soup may just save us all

Yesterday was Monday and for us that means “meatless” for our dinner. We aren’t vegetarians, not that I have anything against folks who are, but I like the idea of at least one night a week having a meal that doesn’t involve meat. Partially this helps me get Lancelot to eat more veggies and partially it gets me to step outside my comfort zone and cook more stuff.

Given that autumn is finally showing up in our part of the country it seemed like yesterday was a good day for soup. I started the pot at 8am and let it go until around 5pm. It was amazing. There were onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, white beans, fire roasted corn, fire roasted crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, veggie broth, fresh spinach, and tiny pasta. No recipe for this, I just made it up as I went. Some of the veggies I used had been lingering in the fridge for awhile and some we picked up on an unexpected trip to Whole Foods yesterday. Honestly, probably one of the Top 5 pots of soup I’ve ever made. One of the best things about cooking a giant pot of soup for just two people is that I got 3 dinners and 6 lunches out of that one session of cooking. (the lunch bowls are in the freezer)

Part of how I show love is through food. I am by no means a chef, I don’t do gourmet things, and I’m not very good with baking. But I like to try new things and I find cooking to be a creative outlet. And I am known (sometimes lovingly teased) about offering food to my friends any chance I get.

But I do like to cook big batches of things that freeze well because it just makes me feel more secure somehow to know that there’s always nutritious food in the house that isn’t going to require hours to prepare. Call me silly, I just don’t find that I enjoy fast food most of the time anymore. And if there’s food already prepared in the house that just needs warmed up I’m far less likely to end up making questionable choices about my meals. (I said less likely…)

Garth typically takes his afternoon nap (one of them at least) on the doormat in the sunroom. He kind of just lays there in a melted little puddle of kitty and he’s so stinkin’ cute that I have to rub his little white belly. And then I bleed.

having a salad for lunch and following it with a chunk o’ chocolate cake = balance at it’s finest

I didn’t do that, not today, but it certainly is in keeping with my idea of balance. Life is not something to be suffered through, depriving oneself of all pleasure, subsisting on only healthy food. I have no desire to die extremely old and leave behind a well preserved corpse. So much better to enjoy life now while I can and leave my meat-suit stranded along the side of a lovely avenue when it’s finally my time to shuffle off the well-worn mortal coil.

Yikes, that’s way more morbid that I planned. Moving on…

A bouquet of flowers that’s actually safe to leave on the dining room table

I may have mentioned that Lancelot has gotten pretty heavy into LEGO lately, or maybe I didn’t, but he has and I think it’s awesome. Putting together kits was something I had done many years ago and enjoyed, but then stopped doing for some reason. I’ve picked it up again, though not with the same excitement that he has. (I have yarn, he doesn’t. This is also balance.) I’m also kinda picky about what I want to do, and that limits my choices.

I have seriously enjoyed seeing how the keen folks at LEGO have managed to come up with this botanical series, but the end result really does look like flowers. So fucking cool. We’ve also explored a new little shopping strip in town because L found that there’s a store that sells nothing but LEGO and sells used kits, which turned out to be a total score because they had a Doctor Who set that L really wanted. And they also had the tiny Baby Yoda mini (micro?) fig that is perched on one of the flower leaves.

In that same strip is a fantastic Indian grocery and a really good bar & grill that has the most amazing soft pretzels. Our Saturday was packed but in an extremely satisfying way.

And now, we knit. I had purchased some close-out yarn online and then immediately found the perfect pattern for a vest. Progress!!!

Nothing is sillier looking than a cat in the middle of yawning

just do the damn thing

I’d like to tell you where I heard that, which one of my friends dropped that nugget of truth on me, but I can’t. But think about the profundity of it – it’s beyond the trite Nike slogan “just do it.” This allows for not wanting to do the thing, the DAMN thing, but getting on and doing it anyway.

It’s a really fucking adult thing to say and think. And so today I will endeavor to Just Do The Damn Thing.

I’ve made the bed, washed some dishes, took a shower and got dressed, made myself a healthy breakfast, and (most importantly) I got out my sun lamp and set it up on my desk. If I do nothing else today I will still consider this a win because I didn’t want to do any of those damn things, yet I did.

I’m not actually quite as grumpy as I appear in this picture. I actually took it because I’m wearing the very first sweater I ever knit, which was an accomplishment.

If I were to leave you with any advice right now it would be to set yourself up to just do the damn thing, even if it’s something small or something that feels silly. Doing that one damn thing might lead you to feel like doing another damn thing, maybe. And that’s probably a particularly good thing.

one foot in front of the other

I’ve been in a weird kind of “mood that isn’t a mood and is maybe lasting too long but then again so is the anxiety that’s ever present everywhere these days” kind of place and I have to say, it sucks.

I love the change of the seasons in an intellectual and visual sort of way. The change in the temperatures, the extra rain right now, the changing leaves are all really pretty and a very pleasant departure from what summer is around here. But if I’m going to have any mental issues they tend to happen during the changing of the light – sunlight that is. Too little in the autumn and winter cause one set of issues and the switch back to lots of it in the spring and summer causes a different set of issues.

Being mental is just such a fucking treat.

Once a month I haul Lancelot in for a haircut and beard trim and I usually get my mop of hair dealt with. This time I decided that enough was enough. I’ve been trying to grow it out but it was looking very much like how my grandmother wears her hair and I was not loving that. Changing my hair is actually a pretty standard thing with me. When I feel like it’s time to shake my snowglobe I will typically either go for a drastically different cut or, back in the day, a radically different color.

I’ve actually had my hair like this before, and it was most certainly a different color. I like the asymmetrical thing, especially since my hair’s natural curl makes this a ridiculously easy style for me in terms of what it takes to fix it. Approximately 3 minutes and a small dab of hair goo, that’s what.

I’ve been trying to spend some time getting back to meal planning and all of the other things that kind of feel like “life hacks” for me, because in all honesty, right now I need that shit more than ever. Apparently it’s working, at least at the surface level. One of the people that works in our office suite made the comment that I have my life together, which she totally meant as a compliment, but all I could think was, “little sister, if you only knew.”

All of the hacks and the prep stuff is really because I have a terrible, ugly secret…

I am hella lazy.

insert catchy title here

I keep thinking I should sit down and write and then life happens, so I don’t. The good thing is that I’ve been spending much more time doing creative stuff and a lot less time glued to a screen. I seriously think that’s a win. For example, consider the following exhibits:

I made a headband and channeled my inner Keith Richards
I constructed a Bird of Paradise LEGO kit
And I’ve spent some serious time on the Plant Place in our sunroom. It now includes not only a variety of leafy things but also a dendrobium orchid and three different carnivorous plants.

I’ve also still been knitting other stuff, besides headbands (though I am on #2 of those because they use just a wee bit of yarn and work up pretty quick) I’m working on a lace scarf for myself, the damn beaded lace cowl for me, a holiday goody for a dear friend, a birthday goody for another dear friend, a kitty amigurumi for my soon to arrive niece, and the scarves I’m making for charity.

And a partridge in a pear tree!

In the “not creative stuff” category I’m also trying to be more mindful about unwinding at night by coming up to my office and reading for about an hour before going to bed. It sounds so simple but it really does seem to make a big difference for me. I’m also try to remember how big of a role food and proper nutrition play in the way I feel. I’m not losing weight anymore, but I’m also not gaining, and that in and of itself feels pretty good. I was able to go clothes shopping with my friend K last week and being able to purchase “normal” size clothes in “normal” shops was just downright lovely.

My goal is to get back to eating / drinking in ways that are healthier and to get back to including much more activity and exercise into my routine. Right now it just feels like every time I try to establish some routines I find myself confronted with some minor catastrophe and someone shouts out “PLOT TWIST!” It’s interesting and yet simultaneously exhausting.

PS – the clear shelves hooked to the windows in that picture of the plants are from Amazon and they are so totally freaking worth it, especially if you have small children or animals. I have them in those windows and upstairs in my office and the guest room. You can’t put anything extremely heavy on them but they are amazingly pretty with small things, especially colored glass containers.

making the most of a monday

“Make it stop, please Mama?”

We woke up at 3:50am this morning because it sounded like the world was finally ending. Turns out it was just your typical Midwestern thunderstorm, but once you’ve been rudely awakened like that the only thing for it is to have a pee and make something warm to drink. Dog Blossom didn’t used to be all that phased by storms, but after the big bullshit we had earlier this summer she’s not at all fond. That picture was her this morning, camped out in my lap. She stayed like that for almost an hour.

I’ve been realizing lately that my routines are still majorly screwed up and it’s causing me to feel more than slightly off kilter. I’m trying to figure out how to unscrew them and get things a little more organized. I have no delusions that I will ever have my ducks in a row. The best I can, and will, ever hope for is that my army of squirrels all end up attending the same rave on the same day. It’s good to have dreams.

Lego!

This is the Lego Bonsai kit I had picked up when we went to Minneapolis earlier this summer. I had forgotten how much I enjoy doing these. I believe Lancelot is going to be getting me a few more of the botanical type things. I also spent some time making three pair of earrings and finally getting my creative spot in the sunroom setup the rest of the way.

I have been realizing that taking time to do these kinds of projects is super vital for me. L and I took a 3-day weekend together and were able to do a little shopping, watch goofy TV, and just hang out together. It was amazingly restful. I think it’s far too easy to forget how much we need to take that time for ourselves until we do take some and then remember how good it is.

how many is too many?

I have three containers in the guest room closet. One container is for holiday gifts that are done. (Done is defined as the knitting is complete but needs the ends woven in and possibly requires blocking, just FYI) One container is for projects for myself. And the final container is for charity projects.

Holiday gifts = 1 thing

My container = 2 scarves and 4 shawls

Charity container = 4 scarves and 3 washcloths

On the needles right now I currently have:

  • a beaded lace cowl for myself
  • a charity scarf (these are plain old garter stitch with a slipped first stitch)
  • a charity washcloth (super basic garter diagonal thing)
  • a shawl for a holiday gift
  • a lace scarf for myself

I have the variety because I have different knitting moods. That beaded lace cowl is going to be amazing but it’s slow as fuck because of the beads. The holiday gift shawl is easy enough but it’s the sort of thing that you really need to have time to do a whole section at a time; way too easy to get lost if you don’t. The lace scarf for me is a very simple two-row repeat. The charity pieces are very simple and are perfect for when I want to knit but not think.

I also have some projects that involve beads and recycled jewelry. I just need some time and a bit of ambition.

Eric’s projects all involve naps

the labels we wear

I’m not sure if it’s the changing weather (could be) or the odd schedule lately (could also be) but my brain has taken to wandering all over the damn place. I’d be concerned but she’s taken me on some lovely little journeys and I’ve had some truly delightful deviations from my normal meanderings so really, it’s been pretty nice.

One of the things I was thinking about the other day was labels – the ones we get stuck with because someone else applied them and the ones we apply to ourselves. For example, I would apply the labels Wife, Daughter, Critter Mom, Crafter, and Educator to myself with great joy. And while I openly admit to having mental illnesses, I prefer not to attach the label of Mentally Ill to myself. It’s certainly not that I’m ashamed of my illnesses, but I really do try not to define myself by them.

So it was really even more interesting that the same day (yesterday? maybe? time still has little meaning to me) I worked on campus and gave my BFF the lovely K a ride home and they were talking about how they had honored the anniversary of a very significant non-relationship based anniversary and how much life and self-definition and so on changes in the span of just 7 years. Oh yes, so much change. And that, combined with my thoughts about labels, all sort of tied together.

I certainly do not define myself the same today as I did in 2014. At that time I was working on a Graduate Certificate in Technical Communication and trying to get my second husband to take working on a welding certificate at the community college seriously. I was dealing pretty well with my own mental and physical health issues, but he was not. I also had a young step-daughter that “we” had custody of every other weekend. I say “we” because he seldom wanted to be an active participant in her visits. (cool side note – I found out this morning that she’s going to a college in the Pacific Northwest now and looks really happy) At that point in time I was edging closer and closer to the impending divorce which came in July 2015. I certainly was not happy and I didn’t much like myself.

I sometimes joke that in 2015 I lost 250lbs, and in a way that’s entirely true. I lost a husband who was really just dead weight at that time, and I really did feel physically lighter when I divorced him. The way I thought about myself changed, the way I presented myself to world changed because I felt much more emboldened to be my authentic self.

Making my own labels for my own self was amazingly liberating. And I love that Lancelot has only once ever applied a label to me.

Lest you think I’ve stopped knitting, I haven’t! I am working on holiday gift #2 plus I’ve been making scarves and washcloths for a refugee support organization. And I’m teaching K to crochet so that they can make scrunchies, and I figured what the heck, I’ll make some for their collection as well. Fun with yarn, yay!

holiday weekend hangover

I very much resemble this remark today

For those of you in the States I hope you were able to enjoy the Labor Day holiday weekend. For those of you living elsewhere, I hope you were able to enjoy a regular weekend. Every weekend should be a holiday in my opinion. That perfect blend of “getting shit done that I’m too fucking tired for during the week” and “sitting around in elastic-waist pants watching horrible TV and eating sketchy food.” It’s really a beautiful thing.

We really did get a good quantity of stuff done which made me feel fantastic. We ran a few errands and then tackled the pantry. Our house was built in the very late 1970s so the pantry is not original to the house and is, in all reality, a nicely oversized cabinet that was added to serve this specific purpose. All I really needed to do was another Magic 4th Grader Allowance Makeover (TM) by moving one shelf and adding some organizer basket-y things. Lancelot was an amazing help with this. So now we have things better organized and that makes it easier to do things like this…

Tofu & Black Bean Nachos

Yesterday was Meatless Monday and my friend K had come over to hang out with me and learn how to crochet. We had a blast. And she was able to stay for dinner and is into this whole vegetarian thing so she spiffed up the beans while I got the tofu in shape. It was super yummy.

On the knitting front I have managed to finish two scarves for charity and I’ve started a third. I’m about halfway, maybe more, on the first holiday gift and I’ve identified two others. And I purchased a gift, which makes two so far, both for the same person, so as soon as the knit thing is done that person’s goodies are finished. Yay.

All of that means I have not been working on the beaded cowl for myself, but that’s totally fine. I’ve realized that half the joy of knitting for me is just the knitting itself. It doesn’t matter if what I’m making is for me, for someone I love, or for someone needs to know that someone out there gives a shit about them. The act of knitting connects me on a spiritual level with my grandmother who taught how to do this when I was eight years old.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to cry quietly in the corner after realizing just long ago that was…

getting it in a pile

My friend Dr. K had an expression “getting my poo in a pile” that is simultaneously really gross and very descriptive. Right now it mostly fits.

I’m doing better now than I have been in a bit. I feel a little more balanced and in control of my situation, and that’s good. Part of it I think was having last week mostly actually suck so that I could get my poo in a pile and make this week not suck. I realize that today is only Monday but work with me here, ok?

Over the weekend Lancelot and I spent some time “renovating” our guest room. My favorite way to reno/redo/whatever you want to call is to try to see what all I can accomplish with a budget roughly equivalent to a 4th grader’s allowance. Mostly this involves moving things from one place in the house where they’re underutilized to another place. So we did that, plus I bought 4 mid-sized storage boxes at Target. It was a huge success.

I also ended up go through my yarn stash looking for ideas for holiday gifts. Yes, it’s not quite September. No, I’m not crazy. I’ve got a few people this year that I want to knit things for and I don’t want to go all goofy crazy trying to finish in time. And I’ve somehow lost a skein of yarn. Dammit.

Anyway, while I was digging I came across the separate stash of yarn. One of the older gentlemen at the university knows I’m a knitter and so periodically he brings me gifts of yarn. I suspect that he and or his wife grab yarn that they find at garage sales, which isn’t what I typically knit with but it’s yarn and it’s a very lovely gesture. So I’ve just been hanging on to it, waiting for the universe to tell me what it should be.

It’s going to be used for charity.

I started a scarf yesterday with one small skein. I’m thinking I’ll make some scarves, hats, maybe mittens. This is almost entirely acrylic yarn that can be abused and not mind one bit. Winter here gets brutal and there’s routinely a shortage of winter gear at the local homeless shelters. It seems like a very appropriate thing to do, take one kindness and turn it into more.

Now if I could just find that missing skein of yarn…