End of Winter Skillet

By the calendar, the tail end of winter is here. The days should be warming soon. In three weeks we’ll be starting our seeds for the garden.  But if you go outside, it’s hard to see the promise of warmth.  Still, it isn’t nearly as bad as it was last year, with a winter that lasted six months and a depression that made it impossible for me to get out of bed.  I keep that in mind whenever I look at the weather report and see temperature forecasts of negative degrees.

The other night I pulled out the iron skillet and made something simple and warm for dinner.  It had been cold all day long, of course, and I didn’t feel up to anything that required a lot of work.  I pulled out three vegetables from the fridge: potatoes, an onion and a bulb of garlic.  All three had been sitting in the bottom veggie drawer for a couple of weeks.  Skillet potatoes?  No, I wanted something a little more sustaining, and healthy.

From the pantry I pulled a can of diced tomatoes, from the freezer a bag of corn.  Aha, this was looking promising.  Dried rosemary and thyme from the spice cabinet rounded out the haul.  I had assembled before me a reminder that even in the heart of winter, plenty could be found if I just looked.  A little dicing and chopping, some stirring and simmering, and half an hour later I had dinner: warm and tasty and filling and healthy.  Just what I needed.

End of Winter Skillet

Ingredients

2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium Russet potatoes cubed
1 c. frozen sweet corn, or 1 8.75 oz. can sweet corn
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 t. dried rosemary
1 t. dried thyme

Instructions

  1.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium/high heat.  Add the oil and let it warm about 30 seconds.
  2. Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft and clear, but not brown.
  3. Add the herbs and stir for a minute.
  4. Add the potatoes and sauté for five minutes.
  5. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, for another two minutes.
  6. Add the diced tomatoes with juices to the skillet.  Bring to a boil.
  7. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Let cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the potatoes are fork tender the dish is ready.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately with crusty bread, a salad and red wine for a warm and hearty meal.

Nutrition Information

Makes 4 servings.

209 Calories
7.3 g Fat
3.3 g Fiber
4.3 g Sugar
3.5 g Protein

Metaphysical Information

If you practice kitchen witchery, this is a great meal to promote protection and healing. As per the Venerable Cunningham*, all the ingredients in the skillet have protective and healing properties. The potato and corn are associated to the earth element and are grounding. The onion, garlic and rosemary are all associated with the fire element and are warming. The tomato is associated with love, adding another layer of potency to the protective and healing aspects.  The meal itself provides 58.2% of the recommended daily dose of Vitamin C, adding to the healing properties.

When you are cooking, visualize love, prosperity, protective and healing energies spilling into the dish, ready to impart their blessings on those who partake.  See the promise of returning warmth in the red and yellow of the tomatoes and corn.  Winter will end in its own time.  Until then you can keep yourself healthy and secure with a boost of vitamin C and a warm belly.


*Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs

VikingDad – Minecraft Blues #89 – The Nether (aka Hot Hot Lava)

So, up until our second controller for the Xbox360 broke, Charlotte and I would play together and worked to build a safe, secure village: one with a fence to keep out nasty mobs, and plenty of doors to generate a good population of villagers.  We’ve done quite well with it, have a huge farm,  a chest full of food (including over 640 baked potatoes) and have secured a nice, lava and obsidian rich ravine. It is on that note that brings us to the next step.  Exploring the Nether.

Up until this point, I had never played in the Nether (it doesn’t really exist as such in the Pocket Edition, though I have utilized my fair share of nether reactors, but that’s for another post)  and it looked like fun… until I went there.

My first comment was, “Wow, this Nether Quartz sure is plentiful…” to which Charlotte replied, “Well yeah, it’s like what the world is made from…” in that “duh” tone of voice.   The snark is strong with this one.   As with anything, however, I’ve learned that patience and stamina outlast blustery snark every time.

It was not long after our original foray into the Nether that, loaded down with Nether Quartz and Netherrack, that we spotted in the distance (over the ubiquitous sea of lava) the tell-tale signs of a Nether Fortress.  Excited, we started looking for a way to get there.

I discovered that Steve (or in this case, Boba Fett, as I’ve downloaded the Star Wars skin pack), however resilient he is (able to punch down trees and the like) he is certainly not fireproof.  I was mining (with my Unbreaking I Diamond Pick) my way to a lower level when I opened up the bottom of a hidden lava pool.  Yeah, I caught on fire. I panicked.  I couldn’t get up the makeshift staircase fast enough.  Fortunately I wasn’t on fire forever and didn’t end up dying, but I did take some serious damage.  So I went back to my old fallback… the term Ben likes to call, “Sneaky-mode”.  This way, you don’t actually fall off blocks and can build physics-defying bridges.

I set to work building one while Charlotte looked for another way (or harvested more Nether Quartz or Nether Wart, or Soul Sand…) around.

Well, five minutes and two Oola deaths later (that’s the skin she was playing with). We made it.  Not much of one, but it was something and we got a ton of Nether Brick (which made for a great addition to my house in the Overworld).

So, after two deaths (by falling into lava), her snark wasn’t as strong. Still, though, she maintained it throughout.

Yeah… I’m proud.

L-space

[The library in Unseen University] had one or two advantages on account of its magical nature.  No other library anywhere, for example, has a whole gallery of unwritten books—books that would have been written if the author hadn’t been eaten by an alligator around chapter 1, and so on. Atlases of imaginary places. Dictionaries of illusory words. Spotters’ guides to invisible things. Wild thesauri in the Lost Reading Room. A library so big that it distorts reality and has opened gateways to all other libraries, everywhere and everywhen …

Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

Making it Work: Being a Pain in the Butt

We don’t have to be heroes to be stubborn. We can just be pains in the butt.—Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

In therapy last week the topic of self-esteem came up.  My therapist asked me to make a list of twenty positive qualities about me.  I got three down before I gave up.  Most of that has to do with my abysmal self-regard, but I also felt put on the spot.  When I showed her my list she zeroed in on the first word: Stubborn.

Surely I meant “perseverance”?

No. Stubbornness.

We spent the rest of the session talking about why I thought of stubbornness as a positive thing.  She couldn’t quite wrap her head around the idea, and my arguments didn’t sway her.  I understand, though.  She is right that to be stubborn is often seen as a negative trait: to continue on against the advice of others out of misplaced pride.  And her suggestion of perseverance makes sense … just not for me.

I’ve always felt that perseverance was a word for those on the outside and after the fact.  We say someone persevered, not that they are persevering.  it is a word to describe the struggle after it is over, not while it is ongoing.  And when you are slogging through the shit on a daily basis, when you are struggling to keep your head up, when your goal has been obscured by all the obstacles, perseverance is a euphemism, wholly unsuited for the situation.

I’ve spent most of my life stubborn, in ways great and small.  Sometimes it has bit me in the ass: I stayed in my previous marriage well past the “Use By” date, for example.  But more often than not it has been armor against those who told me what I was doing was stupid/rash/foolish.  The ability to say, “Oh yeah?  Just watch me,” when told I couldn’t do a thing has propelled me through several tough times in the past.

Is it easy?  Hell no.  Every day that negative self-esteem eats away at what little self-confidence I have.  I am assailed by doubts all the time.  “Am I really doing this?  Is this the right path?  Do I actually know what I am doing?”  Mere perseverance  would tear like tissue paper under the weight of my insecurity.  Only pure stubbornness has provided me with the strength to carry on.

At the end of the session, my therapist remained unconvinced.  She didn’t dwell on it, though.  Instead she gave me homework: to come up with seventeen more qualities.  My Jerk brain has been whispering to me that I won’t be able to finish the list because I don’t have any other qualities to write down.

“Oh yeah?” I tell Jerk Brain.  “Just watch me.”

Border Patrol

Last night I went to the local Changeling LARP*.  It had been a high anxiety day, and I almost stayed home.  Even the first half hour I was there I contemplated bolting to the car.  But it was cold out there, and I had gone through the effort to put on a corset, and my hair was looking particularly cute.  By the end of the evening I was glad I had gone.  I had a good time.  I ate cupcakes and meatballs.  And I got lots of good role play in.  Being able to be someone other than myself for a few hours has always been helpful in ways that I can expound upon later. Today, though, I’m spending time reflecting on two incidents that happened at game that highlight one of the issues I’ve been dealing with lately.

My social anxiety fluctuates.  Sometimes it is high, and I have a hard time leaving the house, or even letting people I don’t know into it.  Sometimes it has eased up enough that I can run errands and attend events with little stress.  But there is another aspect to it that involves touching.  I am physically demonstrative in ways: I talk with my hands, I am affectionate with Stephan out in public, I love to cuddle with my kids.  But I find touch with anyone outside of a small circle of people to be uncomfortable.

This goes beyond sexually motivated touching.  The pat on the ass, or the shoulder massage that creepers use as an excuse to touch targets.  Those bad touches are universally uncomfortable for the recipient.  I mean the personal space invasions that are part of our culture, most specifically hugging.  With the group of gamers we played with last night this is a regular form of physical contact.  And none of the huggers first ask permission before they swoop in, arms wide, for some physically enhanced social contact.   And thanks to social conditioning, people go along with it because it would be rude to not.**

The first half an hour of game, I was approached for a hug from a regular.  Previously I have acquiesced to his embrace, but I couldn’t this time.  The game room was small and crowded and I knew I would have issues if I didn’t firmly establish my boundaries.  As he came at me, I spoke up.  “I’m not really a hugging person,” I told him.  He seemed to understand and offered a high-five instead, which I found reasonable.  Of course later my words came back to bite me in the rear.

Later, as I was leaving game, I gave my friend Chrissy a hug.  Reasonable Regular saw this and I found myself having to explain to him that there are exceptions to my no-hugging.  An awkward situation was made worse when he took it to the place of “Oh, I get it, you just don’t like me.”  Even though he was joking, I found it infuriating that 1) I felt I had to explain myself, and 2) he seemed unable to accept that there are distinctions and levels when it comes to social interactions.  If I say I’m not a hugging person surely that might not apply, say, to my husband or children.  So why is it unreasonable that I might have different levels of touch when it comes to others?

Later, I had to deal with another regular.  While sitting in a circle during mass combat, he tried to cut in front of me.  When informed that, actually, it was my turn, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Okay, you can take your turn.”  Around the circle of gamers I heard snickers and laughter.  Oh how funny!  How cute!

The shoulder pat is the snot-nosed, sagging-diaper baby brother of the head pat.  Insecure men—and it is always men—use it to get their patronizing misogynism on but still maintain plausible deniability.  Having been on the receiving end of such I knew exactly what had just happened.  As did the regular.  As did all the others in the room.

My feet firmly planted on the ground of “You Fucking Did Not,” I looked down at my shoulder, swiveled my eyes to his face and stared at him for a long, uncomfortable second.  Then I turned my back to him and addressed the storyteller.   Suddenly it wasn’t cute anymore.  The circle of others acted like our personal live audience and provided a collective “Oooooohhhhh!”  Once I had finished my conversation with the storyteller I turned once again to my would be belittler.  “Okay, you can have your turn now.”  I patted his shoulder and turned away from him again.

Like my social anxiety, my ability to maintain my boundaries is ever changing.  Tomorrow I may find myself unable to speak up.  I might feel obligated to accept another hug.  I might find my borders crumbling again under enforced niceness.  However, there are at least two gamers who now know where they stand with me.


*LARP = Live Action Role Play. Where you dress up as your character, only to end the evening standing around in a crowd to resolve mass combat.

**Oddly enough, in game, if a character refuses to shake hands, no one bats an eye and accepts it, no questions asked.  Of course game has rules about touching.  Go figure.

Viking Dad: Snippets of Ragnarok #1 – Wrecking Ball

There are few moments in parenthood where we actually have joyful control of a situation involving our kids. Such as at six A.M. when the children aren’t awake yet and you’ve already got breakfast on the table.  There’s nothing quite like the joy you feel when you burst through their bedroom door, and bellow out “I came in like a wrecking ball” from that song by Miley Cyrus.

Yeah, it’s moments like these I cherish.

Puppy Love

This is the look of a dog who has come home!
This is the look of a dog who has come home!

In October 2001, my ex-husband and I brought home Trixie.  She came to us from the West Suburban Humane Society.  A lab terrier mix, the Society put her age at five months when she was found roaming stray.  She’d been in their care for three months, due I am sure to the fact that she had an atrophied front paw that left her limping.  What she may have lacked in four good feet she made up with character.

This dog has been with me for nearly fifteen years.  In fact her birthday is today.  I can’t imagine my life without her.  She has kept me company, made me laugh, comforted me when I was sad, herded me to bed when she thought I was staying up too late.  When we would take her to the dog park, she would find the biggest, baddest dog there and play fight them until she was either defeated or victorious.

Trixie and Enya
Trixie took to having a sister pretty easily.

When we brought Enya, another kind of rescue dog*, she welcomed the big goof to the family.  When Charlotte was born, she kept a cautious, but curious distanced, never knowing what to make of the squalling, squirming thing we had brought home.

During my separation and divorce, Trixie stuck by me.  She slept with me on the futon in my office.  There was never a doubt that she would stay with me.   And when Stephan and I started getting serious, I made sure that he understood the dogs came with the package.

The years show with Trixie now.  She has a hard time getting around much of the time.  White has taken over much of her muzzle and chest, and her fur is patchy and red-rimed in places.  But she eats and cuddles and loves her family just as much as she always has.  She keeps my feet warm at night.  She nudges me when she wants attention and won’t take no for an answer.  She follows us around the house, from room to room, despite the obvious discomfort it causes her at times, just to be near us.  She is my dog.  There are no others like her.  And she is mine.

 


*Her previous owner was a neighbor of ours who couldn’t keep her any longer.

Keeping Busy

So, I’ve been keeping pretty busy lately with trying my hand at a few new things and recently discovered that I’m pretty good at chainmail jewelry.  This is also why Pintrest is both awesome and horrible at the same time.  I found a few patterns and items I really liked, studied the pictures of it and then made it myself.  Here’s one below of a recent commission.

Aluminum chain mandala pendant with silver primary color and green secondary color.
Aluminum chain mandala pendant with silver primary color and green secondary color.

These seem to be pretty popular and I’ve made some adaptations as well, to include a fifth set of secondary (the small colored) rings and then suspend a bead or something in the middle. Once I get a few of those made, I’ll update here with pictures.  Below, though, are the current secondary colors I offer:

These are the colors I currently have for secondary in the mandala pendants. Adding four more soon.
These are the colors I currently have for secondary in the mandala pendants. Adding four more soon.

In any case, I’m still doing the runes, though will probably be ringing them with copper, but below you can see the non-copper ringed ones.

This is the Elder Futhark, made from maple.
This is the Elder Futhark, made from maple.

I’ve taken (and will some more) full advantage of the awesome light box the shield-maiden made to make the pictures I take with my phone of the stuff I make look a lot more professional.

So, in case you were wondering, that’s what I’ve been doing (alongside the duties of SAHD).  Soon, you will also see a new category from me, “Snippets of Ragnarok”.