Saturday, January 30, 2010

chocolate cake

All day I was craving cake. At first I thought I wanted a yellow cake with chocolate icing. But, when I thought about how to make one I realized I have no idea what makes a yellow cake yellow and have a different flavor than a white cake (yolk of course, but what about the flavor?). And since I didn't want to bake a cake from a box, I decided maybe yellow cakes are whacky anyway (though, I suppose if I found a recipe to make it, maybe that wouldn't be the case).

Then I realized what I should make. A spicy chocolate cake with thin white frosting. It turned out really well (I think, and Joe confirmed) so, I wanted to pass on the recipe:

Spicy Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 to 1 cups sugar (I used 1/2 cup, raw sugar but it's not a very sweet cake)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
a heaping 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp butter (soft)
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp white vinegar
a cap full of vanilla extract

Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, powder, and salt. These should be sifted, it helps de-compact the flour and particular the cocoa powder, which tends to stick together. I don't have a sifter, so I just whisk it- adding air to the mix.

Mix applesauce, butter, water, vinegar, and vanilla together. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ones. Here, I added cayenne pepper- several pinches until when I tasted the batter it had a good taste with a slight burn in the back of my throat- and a little cinnamon also.

Bake it at 350 for 20-35 min. I used two small round pans (8 inch?) so the toothpick was clean after 20 min but it could take longer if you use a bigger pan. I then mixed powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk together to make a drizzly icing (the milk:sugar ratio is crazy- at least 50:1- probably even more than that). This makes a VERY sweet icing- which goes nice with a slightly bitter cake. I thought about adding cinnamon, or how next time it might be nice to use a whipping cream and make it creamier. I imagine that would be nice, but I guess I've never done it before. You can also do that by using butter I suppose (which, I was out of).

Oh, the cake mix may want to be multiplied by 1 1/2 or so, I think either another layer or thicker layers would have been good. I also think these would make wonderful cupcakes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

no matter what

sometimes, its just no longer worth the fight. Some things happened in the past and we should let go and work to build something new. it might be different than it ever was before, but it's forever.

and its beautiful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

this too will pass

there is something about snow that subdues the explosions from within. maybe its the way it sticks to your eyelashes or how it melts when it settles on your warm lips. either way, when i walked into the late night flurries, i knew that this too will pass.

as donkey worked on closing its doors, we left. sometimes, people show up just when you need them to, walking in right before your eyes fill with tears. you sort of expect yourself to loose it, right there in that chair, next to the group of friends playing cards and the boy laughing out loud at his book. but then, your reminded that today is what you make of it, it's what you decide to dwell on, to celebrate, to work towards.

the cold air, a scream of excitement, and a sincere good night hug was exactly what i needed. she reminded me that some weeks are just stressful, and it probably has little to do with how much you accomplished last week and what you still have to do this week. some weeks are just stressful. which means some weeks are just happy, loving, wonderful.

whatever the week is bringing, be it the good or the bad, it is not likely to stick around forever. an acquaintance once shared a story with me, something from some religious teaching, about a boy who goes on a quest for a king to find a ring that will make a happy man sad and a sad man happy. after months and months of searching all over the world, the boy became disheartened. just as the boy was returning home to tell the king he had failed, he stopped by a street vendor to buy some bread and asked the vendor if he knew of such a ring. to the boys surprise, the vendor did. The boy was so happy he finally found such a magical ring he ran to the king to show him. The king was taking part in a celebration of the day, and was surrounded with riches and luxuries. the boy told the king he had found the ring he was searching for, and handed him a tarnished silver ring. the king looked at the ring, and as he read the inscription on the inside, his smile faded. the ring read 'this too will pass.'

Monday, January 25, 2010

a first time for eveything

This past Sunday, I went to my first ever (ever!) regular church service. There was only one other time I ever recall being at a regular church service, and it wasn't regular really, because I'm pretty sure there was a death in the family and someone asked us to go (I remember my mom was there, I don't know who died. I don't know what church it was, or how old I was)

But after spending time in WV and hearing what the Unitarian church woman (leader lady?) had to say about Mountaintop Removal and what ways they were supporting folks working to stop MTR, I thought I should give churches another chance. After all, for a lot of people, church acts as a catalyst for building strong communities, they are know for supporting each other within their church, and they sing together! But, churches also have a bad wrap sometimes, and I think it's one that is largely deserved. So, when I was sitting on a friends couch telling her I might go to a service, her housemate (and friend of mine) chimed in to say he goes, and really likes it. He also told me a bit about the church- about how they often have groups working on social justice issues, they don't preach any one belief system and that they aren't Christians!, they encourage people to leave and decide if the Unitarian church is for them, they have weekly topics on interesting issues, and that he always feels very welcome there.

I added going twice to my Winter Wish List. Twice, because I figured the first time might not be enough to make a judgment call but going at least twice would mean I'd have to go back. Give it time to digest. So, last Sunday, like I said, I went. The service starts at 10:30 am (not even very early!) and the weeks topic was about race- which is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about recently.

I show up, and it's raining a little- which is why I drove. I also drove because I knew it was up in the hills a ways (about 2.5 miles as it turns out, largely up hill) and I wasn't sure how long it would take me to get there. I also had forgotten I had been there before, for a CFI thing. It's such a beautiful place. The building is really neat, all brick with crazy windows of stained glass with tons of trees around. But i walked in- just as it is starting (because- naturally I got lost) and two friends of mine happened to be there for their first time also. Perfect!

We sat together and the services started with people lighting a candle (if they wanted to) for things they are happy or sad about. I liked that. Then the woman who was leading service that day jumped into talking about race. Particularly, she spoke about how racial lynchings were common place, how violence was acceptable, and how it was 'good people' who were participating. She showed photographs and read newspaper articles with graphic detail about people being burned alive, and what happened to their eyeballs. This made it into newspapers.

The part she really emphasized though, was that this was not that long ago. A young white girl smiling at a hanged black man in 1935 (photo above), could very possibly still be alive. She could have children, who could have children, who could have been taught (and likely were) that people of different racial makeups are bad and deserve to be hung. The ideals that allowed this years ago, may not be that far off and are still very much alive. More important, I thought, was the discussion about how socialization plays a big role in what is 'right' or 'wrong.' Churches, businesses, politicians, 'good people' all bought into the idea that black people are lesser than animals, and deserve lesser treatment than dogs. The idea being that in current society, there are things we might not believe in (or maybe do) but if we don't question beliefs or actions and if we don't challenge them, then they remain normal. It becomes acceptable to exploit and kill people or the land.

I don't know how I felt about it really. The service was good, it was interesting, and it made me think. I felt welcomed. I enjoyed singing (once I did start, at first I felt too awkward). But, it was a church. It just felt... strange.

I'll go back, at least once more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

two times a month

On Monday, I made my second January loaf of bread. I used to have a recipe I always used for a pretty standard loaf of bread, and I normally ended up making it wheat. But, I lost it. While I consistently used it, it's ok it got lost because it was mediocre at best. It, like many homemade wheat breads in my experience, was a bit dry and a bit too dense- but still fun to make and very edible (almost good, even).

The first January loaf was ok, it was nice and fluffy and looked pretty- but it was white bread. Enough said.

The second loaf, however, turned out much better. It's a little sweet for my liking and a little too dense still, but I think I can made a few modifications and have it turn out just right.

So here's the recipe:

1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
(I think next time, I will not add brown sugar and just give the yeast extra time to eat up the honey. I don't actually know that it will work, but I have suspicion it will.)

So add WARM (not hot, not cold) water and sugar and honey (or just one- maybe) into a large bowl and dissolve the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and watch it explode. In a couple min, it will no longer look like little seeds of yeast but like soft cloudy stuff sort of floating on top of the water. Add in milk, oil, and salt. Then add a bit of flour, maybe around 1/2 cup, and stir it in. Let that sit for a while. I don't know that this is true, but I was once told that the longer you let that beginning mixture hang around, the more flavor your bread will have- so I started the bread in the morning and let it sit until the night- probably ten hours or more. Keep it in a warm spot, in my house (it being winter) that meant it stayed covered with a moist towel next to the heating vent. After several hours (it should be really bubbly and loose) add in the rest of the flour, slowly.

I normally stir it with a wooden spoon until it thickens up too much then I just use my hands. The kneading process is important, it develops the gluten and is why is starts to feel elasticy when you're doing it. Kneading is why I love making bread, but I imagine each person has their own way of doing it. Over or Under kneading is bad news, so watch out for what texture you're getting.

Once it is well knead, slowly turn it into a ball- by sort of folding in in on itself, creating a little crater at the bottom and a smooth round ball on the top. If the bread appears to be ripping, then slow down. Put the ball of dough back into the bowl, with a little oil, and recover. Let it sit for around an hours in a warm spot (it should double in size in that hour, if not, let it hang out longer). When it has grown, punch it down (literally, punch it) and knead it a little bit more. Then place it in a greased bread pan, and let it sit (covered in a warm place) for about 30 more min (while you are preheating your oven to 350 degrees), it should grow pretty fast and almost double in size again. Once its nice and big, stick in in the over for 30-35 min (if it seems to be browning too quick, you can cover the top with a bit of foil- I hear).

and ta-da! You should have a decent loaf of homemade bread. Ready for eating (fresh, hot bread, with homemade butter... just try not to die from satisfaction).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

'I don't trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn't die'

Stupid, yet common saying. Real dumb.

I keep finding myself in conversations with fellow women who about those 'personal things.' The two topics to come up specifically have been menstrual cycles and birth control.

I'll just touch on the latter briefly, but hopefully will come back to it later, when I can do a little more research on it. That being said, my opinion is just that, an opinion- and one that is only loosely based on fact and more so based on feelings. But, as someone who was on it for many years, I know I am glad to no longer be. While yes it provided me with three significant benefits- pregnancy prevention, decreased cramps, and clear skin- it also had negative effects- probably the most direct and significant one was a severe lack of emotion. Tricking your body into believing it is pregnant by ingesting hormones on a daily basis seems pretty nuts.

But, periods are something I know a bit more about. My quest to deal with the fact that I, as a female, bleed for a few days a month, every month, sort of began when I was a sophomore. I woman named Lizzy, who I don't really know, brought up something called 'tampaction' at a Green Network meeting. Tamp Action huh? The concept, as she briefly explained, is largely based on the idea that tampons are harmful, and there are more positive alternatives.

Here is a pdf one-pager on tampaction.

Here's my own mini-tampaction break down. Tampons are bad news for many reasons. The reason I initially began thinking about it was the waste they produce, how many tampons, wrappers, applicators etc find their way into the trash. From there, I began to think about what exactly a tampon is. A piece of tightly bond cotton that has likely been grown with some pretty sick pesticides and then bleached to be extra white. Gross. I don't really want that inside of me. That was enough to sell me on alternatives and the one I went for was the mooncup.

The mooncup, which is similar to the Diva Cup, is a reusable menstrual cup. It's made from silicone and you insert it (similar to how a tampon goes in), then empty it out a couple times a day and repeat. You just wash it out. At first, it was hard to get used to, it made me get more up close and personal than I had ever really wanted to with my period, and it was uncomfortable to insert- and even more uncomfortable to take out. But once I got the hang out if, it's been great (and comfortable). I don't have to 'change' it as often as you do with tampons, and it's a lot cheaper (I think it cost around $40, but it only needs replaced like every ten years or something crazy).

But more important than the moon cup being more convenient etc, was the process of getting to know my body better and to stop feeling so ashamed of a menstrual cycle. I used to be someone who would do everything I could to hide getting a tampon out of by backpack, because I think we've all been taught that it's gross and something we shouldn't talk about. So i never did. But when I had to empty out a cup and wash it to prevent bleeding everywhere, I really began to be more comfortable about my period. We all deal with it, so why are we ashamed? It's part of being a woman.

The moon cup, just like a tampon in my experience, sometimes leaks though. I've stained more than one pair of underwear because of it. So, I often wear liners in addition to wearing my moon cup, but then when I stopped to think about it, disposable liners are almost as nutty as tampons. So, I made my own. It was really easy to do, but I also like sewing a lot so I guess it could be more difficult if you're not into it. But I made it out of an old flannel shirt (soft and nice) and a scrap sweatshirt piece. The ones I made are fairly thin, but they could be thinner or thicker. Many people don't any kind of insert and use homemade liners only, which I also think is a good option (but not for me). But basically I just made a little pouch the shape of underwear (or a liner you may have bought) using two pieces of flannel, leaving one end open. I then turned it the right side out and put a piece of sweatshirt inside and sewed up the end. I also sewed a circle-ish shape inside the middle to keep the sweatshirt piece from crinkling up when I put it in the washing machine. So now I have a washable, reusable, free, thin liner I can wear- just in case.

The last thing I have started to do, which has just been recently, is to keep a menstrual calendar. The idea is basically if you keep track of your period, you can start to realize how long it is and how often it comes- so you can better expect it. In addition, I've tried to make note on the same calendar of what days I am feeling particularly moody. I've never heard of this part before, but I think maybe if I can see patterns in days that I am feeling super crazed, then I can know when I can expect that, too. The idea there being that if I know it's PMS or whatnot, then I can tell myself maybe that is why I am feeling really upset/frustrated/sad, and even tell other people that I am feeling that way and I do not mean to take those feeling out on them. Like I said, I just started tracking this, so we'll see if it is helpful, but I think it will be.

It's been a good experience for me to explore some options, and I think it's important to be comfortable with yourself. And if that means tampons, moon cups, or any other things than that's just fine. How to deal with a menstrual cycle is a very personal choice, but I think I've found some good options and feel comfortable about it, so I thought I'd share.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


maybe having a family that truly is no matter what is enough. i am so lucky.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Impending Doom

I woke up today with that knot in your stomach that tells you something is wrong. It's not quiet butterflies, because I always think about that as a happy and scared feeling- like when you're nervous but excited- but it feels almost the same. Only it's not from happiness, at least I don't think it is. It's from something else.

I thought a good breakfast, a quick run, hitting the bags around a little and doing so without being late to class would help. Wrong. Still there. So, I've decided it's probably from a feeling of impending doom. Something is going to happen, I can feel it, and maybe it's terrible, maybe it's doom. Maybe it's from the stack of dishes in my kitchen sink or maybe it's the who-knows-when-but-its-for-certain Apocalypse. More likely it's something in between.

Like the fucking G20. After being arrested for walking through a public park at night, I've been dealing with what is often called 'the justice system' in Pittsburgh for several months now. After my December 29th arraignment, I found myself being offered an ARD with 50 hours of community service and 9 months of probation. Oh, that's if my background check clears- which is not super likely (thanks underage drinking charge I never bothered to expunge). Either way, I don't want to take the deal. That's no deal at all, saying 'yes- i am a bad person and i do deserve to have a cop watch over me for 9 months.' No thanks. So then, the simple question- if I don't take this 'deal,' what is the maximum penalty? Oh? I won't know that until my pre-trial, scheduled after I deny the deal. Perfect. Nothing like rejecting a deal when you have no idea what the consequences could be. Oh yeah, and it feels really great to be singled out by the police- as I and one friend are the only ones I know of who have misdemeanor charges and are still held up in court (without filing an appeal that is). Even if that's not true- it sure does feel that way.

Or maybe it's something like graduating. Come June, as I just confirmed with my adviser today, I will no longer be a 'student.' To say I am not excited by this prospect of doing something else with my life would be a lie. I can't wait. I am tired of the way we are taught to learn, what we are taught, and the fact that learning and doing apparently do not co-exist within the 'higher education' system here at OU. But, none the less- I've been in school since I was... 4 or 5. Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, High, College. That is the past 17 years of my life or more I've spent doing this. Studying. Reading, writing, listening, 'learning.' Even if all my intentions for the year or so after graduation work out to a t, it's still scary. What if I find out, being a student is what I'm good at, that doing things and learning from reality is not something I do well. What then? Grad School? PhD? Become a teacher? Shit.

Or maybe it's the fear of loosing people- which no doubt is closely attached to graduating. But graduation or not, this is the longest time I've gone without speaking to my best friend since grade school- it's been months. Since the summer. I miss her, and on top of that I think I miss that feeling of 'no matter what.' My family is no matter what, but can you get that without being kin, without being tied to someone through blood? Can there be people in your life, that no matter happens, they will be there for you and you will be there for them?

Perhaps it's something else that I can't even name. Maybe it's just that the future is unwritten and for the first time, I'm really believing that saying. The only thing I am certain of, is right now. And maybe that isn't even so certain, I don't know. And if tomorrow, a year from now, ten years from now is completely unwritten, then that means someone has to write it. I guess that means me. Which, gives me that feeling in my stomach. I guess I don't know if it's butterflies or impending doom. Maybe both?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Winter of Contintment

Sitting in my kitchen, thinking about today. It's sunday. It's probably about 15 degrees outside with a couple inches of snow on the ground. It's not the kind of snow you can have a snowball fight with, but it makes for excellent sledding. I have a long list of school work that I need to do today. I don't want to do any of it.

This is the first time I've had a blog, with the exception of something I had to to for class once. I'm not sure I want one, but I sort of feel it might be really good to do. A way to give myself time to think and reflect, an easy way to keep people updated on my day-to-day life. I don't think I will tell people about it at first though, just wait and see how I feel about it after a little bit. Maybe I'll share it with others, maybe it will be more for me. I really felt the need to have one when I was staying in WV for a few weeks over the winter break from school. I wasn't there too long, but I felt so many wonderful things and I wanted to share it with people. There are just too many great people in my life to reasonably expect to continually speak to, and sending an email to people to 'update' them seemed really sad. Maybe a blog is in between those two. Or maybe it's way worse than any email. I guess I'll find out.

Keeping in touch with people is hard. When I am living in Athens, it seems easier. I see so many great people every day, and keeping up with my family and a handful of friends back in Delaware isn't too much. But it's funny how quickly you can loose track of people, forget who they are, and how you can't feel each other growing apart until it's too late. As I work towards graduation from school and consider my first time move from Ohio- I think about all the people who I do see everyday who I won't. I think about all the people who have graduated in recent years and moved away. How so many people have effected my life so wonderfully and I never speak to them anymore. Maybe that's the thing, maybe you're meant to grow apart from people, to meet new people, and to remember why you loved people when you were such great friends. I don't know. I don't really like that idea, but maybe that's just part of life. Either way, preventing what may be the inevitable is part of the reason for this blog.

But, I am really trying to enjoy the moment (hence the blog title). I hate how often people, and for how many years I, spend our lives looking for what is tomorrow or what was yesterday. I want to see today, to live today, and to really enjoy it. All of it. Even he bad stuff, I want to take it for what it is, to feel it. One way that I think I am working to really live in the moment, is to create seasonal wish lists. This idea came from the Summer of Freedom, which was this past summer. Part of it was to make a list of things you've always wanted to do, but for whatever reason never had. It was really great to have a list of things, from canning, to hitchhiking, to being honest, that I could look back on and encourage myself to do things. During Frunky Fresh Fall, I made one in my head. I probably accomplished negative of them. So this Winter (the Winter of Contentment) I'm making a list. I think it's a really great list.

- by only local dairy
- take one out of state, non political, trip
- learn to rock climb
- make bread twice a month
- cook three real meals a week, one with a friend
- camp in the cold
- go to two unitarian church services
- work with a community based project (not student based)
- read one not-for-school book
- enjoy the moment!
- take one trip to visit Ian
- take care of myself, mentally and physically, better
- put people first, remember my priorities
- continue to reduce the items i own
- get a passport
- line dry every load of laundry
- do at least one, non transportation- outdoor activity a week
- Saturdays are free days. no work, no way.

So far, so good.