Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Five Finger Vibrams

"The human foot is a work of art and a masterpiece of engineering" - Leonardo da Vinci

For my husband's birthday last month, I ordered each of us a pair of Five Finger Vibrams.  Ha!  I can only wonder what kind of images are flowing through your mind after hearing of a product with a name like that!  They're becoming more and more popular these days and were even featured in a recent Sunday newspaper here in Turkey with a story about an American actor photographed wearing them.  But for those of you who haven't heard of them yet, they can most basically be described as gloves for your feet.

Wearing them is almost like wearing no shoes at all.  They fit so snuggly and have no padding.  The bottom of the shoes are tough enough to prevent cuts and scrapes from sharp stones but thin and pliable enough to allow you to really feel the earth beneath your feet.  This connection with the earth is very important to me.  Oh and they are so very comfortable!  Because they individually house each of my toes, my feet can work as they're meant to and playing outside becomes much easier.  I can walk, run, jump, climb and play without really feeling like I'm wearing shoes.  I can also wear them in the water.  I have a bit of a phobia about walking in water when I can't see the bottom.  Now I have my Vibrams I don't need to feel scared of standing on something yucky or bitey or ouchie.  They're fantastic.  Can you tell how excited I am?

I virtually grew up without shoes.  All five of my brothers and sisters and I spent our weekends and afternoons roaming around our farm and exploring the bush behind or property, barefoot.  We loved the liberating sensation of having naked feet.  I remember how lovely it felt to squelch in mud puddles and how agile we were climbing trees.  We were born without shoes and it felt more natural going barefoot than squeezing our wriggly toes into rigid and confining shoes.

Even now the first thing I do when I come home is to kick off my shoes.

Unfortunately it's not socially acceptable to go around barefoot.  If I walked into my local grocery store or restaurant without shoes I'd most likely be asked to leave.  As a foreigner living in a very foreign country, I have to be careful about what I wear to avoid being stared at or verbally abused.  So going without shoes in public (in fact, even in my own home I'm frowned upon for not wearing slippers) would ostracize me even moreso.  Now I can wear my Vibrams (and still get stared at), conform to the custom of wearing shoes, and still feel as though I'm barefoot.

What do you think of them?  Kinda funny looking, hey?  But man oh man, they're good fun!  I just love 'em!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter Fun

As someone who believes in God without religion, Easter has never been a spiritually important time for me. Instead, I prefer the pagan ritual of celebrating the Spring Equinox. Did you know, the word Easter is actually derived from the name of the Goddess Eostre who represented the renewal of life - sunrise, spring-time and fertility?

Spring has always been my favourite time of the year. To me Spring is happiness and new life, flowers and butterflies, warm weather and cool breezes, colour, fun, sunshine, dandelions, fluffy clouds, trickling streams, green grass and baby birds.

With a constant state of little boy wonderment toddling along by my side I felt inspired this year more than any other time to put a bit of effort into celebrating Easter.

First, a rabbit ... I saw a cute little sock rabbit on Elsie Marley's blog and thought it looked simple enough to make even with Kaya "helping" me. All I needed was one of Kaya's mismatched socks, some matching thread and some cotton (picked from the cotton field next door):

The cute bunny tail was the first step:

Next, I shaped the body and tied it off at the neck:

Stuffing the head was next:

Although the next step was just as easy as all the previous steps, it did take a bit of time.  First I cut the top of the sock right down the middle to the top of the bunny's head to make the two ears and then closed each ear with a some simple stitching:

And here's the completed bunny with another bunny friend:

How's that for a simple and very cute little Easter decoration?  Even better, each bunny meant one less mismatched sock lying around!

Since this craft was so easy and so much fun to do, I got into Martha Stewart mode and started searching the internet for something else to make. Eventually I decided to make some easter bread to take to Easter supper at Angeline and Wolf's place. The recipe from Simple Bites looked simple enough (for me, "simple" is a prerequisite for making every cooking decision) even though it was still bread.

My bread-making record is pretty dismal. My 1/2 dozen attempts over the past couple of months have all been less than .... bread-like .... and I'd told Murat a couple of days before I tried this recipe that if I wasn't able to deliver the goods on my seventh try then I'd buy a bread maker. I don't know what I do wrong. But the bread always ends up wet and doughy in the middle or it doesn't rise or it just tastes really bad! I've tried everything like pre-testing the yeast, kneading the dough for hours (not really that long), using different flours, trying different temperatures of water or milk and even meditating beforehand. Nothing has worked. Until now that is!

I followed this recipe almost exactly but ended up having to keep it in the oven MUCH longer than specified. Did I mention that my oven is a piece of crap? Oh and I did modify the ingredients very slightly. Instead of all-purpose white flour I used wholewheat flour. I also used raw goat milk from our local village pasture fed goats, fresh eggs from the free range chooks in the village, fresh yellow butter, and olive oil instead of vegetable oil for shining up the eggs. And if I'd had more time I would have made natural dyes for the eggs instead of the not-so-good-for-eating artificial food colouring that I did use (I just made sure no one ate the pieces of bread stained by the dye).

This is what the dough looked like after I'd kneaded it for ages:

And this is what it looked like after I'd lovingly plated it and gently placed it in the baking tin:

And this is what it looked like right before it was eaten - a little more black than golden but no one complained.

Although not exactly breakfast bread, it's bread none-the-less. And it rose perfectly! And it wasn't wet and doughy in the middle! And it tasted lovely! Perhaps the secret is in the added sugar. Or the eggs. Or maybe it's the plating of the dough. Who knows? But this recipe is definitely a keeper. I made it again last night with some mashed banana thrown in and half the giant loaf has been gobbled up already! Next time I'm going to try it without the sugar since sugar's not a favourite ingredient in this household. Wish me luck!