27 October 2010

Our fully stocked "larder"

Blow, blow thou winter winds..........we could survive a few blizzards now.

16 October 2010

Lilac wine tutorial

Last week I finally bottled (and drank some of) the lilac wine that I began work on back in May. At that time, I promised a tutorial on how to accomplish such a task.
First thing you need is lilacs. May and June are the months in which lilac sex happens--that means you will need to get your bags and baskets and get out there and pick some flower parts.
The next step is to painstakingly remove the lilac flowerets and wash them. There may be tiny bugs in these that you will need to do your best to remove. But if you don't get them all, don't worry. They will eventually settle out and be left behind in the monthly syphoning ritual.
Before you do anything further (and each time you handle the wine), you will need to sanitize everything that will touch the wine. I like to use One Step sanitizer as it is easy to use and does not require rinsing.
Next, you will need what is called a primary fermenter. You can use a food-safe 5 gallon bucket with a lid.
You will also need to have a recipe as a general guideline for what to do. The one I used can be found here:

Put 3.5 quarts lilac flowerets and about 7.5 pints boiling water into the primary and let them steep for about two days. Tip=it will make your life easier if you put the flowerets into cheesecloth before putting them in the water.
After the lilac tea has steeped, remove the cheesecloth full of flowerets.

Add your yeast (you can use any kind, even bread yeast) to the lilac tea. I used a combination of three different yeasts I had on hand. Add a little yeast nutrient (found at your local home brew store or online). Finally, add a huge, huge amount of sugar. The yeast will eat the sugar, producing alcohol. Thusly, the amount of sugar you add as well as the vigor of your yeast will both affect the resulting amount of alcohol in the wine.

Stir everything, cover, and let ferment for a week.

Next, you will need to syphon your wine from the primary into a secondary--usually a glass carboy--where the sediments will settle as the wine continues to ferment.
Make sure you cork the secondary and use an airlock so that gasses can escape from the wine (so your bottle doesn't explode--that would be bad).

Let ferment for one month. Then "rack" the wine. This is a fancy way of saying that you will syphon the best wine out of your secondary into another secondary.
I do not have another secondary at this time, so I put my wine in bowls, quickly rinsed out my secondary, and poured the wine back in to the secondary. Some people say this is a bad thing to do because it exposes the wine to more air, oxidizing it, which can mean that the wine will loose some of its potency. I did not find this to be the case with this particular wine.
Rack the wine each subsequent month until you reach a full six months of the wine being in the secondary. Each time you rack the wine, you should have less sediment in the wine, and it will reinvigorate the yeast to convert more sugars into alcohols. You should expect to see some occasional bubbling in the secondary after you rack the wine. You will also notice subtle changes in color as the wine ferments.

The last step is to bottle the wine. You can do this by syphoning the wine out of the secondary into sanitized bottles. Because they were what I had on hand, I used Grolsch beer bottles, making sure I used new and sanitized seals.
While bottling, pour yourself a glass of your finished product--you deserve it for all of your hard work, and it will be a welcome companion as you will have a massive amount of cleanup to accomplish following the bottling of the wine.
Like I said, it's not hard to do. It takes a little time, and a few pieces of key equipment and ingredients. But, not being a purist when it comes to home brewing and wine making, I will also encourage you by saying that you do not always have to have the prescribed tool for a task--if you think you can make it work using something else, try it. The main two things you MUST do is keep everything sanitary and make certain the wine is not exposed to air as it ferments.

13 September 2010

MEVY Diet, Day 10 and some canning boasting

I have had a diversion from the Skinny Bitch diet plan. SB is a good plan, don't get me wrong, but it does not take in to account several other things, namely, some ongoing health problems experienced by both myself and the husband.
I won't go into details about these health problems except to say that extreme itchiness on every inch of my body every moment of every day for about the past seven years tends to force one to try to find solutions to this problem. (Especially after seeing at least 5 different MD's about the issue only to be told that "some people just have this.")
Ok. But I didn't have this one day, and then I did have this the next day, and the onset of said problem roughly corresponds to when I got married. And the husband has had this problem even longer than I. This problem among others.
Needless to say, this has led us for many years to do our own research on the subject. The overarching conclusion of this research seemed to point toward the fact that we both had systematic yeast issues. Kind of like a whole body yeast infection. Gross, gross, gross.
And, in order to deal with this infection, you have to go on a very, very restrictive eating plan for an extended period of time.
We dealt with this knowledge by opening up another bottle of wine. :-)
Until recently. The problems have gotten extremely bad.
Enter our new pastor at our church who also happens to be a Naturopathic Doctor. (Yay!!!!)
Within about 15 minutes of our first serious conversation with the guy, he starts doing some initial testing on us, and guess what? Yeast problems. Bad.
Apparently, this is caused by lifestyle choices (like a steady diet of Mountain Dew, cigarettes, beer, and convenience store food for several consecutive years) and can be passed between people (like when people get married and have sex). Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......
After some more serious consultation, it was decided that husband and I would go on a supplement-induced, diet-aided major yeast cleanse. So, we finally got on the MEVY wagon, the one thing we have been dreading to do for years.
MEVY. Stands for Meat, Eggs, Vegetables, and Yogurt. The four things you can eat for an extended period of time. Sometimes this can last six-12 months. So, no sugar. No vinegar. No fruit except for watermelon and cantaloupe, no grains of any kind, no potatoes, no corn, no milk, and worst of all, no wine or any kind of alcoholic beverages.
For two Foodies--this diet is a total and complete joy killer.
We have been doing the diet for 10 days so far. Evidently, the first two weeks are when the highest amount of yeast kill-off occurs. This means that symptoms will worsen before they get better as the body is being flooded with the toxins of all of the dying yeast (Yeah--die you sons of bitches!!!) There is a name for this, but I can't think of what it is because my mind is extremely cloudy--one of the primary symptoms of systematic yeast problems, and one of the worst symptoms of the yeast die off. The other thing I have noticed is EXTREME muscle fatigue and weakness. In addition to this, I feel like I could pretty much sleep all of the time. I feel like I am living in 2-3 G's.
However, I don't feel entirely deprived. I am finding substitutes for a lot of things. Instead of wheat flour, tonight I made muffins with garbanzo bean flour. Not the best in the world, but better than nothing. And even though the symptoms overall are worse, I can also feel that I am starting to get better. I can feel that things are healing. And I am excited about the prospect of finally getting ahead of this problem and getting healthy.
An added bonus of the consultation with our ND was, for me, the discovery that my adrenals are totally shot. Well, I could have told him that, but he figured it out on his own. To help remedy this situation, he has me on a mega dose of vitamin B-5. This is my new drug of choice, I tell you. I actually do not miss wine that much, as the B-5 makes me feel about as mellow. I feel like my body is *finally* getting what it has been starving for since the onset of clinical anxiety problems a few years ago. Relief.
Relief is sweet.
I am extremely thankful for finding answers (finally) and for the fact that my husband is also doing this torturous elimination diet with me. Without him, this would be utterly depressing.
So, in order to distract myself from all of the things I can't eat and drink, I have been trying to be productive.
I have been canning. A lot. Perhaps obsessively. Rosehip jelly. Wild plum jelly. Crapapple jelly, butter, and sauce. V-4 juice. Tomato soup. Emeril pickles. Dill pickles. Earlier this summer it was peach butter. Brandied peaches. Canned peaches (in several different types of syrup). Etc. Etc.
I have also been knitting again. Late summer, with the cool evenings, causes one to wish for a bunch of yarn and a satisfying project. I have been making baby booties for several new offspring in our circle of friends.
And, Willie Green and myself have been dabbling in mead making...to the tune of 3 5-gallon buckets of different flavors currently effervescing in the basement. Soon, the lilac wine from earlier this spring will ready to bottle.
And then will come the canning and freezing of squash and pumpkins.
I *should* be working on my disquisition. But until harvest is over, and until all of this canning and freezing and brewing finds jars and bags and bottles nestled in to the root cellar for the winter, there isn't going to be one iota of writing done on that project.
As they say, I must make hay while the sun shines, and for now, the sun shines on my water bath canner.

03 August 2010

Brain Babies and my "new job"

No posts the last month. It's not that there haven't been things going on, it is that what has been happening is very boring to discuss. I have mostly been doing little but studying and studying for my previously-mentioned doctoral comprehensive exams. The directives for this exam were "just know everything about music ever." The attempt to do this was time consuming as well as exhausting.
Every so often (well, actually nearly every time I am in public) in Mott, I get asked the question, "so when are you and Billy going to have kids?" Or, worse yet, "Why haven't you and Billy had kids yet?" Most other areas of the world, questions like these are considered high social faux-pas, especially considering the rampant infertility issues amongst my peer group.
My typical answer to this has been "I am birthing a doctorate."
And that is true. That is how I feel. I have been laboring for the past three years to complete the work for this doctorate. It has been difficult. It has taken up most of my free time, damaged some of my friendships, taxed me body, mind, and soul, given me amazing thrills, the opportunities to sing music I never thought I could, the ability to work freely on my instrument and to try to further my art, created more questions and less answers, and challenged me in ways that I never foresaw.
There are a lot of similarities between this and the beginnings of raising children, methinks.
For most people, this isn't good enough of an answer. "Oh, so then, after the doctorate?"
I want to scream at the top of my lungs "IT'S NONE OF YOUR DAMNED BUSINESS!!!!!!" Alas, this is also a social faux-pas, so I try to just ignore it. The truth is, this has never been at the top of the agenda for the hubs and I, even since we were dating in high school. I don't have the extreme urge to procreate that most other people have. I don't criticize them for their need to fill their uteri, nor do I expect criticism in return.
Instead, what I receive best is skepticism (as if I am not selfless enough to have kids) and at worse, open criticism (you will never be able to make friends here if you don't have kids [false, by the way, very false]).
Normally, my life is an open book. Ask me anything--I will tell you anything you want to know. But the decision to have kids or not have kids--I feel that this is a very private matter. Most of my good friends have had serious infertility issues or major complications with pregnancy. Ask one of these poor folks that impertinent question, "So when are you going to have kids?" and you will likely get in response a gush of tears and the person running from the room to cry. Or conversely, you will hear about their infertility in detail, including sperm counts, treatments, ovulatory patterns, juices, etc. So, I guess I just have a problem with that question even being asked, partly in defense of my friends who have to constantly fend off prying individuals into a painful personal matter.
Partly my aversion to the question is that I feel this is a private decision between me and my husband, and I should not have to justify or defend my reasons either way to friends, family, or strangers. My reasons are my own. If I choose not to procreate, this does not mean I am a selfish person. It does not mean that I don't like kids, or that I don't like your kids. It doesn't mean that I don't want to spend time around kids or that I don't know what to do with them. Quite to the contrary, I have spent a large amount of my life caring for kids, either as a nanny, a counselor, a babysitter, an aunt, and a daycare provider. In these various and sundry roles, I have assessed for myself that the cute baby in the diapers eventually grows up and gets rebellious and awful. I have seen the financial responsibility, the time commitment and the self-giving that parenting involves through observation of parents in these different settings.
And what does this prevent? Baby fever without brain power. I want my head to rule my uterus. Not the other way around. "Down, ovaries, Down!!!"
Another response, "Oh, but you and Billy would make wonderful parents!"
Thanks for the vote of confidence. But I don't lack faith in this matter either, and the lack of confidence is not what is producing an empty womb. I am fully aware that we would likely be good parents. This doesn't make me want to have kids either.
It also doesn't mean you can't talk to me about your kids. I don't mind that. I can discuss it fairly intelligently. And I love to hear about birth and the entire process--it fascinates me.
The point being that this is a private decision--and I would like it to remain private. You have to earn the right to ask me those questions. And once you have.....and there are very few that have...you will know all there is to know. But until I give the green light, I think it would be more proper for people to stop pestering us.
If we decide to have kids or not have kids, it is on our own terms, and it is our own business. I don't even talk to my family about this stuff, and I like it that way.
Because people do pester. There are certain....Pesterers that will not leave the question alone. Like a sharp poker always threatening The Question, these people will return after a certain length of time to prod one or the other of us again.
For instance, I may have a grandma who is a pesterer...especially at inappropriate times. And it is the pestering, for instance, at Thanksgiving Dinner in front of the entire family after being told multiple times that kids are not in the future which leads to comments like, "Well, since Billy's penis got cut off in a tragic cotton gin accident, I don't think kids are going to be happening for us."
Yes, I really did say that. There comes a time when drastic measures are required.
I don't fault anyone for having kids. I like kids. I love my nieces and nephews as well as my "adopted" nieces and nephews of my friends' children.
BUT what I want people to understand is that what I do has value as well. And when I am constantly being pestered to have kids, it causes me to feel that others do not see the work that I am doing and the things that I have accomplished as important or as giving back to society in any way. I work hard--I give back--I keep learning--and I teach others to do the same. I try to expand knowledge and give good information. I try to encourage my students to be better singers as well as people. I encourage and challenge my colleagues. My work is important--if I didn't think so, I wouldn't have sacrificed so much to get my advanced degrees. I have sacrificed--and will be continuing to sacrifice-- a lot to do what I do.
Which brings me to the recent accomplishment: the brain baby. My comprehensive doctoral exams.
I sat in a room for a total of 17 hours and answered sophisticated essay questions regarding various aspects of music, specifically all different types of vocal literature and opera as well as some obscure questions pertaining to music history and theory and analysis. I also translated a scholarly article from French into English (using a dictionary--this was one of the hardest parts, actually). It was an experience I hope never to repeat. I have no adequate adjectives for what the experience was like. Since I have never borne a child, I have no real right to use the correlative, but I can only say that I *think* it is very similar to giving birth from my brain. The "baby" was 23 single, spaced pages of moderately well-written answers that came not from a book, but from me--the assimilation of years of education regarding music. Nothing could have prepared me for what doing this would be like. And I am proud of it.
So, now that I have done that, I have a "new job" which has no basis in music. I am the not-hired-girl (not-hired because I told them I would be helping) for my dad and brother on the farm. This is not a new job for me, per se, since a lot of this type of thing I used to do in high school. I do a lot of grain shoveling. I wrestle the grain vac. I get very, very dirty and extremely sweaty and burn lots of calories--none of which bother me in the least. I feel like I am helping my family, and that is one of the reasons we moved back here. I would much rather be doing this type of work than having a desk job again (plus, the money is decent!). I feel tired at the end of the day, and I KNOW I earned my paycheck. Yes, ladies and gentleman, I nearly have a doctorate in vocal performance, but farm work is how I will be spending my time for the duration of harvest. I need a break from my brain, anyway.

27 June 2010


Some lessons in life I seem to need to learn and relearn and then relearn again.
One of those lessons for me is about coffee. Specifically, it is about caffeinated coffee. This beverage, which functions wonderfully in many peoples' bodies...for me, just makes me feel like every cell in my body is ejecting its contents into the cell next to it.
Caffeine screws up the nervous system in a variety of ways. It messes with the endorphins and stress hormones in the brain. Meaning, it creates anxiety. It blocks the good stuff and makes more of the bad stuff. So, if you already have an anxiety problem (me) and are drinking coffee--you are just asking to have a bad day.
It may be recalled that I am trying to pass on some of the principles in Skinny Bitch (by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin). One of their principles is to give up coffee.
I know. It seems impossible. These are the same girls that have titles to their chapters like "Give it Up!", "Pooping," and "Sugar is the Devil," and "Stop Being a Pussy." They are hardcore...but bear with me here as I believe I can offer a compromise.
Other than the obvious bad results of caffeine already mentioned here, there are several others. According to SB caffeine can cause "headaches, digestive problems, irritations of the stomache and bladder, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, anxiety and depression....affecting every organ system, from the nervous system to the skin.....{it} raises stress hormone levels, inhibits important enzyme systems that are responsible for cleaning the body, and sensitizes nerve reception sites." (p. 15 and there are footnotes for all of this)
The caffeine is not the only issue with coffee, however. The possibly more deadly aspect of coffee is the high acid content of it and the resultant health detriments. When a person creates a higher than normal acid environment in the body (whether through coffee, sugar or refined flours, etc), the body makes extra fat cells to protect the organs from the extra acid. These fat cells are normally placed around the internal organs, and it is this fat that is of the highest concern for future cancer. The more internal fat (this is different from the fat on the appendages or ass), the higher likelihood of cancer developing in that body.
Here is where I have to start whining a bit. "But I LIKE coffee....its warm and cuddly and makes me feel happy in the morning."
The caffeine problem is easily dealt with--just get decaf (although get the decaf that is not made decaf by the use of a chemical bath of the beans if possible).
Ok, that is one problem. How about the acid issue?
The highest acid level in coffee is found in regular old, office-variety brewed or percolated coffee. For some reason, this method of extraction results in the highest amount of acid. Ever get a huge caffeine buzz as well as heart burn after a regular cup of joe? Well, this is probably why.
The next option is French press. Most coffee snobs will say that French press makes a much superior final product than drip coffee makers. It may possibly also contain less acid, but this is largely variable since the amount/grind/etc of the beans in French press changes drastically from person-to-person depending on preference.
Espresso has many advantages and tends to be touted as the superior method for making coffee--obtaining the most volatile oils from the beans (i.e. flavor) while minimizing caffeine (as compared to drip coffee).
There is a lot of conflicting data on this fact. I can offer my own experience only. I can have two shots of espresso (made at home with non-doctored beans, thank you very much Starbucks) and be FINE, but if I have one cup of drip coffee--I will be a jacked up mess for at least five hours.
Espresso, however, still contains a high acid content which is the problem that I am trying to address.
Tada: enter cold brew coffee.
Yes, you can brew your coffee in cold water that is never heated at any point in the process. (You can do the same thing with tea...it just takes a little time).
Cold brew coffee offers the benefit of having 60% less acid than any of the other extraction methods mentioned here. It has the additional benefit of retaining much of the flavor of the bean without the "bite" or bitterness inherent in the acid. It both smells and tastes sweet. It requires no sweetener. I can also personally say that I notice the benefits of caffeine without any of the negative side effects thereof.
So, how is cold brew coffee brewed?
Well, you can purchase an expense electric cold brewer to sit on the precious real estate of your countertop. OR you can just use an old pitcher, a colander, a coffee filter, some cold water, some grounds, and some time.
Here's how I do it.
A 4:1 ratio of ground coffee to water is required. Most cold brew sites say to use a coarse grind. After a month of experimentation I have to say I completely disagree with this recommendation. The coarse grind results in a weaker brew--and I feel that you need to maintain some of the body of the bean that you are otherwise loosing to less acid in the final product.
So, I do a *mixture* of very fine grind, medium grind, and coarse grind. The coarse grind helps stick to the finer grinds when you are straining so that you do not end up with the sludge at the end.
Grind the coffee thusly, and put it in a pitcher with filtered water in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. The longer you leave it to think about it, the better result you will achieve.
When you get to the point where you can't wait anymore...
Put the coffee filter into the colander, and put the colander over a clean bowl. Slowly shake and pour the coffee mixture into the strainer and let it do its thing. It will take awhile. The last little bit will need at least 20 minutes to finish straining through. Don't skip this last part--this is where the flavor is.
Toss the filter/grinds and wash out your pitcher.
Pour the filtered coffee back into the pitcher, but not before you put some in a glass over ice with some great organic milk, maybe a little cream, and some Stevia. Shake it like a martini and enjoy!
I read that it is also possible to then heat the cold filtered coffee (you will not make it acid by doing this since the beans have already been removed). I have not tried that yet because it has been too hot.
I also read that cold brew (aka Toddy coffee) coffee is superior for cold coffee drinks as it does not get the diluted character that espresso tends to get when poured over ice. I have not noticed a huge difference with this.
Cold brew coffee is milder and sweeter. So, if you are looking for a cup that packs a punch, this may not be your very day drink.
But, it is a way to avoid much of the acid in the coffee, thereby giving yourself better health while still enjoying its amazing flavor--as well as retaining the morning ritual of making and drinking your favorite concoction.

07 June 2010

Haunted by Houses

It has been a bad day. It is drizzling and raining. The cat has been continually barfing. The dog has been in the cat box. And we have been dealing with insurance. Blech.
Additionally, our house in Fargo still has not sold. I am headed there tomorrow to deal with the dandelion problem, air the place out, and re-stage some rooms. Apparently people can't picture a bedroom as an office and cannot imagine life wherein guests have to walk through a bedroom to get to a bathroom. I hate homebuyers. They are picky and stupid.
I just want the house to sell. I am emotionally removed from it--from our "old" life in Fargo (except for our friends who we miss dearly). We are ready to move forward with our plans. The house is clean, staged, updated, priced well. Complaints include the size of the kitchen--well we can do nothing about that. We have done all we can do.............and we wait. And we pray. And we ask other people to pray. And we call our realtor for news. And nothing. Not a word. Nothing has happened. Nothing seems to be happening. It's completely disheartening.
So, we wait in our temporary home (ironically the house I grew up in that I could swear was haunted) in the hopes that we can still afford to buy our dream home--which we can literally see from our yard at the temporary home. Haunted by the future.
In the meantime, Billy and I have been doing a lot of exploring in the country. I love exploring--going on adventures. I have been rebuked by my brother that I should at least let someone know where I am going when I go out to drive on low maintenance roads or break in to abandoned houses so that they will have some idea of which well I may have fallen into when I don't show up at night. My solution now is to drag Billy along.
There are all of these amazing old houses that dot the countryside here and there. Some of them are amazing because of their architecture. Others because of their location. Still others because of their sheer smallness and rude construction techniques. But they all HAUNT me.
To live in this land--on the open prairie where the wind blows and blows and the winters are deadly icy--this takes tenacity. It takes will power. It takes everything a person has to give. The people who homesteaded each of these quarters were required to erect a structure of some kind. Many of them build sod huts or even dugouts into the sides of hills. Others built stick-built homes. Some people even took the time to add character and beauty to their homesteads. Some homes have gables, mouldings, embellishments. Other homes look like they were "newer"--maybe constructed as the "real" house once the homestead was established--and those are the ones that are really pretty.
Except that, somewhere along the line, the property owners either would not or could not take care of these homes anymore. Maybe the property was tied up in probate. Maybe the owners moved to a more "modern" ranch home in the 1950's and left the old farmhouse to rot. Maybe in the drought years of the 80's, the owners simply couldn't afford the property and abandoned it.
But these houses--many of them still furnished stand empty of people--eyes looking out to the land. They look lonely. They look like they were once beautiful ladies who aged and were no longer considered worthwhile. Skunks and deer and racoons go through the broken windows and make nests in old bedding, mattresses and magazines. Food still sits in jars and cans in the kitchens and in the basements. One house I know of even had an old pump organ that was left to the elements where it disintegrated to nothing.
I hate it. I am a person who values old things. I love the idea of and also the act of restoration of anything--including a home. But these homes are, even for my optimistic eye, beyond hope. Maybe that is why they haunt me--they were once beautiful but now lack any future except to fall into the ground.
Obviously the houses themselves don't know this. But I wonder about the people who owned them--whose blood, sweat and tears built them from the ground up--probably of their own design. What happened that they had to leave the houses--and why did they not pass them on or sell them to someone who could use them.
The extreme irony of it all is that now many young couples are moving back to the area, and there is a housing shortage. Nowhere decent to live. If only this trend could have happened 40 years ago when these houses could still have been salvaged.
So I have been ruminating on these houses for about a week, and then my mom showed me a very cool website about ghost towns in North Dakota.
I believe I will help them increase their archives with a few more pictures of some old places I know.

02 June 2010

Lilacs, fasting, credit cards, sunsets

Lilacs are everywhere near our little house on the prairie. In fact, there are so many of them, that if you stand out in the yard these days, you can literally hear the hum of scadzillions of bees that are enjoying them, maybe even more than me.
But that is nearly impossible because lilacs are pretty much my favorite thing in the entire world.
Now, I know that I say that type of statement a lot. I am a person of extreme views. I have probably a top 10 absolutely favorite things. But lilacs are definitely in my top one favorite things. :-)
The bad thing about lilacs is that they last for so little time. They are a precious mini-season in the spring that is over far too quickly. So, I thought to myself, "What do I do to extend the life of the lilac?"
So, I went on a quest to discover this at my local google.
I learned some interesting facts about lilacs.
Did you know that the lilac is actually a member of the olive family?
Did you know that lilacs only bloom on old growth? And if you trim them, the new growth will not bloom for 3-4 years?
The genus name of lilac is "syringa" and there are 20-25 different species within that genus. It is one of the hardest woods in the world, and has typically been used for making smaller, ornate objects like instruments, knives, etc.
The lilac color symbolizes a doctorate in dentistry in the academic world.
There are several areas of North America that have lilac festivals including Mackinac Island, MI, Spokane, Lombard, IL, and Rochester, NY.
And I had one all by myself in my own house when I discovered all of the wonderful things that can be made with lilac flowers.
First, I created the beginnings of lilac wine. This consisted of picking an enormous amount of lilacs. Then, the lilacs were washed in cold water and the flowers were stripped off of the rest of the branch. These were then put in to my primary with hot water.
Once that was done, I made lilac sugar by layering lilac flowers with sugar in a container. This is a very old recipe--like from colonial times--and the directions stated that the sugar could be continually renewed by adding more sugar--and that the sugar will continue to absorb the lilac scent indefinitely.
After that I made a lilac simple syrup to be used in the most incredibly wonderful cocktail. I got this recipe off of a Minneapolis citypages website.
2 cups water, 2 cups organic sugar, 2 cups lilac florets (I think that's a kind of weird word, but I will let it slide for now). Boil for 15 minutes, strain. Cool.
Then create your Lilac Gin Blossom thusly: 2 oz gin, 1-2 oz lilac syrup, 3/4 oz lemon juice--shake these in a shaker with ice. Pour into a tumbler glass (more ice optional), and then top this mixture with prosecco or cava or champagne.
Additionally, I garnished the drink by sugaring the rim of the glass with the lilac sugar. I also "candied" some full lilac blossoms by tossing them in more organic sugar--and I used this as the garnish for the drink rather than the suggested cherry--which I thought was lame.
The final thing I made was lilac jelly. I found several recipes which I then adapted for my own purposes.
So, 2-4 cups of lilac florets--put these in a bowl that can be covered. Boil 2-4 cups of water--pour this over the florets and allow them to "steep" for 24-48 hours. Strain the mixture, toss the dead flowers, reserve the liquid.
Get your stuff ready for canning (water bath, sanitize jars, get jar lids, sanitize those, get a pot for the jelly). Boil the lilac liquid with 1/4 of lemon juice per 2 cups of liquid. To this, add a package of pectin. Then, add 2 cups of sugar for every one cup of liquid with which you started.
Boil. Rolling boil to be precise.
Jar the jelly. Water bath those suckers for at least 5 minutes in boiling water.
Pray for good seals.
The lilac wine will take at least 6 months to fully be completed. I will be posting a separate blog on that complete with pictures and directions when I am nearing completion of the process.
You might think "eating a flower--gross!!!" But I assure you, many edible flowers can be made astonishingly tasty when given the proper treatment (i.e. the right amount of sugar and sometimes alcohol). The Lilac Gin Blossom is now one of my favorite drinks. It is very refreshing, not overtly lilacish, the perfect drink for a beautiful Memorial Day party outside in the yard. Which is how the drink was first implement and then approved by wanton naysayers to said drink.
The lilac jelly turned out to be a gem-like honey color. We will ignore the fact that there might.........might possibly be the presence of very, very, very small nats in it. We will pretend these are seeds or stamens or something scientific like that.
The lilac sugar rocks. I think it would be perfect in tea--iced or warm. It will also be a good garnish for other baked goods.
The lilac wine must be amazing because Jeff Buckley said it was able to make him see what he wanted to see and be what he wanted to be.
So, I promised to talk about various principles in the Skinny Bitch book that I think could be easily implemented by nearly anyone. The subject of today is fasting.
Yes, fasting.
I mean not eating.
Yes, you can eat for even long periods of time and not die.
Fasting is actually a very healthy, cleansing practice for the body. Digestion takes a lot of your body's effort. When you are not digesting, the body is able to stay in the same "cleansing cycle" that it is in while you sleep (thus, breakfast is literally breaking your fast).
SB suggests that we all fast. This is not so much for weight loss purposes as it is to give your body a chance to clean house and rest.
I have been fasting on a pretty regular basis since high school, and I would also like to give it high marks. The funny thing is that after the initial phase of the fast, I don't feel hungry anymore. I tend to feel pretty euphoric, actually, when I am fasting. In a good way. I am able to give my attention to other things instead of preparing and eating meals (which, when you make everything from scratch takes quite a bit of time). So, I sleep. I pray. I catch up on odds and ends.
Specifically, I have experienced the enhancement of my prayer life during a fast. Whereas during normal life, I do not have the concentration for extended prayer or meditation, during a fast, I feel that only a short period of time has gone by, when in fact an hour, sometimes even hours, has passed. I also feel a strange amount of mental clarity about my life, my priorities, and the re-ordering thereof during a fast.
Physically, fasting seems to have different results for me every time. Sometimes I don't notice any side affects of "cleansing." Sometimes, though, if I fast for a long time, I get headaches, runny nose...mild things like this...just for a short time. Experts on fasting say that this is the result of extra toxins being flushed out of the body. Skeptics say that is hogwash and that the body cleanses itself naturally without fasting, and that these unhelpful symptoms are signs of the body not eating anything.
Well, it is a fact that toxins are stored in fat. And it is a fact that when you are fasting, your body will use fat for energy. So, it makes sense to me that as those fat cells are used, the toxins therein would also be expelled.
After a fast, I usually notice myself feeling lighter, my skin is more radiant, and my abs are usualy flatter. And that alone is enough of a reason for occasional food deprivation.
Bottom line: I recommend fasting. Even just a morning through late afternoon fast once a week can have major benefits.
Speaking of benefits, "would I like to hear about all of the benefits associated with this credit card?"
No, I would not. I am calling to close the account.
"Oh, but it is good to have at least one credit card for emergency purposes."
Not for me. I didn't want to go into the Dave Ramsey plan with this plastic robot.
More arguments, more arguments, more pleading. Me getting nasty:
"No, I do not want to do a balance transfer to this account. This is my only account. And I don't want to argue about it. You will close the account now."
Late last summer, Billy and I closed all of our credit accounts and paid all of them off as part of the Dave Ramsey plan. (More about that later, but check out www.daveramsey.com for more details). The plan--or the step we are working on is to be totally, completey debt-free. Yes, it is possible--people do it every day. In fact, some good friends of ours just completely paid off every last red cent of debt they had. So, I know it can happen. And that is the goal.
So, as I was saying, I closed all of the accounts. Except for one. One last little "life line for emergencies" that I stowed away in the way, way back of a closet behind a bunch of junk that I knew I wouldn't want to make the effort to move just in case I became desperate for shoes or travel or did some wine-induced ebay surfing. Or any other number of things that lead to a problem with plastic in the first place.
The card has had a credit balance. No problem. It's just there "in case" we needed it.
In the mean time, we made an emergency savings of just over 1k. And you know what--we've had to use it a few times, but we have never exceeded that dollar amount. We have never needed the credit card. And soon the savings will be 3-6 months of income. We don't need the plastic.
The plastic companies don't like this, so they make plastic robots to harass you when you call to close your account. I hate the plastic robots.