December 2008 Archives

The Year in 25 Words

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Continuing the tradition of summarising the year in 25 words, exactly

I made dresses, meals, 100 necklaces, friends. Grew food. Witnessed a birth! I am greying, wrinkling and fading, but I started hooping, so who cares?

Past years: 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001. Feel free to share your own 25 word summary in the comments.

Reducing Consumerism


I have a roof over my head, a closet full of clothes, cupboards of dishes and pots, furniture to sit and sleep on. I have books to read, music to listen to, a computer to help me communicate. There are bins of fabrics and boxes of art supplies in my studio, and plenty of tools to use on them.

I think I have enough.

So what if I stopped buying things for a year? I mean no more clothes or furniture, no tools or gear. No new toys or books or supplies. Food and consumable daily essentials excepted, of course.

Can I make do with what I have? I think so. I have enough.

But why would I stop buying things? Largely because I dislike consumer culture (easy for me to say, since I think I have enough stuff). It is more satisfying to me to make my own stuff, as you probably realise from reading past entries here. But not buying anything for a year is broader than my DIY skillset. So doing this is definitely a personal challenge, but to what end? Here are some points that I'd hope to achieve:

  • become mindful of my consumption
  • exercise creativity by repurposing what I already have
  • improve skills in repair, maintenance, & construction
  • build networks through bartering and trade
  • reduce my "ecological footprint" by decreasing waste and increasing the life of my things
  • refocus my desires to more meaningful things, rather than an LED hula hoop

But what implications am I overlooking? What grey areas am I going to have to clarify? Before I jump into this, which I am likely to do for the new year, what hurdles can you think of that might make me stumble or fail?

Christmas Tree, 2009


This year's tree was made of ten meters of lingerie nylon, a string of LED lights, and some foil streamers from the 100 yen store.

We had a lovely Christmas dinner and opened many presents. I have a lot of thank you cards to write!

Persephone's Spinach Tart

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One of my favorite myths involves the change of seasons and pomegranate seeds. The Greek goddess Persephone was tricked into eating some pomegranate seeds in the underworld which forced her to return there every year for four months. Her mother, Demeter, was so distraught during this period that that she failed her duty to the green and growing Earth and instead cried cold tears of snow.

So I think this tart of spinach topped with pomegranate seeds is the ideal dish to usher in winter. Plus it is quite delicious and my own modern adaptation of a 1615 recipe by Gervase Markham.

Persephone's Spinach Tart
makes a 9" pie

600 gr spinach, chopped (frozen or fresh)
200 ml sour cream
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garam masala
pie crust of your choice
handful Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup (or more) pomegranate seeds

Cook the spinach, drain well, and squeeze out all excess water. Mix spinach with sour cream, onion, walnuts, butter, sugar and seasoning. Press into an unbaked pie crust. Bake at 180/350 for about 30 minutes or until the edges of the crust and top of the pie are lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature. Sprinkle liberally with parsley and pomegranate seeds.

Gingerbread House Results


There was plenty of dough so I made two houses. Here is the one that Tod & I decorated on the day I baked:



We had some friends over to decorate the other house last night. It is interesting that the guys built mainly outboard accessories (a car, traffic light, dog poop, tv antenna, crucified santa) while the girls embellished the house itself. The mayhem and results are over on Flickr.

Gingerbread Architecture


In the holiday spirit more than usual, I've decided to make a gingerbread house. Here's what it looks like in my kitchen today:

Pre-prefab. These templates will form roof, front, back and sides.

Ingredients measured and ready to go.

This recipe uses 1.5 cups of cream, whipped, instead of butter and egg.

I hope my bowl is big enough to add 9 cups of flour.

At the seventh cup of flour, I was tired of stirring.

I used foil-covered cardboard braces to roll the dough to a consistent thickness.

Halfway through baking, I trimmed and straightened the pieces.

House trimmings make a yummy snack.

Pretty Mikan


This morning for breakfast Tod sat a mikan on my desk. I love fresh mandarin oranges and they are always a treat, even when they are in season and I eat them every day.

But this morning's mikan was different. Unlike the usual orbs of smooth orange perfection, this one was a bit flawed. The skin near the stem end had a Shar Pei wrinkle running partway down the side of the fruit. There were still some pieces of green attached at the stem end. Those tiny little differences made me smile.

And after I had eaten the sweet fruit, I looked down to see that I had peeled it in one go and formed a lopsided star. So pretty.

Unmotivated to Overwhelmed


I've observed a growing trend in myself that I want to note here and perhaps get your insight into.

I too often and too easily fall into a cycle of being unmotivated to do things, then become overwhelmed with too much on my to-do list. When I have things to do, even when the tasks are pleasant and enjoyable, I sometimes can't bring myself to start them. I drift. I procrastinate. I stagnate and then more tasks build up until I am fully overwhelmed with it all.

I'm sitting at my desk now with a fairly short list: baking cookies, making holiday cards, sewing hats, laundry and light housework, some Japanese homework, a few business tasks, a bit of shopping. It isn't a lot - more than I can do in one day but probably less than two days' worth - and most of it I will enjoy doing.

And yet I am sitting at my desk. Not cooking, cleaning or creating. Just sitting and staring at news and other people's blog posts like I have been for most of the day. At the moment I don't feel overwhelmed, just unmotivated. But I know that if I don't cross off some of those things before I go to bed tonight, tomorrow I will be equally unmotivated and won't make any progress on the list. And then another day or two will pass and I will be overwhelmed with things that have to be done before a holiday deadline but simply can't be finished in time.

Some of the unmotivated side of the problem is that many of my friends are "in the computer" and we communicate via IM and other online tools. If I am lonely, I sit at my desk and wait for them to appear online for a chat. In the meantime, I surf around the web looking things I really don't need to be looking at. My brain fills up with interesting mind candy and drains of motivation to do things.

I am not sure why I do this. But I don't like it and I am going to have to find some strategies for making it stop. I don't have to be extremely efficient, but I do need to break the unmotivated/overwhelmed cycle. Any ideas?

A very hoopy trip

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Hooping at Washington Dulles
Hooping in Washington Dulles airport

My two weeks in the States had hooping as a subtext. In between moving, Thanksgiving, wedding, set decoration, and banking I spread the hoop love as thickly as I could.

In Pittsburgh, Jean swept snow off the patio so we could hoop. She liked it and we found a hoop class not too far from her. Cousin Goldie, who I discovered is a certified NIA dance instructor, hooped it up in the living room with me. I didn't have hoops to leave behind there, but I hope I planted a seed of desire.

At Jenn's we decorated hoops that I'd had delivered from Betty Hoops. We had ten naked hoops and a box of fabric and tape. Our different personalities really came out. Mom's hoop was neatly and beautifully cross taped in sky blue and yellow. Helen patiently patchworked a hoop with all different fabrics and shiny tapes. I did two hoops with different designs. Jenn used purple fabric and pink tape on one of hers, and attempted a candy cane spiral on the other but ended up with a zebra striped hoop instead. I snagged a third hoop to decorate later and left the remaining three for them to decorate and enjoy.

Jenn & Helen learned to hoop in time to work off their Thanksgiving dinner.

Jenn's living room is just big enough for two to hoop carefully, or if three people line up just right, we can all do vertical hand hooping. The day before the wedding, Jenn & I bundled up and hooped in the backyard as the sun set. I clocked myself good on the side of my nose and had this funny red square on my face for the rest of the trip.

We took the hoops by car to Mom's house in Ephrata. Hoops are not so car-friendly, especially with luggage involved. They sort of fit in the back of Mom's station wagon, did not fit in the town car we rode in to the airport (Tod sat with them around his neck), did fit into the capacious trunk of a Volkswagen Jetta, and did not get anywhere near fitting into the trunk of a Tokyo taxi (I sat with them over my legs).

I'd hoped to meet up with some Harrisburg-area hoopers while I was in Ephrata, but I was conscripted/volunteered to help at the theatre and there was no time for hooping.

Kris & I show off our hoop matierials.

When I got to Chicago, I gave Kris one of the hoops I'd done at Jenn's and we played indoors and outdoors. When I suggested we could make more of them, we ran around town for hoop-making supplies. 3/4" 160 psi polyethylene tubing is available in Chicago, but not common.

I called in an order to Grainger, a B-to-B wholesaler who kindly accommodated my needs, and we were the only women in line at the warehouse will-call window. The guys at Home Depot were interested in our project, too. I wonder if they checked out the YouTube link I suggested?

Taping Hoops
Shiny, pretty hoops in progress

The FoxCam captures winter hooping action

I came home with four new hoops, 75 feet of tubing and a ratcheting pipe cutter, too. For the record, hoops travel well by air when tied into a bundle and wrapped with bubble wrap.

"Oh, no! I left the travel hoop in the car!" I remembered at O'Hare

Sorry, Tracey. I will be buying you a new travel hoop in the very near future.

Dressing a Set

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While in Ephrata visiting Mom, I got to help dress the set for the musical She Loves Me. I was lucky and got to do all the fun bits - making a dessert cart, dressing a shop window and four shop counters, decorating a Christmas tree. I also did a bit of painting and various dogsbody tasks to help get things done before dress rehearsal.

One of the counter displays in perfect condition.

After rehearsal one of the soaps had toppled and some items were teetering.

The window display with the scenic painters' lettering work.

The whole thing before painting was completed.

The cast and artistic director in rehearsal.

We sat in on dress rehearsal and I have never laughed so hard at a musical. The comedic songs were spot on and the acting was sharp. If you're in the Ephrata area for any of the run (Dec. 11th - 13th at 8pm; Dec. 17th - 19th at 8pm; and Dec. 20th at 2pm & 8pm ) be sure to go see it. Tickets are available online and you can see a snippet of the show and an interview with the directors here:

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