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.


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