Saturday, August 29, 2009

Being Happy

One leg of this whole being happy journey I've been going on involves reconnecting with nature.

I was born in 1981, and electronics have pretty much surrounded me my whole life. When I was a kid, there were some woods behind my house, and I loved those woods. I would play in the woods for hours, all the time, and I was truly happy. When I was 11, we moved from that house, and I had no woods at my disposal until recently. Sad days. I didn't realize during this time how much I needed the beauty of the woods, and I drifted further and further from the person I am, and my place in this Universe. So, things went badly.

I am very fortunate in that my husband's family has a beautiful spot in the mountains. There is a house, with a hottub, but the best part is the 14 acres of mountain woods. That I can play in. Whenever I want. Without anyone else coming...that's the key. I could have gone to parks all this time, but I don't want strangers intruding on my play time.

We spent last weekend there. I recentered more powerfully than I ever have before. I could feel happiness rolling off of me in waves. The more I looked, really looked, at all the beauty around me, the more unavoidable the happy was. So, here I stand, centered and blissfully happy.

Jon and I went treasure hunting. It started out innocently, as we were walking and happened upon these beautiful mushrooms:

The purple one fascinated me so much because it was so so slimy. Later, I found a purple one the size of my hand, pristine and just oozing with slime. I dropped it when I tripped on a root, and it broke. It was the only sad moment of the weekend.

So then, I was fascinated by everything I found. It was ridiculous. We found these treasures next.

First, the deer skull, with one antler. The other side of the antler was on the ground next to it, chewed by some small hungry animal. Then, there is that crazy fungus's purple, and looked like no mushroom I've ever noticed before. We found several turkey feathers, and saw 7 wild turkeys each morning when we woke up. There is a tom, with 6 hens...lovely. The white mushroom was so perfectly formed I had to pick it. I also found a blue stick. I was totally confused about why the stick would be blue, hanging out in the woods, but 2 days later, I figured it out. I found a half blue stick, with tiny blue fungi growing all over it, and where there was fungi, the wood turned bright blue. And then my favorite thing:

I love this piece of wood. It was from a fallen tree. The tree was huge and old, and had supported so many tiny animals in it's life. So, the tree falls and this piece of wood breaks off. So, you would think that was the end of the road for the tree, right? But nature is awesome. Turns out that a slowly rotting piece of dead tree is the perfect host for this fungus. Which is so pretty! I don't know what it is, but it just represented how everything works together for me. I thought, while I looked at that, of one of the pieces of very old advice in a post I wrote earlier. If you haven't read that, go read it now, then come back. Specifically, this piece of wood reminded me "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." And people, that is such a good good thought to me.

I'd end this post with that thought, but I have more treasures to show you. After I found all the beautiful mushrooms, I decided to make a tiny mushroom garden for Jon to photograph. So I spent a completely silly amount of time. creating my garden. I think it was worth the time. Do you agree?

My drinking glasses are Smurf glasses, covered in mushrooms...I couldn't shake the thought as we were doing this that it would be the perfect place to catch a little Smurf. Hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed finding the treasures in them!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Last Weekend, Part 1

Jon and I played in the woods like we were little kids. It was beautiful, blissful, fabulous, etcetera. We found lots of treasures, and I got possessed to build a little mushroom forest. Then this caterpillar showed up. I have lots of pictures to share of the whole extravaganza, and I'll post them so soon. Wouldn't that picture be the best place to live if you were a tiny fairy?
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Be my fan, please!!!

Trying out this fan page thing on Facebook. I'd feel better if you were a fan. I'll make it easy:

Trivia with Carmen on Facebook

And while you're at it:

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Yogurt. God bless it.

A couple of months ago, my mother-in-law gave me an old yogurt maker she had. At that point, I'd been buying Greek yogurt at the store, and it was expensive. But it is so luxurious. Thick, creamy, and perfectly tart. It is wonderful with fruit, granola, name it. It's also good in a wrap with peanut butter and honey. You can use it as a substitute for sour cream. To do that, you just let it drain in a coffee filter for a few hours. If you hang it in cheesecloth and hang it for a few days, it makes a yogurt "cheese" that you can use in dips and even cheesecakes. You can add garlic and herbs and have salad dressing or dip. And, today I'm making my first frozen yogurt.

But I digress from my point.

I started making yogurt with this maker. It's easy, and I save a lot of money. And for breakfast, there is always fresh yogurt, with blueberries or some other fruit. It's perfect for Jon and my skittish tummies.

I'm going to tell you how to make it. And don't don't have to have a maker. Let's talk about that part first. The main goal is to find a spot where you can keep the mixture at about 110°-115° undisturbed for 6-8 hours. Options include:

1: A heating pad. You can put your mixture, covered, in a cooler with a heating pad on top of the mixture.

2: A dehydrator. I doubt you have one...I do, but it is mostly a waste of space. I'm currently trying my first batch in it. Seems simple put the container in the dehydrator on high.

3: A yogurt maker, following their directions.

4: Hot water: You'll need a thermometer. Place the cooler or pot in a place where it will be undisturbed. Place the jar with the yogurt milk in the cooler. Now fill the cooler with water that is 120°. Place a couple of fluffy towels over the cooler or pot.

OK-let's talk about our mixture.

First, take 4 cups of milk. I use whole organic milk. Heat it, boil it about a second, then stir a lot as it cools down. Homemade yogurt will be runnier than you are used to, unless you add 3/4 or so of powdered milk. Aldi's has my favorite, so far. You can skip it, but you will either have runny yogurt, or you can put it in a coffee filter for a few hours to drain and thicken it.

First variation, coming your way...if you're doing plain yogurt, skip this part. If you want sweet yogurt, add about half a cup, maybe a little less, to this hot milk. And some vanilla. Stir it every once and a while, until it hits about 120°.

Now, you're going to add culture. Yogurt is a bunch of live cultures, so you have to have starter, which is just yogurt. Once you've been making it, you just use some from the last batch, but you'll have to buy some to start. I like the Greek versions. Oikos, Chobani and Fage are good. You don't want flavored yogurt, or sweetened...and make sure it says "contains live cultures" on the package.

You're going to mix in 2 big heaping spoonfulls. It is best to take the yogurt, and a little of your milk mixture and put them in a jar and shake shake shake. Add that to your milk mixture and stir. Put it in a jar, or whatever sort of container you're going to incubate.

After that, 6-8 hours in a warm spot. To check and see if the yogurt is done, tip the jar slightly and see if the milk flows or stays put. Remember that the yogurt will thicken even more as it cools in the fridge. If you see clear whey when you tilt the jar, the yogurt is as done as it's going to get. Save some at the end, so you can make your next batch.

I forgot to mention fruit...most people add things like fruit or syrups at the end. I like to put blueberries on the bottom of the cups before I make it. I find it gives the blueberries a really delicious, hard to explain flavor. When you buy fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt at the store, they put a fruit syrup in the cup before they incubated the yogurt.

If you make any, let me know what you think. Any questions? I'll answer them the best I can.

Oh-I also forgot to mention probiotics. Anytime you take antibiotics, you need to take probiotics afterwards. The pills kill all the bacteria...good and bad. There are lots of little tiny guys in our bodies that need to be there...they help us digest, and help our bodies work in lots of ways. But, after your dose, they're all dead. You can go to the Vitamin Shoppe or GNC and get some in pill form, but yogurt is a wonderful natural way to do it. So, after a bout of antibiotics, make you a big batch of yogurt, and eat up. Your body will be happier.