Tuesday, February 23, 2010

January Pantry Challenge

Also known as, on-the-first-day-in-snow-in-21-years-our-as-old-furnace-died.

On top of my tuition and fees due for my useless thesis hour (earned everything long ago, just keeping my enrollment continuous), we are O-U-T of money till payday in 3 days. 72 hours.

So at first I was kind of here and there with the challenge; it didn't gain momentum until we ran out of money. We used up almost all of our quinoa and a lot of rice. We are down to one can of cocoa and almost out of the big jar of marshmallow fluff. (Making the most of this recipe).We used up all of our dried beans and lentils, and most of our canned beans. We are almost out of the fancy boullion-concentrate that has to be kept in the fridge. (Chicken is gone, veggie nearly). Ramen, gone. Pasta, gone. Frozen pie crusts, gone. Several bags of frozen veggies, gone. Several pounds of sale meat lurking in the freezer, gone. TVP, gone.

Not as planned: I was so, so excited to make Joloff Rice, a traditional West Africa dish that reminds me of my time in the Peace Corps. I don't know what happened, but it was a huge, colassal fail. I won't even link to the recipe because I am *certain* that it would be an injustice, sinceI somehow messed it up. Recipes' author should not pay for my sins. I don't want anyone to think that my bad experience is typical, because joloff Rice is actually totally, completely delicious. How bad was it? So bad that the night I made it, my husband told me he ate on the way home. (Don't judge him. He has a 1 hr45min commute- ONE-WAY.) A few nights later, I said "That rice wasn't very good. I don't even think I'll eat the leftovers." (Which filled 2 big containers). Booker says, "I wasn't going to say anything, but I could smell it cooking and it made me sick to my stomach."


As was the cranberry sauce. Sure, I thought, I bought these 2 months ago. Mais OUI, I can can them. (Botulism...?) A calmer sense prevailed. I threw 2 lbs of fresh cranberries on the lawn instead. I was rewarded 2 mornings later with a huge mixed flock of Cedar Waxwings and American Robins. (Down here, Robins mean winter. By Spring, they have taken off North).

Now what now? Can't see 'em? Yeah...sorry...not quite on the wildlife photography thing yet. Try this:

Cedar Waxwings and Robins are my favorites, because they flock like a bunch of insecure tweeners at the mall. As soon as one flies off, the others follow. They are noisy and obnoxious and are messy eaters. They may be my animal totem after all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Me Ra Koh & SOAR! Community

I stumbled onto Me Ra Koh's blog a few months ago.... and am really enjoying it. She started a scholarship to enable women to start their own photography businesses. I'm not quite there, but I would like to learn how to use my own dang camera. I really like the positive, upbeat tone of this community. That kind of support is what I'm looking for in 2010.

Okay, so she has set it up to be an inclusive thing. Anyone who wants to can participate in monthly photo exercises, post them on the forum for support, etc etc. So, go to her site and check out the link for the SOAR! Blog, and you can also sign up to be a member of the SOAR! forum.

January photo exercises were to do a self-portrait in 2 parts- one, the image of yourself, and two, the image of an object that represents yourself.

Because this blog is anonymous, I'm not quite posting my self-portrait in-full here.

But this is what I took, and why:

I am sitting on the floor in our office, which we have wholly trashed. Papers and stacks of things everywhere. An episode of 'Hoarders' in the making. I'm leafing through citations for my thesis. I tried to frame it so I would look all studious and whatnot, and the cat walked though right when the camera fired. Anyway, I chose this picture because I do feel so distracted with everything right now. Small things, like losing the book I bought on organization and efficiency ('Getting Things Done.) Big things, like losing track of what my goals are, how to get there, not having the energy to even try. The picture summed it up- sitting there surrounded by crap. In the background is my great-grandfathers writing desk, which I have desecrated by piling up with old bills and junk mail. I'm trying to present an image of being a pulled together academic- She reads pubs! At home!- and in the end all it takes to distract me is a big orange cat butt.

Picture(s) 2 I will post:

This year we lit candles for Solstice. And by we, I mean I did, and made Booker come outside to look at them. Whatever. I am Pagan, and Winter Solstice in this tradition is a time for introspection, embracing darkness, and asking the higher powers for guidance. I gave the smallest of energies to the event this year, only thinking about these things in the time it took to set up and light the luminaries.

The very next day I learned that my close friend and former PCV postmate (Peace Corps Volunteer) was going back to Benin. She had originally planned on going in Spring, but she is on a Fullbright in a neighboring country and moved it up. We'd planned all along to send some money with her, for my village. Western Union won't work for a variety of reasons. When I left 5 years ago, my village didn't have any phones. Within a week of Solstice, this sister-friend had set foot in my village, and had re-established contact. My old friends have cell phones, and have called me! Some of my projects are going, some were a bust. But having my village be a part of my life again is doing a lot to heal me. For the past 5 years I've almost been living as if my time there had never happened. And I think that that approach has really messed me up.

But it really humbles me that I spent the smallest energy into the smallest bit of intentionality, and received something beautiful- old friends in my life again- in return.

The luminaries were table decorations at my grandparents' fiftieth anniversary party. If you look closely, you'll see 20 little hearts on each family tree on the glass. That was no accident- my grandma planned that shindig meticulously- 20 hearts for each member of our family.

I can't quite articulate why I chose this as my self-portrait object. Something about the layers of glass and ribbon and light. I'll have to chew on that.