Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The worst that can happen is that I'll cry again.

So tonight, while reading a selection from Into Thin Air that bespoke of devotion, I looked at Stoli, our cat. I thought about our animals and our love for them, and that jumped into wondering how that would compare to our love for, say, our children. I thought about if we would die for one, like we would for a child. I thought about dogs chewing through doors to save their masters in burning houses. I thought about the extent of family for us and for them, and about how we are all we give them of family. About how we systematically deny animals of their biological family. This, of course, took me back to one of my biggest problems with eating the way I eat--eating dairy and eggs--even if organic and/or local. Even if there isn't physical suffering involved, I can't get away from the fact that it is cruel to split up families. It goes against all that I know of family love. And there's no question that animals find love and comfort in their families. We don't have to search far to see or read the evidence of that fact.

Enter tears. Disappointment that I continue to do something that my whole self rejects violently (albeit rarely, since I choose to ignore it most of the time). After a mini-jag and a text session with a vegan-friendly friend (who toys with it occasionally, as I do), I decided to expect it of myself again--being vegan, or at least, mostly vegan. I instantly feel nostalgic when I think of the few things I bake or think about baking once every six months that don't have an easy vegan adaptation. And then I think how silly that something like that influences me away from what gives me a real sense of joy, a sense of limitless love.

Some of the best lines regarding such silly fears are in the introduction to The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (the bolded emphasis is my own--some of what speaks to me most):

“I’ve heard people say that eating vegan is ‘limiting’ and ‘restrictive,’ and I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I find that it’s quite the opposite. Your awareness is expanded. You try foods and cuisines you never even noticed before. The compassion you knew as a child is restored—and fully manifested. But even more than that, I find that living in such a way that we cut ourselves off from the truth, from our truth, is what’s truly limiting. People tend to avoid knowing about how the animals suffer not just because it’s too painful for them but also because they know deep down inside that once they find out this information, they’re going to want to make a change, and it’s change they’re afraid of: afraid of not knowing what it will look like and how it will change their lives. So instead, we choose fear. We create boundaries to our compassion. We choose ignorance over knowledge. We choose complacency over empowerment. To my mind, that’s restrictive, that’s limiting.

Every time we say ‘I don’t want to know,’ we limit our potential for growth, change, and making possible everything we want to be and everything we want this world to be. What could be more limiting than cutting ourselves off from our own compassion, our own values? Quite the contrary, being vegan is about knowing, exploring, evolving, participating, and taking responsibility. Being vegan is about removing barriers and embracing what it means to be human—experiencing sorrow as well as joy. To my mind, that’s expansive. That’s abundance.

It was only when I was willing to know—willing to look—at how I contributed to the suffering of animals that I woke up. When I was a child, I acted compassionately without any thought—as if I didn’t know any better than to respond to those who needed my help. It just came naturally. Now that I’m an adult, I act compassionately with thought, and I only regret that the innocent kindness of a child is valued more than the informed kindness of an adult. Though the process of desensitization was full and complete by the time I was a young adult, I’m grateful it was not irreversible, and I fully embrace what I hope will be my legacy: unabashed, unfettered, unconditional compassion.” –Colleen Patrick Goudreau

This time, I hope I can enjoy lasting conviction instead of the inevitable bout of tears that (eventually) finds me after I've abandoned my vegan intentions. But if I don't, there are worse things than experiencing the same epiphany over and over, I guess. One day my cheeks will hit their salt saturation point, and I'll stop disappointing myself. That day may be today. :)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

New and exciting baking challenges! :)

So yesterday I found out that a blood test suggested I had Celiac's. I've thought before that my body wasn't BFFs with gluten, perhaps, but I've had a negative test for Celiac's in the past and so haven't had the motivation to really embrace a gluten-free diet. It's a big thing to do, you know? But after yesterday, I now have a test-dictated reason to cut out gluten. I could continue eating gluten and get an intestinal biopsy to fully confirm, or I could go gluten-free for three months or so, and if I notice any change, accept that as confirmation. I'm going to go with the non-invasive option, methinks. And really, the only thing I think about missing--for a lifetime--is baking.

So last night I spent hours looking into gluten-free baking, and I found a few awesome sources; I am confident that delicious sweetness can still fill my kitchen. :) It's just going to require some work and experimentation. I have a few cookbooks I have my eye on, and I think they will help me learn how to modify regular baking recipes, and thus, hand back to me all the options in my baking library. I think I might have to get a kitchen scale, and start weighing ingredients and switching ratios. It will be more work. But I'm truly excited about it. :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book's content needed MUCH more development to work well. Problems with constant summarization/poor pacing in the first couple books (especially the second) were exacerbated here, painfully. The prose felt draft-like, almost like a lengthy plot sketch. Such problems were combined with events that--more than ever--needed proper attention. With proper attention, Collins could have turned suffering that only felt frustrating and annoying into something compelling, complicated, and real. Character and relationship development were really sacrificed to (still summarized) action scenes.

Ultimately, the book felt rushed and was quite disappointing. How it stands almost ruined the series for me.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

This is modified, ever so slightly, from DG Nigella Lawson, and she says that this recipe is the result of countless attempts to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I agree that she found it. This cookie is--in the words of my husband--robust. It's thick, but not cakey, with just the right amount of chew. The only changes I made to her recipe were to add less chocolate chips (and of a different kind) and to add some nuts as well. (Also, it calls for superfine sugar, and I used regular granulated sugar, and like I've mentioned already, the results were delicious!)

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
modified from Nigella Lawson
makes 15 cookies

1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) butter, soft
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg, refrigerator-cold
1 egg yolk, refrigerator-cold
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 a bag of chocolate chips, semi-sweet or milk chocolate

1 cookie sheet

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and let it cool a bit. Put the brown and white sugars into a bowl, pour the slightly cooled, melted butter over them, and beat together. (I simply used a whisk.)

Beat in the vanilla, the cold egg, and the cold egg yolk, until your mixture is light and creamy.

Slowly stir in the flour and baking soda until just blended, then fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoops the cookie dough into a quarter-cup measuring cup to find the perfect cookie size, and then it's pretty easy to eyeball it after. Drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, 8 to a sheet. This will take two batches. Keep the dough in the refrigerator between batches.

Bake for 15-17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. (I baked mine for 17, and took them out even though they didn't quite look done. I left the on the cookie sheets to cool, and never transferred them to a rack, and they were just the right amount of done.)

Author Influences

I was tagged in this note on Facebook, and thought it was pretty fun.

List fifteen authors, any GENRE, who have influenced you and will always stick with you. Do this in no more than fifteen minutes. 

Here are mine:

1. Victoria Holt: for her serious, strong female first person narratives
2. Margaret Mitchell and Alexandra Ripley: for their sagas
3. L.M. Montgomery: for Anne
4. Agatha Christie: for her cozy British atmosphere
5. J.K. Rowling: for her joyously whimsical fantasy
6. Nora Roberts: for a love of romance
7. Marian Keyes: for her mastery of substantive chick lit
8. Jacqueline Carey: for her quiet, epic, perfectly plotted female first person narrative in Phedre
9. Anne Lamott: for her just right book on the writing life and her spiritual journey
10. Julia Glass: for her characterization
11. Percy Bysshe Shelley/Samuel Taylor Coleridge/William Wordsworth/John Keats: for underscoring the purpose of my vision
12. Katherine Mansfield: for her frothy, intimate language and vision of beauty
13. Juliet Marillier: for her quiet, intricate, strong female first person narratives
14. Dodie Smith: for her first person perfection in Cassandra
15. Virginia Woolf: for her rhythms

Who are yours? :)

Friday, October 22, 2010


It's been awhile since I've posted anything on here besides a brief book review. Tonight I read every last one of my old posts, and I was kind of impressed with how often I've actually written on this blog over the years. Who knew I had 300+ posts? Sheesh. And so many of them filled with brilliant but forgotten master plans to get that daily morning routine going--I love it. :) One day, routine, one day, it'll be you and me.

There's a good chunk of memory stored here, too, and, as I am somewhat obsessed with marking my memories--I scatter them through multiple media in a general mess--this pleases me. I want to continue to add more memories to this sort of journal accessory I've got going on here. And so, in such inspired spirit, I return to a quick list.

6 amazing quotes to hold hands with, keep under your pillow, gaze at dreamily, and generally engage with forever after:

-“In giving you are throwing a bridge across the chasm of your solitude.” - Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

-"To love someone means to see him as God intended him." -Fyodor Dostoevsky

-"I was made... not to prove myself worthy but to refine the worth I'm formed from, acknowledge it, own it, spend it on others." -Mary Karr

-"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time." -T.S. Elliot

-“Something we were withholding made us weak, until we found it was ourselves.” –Robert Frost

-“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.” –Barbara Bush

All just right, yes?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A Vintage Affair by Isobel Woolf

A Vintage Affair: A Novel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was a hard one to rate, as I found it very dull for the first 150 pages--there seemed to be no pulse. The author also has an annoying affinity for ellipsis. I continued reading only because I was page-invested. But after the half, it finally came together in a more appealing way, and I ended up really enjoying it.

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