creamy

In reading over this first months posts, I notice how often I use the word creamy.  What is cream?  A substance that is not solid or liquid.  And a perfect metaphor for the awareness of being in transition, at any level, whether between seasons, or between careers, or between partners, or between emotions!  As much as I have been physically adapting to the strange swings of weather these days that signal the transition to fall, I am aware of also being in the process of emotionally adapting to a different way of life in familiar surroundings.  I finally realized this is an ongoing process, it just never stops, that life is in fact a continuum of adapting to what changes in relation to what is familiar.

So I decided to stay with what is familiar right now and make something else creamy today.  But instead of being food for consumption and nourishment of the cells of the blood, it will be food for touch and nourishment of the cells of the skin.   It has been months since I have made my favorite skin creme.  I found the recipe years ago in Rosemary Gladstar’s “Family Herbal”.  All the collected ingredients are in a bin to pull out any time I am ready to make this creme.  She calls it ‘Rosemary’s Perfect Creme” and the basic recipe is a combination of ‘waters’ (3/4 cup distilled water or rose water, 1/3 cup aloe vera gel, 1-2 drops essential oil of choice, & vitamins A and E as desired) and ‘oils’ (3/4 cup apricot, almond, or grapeseed oil, 1/3 cup coconut oil or cocoa butter, 1/4 teaspoon lanolin, & 1/2 – 1 oz. grated beeswax).  The waters are combined in a glass measuring cup while the oils are combined and melted over low heat in a double boiler.  The melted oils are poured into a blender to cool to room temperature, hastened in the refrigerator if desired, to a semisolid thick creamy state.  Once cooled, turn on the blender at highest speed and begin to pour the water mixture into the vortex in a slow steady drizzle.  When most of the water has been used, listen and watch for the mixture in the blender to ‘cough & choke’ as the creme becomes thick and white.  It is best stored in glass containers and will thicken as it sets.

My kitchen scale is broken so I had to remember that 1/2 -1 ounce grated beeswax is about 2 tablespoons (I am now thinking I will get a new scale and make little baggies of the right amount ready to go for the next time!).  I like the idea of making this creme in a glass blender, and bought one for my kitchen years ago.  I use rose water and sweet almond oil.  And today I added several drops of ylang ylang essential oil, which is what I used the very first time I made this creme.  It is a deeply sensuous scent, rich and full of promise.  Very feminine.  Very different than neutral lavender or more masculine sandlewood.  Today I will fill the beautiful jars I found on sale years ago in a Williams Sonoma sale…they are actually white ceramic egg cups decorated with blue designs and fitted with stainless steel lids.  Perfect containers for the creme.  And perfect that it fills exactly 3 containers….

The number ‘3’ seems to be coming up a lot for me recently, and as poignantly reflected back to me by my friend Julie last night, positive aspects of the number ‘3’ are creativity, birth, and mystical.  Something else to reflect on and carry into my day……!

Finally, quoting Rosemary Gladstar from her book, “The only ‘rule’ about this cream is that it can never be used with any negative thoughts.about the body it is being used on.  When smoothing it over the creases and maps of the skin, do so with love.  Do it as if you are anointing yourself with precious balm.  You are!  This is part of the cream’s magic.”

radish soup

I am thinking ‘what will I write about tomorrow?’ I am planning.  And while planning is an important structure for many reasons, it is the ‘responding to an expectation’ that I am feeling.  Worried that I will not be honoring the spirit of spontaneous accomplishment if I plan my next post.  But then get over this concern pretty quickly, realizing that I have spent my entire career as an architect negotiating the relationship between planning something and making something in order to make flexibility, and space for creative process at every moment, a priority.  I consider how the process of design is honored.  The first step is always making a juxtoposition of elements that might not traditionally go together, for instance an affordable housing project in a mixed use building in the center of town, or a loud piece of commercial print fabric next to a piece of hand dyed fabric in a quilt, or cooking a vegetable that is typically eaten raw.  It is responding to what is there and helping to reveal the best qualities of each element in their union.  Works of architecture take a long time, are slow simmering, and influenced by a multitude of forces.  Trusting that the vision of the initial spark will manifest into exactly what it is supposed to be requires patience and a willingness to yield at appropriate times.  Making a quilt does not take quite as long and typically does not involve as many personalities and is a great place to practice letting go to a process in a more personal way.  And then there is ‘cooking’; the time frame is immediate by comparison.  Daily.  Offering consistent opportunities for experiencing a process start to finish and where the simmer time is always less than 24 hours.

I am feeling called to make something warm.  And I look at ‘what is there’.  Lots of radishes!  Purchased at the farmer’s market over the past two weeks, I have two kinds, the unusual watermelon radishes (greenish white on the outside, bright fuscia on the inside) and a large daikon radish.  Not a lot else, just the requisite onions and celery and carrots that are always in the bin.  I look over the jars of whole grains on the counter and my gaze settles on the barley.  I love barley.  I love the smell, the texture and the softness is transmits.  I have started using hulled barley to receive the maximum benefits from this ancient grain.  It’s easily digested and a great source of selenium (helps with cancer prevention), phosphorous, magnesium, and copper. Compared to quinoa, it offers 7.6 g fiber to quinoa’s 6 g, and almost the same protein (5 g protein to quinoa’s 6).

So it came to me.  Radish soup.  Yikes!  Is there such a thing?  Radishes in my family are always the cold crunchy thing to add to salads.  A quick google search showed me that indeed radish soup is an established thing!  So gleaning a few recipes for some basic approaches, I decided to go for it.  The plan is to prepare the barley in advance and make the soup in the morning.  I put a cup of the barley in a jar with water to soak overnight, then on the stove in a pot with about 3 cups water to simmer on low for about an hour (after bringing to a boil) while out for my morning walk.  Chopped some onions (about 1-1/2 cups) to sautee in olive oil in my favorite cast iron soup pot, and then chop a stalk of celery and the watermelon radishes into small chunks.

Once the onions are translucent, add them to the pot.  Then grate the daikon radish and after the celery and radishes begin to cook and emit a clear aroma, add this to the pot as well with a couple shakes of fennel seed to follow.  Cook over medium high heat to get everything juicing together and then add the entire pot of cooked barley, liquid and all.  Add some vegetable broth to thin out the thick brew, bring to a boil, and let simmer covered for about 40 minutes.  Add salt & pepper, and some chopped fresh parsley at the end.

What a treat!  It is a subtle soup, the kind where the true essence of the radish is revealed slowly but surely.  The barley melds with the grated radish to make a creamy texture. The proportion of radish keeps it all light and fresh.  Who would have guessed…..?

mother’s milk

I woke up this morning craving ‘mother’s milk’.  It is what I have named the luscious combination of almond and coconut to produce a creamy white milk.  I remember finding the recipe and knowing there was something significant about it and the first time I made this milk, it was magic watching the hard nuts and shredded dry coconut transform into something so white and pure!

It is the word transformation that keeps coming to me. A mother’s milk transforms nutrients from her diet into breast milk.  And an animal nurtured by mother’s milk is dependant on another for its basic survival, which is inextricably linked to affection and caring.

Now the memory of a dream from fifteen years ago comes to mind.  I am standing at the edge of a beach, dock & a boat.  Then I am in the boat in the middle of a body of water, and all of a sudden, white dolphins start leaping out of the water over the boat.  They just keep coming and coming and I am overwhelmed and thrilled at the same time.  One stopped and took my finger in its mouth.  I was afraid at first then relax and realize I am okay.   Then there is a baby dolphin pushing its nose down my shirt, trying to get to my breasts.  I realize that I have milk in my breasts, they are so full, so I squeeze some out and the baby dolphin starts drinking, then all of a sudden ‘he’ turns into a little brown boy, and I have the knowledge that this little boy will be human for awhile, but then grow into a great white dolphin.

I could spend the rest of my life trying to analyze this dream.  The message it brings to me is different every time I consider it.  Today I am feeling the awe of transformation and how it is mother’s milk that nurtures this Spirit to change form.  What a powerful metaphor for taking charge of one’s own transformation and ability to change!   So I will endeavor to stay open to where I am needing some change in my life today.  And I will make some ‘mother’s milk’ to honor this awareness.

I’ve already put the 3/4 cup of (raw organic) almonds in a jar to soak.  They will soak for about 8 hours to remove the enzyme blocking agents necessary for allowing the body to digest the almonds fully.  When ready, put the soaked almonds in a blender and grind for 10 seconds.  Then add 3/4 cup of (organic unsweetened) shredded coconut and about 2 cups of warm (not hot) water and blend for 1/2 minute.  Then fill the blender with warm water and blend again for at least another minute. I strain this mixture through cheesecloth into a wide mouth pitcher first.  The first time I did this it was a little clumsy, but quickly learned just the right size of cheesecloth that would allow me to pour and capture enough of the pulp to squeeze out the milk that is in the pulp.  It takes three or four rounds of pouring and squeezing to empty the blender, yielding about a quart of milk.  Pour it into a glass quart jar for storage.  It keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.  It will separate some if it sits a long time (like mother’s milk!), but just shake it up when you are ready to use it again.

A few facts:  contrary to popular myth, coconut milk does not transform into bad cholesterol to clog up arteries. In fact, cultures around the world that depend on coconut as their main source of fat have been found to be free of heart disease. The principle fatty acid in coconut milk is lauric acid, which is the same fat found in abundance in mother’s milk and is known to promote normal brain development and contribute to healthy bones. It also has important anti-carcinogenic and anti-pathogenic properties and is less likely to cause weight gain than polyunsaturated oils.

Almonds are a good source of antioxidants. Research affirms that it is, in fact, a good alternative to breast milk. Almond milk has nearly four times the nutrition of cow’s milk except for vitamin B6. In other words, one cup of soaked almonds plus four cups of water will be equivalent to cow’s milk nutritionally (with the exception of vitamin B6). It will last in the refrigerator about the same period of time that cow’s milk will. It only takes two tablespoons of milk from a young coconut to supplement the vitamin B6.

In addition to using this milk in all the usual ways, it is great to cook with, making curries and stir fry’s and brown rice pudding.  Enjoy and feel nurtured…. I know I will….

intuitively complementary

After Colleen left yesterday I needed to take a few hours to let the energy of our work settle in.  I decided to experiment with one more piece, the colors were flat, predominantly green and yellow with very little range between the two.  It was a bright hot sunny day, perfect for doing a sun print.  Using seta color transparent paint, some sprigs of leaves from the tree next to the porch and working fast, I attached the leaves loosely with some cold wax resist, pulled out three colors containing red, a purple, a brick red, a dark fuscia, made a mix in a styrofoam plate by adding some water, and then sponge brushed the paint over the leaves covering the entire piece.  Was then a little mortified….the whole thing looked brown now, and I thought, the paint has soaked all the way under the leaves and I have ruined it.  But I carried it out to the lawn and left to let the sun do its work.  I couldn’t believe it when I came back…not only had the colors all rearranged themselves, but the leaf prints were there too, strongly on the front, beautiful and subtle on the other side.  The whole thing now shimmered with the quality of an impressionist painting!

Now it was time for dinner.  Craving some concentrated protein, I decided to make a favorite, sesame crusted tempeh and some stir fry vegetables. Working quickly again, I pulled out a bunch of bok choy and a small head of broccoli.  Cut the one pound piece of tempeh (Trader Joes 3 grain variety) into 1/4 inch slices, rub each side lightly with olive oil, roll in a bowl of sesame sees (about 1/2 cup) and then brown each side gently over medium heat in a skillet with a little more olive oil.  I love the intensity of sesame seeds in this dish but they tend to come off and line the bottom of the pan while cooking, leaving only about half of what was clinging to the tempeh at the start.  So I decided to stir fry the vegetables in the dropped off seeds this time.  Put the browned tempeh in another dish and sprinkled liberally with tamari. Added the broccoli pieces to the pan first with a little water and covered to get cooking.  Then added the solid ends of the bok choy, a squeeze of lemon, a little tamari, stir fried a few more minutes before adding the bok choy greens.  It was all green in the pan.  Before I even knew what I was doing I then pulled out the big leftover half of fresh tomato from the vegetable bin and chopped and added it to the mix.  Covered for a few minutes until the broccoli was just done (which doesn’t take too long).  Then looked in the pan and laughed as I recognized that I had just done with the stir fry what I had done with the fabric earlier…intuitively combined the complementary colors of red & green!

I was also noting how effectively the energy of one activity flowed so seamlessly to the next, and how the intuitive combining of complementary colors fueled the intuitive combining of complementary nutrients as well.

I have learned that complementary colors make a strange pair, that they are opposite, yet require each other. They incite each other to maximum vividness and intensity when together, share no common colors and tend to look balanced.

Likewise, combining legumes such as peas, beans, lentils, peanuts & alfalfa with whole grain such as wheat, rice, corn, oats, & barley with seeds & nuts such as sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin is an example of protein complementation that combines plant protein sources to achieve a better amino acid balance than either would have alone. Because of differences in amino acid make-up, when plant sources are combined, the strengths of one make up for the deficiencies in another.

After dinner I then settled in with my stack of colored cloth from this past weekend of dyeing. There was no intentionality to how these pieces were stacked & grouped.  I was now clearly aware of the vividness of each color speaking…..

….like individuals in a successful community of relationships, combined in such a way as to enhance or emphasize each other’s qualities.  I have also read that intuitively complementary information allows for measurable improvements in human task performance when working together, which resonates with the simple wisdom that participants with different patterns do what is in joint interest and sustain the relationship…and so on….

discovery

The frequent exclamation of “Oh My God” coming from the laundry room basically sums up the experience of these past two days of dyeing fabric.

We decided to do an initial rinse of each piece in the laundry sink to remove the density of excess dye before putting it all the washing machine for final cold & hot rinses.  It requires unfolding, unscrunching, and unclamping each piece, and getting a glimpse of what has transpired inside the bath of muddy looking dye it has been sitting in.  It is simply wonderful to see where the red or blue or green actually shows in a pattern you couldn’t have predicted if you tried, or how the cocktail of colors used produces an exquisite new color.  Of course there is a science to all this, recipes can be followed and specific patterns predicted.  But that’s not what Colleen and I were after.  We wanted the surprises and we sure got them!  And in this case pictures are worth a thousand words:

from bucket

to line to dry

Colleen unwrapping her long gorgeous piece

and a few favorite surprises….

Of course we expended lots of energy and needed frequent fuel to keep going….I made a bowl of parsnip chips that morning to have for nibbling along with the leftovers from yesterdays fare of hummus & salad…it is always a sign of fall for me, making that first pan of chips, slicing the peeled parsnips into thin discs, tossing with a light coating of olive oil and spread on a baking sheet, then sprinkled with a combo of sea salt & cayenne pepper, and roasted in a 400 degree oven until the chips begin to brown.  They shrink a lot, won’t all be crispy due to varying sizes, but are a great alternative to potato chips..

By evening we still had work to do, preparing a few pieces with a cold wax resist to then overpaint.  Dinner had to be easy and quick.  Roasted acorn squash halves and fingerling potatoes (cut in half lengthwise) with sautéed kale and a butter shallot sauce (1/2 stick butter, two minced shallots, some olive oil and a good splash of white wine or sherry). It is served in a bowl with a little sauce in the bottom of the squash half, piling the greens inside, surrounded by potatoes, with sauce poured over all.

It’s time to decompress now.  The richness of the process, the color, and sustained excitement now needs to be integrated and I will take it slow today and examine and hold each piece made, enjoying every nuance of what was discovered…

anticipation

Colleen is here!  I have spent the past day preparing in anticipation.  We met nine years ago at ‘quilt camp’, have been creative quilt buddies and friends ever since, and are spending the weekend dyeing fabric together.  This is a different kind of chemistry…this is mixing colors of reactive dye and making gorgeous pieces of fabric.  The porch is now filled with buckets of brewing masterpieces and it is really fun, the anticipation of what will result after rinsing and drying the first application of dye.  And then we will spend a day having more fun adding another layer of color or pattern. Colleen is a master and has perfected the art of being precise with the chemistry but still being spontaneous with her technique. I am trying to keep up and am in beginner mind as I have not dyed fabric for years.  It is a good place to be. The feeling of being in creative space is so familiar and time disappears in our effort.  Not unlike being at quilt camp where we can completely indulge in our passion for making quilts and making art 100%, no housekeeping, no cooking, no outside distractions to take us from this space, just like minds and spirits going with the flow.

So in anticipation I prepared things that would keep in the fridge so we wouldn’t have to think about food once we got going.  A big batch of hummus made with a combination of chick peas & fava beans & guacamole to have with fresh cut up vegetables and blue corn chips, and a wheatberry waldorf salad.  All recipes adapted from one of my favorite sources for plant based food recipes, “The 28 Day Cleansing Program” by Scott Ohlgren & Joann Tomasulo.  Both the beans for the hummus and the wheat berries needed advance preparation and the shelling of the fava beans and soaking and cooking of the wheatberries seemed to reinforce the state of anticipation that was developing.  Once the beans are cooked, the hummus is so easy, 4 cups of beans (this batch was 3 cups fava + 1 cup canned chickpeas), 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 large cloves slice garlic, 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon miso (I use red miso), 3 tablespoons tahini, 2 teaspoons cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, all blended in a food processor until smooth & creamy.  It is fun to cook the wheatberries, to watch the 1 cup dry berries transform from the hard kernels to the plump soft chewy buds they become.  I always soak them overnight first.  An hour cooking time is required, simmering on low fire after bringing to a boil.  Once they are drained and cooled, add 2 organic Granny Smith or other crispy tart apples chopped, 1/4 cup raisins or currants, 2 grated carrots, 1 stalk celery chopped, 3 tablespoons orange juice, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/3 cup walnuts toasted & chopped, and 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves, some orange zest, salt & pepper and toss.  It is so refreshing and stays fresh in the fridge for days.   After our first round of dyeing, we settled in with plates full of the hummus, fresh red peppers, the last jar of homemade pickles I found in the back of the fridge, a jar of homemade salsa Colleen made, fresh bread chunks and chips…toasting with a glass of tequila as is our ritual for celebrating our creative time!

I just went to take a peek at the bins and containers of fabric now ready for rinsing.  Can’t wait!!  …..more to come….

synchronicity

I’ve been to the chiropractor twice this week. I injured my sacroiliac joint on the left side of my spine sometime in the past month and have been experiencing a range of symptoms, characteristic lower back pain, travelling pain down my left leg, extremely sensitive bladder (water) meridian points in my buttocks, and unusually aggressive outbreaks of psoriasis all over my body, noticeably on my thighs and hips.  I am doing the requisite icing and taking care, and appreciating the healing hands of my chiropractor Ginny working to bring this injured joint some balance.  And doing some reflecting too.  Noting that this all started just about the time I started dating again after a painful breakup seven months ago.  I am trained to see the connection here and consider what it might be about ‘dating’ that is triggering reactions in me that are located primarily on the receptive ‘feminine’ side of my body, limiting my ability to ‘look behind me’ and significantly affecting my organ of ‘touch’.  Hmmmmmmm!

Back tension can be a corollary of suppressing and putting ‘behind us’ feelings we don’t want to notice or deal with…negative or positive…anger/fear OR love/joy.  It means the feelings are still there and still in need of acknowledgment.  I realized this morning that I have been experiencing a wonderful flow of joy all week, loving writing this blog, dates with a man I really like, new work coming my way, a new pile of wood for my beloved winter fires, and a general ease and flow to the daily mechanics of life.  Sooooo, what’s the problem?

Reflecting on all this while peeling the skins off of dried fava beans this morning that have been soaking in water for the past day, I know I am holding onto something I need to let go of.  Noting the significance of the need for these beans to soak in water in order for the skin to become loose enough to shed.  Watching as the beautiful creamy white bean emerges from the wrinkled brown skin and the two halves fall open to reveal a perfect model of two hip bones!  Coincidence?  I don’t think so!  I do love the sense of humor contained in the certain graphic quality of a message being delivered by a fava bean!   I don’t need to see or know the answer right this minute. I am simply being called to pay attention and stay open and aware and trust that the shift I need to make will happen when it is time…..

P.S.  as to the use and consumption of yesterday’s onion sauce?  I made a lunch of the sauce tossed with thin brown rice noodles boiled with some fresh yellow wax beans that were just blanched by the time the noodles were done.  For supper (just me) I used the sauce like butter, a big spoonful heated in a skillet with some vegetable broth then adding a pile of chopped kale and some diced yukon gold potatoes.  After everything was simmering nicely, added a little more broth, some sea salt, and a liberal splash of balsamic vinegar, covered and cooked until the potatoes were just done, but still firm to bite.  Added another splash of balsamic at the end.  It was divine, a creamy pungent sauce that I will definitely want to have again.  Lucky I still have some of that onion sauce left in the fridge…