best!")

But wait, there are things I like about this day.

I like community. I like talking with friends and acquaintances, and connecting over jokes, jests, and jeers. I like the party atmosphere, and the biggest element of that atmosphere: food.

As a vegetarian, I don't go in for the wings and the pigs in a blanket, obviously. I did discover some recipes I loved this year, and will use again in the future!

And here they are:

Avocado Egg Rolls with Chipotle Ranch Dip

These were delicious! To make these babies healthier, you can bake the egg rolls instead of frying. In lieu of sour cream and mayonnaise for the dip, I used greek yogurt.

Buffalo Roasted Cauliflower

Scrumptious and spicy! I sliced the cauliflower in half, and did buffalo for one half and a home-canned BBQ sauce for the other half. Yum yum!

Warm Blue Cheese Sriracha Corn Dip

Of course, you have to have a special dip. I loved this dip. We ate it with a crusty, garlicky, artisan bread from a local bakery. Again, instead of using cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise, I used equal amounts of Greek yogurt. I still mixed in the Monterey Jack and the bleu cheese, of course, plus the other ingredients. I try not to use heavily processed condiments in general. The substitution made no matter on taste, because I could have ate the whole bowl myself if I didn't have any impulse control. I used it in a sandwich the next day. Heaven!

There you have it, some wonderfully tasty, vegetarian-friendly appetizers fit for any party!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

WIP Wednesday - Fingerless Gloves

In honor of WIP Wednesday, here's a sneak peek at my very simple, very warm, angora fingerless gloves:

This, soft, beautiful yarn has a shining blue strand:

It gives the gloves just a hint of sparkle within the halo of angora fur. I really think they're lovely, and I will soon finish the second glove!

Feel free to share any works you may be crafting/arting in the comments!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The First Loom Project

I have a number of creative projects going on. Jewelry, drawings, writings, embroidery, crochet...

But today, I want to show off my tabletop loom. My husband Dave gave it to me for Xmas. It's called a Cricket Loom, which apparently is just a rigid heddle loom. I know next to nothing about looms and weaving, but I have been educating myself!

Set up was pretty easy. I put the loom together quickly.

Warping the loom (stringing the blue yarn) became a somewhat meditative practice. It took a while, but it wasn't at all boring.

I used the self-striping yarn Dave gave me. It lends itself to a subtle effect in changing hues of the scarf. Creating the weft had its challenges. The edges are a little uneven, and there are gaps here and there from missing the warp on occasion. The thickness of the weft improved as I got into the swing of it.

The finished product! It's by no means perfect, but what a fulfilling practice! I can't wait to start a new one!

Meanwhile, I've been collecting seeds and seed catalogs. I prefer heirloom varieties from organic suppliers, but I recently got a box of mixed heirlooms and hybrids:

Anyone else excited for the coming gardening season?!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Getting Eggy

I love the colors we have in our kitchen. Olive, pastel blue, eggshell white (see what I did there?), caramel, chocolate, salmon...

One of our layers is a frizzle olive egger. She lays the green egg in the middle.

We call her Tina Turner.

The recent big snows have chased our hens inside, but the ducks stay out in the snow as if it were never happening.

That's a photo of our lovely Beignet out for a stroll.

We also have been getting our first duck eggs:

We have a lot of eggs at the house now. I collect more than a half dozen per day. Friends and family are the ones benefitting from this!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Addition and Subtraction

2013 was a year for adding. I took on a near excessive amount of graduate classes to accompany my full time work. I loved it, even if at times I was stressed, tired, and disappointed. Academia, particularly the natural sciences, tickles me pink.

I also got married to my best friend and fabulous partner.

I acquired a beautiful creature who likes to glut himself on crickets and romaine lettuce.

We've named him Apollo. Here he is taking his first bath!

Chillin' like a reptilian:

My lively little girl Malai takes a nap in our new chair in the library.

She remains the apple of my eye, though some of the chickens are vying for that spot:

Let's not forget the ducks:

My life is full to the brim. As a result of the wedding registry and our super generous friends and family, my house is full to the brim.

Now, I try to cut back. 2014 will be about subtraction. I have a single project to do for my masters degree, I have two wonderful jobs centered around ecology and agriculture, and I continue my creative pursuits. However, there is necessary weekly household organization going on, along with trips to secondhand shops and shelters. (Not giving away the registry items, but a lot of stuff that's gone unused in our house - old clothes, old bread machine, old games, etc.) In addition, I will do less of the stuff that doesn't build toward my personal goals.

So, life is good, still busy, but not nearly as tense as it once was. In 2014 I hope to focus on what's really important - friendships, family, my partnership with my husband, and the activities which fulfill my sense of meaning.

So, less Facebook, guys. ;)

And I leave you with my most recent WIP:

Nothing special yet, but fun to work on!