Friday, September 27, 2013

on living my "one wild and precious life”

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

You've probably heard that I've been mysteriously ill since February, a condition I will heretofore refer to only as the Plague. No one seems to be able to figure out what's causing my symptoms or how to treat them. Basically, I feel like I have the flu most of the time. Weak. Dizzy. Nauseated. Sometimes I pass out when I stand up. Sometimes that happens at church, as I'm trying to stealthily sneak out of Gospel Doctrine to have a coughing fit in peace.

Since February, I've lost a lot of weight. As great as that sounds, I've also lost a lot of hair. Flat warts have spread all over my face. My cognitive ability has been effected as well. Which means I've had a bad case of ADD, burning dinners, forgetting children, and creating chaos. Not to mention the writer's block. It's been a horrible nine months.

And yet.

The best months of my life, too. The Plague, along with a bony bum, brittle hair and warty face, has brought me a decadent array of the richest blessings. More than I can understand or comprehend. More time for listening and being still. More time for reasoning together. More time for reading (and discovering the poet Mary Oliver, another blessing). More time pondering mortality and the purpose of my precious life. More time to hear the wind blow low and whisper through the pines and to watch dark clouds roll over  mountain peaks and more time to sit in the glow of a rainbow sherbet sunset.

More bowing and knee bending.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I don't know if I'll fully recover physically. But inside, I am brand new. For now, when I wake up, I look out my window and like Mary Oliver, I say: good morning, good morning, good morning. I'm going to put my lips to the world and live my life.

Mornings at Blackwater
by Mary Oliver

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

Monday, September 9, 2013

white bean hummus

why white beans and not garbanzo beans? because garbanzo beans have a sort of gross flavor that no one ever wants to talk about. but here is a mild, delicious, clean-tasting hummus that even picky eaters will happily dive into.

(2 things about cooking beans: 1. feel free to cook your beans however you're used to—in the slow cooker or regular stove pot. i use my pressure cooker because it's 2 1/2 hours faster than the next fastest method. this is a recipe for white bean hummus, though. not an instructional on how to use a pressure cooker. if you don't have one or don't know how to use one, just cook your beans in a way you're comfortable with. 2. there is a long-standing old wive's tale that says you can't cook beans with salt or they'll be tough. NOT TRUE! i cook beans at least twice a week and always add salt. it does increase the cooking time, so plan on that, but this is an important cooking tip to remember, especially if you're cooking beans for chili or something like that. it's lovely to have a bean that's salted all the way through and not just the skin.)

white bean hummus
makes 6 cups

1 pound dry white beans (such as great northern beans), soaked in bowl over night
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Drain beans. Place ingredients in pressure cooker, cover with fresh water and pressure cook for 3 minutes. Let pressure drop of its own accord.

Drain beans again and set aside. In a food processor, chop:

2 cloves garlic

Then add:

2 tablespoons tahini (i leave this out all the time. my kids prefer it without, so if you can't find it, or are new to tahini, you can omit it too.)
juice of 2 lemons (or about 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Process until smooth. Divide into containers and freeze any portions you won't use right away. Lasts about 5 days in the refrigerator. I always double this recipe and blend it in the food processor in two batches. Less work, more food!

My favorite snack is just the right size to sneak into my No Food Allowed library for a writing day.

Friday, September 6, 2013

let's talk about lunch, baby. let's talk about you and me.

owl moon bento. i entered this lunch into a contest to win a new stainless steel planetbox lunch box yesterday. sadly, i didn't win, but i did have quite a few people on the 100 DAYS OF REAL FOOD blog and facebook page ask lots of questions about this lunch, so i thought i'd answer them all in one place.

1. how do you get everything to stay in place?
easy! i just fold a cloth napkin right over the top of the owl sandwich press the lid on. my daughter rides her bike to school (a little over 2 miles with her lunch bouncing around in her backpack and turned sideways) and then her lunch gets thrown in a giant bin with all her classmates. after quite a bit of jostling and shaking, she reported back to me that it looked exactly the same when she opened it up on the lunch table. good to know! another trick i sometimes pull out of my lunch-making hat is to use cream cheese or peanut butter as glue. 

2. the feathers? are those almonds? how do they stay in place? what about nut allergies!?
yes. i used sliced almonds. it took about 33 seconds to place them all on the bread. about one second per almond slice. whew! if you have a nut-free school, i think it'd be cute to use some fruit leather cut in the shape of wings. at our school, there is a table in the lunchroom designated as the nut-free zone.

3. how much time did this take?
less than 3 minutes. it took about the same amount of time it would have if i was making most of the other lunches in the contest and here's why: packing the lunches is one of the jobs i give my kids. (i have four minions to do my bidding). 

how i did it:
1. placed leftover kale salad and blueberries into the lunch boxes
2. sliced the radishes.
3. assembled the sandwich, using leftover herbed turkey from the night before and cut it with a round cookie cutter (cutting the sandwich takes less than 5 seconds and i save the bread scraps to make croutons for chef salad, which i burned tonight and then threw in the garbage).
4. MEANWHILE (and here's the secret to my success) my daughter cut the radishes into stars and used different sizes of round cookie cutters to make the moon and eyes.
5. i was going to use sliced olives for the pupils but realized we were out so i cut a sheet of nori seaweed with scissors.
6. i didn't want to do the almond feathers, but she really wanted to, so i let her lay them onto the sandwich while i filled up 4 water bottles.

honestly it took about 10 times MORE time to shoot the picture, upload it, edit it and post it to the contest than it did to make the lunch.

4. wow. you must have a lot of fancy gadgets to put this lunch together.
they are fancy! and you can be fancy too! i got the lunch box at target. it's ziploc brand, called the divided rectangle, and it's sold in pairs for about $3. the cheese was cut using a set of circle cutters i bought on amazon. and the stars were cut with a play-do cutter that came in a set i got about 9 years ago when my oldest daughter still played with play-do. 


and that wraps up our FAQ on the owl moon bento. but you know me. there's a few more things we should discuss. but i'll kindly pepper the rest of my post with pictures of past lunches, in the hopes that it will inspire you and distract you from the ranty tone of the rest of this post.

i occasionally post pictures on facebook and instagram of the lunches i make. and i haven't ever said anything, but i get REALLY BOTHERED by some of the comments.

this lunch looks great, but what does it look like by lunch time?
so glad you asked. i'll answer that by asking a question: you know i'm making these lunches to be eaten, right? ALL THE LUNCHES ARE DESTROYED BY THE TIME LUNCH IS OVER ANYWAY. regardless, i am pretty good at packing things tightly so that they are still presentable at lunch time any way.

but this brings up a second issue. i'd make lunches like these anyway even if they were destroyed by lunch time, because for me, i find joy in the process of creation. packing lunches used to be something i hated like i hate laundry and scrubbing toilets. now it's one of my favorite parts of the day. and it's even better because i get to share that time with my kids and they're part of the process as well.

which brings me to my third issue with this comment. i don't think the value of any type of art diminishes based on the permanence of the artwork. in other words, it's the process of creation that gives art value, not how long the art lasts. i have a favorite quote by picasso: "art washes from the soul the dust of every day life." for me, i find an incredible amount of joy working with my kids in the morning and making something beautiful and healthy. i'm nourishing bodies and souls.

i don't have time to do decorative/elaborate lunches like that.
oh really? last time i checked, we all lived on the same planet, which means we all have 24 hours in a day. what i hear when someone makes a comment like that is really: "you should have better/more important things to do with your time like i do." what we do with our time is a CHOICE. we're not victims, locked into a set schedule everyday. and i like to remember that saying "yes" to one thing means saying "no" to something else. maybe i get up earlier than you. maybe i watch less tv than you. maybe my house is messier than yours. maybe my clothes are more wrinkled than yours because i let them sit in the dryer for 5 days. maybe i'm smellier because i skipped showering to have time to make these lunches. i am busy all day long just like most of you. i have four busy kids. i write novels. i design. i make 3 meals a day for 6 people. i volunteer at my church. i wash about 17 loads of laundry a week. i make my own bread and yogurt. i coach my son's soccer team. i take meals to my friends when they're sick. we all have to prioritize based on what we think is most important. for me, creating is important so i prioritize it. even if i'm doing it with school lunches. and i think it's fine if that's not one of your things, too. i'm sure you're saying yes to something really valuable when you say no to spending time making a lunch like mine.

you're so lucky that your kids aren't picky
i don't think i'm lucky so much as persistent and vigilant. i'm the parent. i'm the lioness at the gate. i buy the food in the house. if the kids haven't finished something in their lunch, they eat it for a snack when they get home. hungry kids just might surprise you with what they'll eat. 

be happy. a good note to end on.