Living Dreams and Where Do I Go Next?

Last month I put all my writing energy into Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a mini-version of the November event and more flexible.  I’ve wanted to do NaNoWriMo for over a decade, but 50,000 words in one month, and fiction no less, has always daunted me so I only kept it in the back of my mind all these years.

However, this year I found out about Camp, and you set your own limit to be a winner (can start as low as 10,000 words) and it wasn’t necessary to write fiction.  Busy or not, it’s time to write.  April’s camp I attempted fiction, which I hadn’t tried for almost 20 years, and got as far as 2100 words. Not bad, I suppose, but not great either.

So, I decided I needed to be a winner during July’s Camp, especially since I could purchase Scrivener for 50% off and stop using the trial version.

I ditched the fiction since it’s still a struggle, and started two different topics that I quickly hit roadblocks on.  One was rhubarb of all things, which I was temporarily obsessed with a month ago since I had it coming out of my ears and was looking up recipe after recipe.

I quickly tired of rhubarb, and found there is competition in the rhubarb e-book world anyway, but I needed something I could write 10K words in a month.  Once again, writing about my life came up.

My boring life?  Really?

I’ve tossed this idea about for a number of years.  I’m a former Mormon lesbian/bisexual living with (and caregiver for) a disabled but bullying partner.  And we live with way too many cats in our house.  Maybe I can get an interesting spin on that.

I deal a lot with feelings and frustrations, and determined that what I need to work on most is storytelling, especially since I’m doing the official NaNoWriMo this year.  If I can’t be a storyteller, then I can’t write fiction, right?

Right.

Only, I let myself ramble and rant since I both needed the word count and had immediate thoughts to get out, but I still kept that in check.  I kind of did an outline as I went and shared memories here and there.  When I revise, I’ll add more stories as I remember tCamp-Winner-2015-Square-Buttonhem as well.

So, July is over and I made my 10K words on July 31 with several hours to spare.

A winner!

It also reinforced the fact that I want a different life.  And every time I convince myself to stay, words are said or things are done where I hear that voice in my head scream “PACK UP AND LEAVE.  NOW!”

I don’t want to be with my partner.  I want to be able to share my hopes and dreams without getting a lecture.  I want to express my opinions without setting my partner on a rant before I get a full sentence out.  I want some solitude without my partner going to pieces because she can’t spent a minute without me.  I want a partner that can do things without needing me , especially things I hate doing/and or totally suck at when she can call a friend that’s an expert in the task.  I want a partner that doesn’t go into either hysterics or an uncontrollable fit of rage when something bad happens (which is a common occurrence).  Most of all, I want to be able to share good things and accomplishments, and to have my partner actually be happy for me and share in the joy.  I know my partner struggles with self worth, but I’ve been her enabler year after year after year while she’s cut me down at every turn.  I have tried as hard as I could to help her in the past, but I can’t help her.  It has to come from her.

I don’t want to be in the animal rescue “business”.  I actually never wanted it–I’m really not that selfless and don’t like a lot of animals in my house.  My animal saving started out in a totally different path, but my partner likes to collect animals.  She wants to bring home every stray and abused animal and then demand I take care of them (supposedly she took care of animals she took in before I was in the picture).  I even started a blog about starting and running an animal rescue since I’m very experience at it now, but after writing the first 2 intense posts, I lost interest.  I may know a lot about the functions of an animal rescue, but I am way too burned out.  I’m still passionate about animals, but not the rescue work.  I’ll be sharing my dreams for that at a later point.

I also want to chuck 99% of the stuff in our house in the trash.  My partner loves objects, I don’t.  I don’t need a lot of physical things.  She does.  And she’s disappointed in the way I don’t spend enough time taking care of all the objects we own.  Once an object is purchased, it’s my responsibility.

I actually dreamed last night that I was no longer with my partner, which meant I was automatically out of our rescue.  It felt good.

However, I was already with someone, right after the breakup.  It was a man, which wasn’t the surprising part.

I don’t imagine myself with anyone right after the breakup.  I want to be alone.

But that wasn’t the dream.  I even woke up briefly and fell asleep with the same dream continuing on.

It was weird.

I don’t like confrontation, though, and I hate leaving a mess, so for now I’m still in avoidance mode and convincing myself to stay.

Wine after work helps.

So, onward to National November Writing Month, so maybe I can get at least one dream accomplished.

How NOT To Brew Beer

My first brewing experience was a disaster learning experience.  The first bottle of beer I tried over the weekend was flat and had a hint of yeast, so it didn’t fully ferment.  I do have a second bottle in the fridge being “conditioned” that I put in a couple days later, so we’ll see if the extra fermentation/carbonation time helps at all.  Since I hate waste, I’ve been doctoring it up Michelada style so that I can tolerate it.  From what I’ve read, it’s not going to kill me, and I’ve downed one bottle with no adverse effects.

I did start with a clearanced Mr. Beer kit, too, with a beer style I don’t drink myself and with a best by date of a year ago (noticed that after I got home), so I didn’t start with the best of ingredients.  I did have the foresight at least to figure my first go would be a learning experience no matter what, and I didn’t want to shell out more than $50 for my first batch, and the Mr. Beer kit gave me a way I could do it for even less than $50.

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How do you get your Mr. Beer keg to look so funky?! Read on . . .

Now, I had the pre-fermentation process down pretty well, if I do say so myself, and sterilized everything as directed.  I had started making my own yogurt a few months ago, which is simply a different fermented food, and only had one mishap which I was able to correct by just re-doing the incubation process, so I started brewing with some fermenting experience under my belt.  I still have a perfect yogurt record, knock on wood.  Fermenting things that start with BEE are still taking work (I had a less than perfect fermented beet issue last week), but I’ll be posting on my various fermenting projects during the summer.  I still take issue that beer isn’t considered a healthful fermented product like yogurt, kombucha (fermented tea that can have alcoholic traces), and other fermented foods, but whatever.

Anyhow–here’s what I need to work on for a better beer:

  1. Be careful of your ingredients’ ages.  The mix was a year past the “best by” date.  The wort was probably OK to use, but yeast can get finicky.  For those of you that bake yeast breads, you know what I’m talking about.
  2. Be obsessively mindful of the temperature.  Even though I started the first week in June, the nightly temps here were not warm enough to keep our old farmhouse in the optimal 68-78 degree yeast fermentation stage, and I wasn’t diligent about checking the room temperature for the first few days, and even longer before I figure out where I could put it to regulate the temperature.  Even old yeast may still give it a go if the conditions are right.  After my yogurt mishap, I realized how to solve the “too cold at night” temp problem, but I’m sure my yeast was already dead by then (and when I finally did try my method, I didn’t quite do it right, which you’ll see in # 4).  Even though nights were cool, my elderly yeast did give a good try the first week–there was minimal bubbly yeast activity at least, but it never reached the level described.
  3. Try a type of beer you actually like.  You may actually know if your beer tastes like the real thing or not.  Granted, I got what was on clearance, and they were all American Light style.  I don’t drink big-name American beers, much less light/lite styles, so this really could be how the beer should taste, just with more carbonation.  I do have some MIlwaukee’s Best on hand for when we cook up brats (that’s bratwurst, folks, not bratty kids).  I may have to do a reluctant taste test for comparison.
  4. Never, EVER, turn on the oven with a Mr. Beer Keg IN IT.  The keg is plastic and doesn’t do heat well (plus, the brew should NOT get over 78 F anyway, regardless of what it’s in).  Even if you say “I’ll just turn in on for a few minutes and then turn it off when it’s at the right 70 degree temp.”  Only takes me a few minutes to get busy with something else and remember to check it AFTER I smell melting plastic.  My photo is the result.  The keg used to look like a smooth barrel and the lid used to fit.  Fortunately, my beer was already “done” with it’s keg time at that point, and the yeast was already dead prior to this debacle, so I was able to still bottle it.  I’ve heard of keeping the oven light on to keep a nice temp, so guess I should finally replace my oven light.

So, all in all, not a bad first attempt.  There are tons of things that can give beer an “off” flavor during brewing, so I’m satisfied with my end result considering it could have been worse.

Thanks to learning the hard way I’ll be OBSESSIVE with temperature control next time–and remember to NOT turn on the oven with a brew fermenting inside.

Anyone have any good beer or fermenting stories?  Please share!

Lazy French Onion Soup

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photo credit: 3 cebollas via photopin (license)

I love both French onion soup and caramelized onions.  Sometime last fall, I came across  Foodie With Family’s recipe for both, in the SAME post!  If you are a French onion soup fan too, you NEED to check her post out!

I tried the slow-cooker onions right after I read the post.  The cooking does take a long time, but the benefit is that the entire house doesn’t smell like you’re cooking onions.  When you have a smell-sensitive person living with you (even one that loves onions) and an old house with horrible ventilation, that’s a HUGE bonus.  I did have to take the lid off at the end of cooking to evaporate some of the condensation, but the smell was still minimal.

When I was done, I just stuck the onions into sandwich sized ziploc bags, froze them, and forgot about them until I was cleaning the freezer out on Sunday.  I’m the only one in my household that likes french onion soup, so before then, I hadn’t made it for almost twenty years.

NO KIDDING!

When I was single, I made a vegan version using soy sauce as the flavoring agent (from a PETA cookbook, so it’ll probably be on their website).  My taste for soy sauce has waned over the years anyway, so I don’t expect I’d like it the way I used to, and there was never really a beef base that I thought would be suitable for the soup. I did recently watch a Cook’s Country episode where they used dried shiitake mushrooms for a vegan beef-style soup base, so I may try that if I get around to growing a patch of shiitakes.

Growing shiitakes seems to be pretty easy. We have a mushroom farm in the area, and last year I had gotten a great harvest out of their “table top farms.”  Even if you are like me and NOT a mushroom fan (I usually avoid ‘shrooms at all costs), shiitakes are tolerable, and I have no doubt they would make a good, meaty soup base that won’t taste like mushrooms.  However, unless I’m growing them myself, they can make a good dent in the pocketbook.

Back to the French onion soup–since I’m not a practicing vegetarian at this time, Sunday night I made a more normal French onion soup, only I put next to no effort in it.

For the “real” recipe–go to Foodie with Family’s link at the top of the post.  For the lazy recipe, continue.

I had no suitable cheese for the soup, nor had I the patience to make the crouton topping, so this is my compromise:

Lazy French Onion Soup for 2

Adapted from Foodie with Family

2 packs of frozen caramelized onion (the size of sandwich Ziplocs)

1 500 ml tetrapack of chicken stock (or homemade veggie or chicken stock)

approx 1/4 cup of Better than Bouillon beef base (or your favorite beef or beef-style base)

A cheesy bagel, toasted (and buttered if you wish)

1.  Put the onions, stock, and base in a saucepan.  Cover and cook on high until just starting to bubble, stirring occasionally.

2.  Pour into your bowl, serve with the bagel.  Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for an even easier lunch.

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My soup (bagel not in picture).

Drawing the Line (or Thinking of Me)

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From unsplash.com/salt

I drew an imaginary line sometime last fall.

Or was it just before that?

No matter.  I drew it, even if it was in my head, and still is.

I drew the line and told myself that on the other side is what my partner Denise wants, BUT must want MORE than me.

Last summer Denise said she wanted bariatric surgery and was going to follow through.  It was her idea.

She wanted to lose all her excess weight and feel better.

She also said she wanted to be more attractive to me.

Looks and weight aren’t what turns me off about her.  It’s attitude and how she treats me and other people.

But back to the line and bariatric surgery.

We attended a seminar put on by the surgeons.  I learned some new things this time, such as diabetes being reversed after many of the successful surgeries and that they absolutely will not operate on a current smoker as the risks are way too high.

The patient must also lose a certain percentage of weight prior to surgery, which requires a pre-surgery diet.  This helps shrink a fatty liver, otherwise they may not be able to do the surgery.

Denise indicated, in her own words, that dieting and losing weight before the surgery is stupid because if she could lose weight on her own she would not need the surgery.

True IF she follows the diet for the rest of her life, but I think she missed the point they were making.

I knew from our first bariatric surgery seminar well over a decade ago that she would have issues with the requirements, mainly the foods she couldn’t eat after the surgery.

She loves her carbs and sugar.

But we still followed the preliminary steps for the surgery.  Meeting with the doctor’s office, dietitian, and the psychiatrist.

I was usually the one setting up the appointments, getting the insurance information, doing dietary research, keeping track of the paperwork, and taking time off so I can be at all the appointments.

The process ended after the second meeting with the psychiatrist, after being told some depression issues that they feel could hinder her success after surgery.  She would have to go to counseling for a while, and she didn’t and still doesn’t want to reopen childhood wounds.

Understandable, but she is also physically miserable.  She is over 300 lbs, has chronic pain, has a very hard time walking, has diabetes and severe stomach pain.

She says she doesn’t want to be fat anymore.

She is also a smoker, still, and most of her diet consists of carbs, with a good percentage of that being sugar.

If she wants to lose weight, or at the very least feel healthier, SHE has to do the work.

And she has to MOTIVATE HERSELF to do the work.

Nagging only pisses her off.

Besides, motivation and doing something just to stop the incessant nagging are NOT the same thing.

After all, I do things I DON’T WANT TO DO (and don’t think I should do) just to stop the incessant nagging.

 

I could have followed my normal pattern.  Denise wants something, and I make it happen.

However, I can’t make her bariatric surgery a success.

Denise has to make it a success.

 

 

She must want this surgery more than I do.

I can’t do that for her.

I can’t follow my normal pattern where I work my ass off to get Denise what she wants.

I realized that, and I drew the line.

Regardless of if Denise has the surgery or not, she is the one that has to decide that she is going to be healthier.

She has to determine how she is going to stop smoking.

She has to determine if she is going to cut down on sweets and start eating healthier.

She has to determine how she is going to handle her depression and feel better about herself.

I can’t do that for her.

She decides her destiny by what she chooses to do.  She has to choose the healthy actions in order to be healthier.

I can’t do that for her.

I can only do that for me.

I have taken online courses, read numerous blogs and articles about healthy eating and living.

I am cutting out sweets and a lot of sugar.  I am making things from scratch and using fresher ingredients for both what I eat and what I use on my body.   I am opting to eat as few processed foods as possible.

Denise is seeing that I am not eating the same things she is.  She knows I am buying better food for myself.

However, she refuses to eat what she considers “crap”, which means she will usually only eat the tried and true meals I cook that we know she likes.

Most of the time, that means unhealthy, carb and processed filled meals.  Papaya salad is one of the healthy exceptions, though.

In the meantime, even after only a few weeks of eating differently, I feel better.  Even without giving up my daily alcoholic beverage.

And if our unreliable scale on our unlevel floors is correct, I’m losing weight.

I’ve gained almost 40 lbs since we’ve been together.

That’s without ever having kids.

While I don’t think fat is necessarily bad–I don’t like having big boobs and a big stomach, so I’d like to lose those at least.

Mostly, though, I want to lose the fatigue and feel better.

While I’m pretty active because I have over 30 animals to care for (including barnyard animals), I still need to be more active.

I don’t make the recommended 10K steps per day, so I can do some more walking.

And so can my dog.

So for now, I am getting ME healthier.

And maybe Denise will follow suit.

After all, if she decides she is going to take action without the nagging , then it means she wants herself to be healthier more than I want her to be healthy.

And that’s the only way she is going to get healthier.

Happy Hour: Michelada Experiment

The thought ofIMG_20150609_183440 beer cocktails never appealed to me, as for whatever reason mixing anything in beer just sounded bad.  Even to me, who loves to experiment and try new things.

But . . . recently I heard about an Ancho Chile Stout.  I love spicy, and I love dark beer.  Unfortunately, it’s a seasonal thing and was not available even for special order by that time *sigh*.

So, I resolved that it was finally time to start brewing my own just so I could try it and other experiments.  I’ve gotten as far as purchasing a Mr. Beer kit on clearance just to get a batch down my belt before I invest in my home brewery.

Meanwhile, I find an entry for “Mexican beer” when I’m browsing through our newly purchased Pati’s Mexican Table cookbook.

It’s for a Michelada.  Beer, lime juice, hot sauce, something salty, along with a salt lined glass.

OK, so that no longer sounds bad.  Especially since all we have is a variety of the light colored Mexican beers (Sol, Corona, etc), and I’m trying to save money and not buy the spendier specialty brew 6 packs anyway.  Worth a try.

And it was worth it!  For me, it’s actually a refreshing drink and the taste combination is delicious.  I just have to be careful and not have too many.

I’ve since looked up several Michelada recipes–and most are specific and say any deviation would be gross.  However, I find that my Michelada experience is based on taste and how much salt and spice flavor I want at the time.  It’s more like a Thai recipe–you have a guideline for the different flavor types you will use, but adjust it all to taste and it’s never EXACTLY the same.

Pati’s site has a Michelada recipe, which is more of a guide, and she calls the spicy version the playful version, although looking online Michelada’s are normally spicy.  If you need a “real” recipe that tells you exactly what to use and how much, you’ll need to do your own searching.

My Michelada Experiment

The Ingredients:

IMG_20150609_183202Light colored mexican beer (we usually have Corona Extra around, but your favorite will work.  I haven’t tried it with a dark like Negro Modelo, but feel free to experiment)

Hot sauce (start with your favorite Mexican hot sauce–for me Cholula is it.  I tried sricha and frank’s, neither worked for me)

Something salty (I use Maggi sauce, which Pati turned me on to– you can try Worcestershire sauce, Soy sauce, or just add a pinch of salt)

Optional:  Juice from a freshly squeezed lime (I skip this as it doesn’t add to the flavor for me)

Optional:  Rim the glass with salt, like a margarita (I skip this as well since the drink is salty enough)

I pour 1/4 of the beer into a frozen mug, add the other ingredients to taste (you will want the taste to be on the strong side at this point).  Stir well.

Add the rest of the beer slowly.  If it develops a large head, then just wait a minute for it to go down, then stir again.

Do a final taste test, add more of any ingredient you want stronger, and ENJOY!

Have you made a MIchelada and have your favorite take on it?  Please share!

Happy Hour: Rhubarb Collins!


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Just in time for the weekend, and as promised—my improved Rhubarb Collins!!

As I mentioned in my last post for Rhubarb Lemonade (which you can probably add vodka to for a nice cocktail), my attempt at the Epicurious Rhubarb Collins recipe was a disaster. All I could taste was gin, so if that’s the case, why not just drink the gin straight up instead of bothering to make a cocktail?

So, I reduced the gin and now I have a Rhubarb Collins that I like just as much as my Tom Collins.  I’m also not a big fan of carbonated waters, so I’m weird and use regular filtered water and it tasted just fine in my altered version.  I used regular water each time I’ve made the Rhubarb Collins, so I doubt that was the issue with gin overpowering the taste originally.

I also like to use the BIG side (i.e. 1 1/2 oz) of my jigger, so if you prefer to use 1 oz instead, then the ratio is 2:1:2 (2 parts syrup, 1 part gin, 2 parts water).  It won’t hurt to add an extra splash or two of gin in this recipe, either.  I’m sure I’ll be doing that on occassion.

The Existential Farm Grrl’s Rhubarb Collins

3 oz Rhubarb Syrup (recipe is here at the bottom of the page)

1 1/2 oz Gin (feel free to add an extra splash or two)**

2 to 4 oz of water or club soda (club soda is traditional)

1.  Put everything in a cocktail shaker (or mason jar in a lid), shake well.  Pour into a glass with ice (optional if you’re weird like me), and Enjoy!

Alternate mixing method for those without a cocktail shaker or jars with lids:  put everything in your empty glass, stir well, then add ice if so desired.

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**I use London Dry Gin since you can get fairly inexpensive versions of it.  If you have a Costco membership and don’t want to pay high end prices, the Kirkland gin is recommended and it really is better than the cheapest stuff you find at the grocer or liquor stores and it’s reasonably priced.

Stories, ramblings, rants with a little farm life thrown in