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Bunching onions, sauerkraut, local lamb roast, and working in the garden….

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

What do all those things have in common? …. Just more “not dabbling in normal” normal.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Cleaning and clearing out the winter garden. the onions are starting to flower. I let a few turnips and some of the kale flower so I can collect seeds. The monster spinach is just starting to bolt, so will leave a few plants in the ground for seed saving also.

I was over at the neighbors yesterday to help clear out winter plants and get some spring things in the ground. He uses a hoe (made in the USA) that belonged to his grandmother. (my neighbor is 81 years old, so that is one old hoe that he is using.) we planted some cucumber and zucchini seeds and got a few bell pepper plants in the ground. My body is still playing catch up from being sick a year ago…. so that was all we got done. We will work out there again on Saturday. I plan to work in my garden today and hopefully get some plants in the ground. I still get out of breath, but it feels good to work out there and I need to keep pushing myself a bit to keep getting better. I have certainly come a long way, especially when i think back to march 2013 when I couldn’t even walk across the room!

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

I have picked my cabbages and they are in the crock turning into fermented sauerkraut. I picked up some more local cabbage at the local swap that I go to and those are also fermenting in another second crock. A Roasted lamp shoulder

Dinner the other night was a roasted local lamb shoulder (picked it up at the swap/barter.) I had a second pan in the oven roasting sweet potatoes and onions that I also traded for.

Making a cough syrup

Making a cough syrup

I am also taking an herbal medics class. Learning a lot, and So much more to learn. It is a lot of fun. I am harvesting some wild herbs and edibles as they are popping up this spring. The lambsquarter is popping up so I am potting some up to take to plant swaps and also the month swap/barter.

So, like I said…. Life. There is a lot going on. Spring is in the air (It was 87F yesterday – I think we skipped Spring!)

What are you up to this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

 

 

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I make everything from scratch, to avoid ingesting hormones, additives, and preservatives that I consdier pernicious, or at least whose beneficial or pernicious qualities are an open question. Dinners, desserts, soda, sauces and jams, breakfast cereal, trail mix, all sorts of bread. (Still haven’t made my own noodles, because I can’t seem to run out of the ones I have. I’ll get there Susy Morris, I swear.)

At almost 60, I’m a remnant of the last generation that routinely learned to cook at home. While I never stopped making dinner- the stews and soups and roasted chickens- I had largely abandoned baking, picking it back up a few years ago. I started with crackers, then scones, and moved on to pie (yes the crust too, thanks for asking).

It turns out to be like language– while I do rely on recipes, I found baking intuitive for the most part; call it “touch memory” from my childhood. Like smells, it turns out the texture of a proper pie crust, and the correct amount of cookie dough to scoop up, and the shape of a pita are learned skills that lurk in the interstices of your brain until you need them again.

But I didn’t trust myself with bread.

I’ve been through many recipes- the Browneyed Baker, and Mark Bittman and my favorite legacy cookbook. I’ve watched the complex terror that is America’s Test Kitchen’s minute description of how to fail at breadbaking. I followed every step to the letter. I asked my pro-baker buddy for tips. But it wouldn’t rise, and it didn’t look right, and the crumb was too loose or too dense.

The only expert I didn’t consult was that lizard brain of mine, which kept telling me that none of my breads felt right.

A month ago I went to a bread baking demonstration, expecting to find That One Weird Trick That Will Make Your Bread Turn Out Correctly Every Time!

And I did.

The presenter started throwing ingredients into a bowl– warm water, melted butter, yeast, sugar, coffee, salt. He dismissed experts and recipes– “two cups of liquid, some kind of shortening, yeast, flavoring like salt, 4-5 cups of flour. That’s bread. Any kind of bread– flat bread, loaf bread, fancy bread.” Now this sounded more like cooking, and less like that scary, scientific, chemical-reactions, cautiously weighed ingredients mystery that is baking. And I remembered baking bread with my mother; she used to have a cookbook out, but I seldom remember her looking at it. She would just make the bread, and tell me “this is what the dough should feel like when it’s ready to rise, and this is what it feels like when it’s ready to bake.” Here’s how it looks and here’s how it smells.

So I started making bread, instead of reading recipes. The first time I ignored the recipe, I forgot the shortening in a loaf bread. Bread without shortening gives you flat bread, like pita, so you can imagine how nice and dense that loaf was.

But it freed me from the tyranny of perfection– I made edible bread armed only with ingredients and my knowledge. So I made another loaf (and forgot to punch it down– this results in a bread “balloon” in case you’re wondering), but it looked and tasted like bread. I’m on my fifth loaf now, and third successful loaf. Easy, in fact, as pie turned out to be.

Standing at the counter kneeding bread feels not just like, hey, I’m going to have some delicious bread in a few hours. It feels like I’m Eve, or Miriam, or Mrs. Ingalls, or my mother, doing what women do, and have always done.

Making bread.

DSCN1163

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1. Weekly laundry loads are really small.
Oh, oops. Did I wear the same clothes four days in a row? Did I remember to change for sleeping? (no)

2. Bed is made
See below, “creative procrastination.”

3. Nose prints on back window
When was the last time I went outside?

4. Creative procrastination
Made a cake in the middle of a Wednesday? Check. Swept kitchen floor? Check. Extended phone call with daughter? Check.

5. Oh, you get to “leave” work at 5 p.m.?
How cute.

6. What’s a “business line?”
Is there anyone who doesn’t have my phone number?

7. Don’t open the heating bill without a strong drink in your hand
No such thing as setting the thermostat for when people are in the house. People are always in the house.

8. Starbucks is my conference room
At least they clean their toilets regularly.

9. We call it a “perk.”
Remember that drink in your hand? Yeah, I have a drink in my hand.

10. You never shop on the weekends or after 5 p.m.
That’s when all the cube farmers are there.

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The endless winter

Probably 30″ of snow in the backyard— it’s been death by a thousands little snowfalls this year. Two inches here, six inches there, not too bad shoveling-wise, but it’s been just one after the other, with something like 37 separate snowfalls in the past 40-45 days. The season total- with a month of winter to go, is 62″, a 20 year record.

And with zero melting in between. It just stays below freezing, often well below freezing. Along my back walk, where I’ve shoveled the snow up onto the yard, the wall of snow is at least shoulder height.

Usually in winter it’s kind of fun to track the animals based on their footprints, but this year there are no footprints— they are either traveling under the snow or they are nowhere.

Likewise the birds. I’m not seeing any. There were some bright blue finch-like ones on my porch about 10 days ago (someone suggested indigo buntings, and they do look like that, but we’re awfully far north for indigo buntings.), but I haven’t even seen a sparrow in a week. I always leave seed pods for them— angelina, phlox, sedum, coneflower— but the snow is so deep that the 2 foot tall heads of the plants are buried. There’s only northern sea oats and some monarda tall enough to still be visible.

Weather report calls for four days with highs below zero (that’s fahrenheit, folks). Then a maybe 33º on Thursday, before it plunges again for almost a week. Oh, and two possible snow “events” in there too.

I like winter as a rule, but I’m just worn out by this one.

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I have been storing my organic ground pepper in a jar and for some reason haven’t gotten around to refilling the shakers.

Now I wish I had!opps!Opps! That’s a little too much pepper with my morning eggs. I made the mistake of shaking it from the open jar instead of just taking a pinch or two.

Clean-up when fairly well. The egg was edible, a bit peppery, but edible. I sneezed quite a bit too.

What type of mishaps have you had lately?

Sincerely, Emily

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It was pretty successful, actually.

Of course, I like to clean (don’t tell my kids), and I get positively giddy over big reorganization projects. Some of the fussiness of the way Apartment Therapy goes about it (flowers! Frame That Art! Was there something about cute hand creams? I d’no) set my teeth on edge, but I get it. All clean and no play makes for a let’s-not-finish-the-January-Cure.

So here’s a day by day:

1. The First Step: Create a Project List
Yup. Did it. However, I must confess that I have on-going lists. I have a whole moleskin devoted to lists. One of the things I put on the list was painting chalkboards at strategic spots around the house so I could make lists.

2. Weekend Chores: Flowers & Floors
Well, you know my feeling about flowers. Expensive, chore-like, and unsustainable. Floors are the one big task of the cure that I really regret missing. That was the weekend of the 12″ snow, so I shoveled. Does cleaning the sidewalk count?

3. 10 Mindful Minutes: Get a Fresh Perspective
Loved this. Not sure how it affected the cleaning project, but I loved having an actual excuse to sit and stare out the window. “Hey, the Cure said…

4. A Simple Step to Success: Set Up an Outbox January Cure:
I don’t need an outbox. I need a time machine. My problem is not that I don’t get rid of things I don’t need. It’s that I get rid of things I shouldn’t. I spend a lot of time going through trash cans (yes, and dumpsters) for the stuff that I should not have thrown out.

5. You Can Do It: Pick a Project to Cross Off Your List
I managed to do one of them– cleaning the basement, including my list-ready chalkboards. Did not get to the other one, figuring out a solution for my several dozen necklaces.

6. Making Your Home Your Own: Prep Artwork for Framing & Display
I rolled my eyes at this one, but in fact I actually did do this, because when I was cleaning the basement I found a beautiful drawing by my old art buddy Karen Lyverse. It is now hanging in my foyer. Thanks, January Cure.

7. Weekend Chores: Flowers, Kitchen Organizing & Cleaning, Make a Meal
Sweetie, flowers again? Also, I make all my meals already. Do people who live in apartments not make meals?  But yes, kitchen organizing. I love kitchen organizing. Now, there wasn’t that much organizing to do this year, since my ex organized me out of most of my stuff already, but I did get a 20-year goal completed and managed to caulk behind the sink. Don’t ask.

8. Keep Yourself on Track: Get a Get-Together Together
That’s for today. But it’s not for the January Cure, it’s gathering a couple of girlfriends for a major rant on my evil ex.

9. The Clutter Filter: Create a Landing Strip
Sigh. Seriously, do grownups need a special place to put stuff until they put it away? Just for god’s sake put stuff away.

10. Unplug for an Evening: Try a Media Fast
hahahahahahahah

11. The Halfway Point!: Project Progress
Oh, was I supposed to track this halfway through?

12. Weekend Chores: Flowers, Bedroom Cleaning & Wardrobe Organizing
Yeah, that was the necklaces (the rest of the bedroom got reorganized in the break up)

13. Less Mess & Stress: Getting Your Paperwork & Files Organized
From this I infer that people don’t routinely keep their paperwork and files organized.

14. Worth It: Clear Up Cord Clutter
I don’t have electronics, for the most part.

15. Declutter & Organize: Bathroom Cabinets Cleanout
I was into this, until I discovered that my medicine cabinet has almost nothing in it. Can’t decide if this is empowering or depressing.

16. Lightening Up: Declutter Media Collections
Also not a media consumer. I would love to get rid of Wei’s records, still in my basement, but that would probably not be in the spirit of “amicable divorce.”

17. Weekend Chores: Flowers, Outbox, Living Room & Lighting
Sigh

18. The Assignment We’ve All Been Waiting For
No clue.

19. A Gift to Yourself: Hang that Artwork!
And it looks just great. Thanks for the push, JC.

20. Final Stretch: The 60 Minute Quick Clean
I have no idea what this was. Are you seeing a theme here? Towards the “end days” it begins to get difficult to keep going.

21. The Last Lap; 22. Weekend Chores
I think the Apartment Cure people were getting tired too.

I will definitely do it again next year.

Did you do the January Cure? Do you like it better than traditional spring cleaning?

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The problem with full time employment, aside from the annoyance of having enough money to pay the bills, is that macro-projects like the January Cure are hard to keep up with.

I’ve been telling myself that I did a major home reorganization last spring, so I don’t really need to go through my closets.

I don’t approve of cut flowers from an ecological viewpoint, but the bigger problem is that I live in the ghetto (ish), where there are certainly no florists, and now there are also no large grocery store chains. We are not the sort of neighborhood that the yuppie chains like Mariano’s find attractive. Buying cut flowers is a chore, not a joy.

I did of course do the kitchen, but not at the level recommended by the Cure. Although frankly, my kitchen is pretty clean and well organized as that’s where I spend most of my time. I think if I lived in a one room apartment, that room would have to be a kitchen, with the bed stuck in a little alcove.

I did not create a landing strip, but mostly because I’m not an accumulater. I just get rid of stuff I don’t need- papers, old clothes, cracked dishes, husbands…. In fact the moving on of the husband is the reason I don’t need to reorganize things like the kitchen and the bedroom and the paperwork. Been there, done that.

I also have not planned a get together, which is actually something I’d like to do.

Partly this is procrastination, and partly it’s fear, because the last get together I planned, half the people who R.S.V.P’d didn’t show up. I’m still getting through the leftovers, more than a month later. Who needs the stress, or the cost.

I am determined to get to my Goal Projects: boxing up my husband’s detritus from the basement (he is not someone who does not accumulate things), painting “blackboards” in key places, and organizing my necklaces (I have several dozen).

I figure I have 17 days before I have to admit defeat on that.

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