Friday, December 30, 2011

the babbles; with a side order of salt.

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So here's the thing. I'm sitting here at my kitchen table with a giant bowl of popcorn in my lap with every intention of writing a new post. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to phrase the thing that I want to phrase into any sort of format that would be coherent. There are so many weighted objects floating around in my brain, but none of them are willing to be fully discovered as of yet, so I can only guess as to their whereabouts and contents. Guess I might. Pardon the incoherency.

I guess I've been wondering what the point of being Right is, if the point if being Right is to be right(!). Does a person have more value if they agree with us? Or less if they do not? "Of course not!" you say, "how silly!" But then I ask you this: how many in your closest circle disagree with your core values? Sameness and closeness are not mutually exclusive...are they? Do we trust those that tell us what they really think, or do we trust those that tell us what we want to hear? On the flip side; how gently do we offer our opinion (because it is only that, at the base of it) to those who ask? Or do we even wait for them to ask?

I've also been thinking about wrongness, and who decides it. Surely there are books aplenty that guide us this way and that (some religious, some not). There are millions of people under one umbrella, millions under another, and millions who've claimed no land in the war. I suppose my big question here is this: when did belief in anything (be it a faith system, a cultural norm, a social system) become about the other person's wrongness, and has it always been this way? If we get enough people to salute us to the top of the podium; does that make us more right? Or just closer to the top of the podium?

Then of course, I have wondered about voices. How do we use them, and how do we hear well what the voices of others are saying without our own cloudy heads getting in the way? (are you offended that I called your head 'cloudy'?) Is a voice only as valid as its alignment with popular opinion? Or does a voice have value because it is and it is speaking? What makes popular opinion right, if that is what we call it; is that how we measure our moral code and the brilliance of our speeches? To what do we hold our standards, and to whom to we check ourselves in with?

The pull in culture as of late - as I have seen it - is toward a luminous middle ground; one in which we all agree with the other. I understand this to a certain extent. Those with strong opinions, more money and power, have spent much of history starting wars and killing shamelessly just to prove that they are right (or at least, that they are closer to the top of the podium). Of course we as a people - humans - are weary of the habit. So we make a collective motion in the great court room: if only we could all agree! Then the world would be at peace. So the fight, day in and day out, becomes about making the other person agree, or helping the other person see their wrongness.

But isn't the beauty of humanity that we are all different? That some believe in God and others think it's Hooey! That some hunt and fish for sport while others eat only green things? Some people only pray out loud and in front of other people and some people only pray in their rooms with their mouths shut, and some people pray at specific times of the day in certain rooms of the house, to a different God than their neighbors do. Some people get on hand and knee to tend to their lawns with nail clippers, while others let their lawns grow over and up the sides of the rusty car. Still others don't have homes at all, but wander willingly, living day to day by what they have, not by what they want. Some people think the Bible is literal while others believe it is a beautiful poem. Some people have a different Bible, while others prefer science fiction. Some people think Coke is better than Pepsi. Some are conservative, some are liberal; and some people think they are better than George Bush.

We learned long ago (and unfortunately some are still learning) that skin color and heritage were not dividing lines, but rather, beautiful marks of grace upon humanity. The human rights movement didn't try to make everyone the same; it valued the difference and taught others to do likewise. Martin Luther King Jr didn't kick people out of the room, he walked up to their doorsteps and into their streets and tried for conversation.

The worry as I see it, is that we've lost that humble ability. Our current culture calls for a crack down on difference, instead of a gracious understanding of it. Popular Fights are calling for silence from the other side. Anyone with a different opinion is a total idiot (put nicely) while anyone who agrees is the newest 15-minute hero. I admit it: I am afraid for a culture with no ability to reform or question the new limits (for fear or being kicked out of classrooms, for example).

Be strong enough to silence oppressors, YES, but do not be so weak that you silence opposition.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I have decided what to do in 2012.


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Oh boy.

I just got nervous.

A vision came about: my projects, all “finished” and whatnot, where people can see them; floating around the playground with the big dogs, the winners, the published; with the ones who are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Planning is safe, isn’t it? Dreaming, too. But actualizing the two is something else entirely, because you have to strap them and their realities on and call them things like “done” and “ready” and “this is the best of me; this is all I’ve got.” It means you have to take those web-like constructionisms outside of your head and dangle them in view of the passersby.

Oh my.

Regardless, I am still going to try. I’ve spent this afternoon in a brainstorm; making notes and jotting down specifics; writing lists and drawing empty boxes so I can put checks in them later. There is a little wench in my chest cavity; she dangles on my heart strings all day long and eats Validation for breakfast lunch and dinner. I’ve spent a vast amount of my day shushing her. She giggles in anticipation and refuses to be shushed; she pokes her elbows out and combs lanky hands through unsmoothable hair and watches my every move. She is hungry, after all. She is always hungry.

I suppose it would help if the lines I come from were lines that had silenced the wench. But I know too much of silent artists and repressed expression to know how to quiet her and at this point, I am only guessing. My suppositions imply that I just need to get on with it and not worry so much about the receipt at the other end. Perhaps I create because I feel like it, because I can’t help it, because I need to, and not because I know where me and my little creations will land.
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Monday, December 26, 2011

all the winds and their changing

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found on Pinterest under "wind"

So apparently I have a crush on photographs involving wind. Can't really get enough of them, to be quite frank. Perhaps it's the emotional timing, or the year that's ending and the one that's coming up, or all three. The pictures seem to capture what my insides are hoping for: beautiful, freedom giving change. What a year it's been. Heartache seemed to chase a good number of those in my daily circles throughout the past twelve months; whether it was the death of a loved one or the death of a relationship, a giant leap of faith or an unanticipated fall, 2011 was big for many of us.

I have been thinking a lot about what I would like 2012 to look like, as I'm sure has been the case with many of you. The past few years, for me, have been somewhat restrained, dream-wise. I was distracted and unsettled and hesitant about my ability to withstand failure. I continually tried to pre-plan a lot of the planning for the things I've been wanting to do (if that sounds convoluted; it is). Now though, I have an unmistakable sense of urgency within me to get on with it; partly because it needs to happen, and partly to show 2011 who's boss. To help get the process started, I have already started the processes (!). I've told people about my goals for 2012, even down to the embarassing-if-this-doesnt-pan-out specifics, and I've begun compiling tangible pieces of evidence that I am actually going to do something with my life. If you came to my house right now, for example, you would see my projects. Out. On the table and the living room floor and not in the back of a drawer. My dreams have begun to leak toward the outside of my head. It's quite fascinating to see this all play out.

Related to all of this, of course, is the realization I had today: It is January! Not really of course, but Christmas came so fast after April that January is definitely going to be here soon after December exits from view; and despite my best efforts, I am having a difficult time convincing myself that it's not actually January. I like to think I'm getting a leg up on the competition between me and the steady clock hand by being so ahead of myself. I have paused to see what's coming, after all. I have the blueprints pasted all over the walls; I have the sketches lining the pathway to my bed. I have actual goals. I am actually going to reach them.

Brilliant.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

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I do not have snow
or tradition,
but I have a feeling
that these things
matter less; that 
the heart 
of the season
is still the reason 
we call it 
Christmas.
 
 


May you be warmed by plenty of gravy and hugs,
each in their own way, of course.
~ashley~

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

I will miss you when you go

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as I ponder my sweet little sister & her hubby moving to the other side of the world in 2 very short weeks
(...I will miss you when you go)
love, a.




Dear Time,

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about you and the way you move, and I have to know why it is you move so fast; if you don’t mind my asking. One minute here and one year gone; I am having trouble keeping up. The matter presses closely now as another round of changes begin, marking out their chosen territory for the signposts, cakes and Kleenex boxes that are sure to arrive without delay. I can feel myself searching frantically for breaks, to slow the speeding. Christmas is soon here, like so many Christmases have previously 'soon' been, and the New Year is upon us…but I am quite confident that we just had one of those, too. I feel as if we are duplicating the seasons (and by we, I mean you)…but then I look again at my calendar, and I digress. The year is gone indeed. This Christmas is really this Christmas (not last), and the Year on its way is not old at all; it is, most definitely, new.

Do you know how dizzied we are by your passing? Are you aware of us as you march onward and rush us from morning to night? And do you care that people leave us, receive us, and in the better cases: stay? I wonder if these things register with you, or if there is compassion in the hands of the watch, as we journey through the months that make up the years that make up the wrinkles on our skin (oh, by the way, thank you for the wrinkles). Do you know about the people; do you know that I will miss them? I will miss them when they go.

With care,
Human



Dear Human,

You forget; my marching is just that: a steady and unchanging pace. I have been what I have been since I have been it. You could set your clock by me (…too soon for jokes?). But you, Human, you change. You busy and haste away the hours I give you. Though the hours have much capacity they are better enjoyed (like anything) when you take note of them, when you have them with you. Who, of any of us, likes to be noticed only after departing? I can not give you more than I have, because I have given you much. The rush you feel is the rush you have chosen for yourself. Remember, my march is steady, slow, and unchanging. You might do well to learn to follow my lead. Take note of the hours has you have them, and the people, too. The world will blur less if you do so.

Sincerely,
Time.



Dear Time,

I am still going to miss them when they go.

With sadness,
Human



Dearest Human,

I know.

Faithfully yours,
Time.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

the art of breadmaking

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Well, if Today doesn't call itself productive, then Today gets a swift kick to the larynx. Not only was I super-on-time (read: half an hour early) for my RMT appointment this morning, but I am just finishing up not one, but two bread recipes. The first of my attempts came out of the oven awhile ago, and after some patience on my part, and the distraction of the other bread recipe, I am finally sitting down to sample batch #1; breadly indulgence at its finest.

Batch #1: 8 mini loaves. Specifically: 8 herbs-and-cheese pullapart mini loaves. If that sounds time consuming to make....it is. From start to finish, it took me approximately 3 hours (of course, 2.5 hours of that is "down time", which in my world is Pinterest Time).

So this is pretty much a deviation from my normal blogging habits, and it's likely stemming from the fact that I've been breathing in bread fumes all day long...but I've decided to review the recipes. After all, what good is Google without actual experience? Many people I know are on budgets and make their own bread to save money, or love baking, or like comfort food in the cold of winter - for all of these reasons I am patting myself on the back for the service this must be to you.

Recipe Review #1: Tiny Pull-Apart Breads, from Petite Kitcheness  (follow link for recipe)
This afternoon's sunshine was radiant, and I was filled with soul-joy as I listened to Mozart loudly in my car on the way home from my appointment. Somewhere in the middle of my head-bops and conducting, I was inspired to make bread. When I got home I ran into my house and got all the ingredients out on the counter before I could change my mind.  Then I went to Pinterest, hoping to find a good picture (inevitable), and therefore a good recipe, and stumbled across this beauty:


what my bread would look like if I had a nicer camera...right?


If I've learned anything from the many days I spend perusing Pinterest, it's that real life isn't exactly the same as that website. I hate to bring this up, but I'm sure everyone remembers my cakes. Case in point: perfection is hard. This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my mini loaves not only resemble the original picture, they are edible. Admittedly, I find them too sweet. This bread is loaded with roasted garlic, and the flavor of the garlic somehow turns what you think would be a deep, savory bread to a light, sweet tasting bread. It's throwing me off. But I'm going to eat them anyway, warmed and draped in melting butter.

my final product

I swayed a bit from the original filling recipe, using only a selection of the herbs she did, using what I had on hand, and varying my cheeses too for the same reasons; settling on a mix of parmesan and cheddar. Maybe these variations are why it tastes funny to me. Or, it could be that food made by someone else always tastes better; this theory is usually the strongest, and if you'd like to test it out you can make this recipe and bring some to my house. My tips for when you make it: less herbs (I used almost half the amount specified and the dough was covered), and more cheese. Bread can always use more cheese. The saltiness of the cheese would, in my opinion, balance out the sweetness from the garlic.

me and Man Glass decide if we like this recipe or not.
Final thoughts? This recipe is alright but need some tweaking. At this point, it's not entirely worth the time and effort...maybe I'll revisit this one day and come up with something better. For now, this recipe's gonna drift back into Pinterest's dream world.


Recipe Review #2: Robin's Wheat Bread, from Blissfully Domestic (follow link for recipe)

Batch #2 is a standard whole wheat loaf, for sandwiches and toast (and plain old fashioned eatin'!). I found this standard recipe using the standard Google search. I halved the original recipe (which yeilds 5 full sized loaves) to end up with one full sized loaf and a pan of mini loaves. Can I just say? SO HAPPY I did that. This giant ball of dough needs to be kneaded for TWENTY MINUTES by hand; even halved it was enormous. Tip: the 20 minutes goes much faster if you crank Rihanna and pretend it's a workout.



Immediately after taking this picture, I dropped my phone in the flour.

Either the Fairies have been dancing on my counter again, or I'm making bread.





This bread is, by all counts, delicious; the final product is definitely worth the effort. The recipe uses honey instead of sugar to 'proof' (set) the yeast, and the taste at the end is quite nice; sweet, but only subtly, as bread should be. As a sidenote, I might substitute honey for sugar if I ever try Batch #1 again; my theory is that the sweetness of the dough was part of the problem (the first recipe uses sugar). Batch #2 bread is sturdy enough that it would hold a sandwich together, and it seems to cut well. As another bonus: making the full, 5 loaf recipe would mean you'd have to make it less often; the one shot deal appeals to my laziness.

1) I have a crush on my mini loaf pan...
2) My poor estimation skills show in the different loaf sizes.
But nobody cares about that really, except Martha, and she doesn't read my blog.

*swoon!* Mini bread!

we like this one.
Final thoughts: if you are looking to get a lot of bread for your buck (and time and effort), Batch #2 is the winner. Good luck, bakers!