Adventures in Ice Cream

The other day I was on a quest to make mocha-Frangelico ice cream. Interestingly, mocha ice cream recipes are fairly rare. I used this one, which says it’s for a five-quart machine but which works fine in my 2-qt Cuisinart. I used about half a shot of Frangelico, not wanting it to inhibit the freezing. The ice cream turned out fabulous, but not at all hazelnutty. I read somewhere that you can use an ounce of alcohol per quart of ice cream before it stops the freezing, so clearly I was underreaching.

Tried it again today with an ounce and a half of liqueur… I just churned it and it’s in the freezer now. It’s got a slight alcoholic tang to it, but still not overmuch. Although still very tasty. I completely recommend this recipe if you want mocha ice cream.

I’m thinking maybe I will just put some Nutella in it next time!




First-World Problem, or Obligation?

So in reflecting about my lack of grabbiness when it comes to life, I was feeling pretty self-indulgent and guilty. I know that just because there are bad things in the world, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the good. Just because someone has ill fortune doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your good fortune of the moment (because fortune always changes). Conversely, no need to feel guilty about your own pain just because someone else has it worse. But still, here I am, all plaintive because I don’t know what to do to really live life fully, and I feel weird about that.

I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and  am having similar feelings — yeah, it’s great that an upper-middle-class lawyer-turned-writer can have a lovely home, a good marriage, spend money toward health and happiness, choose not to spend the money she has plenty of, etc. She does begin her book saying this was her journey, presented for illustration purposes only — your happiness project would look different. I find myself not so much judging her for her dilemmas and choices as judging myself for reading a book about these dilemmas and choices. On the one hand, well-to-do people are still people with all the concomitant feelings, thoughts, and interpersonal situations, and to most of the world, I’m well-to-do. Also, there’s such as a thing as extrapolating to your own situation. On the other hand, my inner Puritan is annoyed that I’m not tackling something with a lot more gravitas and life-and-death import.

But, having castigated myself for my self-indulgent angst, I turn around and think: OK, I’ve been given a modicum of luck, of gifts and talents, of favorable situations. Speaking of gravitas, don’t I have a sort of moral obligation — to myself at least — to make the most of them? And haven’t I wasted enough time already?

Despite my self-conscious quasi-guilt, I still want to make a concerted effort to take advantage of my relatively privileged position and live.

Grabbing Life

I once worked with a woman who’d been in Africa in the Peace Corps, was a graphic designer when I knew her, and was in general the sort of adventurous, fearless soul you’d expect from a nomadic gal in her 20s.

She was always telling me — timid, anxious, still-living-in-my-hometown me — to “grab life by the balls.”

I remember sitting across a table from her in a pub in San Francisco when she reiterated her advice. Our coworkers were drinking beer and throwing darts. I’d had one ill-advised go at the dartboard and had retreated to a booth with my hard cider.

I didn’t even know what to do to grab life by the balls or any other part of life’s anatomy. Have a wild affair? I wished — this was just barely pre-Internet, when the sexual possibilities for the shy and not conventionally pretty were a lot more limited. Travel? I was a broke proofreader. I was not the Peace Corps type. (On the ground, anyway. In theory I was all over it.) Be creative? But… how? That’s such a vague directive.

Auntie Mame’s observation that “life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death” certainly applied to life-starved me.

I drifted through my 20s, married badly at 30, separated worse at near 35, divorced anti-climactically at 37, got better jobs, made better money, made the same romantic mistakes I’ve always made, and found life eventually calmer and less difficult for the most part. I finally preferred being single (handy, that). I indulged my intellectual curiosity in history and theology and literature. Finally finally finally I got to do more traveling — the one life-ball-grabbing thing that was both obvious and intensely desirable to me. I bought a townhouse, something I’d never wanted to do  — and it’s impinging financially on my wanderlust — but I’m enjoying it.

Life was a sort of balance between cozy domesticity of the kind I crave — cooking, puttering around the house, knitting, reading — and more outward-directed stuff — working in San Francisco instead of the suburbs, traveling to Europe alone, occasionally venturing out of my social comfort zone.

I’ve been reflecting lately on two things: First, whatever kind of life banquet you prefer, it’s generally easier to avail yourself of some if you have money (the exceptions being things like joining the Peace Corps before you take on obligations, being willing to live in some pretty straitened circumstances, or still living with your family, or perhaps being the sort of extrovert who has lots of friends, who may be able to slip you in places you couldn’t otherwise afford).  This in and of itself can be problematic. It does depend on what you’re aching to do, certainly, and some things are much more financially reachable than others. But if you’re truly skint, you’re probably thinking more about making ends meet. And if you’re just not flush with cash, your options are more limited.

Second, I’m feeling a little bored and unfulfilled. The aforementioned housing purchased has made me much less able to buy a plane ticket somewhere (although I am going to LA in two weeks and Portland in four — but they’re quick overnights, my lodging in LA is free and in Portland is only costing me $44). I’m no longer a broke proofreader, but I don’t have a large surplus of ready cash.

Another constraint is nearly entirely self-imposed: My age. I’m not old, and when I’m 75 I’m sure I will look back at 2013 me and think YOUNGSTER. Yet I was raised by older parents who were quite staid by my age. And in the back of my head I guess I have some pretty firm age-related categories: I keep telling myself I’m too old for X, Y, or Z — even though I still feel about 30 and I’m probably not really too old anyway.

Beyond finances and age, though, I’m back to the basic question I faced circa 1993 , sipping my cider and wondering how on earth I could even begin to take my friend’s advice.

So here I am at great length, wondering: What should I do? Given the fact that work + commute = ~12 hours a day, and I’m not rolling in money, and I can only go so long before I need some peace and solitude.

I have thought of four long-term goals (more on those later) although I’m not sure they are entirely what I’m going for here. Or if they’re even attainable themselves. But I don’t want to waste any more aimless years!

Still Mad

I’m still mad about that Ravelry thread where the European person said, “We don’t recognize you as one of us because culture is more than DNA and I really don’t understand Americans’ obssession with their roots.”

I saw red when I read that and I’m still angry and here’s why:

As I said in that thread, being American is a citizenship, not an ethnicity. My Mexican, Chinese, and black friends who hold that blue passport are as American as I am. We may all have been born here; maybe some of us weren’t. We may all have English as our first language; many of us don’t. We have the same citizenship and, to a certain extent, the same current culture, but not at all the same heritage.

So what does that leave me? I am from a country where there is no shared heritage, and the people whose blood and heritage I DO share repudiate me. So I got nothin’.

And she wonders WHY Americans are tied to their ancestral homelands? I really don’t see it as any great mystery. Other people feel, as I do, that where we come from matters and is, surprise surprise, WHERE WE COME FROM. When I’ve been in England, I feel deeply, viscerally, that THIS IS WHERE I’M FROM, THESE ARE MY PEOPLE, THIS IS WHERE I BELONG. I never feel that way in the United States where I have lived my entire life.

Whether Europeans such as she like it or not, I AM actually English, Scottish, and Danish. She can scoff and say, “No you’re not, you’re American; two to three generations in the US completely negates, for instance, your English heritage going back to the thirteenth century; we don’t care if you speak our language and your family kept European traditions and you look so British that when you’re in Europe people assume you are; go away and be a good little rootless American” but I angrily reject that.

I will probably always have to live here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t consider the places where my blood and soul come from my home in a deeper sense. And I needed to get this all out because I found myself thinking about this stupid thread from time to time and getting rather worked up over it. She will never read this, but I feel better anyway.

Knitting with Toothpicks

Or, really teeny carbon-fiber DPNs:



They say they have the feel of wood but the strength of metal. They don’t really feel like wood to me; they feel like metal that’s been sprayed with a coating that makes it slightly rough, like that on outdoor furniture. But that’s good, since when you’re dealing with needles this tiny and yarn this thin, slipping is a big problem.

Also, don’t be screwing with me, because I’m armed. They are very pointy pointy sticks.