Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This may be my first post in which I actually bare my soul

Lately I've been feeling super trapped. For lots of reasons, but mainly geographical. And I'm not talking big geographical, although that's part of it too. Its so close, claustrophic. I haven't been spending nearly enough time outside. I feel trapped in my own apartment. That's because the things I need to get done need generally to be done at my computer, with access to my books and notes. Yes I could take my computer outside, but I need reliable internet. And there's those 50 lbs of books to consider. I've also been feeling trapped by normal day to day life activities such as laundry, dishes, cleaning, and generally keeping the clutter level down enough that I don't start feeling like a hoarder. Regretfully, all of those things need to be done inside. Although I do enjoy cleanliness, my house is not really my first priority (and really, who's is?). One of the books I read many times years ago talked about how there are basically two types of women in the world. The Naturers and the Nurturers. One is not necessarily better than the other, and we each have a bit of each type. The Nurturer, as you can guess, is the motherly type. The type that keeps a clean house, cooks dinner, loves her children to death, nurtures all of their needs and desires, and often neglects her own wants for the sake of others. The Naturer is the one who would rather sit outside than wash dishes, loves and teaches her children through nature (and nature means not just the outdoors, but letting things flow naturally), follows her own art and creativity needs rather than family sometimes. These apply to men as well. I know I just made it sound like the Naturer is better, but that's just because that's more who I am. And if I am deprived of art and nature, I really start to go crazy. I feel all jittery inside, and I become less of a nice person to be around and live with. I have more headaches, and less peace. And that is what has been happening to me lately.

I just read an article posted by a friend that hit the nail on the head. We are forced inside by our own inventions. People are spending less and less time outside, especially and most importantly, kids are sitting indoors playing video games, computer games, watching instantly streamed movies on their television. We are driven apart by technology, not closer together. We have created so much work for ourselves that we rarely take time to sit back and relax and watch the stars. When I was young, I lived in a wonderful enclosed neighborhood that was safe and had lots of kids close to mine and my sister's ages. We played together all summer long. Dodgeball, basketball, cops and robbers, flashlight tag, catching - and releasing - fireflies, riding bikes, swinging, climbing trees, building teepees, and playing in the creek were just a few of the games we played. All outside. When it rained, we were sad because that meant no outdoor games that day.

An ordinary day in summer would start with the birds singing at sunrise. I would awaken to soft yellow sunlight streaming through my open window, the breeze ruffling the sheer curtains so quietly. I would smell fresh cut grass, and go outside to find my mom weeding or planting flowers outside. I'd ride my bike in the neighborhood for a bit, stop and say hi to the neighbors. I'd collapse on the grass and just lay there enjoying the sun. Eat lunch and its right back outside, to play basketball in the cul-de-sac, walk the neighbor's dog, maybe take a trip up to the "secret hideout." We all ate dinner at roughly the same time. After dinner as the sun went down we would play tag, using the houses, trees, yards and whatever else was around to sneak back to base. Once the moon was up we would view her through the boys' telescope. Back to bed, fall asleep listening to the crickets sing.

I really miss those days.

For one thing, where did all that energy go? Once on a plane, I sat next to a woman and we got talking. I told her I was in vet school, and explained all that it entailed at her request. She said, "Wow you are a really high energy person." Oh, that's right. There is a reason why I have no energy to be a normal human being. Now, after graduation, I was hoping to get back to myself. But there is still more to be done.

When I lived in Portland, I painted almost daily. I've barely painted anything in LA.  I think part of it is our current apartment which faces North. The lack of sunlight puts me in a quiet repressed rage often. I shrivel like a daylily without sun. Either way, its driving me crazy that a) I don't feel inspired and b) that when I do feel inspired I can't do anything about it anyway because I don't have that much time to spare. And when I do finally pick up a paintbrush, there is Sophie trying to bite the end of it.

In Ohio, I had the wonderful blessing of the barn. I could go spend as much time in the company of the horses as I wanted, and often I went alone, just to stand there and watch them graze. Standing there, taking in the scent of horse and grass and fresh air, mended the rents in my soul.

Now that is gone too.

I am Thankful for my wonderful husband, the health of my family and friends, my three lovey entertaining little kitties, the food on my table, and countless other blessings. I'm thankful that I had such wonderful things in my life, even if they are in the past.  That said, I'm hoping and praying for big changes in the New Year. New hope. Sun. Grass. Trees. Only the things you need to live. I want to continue making my life one of peace, creativity, love and service. Sigh.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pie and Ice Cream

Well my travels through Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home have been continuing sumptuously. Since my last post about ice cream making, I have made Ugandan Vanilla Bean (my title: Whole Foods-$5-for-one-vanilla-bean Vanilla Bean), Buckeye State, Roasted Pistachio, and the latest: Pumpkin Spice.

Now, if those sound like a lot of hard work, well, they were. It is hard work making things from scratch, but usually well worth it. The ice creams have been super delicious and I will post pictures of them at the end of this post.

My friend Diane from work gave me three pie pumpkins because she knows I like to make things from scratch. (Well, 'like' and 'feel compelled' are two different things). These are a special type of small, round, extremely hard pumpkin that have a sweeter, less grainy flesh than your typical 10 lb Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin. They are also called sugar pumpkins. I decided to make Pumpkin Spice Ice cream, in honor of Thanksgiving.

I have never made my own pumpkin puree before. I have baked sweet potatoes, yams, butternut squash, acorn squash, and all manner of other vegetables, so I figured it couldn't be that different. I got out my cutting board and a big knife, and easily cut the first pie pumpkin in half.

Haha, yeah no. These things are like diamonds. I barely made a dent with my first knife stroke, or my second or third. In fact, my knife slid right off the rind and just missed my thumb. I put the knife down and stared at the pumpkin.

I picked up the knife and this time assumed a stabbing hold with it. (You know, think horror movie).  I took a deep breath and stabbed the pumpkin. The knife penetrated the pumpkin about 3/4 of an inch. I rocked it back and forth, and instead of actually cutting the pumpkin, it started to split. I repeated this several times until finally the pumpkin cracked in half.

These pumpkins are chock full of seeds, and as the pumpkin split open, the seeds flew everywhere. I sighed but ignored this fact as I took the pumpkin over to the trash to scrape out the seeds and stringy flesh. The flesh is really attached to the pumpkin. It does not  want to be separated, I'm telling you. As I'm standing there scraping out the flesh, the pumpkin slipped out of my hand, fell down, down down, and landed smack dab in the middle of the cat's water fountain. I saw it in slow motion. SPLASH!! Pumpkin seeds, stringy flesh, and cat-spit everywhere. My kitchen looked like an SNL skit.

By now I was really annoyed. It took over 30 minutes just to halve three puny little pumpkins and remove the seeds. Finally I got them in the oven.

After they baked for about 40 minutes, I took them out and skeptically took a spoon to the flesh. My surprise, it was actually soft! I pureed the flesh in a food processor and put it in the fridge. It looks, and tastes, like baby food.

I needed 3/4 cup for the ice cream, and the rest I decided to use in a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

****

Thanksgiving came and went. Well, that makes it sound like nothing but an ordinary Thursday. We had a lovely Thanksgiving with our friends Brittney and Dave.Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it is a no frills celebration of food and feeling thankful. I have lots to be thankful for this season. For one thing, homemade pumpkin spice ice cream. The ice cream tastes like frozen pumpkin pie. The pumpkin pie was good, but not much better than a pie made from entirely canned pumpkin. The verdict: no more pumpkin roasting for me.

Vanilla Bean

Vanilla Bean with Oatmeal Cookie

Chocolate bar for Buckeye State

Buckeye State

Pistachio

Pistachio-Cream Cheese Paste

Pistachio

Pumpkin Spice with homemade whipped cream and Pumpkin Syrup








Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Horse to Remember

I'm not sure why exactly, but I'm very sad about the death of Hickstead, the current top show jumping horse in the world. He collapsed and died at an event in Italy on Sunday, and necropsy revealed a ruptured aorta. He was 15 and likely would have been retired after the 2012 Olympics. He and rider Eric Lamaze won gold at the 2008 Olympic games, won every major competition in the world, and at the World Equestrian Games last year, won first place and the title Best Horse in the World.

I'm not involved in show jumping except for being a spectator, and honestly can only name 2 or 3 other horses and riders. I watched the World Equestrian Games last year, and saw Hickstead jump 4 perfect rounds with 4 different riders. He did not touch one rail. Something about that performance really hooked me. Although the other top 3 horses were outstanding as well, there was a charisma about Hickstead that stood out. He wanted to win as much as his rider. He ran at every jump with determination, and had a lovely way of kicking out his heels as he sailed over each jump. There is something magical about watching horses fly through the air, and Hickstead harnessed that magic.

The other day I was randomly thinking about jumping, and decided to look up the video of the WEG final round. What popped up instead was a breaking news article about the sudden death of Hickstead. To those in the jumping world, this is a trajedy akin to the loss of the great racing filly Ruffian. The world has lost a phenomenal athlete, and one who will be remembered as one of the greatest show jumpers of all time. 

Here is a great video set perfectly to music that shows the wonder of Hickstead:  YouTube