Saturday, February 16, 2008

Real, honest to goodness bread

I just had my first bite of home made bread, hot from the bread machine. The house smells excellent, I'm calculating that it's about $1 per loaf for organic bread, and I know exactly went into the bread (no long list of unpronounceable chemical ingredients here....and no preservatives or other nasty extras, either). All I do is measure water, oil (I'm going to experiment with different types; I used canola oil this time), salt, honey (I'm going to try a molasses version, too), flour and yeast, push the buttons, and I'm done.

I'm not going to try garlic cheese bread yet, though it's tempting.

Take III

The third try at bread is underway. First, not baked. Second, baked but overkneaded. I'm hoping that third time is a charm.

I found local (Bob's Red Mill near Mom & Dad S. in Milwaulkie, OR), organic flour for $4.19 for five pounds at PCC. I found local honey (I bought blackberry honey - we'll see if I like that or decide to revert to wildflower honey). I found bulk yeast (instead of being highly packaged with 6 teaspoons for $2, this is 8 ounces for $4, a considerably better deal with much less packaging). I haven't calculated yet how many loaves I can make per 5 pound bag of flour, so I haven't yet calculated the cost per loaf.....but it's a lot less than I've paid elsewhere.

Anyway, there's a bit of the thrill of the hunt to get it figured out. I will be more excited if the loaf currently in the machine actually tastes good!

Today we went to two birthday parties, and we stopped by the library. Ryan stayed home for this; he's not feeling well (congested, headcold). After bowling and gymnastics today, Tessa's tired, so she and Daddy are watching a Clifford video.

And I'm poking around with gardening ideas and baking bread. Who'd a thunk?

Be much more impressed if, at the end of the summer, the garden has been planted, the crop watered, and the food edible. Right now, this is all ideas. Wait to see if this bread thing is going to pan out, too. But I am happy to at least be on a path, and it's much better than moping around (which feels like the alternative still).

Take II

Okay, I re-set the bread machine, and this time the bread actually baked. Hurrah! Of course, it was heavy and strange because the dough had gone through the kneeding/rising twice, which isn't okay for bread, but now I know the machine works.

Next, off to the store to buy more honey, to find local flour, to find bulk yeast. Actually, next, off to another birthday party (a preschool friend), and THEN to the store. Maybe tonight we'll have fresh bread and soup.


Bumps in the road.

Ryan isn't well this morning; he's raspy and congested and feels lousy. My throat is sore, but he's obviously the worse off right now.

And the darn bread didn't work. It did the kneading and the rising, but not the baking. Ack! I'm rebaking the same loaf on a different setting in the bread machine right now to see if it will work; the end result won't be good after sitting out all night but I want to make sure the machine is going to work before wasting more ingredients. Plus, I'm out of honey.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I have probably only baked with yeast a couple of times in my life since childhood. I like to cook, but I'm not a baker - Ghiradelli brownie mixes don't exactly count, so I usually only bake for birthdays (layer cake with buttercream frosting - YUM.)

As a child, I remember baking bread with my mom when I was quite small. I can clearly picture the corner of the kitchen we worked in; Mum (that's what I called her then) would pull the wooden cutting board out, place the bread dough she'd made upon it, and tell me to punch it and smack it and take out all of my anger. Contrary to raising feelings of old frustrations, this exercise seemed quite funny to me, and my own mock anger would make me giggle. I remember the feel of the dough under my fists - firm, yet it would squish if I punched it hard enough. I loved the yeasty smell of it, and the floury mess we made, and being with Mum together, two girls, doing something I didn't think of as work at all.

In hindsight, one of the reasons my mom made bread was to cut corners: we didn't have a lot of money, and my parents knew how to be thrifty. I didn't know about that back then...I just thought that it was a really cool, fun thing that we did together.

Finally, after a series of steps (which were quite laborious, in hindsight), the loaves would be ready to go into the oven. As they baked, the entire house would smell divine. And then, with great delight, we'd eat the bread fresh from the oven, steaming hot.

Tessa's memories of bread making, if she develops any, will be different - she'll miss the pounding of fists, but she'll get the stories.

Today I mentioned my desire to find a used bread machine, and my parents (proponents of the Atkins/low-carb lifestyle) told me to take theirs. I found it on a back shelf in their garage - it won't be missed by them, but it just might get some use here.

So, today, on the way home from visiting Mom/Mum (she's doing better, and even walked with a walker from one room to the next, and sat up in a reclining chair to chat) I stopped at Trader Joe's and picked up some whole wheat bread flour, some yeast, and some ground flax seed, and I was ready to go.

As I write this, the bread machine is grumbling away in the corner of our kitchen where it now lives. No flax seed in this recipe, as none of the bread recipes I have contain flax seed and I didn't want to experiment on my first loaf, but whole wheat honey bread is being made, right now, as I type, in my own kitchen. Now there's a miracle!

The yeast smells wonderful. The bread doesn't even have heat yet - all it is is a newly made dough, not risen, not even fully kneaded yet - and the house smells great.

I suspect that I made a mistake on this loaf; I made a recipe for a medium sized loaf (I had to choose between large, medium, and small, and not knowing what our machine would do, I picked medium....only to find out that the two options we have to choose from are large and small) so it might come out overdone. That's okay, and if it's awful, I will just start fresh. I've warned the family that the first few loaves will be experimental, and they're ready to wait for the perfect loaves that I'm dreaming of and selling them on.

My goal in all of this? Well, it's nice to think of myself as a breadmaker, but that's not it at all. I think that if I start doing some more research, I can make my bread environmentally friendly, healthy, and cheap. A,V,M suggested that each loaf of bread they made was $.50, and that was using organic flour (though they bought it in bulk, knowing that they'd make all of their own bread for the entire year, and I'm not willing to make that kind of commitment right now).

But here is the real thing inspiring me, besides saving a few bucks on bread per week. The real thing is that I'd like to buy locally produced goods, I'd like to cut back on packaging, I'd like to have organic. My local grocery stores don't have organic bread (though I do like Big Horn Valley, which isn't organic, but is 100% whole grain, doesn't have trans-fats, and doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup), and at Great Harvest it's something like $4.50 a loaf and requires a special trip just to buy bread (instead of grabbing it while I'm in the bread aisle, which is more convenient). And even at Great Harvest, it comes in packaging which ends up in a landfill.

So, I hope to find a source for local, organic bread flour (from eastern Washington?) and honey (which this recipe uses), as well as bulk (not individual packets) yeast. If I do that, then I will have local, organic bread at my disposal whenever I wish.

And lest anyone think I'm totally crazy, let me tell you, this isn't exactly hard to make. With a bread machine,t here is no kneading, no watching, no covering with a tea towel, no making sure the room is the right temperature. All I do is measure a few ingredients into a "bucket" that is a part of the machine, and push a few buttons (whole wheat; large loaf; medium brown crust; start) and in a few hours, the machine will beep and tell me that the bread is ready. I don't have to be there to take it out of the oven, as there is no oven: the bread machine turns itself off when it's done.

I don't want to be Martha Stewart, and I don't want to be a martyr, slaving away for the environment, and I don't want to give up all of my free time to save a few bucks. My goal is to find new ways to do things which are different, not necessarily more complicated, to reach my goals of being environmently friendly, local, healthy, organic, fresh, with no excess packaging. Maybe this is one way to do that. The real trick is not in the first loaf, but in finding out if it's a worthwhile habit.

(A side note: one concern about this process is that it might be TOO good. Loaves of bread are not a Weight Watchers staple. Now, a slice of whole wheat bread should be point per slice. But a whole loaf could be a problem! Living in a house that smells like baking bread may cause appetite changes, and we'll have to see what that does. But maybe we'll just get used to it.)

It is not the answer. It will not cure the world's problems, or my own. But it is one little step in the right direction...and my house smells great.

small victories

Here is a small step for the environment, my pocketbook, and anti-clutter: the library.

I just went online and placed holds on a dozen books....about organic vegetable gardening in Seattle, guinea pigs (Tessa's preschool got one and Tessa was selected to name it: the chosen name is Buttercup and I have to say, she's really cute for a rodent!), parenting, voluntary simplicity....

This will not create clutter in my home. It doesn't cost a thing. Because the books are shared among many people, it's better for the environment.

I LOVE buying books. But if I borrowed more, it would be better. I get to read them. I get to return them. If I need them after I read them, I could still buy them (for example, if the weekly garden planner is excellent, maybe that would be a good choice). It's a no risk proposition, and I like that.

If I walk to the library, it would be perfect.

Mulling it over

Ryan, Tessa and I had a really nice Valentine's evening. I picked up some king crab at Costco, and I made a simple dinner of steamed crab with garlic butter, cheesy orzo, and broccoli, with brownies for dessert. I used Great Aunt Helen's dishes - the ones my mom gave me when Ryan and I got married - because they are covered with little pink roses and lots of hand-painted gold flourishes, and most appropriate for Valentine's Day and tea parties. (The rest of the year, they sit in a cupboard...but oh I do love them.) Ryan and I drank wine from our wedding crystal, and Tessa had her milk in a fancy glass. I lit every candle (you know that's a lot - I LOVE candles) in the house and we ate by candlelight. Tessa and I even got dressed up.

After dinner, when Tessa was snug in her bed, Ryan and I stayed up and talked about the ideas I've been discussing in my blog. Though this time it's coming from me, Ryan was the person who first told me about the simplicity movement (Voluntary Simplicity and the book "Your Money or Your Life") and he is certainly on board with the concepts. Without even realizing that I had been writing about it, Ryan proposed a vegetable garden for this year. It's nice to be thinking on the same page.

Here is what I know for sure:
- I'm ready for change
- My spiritual quest is tied to my quest for a healthy body, healthy planet, healthy life
- I am seeking sources of inspiration from Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and other spiritual sources (although it really seems like I'm on the Buddhism track right now, it's not because I'm becoming a Buddhist, it's because it's easier to be focused on one thing at a time in my learning to gain understanding)
- I believe that taking steps toward a healthy planet will actually assist me in having a healthier pocketbook in addition to a healthier body

And in a more concrete way, I know that:
- I want a vegetable garden
- I want to stop buying unnecessary items (a.k.a. most of what I buy)
- I want to hike, camp, snowshoe, spend time in my yard, play on the beach
- I'm going to shop more at PCC and the farmer's market
- I'm researching different food ideas....gardens, root cellars, canning, bread making, jam making, self-pick fruit
- I want to eat more seasonally, and I'm researching how to do this
- I am attempting to lower my carbon footprint by using less energy in our home

Would you even believe that I'd like to make my own cheese and yogurt?! According to A,V,M it can take just minutes to make once you have the system down. She described the process for making mozzarella, and it does sound simple. It would be amazing to make sandwiches this summer from home made bread, home made cheese, and garden grown tomatoes and basil...I think I'd feel like I'd climbed Everestt if I did that.

And yet I do NOT wish to be a pioneer woman. I do not wish to add to my "to do" list so that I feel more inadequate, frazzled, rushed. I just have to figure out how to do these things joyfully, or not do them at all.

In good news, I went to Thriftway (I had to do some banking there, too, as there is a WaMu branch there) this morning and bought a gallon of milk. I stood in front of the case, looking for my usual organic brand, and now they are carrying another brand labeled organic, but this one says "Locally grown!" in big letters. The difference? $6.19 a gallon for my usual organic brand (I try not to look at the cost of the non-organic brands, because I get so horrified at how much I'm spending), and $4.69 a HALF gallon for the "local" brand. I stood in dismay: I'm committed in theory to spending my money on local food, but the price is really awful. I piked up the local one, and read that it's from "Roy, in the shadows of Mt. Rainier." I picked up the other one, and read that it's distributed in Duvall, Washington. Duvall? That's right around the corner, more or less - HURRAH! Finally, I caught a break. I do not need to pay over $9 a gallon for milk. Ha.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I got the name wrong in a previous post; funny how after reading 200 pages the NAME of the book wasn't on my tongue. Anyway, it's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp (her husband) and Camille Kingsolver (her daughter), and I just finished it.

I'm mulling it over, but I am determined to make some changes in my life.

For one, I can't wait to get to the farmer's market this weekend.

For another, I bought some little blueberry bushes to plant in our yard, and Ryan and I are actually talking about turning part of the front yard (seems crazy to have it in the front, but that's where the most sunlight is) into a small vegetable garden, in addition to planting zuchinni and pumpkins in the back yard's raised bed.

And I'll throw this out in internet land: does anyone have a bread machine languishing in their cupboard, closet, basement or garage? I'm intrigued to try using one for a while....whole grain bread with flax seed is on my list. Anyone? I'm not willing to buy one until I've figured out if it's something I'd use a, I'm trying to buy less stuff! Anyway, anyone know where I can getg a used one? Anyone have one to give away or loan out?

I'm still not going to raise my own poultry. No way. And I'm going to keep drinking coffee. Organic bananas are so tasty, and Tessa and I really adore mangoes...

But I think I've committed to spending blackberry season picking buckets of beautiful berries and turning some into jam and freezing some. And I'm thinking of taking a trip to a strawberry farm to do that, too.

I swore off partially hydrogenated oils, food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, soda a long time ago. I seek out organic eggs, free range/organic chicken, meat raised without hormones, organic produce. I aim for whole grains. I'm on the right track, I know that. I feel certain of it, and I'm looking forward to the next parts of this adventure.

more thinking

My friends Holly & Michele are on the same wavelength about some of the things I've been thinking about, and sent me "Story of Stuff" which is an internet video discussing how things are created and consumed. Not only does the "Story of Stuff" discuss the massive problems being created by "stuff" and our consumerist society, but it also offers solutions on the website.

Take a look at:

And then poke around the website for more info.

For me, the most thought provoking part of the video was actually something not contained in the video itself, but on the website. I knew and agreed with the general philosophies being presented in the video, so it wasn't new to me (though the approach is inventive and fresh), but the list of things that I personally can do to change the cycle is of particular interest. That's what I'm copying and pasting below...take a look.

By the way, I'm doing many of these things. We recycle (even with a worm bin for kitchen scraps). We eat primarily organic. We don't use pesticides in our yard. We only have one car. We use energy efficient lightbulbs.

But there is a long, long way to go. I have a lot to learn.

Another Way
Many people who have seen The Story of Stuff have asked what they can do to address the problems identified in the film.

Each of us can promote sustainability and justice at multiple levels: as an individual, as a teacher or parent, a community member, a national citizen, and as a global citizen. As Annie says in the film, “the good thing about such an all pervasive problem is that there are so many points of intervention.” That means that there are lots and lots of places to plug in, to get involved, and to make a difference. There is no single simple thing to do, because the set of problems we’re addressing just isn’t simple. But everyone can make a difference, but the bigger your action the bigger the difference you’ll make. Here are some ideas:

10 Little and Big Things You Can Do

Power down! A great deal of the resources we use and the waste we create is in the energy we consume. Look for opportunities in your life to significantly reduce energy use: drive less, fly less, turn off lights, buy local seasonal food (food takes energy to grow, package, store and transport), wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, vacation closer to home, buy used or borrow things before buying new, recycle. All these things save energy and save you money. And, if you can switch to alternative energy by supporting a company that sells green energy to the grid or by installing solar panels on your home, bravo!
Waste less. Per capita waste production in the U.S. just keeps growing. There are hundreds of opportunities each day to nurture a Zero Waste culture in your home, school, workplace, church, community. This takes developing new habits which soon become second nature. Use both sides of the paper, carry your own mugs and shopping bags, get printer cartridges refilled instead of replaced, compost food scraps, avoid bottled water and other over packaged products, upgrade computers rather than buying new ones, repair and mend rather than replace….the list is endless! The more we visibly engage in re-use over wasting, the more we cultivate a new cultural norm, or actually, reclaim an old one!

Talk to everyone about these issues. At school, your neighbors, in line at the supermarket, on the bus…A student once asked Cesar Chavez how he organized. He said, “First, I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” “No,” said the student, “how do you organize?” Chavez answered, “First I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” You get the point. Talking about these issues raises awareness, builds community and can inspire others to action.

Make Your Voice Heard. Write letters to the editor and submit articles to local press. In the last two years, and especially with Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the media has been forced to write about Climate Change. As individuals, we can influence the media to better represent other important issues as well. Letters to the editor are a great way to help newspaper readers make connections they might not make without your help. Also local papers are often willing to print book and film reviews, interviews and articles by community members. Let’s get the issues we care about in the news.

DeTox your body, DeTox your home, and DeTox the Economy. Many of today’s consumer products – from children’s pajamas to lipstick – contain toxic chemical additives that simply aren’t necessary. Research online (for example, before you buy to be sure you’re not inadvertently introducing toxics into your home and body. Then tell your friends about toxics in consumer products. Together, ask the businesses why they’re using toxic chemicals without any warning labels. And ask your elected officials why they are permitting this practice. The European Union has adopted strong policies that require toxics to be removed from many products. So, while our electronic gadgets and cosmetics have toxics in them, people in Europe can buy the same things toxics-free. Let’s demand the same thing here. Getting the toxics out of production at the source is the best way to ensure they don’t get into any home and body.

Unplug (the TV and internet) and Plug In (the community). The average person in the U.S. watches T.V. over 4 hours a day. Four hours per day filled with messages about stuff we should buy. That is four hours a day that could be spent with family, friends and in our community. On-line activism is a good start, but spending time in face-to-face civic or community activities strengthens the community and many studies show that a stronger community is a source of social and logistical support, greater security and happiness. A strong community is also critical to having a strong, active democracy.

Park your car and walk…and when necessary MARCH! Car-centric land use policies and life styles lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel extraction, conversion of agricultural and wildlands to roads and parking lots. Driving less and walking more is good for the climate, the planet, your health, and your wallet. But sometimes we don’t have an option to leave the car home because of inadequate bike lanes or public transportation options. Then, we may need to march, to join with others to demand sustainable transportation options. Throughout U.S. history, peaceful non-violent marches have played a powerful role in raising awareness about issues, mobilizing people, and sending messages to decision makers.

Change your lightbulbs…and then, change your paradigm. Changing lightbulbs is quick and easy. Energy efficient lightbulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than conventional ones. That’s a no-brainer. But changing lightbulbs is just tinkering at the margins of a fundamentally flawed system unless we also change our paradigm. A paradigm is a collection of assumptions, concepts, beliefs and values that together make up a community’s way of viewing reality. Our current paradigm dictates that more stuff is better, that infinite economic growth is desirable and possible, and that pollution is the price of progress. To really turn things around, we need to nurture a different paradigm based on the values of sustainability, justice, health, and community.

Recycle your trash…and, recycle your elected officials. Recycling saves energy and reduces both waste and the pressure to harvest and mine new stuff. Unfortunately, many cities still don’t have adequate recycling systems in place. In that case you can usually find some recycling options in the phone book to start recycling while you’re pressuring your local government to support recycling city-wide. Also, many products – for example, most electronics - are designed not to be recycled or contain toxics so recycling is hazardous. In these cases, we need to lobby government to prohibit toxics in consumer products and to enact Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws, as is happening in Europe. EPR is a policy which holds producers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products, so that electronics company who use toxics in their products, have to take them back. That is a great incentive for them to get the toxics out!

Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used, and most importantly, Buy Less. Shopping is not the solution to the environmental problems we currently face because the real changes we need just aren’t for sale in even the greenest shop. But, when we do shop, we should ensure our dollars support businesses that protect the environment and worker rights. Look beyond vague claims on packages like “all natural” to find hard facts. Is it organic? Is it free of super-toxic PVC plastic? When you can, buy local products from local stores, which keeps more of our hard earned money in the community. Buying used items keeps them out of the trash and avoids the upstream waste created during extraction and production. But, buying less may be the best option of all. Less pollution. Less Waste. Less time working to pay for the stuff. Sometimes, less really is more.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I am spending more than a usual amount of time thinking these days.

I feel a need to be quieter than usual. I still love my friends and family, of course, but I just need to do some good thinking.

I'm thinking about life changes. Small things related to food, spending, the house; bigger things like how I spend my time (my most precious resource). All of it is really about thinking through my values.

I believe that one of the reasons I've been out of synch is that I'm out of synch with my own values. I forget what is important to me, and things spiral downhill. Interesting idea, anyway.

But this recent spiral was part me and part medication. I am very grateful to have a basic understanding of what is normal and what is not so that even though my mind was going nuts and my emotions were running out of control, a part of me remained sane enough to know "this isn't right" and "seek help!" A call to the therapist, an adjustment in meds, has been helpful. It's a week I don't particularly want to relive, I promise you that.

Trying to get back to a more even keel.

And now, back to my book. Kingsolver is very interesting to me; her older work (short stories, fiction) was interesting but not earth shattering. "The Poisonwood Bible" was an incredible work, in my opinion, a truly fine book. Her autobiographical, scientific exploration and cultural study of food in her most recent book is fascinating.

The other reading I'm doing right now (besides Mary Oliver, The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn, and Pema Chodron, in addition to The Daily Word and Shambahla Sun magazines) is "Little House in the Big Woods," which is the Laura Ingalls Wilder book (the first of the series). My Aunt Ann & Uncle Bill gave it to me one year when I was little, and I still remember how much I loved it. My mom and dad gave Tessa the series for her birthday, and we have begun reading it (and discussing the idea of life without electricity, girls in long dresses, butchering one's own meat, growing one's own food, living far from a town or neighbors....) together. It brings back great childhood memories for me, and it also creates interesting discussion with Tessa and I.

What is most interesting, perhaps, is the intersection of "Animal, Mineral, Vegetable" and "Little House in the Big Woods." They are not, perhaps, so different, despite the different centuries/millenia in which they were written. They are both food focused. They are both about finding happiness with family. They are both about the natural growth cycles of nature, the weather, crops, families. Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up in synch with the world around her; she ate what was in season. Kingsolver is attempting to do the same.

I've been thinking about applying this to my own life. Could I really do it? Would I want to? It seems easy to give up fresh strawberries in winter (frankly, they don't taste that good anyway....a fresh strawberry off the vine in the summer and a wintertime Costco strawberry taste like they're from different planets, let alone different seasons) but could I give up fresh mango?

I believe in the slow food movement. I believe in the local food movement. I believe in organic food. I believe that it is ridiculous that as a planet we manufacture far more food than we can consume, and yet millions of people starve. Chemicals are not food, and people in Seattle aren't meant to eat fresh pineapple....and so the cost is real (fuel, pesticides, etc).

But what am I to do about it? Hmmm.

I am thinking of starting a very small, unambitious vegetable garden this summer.

I also read in the "Little House" book that winter squash and onions were stored in the attic for the winter. We have an attic which is unheated but accessable; maybe we could do this. Could I figure out a kind of "root cellar" to store fresh food? In this way, could I buy from the farmer's market (I said I would plant a "very small" garden, not enough to feed my family for a winter!) and then eat it all winter?

Would my family agree to this? Would they think that it was insane to give up cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers for the winter?

Would I actually consider canning? Canned tomatoes taste excellent; I've never developed a taste for canned fruit. But I did make jam last eyar; maybe we could do more this year?

I'm not giving up coffee. I'm NOT. Don't ask. It's too much. Hey, I had cancer. Gimme a break. A girl needs her coffee. (Not wants. Needs.)

I'm looking at my carbon footprint. I'm looking at the way that I pollute the earth, and my own body. I'm looking at my values.

I've considered only buying used items for a year, except perishables and things like TP, soap, etc. I have "enough", I'm sure (closets full of things, cupboards bursting....), but could I do it?

I want to figure out my place in the world. I want to be able to sleep at night knowing that I am giving the best of myself to myself, to my family, to the world.

I can't even remember to bring my commuter mug to the coffee shop so I don't use a paper cup. Can I really make these big decisions and live by them?

No promises. Just ideas.

But I am certain that my depression is in part because I am out of synch. I need to look at the big stuff. This is only a little piece of it, a tiny corner of my mind.

And now, really, off to read. I hope to sleep well so that Tessa and I can visit my mom tomorrow and enjoy the day with her. Ryan comes home tomorrow night, too.

That's all.


Tessa slept well, and woke up happy. She's playing with Anna, which is her idea of nirvana, and the girls are excited just to be together.

I barely slept at all - at 2am I actually turned the light on and read my book ("Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" by Barbara Kingsolver) for an hour or more before sleeping restlessly. Ugh - I'm tired, and not sure how to fix that dilemma.

However, I'm not sick, and nor is Tessa, and this is a major improvement.

And I'm re-entering life. Time to return phone calls, to cook, to write thank you cards, to walk the dog....

Monday, February 11, 2008

looking up

Okay, my nausea has subsided, and Tessa's mood is excellent. I've just tucked her into bed, and she appears full of energy this evening. She ate regularly (thank you so much, Michele, for the delicious posole), and she's ready for preschool tomorrow.

I hope to sleep well - alone, no child! - tonight and wake up feeling refreshed...

uh oh


Please let this be psychosomatic. (Did I spell that right?) The rest of my head is messed up, so maybe this, too?

Tessa appears to be feeling well....

Fingers crossed.

The corner?

Tessa may have turned a corner.

She's ravenous - I made her a cheese sandwich and mac and cheese for lunch at her request - and she hasn't had any further nausea or pain since this morning. She hasn't eaten her giant lunch (just a 1/4 sandwich and a few bites of pasta) but this is still a big improvement. She's back to tormenting the cat (the cat may have been wishing that she was feeling less well), she's had a bath and washed her hair, and she's asking for playdates ("NO!").

The real test will be at about 2pm when the Motrin wears off...


My phone has been ringing off the hook for a week.

And I haven't answered it.

My mood has been bleak, irrational, grumpy, short-tempered, frightened...and embarassed by all of these things.

It's not "normal" to feel this way. It's not nice of me to hide away from people who care about me.

Please understand, I'm trying to work through it. I can't explain it, myself. I'm trying to figure out my own head.


It was a long night...Tessa is having trouble sleeping these days, so she climbed into my bed and tossed and turned with me. Right on schedule, at midnight, her children's Motrin wore off, her fever climbed, and she felt awful. I think I actually slept between about 4am and 7am but the rest of the night was long.

Some of the restlessness was mine, not Tessa's. I've been having sleeping issues for months (years? I've lost track....but it's a post-diagnosis thing) and had resorted to taking Ambien CR at night, but of course I don't want to do that when I'm caring for Tessa; I need a clear head for her, and the other night she was up and crying and Ryan cared for her and I didn't even notice because the Ambien kept me sleeping. I didn't want to risk that with Ryan out of town. Anyway, I lay in bed tossing and turning myself. (The only good news? I read "The Constant Princess" in its entirety; it's one of the Phillapa Gregory series about the women of the court of King Henry VIII. Not as good as "The Other Boleyn Girl" but a good distraction anyway.)

But this morning, Tessa is playing ponies, singing to herself, and seemingly content. Her sweet voice is music to my ears; she appears to be feeling much better at this moment. She did have another Motrin this morning (she was hot, then cold, and she said her bones ached) but either it's working or she is starting to feel better.

On a totally different note...

A few days ago I watched Oprah (rather unusual for me) and it had an anti-clutter guy who has just published a book called "Does this clutter make my butt look fat?" Despite the silly title, I liked his premise: we clutter in lots of ways, and head, heart, home, and hips are all connected. Sometimes we walk in to a home with clutter, and our heads feel overwhelmed, we get sad, and we eat to avoid. It's pretty simple, but logical to me.

Anyway, it inspired me to do some decluttering in our home. It has been therapeutic; I don't feel like talking, I don't feel like thinking, and I don't know what TO do when I'm not caring for Tessa, so I started decluttering. The office was the first line of attack, as it's the worst part of our house, and it had gotten to the point where it wasn't functional. It's an ugly room (no carpet because of the flood, mismatched stuff, in need of paint, used to be a kitchen for the MIL suite, and the clutter-collector of our house), but it didn't need to be that ugly. I still haven't done the filing, but it's a billion times better.

I decluttered the top of the fridge. I decluttered my closet. I decluttered my dresser. I even decluttered some toys in the playroom (Tessa hasn't noticed yet; I think that this is a sign that she didn't care about those toys).

I want to get rid of some stuff. The theory is that too much stuff weighs one down. The declutter guy (Peter? I can't remember) said that clutter falls into two categories: "I might need it one day" and "memorabilia." In looking around our house, I think I'm relatively good with the memorabilia (I'm comfortable with it, in any case) but the "might need it" category is ridiculous.

Case in point: an old ski jacket. I got it when we lived in Bellingham, and it wasn't perfect when I got it. The style is outdated (duh), it's not best quality, and it's a size large. And yet....I kept holding on to it, thinking, well, I might need it some day, or we'll have a guest who needs it. Obviously that's ridiculous: I don't think I'd worn it in 8 years. It's clutter. It's in perfect shape, barely worn, but it's not useful. (It's gone now.)

There's also the consumerism component of all of this. The clutter buys into the "more is better" philosophy of Americans, and I'm (pardon the pun) not buying it.

My friend Jenny lived in Scotland for a time (hi Jenny) and has shared some of the European ideas about stuff (things) with me, and I have spent some time thinking about them. She said that having shabby, hand-me-down things in Scotland was a sign of class and sometimes of wealth. The thing is, the shabby things belonged to the upper class.

This bears some thinking.

I like it.

Hand me down things, of quality, speak of heritage. It speaks of understanding value. It's anti-consumerist. Things made to last; things meant to be handed down; things meant to stand the test of time...these are signs of wealth. Not the newest thing. Not the latest color.

My living room is like this; Grandpa Goddard's beautiful bookcase (our wedding gift); G.G.'s piano; Aunt Grace's dining room table and chair's; Mom & Dad S.'s sideboard.

My family room, downstairs, is old, but not's more garage-sale than anything else. I don't think that the philosophy is about having ugly things, it's about recognizing that quality things transcend trends and don't need replacing all the time. My family room needs work (although it's perfect for little kids jumping around, and it IS comfortable) and that's okay; my philosophy isn't to just take whatever, it's to recognize "enough".

So, in part of my pro-environment, pro-pocketbook, pro-spiritual quest, I'm trying to remember all of this. I'm trying to remember that the clutter IS making my butt look fat (ha), and that we have enough. That I do not need to collect bits of this and that just in case. That, like writing, the editing is more important than just about anything else. (Not that there is any editing here, but that's another problem to tackle another day.)

These are random thoughts, distracting me from the problems of the day. Today I'll tackle a new corner of clutter (there are always more) while Tessa rests.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday update

It's been a quiet day. The good part of the quiet involved snuggling with Tessa, reading stories, and playing Play-Doh. The not-so-great part involved Tessa throwing up some more, fever, chills, lethargy.

Fortunately, I'm not nauseaus, and my headache has stayed at a dull roar.

Ryan called, safe on the east coast. He's had a long day, too, but I think this time I'd be happy to trade places.

It looks like we're going to have another quiet day tomorrow. I'd be hapyp if that form of quiet didn't involve any vomit. (Please.)