Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hard Things

I'm 45 and I'm having a middle aged crisis. I'm trying to recapture my youth. Oh, not the tarty kind of "club kid" youth--I was never that--but the things I did Before Children. Like knitting. Yeah, knitting. I've gotten sucked into knitting forums and knitting lists and find myself fascinated with arcane discussions of yarn, needles, stitches, and the care of all such. It's almost as much responsibility as raising children and very much like being sucked down Alice's hole.

I have to blame it on a matriarch who inhabits our "village" and has undertaken the loving and nurturing of all of our children. In addition to doling out endless amounts of patience, attention, and affirmation, she also shares endless knowledge of all forms of stitchery. Inspired by some very chic things she's been working on, I dug my needles out of the attic and decided to steal her stitch and make some Christmas gifts. Oh. My. Good thing the Hobbits are learning to cook for themselves.

I'm reminded of a signature line I saw a while back: "Who is that mother whose house is so shocking? She there in the corner, knitting and rocking." Yeah. That would be me. I haven't gotten so far as to develop a stash, though I did amass quite a pile of FO's (finished objects) of giftables around Christmas time and have more than one WIP (work in progress) on the needles.

It's nice to have someone "live" to go to and ask for advice on techniques. Another of my peer moms is knitting, too, and we put our heads together from time to time to talk technique. But since we're both so busy on the days we connect, there's not much luxury for that. The Matriarch and I have more time, since she inhabits the table where she tutors all interested children...which include not a few boys...and during my free moments, we sit side by side and knit and explore the meaning of life. Things women have done since time out of mind.

She's sharing with me insights she is exploring. During my middle years, it's divine to know that at her age, I have the potential of finding new insights to explore. It would be depressing to think that one runs out of yarn half way through the project, so to speak. A common thread that came up in our last conversation was about hard things. She says that one of the reasons she's teaching our children textile arts is to help them learn to do hard things. To hold a small needle. Sew a straight stitch. Juggle a hook and yarn. Practice the tension. And she prays over each child's progress. Priceless. Absolutely priceless.

Her perspective is, "Yes, I can go to the store and buy this finished item. But it is more important that I have learned to do a Hard Thing. Hard Things are good for me." And so she cultivates an appreciation of the Hard Things among the next generation. I admire people who voluntarily undertake this kind of self-discipline because it is Good Thing. I'm glad for my Hard Things, though I admit that I didn't sign up for them. I got drafted. It was what I needed, though.

The current economy is starting to make things harder for most folks. Hardest for the folks for which things were already hard. These days we're discussing economizing and making our food dollars stretch to further impossible lengths. Rice is always popular as an economical measure. Since corn grits are off the menu here, rice farina makes a nice substitute for that, rice being almost as cheap as corn. What makes rice farina not as attractive economically as corn grits is that it isn't a grocery store staple and is usually only marketed by the high ticket alternative food brands. Unless you have your own mill. See? Power tools are not the exclusive provenance of Tool Guy. And they do pay for themselves in relatively short order.

Rice Farina

Whole rice (I use brown)
Burr wheel mill with adjustable grind or food processor/blender

This is one that costs 1/3 of the price of the commercial rice farina (Yeah, Bob, I'm talkin' to YOU!) if you can grind it yourself, so you're making breakfast cereal for the cost of your rice. This is also one where the Retsel Milrite makes it up to me for not doing well with rice flour, since my K-tec high impact mill won't go as coarse as grits. I've not experimented with this, since rice is an exceedingly hard grain to grind, but a blender or food processor might yield a "grits" consistency where it won't go so far as to yield a satisfactory rice flour.

I saved the last of the commercial grits I bought to give myself a "gold" standard or exemplar by which to measure the grind of what I do myself until I get a feel for doing it consistently. On the Retsel, I tightened the wheel to about half the width of a grain of rice and started from there. It was a pretty satisfactory grind. If you're doing this with a processor/blender, pulse the blade, stopping frequently to compare to the exemplar. Okay, confession time: I'm rather anal about this, but really, it isn't an exact science, so pulse away until it looks like whatcha wanna cook.

The cooking ratios are 3:1...four parts water to one part cereal and salt to taste. I usually use 1/4 tsp Real Salt in 1/4 cup cereal and 3/4 cups water. Depending on the size of your burner, simmer for 5-8 minutes. Stir once in a while to keep from sticking. A bit of oil/fat thrown in helps in that department, too.

There ya go. Your own rice farina. Bob's your uncle.

I'm sure we'll all be talking more about saving money in the days to come. Some things that are hard are forced upon us. Some things that are hard we do because they are good for us. We accomplish so much more in the long run.

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. " -- John F. Kennedy


Rosie_Kate said...

Hmm... I like that attitude about Hard Things. I don't usually choose mine, either, but I still have them. Hard to remember sometimes that Hard Things are usually Good Things.

Loztnausten said...

It is a challenge, isn't it? I try to contextualize it in terms of training for a track meet. This is all training. No pain, no gain, right?

Anonymous said...

I hear you! I've really fallen down the knitting hole ... and are you on Ravelry yet? ;-)

I would love to knit enough socks for my 3 boys, myself, and my husband, that we don't ever have to buy any from the store, but I don't see myself having enough time for all that knitting.

Another Allergy Mom Who Knits Too Much

Loztnausten said...

Actually, yes, I *am* on Ravelry...waaaayyyy too much! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, me too. I'm Linguist77. Love that felted tote bag you made!

Loztnausten said...

Right back atcha! The Overlapping Squares Blanket appeals to the M. C. Escher in me. :)

Anonymous said...

:-) Betcha can't tell I'm an Aspie ...

Twisted Cinderella said...

What a wonderful post! Very true.

KerryAnn Foster said...

I'm finding that the more I chose the hard things, the easier time I have when other hard things choose me. Patience and perseverance are definitely learned skills.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to find your blog! I have a corn and soy allergy. Here's another blog I think you might enjoy..

Loztnausten said...

Thanks! I'll add that one!

Thanks for visiting. :)

Anonymous said...

made this for the first time this morning. at first i was 'nervous', once i realized it's exactly how i used to make my first-born's 'baby cereal'. ha. BUT it was delicious! thanks! :)

Deborah said...

If knitting equals midlife crises, then I am hard in one.

We've been able to sprout our wheat and give it to our gluten intolerant children. Sprouting gets rid of the gluten - at least enough for us if we don't have it too often and use enzymes where needed.

Loztnausten said...

Yes, let's hear it to midlife crises that manifest in knitting binges. ;)

Sprouting does, indeed, reduce the gluten content in wheat. It is debated as to whether or not the reduction is sufficient and the answer seems to be that it is highly individualistic. It also may very well depend on which antibodies are mediating the reaction. The studies on this that I'm aware of are very narrowly constructed and not longitudinal...typically of a rather short duration.

I know it wouldn't work for my family, but I've heard a few other people report being asymptomatic while eating sprouted and fermented wheat bread. I guess the only way to be completely confident would be to have baseline and follow-up biopsies. Short of that I'd say, "Caveat pergere!" (Proceed with caution!)