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Harriet

Act VII - Harriet Scouts the Lands Beyond the Fortress

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I need a new approach, because the biggest block to my transformation is no longer physical but mental. It can’t be solved by getting to an athlete-worthy bodyfat percentage, adding 17 types of dumbbell accessories, or eliminating all processed foods and eating kale watered with the low-sodium tears of ultra-lean organic hens. I have to address my escapism and screen addiction because it’s wasting time, and interfering with my real life. I was dismayed recently on a trip to the desert in Joshua Tree—one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen—that I had trouble just being there mindfully. I’m trapped in a habit of mindlessness, which I retreat to as many hours of the day as I can, whether it’s video games, daydreaming, skimming-the-news-without-really-seeing it, checking social media, checking my phone, or watching “emotionally safe” tv. I think this is a habit I’ve developed to deal with boredom, anxiety, fatigue and anhedonia. But it wastes a lot of time, time I should be using for other things I want in my life. At least now there are things I want. That’s relatively new for me (let me give thanks to the spirits of iron for loosing a scale in the armour of one of my most vicious foes, anhedonia). I need to get comfortable with spending more time in my head, in my body, in the present moment. I need to ask myself: what would I do today, ideally, if there were no screens, if there were no escape to my fortress of mindlessness, if I weren’t afraid of anything and had boundless energy and concentration? And then I need to try to do at least some of what I imagine the answer to be. I must leave the fortress and scout the lands beyond…

The fortress: a place of either fantasy, mindlessness, or distraction where emotions are held in check and no social, intellectual, or other demands are made of me. The fortress is built of several blocks:

  • old stories: video games, daydreams, familiar books and films (being in someone else’s story instead of my own)
  • timekill: watching boring tv while knitting, re-reading old books (habits I formed to cope with the anxiety and fatigue elements of my depression)
  • distraction: aimless internetting, checking phone or social media for no reason, skimming the news without really reading it (getting regular little parcels of mental stimulus, without much effort… a habit I was more susceptible to due to the anhedonia component of my depression)
  • feeding the diet obsession: reading about diets and health books and planning getting lean as a substitute for dealing with my actual problems/learning to accept my imperfections and because I have this societally induced delusion than thinness cures everything.

 

The lands beyond the Fortress: a place where I have to be in the world, in my body, with my thoughts and feelings, with other people, in my own story, or exploring a new story. The lands encompass:

  • outings: going on mini adventures - to the city, to the cinema, to the theatre, travel, anything
  • activities: editing, lifting, taekwondo, cooking, writing, sketching, even just eating without needing a spirits-accursed screen open in front of me to go “bing!”
  • new stories: reading or watching anything new and challenging… even trying a new game!
  • being: just sitting with my thoughts without any attempt at escape, also, meditation
  • being with others: anything social, including spending attentive, non-distracted time with Mr Harriet. It shames me that we are often distracted by our screens when we should be focused on each other.

 

Concrete tasks. Leaving the fortress is a huge, terrifying undertaking for me, so I need to start small. My tasks for this challenge are:

  • Just sit: spend 5-10 minutes each morning just sitting with my thoughts and reflecting on what my day might look like (sounds easy but spirits, I get fidgety)
  • Cook with love: Since watching the great british baking show and reading “salt, fat, acid, heat” I have become thrilled by the skill that can be put into cooking, and I want to cook slowly, attentively, with love, instead of cooking rushed and distracted and taking shortcuts. I’ve already tried this and produced versions of dishes I make that were 300% better than usual
  • Eat with pleasure: eat my meals without screens (so fidgety)
  • Lift with focus: stop checking my phone like a pidgeon pecking a lever for grain during my rest periods. I can and should just sit and enjoy the rest and prepare my mind for the next set. Lifting is the main plot of my glorious warrior’s story, why should I want to be anywhere else?
  • Sleep HARD: Say no to wakefullness-prolonging thought processes and use meditative techniques to fall asleep as soon as I get in bed


Also, obviously, I will continue writing, lifting, taekwondo, and intuitive eating. I’m still aiming for intermediate level lifts this year (these targets are pretty far off, and they keep moving as I get heavier, hmm). I will continue to report on the lifting, and maybe also write about what I’m cooking.

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Are you thinking of trying apps/programs for guided meditation, for scouting that part of the lands outside the fortress? Scouting is less hazardous and scary if one has a map or the terrain, or a guide, even.

 

Also, following! :) 

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These are legit suggestions. We have amazon freetime enabled on grimble's echo dot that locks her out of doing things with it between 8pm and 7:15 am. I get your experience is going to differ vastly from a 4yr olds, but sometimes being an adult doesn't mean we can't learn the same lessons the kids do. 

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2 hours ago, scalyfreak said:

Are you thinking of trying apps/programs for guided meditation, for scouting that part of the lands outside the fortress? Scouting is less hazardous and scary if one has a map or the terrain, or a guide, even.

 

Also, following! :) 


Actually, I do have some meditation skills. I have done a fair bit of guided meditation and can now do similar things myself, if I but take the time. Interestingly, I find just sitting with my thoughts slightly more difficult and threatening than just meditating. 

 

2 hours ago, JessFit said:

Do you use the screen time apps or settings to control or notify you how much time you spend doing things? 

 

54 minutes ago, Grumble said:

These are legit suggestions. We have amazon freetime enabled on grimble's echo dot that locks her out of doing things with it between 8pm and 7:15 am. I get your experience is going to differ vastly from a 4yr olds, but sometimes being an adult doesn't mean we can't learn the same lessons the kids do. 


Ha, Grimble is probably more productive than me. I haven't tried apps yet, I don't think I'm at that stage. I'm starting in a slow, non-threatening way with the approach of adding in mindfulness rather than taking away screen time. I've tried setting limits in the past, and I always felt this intense relief when I could finally go back to my fortress. Of course this reinforces the feeling that the fortress is safe and the lands beyond are dangerous. I want to make my  scouting of the lands feel positive, not like a chore that I have to get through. Hence my five concrete tasks, which seem like a very low bar but are about visiting the lands beyond and discovering that they can be pleasant. 

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4 hours ago, Harriet said:
  • Cook with love: Since watching the great british baking show and reading “salt, fat, acid, heat” I have become thrilled by the skill that can be put into cooking, and I want to cook slowly, attentively, with love, instead of cooking rushed and distracted and taking shortcuts. I’ve already tried this and produced versions of dishes I make that were 300% better than usual
  • Eat with pleasure: eat my meals without screens (so fidgety)

 

One of my favorite cues for mindful eating is the moment of considering and respecting all of the hard work and development that went into the present meal. Taking pride in cooking and knowing deeply where things come from is pretty awesome and even humbling even in the face of something as simple as a PB&J :) 

 

So much big work!!! GLGL

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22 minutes ago, RedStone said:

So much big work!!! GLGL


I don't know what GLGL is, but I refuse to speculate because I prefer to believe that it is simply a word in itself, pronounced "gliggel", and that it is a kind and encouraging greeting, and/or a fierce and terrifying war cry.

 

24 minutes ago, RedStone said:

 

One of my favorite cues for mindful eating is the moment of considering and respecting all of the hard work and development that went into the present meal. Taking pride in cooking and knowing deeply where things come from is pretty awesome and even humbling even in the face of something as simple as a PB&J :) 


Yes, true! That's why one of my other tasks is cooking with love. Today I am attempting a slow-cooked ragu alla bolognese that should take several hours. The recipe says up to six, but I only have four. 

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2 minutes ago, Harriet said:


I don't know what GLGL is, but I refuse to speculate because I prefer to believe that it is simply a word in itself, pronounced "gliggel", and that it is a kind and encouraging greeting, and/or a fierce and terrifying war cry.

Good Luck x2

I like yours better. And you should know oh Ambassador.

2 minutes ago, Harriet said:


Yes, true! That's why one of my other tasks is cooking with love. Today I am attempting a slow-cooked ragu alla bolognese that should take several hours. The recipe says up to six, but I only have four. 

OOOOH. 
It took me a full 10 seconds to type that. I think I drooled on my shirt. Can haz recipe?

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38 minutes ago, Harriet said:

I've tried setting limits in the past, and I always felt this intense relief when I could finally go back to my fortress. Of course this reinforces the feeling that the fortress is safe and the lands beyond are dangerous. I want to make my  scouting of the lands feel positive, not like a chore that I have to get through. Hence my five concrete tasks, which seem like a very low bar but are about visiting the lands beyond and discovering that they can be pleasant. 

 

This is so important to remember, and you are wise and insightful for understanding how important it is to make your scouting a fun kind of adventure that you can look back at with joy, and with wistfulness that it ended too soon. The fortress needs the lands around it to stay safe. That's where the food comes from. ;) 

 

34 minutes ago, RedStone said:

 

One of my favorite cues for mindful eating is the moment of considering and respecting all of the hard work and development that went into the present meal. Taking pride in cooking and knowing deeply where things come from is pretty awesome and even humbling even in the face of something as simple as a PB&J :) 

 

Thank you so much for articulating one of the things I love the most about cooking but could never put into words!

 

I recently started experimenting with home-made broth, and where it comes from is surprisingly involved and awesome too. Also, so much more delicious than that store bought colored water I've ben forced to work with util now. :) 

 

3 minutes ago, Grumble said:


It took me a full 10 seconds to type that. I think I drooled on my shirt. Can haz recipe?

 

Yes, please. Self-Indulgence insists that we learn how to cook this.

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I feel like I've been doing this exact challenge for years. :/

 

Just by being aware of all this, you're doing it way better than I was/am.

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2 hours ago, Grumble said:

Good Luck x2

I like yours better. And you should know oh Ambassador.


I think was named ambassador because I don't know what any of the acronyms mean. Despite being a millennial, I'm CAIS. 

 

3 hours ago, Grumble said:

OOOOH. 
It took me a full 10 seconds to type that. I think I drooled on my shirt. Can haz recipe?

 

2 hours ago, scalyfreak said:

Yes, please. Self-Indulgence insists that we learn how to cook this.


Here is Samin's Ragu:  https://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/meat-sugo-and-pasta

I'm making it differently because I bought the ingredients before looking up a recipe... but I'm sure it will be great. I used garlic and fresh fennel in the soffrito instead of celery, and I'm just using beef mince (grass-fed hurrah), and I am using rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves (but no juniper or allspice or bay leaves cos I don't have them) and also diced tomato instead of paste, and I'm just winging the amounts of everything because I do what I want, and Samin is teaching me principles of cooking, not rules. I bought some fancy looking whole wheat parpadelle and aged parmesan to go with. And I'm going to make a simple rocket salad with a lemon dressing and pine nuts, which I shall toast. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, scalyfreak said:

 

This is so important to remember, and you are wise and insightful for understanding how important it is to make your scouting a fun kind of adventure that you can look back at with joy, and with wistfulness that it ended too soon. The fortress needs the lands around it to stay safe. That's where the food comes from. ;) 


Thank you kindly :)

 

1 hour ago, Curl Brogo said:

I feel like I've been doing this exact challenge for years. :/

 

Just by being aware of all this, you're doing it way better than I was/am.


I spent 18 years trying to get better, and it felt like trying to build a ladder out of mud. In a hole. In the rain. Things have only started coming together recently, but I think there was a lot of invisible work in those years even in the absence of visible progress. Keep going. I believe your dough will also come together with continued kneading.

...Sorry, too much british baking show. But you know what I mean.

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Of the ragu, Mr Harriet said: "fabulous", "awe-inspiring", "amazeballs", "better than anything we had in Siciliy" and "phwoar". I thought it was unexpectedly sweet - maybe due to the soffrito? I may have to reduce the ratio of carrots and onions next time, or increase the acidity with a touch of red wine vinegar or something. It was, however, impressively rich in taste and creamy in texture. Would make again.

 

IMG_5837.JPG.d30bc8be3d089bfb000461adc025b2e6.JPGIMG_5843.JPG.362cfc24b45908f435b9379266492ddb.JPGIMG_5845.jpg.d0e24f8bbdaef546365efd89ec736db7.jpg

 

 

 

Now, all I need is to figure out how to present things nicely. Like a meat version of this:

 

4af5e21f70ef1e013359b9e644d1f21b.png

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I think we can all relate to the fortress at some level. I disaffectionately refer to mine as "the bunker." I think a strong fortress is important to have whenever defense mechanisms are necessary, but exploiting that safety has a high opportunity cost.

 

This is some very good reflection and a journey I will look forward to following and taking inspiration from. Best of luck taking to the offensive!

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44 minutes ago, Deckard Gainz said:

I think we can all relate to the fortress at some level. I disaffectionately refer to mine as "the bunker." I think a strong fortress is important to have whenever defense mechanisms are necessary, but exploiting that safety has a high opportunity cost.


So true. Necessary but costly. 

 

45 minutes ago, Deckard Gainz said:

This is some very good reflection and a journey I will look forward to following and taking inspiration from. Best of luck taking to the offensive!


Thank you :) 

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17 hours ago, RedStone said:

One of my favorite cues for mindful eating is the moment of considering and respecting all of the hard work and development that went into the present meal. Taking pride in cooking and knowing deeply where things come from is pretty awesome and even humbling even in the face of something as simple as a PB&J :) 

Dropping this into the Mike W bag of tricks!

 

Love the goals and the small steps you're taking - screen free living is HARD (by definition, we all have some screen time just to interact here, which is great for finding a community, but there's also a lot of less great screen time in my life).

11 hours ago, Harriet said:

Of the ragu, Mr Harriet said: "fabulous", "awe-inspiring", "amazeballs", "better than anything we had in Siciliy" and "phwoar". I thought it was unexpectedly sweet - maybe due to the soffrito? I may have to reduce the ratio of carrots and onions next time, or increase the acidity with a touch of red wine vinegar or something. It was, however, impressively rich in taste and creamy in texture. Would make again.

 

IMG_5837.JPG.d30bc8be3d089bfb000461adc025b2e6.JPGIMG_5843.JPG.362cfc24b45908f435b9379266492ddb.JPGIMG_5845.jpg.d0e24f8bbdaef546365efd89ec736db7.jpg

 

 

 

Now, all I need is to figure out how to present things nicely. Like a meat version of this:

 

4af5e21f70ef1e013359b9e644d1f21b.png

YUMMMMM!!!! I *think* Samin mentions in her section on heat that all vegetables will taste a little more sweet as they caramelize and lose water, so not surprised with the sofrito doing that to Ragu. Red wine seems like a smart call to fix that!

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2 hours ago, Deckard Gainz said:

I think we can all relate to the fortress at some level. I disaffectionately refer to mine as "the bunker." I think a strong fortress is important to have whenever defense mechanisms are necessary, but exploiting that safety has a high opportunity cost.

I'm disappointed you don't refer to it as the "Horadric Tomb"

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I'm attempting to make a whole roasted chicken for the first time ever. No buttermilk on hand, so I'm marinating it in yoghurt overnight. If I don't have butcher's twine... can I use knitting yarn to tie the legs? Just trying to decide between the sock weight with alpaca, the sport weight plain merino, or the aran weight with masham (I jest. But on the other hand, perhaps the merino would be the wisest choice as it's worsted-spun, meaning less little sticky-outy hairy bits to burn in the oven...smoked wool probably wouldn't taste nice). I'm also thinking about using the giblets to make gravy or something, even though I'm very squeamish about organ meats. I suppose I can always attempt it and throw it out if it's inedible. 

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19 minutes ago, Harriet said:

I'm attempting to make a whole roasted chicken for the first time ever. No buttermilk on hand, so I'm marinating it in yoghurt overnight. If I don't have butcher's twine... can I use knitting yarn to tie the legs? Just trying to decide between the sock weight with alpaca, the sport weight plain merino, or the aran weight with masham (I jest. But on the other hand, perhaps the merino would be the wisest choice as it's worsted-spun, meaning less little sticky-outy hairy bits to burn in the oven...smoked wool probably wouldn't taste nice). I'm also thinking about using the giblets to make gravy or something, even though I'm very squeamish about organ meats. I suppose I can always attempt it and throw it out if it's inedible. 

Wool'd you really want to try that? 

I yarn for your report back.

If it were me, alpaca the chicken with some sort of stuffing.

 

In all seriousness, if you don't have twine, you can cut the excess skin next to the cavity and stick the legs into the slits.

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41 minutes ago, Harriet said:

I'm also thinking about using the giblets to make gravy or something, even though I'm very squeamish about organ meats. I suppose I can always attempt it and throw it out if it's inedible. 

 

Giblet gravy

 

A few years ago I offered to make this and bring as my contribution for the family Thanksgiving dinner. Family members who normally dislike gravy had seconds of it, and ever since then, this is what I'm expected to prepare and bring. Note that I have an immersible hand-held mixer that I use very thoroughly on the gravy, to make it as smooth as possible. Last year, the super-picky family toddler demanded thirds and fourths of this gravy, which of course convinced me it is a sure winner, and it made me feel rather smug. :)

 

With regards to twine, the only reason for using it is to make the chicken look less floppy when you put it on a serving platter, so if you don't have any, I would not worry about it. It doesn't really have an impact on the cooking process, at least not with turkeys. :) 

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11 minutes ago, scalyfreak said:

With regards to twine, the only reason for using it is to make the chicken look less floppy when you put it on a serving platter, so if you don't have any, I would not worry about it. It doesn't really have an impact on the cooking process, at least not with turkeys.

Those are some tiny turkeys.

 

Honestly the only reason I truss a bird is when I have stuffing to keep it from falling out. And you can really use anything. Even just a rubber band if need be. Anything you don't mind *ahem* touching your meat.

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1 minute ago, Grumble said:

Honestly the only reason I truss a bird is when I have stuffing to keep it from falling out. 

 

Is stuffing necessary? Samin doesn't mention it in her buttermilk chicken recipe. But perhaps it's so obvious she didn't feel the need. 

 

13 minutes ago, scalyfreak said:

 

Giblet gravy

 

A few years ago I offered to make this and bring as my contribution for the family Thanksgiving dinner. Family members who normally dislike gravy had seconds of it, and ever since then, this is what I'm expected to prepare and bring. Note that I have an immersible hand-held mixer that I use very thoroughly on the gravy, to make it as smooth as possible. Last year, the super-picky family toddler demanded thirds and fourths of this gravy, which of course convinced me it is a sure winner, and it made me feel rather smug. :)


Yes, I was thinking about gravy. Unfortunately I don't have a mixer in my temporary home here. Ugh, so annoying. We're staying long enough that I miss certain things, but not long enough that it makes sense to acquire stuff. 

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1 minute ago, Harriet said:

Is stuffing necessary? Samin doesn't mention it in her buttermilk chicken recipe. But perhaps it's so obvious she didn't feel the need. 

 

No. Not at all. There's stuffed chicken recipes and non stuffed recipes, so its totally personal choice. I would shove some fresh herbs up there because that always makes it better. But otherwise, nah.

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9 minutes ago, Harriet said:

 

Is stuffing necessary?  

 

No. You can put aromatics and spices and things inside the bird for extra flavor if you want, but it's not a necessity at all.

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