Hello 2018.

I’ve tried writing this post for months now and still, it feels like barely any time has gone by.

I’m not sure where this is going to go, so bear with me, please.

 

My last post went up in December, marking the one year anniversary of Lucky’s death. There wasn’t a lot going on here before that and also nothing afterward. And there are a few reasons for that.

In September, I started seeing a new therapist. After years of waiting, I had finally found someone who had a spot open for me and it’s been going great, actually. I’m going once a week which definitely helps to keep myself in check, especially after I went off my meds sometime last year. Therapy has been really helpful in tackling things head-on and I’m so grateful that I live in a country where I don’t have to pay out of pocket for my healthcare.

Anyways…it’s been going well. There is obviously a lot of work involved and there have been days where I left the office with a tear-stained face and had to take a breather in the car because I was just so done. But then again, I’m not new to any of this, am I? I’d been expecting it, even. All in all…yeah, it’s going well, I’m happy to report.

I’ve been feeling more in control of myself and my thoughts and my body. Which, if you’ve ever felt apart from yourself, somehow distanced or cut off, is a great thing, I tell you.

However, there has also been some sad news.

At the end of October, we got a call that my grandfather had collapsed at work, had been transported to the hospital and was now in emergency surgery. (If you follow me on Twitter, you might have heard about this already.) Now, I won’t get into too much detail, because I 1. want to respect his privacy and 2. am aware that loads of people get triggered by medical things and I really don’t want to be the cause of anybody’s suffering. (Let alone my own because I, too, have trauma that connects to hospitals.)

So, to keep it short and simple, I’m just going to mention the word “brain bleed” and let you come to your own conclusions.

Grandpa passed away peacefully and without pain at the beginning of February, on his birthday, which almost feels like fate, really. It still shook the whole family, though. Especially since we had just lost someone on my mother’s side barely two weeks before Grandpa went into the hospital.

And it’s hard, you know? Because there’s this divide, in me. Because I’m so torn between being relieved that Gramps had been taken care of so beautifully by the people at the hospitals and the hospice, being thankful that he’s not suffering anymore and grieving the memories that will never be made now.

You know, I’d never seriously considered getting married before. I’d never seriously considered having children before. But now, that I know for a fact he won’t be there, I realize that he really, actually won’t be there if I do decide to do those things one day. And that just really hurts. It hurts so much that I can barely breathe sometimes.

Unfortunately, as it is often the case, there was some unpleasantness within the family due to disagreements with funeral arrangements. In the end, Grandpa did get the funeral he wanted, but I wish it could have gone a lot smoother and without the screaming beforehand.

The funeral was, even if it sounds morbid, beautiful. He was buried under a huge tree in the forest on a cold but sunny day. And I’m not usually one for signs or you know, the universe talking, but there was this one duck from the nearby pond, I’d assume, who just would not shut up. It definitely felt like Grandpa, trying people to stop talking and get on with it. In all honesty, the funeral felt so peaceful that I didn’t shed even one tear. Not because I wasn’t sad or grieving because I was. Still am. But because it felt right, somehowThere was a certain strength in knowing that this was exactly what he wanted, how he wanted it. There was a lot of love, too. And I was wearing one of the flannel shirts he’d given me, which made me feel very safe. I felt like I could breathe.

Yeah, well.

My friends are amazing, too, have I mentioned that yet? I love them so much I actually want to cry from all the emotion. They have been so incredibly helpful during this time and just in general, really. They are absolutely fantastic.

Aside from that, I’ve been writing a lot more, which is definitely a personal accomplishment. I’ve also been dealing with some chronic pain issues for which I’ve yet to find a solution or a cure or a temporary off-switch.
And I went to a job interview which is something that I didn’t even think possible a couple years back. Unfortunately, nothing has come of it so far (that could change) but I keep on keeping on.

And I think that’s the most important part.

 

All my love to you, my dear readers, for sticking with me. May you find some light in your life that keeps you going.

 

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It has been a year.

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It scares me a bit. A lot, actually. That so much time has passed and yet…

 

I’m not sure what to say. I miss her. Still. Always.

Forever.

It’s been 6 months.

 

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now and I’m still not entirely sure what to say. Please bear with me while I try to figure this out.

It’s been 6 months since Lucky died. I can’t quite believe it’s been this long. It has gone by incredibly fast and incredibly slow at the same time.

I remember all the details very, very clearly. Maybe that’s because I actually remember. And maybe that’s because I had a very clear vision of how it would happen. That sounds barmy, I know. But I did, for some reason.

When I found out that Goldie (my sister’s rabbit and my rabbit’s sister) had passed away, I knew exactly what fate would befall Lucky. Whether I actually knew or I simply guessed because I’m fantastic at expecting the worst, I don’t know. But I did know how it would happen and it turned out to be so very real.

When Goldie died, it was during the early morning hours. She was not in pain, her heart simply stopped.

I knew right then that Lucky’s passing would be completely different. Maybe my brain was simply suggesting that it would be the opposite, because the rabbits were opposites in every way. Or maybe my brain went immediately to the most extreme outcome. I don’t know.

Goldie and Lucky were a surprise. Not completely, of course, we knew we were getting rabbits, but when we visited the breeder for the first time, we didn’t know that we’d be able to take them home with us already. We thought we’d choose ours and go and get them a week later or so. But the breeder, he was a really nice man and took care of his animals beautifully, said they were already good to go (not nursing anymore and standing on their own four feet), so we took them home.

I don’t remember ever having been so sure of a choice I made. Not before I chose Lucky and not after. It was love at first sight. She was so tiny (the runt of her litter) and so fluffy and so beautiful. I’d never seen her coloring in a rabbit before (they call it blue), only ever the typical black-and-white and tan ones. Obviously, she wasn’t actually blue, but had this lovely dark grey fur that was just the softest thing I’d ever touched. And she’d gotten some of her dad’s Lionhead genes, because she had a little tuft between the ears.

For the first week, we kept them in a big laundry basket, because Dad hadn’t finished building the hutch yet. But when it was done, they moved in and lived happily ever after. They truly did.

We’d thought we’d have to separate them eventually, because they’d fight, but they never did. They’d bitch at each other, but real fights never broke out (and they can get vicious, as we saw with the little ladies later on). They literally lived together their whole lives. Well, almost.

Which is why I thought, when Goldie died, Lucky would follow soon after. I thought she’d miss her and wither away without her. And Lucky did miss her sister. I know that. I saw her sniffing and looking. And I remember how miserable she was when Goldie was sick and had to be kept inside under supervision and we didn’t know if she’d make it through the night. I remember how miserable Lucky was then and that we actually had to take her inside as well so she could be with her sister. Which is why I was worried about her when Goldie died.

But Lucky lived on and did her sister proud. She grew older and older still. Her fur started losing it’s original color and began turning light brown in places. She went blind, one eye first, then the other. But that did not stop her either. She went deaf at the very end. Even that could not faze her.

So it was quite horrible to always have that vision, that premonition of how her death might come to pass. And in the end it was way worse than what I’d imagined.

Some people say it’s good not to know when your pet will die, because you’ll never live with the fear. Some people say it’s good to know when your pet will die, because you can prepare yourself. But as someone who has experienced both, I can honestly say that it’s never easier, one way or the other. It’s never less painful or less of a shock.

When Goldie died, I saw this image…this image of someone going to check on the rabbits and coming back saying that Lucky didn’t look so good, that she was barely moving. It was getting darker outside in that image, so I always thought it would happen in winter. Which I mused would be great because Lucky would have been around to see another summer. One more time in the green grass.

On December 16th, around 5 pm, my brother went to check on our rabbits and he came back worried. He said Lucky, who was always more of a scaredy rabbit and moving around a lot, even when she was already blind, was just sitting there and not moving at all. And that is when I knew. I immediately started crying; just like I am right now, typing this.

My Dad said he’d go look at her and he did. He did not come back. I went out to see her myself and he said her breathing was very labored. He actually didn’t need to tell me this, because I knew. I simply knew. I took her from him and my knees buckled and almost gave out. She had lost weight and was way too light.

I knew the time had come to keep the promise I’d made to her the very first time I’d seen and held her. The promise to keep her safe, to keep her away from harm and to never let her feel pain or distress. I told her it was okay and to not worry about me.

And then we took our very last trip.

Whether you believe what I did was right or wrong, I do not care about. I firmly stand by my decision. I did right by her and that is what counts. She took her very last breath with me there, by her side.

We buried her in a beautiful, handmade little casket, in a shadowy corner in the garden, next to her sister. Laid down flowers and lit candles.

I’ll often sit with her, just like I did when she was still hopping around. I’ll talk to her, sometimes. And sometimes I’ll simply be there, in the moment. And remember my beautiful girl.

Brought her flowers today. They were blue-ish roses and the most extraordinary of all of them. I thought they fit perfectly.

The worst part, I think, is that I’ll never feel or smell her again. Sometimes, when it’s really bad and grief is a real pain, I’ll cuddle Minnie, who, as you might know, came along right before Lucky passed. And she’ll sit there and let me, almost as if she knows, because she’s really not that much of a cuddler. And then I’ll sit there and cry.

The crying has gotten better, I think. I’ve never really dealt with grief before, at least not at this level and I was surprised at what it brought along. In the beginning I was crying every day. And then at random moments. I’d just break out into tears.

And the anger.

I already deal with anger issues, but I’ve never felt it like this. I didn’t even realize this was caused by grief until I watched someone’s video about what grief feels like to them and that’s when it hit me.

The anger has gotten better as well, I think. I don’t feel so unstable anymore.

It’s still painful, obviously. But after almost twelve years together, that’s to be expected, I believe. And warranted.

We recently renovated their graves, so to speak, and made their little resting place into a beautiful stone garden. I’m currently looking for a way to engrave stone, so I can make her a little headstone, or something like that. And I’m on the hunt for a 4-leaf-clover plant. Because, as you probably know, they’re lucky.

There’s this song that I heard on one of my favorite shows. I played it at her funeral. It’s called Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song) by Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford.

<< …I remember one night, a drizzling rain
Round my heart I felt an achin’ pain
Fare thee well, oh honey, fare thee well… >>

It fits, I think.

It’s been six months. I can’t believe it’s been six months.

 

Lucky.jpg
Taken on her birthday in 2016, this is probably one of my favorite pictures of her. As you can see, she’s already blind, but she is still the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes upon.

 

 

Getting through life with a few spoons only – part 2: no machine? no knead!

This is the second installment to my series about low spoon cooking and it’s about using the no machine/no knead methods to your advantage.

Often times, “no machine” is used in the context of making ice cream. Regular ice cream recipes require a machine in which the cream mixture is frozen while being stirred. These machines can often be quite expensive and the process of making ice cream can be tedious. Which is why there are recipes that don’t require you to cook the mixture and then churn it (see below for my recipe of choice).

But I also use the term “no machine” in the context of not needing a standing mixer (like a kitchenaid) to be able to prepare something. Standing mixers, like ice cream machines, can be expensive. And not just expensive but also fairly bulky to keep on a kitchen counter. Plus: unless you bake a lot (or prepare very extensive recipes with a lot of steps to them), a standing mixer is not really necessary.

In fact, I had my first experience with owning a standing mixer/food processor combo about 12 years after my mom started teaching me to cook and bake; we only ever had a handheld mixer, which is something you don’t even need for the majority of recipes I’m going to be mentioning in this post. Most of them are using the “no knead” method, which is another step down from the “no machine” one, because “no knead” recipes add time and subtract the work part.

If you have a bit experience with yeast doughs (or even if you don’t), you might know they need love. The more love you put in through kneading, the better your dough. But let’s be real: even if the dough is relatively easy to handle and forgiving, kneading isn’t something everyone is always able to do. Or wants to do, for that matter. I like making a nice yeasty dough, but kneading is often the part of the recipe that makes me say “nope, not today”. And this is when the “no knead” method comes in, which uses less yeast than most regular recipes and adds 10-14 hours more rising time.

The only work you really actually do, is mixing the wet into the dry ingredients and only so much so that there’s no floury bits left. All ingredients have to be saturated. And that is it. Then you let it rise/ferment. (All recipes I mentioned feature videos that show everything step by step.)

Here are some recipes I love.

  • pizza dough: this is the pizza dough I mentioned in my other post. It is simply lovely. I’ve tried a few pizza doughs now and there was one that tasted quite like this one, but it required a lot (a lot!) more work and many more steps than this one. This dough, which I found on Gemma Stafford’s BiggerBolderBaking, is very forgiving and gives the baker a huge amount of time to prepare and finish it, which I adore because I sometimes simply need more time to go through the same steps.
  • donuts: these donuts aren’t just “no knead”, they’re also not fried but baked, which is certainly a nice step to be able to bail out on, because frying requires time and concentration. The donuts need to be cut out with a large cookie/scone cutter (and a smaller one for the hole), which admittedly can be too much work sometimes, but don’t worry if you’re not able to cut them out after the dough has risen because you can keep it in the fridge for up to three days which should give you enough time to recover.
  • Irish Soda Bread: this bread is considered a quick bread because the only thing you really do is saturate the dry with the wet ingredients and then simply bring the dough together into a loaf. And it is delicious- hearty and cozy. (Is that an acceptable word to describe bread? :D)
  • Supreme Pizza Bread: this is the bread I mentioned in my first post. I usually make it without the filling, because there’s less cutting involved that way, but it does taste good with it as well.

For all the recipes above you only need a bowl (I prefer glass, but that is definitely your choice) and a spatula or wooden spoon to bring the dough together. You can also use your hands, but due to my sensitivity issues I sometimes cannot stand the sticky dough, which is why I use my favorite wooden spoon. Then, you’re also going to need cling film (Saran wrap/plastic wrap) or a lid for your bowl, plus a towel or two to protect the bowl the dough from drafts.

 

  • no machine ice cream: this recipe is brilliant. You can whip it up in a pinch and I am not exaggerating. Granted, a handheld mixer is needed or, let’s say it this way, it would be advantageous but you could probably whip the cream with a whisk and a lot of elbow grease. Aside from that, though, you only need (whipped) cream and sweetened condensed milk for the base, then vanilla/vanilla extract (and, if you’re going for a different flavor than vanilla, also those ingredients)
    • If you are dairy-free, here is a recipe for you that uses coconut milk.

 

All of the recipes are from ladies who also have youtube channels, so you can also check out the videos on their sites to follow the recipes visually step by step.

Next up: more recipe ideas, including basic ingredients like pasta and how to use them in different meals.

Thank you for reading and happy baking. 🙂

 

Getting through life with a few spoons only – part 1: mastering the art of freezing

I have often thought about creating a blog post like this, though not in this context. Let me start at the beginning. A few days ago, my best friend (who is about to move out and live on her own) asked a question on twitter that I’ve been dealing with for a very long time; “what are some easy meals I can cook that don’t require a lot of spoons?”.

Now, this might seem like a somewhat odd question since every kitchen should at least have a few spoons. That’s not the kind of spoon she was talking about however. She was referring to “The Spoon Theory” which was written by Christine Miserandino. It details what it is like living with illness (in her case it was a physical illness, but it also works if you’re explaining a mental one) using spoons as a means to explain it, ie “you only have a certain amount of spoons to spend on doing daily activities and when they’re gone, you’re done/cannot go on, so you have to pick your battles and what you spend your spoons on”. If you have never read it, I would highly recommend it, as it is a brilliant way to describe living with an illness, which can be a very abstract subject to explain and understand. You can find it here.

As someone who is dealing with this issue (“do I have enough spoons for this?”) every single day due to several mental illnesses/disorders, I have picked up a few tricks. Especially since I am actually a fairly independent person (aside from living at home), life with an illness can get tricky, to say the least. Cleaning, doing laundry, that’s something that can be left for the next day or the day after if need be, but cooking and taking care of yourself is not. So here is where we get back to the actual question: if I don’t have enough spoons left, what do I cook? And if I cook, will I then have enough spoons left to be able to eat it?

I love to cook. I love to bake. But sometimes I am just not able to.

Tip number 1: Meal preparation. And I am not talking about “meal prep” as in “what bodybuilders/athletes often do to control their food intake”. I mean meal preparation in the sense of cooking/baking on a good day and conserving/freezing it for days where you can’t (or just don’t feel like it/are lazy, which is also a valid reason).

  • Bread: my Mom has been freezing bread for years, which is where I learned it from. Some twenty years ago, when I was still a wee one, we lived quite a way out of town and a trip to the bakery would have taken about 35-45 minutes by foot (which is all we could do, since my Dad would generally take the car). So my mother would just buy a bigger loaf of bread (sourdough), cut it in half, keep one part out to eat fresh and put one in the freezer. It’s very simple, too. You just need to make sure that the bag you’re using is suitable for freezing/the temperature your freezer is at, make sure you get the air out as best as possible and close it tightly (or tie it up).
    • Since I have ventured into trying to bake my own bread, I have also made a bread based on a recipe by Laura Vitale (Supreme Pizza Bread) – I just left out the filling and sprinkled some Italian seasoning and sea salt on the top – which freezes/thaws out very well.
  • Pizza/pizza dough: pizza is delicious. Also very customizable to fit everybody’s taste. It’s definitely a staple in my cookbook. Plus it’s very easy to freeze. So far, I’ve tried three different recipes for pizza dough and every single one of them worked very well after thawing out. And if you freeze the dough in disks, it will thaw out even quicker.
    • Here is a no knead-dough recipe from Gemma Stafford. (The no-knead method is lovely and I will be talking about it more in another post.)
      • The same recipe post will also feature a great pizza sauce recipe that you can also freeze, maybe even as suggested in the post in ice cube trays.
    • AND HERE is a step-by-step recipe by Laura Vitale who shows you how to make homemade frozen pizzas (which are pre-baked) in case you don’t have the ability to make them with fresh or thawed out dough.
  • Cookie dough: a lot of cookie doughs love it cold anyway and some of them are even supposed to be chilled in the freezer before cutting and baking them. It only makes sense to keep some in the freezer for the occasion that you get peckish for something sweet. I absolutely love Leila Lindholm’s cookbook “A piece of cake”, that features some amazing cookie recipes.
    • This is the recipe for her Chocolate Chip Cookies, the base for any good cookie. I personally adore adding some more chocolate and (chopped or ground) hazelnuts. If you roll the dough into a sausage shape before freezing, all you need to do is slice and bake it.
  • Pie crust: I’ve never met a pie I didn’t like. And I’ve never met someone who didn’t like pie. And guess what? Pie crust is the perfect candidate for the freezer as it’s also a big fan of the cold, just like cookie dough. If it’s cold, it’s gonna be good. That’s what makes it buttery and flaky. One of my personal pie (and kitchen) queens is Cynthia Barcomi and the idea to freeze the crust actually came from her.
    • Here is one of her recipes for a simple apple pie, but unfortunately I could only find a recipe in German.
    • BUT I got you covered and so does my girl Laura Vitale. THIS is her basic recipe for pie crust. And the best thing about this: while you can certainly make this recipe with your hands, it works just as well (and quicker!) in a food processor.
  • Meat: I am not big on meat. At all. But there are two types that my Mom frequently freezes to have on hand and I thought the knowledge might benefit someone.
    • beef for making soups/stew/broth: this type of meat is usually quite robust and can take the cold, especially if you give it enough time to thaw out. Cooking broth is already quite easy, since there is little chopping involved and it usually cooks by itself, doesn’t need to be watched. But running out to buy beef when you want to make a nice stew or soup in addition to a busy day? Not the best way to relax.
    • minced/ground meat: whatever your preference meat-wise (pork, beef etc.), minced meat freezes well. Especially if you pack it into the freezer in portion sizes and flatten it. That way, it thaws out amazingly quick. And boom, there’s your spag bol ingredient number one.
      • you could also pre-make some burger patties and freeze those individually, separated with a piece of parchment paper
  • vegetables/herbs/fruit: while we’re on the topic of soup, why not talk about
    • vegetables for making soup: a lot of supermarkets in our area offer little boxes with an assortment of soup or stew vegetables (celery/celery root, leek, carrots, parsley) already packaged, which is usually convenient because you don’t have to buy all the produce separately, but sometimes it’s simply too much for one person or a single serving of soup. Dividing it in half, for example, making soup with one and freezing the other, keeps one from having to throw unneeded pieces out.
    • herbs, washed and chopped, are perfect for freezing. That way, you get the most out of your herb garden or potted herbs and don’t have to worry about running out of them when the plant dies (for example). Plus it keeps them fresh and doesn’t take away any of the flavor.
    • fruit: frozen fruit is lovely and versatile. Berries and bananas are amazing in smoothies or müsli. A leftover lemon or orange? Sliced or diced and frozen it’s a perfect ingredient for lemonade to keep the flavor going and the liquid cool. You could even do that with leftover juice. Freeze it in an ice cube tray and there you go – no watered down drinks. Just more flavor.
      • frozen yogurt is amazing, by the way. It’s easy to make and only requires a few ingredients. Here is a recipe by Gemma Stafford. I’ve made it with strawberries and blueberries before, it’s yummy.
      • back when we had an apple tree, we would make huge batches of apple sauce. But, as with the jam, storage can get tricky fast, so we started freezing it. Works amazingly well and keeps the color nice and yellow, as it should be.
  • Jam: if you make your own jam or marmalade, storing it is sometimes difficult because you should keep the jars in a dark, cool place. The freezer is actually perfect for it and ever since we started making our own strawberry jam (as well as strawberry puree to serve with ice cream), we’ve stored some jars in the freezer for the winter. It keeps the jam fresh and has the upside of not making it lose its color, which can sometimes happen when it gets too much light.

BUT let’s be real. Even if you do all these things, like I do, sometimes it just doesn’t cut it. I’m very conscious of what I eat and that I eat food that is mostly healthy, which is why I started cooking homemade meals and freezing them, or preparing foods that would only need a couple more steps to make them into a full meal, but even I, who loves to cook, can’t deal with “a couple more steps” sometimes. Sometimes, it is just too much and I don’t want to care about watching a pot boil. Not to mention that it usually doesn’t. So please take this advice as serious as anything I said before: it’s absolutely fine to use short-cuts. Heating up store-bought soup? Fine. Throwing some bought, frozen fries in the oven? Great. Making a frozen pizza? Awesome. Don’t beat yourself up because of that. People will tell you it’s junk and you shouldn’t. So maybe that’s true. But you know what else is true? You had dinner. Something to eat on your plate. And you made it yourself. So maybe you didn’t cut the potatoes and salt and pepper and drizzle them with oil, but you put them on a baking tray and you baked them and you took them out and then you had food on your plate. Let’s just take the win, okay? And don’t put yourself down because that happened a few days in a row. It’s fine. Better cooking and baking days are coming. I had fries, frozen, store-bought ones, on Sunday evening, Monday evening and Tuesday evening. And then I had enough spoons left again to make pasta with sauce on Wednesday. And you know what? That’s awesome.

So don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out one night. Or four nights in a row. It’s going to get better and then you’re going to cook up a storm.

Be proud of your achievements, even if it is just throwing some instant soup mix in some hot water. Because sometimes life is tough and dark. Take your wins for what they are.

Thank you so much for reading.

Love,

me.