Thursday, February 22, 2018

Inspiration Thursday - Howard Zahniser

"I believe that at least in the present phase of our civilization we have a profound, a fundamental need for areas of wilderness - a need that is not only recreational and spiritual but also educational and scientific, and withal essential to a true understanding of ourselves, our culture, our own natures, and our place in all nature.

This need is for areas of the earth within which we stand without our mechanisms that make us immediate masters over our environment - areas of wild nature in which we sense ourselves to be, what in fact I believe we are, dependent members of an interdependent community of living creatures that together derive their existence from the Sun."
         -Howard Zahniser
Happy (early) Birthday to Wilderness Act author Howard Zahniser (Feb. 25, 1906-May 5, 1964).
Howard was a tireless visionary, conservationist, journalist, and author of the original text of the U.S. Wilderness Act (which ultimately took 66 drafts).  The Wilderness Act established the national wilderness preservation system (which today protects over 109 million acres) to ensure these rugged places stay wild for future generations.
I firmly believe that if we'd not set up this system we wouldn't have large expanses of untrammeled lands today.  It seems to me that "in the present phase of our civilization" we let little stands in the way of so-called progress.  Development continues to encroach, but the Wilderness Act safeguards some of the most pristine and untouched places from being chopped up for roads, mines, or shopping malls.
Private landowners who utilize and manage their land with an eye toward conservation, wildlife management, and maintaining wild characteristics get tremendous respect from me.  Unfortunately I've seen what happens when a hold-out passes on and the next generation sees their relationship with the land a little differently.  It comforts me to know there are these glorious cathedrals of nature safeguarded by the law, too.
Our vigilance is still required though.  There are certainly folks at local, state, and national levels who think these public lands would be better put to use for resource extraction or motorized use.  This hurts my heart.  We have enough roads in this world.  We do not have enough solitude and sanctuary.  We will never have enough coal or oil and it seems unconscionable to wreck these scenic and ecologically viable locales to get a little bit more.
I volunteer for the Montana Wilderness Association and highly recommend getting involved with groups like that, dedicated to keeping public lands in public hands--and committed to the preservation of Howard's legacy.   I've met so many passionate, intelligent, thoughtful people through my involvement with this and similar organizations--people who inspire me to participate, to stand up for what I hold dear, to shape my own page of history.
Sometimes this is hard.
Sometimes it is complex, disheartening, convoluted, and frustrating as all get out.   (And I want to retreat or call people mean names and quit.)  But, in the end, I know it is worth it.  Doing good/right frequently fails to follow the path of least resistance.  I feel compelled to do my small part carrying the torch--to ensure the work of all those before me doesn't fade quietly away.
Happy 112th birthday to Howard this weekend!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Eat Your Greens: Coconut Cauliflower Tacos with Creamy AvoLime Sauce

I am not a food blogger.  That accounts for all the  fairly shoddy food photos and loosey-goosey "recipes" I share.  Food is a major player in my life and I am keen to share my favorite dishes and techniques, but it is not the primary focus of my blog.  It is but one facet of voluntarily simple life I lead.  This is what I tell myself so I can just snap a halfway decent photo and call it good enough for my purposes.  I blog about food.  I'm not really a food blogger.  😉
One of my favorite actual food bloggers, Allotment2Kitchen, co-hosts (along with the Veg Hog) a monthly recipe round up called Eat Your Greens.

The strand that runs through this challenge is that all dishes must be vegetarian and highlight at least one yummy, healthful, and beautiful green vegetable.  While I usually drool over the recipes shared I don't typically participate more actively.  This month I am over the moon to join in though because I've am equally over the moon about this fantasmagorical meal--coconut breaded cauliflower tacos with spinach and a cilantro-avocado-lime sauce.  This new suppertime favorite features a variety of green color, though lime and avocado are certainly fruits and thus fail to meet the requirements.  Spinach and cilantro round it out nicely though.

The coconut cauliflower came to us first--inspired by a recipe for fish tacos.  (Fish tacos being something neither Matt nor I have ever eaten during the omnivorous phase of our lives.)  The recipe is presented in classic vague Beth style.  It isn't complex to make--just amazing to eat--and so I see no reason to bother about the recipe in greater detail.  No matter how many florets we prepare we seem to crush them all.   Consider yourself warned and just make a bunch.
The cauliflower is superbly divine in its own right, but it is the avolime sauce which really seals the deal.  And I even managed to come up with a fairly respectable recipe for that one, as it happens.  Oh, baby!!!  I could eat it with a spoon...and I'm not even all that smitten with avocados usually.  It is particularly excellent on tacos, enchiladas, toast, salads, and breakfast scrambles, but really, the possibilities are endless. The sauce will remain good in the fridge for at least a week, but maybe more.  I've never had it stick around longer than that so I could find out!
Coconut Breaded Cauliflower
flaked coconut
panko breadcrumbs
1/2 - 1 whole cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 can coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Place equal parts flaked coconut and panko in a food processor, start with maybe a cup of each, depending on how much cauliflower is being breaded.  
Pulse the coconut and panko until they're in rather small and uniform bits.
Pour the coconut milk into a bowl with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  Additional spices can also be included.  Cumin is a really nice touch.
Dredge cauliflower pieces through the coconut milk until well coated.  The coconut milk is just thick enough that it clings to the surface of the cauliflower quite well, in addition to adding some extra decadence with the rich coconut flavor. 
Dredge/toss in the coconut-panko mixture until well breaded.
Bake at 375 degrees F until starting to turn golden brown on top, and tender all the way though when pierced with a fork.  Start with 20 minutes.
Creamy AvoLime Sauce
2/3 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (ish) water
4 T fresh lime juice
1  small-medium avocado
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Soak cashews in a large bowl of room temperature water for about 8 hours.
After the allotted time, drain and rinse the cashews.
Combine all ingredients in the blender and process on high until a thick, creamy, almost mousse-like sauce is formed.  (A high speed blender, like our Vitamix, really makes it quick and easy to maximize the creamy mouthfeel.  If a high speed blender isn't an option soaking the cashews longer will help.) 
Add water in small quantities, if needed, to achieve the desired consistency.  (Thinner for salad dressing or drizzling over enchiladas and thick for spreading on toast or as the base layer in a taco.)
A typical taco for me might include:  A fresh tortilla spread with a layer of avolime sauce followed by a good scoop of beans, some seasoned rice, three or four coconut cauliflower florets, and a big handful or two of spinach.

Matt made these tacos for Valentine's Day since he knows I adore them so.  It wasn't three days later before I was proposing them again for lunch.  He's been making fresh tortillas to boot, and seriously, these tacos are epic!!  I am in food love.  Here is hoping the other Eat Your Greens readers swoon for it as hard I do!

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Milk Jug Army: Human Scale

Human Scale

Sometimes,
--Wait--
Oftentimes,
I cannot comprehend
The extent of this place.

That I am astonished by
My own minuscule physicality when compared
With the likes of the Redwood or Sequoia
The Lower Falls, the Northern Lights,
Is not nearly so unbalancing to my psyche
As the notion of 80,000 job applicants
for a mere handful of vacancies.

80,000 people!?!  Imagine!
So I do.
Me, Matt, Mom, Dad, Sarah, Lisa,
Ryan, Adam, Sharon, Roger, Josh, Derek,
Val, Meagan, Hannah, Casey, Bek,
Ellen, Alex, Patrick, Abby, April,
Kelly, Brian, Steph, Keleigh, Eli...
I gather them in my mind,
One after another.

Just as when,
While a young girl,
I was told that the surge tanks in Powerhouse One
Could hold two million gallons of water.
Leaving me to envision that bordering on unfathomable
As an army of solitary gallon milk jugs,
One after another.

The relentlessly pervasive tide
--oh, the humanity--
Sweeps me off my feet,
Times Square, Balboa Park, Pike's Place
How?  Where?  Why?  When?
As I take a slow, affirming breath of fresh air,
Along with seven other souls
Per square mile.
Photos from our visit to the forests of the Pacific Northwest during Fall 2016.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Principles of Adult Behavior - Inspiration Thursday

John Perry Barlow died just over a week ago.  Barlow was a man of words and of music and a powerful force for freedom and justice, especially in the technological realm.  He first came to my attention through the Grateful Dead where, alongside Robert Hunter, he crafted the lyrics to an astonishing multitude of truly superb songs; poetry put to music.  Back in 1977, as Barlow's 30th birthday approached, he drafted a list of what he called "principles of adult behavior," which would guide him throughout the remainder of his life.  
Click on the picture and it should open in a larger/expanded view--or you can read the list here.
The list continues to be one of his most circulated works--and with valid reason.  It rings the same bell in me as does Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata."  As such I took John's list and formatted it in a similar visual style to hang, alongside Desiderata, in our home.

To remind me of things worth remembering --and which can be so hard for me sometimes:
"Try not to forget that, no matter how certain, you may be wrong,"
"Praise at least as often as you disparage,"
"Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun."
"Tolerate ambiguity."
"Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you."
"Forgive."

Monday, February 12, 2018

Book Review: How To Be Married by Jo Piazza

One genre (is that the right term?) of books which I thoroughly enjoy are those which explore the world or history through one specific lens.  I'm thinking Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky, The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, No Impact Man by Colin Beavan or The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan.  Jo Piazza's book, How to Be Married: What I Learned from Real Women on Five Continents About Surviving My First (Really Hard) Year of Marriage, carries on in this vein and offers a fantastic round the world tour of the institution of marriage.  I quite enjoyed it.
Initially I was worried that I wouldn't really be able to relate much to Jo, a world-traveling journalist who loves her fast-paced, high-stress New York lifestyle.  The more I read--and the more self-reflection Jo performs--the more commonalities emerged.  I actually found her quite accessible in the end--and fairly hilarious, too.  Note:  If you don't like swears be prepared.

After meeting the man of her dreams--but who has little in common with the other men she's dated--Jo is worried about: getting married/being a wife without giving up her identity and independence and falling seriously ill with an inherited genetic condition.  This book is the story of making peace with both.

Jo, while traveling for pleasure and on work assignments spends the first year of her marriage--the "wet cement" year--asking people she meets around the globe to share their insights about what makes a good marriage, what makes a marriage last.  She goes into the project "believing that somewhere someone has figured out the secret to the perfect marriage."  Instead she learns that there is no one way and no hard-and-fast rules.  It reminded me of gardening--there are unlimited ways to be successful and only a few habits that are certainly destined for complete failure.  Jo finds that the same goes for marriage.  There are certainly themes that generally indicate a strong marriage, but it becomes clear that "everyone, no matter how good their relationship, struggles to make it work."

It was pretty fascinating to me how varied the type of marriage and love there are in the world.  They were so beautiful in all their forms.  It was delightfully eye-opening.

Jo learns about the importance of every woman feeling beautiful, sexy underwear, maintaining mystique, and peeing with the door shut from women in France.  She is smitten with the deep connection, sisterhood, and community from the plural wives of Kenya, even if she has a hard time wrapping her mind around it at first.  She discovers the necessity of "me-time" and taking care of yourself in Israel.   The Danish makes Jo realize the value of a comforting home environment filled with fun and uplifting people as well as the importance of time disconnected from smartphones and laptops and the hazards of unnecessary complaining.  In India, she learns how to live a life of gratitude without saying thanks all the time.  And more.

Jo's diagnosis with muscular dystrophy--the same disease slowly taking her father from her--is an unexpected education for her.  Just like when they try to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the experiences shows Jo that she must learn to accept help when she needs it, how to share her worries and struggles with her husband rather than try to take on the world alone, and that in a relationship there comes a time with each partner must be the strong one, the helpful one, the one holding up the other.

It gave me much to think about in my own marriage--and in my life, generally.  I am so thankful for Matt it is beyond saying.  Still, I think I picked up a few ideas as I traveled along with Jo.  Entertaining and helpful--that's a win-win.

The book also really, really drives home the importance of international travel---or exposure to a diversity of cultures.  We--humanity-- have so many of the exact same worries and concerns, passions and triumphs.  Yet simultaneously we're all dramatically different in how we relate to and view the world.  It is just fascinating to me.  I think we have a  lot to learn from each other.  There are so many ways of being.

Disclaimer:  I got a copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program.  The review and opinions here are my own and were not influenced by that fact.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Smilin' Like a Buddah - Inspiration Thursday, Reprise

"And then you're seein’ in a light you didn’t know was glowin’
And you're drinkin' from a cup you didn’t know was flowin’
Every beat of your heart open, love is formin’

Oh, and there’s a feelin’ runnin’ through ya!
Oh, and then you're smilin’ like a Buddha!
Oh, and there’s a feelin’ comin’ to ya!
Oh, and you're smilin’ like a Buddha!"

I am fairly shocked that it was 2014 when I ceased my Inspiration Thursday posts.  My, my...how the days roll on!

I've been struggling in spirit--nothing tragic or dreadful, I'll certainly live--but I cannot seem to shake these bad vibes.  I do not feel like my sunny and upbeat self.  I feel like a hypercritical grouch, and, if I am totally honest, on some days like an ungrateful little fraud.  This is not who I am....  Hoping the New Year would be a fresh start was, as I suspected all along, overly optimistic.

This realization lead me to ruminate on more active ways to turn my attitude/outlook around--spending more time listening to music and writing and less time on Facebook, having small dinners with close friends and family, being more selective in the media I expose myself to, enjoying more quiet alone time, basking in candlelight during the evenings, etc.  Stuff like that.  Stuff which fills my bucket, rather than empties it.

I can't say if Inspiration Thursday really made a difference for anyone else, but I know that it was a beneficial practice for me.  It encouraged me to dedicate time for deep contemplation on the positive influences and inspirations that surround me--music, poetry, friends, family, art, books, and more--each and every week.  It caused me to be reflective, to ponder, and to consistently submerge myself in feeling inspired.  Inspired to do good.  Inspired to feel good.  Inspired to share good.

So, needless to say, Inspiration Thursdays will resume this year.  ❤