Thursday, May 25, 2017

Traveling and baking in circles

A week and a half ago I got home from a round-trip two-week visit to the John C. Campbell Folk School. Two weeks was not long enough and yet a little bit too long. I was not as prepared for being social, being in an intensive learning environment, and being on a different schedule as I'd hoped I would be back when I planned the trip. I still benefitted greatly; I returned home calmer (though the 10 hour drive home was exhausting, especially given that it ends with DC area traffic) and I learned both how to weave rag rugs and that willow baskets are ridiculously complicated to weave.  I wove 2 rugs and a bag, and I made 3 baskets. I also experienced some serious anxiety being out of my element and stretching myself so far.

While I was there I bought a great bread baking book, as much because I just wanted to read it as for the recipes. It's "Bread Making: Crafting the Perfect Loaf from Crust to Crumb," by Lauren Chattman (Storey, 2011), and I really learned a lot about what I can do with dough. I've baked 4 recipes from it now, including today's successful attempt at 100% whole wheat hazelnut bread, which rose high and developed a perfect crust. 
As for my mood, well that goes in circles too. Highs and lows (my highs are only barely nearing what's normal for most people, but for me it's new compared to the last few years. I truly wish I were a psychiatrically normal person. I'm hoping I can carry some of the calm of the trip to the folk school over for a few more weeks.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Passover recipe: 1-2-3 mandel bread (biscotti)

I don't have any Passover loaf pans and I hate buying dozens of disposable pans. I do have a tube pan, many of us do, since sponge cakes are so ubiquitous for the holiday. So I adapted a recipe until it works perfectly with a standard 10" tube pan and a baking sheet.

1-2-3 Mandel Bread (makes 18-24 depending on how thin you cut them)

1 C cake meal
1 C ground nuts (almonds are most traditional but any will work)
1 C sugar
1 scant cup, about 7 fluid oz, vegetable oil (I know, I know, but a full cup is too much)
2 T potato starch
3 eggs

1 T cinnamon OR 1 C chocolate chips or whatever else you want to add in.


Preheat oven to 350F, grease tube pan lightly. Mix eggs and sugar in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well (if using chocolate chips, add all the other ingredients, mix the batter, then add in the chips and mix a little more). Pour the mixture into the tube pan. 

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until fairly well set. The length of time will depend on the exact settings of your oven, the exact size of your pan, and what it's made of, but you want the mixture to have set well without burning at the edges.

Invert the tube pan onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or else greased. Slice the ring of cookies into thin wedges, 1/2-3/4" wide if possible (if they fall apart, slice them wider). Place each wedge on its side on the baking sheet. Bake for another 10-12 minutes until they're dry and solid. They'll harden more as they cool, so don't worry about shooting for completely hard in the oven. Remove them from the baking sheet using a spatula and cool them on wire racks. These also freeze well.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

At a loss

I don't know how else to describe it. I'm not intensely depressed. I'm not anxious. I'm just spacey. I can't remember things from one moment to the next. I can't track what I've been told. I'm constantly surprised the last few days how much time has elapsed because I've totally lost track of it, which is not like me at all. 

The sum total of all my crafting in the last week is this one hat (which normally I would have finished in a single half day but which took me from Monday to Sunday), and about half of a warp measured.

I really don't know what to do. I can't quite concentrate, I can't seem to do much. I can still do basic rote tasks like cooking dinner, that's so ingrained it works. I can track some things in my mind. I'm just noticeably impaired and it's getting to me.

If you know where I actually am and what I'm doing, please let me know. Thanks.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


I couldn't knit for several weeks, my shoulder pain was just too bad. Then finally I had a little window where the pain wasn't gone but was much lessened and I was able to knit (most of, it had been begun weeks ago but barely started) another Icelandic sweater. I knit almost the whole thing and finished it all in one big burst over a few days. I seem to do a lot of things like that. The pattern is Istex Lopi's 20th anniversary sweater, free in all sizes (it's also available as a Ravelry download); though of course it didn't include my own plus-size and I had to size up. It fits perfectly, it came out beautifully, so naturally the weather here is in the 60s and it may not be sweater weather again until next winter at the earliest. 

The weird thing is my brain is once again at odds with my own sanity, I have nothing on the knitting needles and nothing compelling me to knit it. I've been doing some Hardanger embroidery and I've finished the work on one little piece, but I haven't managed to wash that and make it up into a pincushion yet. The kit came with the fabric, some backing fabric, thread, even a needle…but no stuffing (which I actually have, being me) and moreover no lining, which I have to find. I have to wash and press the work, then sew it all up, which for me is daunting even if the whole thing will only be about 4" square when it's done. The next embroidery kit I have is a Hardanger bookmark, which doesn't really require any finishing; once the embroidery is done, the excess fabric is cut away and I can just press it.  I think it might be a sign though of returning depression that I have no knitting plans at all right now.

One big fear I have is that because of tendinitis, I'm on prednisone for a few days; and I credit the prednisone and pain killers I was prescribed last year for spiraling me into the horrible depression of last fall, winter, and spring which culminated in the ineffective ECT treatment which has changed my life to this day. ECT obviously isn't going to be tried again, I'm not worried about that, I'm just very, very fearful of descending so deeply into my own madness another time so soon.

What I was going to say before I digressed as I always do though is that my mind seems completely off the hook. I can't figure out what I'm doing now or what I'm doing next. In the continuing tradition of my habit of trying much too much, I've made arrangements to take Feivel to the symphony tomorrow (Sunday, I mean). I'm fine about going though I'm obsessing about the process a little (not too much, I'm not needing to back out to preserve my sanity in that regard). I suspect it will be overwhelming in a sensory way though, just by the very nature of low cello tones. I figure that with just me, Kayla, and Feivel around for the day that I can come home and completely hide and decompress for a few hours if I need.

I'm not terribly coherent here, am I? It's just sounding like a diary post at this point. I'll leave off and try to rally my brain power.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I wish I could put it in words

I see other people able to verbalize their experiences, so I know it's generally possible. I don't seem able to put into words my mental illness, my physical pain. Mind you, I'm appreciative that both are only moderate right now, I've certainly been much more mentally ill at times and the physical pains I'm just having to live with right now (I guess I'm keeping the manufacturers of naproxen sodium in business).

I have all sorts of intimate, extraordinary, eloquent thoughts but they simply don't translate to the written (or spoken) word. I don't have a way of knowing if it's a problem with my use of language or with human expression itself. It leaves me uneasy, uncertain as well as disappointed and gives me a feeling of incompleteness.

So I leave today a simple embroidery piece I just found at the bottom of a bag stuffed with embroidery odds and ends. This is sashiko style work done as finished embroidery rather than used as a dye technique; the fabric has first been dyed in indigo and then embroidered in heavy perle cotton (real Japanese sashiko is a technique of using these stitching patterns for resist dyeing). Apparently I worked this at some point last year. It's all wrinkled and tousled from sitting under an entire grocery bag full of floss, hoops, shisha mirrors, boxes, packages of even weave fabric, and so on. I don't have any idea what I'll do with it (I should add a border to it and sew it into a pillow, but that's not happening any time soon).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I would rather be knitting

…but my shoulder pain has come back badly. I mean it's done an excellent job of returning, but the pain is bad. You know what I mean.
chocolate babka; I had to use up a jar of Israeli
style chocolate filling in the cupboard after all

I'm substituting baking and kitchen prep. By 10 this morning my challah and chocolate babka were out of the oven and my chicken soup almost ready to come off the stove for this week's Shabbos.
One challah

In the last week I've made mozzarella cheese a couple of times, feta cheese, cottage cheese (that was wonderful, though they've all come out well, it's just been years since I had cottage cheese). I made croissants for the first time (I've made the homestyle chocolate croissants French mothers prepare for snacks, but I'd never made the flaky crescent style "real" croissants before). I made muffins (I always make muffins).

I'm looking for anything that feels productive, but nothing relieves my mind as well as knitting does.

Monday, December 26, 2016


These times it's nothing and it's black and it's tears and one more step and I wouldn't be here at all. I can't think, my usually eloquent brain is shut down. There's noise and there are people and they're all around and don't go away. The noise stops what little coherence my thoughts had. I can use pretty words but they don't give me pretty thoughts.
I'm worthless, useless, not deserving the space I take up. That's what goes through my head when it's not just emptiness and whatever emotion evokes all the crying. Tears and tears until the tears just stop but my face is still screwed up.
I take the medicine and it closes down the thinking and it makes me eat and gain weight until I'm an empty, fat, undesirable nothingness of heaviness and ponderance and thoughtlessness. I've lost my memory, I've lost myself and my past.
This doesn't work. This isn't working. I can't do this much more. The only thing keeping me here is knowing that my suicide would be bad for my kids. It doesn't stop me going to sleep every night praying I just won't wake up, something will happen, some combination of medicines will accidentally interact, some heartbeat just won't come, breath will just stop. 
Depression isn't a bunch of sad thoughts. It hurts in a way that isn't like other hurts. I would do anything to make this hurt stop and if the only way it stops is death I wish for that but I know I can't bring it because, yeah, the kids.
It's dark and it's black and it's garbage and it's me in where I am. Negative thoughts where there are thoughts at all and mostly just animal moans in my thoughts and the voices reminding me how much this hurts and how much this isn't worth the time it takes and the space I take up. Mixed up words and an empty head except where it's the depression holding on.