Monthly Archives: February 2014

winter-steppe (enchiladas, enchiladas)

snow field

The roads are bad, the snow is falling, and despite my best intention to exercise, I’ve decided I should just succumb to reading and tea-time all afternoon. The daffodils and crocus buds might be out in the island paradise I used to call home, but here in this tiny mountain town winter has just set-in. All fall it was dry with much praying for winter. High snow-line. Green riverbank. Eagles feasting on an open salmon buffet. Orange breasted songbirds out the window mirroring fall leaves settled dry on the ground. No powder. Occasional rain. Running in a t-shirt. Rock climbing in January. No cabin fever here. Over the last few months most of my work appointments have revolved around how pleased all the pregnant ladies are that it is a terrible ski year. No one wants to miss out on mountain time. Then it snowed and my midwifery skills have expanded to include the art of gently suggesting that maybe dropping large heli-lines isn’t the best after gestating for eight months. Oh Squamish. But I can’t totally say no. The powder is finally that sweet.

frozen over

If you were to stand outside my balcony right now the world would appear a swirl of milky stars. A mini blizzard taking me straight back to that winter when I was four and my dad built a skating rink over the front lawn. Before my hip was a problem and my parents started publicly not getting along. Afternoons like today, and the time a week or so ago when all the lakes froze over take me right back. Total clear glass. The sound of hockey sticks and pucks bouncing off frozen-in-logs sent me away to then, from full jumpsuits and learning to skate perched over a wooden chair, to teenage friday nights at the ice rink where we would refuse to wear our coats, go in the same direction as the boys, or dare to skate fast or fall at all. Something deep in me associates this kind of weather with cozy mittens holding you safe and together with their tight string connecting left-to-right arm, with a present father, with the scent of the hot cinnamon donuts my mom once made after hours circling our tiny rink.  Snow smells like hot chocolate in a paper cup with tiny plastic marshmallows and apple tea. Seasonal spice seared into the love of winter cold on my nose.

So why a Mexican meal this week? Snow doesn’t really smell like enchiladas. In fact, they continentally disagree. But, the thing with my version of winter is that it can get too nostalgic, slow, and stuck in white snow. Ski days aside, I’ve been drenched in too many hours reading on the computer and needed a long recipe project to distract and call away from all the round-about thoughts in my head. This week tortillas wrapped in Rebar’s mesa red sauce was up for the task of tugging me straight. Its not donuts, tea, or chocolate drinks, but maybe some southern heat can give you winter memory love too. (Or, if you are not in the mood to be brightened by enchiladas, there is always buying a parrot and some lemons…….). Whatever you pick, happy snow-day!

hee hee

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put an egg on it (red-pepper hollandaise sauce)

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In my small world, eggs play the role of the ubiquitous silk-screened bird. Birds are good for bathroom decoration and earrings, eggs are good for everything else. Don’t know what to do with all that smouldering spinach in the back of the refrigerator? Put an egg on it. Unsure how to tie potatoes and peppers together in a way that is fancy enough to celebrate the fact that your best lady-friends drove hours to come see you for the weekend? Put an egg on it. Starving and unable to think clearly because you have caught 10 babies in a month and caring for yourself sometimes takes super-human effort? Put an egg on it. Life simplified into a glorious combination of protein and ease.

This weekend I did a lot of egg-placing. Or, to be exact; egg poaching. In all truth, I finally figured out how to boil eggs without any of those fancy devices. Total satisfaction. My skills at IV placement are starting to lag which is causing me much trepidation, but man, I can achieve semblance of self confidence when a poached egg  comes out clean.

The eggs might be a little metaphorical. This week I’ve been reflecting a lot about what it means to be freshly out of my new-registrant period. About what I want for the next stage of life as a fully independent midwife who is supposed to be able to call the shots and run a seamless life where I don’t accidentally find myself without pants on or with a dead car battery when I am supposed to be at a birth. About being the kind of person who always answers their telephone. About wondering why I now feel odd pressure to figure out if I need to be meeting some sort of other prescribed developmental milestone of ones’ thirties like marriage or babies or home ownership or a phd now that my educational goals are distant and I don’t have a cycle of exams that tell me I am succeeding every four months. I didn’t think I would have to learn about how to be okay with “being just a worker,” and not a student striving for yet another set of public accolades and social prestige but alas, it is true. It’s almost embarrassing to watch the striver parts of myself try to find something else to climb. The deep chill parts of me (I like these ones better) just want to play music and make pottery mugs and have a garden and catch babies, but patterns from years of ritualized schooling are hard to kick. (photo below courtesy of a healthy kind of climbing: aka ski-touring times!)

Striving

Really, the main things I should be learning are how to control the daily stress of being in a caring profession. Its easy to give everything I have to people I barely know at work. To be overly patient with labouring families, and truly joyful and attentive in their journey. To focus on others completely for hours. To be calm in crisis. Then, with my own loved ones I can be an awful listener, quite self-absorbed, terribly goal-oriented, and turn quickly to sobs when confronted with minor turmoil. I think I don’t have this part of midwifery life balanced yet- I don’t get how to be a care-r without having to resort to others filling up my batteries with flattery or spending entire days in bed to re-charge. My wise mother tells me that these are the good, fleshy life questions that, in the process of unravelling, brings us closer to ourselves (and therefore able to live authentically with other people) but I find it fascinating how it feels easier to ignore personal growth in favour of pressing on and trying to win another award.

Going into the next six months of practice, maybe the best message is that it might be ok to slow down, be mindful, achieve less. Let my relationships be instead of pushing them into the places I think I want them to go. And, find a way to deal with days like today when the best answer is not to practice skills of expert napping (even though it is tempting), but to sit and meditate for awhile and then- when grounded and more settled- boil some water, gently cut some spinach, put the bread in the oven, and feel fully alive simply because there is warmth coming off of the stove.

Poached Eggs

*recipe after the jump*

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waldeinsamkeit (forest solitude and the best rice pudding)

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Sorry for the wait. These days I have been overly indulgent in waldeinsamkeit: the bliss of time spent alone in the woods. Forest solitude. This beloved German word is also one of my most favourite things. Hours solo in the woods where one can appreciate the light bouncing between the tree-tops, the hum of the river below, or the crunch of running shoes on frozen soil without the distraction of human presence. Or, in my case, the panic of thinking a cougar is behind you and realizing it is just your own breath. Followed by the joy at realizing there is a distinct possibility that all the cougars are probably hibernating somewhere far away for the winter (hurrah!). The returning worry when you realize you have no information, as in zero knowledge, about the winter sleeping habits of large west coast cats. Yet again, you realize you might be a little silly to be far away from cell reception and deep in the woods where you didn’t bring a map because you always know where you are in the woods (sort of) and obviously told no one where you might be going (or that you were going anywhere at all). The peace of reaching the viewpoint, realizing you are on track, and the quiet of an easy smooth run home. All of this paragraph in one word. Waldeinsamkeit. Oh Germany; how I adore your saucy minimalism.

Stump Lake

Forest solitude is good for the soul, but too much of it is leading to loneliness and a distinct lack of productivity. Too much day-dreaming. Still, vacation from obligation is good for everyone! I spent most of November on a dreamy van-trip through the American south-west, and then enjoyed a complete sabbatical from official to-do-lists for the holidays. The break from responsiblity turned into months, and now, here I am, trying to slide back into a space of public introspection.

I am hoping I can woo someone back to this little corner with promises of cardamon-scented rice pudding, and a forthcoming attempt at puff-pastry thrown together with yet another story about my grandmother. This writing project really should be called liz likes to hike and talk about the past. Is anyone surprised? Someone must find this endearing? That said, I am excited to feel re-inspired to return to my tiny internet home. I don’t have a distinct one in the real world, so I promise to pay more care to this little abode.

Either way, here is a gift for returning. Thats right; I made you rice pudding! Rice pudding sounds humble and not worthy of courtship, but this one blew my socks off. The author (Ottolenghi) is the darling of the dinner party circuit and this recipe made me realize that while I can be cynical all i want,  some things are popular for a reason. Creamy just sweet rice, a whiff of cardamon, pistachios, and rose-scented honey syrup? You are welcome. Thanks for coming back.

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