New Year’s Dissolutions

Tiara

At the time of this posting, it is T minus 7.5 hours until the start of the New Year on the Gregorian calendar.  At exactly midnight, we ring in the year 2016.  Most of us do this with great fanfare, some of us stay comfortable at home in pajamas with a champagne toast as the clock chimes, and others of us sleep right through the event.  I have done all of these – I even wore a tiara last year because I had never done so before, and in case you don’t know, they are uncomfortable.  This year I am shooting down the middle again, watching the year change from the comfort of my sofa across a coffee table laden with snacks and a few holiday gifts that I have yet to put away because:

  1. Seeing them makes it feel like the holidays are still ongoing;
  2. They remind me of the thoughtfulness of others;
  3. I have lost my ability to worry about tucking everything neatly into an assigned drawer, closet, shelf or box;
  4. All of the above.

While it is customary to make New Year’s resolutions to create new habits, reform unhealthy patterns, and achieve goals, for me this year is officially about what I can live without, and I bet there is a lot more I can (and probably will) live without than even I have considered, material and otherwise.  Granted, there are some physical things we all need in the best of possible worlds: a good roof over our heads, nutritious food and clean water, climate-appropriate clothing, the essential tools for good hygiene, and a sound mode of transportation to get to and from a job that hopefully allows us to afford these things and still have something left over.  That said, it’s also good to look at giving up that which does not serve us.


Dissolution of material items:  Give it away, give it away, give it away now. 

Several years ago, I signed up with Freecycle, an awesome (in the literal sense of the word) global grassroots initiative with almost 10 million members.  Have something you want to get rid of?  Join a Freecycle group in your area to give (or get!) items for free to (or from) people near you simply by entering a description of the item and how you would like people to contact you.  I have given away overgrown aloe plants the size of my torso; piles of books, CDs, and movies; golf clubs (apologies to my golf pro brother-in-law); and even a piano.  Maybe these items were polished up and sold, to which I say, “Great!” if others had the inclination or ability to do something I didn’t.  Beyond this, lots of nonprofit organizations accept gently-used items to sell and invest the proceeds in their cause.  This year, our local SPCA and another national charity have been our go-to organizations.  Find one or more that are meaningful to you.


In other realms (I can’t tell if this is emotional or psychological, but I think it’s both):  Don’t harsh my mellow, man.

It might be time to dissolve my perhaps utopian notion that we all do our best to play fair in the sandbox.  It’s really a shame to let this one go, and it’s a serious downer, but not everyone has our best interests at heart all the time.  There are people who, through whatever internal mechanisms of their own, take strides to injure happiness, undermine security, or damage important relationships, including but not limited to our relationships with ourselves.  Here’s my motto:  You don’t have to love me, you don’t even have to like me, but I would appreciate your mutual respect for the position I hold in whatever capacity you know me.  I will do my best to meet you somewhere in the middle, but if you treat any part of myself like a piñata, I am prepared to move on with or without you.  Maybe that’s the desired outcome anyway, and if so, I sincerely hope we are all the better for the change.


In the grand scheme of things:  Wash it all away.

Thank you to President Obama for signing the ban on microbeads, making products that contain them illegal in the United States!  Huzzah!  Microbeads are a manufactured hazard to aquatic life that, I think I can safely say on behalf of everyone, we can live without.  The centuries old washcloth (not an actual centuries-old washcloth, I am speaking generically of the product) does the same thing without hurting a soul.  Please pass the soap!

In keeping with washing up and washing out, I hereby dismount my soapbox to prepare for festivities.  Life is complex; don’t overthink it.  It’s been my joy to share this new blog with you, thank you for reading, and Happy New Year!  Catch you on the flip side of the calendar page.

 

 

A Visit from…St. Nicholas?

Xmas village Bumbles
Even the most abominable creations have their merit.

With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore…  


‘Twas the week before Winter, and Christmas Day too

And I worked on a blog post, to try something new;

No hosiery, dress code, nor office attire,

For transmitting thoughts over ether and wire;

My husband was nestled asleep in our bed;

While phrases and verses did vie in my head;

The hour struck midnight, I’d hoped to be done,

As my goal was to wrap up this poem by one.

No editor here to revise or improve this,

Confuse not devotion with artistic smoothness.

By monitor light my mind spun like a top,

To quell writer’s block for I disdained to stop.

The glow from the terminal monitor screen,

And the blueness of pixels were almost obscene,

When what from my key striking fingers emerged,

But ideas coalesced in a creative surge,

With a Muse who descended, crowned myrtle and rose,

By piping her flute, thus Euterpe composed.

More rapid than broadband, ideas they came,

Create groupings and tags, on the byline my name:

Compose it!  Post pictures!  Now preview and publish!

Upload it!  It’s sending!  Connection is sluggish!

To the internet swift! To the internet take!

Now blog away! Blog away! Make no mistake!

But words can before one’s eyes lose their traction,

And out to the world fly, fragmented and fractioned;

I pulled back from the web my unpolished work

Success was diminished, I felt like a jerk –

And then, with an inkling, I knew in my pate,

That now was the time to improve on this slate.

As I sucked in my breath, and rended my hair,

Beatific Euterpe was still standing there,

In her resplendent vestment, her swathe how it flowed

She leaned in and she winked, and keyed airs I’d not known;

A bundle of words did slip soft from her drape,

Wafted in through my mind and the poem took shape.

Her eyes—how they twinkled! Her music, how merry!

Her cheeks flushed like roses from vocabulary!

Her features then sharpened, my pulse skipped a beat,

Anapestic tetrameter’s a bitch to complete.

She raised up her flute from the crook of her arm,

This gesture dispelling the fog with its charm;

The gentle notes floated from over my shoulder

The verses flowed on, and the measure grew bolder.

Oh her presence was grand, statuesque she inspired,

Silver flute flashing brightly, with success we’d conspired;

And giving a nod, she was gone on a whim

The notes of her flute fading distant and dim;

She never did speak but she finished this rhyme,

I posted this blog, it submitted on time,

Divine inspiration has brought this to be,

This confabulation has rarefied me,

I’m now off to bed, and I thank you for reading,

I desire to dream for aesthetic reseeding.

And I say to you all, ere I log off tonight –

“Merry Christmas to all, may your Solstice be bright!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth in Advertising

Pleiades
The Pleiades.  Photo credit: NASA/ESA/AURA/Caltech.

With the holidays looming large, commercials abound, and with the Super Bowl two months away, they only stand to get better.  A former advertising major, I often ponder the taglines of products.  While Keebler cookies might be considered uncommonly good, they aren’t baked by real elves; I never took the time to separate out the raisins in Kellogg’s Raisin Bran to count whether there are in fact two scoops, whatever that measure amounts to; and I have never conducted a randomized controlled double-blind study to confirm whether my choice of laundry detergent is providing me with the whitest whites.  However, I have come to the conclusion that it’s true what they say about Subaru cars:  Love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru.

A lot of people probably feel about their cars the way I do mine, so this sentiment may not be unique to Subaru, but I’m rolling with it because it strikes a deeply personal chord.  My Subaru Legacy carried me safely inside its cabin in fine weather and bad, over winding rural roads and unending highways, for nearly a dozen years.  I made three interstate moves with beloved animal companions riding shotgun, landed three major jobs, and my husband drove it to several interviews during the winter of 2010-2011 through snow and ice, over mountains, and across state lines.  I had insisted he take it because I wanted him to return safely, and I knew my Subaru would do it’s part.

It escorted us on our first date, to and from the restaurant where he proposed on bended knee, and to the Stowe resort where we were married.  During the intervening years, it was the repository of, among other things, the score card from our first miniature golf game (I won!), and a map he drew for me when I needed to drive to an unfamiliar town to meet a friend and didn’t have a GPS.

It chugged through multiple Vermont mud seasons like a locomotive, and only the New Hampshire license plate crinkled when I skidded headlong into a snow bank because I had braked too late on the ice to execute my turn.  I was in a snit over something so insignificant I can’t even recall what it was; the bumper made such a satisfying “piff” when it nosed into the snow, I broke into laughter and forgot about my irritation.  It seldom pays to let petty annoyances get the better of us, and laughter can cure an awful lot.

I learned how my chronic lateness affected others when I pulled into a park to meet a friend for a snowshoeing date and she wasn’t there yet.  I thought she was late, but it turned out she had told me to meet her at 10:15, figuring I wouldn’t arrive until 10:30, which was the time she really wanted to start.  I often quipped that I was born late and have been late ever since, but my predisposition to tardiness has been replaced with respect for other people’s time.

When my friend Ann cancelled group dinner plans one afternoon due to a dilemma involving 11 Rhode Island Reds, I asked for a little time, found homes for all of them in a single afternoon, and then ran to my Subaru like it was a trusty steed waiting at the post.  Ann met me at the barn with goggles, gloves, and a chicken transport crate she borrowed from a farmer down the road, and together we caught six of the chickens.  I drove them to a parking lot in Woodstock, VT where I connected with a veterinarian who had agreed to let them live out their days on her farm.  A day later, my husband helped us capture the remaining 5, then we drove through a whiteout blizzard to deliver them to their swanky new coop in Plainfield, VT where they shacked up with a fancy black and white speckled chicken named Lucky.

Hens
Photo credit https://chickensdirect.net.  Someday I will the find the box in which the actual chicken rehoming photos are packed.

We drove home with our youngest rescued parrot clinging to the front of his new carrier in the backseat, his face pressed against the bars to peer across the console at us.  Our much loved cat Nebraska took her last ride to the vet in this car, her failing body cradled in my husband’s lap, and I made the sad drive home with her cremated remains in a small wooden box on my lap.  Eight and a half months later, we spontaneously drove to an animal shelter where we found our Maine Coon cat Acadia, who seemed to have been waiting for us since the day she was surrendered.  The following year, I drove my mom to a different animal shelter where, at my ailing dad’s request, we adopted their Maine Coon, Coco.

Three years later, I cried as I drove to my parents’ house after my mom called to tell me that my dad had just died.  I had been thinking of them when I bought this car, because all of the seats are easy to get in and out of.  Some weeks later, with a purposeful mind and heavy heart, I packed the car and trunk with household and garden chemicals my very industrious dad had used to maintain home, cars and lawn.  It took four trips to three different county drop-offs to ensure the chemicals would be handled correctly, because I wanted to honor my dad’s hard work by doing the right thing.

My car carries meaning like a passenger, and this has over the years led me to meditate on the very name Subaru.  In Greek myth, Atlas (the Titan embodiment of endurance) and Pleione (protectress of sailing) married and had seven daughters, who, long story short, Zeus turned into the seven stars that form the constellation known as the Pleiades.  Two of the stars appear so close together that the naked eye perceives only six stars, but they are all there, the constellation a symbol of family and of unity.  “Subaru” is the Japanese name for this constellation.

So when I watched my Subaru drive away, a new owner at the wheel, I realized what a time capsule of my life it had become.  Within its silver panels are memories mundane, sorrowful, and joyful, each one poignant for a different reason, touching on all manner of lives and traversing the stages of my existence with impressive traction.  Change can be scary, but I think it’s easier when we choose change, maybe because doing so creates for us the illusion of control, and that helps us accept responsibility for our lives.  Here’s to those who journey with us, and the vessels in which we travel the time-space continuum, where the visible past recedes in the rear view as we propel ourselves ever forward.  There will always be dips, bends and potholes that surprise us, but to paraphrase the Irish proverb, may the road rise up to meet us.  Steer true and enjoy this serendipitous ride, my friends.

 

 

 

 

Mistaken Identities

Walking into a shopping mall department store alone with one thing on my mind (miniature Italian bittersweet chocolate bars at Lindt), I was mildly distracted from my mission by the sound of a man’s voice rising above the din.  I glanced casually toward him while weaving through people and racks of clothing; he was young with a slight build and dark hair, one arm waving frantically overhead as he careened through the crowded store in my direction.  I hastened my already brisk pace to get out of his way, but his voice grew louder instead of distant.  His course had shifted with mine, and he surged toward me, calling, “Wait!  Wait!”

I stopped, in case I might be the one millionth customer to enter the store that day, or possibly my belt loop had hooked a high-security item that I was unwittingly dragging toward the exit into the mall (seriously, these were my thoughts at the time).  He loomed out of the garments on my left, placing a hand on my arm.

Jekyll Hyde
Photo credit http://yourfamilyexpert.com

He started to gush something enthusiastically, but stopped abruptly, his face morphing from joy to puzzlement and settling into shock.  “Oh my god, you’re not Caroline!”  He released my arm and recoiled, apologizing profusely, but then lingered to gaze into my face with wonderment.  “It’s uncanny, you look exactly like my friend Caroline, even now that I know you’re not her…” he said, shaking his head as he retreated back into the garment racks.

This happens to me with surprising frequency.  I’m not always accosted, but I have been mistaken for various people’s cousin, daughter, niece, colleague, and on one really fun excursion in Chicago, a barista stared me down because he was sure I was Julie Delpy (I should be so lucky) until I placed my order in a clearly American voice.  In every case, I was well met by the strangers, each wanting to share something or extend a kindness toward me.  It’s strange being a doppelgänger, and I’ve never worked out a way to use my commonly arranged features to my advantage.  I can be understanding of the situations, though, having made similar errors in recognition, just not with people.

For example, one rainy fall night, driving home from a 14-hour work day, my eyes scanned the roadsides as they always do for dark forms that might leap out in front of my car.  As I rounded the corner onto my street, my headlights glaring off of the slick pavement, the silhouette of a small animal emerged from the right side of the road and scampered across my headlights.  I had seen two kittens recently but hadn’t been able to catch them for safe keeping, and I knew the temperatures were going to plunge that night.  I braked and looked around for the other kitten.

When the animal stopped and turned its head to look back, I opened my car door to call to it, but it trotted further up the street away from me.  That is an ugly kitten if such a thing is even possible, I thought to myself, and it’s weird the way it scurries on those long legs.  The ears were disproportionately large and the face was broad across the cheeks, but I attributed these features to water-drenched fur.  The poor thing!  It was cold and I had to catch it before it froze to death or something ate it.  I got back into my car and rolled a few house lengths to turn into my driveway, and as I did, the kitten darted across my headlights again, back to the other side of the road and down the hill into the next door neighbor’s front yard.  Perfect!  I could lure it close, scoop it up in my arms, and carry it inside for warmth.

I parked my car in the driveway, slowly opened the door, and softly called to it while it studied me guardedly from the deep shadow of the neighbor’s house.  I crouched down in my suit and heels, extending a hand toward it, making the classic “here kitty” call, which for the uninitiated sounds like, “Spss spss spss.”  The kitten started toward me, picking up speed until it was in a dead run directly for me.  It was about that time I realized that this was, in fact, not a kitten, and I catapulted to my feet as I vocalized the comprehension with an involuntary expletive.  My back was against my car and I didn’t know which way to move, but the animal made a split second 90-degree turn before coming into the porch light, paws kicking out behind it, and disappeared into the woods behind my house.

I went inside, breathless and bewildered, and recounted to my husband what had just happened.  My stepson walked into the room just as I was describing the animal, and they agreed it sounded like I had tried to bring a coyote pup into the house.  I had never seen a coyote, but I was sure they were mistaken until a few days later when someone at work circulated an email cautioning everyone to be attentive while hiking with unleashed dogs because a large coyote was seen with pups along a hiking trail in nearby woods.  These are the same woods that extended to my home.  A quick Google search offered photographs that supported my family’s assertion that I was the mistaken one.

Coyote pup
Photo credit http://www.fws.gov –  Ugly kitten or cute coyote pup?  My judgment is faulty.  You decide.  

There are far worse cases of mistaken identity, and I’m lucky to have not been hurt in mine.  For the most part, the experiences turned into humorous circumstances for everyone, the only possible exception being the coyote event.  I will never know if it thought I was offering food from my hand or my hand for food, but while I am charitable, I have to draw the line somewhere and this is as good a place as any while I still have two hands with which to do it.

Until we meet again, be generous and kind, use caution around strangers, and keep your hands inside your vehicle at all times.  Unless, of course, you see a legitimately stray animal in need of a figurative hand, or can call a local wildlife rehabilitator for wild animals in need of help.

 

 

 

The Dilemma of Gifts

I hope those celebrating Thanksgiving had a warm and lovely holiday with friends and/or family, bracketed by safe travel and no speeding tickets.  My Tofurky was a predictable success, and I was the only vegetarian at the table!  My thanks to all who are open-minded and openhearted enough to give it a try, even if you ultimately give it a thumbs-down.

image
So far, it’s thumbs up!

I suppose this, the day after Thanksgiving, launches us into the official start of the gift-buying season and, for many, the high holidays.  How fortunate we are to set forth with full bellies to buy thoughtful gifts for people we hold dear.  I mean that sincerely.  As one who has never been a recreational shopper, I depend on level blood sugar like a pair of crutches.  That’s not to say that I went holiday shopping on Black Friday, but I am mulling things over.

Most of my unnecessary shopping excursions – anything beyond groceries and household supplies – are undertaken with both consternation and a list.  I approach them like a Special Forces soldier:  get in and get out.  Take only what you need, leave nothing but a sales record and for goodness sake not your debit card.  However, as I like to say, life is serendipitous, and sometimes it’s best to let it ride.  How better to find gifts people didn’t even realize they needed?

Along that vein, I want to share with you some unique gift-giving ideas upon which I have stumbled, but I haven’t stumbled upon very many as I am woefully reticent to wander through stores, especially now that the flag has ceremoniously dropped.  There is true delight in finding that perfect something for a loved one, but once the clock starts ticking, the stress begins ratcheting up.  I live in a rural area where the nearest shopping meccas are over an hour away, and the nearest shopping mall, at only 20 minutes away, is gearing up to provide what it can to shoppers.  Past experience living in Northern New England taught me that it’s best to poke around in the corners to find work created by local artists and artisans, which make the best gifts, alongside homemade items and donations to a favorite charity.

Still, I’ve started perusing the commercial world, and I unexpectedly chanced upon the most bizarre game I think I have ever seen.

Doody Head game
I wasn’t so much excited to find this as I was thrilled that I remembered something from a couple of years ago.

I learned about it the winter before last when I saw a strange looking cap strewn on a hassock in my friend’s living room.  I had let myself into her house one cold evening to care for her Chihuahua while the family was away, and in the dim lamp light this captured my attention because I could neither identify nor understand it.  I didn’t see it again until a few weeks ago when it appeared on a kiosk shelf at the aforementioned diminutive mall.  The idea is for two people to tie Velcro-studded caps onto their heads and throw stuffed-fabric doodies at each other’s skulls, aiming to make as many as possible stick.

Doody Head hat
This daring photo was taken two years before the previous snapshot.  Ah, the folly of youth.

I’m not sure which outcome determines the winner, but the game comes with instructions, which would be helpful at a frat party, though the only person I know who owns it is my friend’s now six-year-old son.  This could be a gift for all ages or a great means to finally end that obligatory gift exchange.  Give it some thought.

Perusing the internet for ideas, I noticed something that the peregrinations of my mind suggested I should probably own, though I don’t truly desire it (this is what makes holiday shopping treacherous).

SoundBot
SoundBot SB510 HD Water-Resistant Bluetooth Shower Speaker on Amazon.com.

Shower radios have been around for decades, but they have morphed and become fairly spiffy of late.  I am usually too rushed in the morning to fidget with anything that doesn’t have a direct impact on getting me to work earlier, so I never bothered with one, but this electronic gizmo can be amped up almost anywhere to regale you with your own playlists.  I would more than likely use it for podcasts since my iPhone at full volume from the ledge of the shower does not overcome the patter of falling water, but I digress.

This gift idea reminded me of the time a few years ago when I spontaneously burst into rapturous melody in the shower.  A song to which I knew only a few lines was rattling relentlessly through my head and its only way out was through my mouth.  I knew I didn’t sound great, but I was unprepared for my husband to thunder up the stairs, explode through the bathroom door, and fling open the shower curtain.  We stood there looking at each other, both of us equally surprised.   Evidently, he expected to find me crumpled on the floor of the tub, possibly in an eddy of blood, because, he said, and this is a direct quote, “I thought you were yelling in pain.”

If I were a material girl, I might have angled for one of these at that time, but I favor this memory far more than a gadget that would have drowned out my voice, thereby thwarting this remembrance, which he probably wishes I would forget already.  Holidays are, in at least some part, about building memories that will last a lifetime.  Most of the memories are softhearted, some are funny, but hopefully they are all positive in nature.  Let it snow, let us dive in, remember and create capsules of merriment in turbulent times, and extend kindness to the good people crowding around us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well Well Well

I tend to be mindfully appreciative of the blessings I have in my life at any given time, but the Thanksgiving holiday raises the level of consciousness for many of us, inspiring us to articulate thanks for gifts for which we are particularly grateful.  At this time, I want to express my appreciation for water.  More directly, for clean, running water that magically appears every time I flip a lever.  I am also thankful to all of those who work, lobby, and fight to conserve, preserve, and educate us about one of the most basic elements we need to survive.

Although I consider myself reasonably devoted to sustainable living, moving into a 200-year-old farmhouse over the summer has made me more acutely aware of my water consumption.  The water to the house is fed by the original spring-fed well that has supplied water to this structure for nearly two centuries.  It is clean and clear and fresh, sparkles like crystal when held up to the light in a transparent glass, smells like nothing, and tastes like luminous cold.

Well water in glass resized
As clear as the crystal glass it’s in

However, the springs that feed this well have evidently been running progressively lower, and I have found myself stranded in the shower more than once, naturally covered in soap or with conditioner-saturated hair when the water first turned icy, then the pressure dropped, and then there was nothing but the sound of the pump in the basement until it ground to a halt, the water in the well having dropped to an inaccessible level.  Even with continued conservation – three-minute showers if any (sorry), severely restricted flushing (sorrier), choosing which days to run water-consuming appliances on the shortest cycles – the water has still run out.

This prompted our hardworking and highly responsive landlords to have a new well drilled a couple of weeks ago, after which it was capped until the plumbing could be run into the house.  There is so much water in the aquifer that supplies the new well, the cap could not contain it, so water spurted and cascaded from the wellhead for two weeks, turning the driveway and side yard to a thick amalgamation of sludge from drilled rock and mud.  With self- and spring-fed-well-imposed restrictions, this was psychologically and emotionally agonizing to watch.  There was a brief respite from this when I saw a small flock of black-capped chickadees drinking from the leaking water one unseasonably warm day.

well head
The new well head rises three feet above ground so snow plows won’t accidentally rupture it. I think I should put a bicycle flag on top of it.

 

well drilling tire tracks
This used to be a gravel driveway, but the overflow of water and loose shale particles combined with heavy equipment has obliterated it

The plumbing was completed the day before yesterday, eliminating the overflow from the new wellhead.  After flushing it (the water running from the well through the basement pipes and then discharging via hose through a window into the front yard) for about 20 hours, there is still a lot of sediment in the aquifer.  It had cleared, but then turned cloudier and silty again, so we are back to using the limited spring water while the aquifer continues to flush.  Even though the water is grey with pulverized shale and other sediment, it is still excruciating to watch it surge from the hose out into the grass, though I suppose it is being recycled on a large scale by our usual environmental processes of evaporation and absorption, to return again in some other form in some other place, likely not useful to us.

About 70% of earth is water, but most of it is saline (ocean and similar).  Only 2.5% of it is fresh, and only 1% of that fresh water is accessible to people like us around the globe; the other 1.5% comprises snowfields and glaciers, which of course we aren’t actively using.  By the time the math is sorted out, only about 0.007% of the water on our planet is available to our exploding population of 7+ billion people.1  I realize how terribly spoiled I am, turning on the tap for a glass of water or standing in a hot shower, however briefly, to feel clean, so I don’t dare complain about my first world problems.  There is much that can be said on the topic of water, regarding availability and consumption, and there are people far better qualified than I to explain (see links below).

All I’m saying is, I am sincerely thankful for every drop of potable water I drink from the tap; pour into the bowls of trusting pets; brew into coffee or tea; use to clean food, my home, and everything in it.  I never want to take more than I need, but what I “need” is so relative.  I might use very little compared to my neighbor down the street, but in contrast to someone who doesn’t have access to clean fresh water, it would probably seem astounding that I can bathe daily and still fill a pot with water to cook or wash a basin full of once- or twice-worn clothes.  I think perhaps the best way I can express my gratitude for water is to use as little of it as possible so that others – human and otherwise – might know this same gratitude.

1 http://www.environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/


 

Click here to learn how you can help conserve water.

Click here to learn about the global water crisis.  These are details not broadcasted by mainstream media, but they should be.

Click here to read about the impacts of the water crisis on wildlife, the global environment, and us.

Food for Thought

Thoreau vegetarian
www.pledgevegan.com

As we head into the season of feasts, starting with Thanksgiving next week and ending approximately (and perhaps remorsefully) on New Year’s Day, I join millions of Americans planning menus, grocery lists, and timelines.  At the same time, I am cramped with writer’s block because I would like to share of myself without alienating those of different convictions.  I suppose all I can do is state sincerely that this post comes not from a place of judgment, but from my inner sanctum.

I have been vegetarian, vegan for periods, most of my life.  I was not raised this way, though my mother prepared a vegetarian dinner or two, sometimes three, each week at the end of her long work day (thank you, Mom!).  I developed an awareness of food sources while in my teens, and when that awareness rapidly developed into my renunciation of meat, my mother skeptically gave me about three months to live.

It surprises me when people are surprised that I exist without eating meat, and often enough, they press, “Do you eat chicken?”

“No.”

“Do you eat fish or seafood?”

“No.”

They stare at me incredulously (I wish I was exaggerating).  These are flesh the same as cows and pigs.  I also eschew leather, but that’s another topic and may resurface in a fashion post for which I will not be held accountable by trend mavens.  By now the logic must follow, in un non-sequitur style, that I also do not eat turkey, and I feel gladder in my heart when there are purely vegetables, grains, and fruits on the holiday table.  And this year, as in many years past, there will be Tofurky!

Tofurky
usa.streetsblog.org

I never sought to replace meat in my meals.  I gave it up for a reason and never missed it, but sometimes people around me do, so I slowly incorporated these processed foods into my repertoire.  For years, I enjoyed bustling into my kitchen on a cold, sometimes snowy, Thanksgiving morning to begin assembling my pièce de résistance, roasted acorn squash stuffed with a savory blend of chopped cranberries, pecans, and sage.  Surely our predecessors enjoyed this!  Alas, not everyone is of this palate.

My husband, a non-vegetarian, hates when I tell this story because it features him and his outstanding diplomacy, both of which I find admirable.  As we approached our second or third Thanksgiving holiday together, he began tentatively asking whether I had ever considered Tofurky.  I had never tried it, but had heard the jokes, seen the cartoons and sitcoms, and continued contemplating how to further enhance the squash course.  Every few days, he asked again.  Evidently, I don’t read between lines.  At all.

A few days before Thanksgiving, he rushed into the warm house after work, a grocery bag looped over his arm.  This was an uncharacteristic accessory for him, and my eyes moved from his glowing, frost-lit face to the dangling parcel.  He presented me with a Tofurky Feast, a box which comes complete with a stuffed roast, gravy, wild rice, a Tofurky Jurky wishbone (I kid you not), and a vegan fudge brownie.  I probably had the same expression on my face my mother had on hers when I announced my vegetarianism, but the humor of the situation and his tactfulness were not lost on me.

The upshot: I was surprised by how good the Tofurky roast actually tasted, and he wasn’t at all surprised that he liked it way better than stuffed squash.  The roast is moist and “meaty,” the stuffing is excellent, and while I couldn’t quite cope with the wishbone even though it was fake, the rice and gravy were very good.  If I were a baser person, I would mug someone to wrest that vegan brownie from them.  It rivals my own coveted recipe!

Tofurky roast is now regularly featured on our holiday table, and I have customized it over the years with basting, roasted vegetables, my own mushroom gravy, as well as other standard holiday dinner fare.  I make extra stuffing to ensure there is enough to go around because every non-vegetarian guest at the table asks to try it, consistently offering their appreciation for the taste and texture.

I feel a little less like a Pilgrim, making Tofurky instead of squash, but it is a hit year after year, and I just picked ours up today!  They are kept in the freezer section of savvy food purveyors almost everywhere.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!  What dish is your Thanksgiving feast not complete without?

 

 

Eureka! Last pancake update, I swear: Easy Low Carb Buttermilk Pancakes

Success! No wheat or added sugar, they cook like champs, and taste great!
Success! No wheat or added sugar, they cook like champs, and taste great!

With sincerest apologies to those who really don’t care about carbohydrates, sugar, gluten or pancakes, I am floating one last revision to the original reduced carb pancakes I posted on November 6, and updated on November 7 with a caution to low-carbers across the globe.  Anyone in my family will tell you I’m like a dog with a bone when something isn’t working out right, and the cake mishap of November 7 was troubling me.

These pancakes are LOW carb, downgraded (upgraded?) from reduced carb, because they are free of wheat and added sugar and I, a former sugar junkie, did not even miss it.  Moreover, I didn’t use my pure maple syrup!  What?!  The almond flour is naturally sweet, rendering the syrup unnecessary, though it would be a tasty indulgence.

These could be an easy breakfast made in advance and frozen with a sheet of wax or parchment paper between each layer.  I like portable breakfasts, and these cakes can be rolled up (they are that moist) with a light filling of spiced cream cheese in the middle for your commute or to eat at your desk.  Mascarpone cheese would be great, but that could be sloppy if you are eating on the run.

These look and cook like the real deal but go down much lighter, and no sugar crash to follow!  The answer: add one more egg to the original recipe.  That’s it.  For those just tuning in, I will save you from going back to try to find the original post by reposting the recipe below with the necessary adjustments, but you might still want to look at the original post for some helpful hints or to get the wheat-based version which includes blueberries.

These are about a minute from needing to be turned. You can see the edges of the top pancake thickening.
These are about a minute from needing to be turned. You can see the edges of the top pancake thickening.

Ingredients:

¾ cup milk*

2 Tbsp butter melted and slightly cooled

2 eggs (this accounts for the aforementioned extra egg)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup almond flour/meal

3 Tbsp buttermilk powder*

1/2 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp of cinnamon, or more to taste

*If using liquid buttermilk, simply replace the 3/4 cup milk with it, and omit the buttermilk powder.  The good thing about the powder is that it has a longer shelf life than liquid buttermilk.

  • Mix the liquid ingredients first, then stir in the powdered ingredients just enough to moisten them.
  • Pour the batter by ¼ cupfuls (using a dry measure) onto the griddle.  You many not see a lot of the characteristic tiny bubbles on the surface that would prompt you to flip a wheat-based pancake, so just keep an eye on them.  You will see the color darken and the edges take on a firmness.
  • Store in oven on warm cookie sheet until ready to eat.  No need to cover them unless they are going to stand for a long time, because these stay very moist!

That’s it for me on this topic!   You’re welcome.  🙂

Cheers!

Easy Reduced Carb Buttermilk-Blueberry Pancakes Redux: A Cautionary Tale

No one would know by my posts that I am not a low-carb or gluten-free dieter, but since so many of my friends and some members of my family are, and since I enjoy vegetarian cooking, I often find myself wanting to make what I eat friendlier to those who want to try it.  In my last post, I shared my recipe for reduced carb buttermilk pancakes, and having met with success, I thought, “Hey!  Why not see what it takes to tear that down?”  The answer is: not much.

I replaced the 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry with almond flour (in other words, I used only almond flour and no wheat product) in this recipe, and the results were both catastrophic and strangely delicious.  It started innocently enough:

The batter is thinner, even after standing, and runs faster than I do.
The buttermilk batter is thinner, even after standing, and runs faster than I do

Unlike grain-based pancakes, these did not bubble on top, but don’t worry.  The burning smell will prompt you to flip them. That said, nothing will prepare the seasoned pancake chef for this:

Chance of success: 50/50
Chance of success: 50/50

I seasoned the griddle with coconut oil spray between cakes, but these were hard to handle.  I was about to scrap the whole batch before taking to the internet, but then a wondrous thing happened.  A few of the pancakes set up and became easier to manage!

They look like they had a great time last night, but looks can be deceiving
They appear to have had a great time last night, but looks can be deceiving
Don't be a hater
Don’t be a hater

They actually tasted really good!  They were like griddled marzipan!  If you are the kind of person, or food consumer, who can get past looks, these might be for you.  But here is the caution:  they are hard to work with while cooking, and you WILL experience cake casualties.

I must have no pride to post this one
I must have no pride to post this one, but it could happen to you.

In the end, I ate way too many of these marzicakes because they tasted good, but I don’t think I would serve them to company unless I was giving them the bum’s rush.

Enjoy at your own risk, my friends!