Monthly Archives: February 2014

Days 56 & 57: Pleasanton Ridge & Rutabega

Yesterdays One New Thing was a lovely combination of old familiar and exciting new. Since before I moved to California in 2004, I have loved hiking up on Pleasanton Ridge. Through Golden Eagle Estates and all the way at the top of the main trail, there lives my favorite tree in the whole world. I call it my Grandfather Tree. This is the magnificent tree that inspired my first “real” painting some years ago. But since my accident, though I hike as often as I can, the top of the ridge has remained beyond my capabilities, and I haven’t made it even close to the top.
Until yesterday. Yesterday I had a wonderful combination of feeling pretty good and sheer cussed stubbornness, and though it took me 45 hard minutes, I made it to the top and to my beloved tree. So the ONT is that this is the first time my new ACL has ever made it to the top of Pleasanton Ridge. The total hike was a tough forty-five minutes longer than I’ve done since I fell, so, though I had pushed it hard and was definitely limping by the time we got back to the car, I was so pleased. So much good nature I’ve been missing!

Introducing Smashed Rutabakers!
Today’s ONT was also a new/old. We have a new vegetable in the house: rutabega. Beth made it for dinner tonight. Once upon a time we ate potatoes, and we had an incredibly good recipe for smashed & baked potatoes with butter and sour cream and cream cheese… oh my heavens, it was fantastic! But then we pretty much quit eating potatoes. So then we made the same dish only replacing the potatoes with cauliflower: YUMMY! And tonight, the brilliant Miss Beth revises it once again, starring rutabegas. Mm mm mmm! I honestly thought it would be kinda nasty. I’m so happy I was wrong!

Have you done something new today?

Days 53, 54 & 55: Haute Chocolate, Redwood Forests & Ballsy Action

My sister Judy loves living vicariously through this blog, and as a result she keeps sending me recipes that interest her. I’ve used several of them, and will no doubt use more. Saturday’s One New Thing is compliments of her: Superfood Haute Chocolate by Sarah Britton (Sarah’s the one who developed the Bread that will Change Your Whole World recipe (btw I now eat that every single day – it really has changed my whole world!). 
This is a raw food recipe and uses foods that are extraordinarily powerful nutritionally, such as organic raw cocoa powder, organic coconut sugar, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger (duh!) and a brand new ingredient for me: maca.
According to Sarah, “Maca is an ‘adaptogen,’ meaning it has the ability to balance and stabilize the body’s hormonal, nervous and cardiovascular systems. For this reason it is particularly effective for improving libido. Maca also has the ability to help us cope with stress, and stabilize our moods and energy.  Boasting 31 minerals and trace elements, maca is a nutritional powerhouse and a stress-relieving, healthy addition to many foods.” 
(Hopefully it’s not too effective at improving libido, or, as a single woman, I could be in trouble!) I didn’t have any maca, since I’d never heard of it before, but for some reason Beth had some, in capsule form, that she wasn’t using (I now know that it takes about seven capsules worth of maca to fill a teaspoon).

This was easy to make, though it does have a lot of ingredients just for a cup of hot chocolate (even if it is outrageously good for you), and you have to be careful not to get the liquid too hot or you’ll kill lots of great nutrition. Maca has a rich, sweet taste that I liked, and of course I love the gngery peppery bite.

But will I make it again? I admit, I’m not really sure. The flavor was delicious, and as I got closer to the bottom of my oversized mug, the taste got better and better. However, as I got nearer to the bottom there was also a lot of, um, stuff. Many of those good ingredients apparently don’t dissolve all the way. By the end, I almost felt like I needed to chew. I do not, DO NOT like that in a beverage! But it was delicious…. Maybe if I mix it up in my bullet mixer it will integrate the ingredients better. So, yes, I probably will try it again, at least once.

Yesterday – Day 54 – was another Rowan Adventure Day. She took me to the Redwood Regional Park above Oakland. The drive there was beautiful, although the closer we got to the park, the more crowded the twisty-turny-narrow road got with parked cars and hikers. We weren’t too thrilled about that, because we both waaaay prefer having nature to ourselves, but we were there, so what could we do? Right at the trailhead you can choose to go up, which has an off-leash area for dogs, or down toward the creek. Beautiful four-legged Luna was with us, definitely on leash, so we chose the down road. Thank you Luna! All those darn hikers in the park, and we hardly encountered any! But we did encounter pussy-willows blooming and redwoods, ferns and fungus and cherry blossoms and sunlight and butterflies and even some deep, beautiful stillness. We maybe went a bit too far (my leg is complaining today), but it was so lovely we hated to turn back.
When we left the park, we drove for a bit, then pulled over at one of those great California pull-over spots to have our picnic lunch. Poor us, stuck with this view.

Today’s One New Thing probably would have been impossible for me just a few weeks ago. This kind of thing is crazy stressful for me, since I have oh-so-many hang-ups about money. I can make myself nuts. But I’d received some advice from people I trust and respect, so I called a dear friend for emotional support, I breathed deeply and did a little meditation, and then I took my courage in both hands (and my teeth) and made a really scary phone call. I have this one ginormous bill for post-surgery services rendered, and I’ve been making minuscule monthly payments. This afternoon I called and asked them to reduce the balance by 30%. Thirty percent! AND THEY SAID YES!!! Boy, whoever said “it can’t hurt to ask” sure knew what they were talking about.

Have you done something new today?

Days 51 & 52: Dublin Hills and Walmart Water Waste

Oh, the Universe has such a funny sense of humor! You may know by now that I have had – quite recently, as a matter of fact – a teensy tiny little cow phobia, which I have addressed. I am so totally over it. Really. I mean it.

So when Beth and I went to the Dublin Hills Regional Park for our One New Thing yesterday, of course it didn’t bother me at all that there were cows. Loose. All over. Nope, didn’t bother me at all. Just ask Beth. I didn’t even faint a little bit. What I did do, however, that I am oh-so-proud of, was walk right up to that bad boy, heart pounding like a mofo, and take its picture.

Okay maybe it wasn’t quite that easy. Maybe I had to talk to myself a little bit, just to calm me down. Beth was trying to be comforting and I’m always so happy to receive help in my vulnerable moments (no, I’m almost positive I didn’t hiss “Just SHUT UP, will you?!?!” while waving my arms at her like a crazoid). After all, there were only cows, like, everywhere. It’s not like they were actually in the path. I mean, look at those hoofs. They’re barely touching the path that we had to walk on
Other than that little cow issue, this was a really nice place to walk. Obviously it wouldn’t be great in the heat of summer, since there isn’t a tree to be found. Oh, wait, yes there was one.
With the greening of the hills, it was truly beautiful there. And though it was right above the highway, it seemed a million miles away and so quiet. At places I thought of Ireland, though I’ve never actually been to Ireland, but it was green and rugged and I loved it, just as I imagine Ireland would be. No doubt actual Ireland is way greener all the time, but I still liked the way I felt walking in this lovely park.

Today’s ONT was a completely uncharacteristic behavior. I went to Walmart and saw that the parking lot had a lot of water in it, so I looked around and saw that there were about five sprinklers blasting into a weedy field beside the parking lot. Really? People, we are in a DROUGHT! I got out of my car and walked closer, and there was so much standing water in the field. I could not believe it.
I went in and did my shopping and then I tracked down a manager and talked to her about it, as in: DO SOMETHING! Actually, I was only yelling on the inside; on the outside I was smiling and polite. She said I was the third person who’d talked to her about it, and there was a problem and they’d been trying to fix it since last night (so SHUT OFF THE WATER MAIN!). Anyway, I thanked her for her time, went out and snapped some pics, then went home and started making phone calls to the city: water department, water conservation department. . . . I didn’t get any live people, but I sure left messages! 
The thing is, I would have never done something like that before, no matter how strongly I felt about it. But today, not doing something about it wasn’t even an option. I feel pretty darn good about that.

Have you done something new today?

Days 48, 49 & 50: DIY Peanut Butter, New Friend, Pandora 

This has been a quiet week in terms of One New Things. Monday I went to my favorite new grocery store to make my own peanut butter. This experience was both anti-climactic and eye-opening. I guess I figured that, in order to make my own peanut butter I’d have to do a few things, like choose the peanuts, choose smooth or creamy, you know, make some decisions. Nope. Just put a container under the – tap? – and push a button, then push another button to stop the peanut butter flow. Hmmm. Not too exciting.
What was kind of exciting though was the bit of self-knowledge I gained. I recognized that, easy as this was, I probably wouldn’t ever have done it before, because, you know, I didn’t know how. I had to figure it out. I might have even had to ask for help, because I may have thought I couldn’t figure it out. But on Monday, I just peered at the machine from a variety of angles until I figured it out, and did it. The end. It was simple. Two months ago I wouldn’t even have tried. Now, I just did it.

Tuesday I was talking on the phone to a new friend. During a webinar I’d listened to on Monday I’d made a comment on the forum, and this lady had responded. We had, like, two back-and-forths. And since we had an established common ground with the webinar, we friended each other on FaceBook. Tuesday she messaged me, and before you know it, we were yakking on the phone, having a grand time. And then I realized that was certainly One New Thing for me: calling a virtual stranger, one of thousands who’d posted on a forum, with the express purpose of creating a friendship. Wow! I certainly never would have done that before!

And today, Day 50, I decided I’d let “don’t know how” stop me long enough in terms of music. I’d sat at home in silence too long, just because I was too intimidated to even check out Pandora, free online radio. NO MORE! Even as I type, I’ve got music streaming out of my computer and settling on my hair, my eyelashes, the backs of my fingers. It was easy. I just did it. 

Sing it, Barry. 

Have you done something new today?

Days 46 & 47: Jambalaya and Homemade Kombucha

When I told my friend Geoff that I wanted to make jambalaya for One New Thing, he informed me that he had a marvelous recipe and he would make it with me. You may know by now that any invitation from Geoff is a good invitation, so I quite happily agreed. After a (fairly) quick shopping expedition, we headed back to his house. First up: I get to be the bartender (fortunately no one was in a hurry!) My host had done his homework and had a recipe for a traditional New Orleans drink, Sazerac, pulled up on his cell phone.
Who knew a simple drink could be so much trouble? First, fill a tumbler (shoot, that’s not what he called the glasses. . .) with ice and water to get them really cold. Muddle a sugar cube with three dashes of bitters (why don’t they just say crush?). The recipe calls for Peychaud’s, but after two unsuccessful stops, we’d had to settle for Angostura bitters. Add two ounces of rye whiskey. Pour the ice water out of the glass and pour in a little absinthe, rolling it around the glass to coat it. Throw out the rest (!?). Pour the whiskey mix into the coated glass, rub the rim with a twist of lemon rind and drop the rind into the glass. Voiila!  
The almost-Classic Sazerac: trust me when I tell you, one is enough to make you happy!
While I was making a muddle with the cocktails, Geoff was getting out ingredients. There were a lot of ingredients: Andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp, onions and green onions and sweet peppers and hot peppers, celery and rice and a whole long list of spices and spice mixes. Not a complex process, though between us we managed to stretch it out to a 9:30 table time. No worries, though, we had carrots and celery, cucumbers and rice cakes with dip to stave off starvation during the cooking process. Plus, after the Sazerac was gone, Geoff opened a big, robust red wine to help us through the preparations and move us to the table.
Oh. My. Word. That stuff was fantastic! We’d also sauteed up a mess of kale in the pan we’d fried the chicken in, and it was a perfect accompaniment. At my suggestion, we had a simple salad of wedges of purple cabbage drizzled with Italian dressing. Uh, yeah, we didn’t waste any stomach room on that!

And my friend, who is incredibly supportive of my quest for New Things, wasn’t done yet. For dessert (after a much-needed walk in the beautiful California night), he pulled out a bottle of Rumona, a run-based liquor from Jamaica. This particular Rumona, a gorgeous gold color with a flavor like caramel, hasn’t been made for ten years, so it isn’t even available anymore. Oh, I am so spoiled! And to go with it, he’d bought two kinds of dates from the market: Medjool, the familiar variety, and a second kind – name forgotten – that tasted and felt exactly like the caramels we made at home when we were kids. Oh, merciful heavens, wonderful! Thank you, Geoff, for a great night of New Things!

Medjool dates
Mystery, caramel-like dates

Yesterday brought me back to the big jar of my homemade kombucha that’s been quietly growing in a corner of the living room for the past 14 days. I started hovering over it several days ago, trying to figure out if that thick smear across the top was a new scoby. Honestly, I still don’t know! I’d noticed what looked like mold starting to grow in the surface, and my hook-up told me to just scrape it off and not to worry. However, there was no scraping it off! It was very firmly embedded in the, um, stuff. If you look to the left of the picture, you can see where my messing about with it made the surface scum dip down under the liquid, and there it remained. The big darker thing at the front is the old scoby, which started rising on Friday and by yesterday had made it to the top. I really didn’t know if the kombucha was ready to decant or not, but impatience finally won out, and yesterday I couldn’t wait any longer to try it out. 
The stuff on the top was about a sixteeth of an inch thick, and though soft, it was completely cohesive. Since I think it might be my new scoby, once I had slithered it into a strainer, I tried again to get the spots of mold off. But I was impressed to discover that this organism has simply swallowed the mold, forming around it top and bottom. This stuff is tough enough that I really could not make a dent in it, could not scrape into it to get to the mold.
I folded up this slithery coating and put it in a ziploc bag, put the original scoby in another bag, and stashed them safely in my fridge until I decide my next move. In the meantime, I’ve got bottles and bottles of the clear liquid. Honestly, it just tastes like sweet tea, so in spite of the fact that it very definitely grew all sorts of things, I don’t know if what I’ve got is technically kombucha! It doesn’t taste at all fermented or sour, it doesn’t have any sort of fizz, at least not as of this morning, after a night in a sealed jar in the fridge. The sweet potato fly is very definitely fermented, getting increasingly sour and fizzy and pressurized in its sealed jars, even after a few hours. It also has quite a bit of sediment. 
I’ll ask my guy at Trader Joe’s about it. No doubt he’ll tell me I didn’t wait long enough. But in any case, I’ll  just assume that I’m getting lots of beneficial bacteria every time I drink it. At the very least, it is quite delicious!

Have you done something new today?

Day 45: City Slicker Farms Secret Garden

Neck traction wasn’t the only special treat I got yesterday: two new books arrived from Amazon: Paradise Lot (“two plant geeks, one-tenth of an acre and the making of an edible oasis in the city”) by Eric Toensmeier, and The Vegetable Gardener’s Guide to Permaculture (“creating an edible ecosystem”) by Christopher Shein. I am interested in all things garden, and more and more so in the idea of harvesting a wide variety of foods all year long no matter where I live. Plus I LOVE new books, so I was pretty stoked. I sat on the couch with them, and they were both so interesting that I had to keep trading back and forth, first the memoir of the building of a home permaculture yard in Massachusetts, then the more specific how-to book from a guy who lives and teaches permaculture in Oakland, just up the road from me. I was even taking notes! I read about City Slicker Farms, a bunch of community year-round gardens in Oakland. They provide fresh, organic produce ten months of the year, selling them on a “pay what you can” system. Of course I went right to the computer to get more details, and discovered that one of their gardens, the Secret Garden, is open every Friday from 10 – 5. There it was: today’s One New Thing.
So this morning I drive the half an hour into the heart of Oakland (not a good neighborhood!). I turn down a very short dead-end street, and at the end is the right address. If I use my imagination, I might be able to imagine that, behind the big wooden gate, there’s a garden. I hesitantly walk up the rough concrete drive and knock timidly on the wood. I hear nothing. No one comes. 
So after a few seconds I get really bold and walk up onto the porch and knock on the door. Inside, dogs go wild. But other than that, I hear nothing. No one comes. While standing in the driveway, I was too intimidated to take pictures, but from up here on the porch I can see into the back yard, and there is definitely some garden-style stuff going on, so I sneak out my phone and snap a few shots through the porch window.
I try to find a phone number to call, but no luck. I’m guessing I’m gonna have to call this one a bust, and I head back to my car. But I turn around one last time and figure what the heck, I might as well walk up to the other side of the house, just to see what I can see. And lo and behold and Eureka! I’ve found the place! One more not-quite-so-timid knock, and I am bid “enter.”
Does the word “JACKPOT!” mean anything?
Remember, all this is happening in the Oakland ‘hood. Lush, vibrant greens, new seedlings, beets and turnips and lettuce being harvested today, February 14! I know tomatoes and zucchini and beans; that’s not what was going on in this urban adventure! I couldn’t identify much but the weeds. Oh, yeah, I recognized chickens!
Have I ever seen butterflies this early in the year? But there they were, dancing all over the place! We even saw one as brown as this chicken, with brilliant blue and black spots, but he was quicker than I was.
I hunkered down and worked for an hour and a half, until my leg started to concern me. It’s not used to all that kneeling and rising and bending, but I did better than I though I would. Being out there in the sun, peeling off my little vest as the sweat rose, getting my hands in the good, rich earth, was so nice, like a tonic! I’ve wanted our yard to look and produce like this, but so far we just haven’t figured it out. This gives me hope, and something to aspire to.
I brought home a deep crimson beet with all it’s lovely greens still attached, and a little turnip, and several little clumps of bright lettuces. I put the beet and turnip in a bowl of water to soak off all that rich dirt, and left the lettuces on the counter in a bag. When I came back a couple hours later, the counter, wall, my big jug of kombucha – all were swarming with teensy little black critters! EEK! I’m still a little too citified to take that calmly! EVERYBODY OUT!

Have you done something new today?

Days 43 & 44: Berkeley Rep & Cervical Traction

My friend has season tickets to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre: lucky me! I’ve never been much for public transit; it makes me nervous and I’m always afraid I’ll get on the wrong train, get off at the wrong stop, miss my connection, be late, get lost, you name it. Even so, there’s something I love about the frittery energy of waiting for BART so I can head into Oakland and meet a friend to go to the theatre.
Last night’s event achieved ONT status because this was the first time I’d gone to a World Premier play. I was all excited! The House that will not Stand was commissioned by Berkeley Rep and written by Marcus Gardley, an Oakland native, and this is its first run anytime, anywhere. Sadly, there was no dramatic fanfare, no pop! of champagne corks, no cutesy little hors doeuvres to celebrate. However there was the play. And what a play it is! Set in 1836 New Orleans, it’s about free women of color, focusing on one family: a mother and her three daughters. The mother was the colored mistress of a rich white man, who had fathered the girls. New Orleans was a place apart even then, and that was true in “race relations” as in everything else. I won’t go into the story or the backstory, but I will say that this was far and away the most entertaining show I’ve seen there yet – and that’s saying a lot! The dialogue was at times hilarious, and at times so poignant it made my heart pound. The acting was superb. And let me tell you this: Marcus Gardley can turn a mean insult! Ribald and rich, The House that will not Stand is wonderful!

Today it was back for another stab at job shadowing. I was hoping to do One New Thing there, but mostly I just ran like hell to keep up with the extremely high energy woman I was shadowing. She is super nice, but she talks incredibly quickly and quietly, and is often moving away from me as she’s speaking, so half the time I can’t really hear her. Bless my brain, though, it pieces the bits together pretty well, so if I don’t panic and I just be patient for five seconds, her words usually form into sense for me. Whew! However, just when I was despairing of finding my ONT, we hooked up a patient for cervical traction. How cool is that!? As an occasional migraine sufferer, that had instant appeal! Could she, would she?  Yes, she would! My new best friend hooked me up, and before I went home I got 10 blissed out minutes having my neck ever-so-gently stretched. Ahhhh.

I like how I’ve changed in just these few short weeks. Instead of cringing away from unfamiliar situations, and being too timid to ask for directions or help or the occasional cervical traction, I’ve got my eyes open, always on the lookout for opportunities. But at the same time I’m able to love the moment I’m in, whatever is going on. My overall humor is better. In fact, the strangest thing happened last night. As I lay in bed, settling in to the quiet dark, I suddenly, for no apparent reason, got a fit of the giggles. All by myself, just me and my bear Dooley, I lay there laughing like a loon. Which was pretty darn funny, really. It felt good to be so silly. And one more thing: I’m trusting my intuition more. Today I made a firm decision based solely on the strong guidance of my heart. My brain said I was giving up all sorts of great opportunities for fun, but I chose to listen and to do what my wisest self told me to do. And you know what? It wasn’t easy, but it was good.

Have you done something new today?

Day 41 & 42 Sweet Potato Fly II and Job Shadowing

Yesterday I got to experience some of that delayed gratification I was talking about: we tried the Sweet Potato Fly I started Friday. Even though I’d been crawling into the corner where the jar was set, to sniff at it (it smelled so good!), I did manage to wait the full three days specified. The liquid was bright and clear, with the palest salmony hue, and the grated sweet potatoes filled the bottom of the jar, looking very fresh. A few scraps had risen to the top, where the liquid had gotten nice and bubbly, showing that fermentation was happening. I’d left the jar slightly open the whole time, so the mixture could breathe, but I sealed it tightly before moving it, because it was heavy and I didn’t want to risk a messy accident. Then I just left it, tightly sealed on the counter, for an hour or two until Beth was ready to try it with me. Then I opened the lid, and Oh My Gosh!
As soon as I opened it, the whole mess boiled up, frothing as the sweet potato bits whirled and swirled en masse to the top, where they pressed up out of the liquid toward the opening! It was very exciting! If I’d had any clue that would happen, I’d’ve been ready with my camera. As it is, you’ll just have to use your imagination to capture the fleeting thrill of that moment.
Was it any good? Hang on, let me ask Beth: “Yeah! I like it! I want more! In fact, maybe I should learn how to make it, in case you ever leave me for a day.” (Really: direct quote.)
I like it a lot too, though maybe not quite as much as Beth does. It is sweet, sweeter than I generally prefer in a beverage. And it has an odd flavor that I can’t quite identify, like a mix of the yeastiness of rising bread, warm milk and something floral. I noticed, as I put my not-as-many-bottles-as-I’d-anticipated into the fridge, that I was feeling selfish about it, so maybe I like it better than I think. Another clue? I instantly made another batch, and set it back into the corner for it’s prescribed three days.

Today’s ONT was a whole different kind of thrill. I’ve been job-free since I fell off a ladder last May, and the job I had at that time has not waited for me (fyi: I’m okay with that). But way back last year while I was still in Michigan and going to physical therapy three times a week, I started to think about how great it would be to work as one of the aides in the gym. The aides I’ve worked with in the last eight months have all had a profound influence on my healing experience, and I would love to be able to help others who are in the difficult and unwanted position of dealing with physical pain. Now, with the blessing of my physical therapists both in Michigan and here, I’m actively pursuing a position here where I’ve been going for pt. So today’s ONT: I went back, not for pt, but to job shadow. This way I can find out if my leg is yet up to the challenge of such a job, and both they and I can discern if this place is a good fit for me.

I was meant to be shadowing for two hours, but the plan was changed when the business owner asked me to fill out one of those personality assessment tests that employers use to determine if they want to consider hiring a person. The boss of the aides, with whom I was shadowing, was very happy about this; she says it means the owner is seriously considering me for a position. All that made me feel happy, too. And the other aides there, as well as the receptionist, are all expressing delight that I may be joining their team. Which made me feel even happier!

I’ve been invited back for a longer shadowing event on Thursday: four hours, instead of two. Which is very, very good news.

Have you done something new today?

Day 39 & 40: Restaurant Request and Henhouse Concert

One New Thing on Saturday was quick, but not easy. Now that I’m fermenting stuff, I suddenly find myself in need of large fermenting containers. I had to wait to make the kombucha until I had a large enough jar – five liters, that was. But that jar and the smaller one I got at the same time were both full within days, and since these things have to brew for a while, I was S.O.L. Also, it’s one thing to buy a jar or two, but more? That could get expensive in a hurry. So I decided to see if I could get used containers from a local restaurant.
I decided to go to a Mexican restaurant I used to hang out at (okay, in the bar. . .), because I knew the owner/bartender and thought he’d be cool with it. Thus, while I was intimidated, I wasn’t too chicken to go at all. Hmmm, I guess it’s been too long since those days, because he wasn’t exactly either welcoming or cordial (maybe if I’d ordered a drink first). So, that was a “no.” Really? They don’t get any food delivered in gallon or larger jars or buckets? Go figure.

So I had done it, my One New Thing for the day. The challenge was satisfied, but I wasn’t. And having survived that experience on Saturday, I now have enough courage that I was able to call our local Red Robin today and ask the same question. I spoke with Mark, who was super friendly and obliging. Yes, of course, they do get large containers, and he’d be happy to set some aside for me. Yay! My newest obsession can continue!

By the way, since I’m always trying new ginger ales I hate to count that as an ONT all by itself. However, I tried one on Saturday that was better than I’ve been getting lately. Nice burn! It was a little more sour than I prefer, but I did like that heat. And sitting in the back of my fridge is one for another day that I’m very excited about; it actually warns: “HOT!”, right on the label. Sounds like my kind of ginger ale!

Last week while I was at the library, I looked at their poster wall to see if there were any good events coming up that I could use. Oh, yeah: what a great resource! So yesterday I pulled on a skirt and my fancy new rain-boots and headed back to the library for a concert: Sherry Austin with Henhouse: “Gritty Folk with a Bit of Twang.” It was so much fun! First off, this is totally not the kind of thing I would normally go to; that whole “twang” word would scare me off, for sure. But I was nicely surprised. They had beautiful harmonies, and not once was I tempted to holler “YEEEHaw!”
Here’s a picture of Sharon Allen by herself. She looked kind of goofy in the group pictures, so she gets her own alone.
I videoed four of their songs. Unfortunately, I’ve spent literally hours uploading them to this page, and though they say they’ve uploaded, nothing shows up but a big blank space. So if you’d like to hear what this charming group sounds like, you’ll have to follow the link above and investigate it for yourself.

Enjoying myself during the music wasn’t the best part, though. I also met someone who I think might turn out to be a friend. We talked for a little while, and he was excited about my “One New Thing every day for a year” commit-ment. He’s at a place in his life where he’s doing new things all the time, and the idea that someone else is aggressively embracing that is pretty exciting for him. We’re already talking about doing some of our New Things together. 

Have you done something new today?

Day 38: Sweet Potato Fly and Introspection

I’ve been doing this One New Thing thing for five weeks now. I really can’t think of anything in recent history – like the last umpteen years at least – that I’ve committed to, and then stuck with for even that long. Oh, sure, I stayed married for twenty years and I’ve had a couple of boyfriends who lasted for several years. I’ve been known to stay at a job for years at a time. But things for me, things like exercise or a new diet or any type of self improvement or goal. . . all those things have tended to slip away in a few days, or at most a few weeks. The significant exceptions are the three times I’ve committed to writing 50,000 words in 30 days; I’ve done that every time. But five weeks beats even that. Even better, I’m still 100% IN. I’ve made this insane commit-ment – to do One New Thing every day for an entire year: 365 days! And I intend to do it; my resolve is still strong even after five weeks. So here, at the five week mark, I’m asking myself: what have I learned so far?
Sweet Potato Fly, mixed, stirred, and ready to sit for three days.
Well, first off and most obviously, I’ve learned that I really can stick with something for more than a minute, that I can set a goal and stick to it. But beyond that, I’m learning about things like delayed gratification. Because of the things I’m interested in, a lot of my New Things are health oriented, and that’s led me to fermenting. That is not an instant gratification thing, oh no! Kefir was a good start: 24 hours. I’ve moved on, though. Now I’ve got a jar of kombucha in a corner of the living room: a week to ten days. That’s really pushing it, though, so today’s ONT (Sweet Potato Fly – I’ll get to that shortly) has just a three day delay; I can try that Monday night.

I’ve learned a different viewpoint of success and failure. Success = I do something – anything – that I’ve either never done before, or haven’t done for at least 10 years. So if I try a recipe and the result is dreadful, I’ve still succeeded. How cool is that? Beyond that, my creative juices are all stirred up. If the result is nasty, even though making it a second time won’t be a New Thing, I’m still thinking it through, wondering how I could change it so that it isn’t ghastly, that it might be actually good. It’s been years since I cooked creatively, tried new things in the kitchen, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m even enjoying the whole “try, try again” thing: not my usual modus operandi! How might I move this attitude into other areas of my life?

But enough with the introspection (for now 🙂  ). I’ve got a New Thing to report on! My One New Thing for yesterday was a threefer. This is the first thing I’ve fermented using whey (remember the whey I got from draining my kefir?), and also the first time I’ve made Sweet Potato Fly (isn’t that a great name? No idea where it comes from). This is a sweet fermented drink, ready in only three days (!), and according to Sandor Ellix Katz, author of my new favorite book Wild Fermentation, “Sweet potato fly appeals even to kids and other folks who don’t like fermented flavors.” (Yeah, ask Beth about that next Monday!)
Not only did this recipe use some of my priceless whey, it also calls for crushed eggshell. This is the first recipe I’ve even seen that actually has eggshells listed (though I added them to my Remineralizing Tooth Powder in place of calcium magnesium powder). I wish Sandor had explained their purpose, but so far in 
the book he hasn’t. (Did you know that eggs have several membranes between the innards and the shell, not just one? Another little thing I’ve learned recently.) Other than that, it’s all good stuff: grated and rinsed sweet potatoes (rinsing removes a lot of the starch), sugar, lemon, mace, nutmeg and cinnamon. Unfermented it was pretty sweet, but quite tasty. Another interesting fact: while it seems as though a lot of sugar is used in fermenting, the live bacteria eat most of it, so by the time you get to it, the sugar has been eaten up and transmogrified into truly awesome nutrition and probiotics. How cool is that?
Oh, yeah, one other thing I’ve learned: my fabulous phone camera, which takes the most gorgeous faraway shots, is really stubborn against focusing sharply up close and personal. My apologies for blurry kitchen shots! But you know what? If that’s my biggest complaint, I have an awesome life!

Have you done something new today?