Monthly Archives: August 2014

past the point of no return

Wouldn’t it be nice to know when it happens? The moment when everything has changed and you are new. I usually understand the moment in hindsight–months later, or often years. The point of no return is sometimes an idea introduced to me by other people. They will say something like, “You’ll never be the same/you can never go back after XYZ.” It happened in high school during my first trip to the east coast. I came back changed, confident, worldly (by my standards anyway). That kind of growth had never happened so rapidly for me before. My mom noticed it immediately. I remember she hugged me and held me at arms length and said, “Woah, you’ve changed!” And I felt that I had changed too.

People started talking about it during undergrad. There’s a point where you have a degree and socially you’re different now. I didn’t notice it until I had almost finished my undergraduate degree. Now, three degrees later, I don’t really notice it anymore. But as the shift was first happening, I started to feel it in my interactions with family and friends, and even in my interactions with cashiers and people who couldn’t possibly know that I was now “educated.” And yet, somehow, there was a distinct shift.

In yoga teacher trainings, my fellow instructors started talking about their “path” and how difficult it is to be with other people, loved ones, and spouses, who are not on a similar path. Later, I started to feel that I too was on a path of deeper growth and self-awareness than ever before. Yoga forced a kind of internal awareness and focus. When you’re in a difficult pose, stretching a tight muscle, there is nothing to do and nowhere go but to look inward. Yoga has put me on a path that has made me more sensitive to the environment, my energy, and my emotions.

A few years later, it happened again. People started saying, “You can never go home.” Sure I can, I thought, still planning my summer vacations back home with my family. Once, an artist painted my portrait and part of the theme was that you can never go home. In the picture, I am looking away from the valley. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but then what used to be a safe haven became just a place to visit. Maybe someday, but for now living there seems increasing impossible on both a practical and psychological level. 

And so it goes with matters of the heart.

these clouds float by

the clouds float by

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plum, flax, & walnut muffins

Evidently everyone else doesn’t have a plum thicket in their backyard and are in need of easy, tasty recipes for said plums because I cannot find enough plum recipes online. I, however, do have a plum thicket. Last year, I used most of them to make plum jam. I also made cobbler, plum/zucchini bread, and biscotti to name a few. I still have some in the freezer from last year.

Plums were not as abundant this year. Only two trees had plums, and they were only over the roof of the garage. I think they bloomed early, and some of the blooms were killed by frost, save for those that were above the warm roof of the garage. So, Z’s brother came over to help me pick them, and by that I mean that he climbed onto the roof and then pulled me up there too, where I promptly scraped up my knee, grabbed a few of the closest plums, and then shimmied back down. Fortunately, Z’s brother stayed up there and picked several bags of plums. They were not quite ripe, but I figured I should get them while I had the help.

plum, flax, and walnut muffins fresh out of the oven

plum, flax, and walnut muffins fresh out of the oven

I put the under ripe plums in a cardboard box in the basement and now, about five days later, they’re ripening really nicely. In fact, I ate one today while doing laundry down there.

Below is a recipe on my own, using what I had here at the house. I’d add bran or even more flax seeds in the future because I was looking for a really gritty breakfast muffin that’s not too sweet.

Plum, Flax, & Walnut Muffins
Preheat oven at 350. Mix together dryish ingredients. Mix wet ingredients separately. Then, combine the two. Lastly, fold in chunky ingredients. Spoon dough into muffin tin. I used muffin liners, but I think those are optional. Bake at 350 for 20 about minutes or until done. (Insert and remove toothpick. Muffins are done when the toothpick comes out clean.) Let cool for 15 min.

Dry ingredients:
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
¾ cup oats
shredded flax (2 heaping tablespoons)
flax seeds (2 heaping tablespoons)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ cup of light brown sugar
lightly sprinkle ground ginger and ground cloves

Wet ingredients:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup almond milk
1+ egg

Chunky ingredients:
walnuts
plums

Enjoy!

The Room Lit by Roses by Carole Maso

Carole Maso is one of the few authors who I will read over and over again. Her work has a quality that just gives and gives each time I read it. Oddly, I haven’t even come close to reading all of her work. With the short time before work for the semester really starts in earnest, I decided to grab a few books to frantically and recklessly read before I got down to business. That has involved forsaking some exercise and sunlight to read while lounging in air-conditioned spaces–sometimes with a popsicle.

I grabbed a few new books from the New York Times Bestseller list along with Carole Maso’s The Room Lit by Roses. I began reading it after working a long shift as a doula. My wrist was sore (still not recovered from a bike wreck two months ago) and my body weary. I tossed by hospital clothes in the hamper and showered the hospital germs away and propped myself up in bed with pillows on my cool white feather down comforter (enter also swamp cooler and popsicle).

I was done thinking about childbirth and labor when I cracked the spine and for the first time realized the rest of the book’s title: A Journal of Pregnancy and Birth. The universe clearly wants me to examine the issue more closely, so “here we go again,” I thought. I scarcely could put it down until it was finished about 24 hours later with the strong impulse to turn around and read it again, which I will not do right now.

Years ago, I read The American Woman in the Chinese Hat and read it again to prepare for my trip to France. I assume I’ll return to The Room Lit by Roses if I become pregnant or want to write more extensively on the topic. For now, I’m glad it exists and I’m glad I can return to it. What I love about Maso’s work is how real and raw and open she is. The ultimate sacrifice, I get the feeling that she splays herself open for us, dear reader, and for art and probably for world peace. Carole Maso is one of those authors for whom I am incredibly grateful.

Sometimes a line or two will be entirely dumb and petty and ugly, which works to magnify the stuff that is brilliant and important and beautiful. As I read her work, I find myself saying yes! That’s how it is. That’s how I feel! She wrote, “Always knew I wanted to have the experience of pregnancy.” I swear I say those exact words. The rest of it, the child, the life, that’s the part I’m not always sure about. But pregnancy and labor, yes. It’s such a bizarre and most intense human experience that is felt only a few times, or once, or never, so of course I’d like to have that. Maso puts into words how absolutely terrible and wonderful and necessary the experience can be, and I clung to each word.

round 3: knitting a baby blanket (with pattern!)

In the summer months, it’s harder to knit. It’s hot, and I don’t quite crave the cozy warmth of knitting by lamplight, my legs covered with whatever I happen to be knitting. However, there is still travel and downtime and conversations that stretch on through the long, light evenings that are conducive to good knitting.

My last blanket was intended for my cousin’s new baby boy. When I began his baby blanket, I did not realize that every other woman in my family also intended to make a baby blanket for him. Over the last few months, I’ve seen pictures posted via social media of the various baby blankets that have been sent for this little guy. I almost decided not to send mine because mine was such a mess. (I sent it anyway.)

front of the blanket

here you can see the unintended bunching around the border

I used smaller thread than I had ever used before and really enjoyed working with the finer material. Although it took a lot longer to knit up, it was actually more pleasant to work with than the chunky, bulky stuff that I’ve been learning on.

I used Loops & Threads Impeccable Big in Seaside Ombre. This was a big skein of yarn that stretched 582 yards. I was hoping to do the entire baby blanket in one skein, but it wasn’t quite enough, so I bought another small skein at the end (from a different lot number, no less!)

 

front of the blanket

front of the blanket (smooth surface)

I cast on 125 stitches.

After casting on, I knitted 16 more rows.

Then, I marked off the sides for a border, knitting 12 stitches. Then I purled for 101 stitches across the body of the blanket. I marked it there and knitted the remaining 12 stitches to complete the border on the other side.  For the entire body of the baby blanket, I did a regular knit stitch for the border and then alternated knitting and purling to create a smoother surface.

back of blanket

back of blanket (notice the difference in texture and border)

The blanket turned out to be stretchy and bouncy. As I was knitting, it was difficult to tell if the blanket was long enough because the borders were really bunched up. As a result, it is a little too wide and a little too short—more square-ish than the true rectangle I wanted it to be.

The yarn was a mix of dark blue, light blue, greens, grey, and cream. Using the variegated yarn created a more interesting visual texture to the blanket. The stripes, varied in color, looked thick on one side and thin on the other. Also, the small yarn, which calls for US 8 knitting needles, makes the border stand out much more prominently than it did with the bulkier yarn I’d been using on previous projects.

If I had to do it over again, I’d add another five inches or so. I end up needing to buy another skein of yarn to finish it. The new skein was only about 100 yards long, and I didn’t use it all because it was hard to tell if the blanket was long enough. In hindsight, I should’ve used it all. Now, I’m left with a blanket that’s just a little too short and a half a skein of yarn that I don’t know what to do with. I’d also use a different pattern for the border–one that doesn’t scrunch up the ends so much. In the end, I think the blanket will be durable, and because of it’s strange shape, will work well for a floor blanket for tummy time.