Friday, June 11

Draft Blog

I'm contemplating moving this blog to a self-hosted wordpress blog. At the moment I'm tinkering with a sort of draft here.

In the meantime, my garden awaits!

Sunday, June 6

A New Name

My blog has a new name, for the moment. I don't remember the context, but in a dream I said "I'll have monks and barbles," to which someone replied, "But that has soda in it!"

I immediately thought to myself: How funny! I have to use that as my new blog name. I'll write it down.

Some time later I woke up, and realized that I had only written down "Monks and Barbles" in my dream. So then I wrote it down for real and went back to sleep.

"Yes: and the everlasting pleasures of domesticity" had been bothering me for some time. I'd never really intended it to be the permanent name, it was just something I pulled off the top of my head.

So now, on to a new name off the top of my head while sleeping! This name probably won't be permanent either; maybe this will be come the Magical Changing Name Blog.

Tuesday, May 25

Gardening Questions?


I don't end up bringing it up that often nowdays, since I don't have an in-earth garden, but once upon a time I was immersed in biointensive gardening. If you have any gardening questions, I might be able to answer them. Meanwhile, I'm waiting to see if the spirit moves me to post on gardening topics other than my current container garden.

The image is of flax plants that we grew, before flowering, bearing one of the last frosts of the year. While their little blue flowers are exceptionally beautiful, this is my absolute favorite stage of their growth, as their tips bend elegantly over their straight stems.

Sunday, May 23

The Spy Sagas

Do you like spy movies? I love them. The real ones, like Jason Bourne, and the bumbling ones, like Inspector Clouseau and The Man Who Knew Too Little. Good spy movies don't come out too often. I've just discovered this great British spy show, which is sort of like a (currently) 72 hour long spy movie. Yes, that's what I've been watching lately--in reality it's a short term addiction, but doesn't it sound better to call it a marathon--or even "the spy sagas." Oh, I haven't told you which show it is, have I? In the States it's called MI-5, while in the UK it's called Spooks.

I'm definitely into spy movies for the intrigue, not the violence--although I will admit that on the rare occasion that it's really well done, as in the first Jason Bourne movie, I am impressed. (As a semi-pacifist, I find this a bit embarrassing.) Still, in most movies and shows it's decidedly excessive. And sometimes in other scenes they lay the suspense on too heavily. I find that if I just mute the music during these scenes, it's not so over the top intense. But then maybe other people aren't as easily overstimulated by such things as background music, heh.

I must admit that since I discovered itunes subscriptions, tv shows have become a new vice. What are your favorite shows lately?

Friday, May 21

Adblocks for Safari

This is a public service message. You can download adblocks to add to your web browser, to, as you might guess, block ads. They usually won't take care of every single little ad, but they will remove most of them, especially the big obnoxious ads that are such annoying distractions while you're trying to read.

I have a Mac, use Safari as a browser, and I use MacUpdate to find downloadable software. (Or applications or scripts, whatever they are.) If you're using Safari as well, here are three adblock applications you can download:

Safari AdBlock 0.4rc3
SafariBlock 2.2r1
GlimmerBlocker 1.4.5

I just downloaded and installed all three (plus a fourth more obscure CSS based one, Ad Subtract Automatic) and my websites are now free of most ads again.

If you use another browser, search around the web, I'm sure adblocks for your browser are also available. I believe that Firefox has one of the best adblock add ons around.

Wednesday, May 19

Wild And Wonderful Bird Feeders

I've ventured into the dangerous and exotic world of bird feeding. Vancouver has a store that specializes in bird feeding and birding (the observation of wild birds in their habitats), The Backyard Bird Centre. I ended up coming away with a tube feeder, a bag of black oil sunflower seeds, and a hummingbird feeder.

The tube feeder was a pretty easy decision; in person, the metal ones looked a lot nicer. The fellow at the store recommended the sunflower seeds as the best all-around bird feed, but I think next time I'll get a mix. Apparently the small feeding holes of the bird feeder will discourage starlings, and mayybe sparrows; if I want to feed bigger birds, I can just attach a tray to the bottom of the bird feeder.

The hummingbird feeder was a more complicated choice. I bought this beautiful, simple feeder. However, I was told that I should fill the container to the brim in order to keep it from dripping, as this causes a vacuum. As I already knew, it's best to make hummingbird nectar at home; but you also have to change the nectar every 2-4 days, to keep it from going moldy. And then I read that it often takes a long time for hummingbirds to discover your feeder. Plus, the hummingbird feeder I got won't be so easy to clean--another crucial, frequent habit. So finally I ordered a smaller hummingbird feeder. I might introduce the larger feeder once hummingbirds are showing up.

Keep in mind that you don't need a garden or porch to be able to keep a bird feeder; if your windows open in a cooperative way, you can affix a bird feeder onto your window with suction cups, and get the best view possible.

Tuesday, May 11

Wash Your Face With Honey

Yes, you can wash your face daily with honey. I've been doing this for, I believe, three years. It's actually very simple, and it's either equal or superior to store bought facewash.

In order to do this, put about a spoonful of honey on your hand, around your fingertips. You face should ideally be dry, and your hands should be dry or lightly damp; your hair should be kept back. Rub the honey on your face, massaging it in thoroughly, particularly in any problem areas--although be careful not to put excess pressure if there's any inflammation. Then you rinse it off with water. It won't be sticky in the slightest, unless you don't rinse it off. I keep the honey off my palms, so that I can still turn the faucets on and off.


If you're concerned about making a mess, try it in the shower first. But remember, it's really the same motions as regular facewashing.

How does it work? On the most basic level, honey cleans your face because it's soluble in both oil and water. You can test this out in your kitchen, if you'd like. So as you rub it in, it picks up the oil and other substances on your skin, and when you rinse it off, they leave with the honey. It works in other ways, as well. Honey is a potent healing substance, which can even be used very effectively for wound dressing. Fanatic Cook has a great post about this. Its basic action is to produce small amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which will help to disinfect whatever it touches. Finally, if you massage the honey into your skin fairly thoroughly, the honey will actually go into pores and loosen small blackhead plugs, which will then come out and be washed away. No really--you will be able to feel the plugs, and even see them if you wish. Those with difficult acne or other skin conditions may prefer to use the extra medicinal manuka honey; bear in mind that it smells medicinal, and is more pricey. Otherwise, any type of honey will do.

What else is there to say about honey as facewash?

I get a really large jar of honey, and keep it in the kitchen. Then I have a few dispenser jars, you know with the spout thingies; one in the kitchen, one at the bathroom sink, and one in the shower. I refill those as needed.

Honey crystalizes, and that's more of a problem for facewash honey than it is for kitchen honey. (Especially in the winter, when cold temperatures cause it to crystalize more quickly.) Even when it's only slightly crystalized, it becomes unpleasant to rub into one's face, with all those sharp edges. (Not painful, just unpleasant.) There are ways to de-crystalize honey; I believe a microwave works well, but I'm not sure since we don't have one. In general I just rinse out the crystalized honey with hot water and soaking, and then replace it with new honey.

One of the great benefits of washing my face with honey is that it makes life simpler. There's no need to choose between products; the honey is always the same, and it's always good.

Monday, May 3

Thursday, April 29

Soft Clarity

Today: pine, yuzu, and a touch of neroli.

Friday, April 23

Exotic & Medicinal

Yesterday's blend: lavender, cardamom, patchouli, lime, rose. A great combination of exotic/sensual and medicinal. However the lime was somewhat overpowering, though I used little; I'll have to use even less. Or it could be replaced with yuzu.

How do you think the capacity for religious belief evolved?

What an extremely interesting question! I haven't thought about this in depth yet, so this gives me the chance; however I have gotten indignant upon hearing stupid theories on this matter while watching cavemen documentaries. (I went through a prehistoric phase last month.) Obviously, there are no longer any ape men we can study. A better understanding of the emotional and intellectual range of animals would provide clearer knowledge about where we come from on this point, and make it more feasible to guess what the path must have been from there to here, but we don't have that; instead it's commonly assumed that our inner worlds developed from nothing, but we have no idea to what degree that is or isn't true, and personally I find it unlikely that it is absolutely the case. Further, we don't even know very much about prehistoric humans that were biologically about the same as us; I assume that these 'late prehistoric' people would have been very similar to to more recent 'primitive' peoples, and the small amount of physical evidence suggests that similarity, but again it's basically a guess.

So given all that... I would guess that religious belief and practices developed as a way of organizing and working with knowledge, as human knowledge grew ever further beyond the bounds of simple perception (which is a more commonly understood aspect of our evolution). A successful prehistoric human, particularly at times of survival stress, would have had to have phenomenal skills and knowledge in order to compensate for impractical human bodies... not only for social groups, but also for travel, hunting, coping with weather, extracting greater nutrition from food, and medicine. Today we have schools, textbooks, and specialists; in those days an anthropomorphic, emotionally compelling framework made all that knowledge more available and navigable. Of course it was not merely distant unchangeable knowledge for distant unchangeable phenomena, religion also provided a perceived or real point of contact through which nonphysical power could be used, or through which further knowledge could be discovered and developed. While a very different species might have come up with a very different organizing method, ours was based on our emotional and intuitive impulses, also strong forces in our pre-human evolution, as it was moving towards an ever greater degree of cooperation and orientation towards others. It's not surprising that what we know (or assume) of our early religions is so similar to the world of dreams that's constantly with us, and also provides our most constant window to exceptional and rationally inaccessible knowledge. But then animals also seem to dream; so you might say that religiosity would have begun whenever humans developed sufficient intellectual capacity to remember our dreams, reflect on them, and travel in that world as they traveled in this one; then religion would have furthered our ability to use our intellectual capacity.

Sunday, April 11

One Fine Wing

we together are
like a bird with one fine wing
no use flying

Saturday, April 10

Shifts

Sometimes I want to run away, to leave heavy dull reality behind, and isolate myself in my imagination for awhile. There, it seems, I could fertilize and attune and feel out my inner states once again. My personality seems like a giant kite that I am trying to ride in the winds, constantly feeling for points of balance in its spars, constantly losing them.

But reality became heavy and dull through a similar hermetic project. I sought to make my life more regular and even, I desired monotony and peace, thinking that when my daily life took that form, the essential would be revealed, would shine out. It didn't quite work that way. Or did it? As Shunryu Suzuki said, the most important thing is to find out what is the most important thing. In the face of that, it seems appropriate to be left in an ambiguous muddle.

I love what I love because it reminds me of what I love. And what I love does not quite exist. I am relieved to come back into an experience of the beloved, like coming into or out of an eclipse. I no longer am far from God, attempting to argue myself into remembering what it was like. I lie back and feel, in a subtle way, my body beaming with light. Hovering above me, in what you might call my mind's eye (or mind's body, with many senses), is again an oval face; a cheek to stroke, a gaze to drift past, footsteps. Or on another night, a sensible wise voice behind my ear. And on a deeper level than these perceptions comes another change. I find the point of balance on the spars, and the point is enormous, inescapable, profound. Still I can feel the thin wooden spar of my current personality shake and shift in the wind. Even in this state, I can still feel my weakness, my thin dryness, my vulnerability in the midst of so much energy. Somehow the true self, giant and light, is hung on this delicate, unreliable frame.


The presence of the one you love makes you forget that which is not important. If worries crowd in, clamoring, contemplate again that oval face that does not need to be quite there. The presence of the one you love is itself the solution, assuring you that in love every trouble that can come will be undone. Contemplate the one you love and allow for coalescence.

Thursday, April 8

Cicada Song

Last night I saw Jonsie (of Sigur Ros) give a performance. He's releasing a new solo album "Go," and apparently he's kicking off a tour from Vancouver, curiously enough. It's really worth going. I am not always engaged by musical performances, but often last night I was transfixed in a way that I've never been before. He also has a "light show" consisting of stunning, well crafted projected animation and stage design that, though it varies in quality in this show, at its best takes you on a beautiful, stark, warped journey quite similar to the visual play that one often engages in while listening to music deeply and privately... but it draws you out into this journey and performance in a way that is just unlike anything else as an experience, as well as being technically wondrous.

One of my favorite things about rock concerts, which I actually rarely attend, is discovering new musicians through the opening band. Okay, this has only happened once before, before I start sounding like I know what I'm talking about--Darren Hanlon opened for the Magnetic Fields, ages ago, and that was a happy discovery for me. (There aren't enough songs about squash.)

Opening for Jonsie was Death Vessel, which is to say Joel Thibodeau. He stood out there awkwardly, and then launched straight into the most powerful, pure song, nonsensical and direct... "Deep In the Horchata." You can listen to it through myspace here. I've been listening to it over and over since then.

Saturday, April 3

Today's Essential Oils

Bergamot, Lemon, Coriander and Vetiver. Too sweet! I added black pepper and yuzu.

Friday, January 29

Socks

There is little more hilarious than putting your newly clean and matched socks away by trying to throw them into your closet from the other side of the room. Especially when there is an innocent bystander to watch and be annoyed.

Thursday, January 28

An Idea

Be generous with yourself.

Wednesday, January 27

Toilet Tip

In my perusals of books on housecleaning, I came across a good idea--always cover the toilet before you flush. Apparently the minute spray from flushing goes everywhere. And isn't the bathroom where you keep your toothbrushes, etc? This habit has another benefit--when other people in your house also cover the toilet before flushing, it means the toilet seat will always be down. And it seems that toothbrush factoid is a lot more motivating than "But I hate sitting on the cold rim of the toilet by accident!"

Tuesday, January 26

Francophones

Gordan and I are now members of le Centre culturel francophone de Vancouver! Learning and keeping up with languages is tricky. Hopefully this will help my rusty French.

Monday, January 25

How to Floss While Shacked Up

The secret to flossing turns out to be flossing with my partner. My glee and satisfaction at convincing him to floss nightly is so great, that I'm even willing to floss with him. And he's only willing to do it if I am suffering equally.

Sunday, January 24

Short Existential Crisis

After rereading my last post, I'm having an existential crisis because my writing is so... you know.

Before during and after writing it, I'd been thinking about making my blog more autobiographical and more interesting. On the other hand, I don't want to go the confessional route, God forbid. On the third hand, being positive sometimes means being perky and insubstantial. Of course some posts are meant to be quips, but not all...

It's too late in the day to think my way through this tonight, so I'll let the thought marinate in the back of my mind.

Saturday, January 23

Further Adventures in the Life of Our Author





Hurrah! A couple of years after emigrating to Canada, I have finished importing my car. I am so pleased to be able to drive it again. It opens up Vancouver's further mountains and beaches to exploration and adventure. Yesterday--or was it the day before? We bought 52 Best Day Trips From Vancouver; while I wish this book was more visual and thorough, it's a great basic resource. (I'm looking for more photo-heavy, touristy books to fill the same purpose.) So today we headed off to Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver. The drive there and back demonstrated that our navigational skills need some brushing up! And by "our" I mean my husband Gordan's, because my navigational skills are infamous at best. Thank God for iphones, although I guess everybody else has a GPS by now.






Whytecliff Park is spectacularly beautiful, with many little stone stairs winding their way up a cliff on one side, leading to amazing views of the water, and a beach that must be lovely in the summer, and leads into a protected marine sanctuary oved by scuba divers, and a neat peninsula that is great for climbing. The only downside is that it's a bit too small to get any serious exercise with the walks. There may have been more trails at the other side of the parking lot--we decided not to explore. On the way home, we saw a lovely short wide rainbow. In addition to the pictures in this post, I made a photoset on flickr.




Then we stopped at Banyan Books and Aphrodite's Cafe, one of our favorite excursions. I got Builders of the Pacific Coast, which looks like great fun--I love hand built home books on so many levels--and an African finger harp, and a couple of pretty stones that Gordan got for me--a luminous little moonstone, and some black quartz. And then we ate! Aphrodite's Cafe is always nice, but in particular they have the most heavenly salads. I rather regret that I got a chocolate cream pie instead of a blueberry pie, but at least my curiosity is now satisfied.

Afterwards, I came home to a bounty of Mediterranean cookbooks from the library. I am most in love with the vegetarian Mediterranean Harvest by Martha Rose Shulman, but Olives & Oranges and Mediterranean Grains and Greens get honorable mentions. Will there be some of these delicious recipes in our near future? God, I hope so.

Wednesday, January 20

Five and Hundred Ears

You absolutely have to see Lauren's Cartoon. I would embed it if I could figure out how.

Tuesday, January 19

First Basic Collection of Essential Oils

What essential oils should someone start with? When making this list I took a number of factors into account--price, range of scent, emotional or energetic influence, and physical and household uses. I'll briefly cover the uses of these oils, but as they are so multipurpose, you will find a great deal more information with further research. Because essential oils are often a part of the immune system of the plants they come from, they tend to share a number of qualities, though some are more effective than others; for instance, nearly all are antimicrobial. With these four (to seven) oils, you will be able to influence your emotional state in every basic way; soothing and balancing, uplifting and focusing, elevating and grounding, or cleansing and clarifying. The oils can be combined to in order to combine these influences. With time you will probably desire a greater diversity of scents and influences, but these are the most essential and useful of the affordable essential oils.



Lavender is the first oil to buy. It is a workhorse, known as a medicine chest all on its own. The scent is both floral and herbal. Its energetic influence is one of healing balance. It is famous as a scent that brings calm and sleep, but its tonifying influence will energize and nourish someone who is exhausted, burnt out, or unsettled. This peaceful influence also helps to remedy physical complaints that are related to tension or exhaustion. It is a strong disinfectant and anti-inflammatory, and pesticidal as well. Be careful not to use an excessive amount of lavender when you're seeking its soothing qualities, because in heavy doses it is overstimulating. Its influences are nurturing, soothing, and supportive.

Although lavender fragrance is lovely, it can be hard to find lavender essential oils that smell good--many I've gotten have an excessively thin, woody scent, or else a sort of dirty musty quality. I prefer lavender oil from Gaia Garden Herbals. I order one of the bigger bottles, and refill a 5ml bottle.

It is difficult for me to narrow down the choices of citrus oils. Generally speaking, these are the "uppers" of the essential oil world. They are not only stimulating, but they are profoundly uplifting, and excellent for treatment of depression or low energy. The particular influence of different fruits varies quite a bit. Their household and health uses aren't extensive aside from this energetic influence. They can also stimulate appetite, settle nausea, and of course are disinfectant to varying degrees. Be careful with citrus oils on the skin, particularly bergamot; be sure to check safety precautions before you use them in this way. Buy one or more of the following:

    Orange evokes general happiness and comfort. The most quintessential citrus, with the most quintessential influence.

    Lemon calls forth focused energy. It is excellent when you need to work, and compliments other clear woody and herbal oils well.

    Bergamot is a gentle citrus scent, excellent for difficult depression, grief, and similar states. It is very comforting and mild, evoking healing love. It complements other scents very well, and in particular is a great pair with lavender.

    Grapefruit is probably my favorite; it brings forth happiness, much like orange, but its pungency helps to stimulate and focus energy, much like lemon. It has a very joyful, active influence.


Cedar is both the cheapest and most versatile woody scent. It is spiritually elevating, yet grounding and homey. It is an excellent bug repellant, and a lovely scent to have on your clothes. Energetically cedar evokes strength and depth.

Tea tree oil is a famous medicinal and household cleansing oil, due to its impressive disinfectant qualities. Note that it is most effective when diluted. However its herbal scent also has a desirable energetic influence; it provides a sense of clarity and understanding, excellent for clearing the air during difficult times. And of course it is helpful to diffuse tea tree oil whenever you have concern over mold or viruses in the air, so it's an excellent oil for wintertime.

Where to buy? Aside from lavender, I would recommend either Mountain Rose Herbs or Nature's Gift. Both have very informative websites. My favorite basic diffuser is the aromastone. I prefer it over diffusers that use tea lights. Any other simple electric diffuser will do as well, although I think the aromastone is probably the best design. To clean it, simply pour a bit of rubbing alcohol onto it, and wipe it clean with a cloth.

Monday, January 18

Neux Teux Deux

I've come across this web based to do list thingamajig, called Teux Deux. I like it, and it's particularly great for minimalistic to do lists.

My approach is to assign one more or less big task per day. More or less little tasks also proliferate as days come up, but I don't plan those ahead as much.

Sunday, January 17

Moss Table

Someday I'd like to have a moss garden dining table.

Saturday, January 16

Maid of Honor Tarts & Theater

Last week I went to see a delightful local performance of Theatrics at Mansfield Park. In addition to the play, we were all given a maid of honor tart to eat. Oh, man, it was good. I'm writing this now, because I just found the scrap of paper identifying the tarts that I dropped into my purse in order to remember them. I shouldn't really be eating such sugary treats anyway, but if you should, please give them a try! Note: the one I ate had a tiny dab of raspberry jam in the center.

Which brings up the subject of theater, while we're at it. Late winter is an excellent time to see plays, since there isn't much else to do. Have you seen any plays lately? Do you know what's being performed in your area?

Friday, January 15

Self Mastery with Meditation

I love to give advice. Browsing around here and there, I found myself suggesting to two people in difficult straits that they might take up a meditation practice. And then I thought that perhaps, as so often happens, there was a message for me in there as well.

So I decided to start a meditation practice again. It makes it easier that I've been sleeping well; I can drink my green tea in the morning and then sit with an alert mind. Sitting later in the day is a good influence on the evening, but too easy to miss.

While sitting is very simple, there are a few questions that come up.

How long to sit? I'm starting with 20 minutes; five minutes longer than I used to sit.

What about breathing? There's a great deal of information about how to approach breathing while sitting. I find that I have trouble breathing naturally. I suspect it's because my regular posture is not ideal, and I'm not used to breathing while sitting up straight. So I use a breathing exercise. I inhale for two beats, wait for two beats, exhale for two beats, wait for two beats. I use a four syllable mantra to note the beats, but you can just as easily count.

And what about thinking? The classic instruction is that when thoughts arise, the meditator will note "thinking" and let the thoughts go. Another instruction is to observe the thoughts without engaging in them, as a person might watch clouds pass by. I find a lot of thoughts arise and sometimes churn while I'm sitting. I let them go. I take the approach of not being engaged in thoughts, rather than banishing them. It's the same thing that I do when I realize that I'm analyzing fruitlessly, or when I need to stop thinking in order to sleep. If anything it seems that my brain is even more fertile and tricksy while I'm sitting, but I expect that will settle down a bit with time.

And how about the gear? Because, God knows, there's always gear. Well, as silly as it sounds, when it comes to meditation I think there are a few things worth using.

You will want a timer. I highly recommend the E tone "digital zen alarm clock." I think it's valuable to have a pleasant sound end the meditation, rather than an electronic alarm. It also makes an excellent alarm clock. Because these clocks are expensive, I waited years before finally buying one, but now that I have one I think it was absolutely worth it.

And seating? Everyone has their preferences. I have a meditation bench and zabuton cushion underneath, which I bought at a local bookstore. While zafu cushions seem to be more common, I think it feels more natural to sit on a meditation bench if you're not already used to a zafu cushion. Note that I've never ordered anything from the website I just linked to.

Friday, January 1

Like A Particle

like a particle
I'm simply drifting away
waiting to dissolve