Thursday, March 28, 2013

Weekend Things

Blah, blah, river,

blah, melting ice,

blah, blah snow,

blah maple syrup

Saturday a friend and I went to Damariscotta because Alewives was having a sale.

I bought some fun and pretty fabrics for some projects I hope to get to someday soon,

and some yarn, just because it was soft and lovely.

I also picked up books at the local bookshop; two on parenting and one for my big trip this summer (squee!).

And I picked up some fancy Easter candy. I don't like it when Easter comes in March––it's still so wintery outside and the whole holiday ends up being an afterthought. E and I finally decorated Monday night––then he put on the bunny costume and hid plastic eggs. I'm afraid that old gray rabbit fur won't fit much longer.

In the mail came enough notebooks to get me through the next year or so. I bought one of these Decomposition Books while Christmas shopping (yes, I tend to buy more stuff for myself than anyone else), mainly because I couldn't resist the pun, but they turn out to be great books, with sturdy covers, strong bindings, sewn pages and paper of just the right heft and smoothness-to-toothiness ratio, while also being made of recycled paper and printed with soy inks. And made in USA. I filled up the last page last week, so, I ordered a whole passel more of them from here (shipping is kind of expensive, but what can you do...the place I bought the first one is an hour drive away).

Also, this year I've made it a quest to keep flowers in the house until they start blooming outside (these sadly drank all their water and drooped and dropped their petals after a couple of days).

New notebooks, pretty fabric and tulips notwithstanding, my annual March Malaise has begun to set in over the last couple of days. I guess that's a good thing, since March is almost over. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Mother-Writer Series, Post I: Alicia Ostriker

"The writer who is a mother should, I think, record everything she can: make notes, keep journals, take photographs, use a tape recorder, and remind herself that there is a subject so incalculably vast significance to humanity, about which virtually nothing is known because writers have not been mothers."

––Alicia Ostriker
"A Wild Surmise: Motherhood and Poetry"
Writing Like a Woman, 1983

Z got up early Saturday morning to make us the breakfast he'd been planning all week--fruit salad and smoothies (I  helped him cut the pineapple and made some muffins to help fill people who are not fruitatarians up). He HATES having his picture taken, but consented to putting his arm within viewfinder range long enough for me to snap a single photo.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fun with Words

I'm in the midst of writing a big essay on writers who address themes of motherhood and nature in their work, and having so much fun with it! 

It's been nigh on twenty-years since I last did any academic writing, and for the most part, I remember mostly writing just get the essay or research paper over and done with. This time, researching something I'm really, genuinely excited about and which is, I believe, the first time this topic has been written about in this way, is truly exhilarating. I'm even all atwitter over the MLA handbook.

This is what my side of the bedroom looks like––research central:

I ran across this post and this one, about getting this very same room all clean and orderly (I love how I called it my Sewing-Writing-Sleeping Studio...gotta remember that one). My room doesn't look very much like the after photos right now, but of course, the motivation behind all that reorganization was to be ready for these two years of focusing on writing, not housework.

M, who is in the process of researching and writing an essay of his own (and not very happy about it) is totally perplexed by my enthusiasm, and not very convinced by my assurances that one day he will appreciate the skills he's learning now.

Every book I read leads me to two or three, or a half-dozen, more that I need to order from interlibrary loan. I'm afraid my 35-page essay is going to more along the lines of 75 pages. I keep running across so much good stuff that I want to share it all with everyone, so I've decided to start a series of posts that quote some of the good stuff I'm digging up about mother-writers, to hopefully inspire others and maybe get a bit of conversation going. Stay tuned for the first post tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Snow Again and St. Patrick's Day

It snowed all day today, although it did not turn out to be the Storm of the Century that was predicted (as always), and for which we were all counting on a Day Off.

As it turned out, only the little people in the house got a snow day, and for them only in that they had to go to daycare instead of school.

After dinner it was still light out, so I took a walk down to the river, having been stuck inside for far too long (why didn't I take a walk yesterday when the sun was shining? I do not know). 

The river is wide open now, but the ground looks like we're back in winter.

Saturday morning, there had only been a thin skin of snow on the ground. I grabbed my camera and went for a walk between putting muffins in the oven and taking them back out, going with my new mantra of "use the time you have." I knew I would be cooped up inside the rest of the day, doing school work, so I had to take my moment as it came.

The snow didn't last long, but the air felt like January had returned, and the wind had most definitely combed the hair of musk oxen before it came to us. Nevertheless, we had a little spring celebration on Sunday, with friends coming over to watch the syrup boil. (Oh, how strange to look at last year's St. Patrick's Day and see M riding his bike in shorts and a tank top!!)

Despite the cold, we created an illusion of springtime inside (and, looking out the window, I think I might have seen some green spears of daffodils poking up through the ground outside, but I didn't make it out to verify before they were covered with snow again).

I cooked up some vegetarian Guinness stew, green soup, Irish soda bread, green shamrock crackers (I substituted safflower oil for the Earth Balance and it seemed to work fine) and green hummus, with pickles and celery. And for dessert, peppermint patty bars, because for some reason St. Patrick's Day seems like a minty dessert holiday (because mint tastes green, perhaps?). In any case, they are dreamy and I will whip them up for many other holidays, too. Our friends brought eggrolls, which, while not Irish, were delicious, and an amazing tofu chocolate mousse (made with 1 package chocolate chips, melted with two ounces coconut milk, and blended with one package silken tofu, and chilled before serving...divine!).

After baseball practice (yet another sign of spring), M spent the afternoon redoing the research for a project (round one having gotten lost), and E cuddled up next to him on the couch, reading a book.

Hope you're either enjoying signs of spring or you get a day off if you're in the midst of this storm!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Coming Along

I spent most of last weekend in Boston, at a conference with 10,999 other writers. It was, by turns, inspiring and disillusioning. The most inspiring part was at the end of Jeanette Winterson's hour-long talk/reading when she said, "Andrea, go home and quit your job." Okay, what she actually said was, "Don't live a half-life." But I think that's the literal translation. Of course, easy for her to say, being British and having universal health care. At any rate, I will read Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal as soon as I'm free to read at whim again.

The disillusioning part was whenever the sneaking suspicion that this whole writing/MFA business is just a big pyramid scheme snuck up on me. I try to drive these thoughts out of my head. It's probably true, but what of it? Am I just going to stop writing? Give up on publication? No.

By the end of the conference, I felt like I had been on a conveyor belt, being stamped with literary knowledge along each stop on the assembly line. Watching a bad old Hollywood flick (City Slickers) on the bus on the ride home was the perfect antidote.

I had just a little time between getting home (and cleaning the house) and C's parents coming over for dinner, so I took a quick walk down to the river (okay, I actually snuck out the back door as they were coming in the front door). I needed to get the screech of subways out of my ears and breathe some air that had not (recently) been inside anyone else's lungs.

There was still plenty of snow in the woods, but the ice had shrunk ever so much since the week before, and the light, something in the quality of the light said, yes, longer days, stronger beams, it's coming, it's coming.

How is spring coming along in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thirty-Day Vegan Wrap-Up

My Thirty-Day Vegan experiment ended a week or so ago (I didn't keep exact track of the date I started...and I didn't log into the online program I followed every day, so it may have ended up being the Thirty-Six-Or-So-Day Vegan experiment).

It went really well, and although I celebrated its conclusion by eating pizza from our nearby farm store Friday night, I plan on continuing to eat a mostly plant-based diet from here on. 

I followed The 30-Day Vegan Challenge program, which I found helpful in that it provided a lot of helpful information regarding cooking techniques and nutrition information. It also provided a lot of great recipes. It's not too dogmatic or strident, either, however as the program goes on, there are a more and more references to "compassionate" eating and living. The program also emphasizes whole foods, rather than processed vegan versions of meat and cheese (although those are also covered and encouraged). 

I don't entirely agree with the concept of veganism being synonymous with "compassionate." For example, many vegan alternative products (like Earth Balance "butter") contain palm oil; the high demand for this oil is resulting in the rapid destruction of rainforests. I think it's much more humane to get butter from cows grown here in my state than desecrating habitat depended on by wildlife. However, if you're going to go oil-free also (as recommended in Forks Over Knives) then it's not an issue.

Anyway, as for results: I don't really know whether or not I feel better or healthier after eating mostly vegan for thirty days––I didn't feel terribly bad or unhealthy before. I did lose three pounds, then another three, then gained back three. I went out to eat much less often, because I wasn't sure I could resist cheesey eggy goodness in favor of a salad. But I did end up buying and eating whole bags of chips and Rice Dream Pies for dinner, rather than picking up a sandwich on my writing out nights. 

We've continued to eat a lot of beans and rice dishes and a whole lot more vegetables than usual. The biggest advantage has been finding and trying a whole lot of new recipes, which has energized my cooking for the first time in years. Some of the sources of recipes I've discovered are:

Part of the reason, other than the health benefits, that I'm going to keep on eating a mostly plant-based diet is that I'm enjoying trying new recipes so much. The kids have barely noticed/mentioned the difference and C even stuck to the veggie dishes when we went to a potluck last weekend.

I've found that by adding something like avocado, roasted red peppers, toasted pine nuts, capers, or olives to dishes you can get the meaty/salty/fatty flavor that cheese provides without the cheese. I even concocted a savory breakfast without eggs by putting olive tapenade and avocado on a bagel. Divine.

Of course some things, like that fateful macaroni and cheese, and pizza, can't be faked, and it's best not to try. So those things will come onto our plates once a week or so. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In the Air

It may still look like this in the woods: 

But the river is breaking up,

The boys have hauled out their bikes,

And C is boiling sap.

So it must nearly be spring.

Inside, when I should have been working on a mountain of writing work (I used the excuse that M needed my computer to do research for his homework), I played with some bright, springy fabrics, while E and Z (after an unfortunate incident with fingertips on the evaporator stove pipe) listened to some Harry Potter books on tape friends gave us. (Z is the one hiding inside a sleeping bag, because he thinks the camera will steal his soul).

What signs of spring have you seen?
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