Archives for the month of: January, 2012

First, the good things! My spent-grain bread came out well, although it could have used slightly less water, and maybe 10 more minutes in the oven. Next time we buzz the grains in a blender before baking. Barley husks are pointy and have a nasty tendency to get caught in soft places in your mouth. (Which is most of it.) Also, today Jarak and I made spent grain cookies. Oh my goodness so tasty! Chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Yum.

Hard things. My cat Mystique has been acting up. She keeps pooing on my bed. I wash my top blanket, she does it again 3 days later. Clean litter box almost every time. I’m very frustrated. Hopefully it will stop when we move into our own place.

Other hard things, and ones that are way more important: learning to live with the love of my life. I knew that the transition from seeing each other for 6 days a month, (3 at my place, 3 at his) to living together would be hard. I just didn’t realize how it would manifest itself.  We’re having to learn to communicate and negotiate in ways that we haven’t previously. I like to make decisions quickly, looking at the facts I have and saying “ok, let’s go for it” (or not.) Jarak deliberates. He looks at all the options and then mulls them for a while. He gets grumpy when rushed or when he feels pushed into something. I got a glimpse of it this summer when we were planning to go to Seattle for my friend’s wedding, but it really crystallized for me during our apartment search.  I see something and go “yes, let’s do this” and he says “wait a minute, what about these things that need to get fixed.” It’s a nice check for my gung-ho self, but sometimes creates hurt feelings when the whys of decisions or opinions aren’t spelled out, from either of our directions. We keep reminding ourselves to work on communicating better, and that we still love each other. We may have an apartment though. Details when things are solid and signed.

Sometimes though, it’s less Big Relationship Things like communication and more the “we planned poorly and now we’re in a mess.” Last week we got 4″ of snow, and I had an 9am meeting. I pulled Jarak’s big rear wheel drive  Crown Vic out of the driveway so that I could get my car out, and realized that A)rear wheel drive cars don’t handle the same as front wheel drive and B) he had postponed snow tires. Our residential street had yet to be plowed, and I couldn’t get enough traction to get up the slight incline. After fussing and sliding and getting frustrated, and his mom not having any luck either, I finally went and woke him up and said “I can’t do it, the car is stuck, and I have a meeting to get to, can you get up and move your car? Thanks, love you, bye!” And because he is wonderful and helps me out of messes, he did. First gear and patience, (which I didn’t have) got the car unstuck, while I raced off to my meeting (which had been cancelled!) And then he went back to bed. He works nights and 8am is not a time that he often sees. For the record, my AWD Subaru managed just fine thanks.

To end with a Good Thing. Which is a very good thing. I get to see my boyfriend, my partner, Every. Single. Day. That is SO COOL! Even if it’s for 3 minutes when he’s half asleep and I’m headed to work, I can still wake him up and give him a kiss. Every Single Day! And sometimes when he gets home from work after I go to bed he’ll wake me up to say hi, and then let me go back to sleep. I get him all evening on two nights a week, and most of the day on the weekends. (Our days off don’t match unfortunately.) Getting to see him and connect with him every day is totally worth any amount of frustration I have.


Jarak and I keep saying that our eventual kids are going to learn science not from school, but from us at home. We bake, we brew, he got diet cola and mentos for Christmas 2 years ago, I garden. You know… science! However, I’m horrid at physics, because I never had to take it. Unlike Mass and NY, NH doesn’t require physics to graduate high school.  A year each of bio, and chem and one other science,  and 3 years of math, but no physics. Go figure.

Grolsch style bottle. We have the second from right style.

We have been using Grolsch bottles for our saison and recycled 360 Vodka bottles  for our mead. Note, both have swing tops. Who’s the kid who tries to open each bottle by pulling up on the bottom wire? Me. Jarak turned one around and pushed the hinges with his thumbs. I go: ” why did I never think of that?” And he says “I took physics.” and smirked as only he can. It was quite amusing.

360 Vodka bottle

So we made a sylvan stout this weekend that will be super-tasty. It’s modeled after the super-delicious Pretty Things beer  Babayaga. See? They’re nice enough to give us a basic recipe.  I want to call it “Chicken Legs” and see if anyone gets the joke.  And we made a hyssop-yarrow beer from the second runnings of the grain. Both are bubbling away nicely now that we kick-started the yeast by keeping upstairs for a while  where it was warm.

We saved the spent grain from this batch of beer to make bread with. There are a million spent-grain bread recipes out there, but I couldn’t find any that I really liked. Most of them are based off of Mark Bittman’s No Knead Bread recipe.  But I have neither the space or the dutch oven for it.  I considered using this one, but then thought “wait, I can make bread, why not just add spent grain to my existing half whole-wheat half white recipe.” So I did. I have the sponge rising right now.

No, I have no idea what the measurements are, because the only two things I measure in the first part of baking is the 2 1/4 cups of water and the 1 tablespoon of yeast. I add flour to make it look like soupy oatmeal and  then let it sit in a warm place for an hour.  The rest of it is fairly straightforward. After the first rise add 2T sweetener, 3T oil and 1T salt. dd flour until it’s not sticky, knead it until it fights back when hit, let rise again for an hour, pound down  and shape into loaves. Let it rise until doubled in size and then bake for 35min at 350*F. This is the same bread that I’ve been eating since I was eating solid food. In my house we call it “Daddy Bread” because my dad is an expert at it. I’m getting pretty good at it too at this point.

This is why we need a big kitchen. I bake, he brews (I help), I will eventually get into canning and other preserving methods. We need a kitchen we can acutually do stuff in.

I wrote this last Friday, but it didn’t want to post. So I’m posting it now. So there :p


I had a 7:30am meeting at one of the schools I work at. I usually get up at 7:30. I have nothing scheduled today except a meeting with my supervisor  this afternoon. I’m trying to figure out how to effectively use my time today, and it’s not going well. Rushing out of the house this morning meant that I made coffee, but not breakfast or lunch. And I forgot the new John Lee Hooker CD my brother sent me for Christmas.

I’ve started meeting with families. Family work is so different from the individual work I’ve been doing for 5 years. I am definitely in need of more training around best practices and how to work art therapy into sessions. I’m good at individual work, I’m good at group work, but this family thing? Totally unexplored territory for me. I’m looking at the diagnoses that these kids have and reconsidering them. Intermittent explosive disorder does not occur in a vacuum, and if someone’s got cruddy self-esteem, and poor communication skills, I’m hesitant to continue with the IED diagnosis.

I’ve been meeting staff at the schools who all want to know when  I start and what my schedule will be. I’m waiting to figure out what my required meetings are before  I put down a definite schedule, which makes this in limbo thing tough. There are so many acronyms, so many new people and a maze of a school to learn. It’s a bit overwhelming. I’ll be seeing kids at one school starting next week, and the second school maybe in 2 weeks. All of the systems are different. I’ve never had to deal with billing before and now I get to worry about that in addition to all of the other stuff. Ack! The minute I get settled into the schools I’ll have a caseload of 15 minimum probably. There are a lot of kids who are just waiting to be seen.

Jarak and I looked at an apartment yesterday that on paper sounded great… cheap, nice neighborhood, etc. We walked in and it was a shoebox. Less than 700sq ft. We are both large-type humans, who have books, and art materials and brewing equipment. There is no way all of our stuff would have fit in there. We’re not willing to sacrifice liking our apartment for having it be cheap.  The search continues…

Before I launch into my thoughts on traditions new and old, I’ve finally figured out a replacement nickname for “The Boy” (rejected because it made me sound kind of creepy apparently) He is henceforth “Jarak” after a character from the Malazan Book of the Fallen by Stephen Erikson. If he’s any character ever, he’s Jarak. In the same vein, I’ve found a suitable pseudonym: “Seren“, another character in the series.

One of the things that I’ve noticed a lot while reading A Practical Wedding is the importance of creating new traditions while holding on to the ones that are important to you.

In my family I’m kind of the tradition-keeper, the one who gets grumpy if we don’t do certain things for special occasions. The biggest traditions are around Christmas: the angel in the tree, the silver and gold wire garlands, marking off the days on the felt advent calendar that my aunt made for us, etc.  Between the ages of 3 and 25, we did Christmas at home, just the 5 of us. There are traditions and orders of events around stockings, and food and all sorts of things, that even after my parents split up, I tried to keep going. I hosted Christmas two years running at my apartment in Boston. It was central to everyone, with my middle brother in NYC and my youngest brother home for break at my dad’s house in NH, and my mom in a constant state of flux and moving every 6 months.

The first year was the hardest. I was trying to make everyone happy and trying to accommodate everyone that I ended up snapping at my brothers and being awful. I also had a major breakdown and spent the next 2 weeks recovering emotionally from it.  The second year was slightly less hard, but I vowed never to do it again. My mom said at one point during dinner “maybe this is the last time we do this” and she was right. Too much emotional baggage. I had to accept that my Christmases and by extension my family were never going to be the same and move on. It was after that second Christmas at my apartment that Jarak invited me to come to his family’s Christmas the next year. We had been together for all of 6 months at that point, but I said yes.

So last year I had Christmas without any of my immediate family, only my “adopted” family. (I think I’ve said that I’ve been part of this family for 10 years, because anyone who spends enough time around Collegiate Best Friend or any of the other siblings in this family, and you get adopted by Mom. So she’s been my second mom for 10 years, I’m practically family anyway.) They do family Christmas the day before driving down to York,PA to spend time with her family of origin. It was interesting to watch what another family has in terms of traditions. Theirs are calendars and ornaments for everyone, at least one toy, and at least one gag gift. I got a matchbox car Crown Vic taxi that said “Jarak’s Taxi Service” on it, because I didn’t have my car at that point.  I felt so welcomed and so loved it was amazing. And then we piled into the cars the next morning and drove 6 hours down to York to do Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas there with their big family. It was lovely. Overwhelming, but lovely. I discovered the joy of Red Beet Eggs.  We went to midnight service at the Lutheran Church that much of the family attends for Christmas Eve service with candles and carols. I was not prepared for Big Lutheran Service, coming from a combination New England Congregational and godless heathen background. Much more pomp and glitter than I’m used to in a Christmas eve service, but I got to hear Jarak sing for the first time and couldn’t stop giggling because his voice is so low it vibrates the church pews. The next morning,  I called my brothers and my parents and talked to them, which was a bit surreal, to not see them on Christmas. There was only one thing missing from my Christmas last year: Stockings.

Stockings are a big deal in my family. I don’t know if it’s the New England in us, or the British heritage, or what, but they’re a Big Deal. There are things that are always in stockings in my family: an orange or clementine, a chocolate orange (Whack and unwrap!) pens/pencils/art supplies, smoked fish or oysters in a can, some sort of toy and fantastically useful socks. A mix of useful and goofy usually. I realized last year that I really missed having a stocking. So I decided that this year I would make sure I got my stocking. I procured chocolate oranges before I moved because I didn’t know if I could get them out here. Three days before Christmas I spent far too much money on stocking stuffers for myself and Jarak, but I had so much fun getting them. The notable, very “us” addition to this year’s stockings? Punching pens. The pens with the little character that has two levers on the back to make the arms work. He got Santa, I got a Snowman. (Me bopping Jarak in the nose with a Gorilla punching pen after getting it with Skee-Ball tickets was the first big flirty thing I did that let him know I liked him.) I even bought him a stocking. It’s black. 😀 My hope is that we can continue this and have our own little Christmas tradition before going and re-joining the craziness that is his grandmother’s house on Christmas.

The other family tradition that I’ve pulled him into is going to Sheepdog Hill for Easter and then jumping in the ocean. When you can convince someone to jump into the North Atlantic in April, you know it’s love.

I got to be part of his family’s New Year’s day dinner of pork roast and sauerkraut. His dad does Big Meals and is an excellent cook. I certainly can’t complain.

We’ve also created our own traditions around gifts and birthdays. For Christmas we seem to have gotten into a pattern of giving each other something that the other really wants, but won’t spend the money on themselves. He got me a car adapter for my iPod, and I gave  him a book on Sacred and Healing Beers, which he has been tearing through since he got it.  We’d rather go somewhere together and eat a fantastic meal or have delicious beer or have an adventure for our birthdays and anniversary than give a gift that we then have to store. Two years ago we went to Burlington VT for a brewery tour for my birthday/valentine’s day. We’re talking Lake Placid this year.

What new traditions have you adopted/created?