Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category.

The Meaning of Objects

2016-05-13 09.09.16

I’ve been following the Konmari method since last year, as originally outlined in the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. When those that have not tried this method cover it in the media, there is often confusion about the basic tenant of the method, the idea of objects “sparking joy”. This morning my mind went on a circuitous tangent thinking about how objects seem to carry feelings and memories.

Some of you know that we are back in our house after two years of fighting toxic mold. Recently, I’ve struggled with some fear about dust. I’m reminded of the saying, “just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.” It is indeed justifiable fear; the mold toxin binding medication that I’m taking is causing some of the hypersensitivity to return, and indeed, it’s all over the place in one form or another.

This morning I had mistakenly worn my crocs outside in the wet grass and then through the contaminated garage and entry, and back through the house. I was bemoaning the unclean state of the floors and rinsing them off in the sink, which itself caused a small debate in my head over the advisability of floor dirt getting into the sink, but then I decided that indeed was paranoia, because I’m never consistent about separating the two at other times.

Over the past year I have cleaned every single belonging I have in the house. It became a habit when sorting through drawers of random unsorted stuff to have a rag and spray bottle nearby. Often I did this as I was trying to notice a spark of joy and gratitude in my body for the item. The two became interconnected in my mind, and I have begun to regularly notice an object’s joy when I am cleaning and taking care of it.

These particular crocs came from walking the Bolder Boulder many years ago with a group of close friends. I used them as house and travel slippers; they represented acceptance, support, and comfort. In 2014 when we began the process of evaluating each of our belongings for mold contamination, they were one of the few pieces of footwear that made the cut.

When I developed chemical sensitivity in 2015, possibly as a result of exposure while trying to remodel our house and clean our belongings from mold at the same time, There was a time that I believed I was having a chemical reaction to the plastic in the shoes, particularly the straps which are made up a slightly different material. In my 2015 Plastics Purge, I reasoned with myself that they were old and had had a good life. But I just couldn’t get myself to give them up, and so I tucked them away, feeling a little betrayed that even they would be a problem.

I later learned that some of my reactions including the numbness and tingling in my extremities, were actually autonomic nervous system dysfunction, and that my fear was actually exacerbating some of the symptoms, even more than the items I was afraid of. Feeling bashful and apologetic, I carefully pulled out my old friends.

We took a while to re-establish the relationship. For a long while, I felt crazy that I had misinterpreted my reactions so dramatically. Maybe all of my reactions were in my head; maybe I was just being a big baby or a nervous Nellie. The crocs, like other items in my life, bore a little piece of that distrust and guilt. I was nervous about reacting to them, and nervous about not reacting to them. I still only wore them with socks, since the strange texture reminded me of that pins and needles feeling.

At the same time, I was still trying to talk myself out of believing in symptoms that would prove to be legitimate. Most recently I eliminated one of the most insidious irritants that in hindsight, has plagued me throughout this process. As back story, my husband Mike has always used the same shampoo. He stopped for a while, at the worst of my chemical sensitivity, when the smell of it coming out the crack under the bathroom door was making me nauseous. Even if I were half-asleep, I would wake with my heart pounding and the feeling that something was wrong. I didn’t even want to hang my organic bamboo towel next to his regular one, as it might pick up an itchy feeling (though I thought that was chemicals in the cotton, back then, and then thought I was crazy after that).

After we found that my symptoms were not all chemical, I said he could try the shampoo again, and it didn’t seem to be a big deal. I still noticed it more frequently a year later, when the hypersensitivity came back as a side effect of the mold detox med, and I asked him to stop using it again. And then scrubbed the bathroom from top-to-bottom and washed all the linens and the pillows.

That was a few weeks ago, and allergy symptoms that I had had for the entire previous year, which I had attributed to dust in our sheets and pillows, to the vinyl in the new waterbed, the mold growth on the towels which got itchier and itchier through the week,even sneezing from toilet paper and tissues, all disappeared. Gone. (Until I was exposed to mold or something else).

Suddenly, with that irritant gone, like a bloodhound I could find mold contaminated objects that had slipped through my rigorous process. Being two feet away from a small fabric makeup bag brought on a sneezing fit, even though it had been living in my closet for a couple of weeks and never had before. I had always loved that little bag, but why I thought I could run it through the washer and keep it I had no idea. It’s like my eyes are blind to items I don’t want to give up.

Yesterday, I was sorting paper. Again. You know how that goes. My arms began to itch, which is usually a reliable symptom specific to mold residue, but is uncannily similar to a pins and needles reaction that can be a direct result of fear. I didn’t ignore it, but I didn’t go get a mask, either. I’m tough, right?  These were the “clean” papers. Perhaps they had picked up a bit of cross-contamination, but I could handle a little itching. I hadn’t gotten to the contaminated ones yet, which I would scan with my phone outside with a respirator if I knew what was good for me.

Then as I was going through old installation and care manuals for household appliances, I picked up one and immediately became woozy and off-balance. It was the installation manual for the air filtation system we installed in the basement; it had escaped the purge by being categorized as “post-remodel”. My anxiety skyrocketed and I went into Decontamination Mode and isolated it to the garage. I do have a headache today, and maybe I’ll learn from it this time and protect myself better. It’s taken me a long time to trust my instincts again. But as more of them are confirmed again and again, my hypersensitivity has become an amazingly accurate detection system, and I’ve become grateful for it.

As I stood and washed the crocs, I realized I had neither a reaction nor fear of one, only gratitude. Marie Kondo says to feel if there is a spark of joy more intensely, hug an item close to your heart. Even bringing them up from my feet to the sink had this effect. She was right, yet again, darn it. Konmari also recommends that you treat necessary belongings that may not be perfect and items “in the gray area” as favorite joy sparkers. Usually this makes it pretty obvious, one way or the other).

The unadulterated joy in my beloved crocs was shining through again. They have been run through the dishwasher and the washing machine; they have taking me kayaking and camping and to folk festivals innumerous times. Soon, they will travel with me as I become a T’ai Chi Chih teacher. Reliable comfort and self-acceptance.

So try Konmari or don’t, but don’t be fooled by what falsely appears to be a superficial criteria of “sparks joy”. The joy in objects isn’t really about their newness or beauty or monetary value, but about the relationships we have with them. They represent pieces of the puzzle of our lives; they have a purpose and a home. That purpose can be functional or purely joyful. Sometimes it takes time to discover it.

Most of my house feels clean now, and I’ll get to the floor soon. Likewise, I look around my serene space with most items consciously chosen to stay. Just like I’ve ferreted out (and never will stop doing so) the pockets of mold contamination that bring itches and headaches, I continue to notice the areas that need a little TLC and gratitude, or a new home. The joy is everywhere now. Well, almost – even Marie Kondo admits that papers hold little or no joy.

Discovery of who we are through our relationships with our belongings requires being engaged with an item, open to hearing what it has to say, item by item. This simple but not easy method challenges us to define how we relate to our own lives. And, I have to tell you, it truly can be lifechanging.

My Life in Books

This post is a tribute to some of the books that I’m finally letting go of. At first I felt “forced” to let the books go because of contamination from being in a house with toxic mold. I’m incredibly sensitive to even small amounts of mold, and though that should change eventually, I had to ask myself, do I want to keep something that has the potential to make me sick, in case it doesn’t later?

Books have a false sense of scarcity to me. Especially old books. They just seem like they should be precious. Like someday they’ll all be electronic and something will be lost. Maybe I’m just getting old.

After talking with friends on Facebook, I decided that any that I really wanted to replace I would just get new copies of, but a strange thing happened. When I held them one by one and fully processed what they meant to me, I found I didn’t need to.

The first step in the process that I follow, after gathering all the books, is to hold each one and note how I feel. Those that “bring me down”, making me feel heavier, more fearful, less competent, I thank and let go.  That part was easy. The difficult ones were those that brought on a smile, a feeling of connection. Usually, those would be the ones to keep, but in this case I needed to go deeper.

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Above were the books I had been hoping to keep when I did a first pass last year, out of the hundreds we started with. I’m going to put the interesting ones into the story they represent.

I grew up on a hippie community called The Farm. In grade school I had a teacher who would read to us from a book every day. One of the first science fiction books I was ever exposed to this way was The White Mountains, a dystopian, aliens-take-over the world coming of age story that felt life changing until I read it later with my son and it wasn’t all that compelling to either of us. Still, I’ve held onto these (not the original copies as I never owned them) as a reminder of that shift.

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People didn’t really own books on the community, not like we do in our society today. I remember the local bookmobile coming to our school every month or two and getting new books. Another teacher suggested I read “1984” several years before that year would arrive, and if I had a copy it would fit well, right after the missing third book in the above series.

Jane Auel’s series was an early favorite of mine, and this hardbound Valley of Horses is one of the only books I owned from my teenage years. The rest of the series were replaced later.  I had thought these would be a prime candidate for an Amazon wish list, but ever since being in a regular writing critique group, I have a hard time reading them without noting the sometimes poor and rambling quality of the writing. I realized I really just liked holding onto them, but didn’t actually need to own a copy when I can easily get them again if I want.

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This little booklet on shoeing horses hold lots of fond memories. But they aren’t from the book itself, just what it represents. Really, the only page inside that resonated was the anatomy chart below. Knowledge of horse anatomy charts was one of the requirements for getting to be on the “pony crew” and be assigned to a pony. Each pony would have three or four kids taking turns throughout the week caring for it and getting to riding it to school in winter, and to the swimming hole in the summer.

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Here are another set of old favorites that haven’t been opened in years. I loved this series (though different copies, I’m sure) as a teen. The writing was sophisticated, and so were the themes. Someday I’ll read them again, but electronically will work well enough. I don’t need them to sit around and wait for me.

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These weren’t even my books, but I had a hard time letting them go. Everyone else in the house had let go of the idea of owning old books, and these seemed like they deserved more respect than that.

These particular ones were my husband’s from before we met. I was a sci fi fan too when we met and loved his extensive collection. Decades later, our son and he read these, a little each night. Thank you, original LOTR books.

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Does this book look familiar to anyone? It’s from the community I grew up on.

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We had our son in 1997. I always wanted to be a household that had lots of books around. Trains, Boats and Trucks was Mike’s, I think, and these Richard Scarry books I bought used when they reminded me of my own childhood. I was happy to share them with our son, but they are really only nostalgic for me. It saddens me that he never picks up a physical book anymore. It’s all Reddit now.

I was going to keep them for the proverbial grandkids, but I don’t want to live my life waiting for things that may not happen anymore. The picture in my head of the future only gets in the way of it coming true. I’d rather live in 2016.

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Our son loved animals even more than he liked vehicles. Here is what I’d saved from that era.

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We loved “Good Dog, Carl.” Carl, the dog, takes care of the baby while mom is away. So sweet.2016-05-04 12.53.17 2016-05-04 12.54.19 2016-05-04 12.53.37

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“Only the Cat Saw” was such a sweet story. It also was one of the first books that I had which pictured a mom breast-feeding a toddler, and normalized getting up in the middle of the night to do so.

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This one brought up strong mixed feelings for me. It never was a favorite of Alex’s, but I found myself having a hard time letting it go. When I browsed through it, I realized why. It showed an idylic family with a little boy (with two dogs instead of cats, but I made allowances.) At the end, the little boy gets a sister. We tried for another child for years, and I secretly, desperately wanted a little girl to make our family complete. All of that desire has been gone for years, but the bittersweet feelings remained enmeshed in the pages of this book, probably along with some of the mold residue that was the likely culprit for the long series of miscarriages I suffered. I had already let go of the dream; it is time to fully let go of the vestiges of the path not taken.

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When my son was young, I so wanted to find the key to parenting just right such that the chaos and stress and hard would go away. I have so many areas that a subconscious part of my brain wishes I could do more perfectly, and it’s time to let go. Said kid is 19 and blooming into a caring, witty, and amazingly intelligent adult. It’s time that I let go of parenting books and stop taking it personally when he doesn’t shower or clean his room. I’ve done my job more than adequately and it’s time to move forward. But if I needed a parenting book, here are the first ones I’d reach for.

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I needed to have a similar conversation with myself about homeschooling regrets. It’s time to let go of the feeling that there was so much more we should have found a way to cover. We ended up with a guy that cares and analyzes everything deeply, caucuses for Bernie Sanders, and could teach a course on astrophysics based on his work in a video game. (Kerbal Space Program, also known fondly in our household as “the best $25 of homeschooling money ever spent”).  It’s enough. It really is.

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And of course, the same lessons apply to myself. I need to remember I’ve learned a lot over the years. Instead of looking for a book to tell me how to live, I need to simply take the advice I give everyone else.

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At the same time I was trying to learn how to do less, I was also trying to be good at everything. These books taught me that I don’t need to hold onto placemarkers to remind myself I can be creative (though the top two I may buy again someday…I did copy a few favorite pages for ideas.)

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I inherited this and a more recent cookbook and they are both adorable, and mold-contamination free so I could keep both if I wanted. But I realized although the pictures are great, I don’t need a collectible cookbook. For me, that’s not the point of a cookbook. I kept the more recent as it’s laid out better and has more content.  Luckily I have a sister that adores unique cookbooks.

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“So, what would you do with extra time?”  My acupuncturist asked me that recently, and for the first time my answer was unhesitant.  “Write.”

But instead of trying to read all the examples I find of memoirs that are in my genre, I just need to take the ….oh, my, it’s up to 166,000 words, that I’ve already written and pull them into a book. I’m letting these go, unread. They may be great books, I don’t know, but they aren’t mine.

Everyone raves over my excerpts and more and more I get told, “You need to write that story.”  I’ve already outlasted the problem of finding a publisher, which I spent way too much time worrying about in the past, a perfect example of my grandmother’s saying, “Don’t borrow trouble.”  It might not be this year, but it will be soon. And others to follow.

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And the results? I kept about 11 books. There are several in a shoebox-sized plastic box (not pictured) that are still mold-exposed but I’m not *quite* ready to let them go. Three are commune publications which are research for my writing and hard to find, and two were written by my grandmother, one of my strongest supporters when she was alive.

These keepers live in my closet for now (the cookbook is awaiting a home in the kitchen). The rest are ready for discard.

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Marie Kondo talks about not keeping items just as reminders of memories, and how they pull us out of living in the present. I believe it’s not the books themselves we are purging, but parts of ourselves that are no longer serving us. She says that we need to trust we got what we needed when we first read a book, and I was shocked to find how true that is.  My “must keep” pile really was a “mustn’t forget” pile, which is entirely different from “joy sparking”.

I’m not advocating anyone else get rid of all of their books, but for me, it feels like a burden lifted, a freedom I never thought I’d feel. I imagined heartbreak and instead I got reconnection with who I am.

Lisa, 5/6/2016

 

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

I combined recipes to come up with this for dinner last night. My teen son said it was really, really good and why didn’t I make it more often? He even had it for breakfast. So I thought I would share.

You could just as easily use Bisquick or other baking mix for the topping. Just mix according to the package directions, but put enough liquid to be able to “glop” the topping onto the pie.(By the way, I use the same topping with a bit more sugar for fruit cobbler; it’s just an all-purpose drop biscuit ratio).

Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

2 cups frozen peas and carrots
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
3/4 cup chicken broth, or 1 cup
3/4 cup milk, or increase chicken broth and use cream
2 cups turkey meat, chopped
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 cup milk, as needed

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (220 degrees C) or 350 convection.

Cook the peas and carrots. Drain the vegetables and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in 1/3 cup of flour, salt, black pepper, onion powder, and Italian seasoning; slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk/cream until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens. Remove from heat; stir the cooked vegetables and turkey meat into the filling. Pour into a greased baking pan. (I used a square, but you could double the recipe and it should still fit in a 9×13).

Whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Form a well and add oil. Add milk in increments, using what is needed to make a gloppy mess.  Drop “crust” onto filling, spreading  out if you can.  It won’t be smooth.

Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is golden brown, cooked all the way through (just take a fork and test the middle to make sure it’s not doughy)  and the filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

(credit for original recipe goes to http://allrecipes.com/recipe/dads-leftover-turkey-pot-pie)

Cooking day!

Earlier this week I realized that if I wanted to get a freezer cooking day in before the end of the year, with the Hobbit coming up and then the holidays, :), I should do it this week.

My friend and I made six dishes today, with three more prepped and ready to put together tomorrow. We made a huge batch of granola, applesauce-kefir pancakes, ginger-apple oatmeal, frozen burritos, pineapple-ginger fried rice, and lower-oxalate pumpkin black-eyed pea chili. I thought I’d share a few of the recipes I chose here.

The granola was pretty simple, so I suggest you start with online recipes and customize. I used coconut sugar and maple syrup, coconut oil, and of course oats, fruits, and spice. For the pancakes I took an applesauce pancake recipe and put kefir and soured cream that was sitting in the back of my fridge, instead of the milk. (Note: I should have added a 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to counter the acid, but I forgot and they seem fine). The oatmeal was regular oats made with  a mix of water and milk (1:1:1 ratio) with whatever fruits etc I had on hand; in this case I put in shredded coconut, raisins, minced candied ginger, and almost as much chopped fresh apple as I put in oats. It came out wonderfully. The burritos also were pretty basic: ground beef with spices, rice, black olives, and shredded cheese. You can add salsa but it makes them a bit moist, so I suggest cooking it into the beef and draining well if you do.

The following two recipes, based loosely on ones I found around the ‘net, were fantastic enough to share in their entirety. The chili especially is a great new addition to my repertoire, as it’s subtly different than other chilis; sweet and a bit smokey.  For the pineapple rice, you might add ham, chicken, or shrimp. I didn’t, because a couple of weeks ago I bought a huge ham and divided it into steaks, so I’ll serve it with that.

(sorry about the formatting, I don’t have time to make it work right now).

Pineapple Fried Rice

Servings: 12
4 medium eggs, whisked
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups cabbage, finely chopped
6 cups cooked short-grain rice, must be cold
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 cups coarsely chopped pineapple
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
4 cups peas and carrots, frozen
Optional: add 1-2 cups tofu, chicken, or shrimp
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet or stir-fry pan over medium-high heat. Add eggs, and cook 8 lightly. Sprinkle
with salt. Remove from pan.
2. Heat coconut oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic; stir-fry 2 minutes or until lightly browned.
Add cabbage, cook until slightly transparent. Add rice, and cook several minutes before adding remaining ingredients
except frozen vegies (if re-freezing).
3. To freeze, cool before adding frozen vegies.
.
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Low Oxalate Pumpkin Chili
2 pounds ground beef
2 pounds ground turkey
1 pound bacon, cooked and drained
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups onion, roughly chopped
2 cups red bell pepper, roughly chopped
12 cloves garlic (6-8)
2 cups tomato juice
1 cup tomato sauce
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
3 cups sweet corn
2 cans pumpkin
2-3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-3 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons coriander
salt to taste
Brown the beef and turkey in a dutch oven or stew pot over medium heat. Pour off the grease (optional) and return to the stove [I used a crockpot]. Meanwhile, put the broth, onion, red pepper and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until the peppers and onions are soft. If desired, use a soup wand (stick blender) to puree the vegetables or put them into a blender or food processor and blend until  well pureed. Add the pureed vegetables and tomato juice/sauce to the beef and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Add the beans and corn and spices (no need to drain the beans and corn unless you want to) and continue to simmer until the flavors have melded and the chili has cooked down to your desired thickness (drain the corn before adding for a thicker chili). Serve with chopped cilantro, shredded cheese or a dollop of yogurt if desired.

Freezer Cooking

Just wanted to share the success I’ve had lately with freezer cooking.   I’ve mentioned to a lot of people the amazing free site I found that had the whole foods menu rather than just “casserole” traditional style freezer cooking. (though they do have ways you can use some of those recipes too, like homemade cream-of-something soup: http://onceamonthmom.com/homemade-cream-of-something-soup/)

In February, I did the January 2012 OAMM menu (http://onceamonthmom.com/whole-foods-january-2012-oamm-all-star-menu-oamc-freezer-cooking-bulk-cooking-power-cooking) which went really well, and we have been enjoying the food from that a lot.

I didn’t make my own tortillas or bread since I have safe brands, but I did cut organic chickens to get all of the chicken breasts and meats. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought.

Here’s some of what I learned for our family:
– I was really surprised by how much we enjoy having breakfasts on hand, especially baked goods that have some protein in them (Ricotta pancakes, French toast, and recently, Sausage and cheese scones).

– The dinners are great. Many of them aren’t really saving me a lot of cooking time, because I need a lot more vegies than they include, and some aren’t cooked in advance (e.g., marinated chicken recipes). However, they are saving me a ton of frustration, because it’s easy to pull out several main dishes at the beginning of the week. They really solve the “I can’t think of anything to make for a family that all likes different things” issue.

– What I most learned is that we need a lot more “grab-and-go” foods, especially because my son pretty much lives on these for lunches, my husband eats some on weekends, and sometimes we need quick and easy dinners too.

So, what I did this month is a “lunches” menu that I made myself in Mastercook. Here’s my menu (ignore the “modified” — I keep a copy of the original from the source and then my version, without mushrooms, onions, etc, to match my family’s needs):

Simple Frozen Burritos
Bbq Chicken Quesadillas (modified)
Corn and Chile Quesadillas (modified)
Beef Chimichangas (modified)
Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas (modified)
Tex Mex Calzones (modified)
Super Calzones (modified)
Potato Goat Cheese Pockets (modified)
Stove Top Mac-N-Cheese (modified from Alton Brown)
White Cheddar Chicken Pasta

It went really well. I’m finding that I like to cook a lot more when it is a “craft project” than if it requires being creative every night. Plus, I feel so much “safer”. It’s really hard to describe, but I had a panic feeling because if we are tired and late home at the end of the day, we used to just eat out, and without that option I was feeling stuck / worried a lot about food. Food was scary. Now, food is not scary anymore which is a nice change.  Next week we are going on vacation, and a lot of my food for the trip (driving) will be pulling out frozen meals to cook in the condo!

Magic The Gathering MTG Theme Cake

Magic The Gathering Cake

Magic The Gathering Cake

I made this cake for my son’s 14th birthday, held at Gryphon Games and Comics, our local game store. I thought I would post how I did it, in case anyone is interested in trying it out.

Main Cake Ingredients

Two of the guests couldn’t have gluten, and one couldn’t have dairy.  My son requested a lemon cake, so we followed the directions on Pamela’s GF cake mix, two packages, and made 2 9.5 x 11 cakes.  We needed to level the cakes to make a flat surface, so we sliced the “bump” off the top of each.

We started with a natural-style icing, but it was sticky and not very opaque, so we used it as a glaze. We  flavored it with lemon and spread it on one layer as “filling”.

Next we placed the un-iced layer upside down on top of the other, and iced the two. This “crumb layer” stops the cake from crumbling when the frosting is put on later:

IMPORTANT: Next the cake was frozen overnight, to set the crumb layer and give a hard surface to decorate on.

The next day when the cake was frozen solid, I mixed the frosting colors. I don’t have pictures, but each color was mixed in a small bowl and then each of the accent colors were put into a ziplock baggie.

I used the following colors: Olive brown, black, orange-brown, light blue, dark brown, purple, and white.

The background is frosted in olive green, with an orange-brown oval in the center (I cut out an oval from paper and then carved a thin line around it with a knife to mark it). Then after cutting off a small amount of one corner of the plastic bag, I piped on a purple outline around the oval.

The baggies could be put in either warm or ice water to get them at the right consistency:

I found a picture of the MTG logo and enlarged it to the right size for the cake, and printed out the portion that has the words “Magic The GatheringTM”.  Then I cut out the inside light blue color to make a template.  I gently laid the template on the cake, and filled in the spaces with light blue frosting, then carefully lifted it off. I did the same thing with the rectangle at the bottom.

“Deckmaster” was also piped in, referring to a printout of the logo for letter shapes.

Next I piped in the outline for the Magic, and added “The GatheringTM” underneath:

Finishing touches include frosting the edges in black, creating a rectangular indent with a knife, and adding min-m&ms (the white and black painted with frosting).

I need real sleep

I’ve had this happen before. Dreams. Too many vibrant dreams. They come crowding in at 2 am, like annoying chattering children that are trying to make sense of long drawn out stories but never quite get it right. By dawn I’m waking up every half hour, trying to brush them away and regain my hold on reality, only to have new ones attack me just as I’m falling back asleep. The line between reality and dream gets blurrier and blurrier as my attempts to make the dreams go away become part of the dreams themselves.

I finally give up and pull myself out of bed, looking for the peace of a quiet mind, and my head is filled with alternate realities that don’t make sense. I almost never remember my dreams…all of my life most of my dreams have been wispy, fragmented, shadowed versions of stories that last only seconds. The occasional vivid dream would stay with me like a strange book I had read, but it was rare. But now, these pesky ones cloud my memory with truths that never happened.

Now I’m exhausted. I don’t want to live two lives at once, especially when one never makes sense. I’m taking GABA and a combo with melatonin, valerian, and theanine; it makes no difference whether I take them or not. I’ve tried not having caffeine after my regular morning coffee, and I’ve tried not having any alcohol; neither made a difference. In the past I’ve had luck with tryptophan but it hasn’t seemed to do much this time, probably because I used to have trouble when going to sleep, and now it’s later in the night. Maybe I’ll try a ton of melatonin, working up slowly. I’d rather not take a sleeping pill; I’m so sensitive to things like that. Ideas are welcome, though.

Kid/Teen Movie List

Over two years ago, I asked a group of friends for movie suggestions to watch with my (then) 11 year old. I was about to ask the same question again, and realized that wouldn’t be very nice when I never compiled the original list as I had promised (though we did use some of the suggestions). Still, I would love any additions you have.

My new focus (what I would like to expand the list to include; this list was “just for fun”) is “Entertaining movies that a 13 year old ought to be exposed to for the sake of cultural knowledge”. (We’re only at PG-13 right now, but if they are R rated, I’ll just save them for a couple years). You know how someone makes a joke, and I never get it because I can’t remember the movie (or anything else for that matter…)? I don’t want him to suffer that fate, and this is one little way I can slip in a bit of “cultural education” into our homeschooling. (Shhh, don’t tell him that). But movies that are just great entertainment are good too.

So before you read the list, think about this – what movies have really made an impact for you? What movies do you think would be important for a liberal, independent-minded young man to see? Then add them in the comments and I’ll (eventually) add them to my list.

Akeelah and the Bee
Bring It On
Cave of the Yellow Dog
Charley Chan movies
Elf
ET
Flight of the Navigator
Groundhog’s Day
Flight of the Mimsy
Kids in the Hall (preview first)
Labrynth
Legally Blonde
Monty Python Flying Circus
Legend
Mask of Zorro, The
Master of Disguise
Men in Black
National Treasure and the sequel
Pink Panther (w/Peter Sellers), The
Pirates of the Carribean
Pixar films
Pursuit of Happiness
Raiders of the Lost Arc
Remember the Titans
Secret Garden, The
Secret of Roan Innish, The
Sinbad
Stick It
Strictly Ballroom
Touching Wild Horses
Whale Rider
Zoom

More superstitious than I thought

I wrote this post at the end of August. I think I can finally post it now…

I keep thinking I will write an email to some people, notably our doctor and a support group that I may have outgrown, saying that our son is doing great. But then another part of me says, “don’t jinx it! You know better than that!!!”  My son would say I’m being superstitious.

For those of you that don’t know us that well or follow my blog, which is probably most of you since Facebook has revolutionized the art of sharing blogs with your 300 best friends since I wrote most of the older stuff, suffice it to say this kid doesn’t have the easiest path in life.  It’s not the hardest, either – as I remind him frequently he is incredibly lucky in so many ways, not the least of which is to have us as parents.  (Yes, I get that, and am not ashamed to admit it –nor to occasionally bonk him over the head with that fact when needed).

The thing is, there is this strange dichotomy in my approach to thinking about his future.  First, I’ve become an expert at trusting that he will pick up the skills he needs, on his own schedule, or at least trusting that enough not to panic in the moment .  This trust had to be built over time (with a fair number of freak-outs along the way).   There were times I wondered if he would ever get dressed on his own, shower more than once a month (you think I’m joking, don’t you?), make his own food, or any number of things.  And, somehow, though perhaps later than everyone else and with lots of stress all around, he is doing those things.   So I diligently (and with lots of mistakes), apply this trust to knowing he will someday have a job he will enjoy, an education that will be sufficient in some way or another, and relationships that are at least semi-functional.

But on the other side of the coin, whenever there is progress, I’ve learned not to get attached to it, even as I continue to push forward and do everything in my power to help line up the stars for this kid. I don’t count on good days predicting more good days, because it’s so hard for both of us when it backslides, and as you know progress is never even and steady.   And sometimes, I try to avoid those inevitable dips with superstition.   I mean, if everything goes downhill for the next week who is to say if it was running out of B6 and phosphytidalcholine or adding extra hydroxy-B12?  Maybe what really was the cause was this blog post!  (Especially if changing those things back doesn’t bring an upswing, which is usually how it goes with us).

But the truth is, he is really, truly, doing well compared to a couple of years ago, even to last year. He is handling a rather full schedule of activities (though not half as grueling as school, undoubtedly); he is becoming more and more self-sufficient by the week; and he is growing up to be a well-spoken, almost (do I dare say it and tempt fate?) even-tempered young man.  We have made much progress and discoveries on the medical path, and I’m allowing a part of myself to hope that he will overcome this completely someday.

One of the things I’m also learning, at what seems like a horridly slow pace, is to trust myself. Trust that I can deal with whatever comes tomorrow, even if it’s not what I was expecting.  I’m learning to trust my gut when it gives me good information. And if superstition helps me with that, perhaps there is nothing wrong with that.  So I think perhaps, I’ll write this but not publish it quite yet.  Let’s see what the day brings, first.

(Since I wrote that, we did indeed have a few dips into difficulty – but we’ve pulled through each time. It’s all about trust, I think….)

Hitting “Publish” now.

Clouds

For some reason, this summer I have been obsessed with clouds.  I think we are having one of the best cloud summers ever in Colorado. A best friend has started calling me “cloud girl”. I’m really not sure why this preoccupation came about, though I’ve always liked clouds, or at least since I painted them all over my son’s ceiling when he was 5. I remember then that suddenly, what was just background noise popped and became a constantly changing diorama of inspiration.

Painting makes you notice.  Suddenly you stop seeing just the big picture and you see the details of what you are trying to capture.  Recently I’ve found the same is true of writing. It’s impossible to try to capture what you aren’t paying attention to. Perhaps that is why I’m so entranced by clouds this summer.  Perhaps I’m finally paying attention – to life, to where I am, and not just to where I’m putting my feet. (Yeah, we’ll see how long it will last 🙂 ).

The clouds are never the same.  I’m sitting outside on my deck, and there are new clouds compared to ten minutes ago when I sat down. They were light and fluffy, but the big gray one with little color differentiation has moved around from my peripheral vision into the front. I like change, in general.  I’m the proverbial butterfly as all my friends know.

Of course, what I like is movement, preferably aesthetic, not upheaval.   (I’m eying that dark cloud suspiciously, and wouldn’t be very happy it if started raining on me). I happen to be in a good point in my life right now that paying attention is easy.  Sometimes when the proverbial big gray cloud comes around, and there really isn’t any detail to see, it’s hard to keep paying attention.  I get that.

But looking down isn’t going to change what cloud is above you.  One of my favorite therapists (yes, I have more than one favorite therapist, and yes, I really do sometimes need more than one) used to say, when you don’t know what else to do, just look up.  Physically, look up. There is something about looking above the horizon that helps our outlook, both literally and metaphorically.

So whatever you would like to do, but aren’t actually doing, try paying attention and see what happens.  Pay attention to the clouds for a while.  Sit with a cup of coffee and see if you can just be with them for a while.  (I lasted 5 minutes. I’ll try for 6 tomorrow).

And if what you want to do is write (because it is, for so many of us), just start. Writing doesn’t always take us where we want to go.  I’ve had a big revelation lately – if I want to know how I feel about something, I just start writing.  Today, I noticed the clouds (for the several-hundredth time) and as I started self-justifying my obsession in my head, I thought, “Huh. What’s that about?”  All I started with was, “this summer I have been obsessed with clouds.”  That’s really all I had. (Oh, and a resolution to write a little something every morning, and a lack of inspiration about what I had planned to write about).  The rest was sitting there waiting for me to find it once I started writing.  A lot of things about life are like that, I think.

Pay attention, and then just start.  Let they journey take you where it will.

Oh, yeah, I guess then I have to just follow my own advice, and just hit Publish.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll watch the clouds a little more first….