Friday, May 24, 2013

Cruising Altitude

I've been simultaneously tempted and terrified to blog for the past several days.

It's been an insanely productive week, and I'm afraid that, having written that statement, I've now officially jinxed it, and the weekend will find me sighing and staring out the window while eating Mallomars.

But I'm going to hope not.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the old adage, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person to do," is all too true.  I work best when I have a lot to do.  A lot, but not too much (because then I'll just become defiant and not do anything except issue proclamations that begin with the phrase, "Life is too short to...").

This summer, I have a lot to do (but not too much), so this week has worked well for me.

I've written half of an article since Monday.  No one is more surprised by this than I am.  True, I had been working on the reading and research ideas for a while now, but I really didn't expect to be able to sit down and crank it out so quickly.

Again, fingers crossed, because I could be jinxing it with every word I type.

I also work well, as I've mentioned before, when I have the option of setting things aside and doing something else.  So, I've been writing, but I've also been gardening and getting the lawn in shape.  (It's not done yet.) 

I took a mini-break from all of that by making a virtue of necessity: I harvested a whole bunch of mint and made mint extract.  It's not hard: all you need is cheap vodka and mint leaves.  And a container, of course.

I've begun to realize that making sure there's a bottle of cheap vodka on hand at all times is a householder's key to success.  It has quite a range of uses, and if none of those fit your immediate purposes, you can always just drink it, I suppose.

I use it to make vanilla extract, because really, that's all vanilla extract is: vanilla beans soaked in alcohol for a while.  There's no need to pay $4 for a tiny bottle, when you can have a quart of it and just keep replenishing it until the end of time.  Vanilla beans last a while.

It's the same principle with the mint, although you do need to take the mint leaves out, obviously.  Bruise the leaves, soak them in vodka, and you'll have extract.

My next project is making limoncello for the summer.  That's lemons soaked in vodka for a few weeks, with water and sugar added and then left to sit for a little while longer.

My favorite vodka moment: noticing that they sell "Low-Cal Vodka" at the liquor store.  If that's where a large number of your calories are coming from, you need to think about a very different solution to your problem than simply buying "Low-cal."

Meanwhile, I have about... five?  six?  ten?  knitting projects underway, but my favorite is the tank top that seems to be essentially knitting itself.  It's really so easy that I fully expect to walk into the room at some point and see it working on its own innards with its little needles.

I'm also reading Nadezhda Mandelstahm's autobiography, Hope Against Hope.  It's about the arrest, exile and eventual death of her husband, the poet Osip Mandelstahm.  All I can say is, Nadezhda herself is no slouch as a writer, and her observations about the nature and purpose of poetry--its intersections with politics in the early decades of the Soviet Union--are really interesting and thought-provoking. 

It's not for everyone, obviously, but it's my thing.  I do what I wanna do.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."