Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to make Old World Style Easter Eggs...

...or why I think dressing up your food is fun.

In the days before Paas created neon green, Ben 10 stickered Easter eggs with their own American Idol themed sets, egg stands, and googly eyes, people used the elements around them to create beautifully decorated eggs for the religious season.  Every country seems to have their own recipe for decoration - as a child of a Eastern European grandparent, the amazingly intricate Pasch eggs were a staple in our home.  But, she also was adept at making the more rustic, beet juice and onion skin wrapped eggs.  As I became older, I realized many other nations had their own version of the wrapped egg - Italians, for instance, used flat leaf parsley as a decorative motif!  What I love about this very basic recipe is that it allows for whatever you have on hand to create beautiful works of edible art.

What you will need:

About a dozen onion's worth of onion skins
Beet juice (canned is the easiest)
About a dozen eggs
Herbs of any size, flavor, etc.
A pint of water
A large glug of white vinegar
Stainless steel strainer and pot
A pair of women's nylons with the legs cut off and underwear portion discarded

A few notes before we begin:  

If you don't want to buy a dozen onions (not everyone goes through them like me!), just buy one or two, and then STUFF the bag with onion skins that are laying in the onion bin.  Do make sure you go through the self checkout though, or you will get weird looks from the cashier.  Or, just ask your green grocer if you can grab a few handfuls of skins that have fallen off.

And size and color egg is fine, even speckled eggs are beautiful with this recipe!

While you may want to experiment with foliage other than herbs, make sure you look up whether the compounds in the leaves are deadly.  While you won't be eating the flower petals or leaves you choose to use, some of the trace elements could leach into the eggs themselves.  However, red cabbage, any type of onion, broccoli leaves, even iceberg lettuce leaves make wonderful patterns.  Do you have something in the fridge that looks like it may go off soon?  USE IT.

The process:  

Onion skins, frozen beet juice.  And bacon.  
1.  Chuck the onion skins, vinegar, and about a cup or beet juice (or more, if you like) into a pot with the pint of water and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

 2.  Gently wash your eggs with lukewarm soapy water, rinse, and set aside.

3.  Grab whatever herbs or food safe foliage you have on hand, and put them in a bowl with water to get wet.  As you can see, I chose a lot of sage from my garden, because it's broad leaved, and to be honest it grows like a weed and I rarely make that much stuffing.  I also chose thyme and some lovely mint.

4.  Apply the wet foliage to the egg.  If will not stick magically, you just need to smooth it onto the surface.

Fishnets are good for something.
5.  Now for the tricky bit.  Holding the leafy egg in your fist, guide the egg through the nylon, all the way to the toe.  Using your finger, gently move any leaves that have slipped out of place back where you want them, and then tie a knot at the end of the egg, making a little sausage casing of hosiery and egg.

6.  Continue with the rest of the eggs, laying down a leaf pattern, sliding it through the nylon, and securing it with a knot between each egg.

By this point you should be about 30 mins into the project.  Strain the onion skins out of the now deep red/brown water, and let them cool slightly.

Murderous hands
7.  Try using some of the now cooled off onion skins as foliage as well - use a Modge Podge method (slapping them on the egg, overlapping, etc), and then slip them into your makeshift casing as you did with the herb ones.

Looking gross for now.  
8.  When all the eggs are ready (or you have run out of nylons!), pop them in the water, turn up the heat, and boil for 10 minutes.

9.  Let the water cool naturally - it will help deepen the color of the eggs.

10.  When completely cool, remove nylons (if you don't plan on making any more, just cut away the stockings - if you plan on a second batch, manually undo the hosiery).

11.  Buff with a dry cloth and a tiny bit of veggie oil to really bring out the sheen of the egg shell.

This is thyme, fishnet background,  and a little bit of buffing.  Delicate and lovely!

Lovely onion skins amongst the sprouts.

Pop the eggs in the fridge till it's hunting time, and you are all set!

Some Top Tips for a smooth preparation:

While this recipe is completely kid friendly, you will want them to step far back for the boiling part.  However, everything else can be done outside, or on the living room floor if you are worried about little hands.

Do not do this recipe the day before you meet the queen, as when you wrap the eggs in the onion/beet skins, you will get slightly stained hands.

As soon as the pot of eggs is boiling, CLEAN UP.  Beet juice and onion skins stain.  Beet juice and onion skins stink.  You do not want to look and smell like a serial killer who specializes in Eastern European immigrants.  Wash up, and quick.

If you want to keep your creations, use a push pin to prick a tiny hole in the top and bottom of the egg, and then lightly blow the egg innerds into a bowl before you wrap and boil them.  Alternatively, you can just let the egg shrivel inside the shell, but I will warn you that I've only seen that done with the Pasch waxwork eggs, I'm not sure what regular wrapped shells would do with a rotting, hard boiled egg inside.

When you unwrap your eggs, they may look like poo.  It's okay.  Give them a quick rinse and buff - some of the dye may come off, but you'll uncover the real pattern below.


While this recipe is great for Easter, I think it's also important to point out that we eat with our eyes first, and then our mouths.  If food doesn't look sexy, we don't enjoy it as much.  A lump of tofu on a sad piece of lettuce doesn't compare to a luscious slice of red velvet cake.  Sure, that cake might kill you, but it will look damn good doing it.  The good news in that we can make even our plain food all sexy with a little extra effort.  A plain salad, arranged beautifully on a plate, can look like Heston Bleumenthal himself made your lunch.  Lovely meals shouldn't coincide with major holidays - we should strive every day to indulge ourselves with visual treats.  Whether it is the Russians and their adornment of the simple egg, or the way the Japanese have elevated the box lunch to an art form, we should, even in this fast paced world, push to create and enjoy small moments of beauty wherever we can.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spencer Tunick and Me

I was watching a documentary on Spencer Tunick called Naked States.  It's a fascinating look at Spencer, pre-worldwide acclaim for his large scale nude installations.  There has always been speculation as to whether Spencer was a 'pure' artist, using the human body as inspiration, or a perv who has managed to trick thousands upon thousands of people into posing for him.  I've always thought the perv angle was a bit short-sighted - Michaelangelo studied cadavers for artistic inspiration, but I wouldn't call him a necrophiliac.  At the very least, I can say my experience with Spencer was completely above board.

Yes - I, Fatty, have posed for Spencer.  (I'm in the image link here. I wouldn't press it if you are at work, as there are about 1000 people in the picture, all quite naked.)  It took a great deal to pose for him - over 8000 people applied for 2000 spots over 2 days.  Everyone had to apply twice, and THEN wait in line starting at about 10.30 the evening prior outside the Lowry in Manchester, England, before the gates opened at 4.30 am.  The first 500 women and 500 men were allowed in - everyone else in line was sent home.  I was one of the last 50 women, and I had been in line since 2 am!  It also took a lot to apply to Spencer, as I had been accepted into one of his installations before, in Cleveland (not work safe link), about 7 years earlier, but I chickened out.  I was in my early 20's, and didn't like my size.  Now, here I was, 70 lbs heavier, and I was not going to let this chance pass me by again.

Yes, I was the heaviest woman of the day in my 1000 person group.

Yes, it was difficult to accept that fact.

Yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I've written about it before, but it was an incredibly empowering experience.  Spencer's staff was exceedingly professional, and Spencer himself (when he isn't taking pics) is very funny and warm.  When he has camera in hand, he's a bit of a dick (because he's trying to get the best shot NOW, not when 1000 people feel like shutting up), but he's really cool overall.  It was a bit weird to go to the exhibit and watch the short film that had been done on it - I have an extremely isolating close-up in the video, and to see myself 12 feet tall, naked, on a screen, was a bit jarring, but still positive.

So *why* am I telling you all this?

We're told that the big moments only come around in a blue moon - Opportunity only knocks once, all that.  I don't believe that.  I think Opportunity is literally banging down the door, day and night, and we refuse to answer it.  We lose so many more chances in this life than we ever take on.  Standing on that freezing cold grass that chilly morning, I didn't yet realize I was two weeks pregnant.  I thought this photo shoot would be the most adventurous, challenging thing I would do all year (well, second to my wedding a few months later).  I had no idea as I posed in various locations around Salford that I would have a very difficult pregnancy, followed by a VERY difficult birth, followed by many complications.  It would have never occurred to me that this photo shoot would actually be one of the more calm moments of the next 12 months.  When both my husband and I were picked for the Ceremonies, we could have waffled and just picked one of us to go - after all, the schedules would be gruelling, AND we'd have to plan major babysitters to help out, AND we wouldn't see each other for at least two months, AND I'm starting grad school back up in May, so I'll be swamped with paperwork, AND,



And nothing.  If it's something you want, truly want, you find a way to make it happen.  You work around stuff, you find that little stuff like sleep and patience aren't needed immediately.  You make what you have work, instead of wanting something more.  You get the job done.

Get the damn job done today.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

What we talk about when we talk about dieting...

I've found lately that when people talk about dieting, they don't actually talk about it.  They talk around it - they discuss the health benefits of exercise, of the hormonal changes of certain food products in the body, of clothes fitting better.  They don't ever come out and say I AM A FATTY YO, but it's subtly implied.

I'm not sure if I like that.

See, while I love health benefit talks, and hormone changes, and clothes fitting better, and I cannot stand the concept of "Dieting is great!  You just eat less and everything will be fine!" (because that is a lie), it's the subtlety that I dislike.  I am not suddenly changing my habits because I feel like doing something different - I am doing it because what I was doing before (eating a half dozen Krispy Kremes and then taking a nap) wasn't good for me.  It was, in fact, killing me.

When it comes to things like death, and shortened life spans, subtlety needs to get thrown out the feckin' window.  I EAT TOO MUCH AND IN THE WRONG PORTIONS, AND DISLIKE SWEATING.  THAT IS GOING TO KILL ME.  This isn't rocket science, it's what I was doing to myself.  And until I really and truly take ownership of my idiocy, the weight is going to yo-yo on and off.  You have to name your monster, and loudly, before you can truly grapple with it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sometimes it is your fault, and sometimes it's not.

As people who know me in real life are aware, I am bipolar.  I was diagnosed nearly eight years ago, and while I still have issues from time to time, my illness is well managed.  The other week I was noticing some odd symptoms cropping up indicative of a mixed episode, so I mentioned them to my doctor.  She attempted to prescribe a drug I had been on before that worked really turning me into a zombie.  I begged her to try something different, and she did. So today I picked up my script, and looked at the side effects:

Extreme weight gain and metabolism interference, with severe sedation.


It's apparently the exact same group of meds that I asked not to be put on.  I *told* her about the 82 lbs that I gained as a result of the last med.  I *told* her in no uncertain terms that I could not be a zombie, I have a baby to take care of!  But sometimes, doctors only hear what they want to.


So now I have to either

A)  Try the drug and put my family through hell, all while knowing I am going to blow up like a balloon,
B)  Refuse to take the drug and possibly piss off the doctor, or
C)  Pay for a private doctor - essentially, a walking prescription pad to give me exactly what I want.

And all the time, I need to figure out how this is all going to affect me stress wise.


I told you that story to tell you this one.  A lot of my weight gain is my fault.  I like pie, and hate the treadmill.  Hence, I am a fatty fat fat.  But a lot of my weight gain is not my fault - a drug I was on for 1.5 years destroyed my metabolism in a very nuclear on nuclear way (that is to say, it nuked the nucleus of the cells of my body, altering them forever).  It also packed on the equivalent of an 11 year old girl onto my frame.  That, I can't help.  I'm willing to bet there is something in your life you don't like.  I'm also willing to bet while some of that situation is your fault, some isn't.  So, do you acknowledge the stuff that isn't your fault while striving to do better, or do you just hate yourself for what you cannot be?  Do you take all the blame, when some of it should not be on your shoulders?  Inversely, do you blame your 'other', without taking any responsibility for your part in your situation?

None of this makes a lick of difference in the end.  The weight is still there, whether the drugs did it all, or I just sat around all day eating pie.  I have to work twice as hard to take it off, even though I didn't have nearly as much fun putting it on - I popped a pill that saved my stupid brain is all.

Life sucks.  Wear a helmet.

Sorry.  I know you may have wanted a light hearted romp today.  I'll make up for it with this video of my kid laughing uproariously. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Treatise on the concept of Chocolate and Dieting

I love chocolate.  I know, woman's blog, blah blah blah, love chocolate, blah blah blah, but really?


I love everything about chocolate.  I love its aroma, its sensuality, its weird way of tasting like a thousand things at once, from the tiniest hint of smoke to the grass that grew around the bean plant.

(It should be noted that I am speaking of non-US chocolate.  Having lived outside of the US for a few years now, I can safely say that compared to Belgian/French/Scandanavian chocolate, American chocolate tastes like wet dog crossed with an angry gym teacher's asshole.  Sorry Hershey's:  You may have a cool theme park, but you make angry-gym-teacher-asshole grade choccy.)

My husband came home from Stockholm and brought me lovely dark chocolate with sea salt in it - thought I was going to lose my mind.  I pass by little shops with baby on the high street, and see gorgeous hand molded treats with whisper thin shavings of gold-leaf goodness on them, and want to scarf the lot.  You can't have chocolate in this house for very long - I will bake it in something, melt it down to drink, whatever it takes to get goodness in my face hole.  

I was at some function a while ago with a lady who worked for Green & Black's, and she told me all about wine and chocolate pairings. It was like a whole new world was opened to me.  I could get drunk AND enjoy chocolate?  Why the hell had I never thought of that before?  There is even a shop on the sea side, Choccywoccydoodah, that makes everything with and focused around chocolate.  Surely, this is a nation that understands the importance of the cocoa bean.  They may fuck everything else up gastronomically, but they GET chocolate.

So why do modern diets hate chocolate so?  Easy - it's good and good for you.  Modern dieting says that if it tastes like day old socks, it must be good for you.  However, dark chocolate can help lower cholesterol, kick in serotonin levels in the body, helps your body release endorphins, and has enough caffeine to give you a little perk in the body and mind.  AND it tastes gorgeous.  Melt it over some fresh cut strawberries, and you have a sexy treat that is still good for you at the end of the day.

Of course, you'll never see the sad sacks on Biggest Loser enjoying chocolate, or anything else for that matter.  No, for them it's bland Subway sammiches and a treadmill of boring.  Why CAN'T we get healthy while keeping great things around us?  Why do we HAVE to pay good money to go to a gym, work out on machines we don't like, and then pay £5 for a shot of liquefied grass?  Why can't we just walk around more, savour our food, and make wise choices?  

I'm not to the wise choices part just yet. I just ate a whole Easter Egg of chocolate that my husband had hidden - poor man, he still doesn't realize that I am a feckin' sniffer dog when it comes to sweets  but I am getting there.  I am remembering more times than not that food can be good and good for me.  I am remembering that food can be a part of my life but not my whole life.  I am remembering that I love myself more than food, so while I enjoy rich food, I do it in moderation.

Enjoy yourself today.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Glass of Water

There is a glass of water currently sitting on my kitchen counter.

It has been sitting there for three days.

I am thirsty.

Actually, I am dehydrated.

I know this because I keep putting Chapstick on my lips, hoping to impart some moisture to them.

I know the glass of water is there.

I pass by it 4 times a day to make my child's food.

Yet, I do not drink from it.

I am in need of water...water is in front of me...but I do not drink.

If that doesn't speak volumes about my attitude towards taking care of myself, I don't know what does.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Curse of the Yummy Mummy

(for D!)

I have been blessed to have some amazing fellow mothers in my journey of Mummyhood - my birthing group.  A fantastic bunch of ladies, each one compassionate, creative, successful, and witty.  There is only one problem:


Even pregnant they were all sticks with bumps, whereas I?  I looked like the Stay Puft Marshmellow man from Ghostbusters.  Within 6 weeks of their births, they were all back down to their baby weight, and I was actually starting to GAIN weight!  When we go out now, it looks like the cast of Bridesmaids.

Like the Ascent of Man, but with Hotness.  

And I understand that I have no one to blame but myself here, when they were doing buggy aerobics I was sitting on the couch snarfing Toblerone, but dayum if it isn't a tough pill to swallow to see the people who were the exact same body type I was (preggers) at the exact same time, and to see how far forward they have gone, versus how far backwards I have come.  

It's okay though, I'm getting there.  See, I have to remember that everyone has issues.  Everyone.  And while their issues may not be weight, it may be something else.  We all have baggage;  mine just happens to be 2 Samsonite thighs and a belly that would not fit in the overhead compartment.

We start rehearsals in about a month or so for the Olympic games.  I'm ridiculously excited.  Exercise I actually ENJOY doing, versus when I look at the Wii now and groan with boredom.  And this week I basically haven't eaten (which I know is bad, I've just been sick), so I can start slowly with some yummy choices.  AND, now that the weather isn't icky all the time, I can take baby out for way more long walks like when he was little (I was averaging 5 miles walked a day with him during the summer!).  So, we're on the upswing.  Maybe by June I'll get to Kristen Wiig hotness.  Maybe.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

It's a new day

You know what is so great about today?

It's not yesterday.

Yesterday, I made some mistakes with eating.  Today, I'll try better.

You may have made some mistakes in your life yesterday.  Today, try better.

You may fail again.

It's okay.

Tomorrow, you'll try better.

When I have a rough day, the last thing I always say to my husband before I sleep is "Today was a bad day, but that's okay, because tomorrow will be better."

And it will.

It will be a better day because you will try harder.

Have a good day.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

How to lose weight when you are sick

You don't.  You don't worry about anything but getting well.  So you eat soft foods, and if those foods happen to be little pots of cheesecake, then so be it.  You're sick, I'm certainly not going to yell at you.  Just get better, and then get back to work.

I'm down 2 kilo, and considering the last week was HELL (baby had/has an awful ear infection, and I was battling 102F fever all yesterday), not too shabby.

This week will be spent getting back to 100%, and then hopefully the weather will play nice and I can push baby in the pram a few miles a day.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

How we eat, how we cook...

Yesterday I had to take baby to the doctors AGAIN, to find out he has an ear infection.  He's been leaking from his eyes and nose, and is miserable all round.  I dealt with his screaming for the day, and when husband came home, he took baby out for a small stroll while I cleaned up the kitchen (Sainsburys had been delivered earlier, I only had time to put away meat and milk, etc).  Once we finally got baby down, hubby asked what he could do - I simply replied "Let me cook".

For the next hour and a half I boiled, pureed, peeled, skinned, chopped, set up the crock pot, and portioned into freezer pots.  I did the next 5 days of baby food, made 'breakfast' (chicken breasts over root veggies with tomato puree), and boiled a whole chicken in fresh herbs that I let cool overnight (and broke down today for chicken salad).  I felt much, much better.

I've always considered cooking to be a relaxing activity, something that I do when I am stressed in an effort to let go.  Maybe it's that I can be creative; more likely it's because I equate food to comfort.  When 9/11 hit, I (who lived alone) made a turkey dinner.  I was stuck eating increasingly dry turkey sandwiches for the following week.

Part of resetting my eating mindset is resetting my cooking mindset, which is far more difficult.  I cook all the time, for necessity (I cook all my child's food), for thriftiness (living in London, you do NOT want to waste a lot of money on packaged foods), for creativity (*can* I make the greatest bacon dressing known to mankind?  YES!), but always in the back of my mind because I know everything I make I can eat.  And because I love to eat, I love to cook....

A vicious, vicious circle...