Saturday, March 29, 2014

well tempered

I have sat down at the computer with a PB + choc + frozen banana + other stuff smoothie in hand, with the purpose of finishing the taxes, so that we can get a tiny refund (if only young Dot or Scott were on the outside, with a social security number stamped on its forehead!) but more importantly so that my husband can file his FAFSA and ... get some money to live on in grad school? (We still don't quite understand how this works.)

I wanted to put on some calm yet stimulating music so I chose Glenn Gould Does The Well Tempered Clavier. "Always" liked his Goldberg Variations but never listened to this one. Hopefully it does not take me the entire WTC to finish the taxes. The very first piece startled me out of my tax-filing ambition and into posting on my blog. It's the only one I can play from the WTC and I just never would have thought of doing the end of each phrase staccato like that. Ballsy move!

Speaking of taxes and money and stuff, check out Mr. Money Mustache. I'm reading through the archives from the beginning. The idea is to become a millionaire and retire early just by being frugal, paying down debt aggressively (if you were stupid enough to get into it) and saving smart. Much of his advice doesn't apply to us right now (it's all predicated on the assumption that you're making a "normal" salary and that you have lots of stupid expenses that you can get rid of, whereas we are making much less than normal salaries and are already pretty dang frugal) but the attitude is empowering. I'm committed to becoming a frugality ninja, because what else is a stay at home mom supposed to do but be... oikinomical? For us, that's a third to half of the point of me withdrawing from the work place.

I will surely be writing about frugality in the future. In fact I have even pondered opening another blog on the subject of being extremely frugal in whatever expensive city we find ourselves. It would provide me with some accountability and maybe I could even make some money with it... nah.

Friday, March 28, 2014

If you were moving sight unseen to an expensive city with a teeny tiny baby and hardly any money, what would you do? Besides worry. I'm already doing that 24/7. Here's what else I'm doing:

-Searching Craigslist to find the cheapest, non-scammy apartments
-Using Google Maps to figure out where approximately the apartments are and checking out the street view of the neighborhood
-Searching for grocery stores in the area, aiming for a variety of cheap/crunchy
-Checking to see if Matt could bike to school instead of spending $35/week on the metro

What else should I look for? I think it would be nice to be near a library. That is some free entertainment.

I found a couple cute looking apartments for under $1000/month (a STEAL in this particular city,) within a few miles of the university, near a park, with an Aldi and a crunchy co-op in the neighborhood. The walk score is not great, but I don't expect to be able to walk to the grocery store with a baby anywhere that we can afford to live.

Don't forget about MIGAS

Look away if you are hungry and all you had for breakfast was rice milk and cereal!!! Bookmark it for Bright Monday breakfast!!

The idea is to use tortillas to stretch your eggs.

MIGAS for one (or two if the second person is a fetus)
2 eggs
2 corn tortillas
some cheese
salt and pep

Beat eggs lightly. Rip up the tortillas into little pieces and throw them in the eggs to soak for a minute or so. Heat butter/lard and cook the egg/tortilla mixture to your satisfaction. Cheese on top. Salsa too. Obviously green chile from New Mexico is optimal but I just had it with crappy grocery store salsa and it was great.

I got inadvertently fancy the other day when I was going to make breakfast tacos, fried the tortillas in way too much fat so that they got soggy, and then stirred them in to the scramble. That would be a good thing to do.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tooting a horn

Oops, here's something I meant to shout from the rooftops when it happened a few weeks ago, but then I got off Facebook and the roof was too cold:

My husband finished reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I don't know how long that book is. It's thousands of pages. Six volumes. It takes up two volumes in the very densely printed Great Books collection. He has been reading it off and on for pretty much as long as we've been married (3 years.)

I predict, at age 25, that I will probably never read this book.   (They say you've made an important realization about your own mortality when you accept the fact that you will never read Joyce's Ulysses or Proust's Recherches du Temps Perdu. I haven't accepted either of those defeats yet but Gibbon I will concede.)

What kind of weird elite group of people has he joined now? Who are the other living people in the world who have read the entirety of this book?  I can imagine some watery eyed, waggly-jowled, bespectacled products of the British public schools of the earlier half of the century having worked through it with their pipes in teeth, but is there anyone under 30? Under 50? I don't know if it's popular among historians anymore, or how much of it a history major would read these days. Whoever they are, they are big nerds.

Here is a review that I found on Amazon. The poster claims that he found this passage in an 1844 letter from his great-great-great uncle to his sister (the uncle's):

Have you ever read Gibbon's Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire? I am very fond of it for many reasons. It is a grand book and to read it always makes me feel as if my life extended thousands instead of tens of years and as if I could trace out the revolutions of Empires. It is beautifully written and the English of it is to my taste particularly elegant, and except where Gibbon's judgement was obscured by his prejudice, it is true as history can be. His reasonings from the great events which he relates are generally speaking very true and I have heard that there is hardly a better guide for a politician than that history. What an immensely long duration the time of it is - from the year 90 after Christ till the year 1490 or thereabouts in fact almost down to our own times. It is a great ornament to my bookcase and I often read it & prefer it to any novel whatsoever.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

From a book of George MacDonald quotes, extracted and titled by C.S Lewis: 

Easy to please and hard to Satisfy
That no keeping but a perfect one will satisfy God, I hold with all my heart and strength; but that there is none else He cares for, is one of the lies of the enemy. What father is not pleased with the first tottering attempt of his little one to walk? What father would be pleased with anything but the manly step of the full-grown son?
I thought of this quote recently while reflecting on the proper bearing one should have towards children (thinking specifically of the young wags in my charge.) I have often confused pleasure in my students' progress or personality with satisfaction in their work and character, and it has led me to be too harsh at times and too soft at other times. And of course, when one considers one's own growth towards holiness and wholeness, this confusion between satisfying and pleasing God can lead to despair that one will never make it or pride that one has already reached the destination.

 It's a good distinction to remember during Lent: the standard is impossibly high (because it is embodied by Christ himself,) but the Father smiles and refreshes us at the end of every effort.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Here are two legitimate reasons to get discouraged if you're a working parent trying to follow the Nourishing Traditions diet:

1. When do you have 12 consecutive waking hours in which you can dry soaked grains or nuts in the oven?
2. Likewise for simmering broth on the stove top, except here you can use a crock-pot.

Everything else in her regime simply takes a little bit of planning and not that much extra time. I am trying to make granola with the frozen and then thawed spent grain from Matt's brew day several weeks ago. Soaking is no problem because you can walk away from it for a day at a time, but drying the granola is difficult to pencil in. I am prudently afraid to leave the oven on, even at 170 degrees, overnight or while I'm at work.

I think it's going to be really good, though. The sharp spiky bits of the barley hull have softened completely by being frozen, thawed, and then soaked again, and the grains smell sweet and beer-y. I'm going to test a small batch with very little sweetener.

I have felt so happy and peaceful since I got off Faceborg again. Maybe it will be for good this time. But everyone would be sad for at least 4 minutes when they heard that I had a baby and didn't put pictures on Facebook. That adds up to about 2400 minutes of sadness!! Could I bear the culpability? Matt doesn't really have a FB problem so it's spiritually safe for him to keep his account, but he's not friends with very many people, so his account is sort of useless for communicating big news to more than like a hundred people. Perhaps we don't want to post pictures of our baby on the internet, though. I wouldn't want to grow up with an internet identity before I even chose it for myself. If you, reader, want to see pictures of my baby, ask me and I will email them to you, provided you display the proper credentials.

A funny thing has happened since ditching FB this time; I've lost my taste for NPR. I couldn't say exactly why, other than to speculate that perhaps I don't feel the need to have an opinion about the news right now, since I don't have access to anyone else's opinions about it. One does hear interesting things on the radio but it's mostly unhelpful, and often annoying.

Making a baby shower registry is stressful and makes me feel simultaneously warm and fuzzy AND avaricious.  Warm and fuzzy because the stuff is so cute, avaricious because I WANT IT ALL. Except the things with monkeys on them! I do not like monkey motifs, or monsters! The jungle theme in general is not appealing to me. I would put bees on everything if you asked me at gunpoint what images I was going to swathe my child in. Anyway the whole baby registry thing feels a little bourgeois, n'est ce pas? After growing up Goodwill, asking people to pay full price for new shiny things makes me a little uncomfortable. Oh well. People want to do it for you, and it will probably never happen again. And this stuff is really cute...

My husband has gotten into two schools so far! One might give him some money, although probably not enough to live on in the extremely dear city where it is located; the other doesn't have any money to give him so we will not be going there. But it is nice to have two acceptances still. Waiting to hear from the three others, one of which is the dreamiest option. If worse comes to the very worst, and he doesn't get any feasible offers, who knows? Teaching in a good high school is still attractive to him (in fact he would like to do that after getting a PhD anyway) and that might be where we'd look next. In the meantime our child would have a bit more time here with its grandparents so that would be good in a way too. God knows!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

spring, i don't trust you!

I have made four things recently that I'm really smug about.

1. GRANOLA. It's actually still not done. Whenever I have to dry something in the oven at the lowest temperature, it takes me five days because I have to pause the process to bake something pretty frequently. We might eat it all before it's even done!

2. HUMMUS. just using canned beans, nothing to write home about, even though that's what I'm doing right now.

3. OLIVE TAPENADE. It was so easy! Just use the food processor to chop up about a cup of kalamatas, a few anchovy fillets, some capers, garlic, olive oil, and thyme/herbes de provence. Since we buy kalamatas in a 4 gallon barrel and the other ingredients were cheap, this recipe is way more economical for us than the tiny jars you get from Trader Joe's. Like you could actually make enough to take to coffee hour or to give as a gift. (The only thing I didn't like about it was pitting a cup of olives, because your fingers get too oily to grip the sharp knife. If anyone has any tips about pitting olives, I'm open.) It is so good with the hummus! You fasting people must try it! On....

4. BREAD. I finally got inspired to go to the library and get a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. And let me tell you people, it is everything it promises. I might even buy it. All week my family and I have been simply agog that with so little effort and recipe following ability I have been able to make such great bread. I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS FOR MY WHOLE ADULT LIFE. You literally dump yeast, flour, water, and salt into a plastic shoebox, let it hang out for a couple hours, keep it in the fridge, and rip off a chunk of dough when you need some bread. And it is so much better than anything we could ever buy in this town.

I wish it were sourdough, but you know what, it's awesome homemade bread without any crap in it. It's a big improvement health and budget-wise over the stuff I was relucatantly buying in the store. I read somewhere that you can add a cup of starter to the dough with no adverse effects. I might do that. But I don't have any starter and I don't have that much room left on my counter for bacteria projects. (Could my kefir have been bullying my sourdough starter? C'est possible!)

I promise I'm going to write about something besides food some day. I have been waking up earlier than usual so that I can be a little more leisurely in my preparation for the day. This gives me more time to have interesting thoughts, but I don't usually have time to write them down before I have to go to work. Once I'm there, I'm in a room full of computers all day. For some reason blogger won't let me write a post from my work computer, and when I get home, I don't want to use the computer for anything but recipes, music, and Search the Scriptures. So posts aren't happening too often.

That's what I hate about having a jobby job. It steals the best hours of your life. Or at least it doesn't pay you enough for them! (How much would be enough, though, for my most fertile, clear thoughts?)

By the way, if Fr. Josiah Trenham kind of bummed you out or gave you the heebie jeebies with his lectures on the Good Wife and/or Good Husband, try this episode in Dr./Presvytera Jeannie Constantinou's Bible study. The topic is the effect of the Fall on woman. I almost cried when I listened to it because I was so relieved. I would like to write more later about it, but I'll just leave you with a tiny quote:

"The ideal for Orthodox marriage is not a hierarchy, but an equal partnership."

She is just as highly credentialed a scholar of Patristics and the Bible as Fr. Josiah, and is somehow coming to completely different conclusions than he did. Interesting...

The part that made me almost cry was when she told how her husband, a priest, is the one who encouraged her to get her Ph.D, even though it took away time from him and from the family, because he knew that she had a talent that the world needed, and he wanted her to learn and grow as a person as much as she could.

If you were edified by TGW/TGH, I'm really glad! If you were somewhat put off and wish for another perspective, try Dr. Jeannie. (That makes her sound like a Dr. Ruth or Dr. Laura! But I'm tired of writing her whole name.)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Three quick bean tips

Beans are a staple for many people during Lent, but sometimes they make you feel like you've been eating staples. Here is what I have been doing. So far, so good.

1. Soak the beans overnight in water with a splash of apple cider vinegar, or any other acidic stuff.

2. When you first start to cook the beans, a bunch of scum will probably rise to the top. That stuff will make you fart. I tried for a long time to skim it off but never felt confident that I got it all. So now I just dump out all the water and scum from the first boil, rinse, and start over again. (I do this with bone broth too, by the way.)

3. Throw in a small piece of "konbu," a Japanese dried kelp. We got a package that should last us for a few years from our international store. Don't eat it, because it doesn't taste good. Just boil it in your beans like you would a bay leaf. It will supposedly impart lots of minerals to your beans.

If you are eating canned beans, I don't have any tips.

  Here is a nice video of some Byzantine Rite monks in France singing "Beneath Thy Compassion."