Saturday, February 26, 2011

How to Cook Oatmeal

My facebook friends are always posting how to live life, and it's all good advice! Naturally, I wouldn't have any other but the wisest and best facebook friends in the first place.

However, they have all overlooked one of the most important life skills. I, who happen to possess this ability and having perfected it over the years, feel it is my calling to share this vital message with all my friends.

Therefore, How to Cook Oatmeal:

1. It starts at the store. Buy Quaker Oats. You will find several types of these. The instant are over-processed, have stuff added and lack the rich flavor of oats. There is also the 20-minute cooking oats. These are delicious, but they take 20 minutes. What you want are the oats labeled Old-Fashioned that cook in TWO or less minutes. They will be in a tall, fat, cylindrical, cardboard canister.

2. When you get them home, peel off the plastic ring that seals them closed. The lid is recloseable, so the package is also the storage container. There's only the little ring to throw away, and the ring is not an intact circle, so no ducks will be hanging themselves if it floats away from the landfill and ends up in a river.

3. Dedicate a 1/3 c dry measuring cup to your oats. This part is optional, but if you want to save 30 seconds each morning finding the measuring cup, you can just store one INSIDE the container with your oats!

4. If you absolutely must make your oats in under three minutes, you'll want to identify a deep-dish, microwaveable cereal bowl in which to cook them. With the quicker method, a shallow bowl will boil over. Assuming you have a deep-dish bowl, your oats and a 1/3 c measuring device, proceed as in step 5.

5. Measure 1/3 c of oats and dump in your microwaveable, deep-dish bowl. Using the SAME measuring cup, measure 1/3 c of water TWICE and pour into your oats. Now your cup is clean, and you can invert it to dry (if you're in fast mode) or wipe it dry and put it back in with your oats.

6. Add Salt. Just sprinkle a couple shakes from a salt shaker. The only thing to know here is to do it BEFORE you cook the oatmeal. If you do it afterward, the result is not as good, but I can't quite describe the difference. Just trust me and do it before you cook it.

7. (Optional) Add raisins. If you like raisins or any other dried fruit, add them now before cooking. This will plump them up. Very delicious.

8. Place your bowl with oats/water/salt and optional dried fruit in the microwave. Loosely cover dish with your favorite microwave-dish-covering material. I keep a plastic lid near the microwave and cover everything in that to prevent blowouts all over the inside of my clean microwave. You can get by with a paper towel, but that's wasteful if you use a new one every morning.

9. Microwave on your regular setting (which is high for everyone I know) for 1 minute and 33 seconds.

If using a shallow bowl, you will have to heat twice. Cook for 46 seconds. Stir and then cook for another 46 seconds. You may have to experiment.

Depending on the material of your bowl, it might be really hot. Use a pot holder or, as I do, a sleeve or loose corner of a shirt, to pull it out.

10. Sweeten as you like.

Sugar, white or brown, works, but it takes more than I like. I use generic Equal, but that is going to fry my brain, I'm told. I have used honey, but that's a bit heavy for an already heavy food. Stevia might work, but I haven't used it.

I also add walnuts at this point, but that's because I love walnuts. Pecans are quite decadent, as well.

Here is where milk or cream can also be added. This is over-the-top rich and amazing.

11. Stir it up and eat it.

When you are all ninety-five years old with strong hearts and slim thighs, you will thank me for this essential piece of life advice!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

First Week of February

January may be an inevitable Jotun, but Spring is just as inevitable. Like augurs of Rome, we read the signs of her in the flight of birds first. She does not dwell in February, but she sends her heralds, and by the end of this month, I will have bulbs sprouting, maybe even a few blooming, like the silly Scylla, which are the color of the clear sky exactly.
The star magnolia will bloom in February, as well. Its blossoms are flouncy, snowy white against a bare-branched skeleton of the mother tree. It is ghostly on a cloudy day, but sparkles in the sunlight. I might even see the first spears of daffodils, particularly the precious tête-à-tête, which are small and early. Invariably, the white stars of Bethlehem will spear up and form buds.
In fact, when this snow thaws away, there will be warmth and moisture enough that all the small, hardy, plants, which are ridiculously fragile looking but not at all, will shake off slumber that has become ever more fitful and extend their tendrils, shoots, buds or martial spears. To greet them will be sunlight in adequate portions to assure everyone, plant and creature alike, that it’s not all a hoax.
And then the frivolity will begin!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Battery Hens

I've been wanting to say something about these animals for a while, and since I discovered that St. Brigid is patron of chicken farmers and this happens to be her feastday, this is a good time.

You may not be familiar with this term, battery hens, but it refers to hens who are housed in battery cages. These are pens small enough to restrict the hen's movement so that she cannot stretch her wings. She stands in this cage her entire life, without respite, on a wire floor that slopes downward in order for her eggs to roll down for collection.

There are better and worst conditions for these battery hens, but it is not unusual for them to lose all of their feathers, leaving them vulnerable to cold and open to disease. Not to mention the gross abuse of their natural, instinctual functions. As a keeper and knower of chickens, I assure you that the animals suffer in these cages. (I have spared us all the gruesome photos and full list of maladies, but included links above if anyone needs more detail.)

This is how a large number of YOUR eggs are produced, the ones you buy at the grocery store, the supposedly "farm-fresh" eggs. Therefore, I urge any and all to please buy your eggs from local producers, home-grown producers, whenever you can. If you have space, consider raising three or four hens of your own.

These eggs will be better for you, and they taste MUCH better than eggs from the store. If you've never had an egg from a living, clucking, scratching, happy chicken, I believe you'll be amazed at the quality these would-be mothers can produce.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Honor of Egil's Fight with the Frisians

I'm reading Egil's Saga...Yes, again! Each time I read it, I discover something new. This time, it was the magic used by Atli in his duel with Egil. For some reason, it simply didn't filter into my head that Atli, "skilled in magic arts," was blunting Egil's sword strokes with magic! Yet, the text is quite clear. Most marvelously and quite in character, Egil gets around the magic thus,

He threw down his sword and shield, ran for Atli and grabbed him with his hands. By his greater strength, Egil pushed Atli over backwards, then sprawled over him and bit through his throat. Atli died on the spot. -transl Bernard Scudder

This outrageous act is followed by Egil running over to the sacrificial bull and breaking its neck. He follows this up by, of all things, a poetic recitation of his own composition.

I'm so smitten with Egil and his feats that I wrote him a poem, In Honor of Egil's Fight with the Frisians.

Egil and his sea wolves chased the Frisians who fled

across a bridge over a ditch to a farther field.

Once over, the Frisians pulled the spanning planks

but Egil leapt running across the banks.

Too bad none of his band was as largely bred.

The Vikings left Egil forfeited,

but he fought eleven till the field ran red

then returned to the wolves who had thought him dead.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ch'ing P'ing Lyrics

Waking in the gallery
at dawn, and told it's snowing,

I raise the blinds and gaze into pure good fortune.
Courtyard steps a bright mirage of distance,

kitchen smoke trails light through flurried skies,
and the cold hangs jewels among whitened grasses.

Must be heaven's immortals in a drunken frenzy,
grabbing cloud and grinding it into white dust.

-Li Po

Li Po is one of my top ten favorite poets. :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

In the greenhouse, I sat in the sun and soaked it up like a lizard.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Moonlight drifts down to the snow;
one glitters, one glows.
Silent is a great, old owl.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Written on a Snowy Night

One Summer Day in the North

Blind in one eye, Bright in the other,

Ve and Vili's brother, the bees' conductor.

Buzzing galdr and songs of Balder

Among poppies so bold, brewing mead so gold.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Tracing back my surname (specific to MY genealogy, mind you!) suggests the following sequence of spelling changes: Sperlingham-->Sperlingh-->Sperling-->Sparling-->Sparlin.

I probably had an ancestor, Jan or Pieter or Niels, etc., who lived in the town of Sperlingham, thus, Jan of Sperlingham. I give this ancestor a Dutch first name, because his descendants later settled in New Amsterdam, and their names are found on the rolls of the Dutch Reformed Churches.

Sperling might refer to a fish--might! I've tried to track down the etymology, but it is ambiguous. If it does refer to a fish, I like to imagine that Sperlingham was along a coastline, perhaps a fishing village and that the great number of men were fisherman.

When Jan & family traveled to America, the name, "Jan of the town of Sperlingh," was shortened to Jan Sperlingh and so on. Some of the changes were, undoubtedly, errors, but might also have been personal preference. In one family, at least, from Indiana, the sons variously spelled their name either with or without the terminal "g," giving rise to Sparlins and Sparlings who were first cousins.

I am the descendant of one of these brothers who dropped the "g," and now with Social Security numbers firmly rooted in our society, there's less chance the spelling will change soon. However, a SSN, as immutable as that seems to us, is only a blip in history, and I have no doubt that hundreds of years from now, a descendant with a similar--but not exact--name will be squinting at my name, Kecia Sparlin, and making up stories about me, too.