February 17, 2017

Living in the middle

This is a funny time of year--not quite winter, not quite spring. One day it’s cold and there’s frost in the morning; the next day it’s warm and gusty. I woke up the other day and it was actually light outside, but the sun is not quite back. Almost. Not yet.


It’s also a funny time to live in, this moment. My life is a bit betwixt and between, not quite one thing and not quite another. I started this newsletter three times before I figured out what I wanted to say. One day I’m full of energy and fight; the next day everything feels too big and too scary. Things are changing, but they haven’t quite settled.


In Orthodox liturgical terms, we’re almost to Great Lent--almost, but not quite there. There’s a cleanness, a sharpness, a singleness of focus during Lent that I crave the rest of the year. Although of course, halfway through I’ll be complaining and miserable. When Pascha comes, spring will be here; the world will be covered in flowers; all of creation will rejoice. But right now, we’re still with the Prodigal Son.


The world isn’t covered with flowers yet, but there’s greenness coming. I picked wild onions the other day while I was taking a walk, for their oniony sharp smell. The grass is still brown, but there are clumps of seedlings starting. I want to grow herbs this year, so the other day I planted seeds in an egg carton: basil, dill, summer savory, tarragon, thyme, yarrow. The names themselves make a rhythm, a pattern, a promise of things coming.


A month ago, I was looking for something else in my basement and I found a bunch of paperwhite bulbs that I had stuck on a shelf and forgotten about. They were actually sprouting: green tips showing above the papery bulbs. I figured that if they could sprout in a dark basement with no soil or water, the least I could do is give them what they apparently didn’t need to thrive.


We’re often uncomfortable with ambiguity, with the space in between. But there are seasons when we need exactly that. I want to rush through this moment, on to the definite and stable. I don’t want to teeter back and forth between winter and spring. I don’t want to keep longing for what’s almost here. And yet, in a way it’s also necessary: to breathe, to plant seeds, to let ourselves be right here and now.


Three links

“I want young people to have a space where they can process what is happening in our world and I believe poetry—and art in general—can be a place to process, question, and heal. That is what Langston’s poetry did, and continues to do, for me. It has helped me make sense of what is sometimes a chaotic, unjust world. It has inspired me to celebrate the small things, to remember where it is I come from.”

  • I love Star Wars and I love fan criticism and Sarah Jeong’s “Did Inadequate Woman’s Healthcare Destroy the Old Republic?” is MARVELOUS. It’s hilarious (I started giggling at: “It's just a dream, honey," Padme tells him the next morning. "Yeah, okay," he replies, but the man never regains his chill” and never really stopped), it’s thoughtful, and it’s an excellent lens to examine real world issues.

At the end of Episode III, Anakin gets three limbs chopped off and then falls into hot lava. He lives.

His wife has babies, under medical supervision. She dies.


Homemade Yogurt

Okay, yes, making your own yogurt is a very crunchy thing to do. And I’m not going to lie and say that it’s soooo easy and eeeeveryone should make it. But, I will also argue that it sounds more intimidating than it actually is. I use a slightly adapted version of Maureen Abood’s recipe in Rose Water & Orange Blossoms and it has never once failed me. Furthermore, you don’t need a yogurt maker, or powdered milk. Here are the ingredients and equipment you need:

  • A quart of milk

  • A few tablespoons of plain greek yogurt from the store OR 2 T of your last batch of homemade yogurt

  • A heavy pot with a lid (dutch ovens are ideal)

  • A candy thermometer is helpful at first, to make sure you’re getting to the right temperature range, but it’s not strictly necessary

  • A chunk of time (30 minutes for the heating, about 45 for the cooling, and 6-8 hours for the yogurt to do its thing)


Rinse your pot out with cool water (because Abood says to and I trust her) and pour the milk into the pan. Heat the milk on medium-low to just below a boil (210* F). It will start to steam and froth up in about half an hour--I often do something else for the first 20 minutes and check on it regularly in the last 10. Move the pot off the heat immediately.


Let the milk cool down to just over lukewarm (110-115*). This will take a long time! You can speed it up by making an icewater bath, but this is quite frankly annoying in my experience. Just at the end, turn your oven on to its lowest setting.


Once the milk is cool, take 2 T of your prepared yogurt (storebought or homemade) and slowly mix some of the warm milk into it, one tablespoon at a time. Then mix the whole milk & yogurt combination into the milk. Put the lid on the pot and cover it with a towel. Turn off your oven, and put the towel/pot affair in. Let it sit for 6-12 hours (overnight is great!). It should have thickened into yogurt. Put it in the fridge for another 6-12 hours, or if you’re really desperate, eat it right away.


I keep my yogurt in a glass quart jar, making a new batch whenever it gets low. Here are a few nice things you can do with your yogurt once made:

  • Chocolate yogurt is very easy--just mix in cocoa powder and sugar to taste. You could also add some cinnamon

  • Ginger yogurt: candied ginger and/or ginger syrup? Yep!

  • I often just sweeten it with a bit of honey and cinnamon for breakfast

  • Of course because it’s unsweetened, you can also use this yogurt in place of sour cream, or strain it for a thicker dip or spread


Wishing you all a month of growing and find the space you need.

- Maureen