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Happy New Year!

Phew!  Made it through another year.  The last few weeks of 2010 just flew by, as did Christmas.  And now here we are in January, starting a new year.  I hope you had a wonderful, relaxing and restorative holiday.  Mine was quite busy, with little time to relax, write or cook.  And then I started back to work on January 03rd, which pretty much hit me like a freight train!  That will teach me to take a few days “off”.

I just woke up from a three hour nap and thought I’d putter about a little before going back to bed.  After tidying the kitchen, I did some prep work to prepare for some cooking tomorrow.  Specifically I have some lentils and some beans soaking so that they will be ready to cook with in the morning.  I spent a few minutes (before falling into a deep sleep for what should have been a short cat nap!) going through Nourishing Traditions and identified several recipes that I have the ingredients to make over the next couple of days: a lentil soup, baked beans, Russian beat salad, and an apple-celeriac salad (this recipe from my Christmas present – Moosewood cookbook).

The next fourteen weeks are going to be very, very challenging.  I am now teaching a 150% course load, plus working part time at another job two days a week.  Last week I already had to pull two all-nighters, and one night with just 4 hours sleep.  And that was just the first week of the semester.  I’m a bit worried about the weeks to come.  My courses are exciting though, and I have great students, so I am for the most part looking forward to the experience.  I just wish it wasn’t going to be quite so intense.

My new year’s resolutions this year are in the form of promises to myself.  The first is to keep my house in good order.  As I wrote about before, I made a very concerted effort to keep my house in “receiving” order during November and December.  That is, keeping it presentable and ready to receive guests at any time, with food in my fridge, and wine in the wine rack.  Amazingly, within a week of doing this, I had three separate groups of people stop by.  I should point out that I never, ever have people come to my house-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, at least not this time of year.  Last year I think I had guests once all winter, and that was a planned event by invite.  So to have people come and visit spontaneously, or invite themselves over, was really amazing.  I am convinced it was not a coincidence.  Since I love to have people over, I have promised myself to keep my home in receiving order at all times.  Who knows who will stop by next?

I have also promised myself to get into better shape.  One of the reasons I haven’t written in a while is that my back went out before the break, which made it almost impossible to sit for any length of time at a computer.  Since I had so much academic work to do, any time sitting at a desk was reserved for that.  I spent some time over the break having work done on my back, and also doing some exercise.  I went to the gym with my brother and felt immensely better afterwards.  So, as much as I dislike gyms, I am signing up for a membership.  The gym I’m joining has a swimming pool (and hot tub and sauna!) and offers aquafit classes, among other things that should be very good for my back.  Come spring, I want to get back into barefoot running.  I think the little I did last summer was very beneficial to both my back and to my health in general.  Certainly it was invigorating.  Not really practical in the snow, however!

With respect to food, I’d like to expand my cooking skills.  I have now mastered quite a few basics: simple soups, sourdough bread, cottage cheese, butter, yogurt & various cultured creams, sauerkraut and a few others.  Now I want to expand my recipe base, and further explore fermentation.  I’m planning on buying some kefir grains and perhaps a few other culture starters with which to experiment.  I tried making apple cider vinegar over the holiday, but a mouse decided to go for a swim in it (and drowned), so it ended up in the compost.  Trying to make vinegar again is probably going to be my first step.  Water kefirs and mead will be next!

As for more solid edibles, I want to start cooking more complex meals, or simple meals with several courses.  This was inspired by a conversation I had a few weeks ago:

Me: I have eaten nothing but beet soup for the past 5 days.

Friend: Oh, are you on a cleanse?

How embarrassing!  No, not on a cleanse.  Just didn’t have time to cook more than once a week, so I was making one huge pot of something, and eating it 2-3 times a days.  Even if what I made was the epitome of health (beet soup with fermented beats, beef stock and home cultured cream), this is not exactly a balanced diet.  Time to work on that!

I’m debating building a small incubator to start seedlings with for the spring, but may not have the time.  It might also not be practical.  My life is still very much up in the air after April, and moving seedlings is not really going to make things easier.  Or, should I stay put, there is no place to plant them. Still, I may start a few plants as I really miss this activity.  Which reminds me – time to take out my copy of Fertile Ground, a wonderful guide to growing food that is organized on a “what to do every month” basis.  (note to self: this year’s Seedy Saturday in  London is on March 19th).  January is order your seed catalogue month!  At the very least, I am going to expand my herb garden this year.  I am really, really enjoying making teas from the herbs I dried last year.  I have them all in mason jars on a shelf, and every time I make tea I place a pinch of this and that into a tea ball and then steep.  Delicious and very satisfying on many levels.

With respect to plastic consumption, I have promised myself to become even more vigilant in avoiding this toxic waste.  I am not ready to go ‘plastic free’ – much as I would love to.  But just trying to stick to my guns around my cooking ethic while working such an insane schedule, and trying to exercise and socialize, is enough challenge for now.  Perhaps I’ll take that more radical step in the future.  For now, I will continue to find new ways to avoid plastic, and otherwise continue to say no to plastic bags, packaging in general (where possible) and steadily replace the plastics in my house with less poisonous substances.  My first planned purchases: stainless steel razor, a non-plastic toothbrush, and a hemp shower curtain.

Speaking of which, I have continued to use baking soda and vinegar to wash my hair.  I found that after about 6 weeks, my hair started to be slightly greasy even right after being washed. So it looks like I will need to use shampoo every 5-6 weeks or so.  That said, I had my hair cut this week and I asked my stylist what she thought of the condition of my hair.  Typically she would tell me that it was dry, had residue, needed to be cleansed etc.  This time she said “it’s incredibly healthy!”  I told her my new regime and she was amazed, but not completely surprised.  Seems that at least using vinegar for a rinse is well known to be great for hair in the salon world.

With respect to socializing, I have also been sticking to my guns about making space for that as well.  I make plans for most Friday evenings as I work until 4pm in London so am in town already.  I have been going out regularly with friends and on dates.  This is really making a difference in my psyche I think.  I am energized by spending time with good friends and interesting people, and this helps combat the stress of being overworked.  As a result, while I am tired much of the time, I actually am feeling really good and relatively energetic.  That I worked out a gym is a first for me in years.  I think this is really the true test of how much I have recovered from my chronic fatigue.  I not only worked out, but I felt great afterwards and wanted to do more.  This is a first in nearly 10 years.  I cannot tell you how happy this makes me feel.

So all in all, while 2010 had some bumps, it was a really terrific year.  I found work I love (if a bit too much of it!), re-kindled my social life, continued to reclaim my health and energy, made positive steps towards living life in a more sustainable way and spent time loving, laughing and learning.  Really, what more could I ask for?

4 Responses

  1. I really like the idea of having the house guest ready. It parallels the old saying of if you build it, they will come.
    I can vouch for the baking soda/vinegar hair treament being as good or better than shampoo.
    As for purging my house of all plastic- what I have, shall remain. I find handling glass in the shower a little too daring for me.
    As for purging toxins from your home, have a look on line at the amounts of formaldehyde in construction materials, carpets and even bedding!!
    Speaking of toxins- I wouldn’t set foot near a public hot tub. Bacterial testing shows that 82% have fecal coliforms (bacteria from the gut) in very high levels. Ask to see labratory test results before jumping in!!

    • Hi Joyce – Gosh I’ve been struggling to keep my home ‘guest ready’ this last few weeks! But overall I’m managing to keep it in a state that I can at least pull together on short-notice. And at least my living room and spare bedroom are pretty much always ready for guests. This does give me a sense of control and peace over the chaos in my life. And I just had a friend come to stay for the weekend!

      I have actually been looking into the toxins in my bed and bedding and find this extremely disconcerting. I hope to eventually be able to afford something organic, but the ones I’ve found (mattresses and duvets) are extremely expensive. Something to look forward to when I finally have full-time employment again.

      Thanks for the head’s up on public hot tubs. Fecal count? YIKES!

  2. I just saw this now – I, too, had to bring shampoo back into my life. My hair was getting somewhat embarrassingly unmanageable. I also had to switch back from using olive oil as a facial moisturizer to a natural cream. No matter how much oil I applied I was unable to keep my skin from drying out (I wonder if it is the running in the harsh wind that did it), but also my face was always oily (i.e. shiny) if I had to go somewhere, which was not desirable. I’ve been trying to reconcile my feelings about this… asking questions such as: are these products ACTUALLY better? Do they actually address issues (e.g. oily, matted hair; dry skin due to harsh weather) that affect us in our daily lives that cannot be sufficiently addressed through natural products (e.g. vinegar/baking soda). And if this is the case, is that we have simply created notions of what is an “issue” – that is, if oily, matted hair is what happens without shampoo, ought we all just to accept that? If my skin dries out, then gets wrinkly and irritated because of weather conditions, do I accept that, or fix the problem with a commercial cream? At this point, I’ve chosen shampoo and cream!

    • Most definitely the intersection of cultural ‘realities’ and attempts at change is just one more level of challenge. I still wear makeup, for example, despite knowing that it’s not good for me or the environment, and is just succumbing to social norms. But this time of year, when I am pale and exhausted, I feel I have to do something to make myself look somewhat presentable and attractive. Sure this should come from within, but quite frankly, these days it doesn’t. This is definitely a socially created ‘issue’ (both in the sense that the need to look young and fresh is socially created, and my haggard paleness is the result of my long days of engaging in alienating endavours in exchange for a salary), but seriously – what else to do? I feel old and unattractive without wearing makeup these days, despite knowing this is a false reality. It is nevertheless a reality I experience.

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