Blog Entries
Have your cake and eat it too.
Category: Member Blogs

Happy Mother's Day, mom (even if I am a bit late).

I have a great deal of skill with baking. Mom taught me science and math with cookies, then when I knew my facts set me loose in the kitchen. By 8 years old, I was used to the ideal that if I wanted sweets, I had to bake them myself. Mom's thinking was that I knew how, so I should use what she taught me.

Over the years there have been plenty of new ingredients, plenty of failures, and even more successes. Mom was always the first person I asked when something went wrong, and she could often give me more science to explain how to make nearly anything better. Because of all this practice, I was the first person asked to help when a friend found out she had a gluten sensitivity. If anyone could figure out how to make cake without wheat flour, I could.

Unfortunately the woman I can thank for all of this is also unable to eat most of it. By 8 years old, I can remember mom blacking out from a small ice cream sunday shared with a friend. Sugar was something she'd always been sensitive to, and she'd been steadily reducing it in our food, but it was about that time that she had to stop eating birthday cake with everyone else.

We tried plenty of thing to make a good cake, worthwhile cookies, and a decent cheesecake. The cheesecake was the only real success. You see sugar has a special role in some recipes. It can melt, making little pockets along with baking soda an baking powder that make for a fluffy cake texture. The attempted NutraSweet cake severed better as a Frisbee than it did as a food. Even if we could get around the lack of loft, many alternative sweeteners are heat sensitive, so I can make Splenda meringue, but not Splenda cake because the sweetness bakes right out.

Now I finally have made a breakthrough. I spent quite a bit of time learning the ins and outs of an eggless chocolate muffin recipe. Because I know how it works with regular sugar, I can trouble shoot better. This time I got to make it with unrefined coconut sugar. I would know just what happened if it failed and if it worked I have muffins that taste like cupcakes.

It's not exactly a fail. The unrefined coconut sugar is not quite as sweet as regular white sugar, so the muffins didn't get the milk chocolate flavor I'm used to. What I have instead is more like a 'Death by Chocolate', rich dark chocolate that's moist, fluffy, and tender just like a cake should be. Since mom loves her dark chocolates, this was a happy accident.

The coconut sugar is only a 35 on the glycemic index, where regular white sugar is a 65. With the whole wheat flour I used having a glycemic index of 44, that means my sweetener is even lower than a whole grain. Even though it's very low on the glycemic index and doesn't cause her blood sugar to spike and crash(ending in black outs), it MELTS just like the table sugar. All of this add up to the promise of a birthday cake the whole family can eat.

Yoga Pose Myths: It's About Time!
Category: WebSite News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VnHi7Iu8_8

I have long been hesitant to take up much of anything of yoga because something in me said that the information I had was seriously lacking. All the references I found were of the attitude that the spiritual aspects of yoga was all about work and energy. I could just go for a walk for that and have found a long walk to be very beneficial to my spirituality. Why contort my body into odd shapes? Is there really no meaning beyond working up a sweat?

Then of course there is the cost. Get this special diet food. Get the fancy clothing. Use the right essential oils. Get the right crystals. But WHY? Where is the spiritual significance? And who decided it? When did they decide it? It often turned out that much of what I 'need' for the practice was entirely new age with very little explanation. Modern myth is fine, but not when it lacks any symbolism or meaning beyond how much money you spend. I could just give my loose change to the homeless and do more for the world and my sense of well being.

Thankfully, Alanna has taken the time to clear some things up. In addition to the presentation I included a link for, she has made a number of YouTube posts that focus on the stories behind the poses. She's given the origins a great deal of study and shared her work. Now I and anyone else can hit up her YouTube channel and learn more about the WHY of yoga instead of the how.

Those interested in adding yoga to their lives will still need to take the time to learn about posture and alignments. There is an undeniable element of physical work involved in this form of spirituality. Nobody will do your yoga poses for you. However this offers more meaning to motions that are detailed in many books, classes, and videos for those of us who would like to know WHY.

Upcycling and Organization
Category: Member Blogs

In the house I grew up in, I developed the attitude that recycling was for organized people, and we weren't even close as a family. Seem a bit apathetic to the planet? When you find yourself sifting through several feet of clutter interspersed with rot and bugs just to locate the carpet color for the first time in months you may feel differently. After all, the paper, t-shirt, cat vomit, and the apples that fell off the table are already composting in the kitchen, so maybe they'll help the decay process in the dump. The bio-hazards in the fridge left me disinclined to wash plastic, glass and metal when I just wanted to get the vile things out of the house.

Yes, I literally had to move out to learn how to live in a relatively organized environment.

Without the piles of mystery hiding the floor, I learned how to keep up on the recycling wash and sort process. I'm still working on dusting, and am not as orderly as I would like to be. A big part of the problem is the crafty and creative side of the family that has ALL members wanting to play with any DIY post we find. Minimizing can be hard work when you know how to build something, but I've slowly learned time management and prioritizing. It's taken years.

It's still a war with myself to not become my mother.

Despite all this, the coffee canisters and the yogurt tubs with their nice tight lids just looked too potentially usefully for me to scrap. Most of them could not be recycled in our area anyway, but what in the world was I going to do with those?

Mom is still mom. She still keeps stopping by with more rye flour. "I can't find it all so you must be low." More brown rice. "I couldn't find it so you must be out." More multicolored lentil beans. "I wanted the pink for dinner." More red whole wheat." I was sure It was almost gone." Now if I ACTUALY cooked with any of this stuff, it would be thoughtful, BUT I DON'T, so it makes it that much harder to find my white whole wheat, forbidden black short grain rice, almond meal, and oat flour in the collection of dry goods.

So now I have a project. All those empty yogurt tubs are getting spray painted for neat labeling. Bob's Red Mill flours may give me some nice whole grain options, but the bags were not designed for a baker to measure out of. The tubs are big enough for me to level off a cup over. The larger quantity stuff will be coming out of zip lock bags and moving to coffee canisters with more neat labeling, including water to grain and cooking time notations for my rices. While yes, it's nice to have a variety of seeds, beans, and grains to work with, it's useless if I can't make a quick check of supplies before testing a new recipe, and now I found a solution.

Poem: He Never Brought Me Violets
Category: Member Blogs
Tags: Poem Spring

He Never Brought Me Violets


The same grocery bouquet

in a fast food cup,

and he looks away

but he never brought me violets.


Hours he spent in the yard.

Hours I spent in my bathroom.

I tried so hard

but he never brought me violets.


We sit silent day by day.

While he journals I'm alone,

patient in the noisy cafe,

though he never brought me violets.


Sleep deprived in my best corset,

I smile at his arm

as he greets friends on his circlet.

Still he never brought me violets.


I walked alone to greet the dawn.

He ran alone for vanity.

Dainty purple speckles spring lawns,

yet he never brought me violets.


The same grocery store bouquet

(never in a vase)

and he looks away.

Why couldn't he bring me violets?


In the summer fling

someone else didn't look away.

Now in the spring

I never wait for a man to bring me violets.

*****************************************************

Spring, in my mind at least, isn't really hear till the wood violets go into bloom. Anyone who really knows me could tell you the wild Wood violet flower is one of my all time favorites, including any boyfriend or lover I have ever had. Despite my love for the bloom being right out in the open AND it being FREE!!! in every place I have ever lived I have to pick it myself if I want it. Seriously, ex-guys, gardeners can't get rid of it when they want to and it comes up in sidewalk cracks. All you had to do was bend over.

Even if you don't have time to stop and smell the flowers in your area, don't get so caught up in the grind that you stop noticing that there still are flowers to smell.

Echo of Nature Worship: Yulin's Solstice Feast
Category: Member Blogs
Tags: Human Rights Animal Rights Religion

China. It's a strange and special place throughout history. Religion and conflict over it is about as old as dirt, and China has had plenty of it's share, and it's part of why religion bans that came with communism made sense. Even now, the Chinese are not nearly as unified as one may think without religious divides. Dogs as food is also nothing new, nor was it ever isolated to Asia. When prey animals ran short, a hunting hound may end up dinner any place where hunting hounds were kept, and when the sheep fell to sickness or food shortage, the herding dog would take their place when families had to survive the winter.

This makes the 'dog and lychee' festival rather important, culturally speaking. Food is the center of the solstice festival, making it VERY familiar to pagans. Yes, there is violence too, but in any tradition we can track, violent sacrifice is often part of it's oldest form. For most of the more visible non-christian paths the violent aspects have died out, but bull fighting has not and also comes from very pagan food and fertility rights. Side by side, modern dog and lychee festival in China and bull fighting are not that far removed from each other, and the Chinese word for 'offering' is even written with the character for 'dog' in it.

Naturally, the Chinese government will not admit to any of this because the money made is more important than the religion ban.

Given the suppression that many fertility and harvest based festivals have gotten in the Christian dominated era and China's ban on religion, I find it hard to condemn a shred of traditional worship slipping through the cracks of government control. We are talking about a nation where dissidents, such as Christians and Buddhists, can not only be arrested for faith, but also killed to be carved up as organ donors LEGALY. Yes, the cruelty to the ANIMAL bothers me, but the HUMAN RIGHTS issues bother me more. To me, comfortably sitting in America at a computer and getting outraged over a distasteful spiritual path would be easy, yet in China the notion of a path at all is something of a spiritual revolution.

In days past, a food used since 1700 B.C. would have been bread and well cared for just as any live stock would be. Wounded and underfed animals don't live as long or get as big, so it was in primitive farmers best interest to be attentive. Suppression of the historic context and modern apathy in the meat industry have corrupted what began as a celebration of natures bounty, just as any meat we use for our own holy days may be corrupted if we don't personally know the farmer who raised and butchered it. Despite that, a sense of community and reverence still linger in a feast day for us all.

So it's hard for me to condemn China's feast, no matter how savage it seems on the surface. It may be a loss for animal rights, but in a nation where American Christian Missionaries can vanish into thin air without any questions, this may be a step in the right direction for human rights.

The Joy of Baking In the Age of the Internet
Category: Member Blogs
Tags: Baking internet health-food fails

Once upon a time, if you wanted a really good recipe, you had to almost sign up for indentured servitude to the keeper of the family favorite. These days we just hit up google, check a youtube vid for fancier things, and can learn about ingridients we have never even seen at the local grocery.

So, armed with a plan to learn better baking techniques that allow me to get the flavor without abusing my weight, I tested the penutbutter chocolate eggless muffin.After all, if i can bake health food that only tastes like cheating instead of someting that tastes like card board, it's easier to stick with the plan. It was a good theory....

Unfortunately, not all bakers who post are as...informative as they should be. It turns out that when they said 'oats', they did not mean 'oat flour'. They may mean rolled oats, or they may mean whole oats, and I think I have both.

So now I have some rock hard but rather decent tasing chocolate lumps, and a bit of kitchen experimenting to do to get the promised 'fudge brownie' texture I was hoping for. Sigh...

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