Back in August 2018, I vowed to update you more often on the Shanti happenings (Shanti-vents?). You’ve learned, like my child, who believed a number of impossible things before the age of 10, that I’m a big, fat liar. You might have guessed it sooner if you’ve ever heard me describe myself as a propagandist or if you took into consideration the fact that my favorite pastime is writing campy adventure novels.

So here it is January 2019, and I haven’t said word one about what’s been going down. I’d once more vow to do better moving forward, but I think we all know that you’ll just have to take your chances. Maybe I’ll keep you posted. Maybe the next time you hear from me I’ll be 81 and living on an island off the coast of southern Asia.

Regardless, here’s a little update.

Jack worked his tookus off in an effort to get the Shanti seaworthy (or at least riverworthy) so that we could bring her up the Tennessee-Tombigbee for hurricane season 2018. But it didn’t happen. Have you picked up on our combined and completely preposterous optimism yet?

Still, he accomplished a lot during that time. He got work done on the engine, and he even managed to build basic bunks for us. That’s right. No more hammocks or sleeping on the floor. We’re elevated and super bougie now.

View of the galley-in-the-making from the berth, a.k.a. bunk. a.k.a. boat bed. Plus my toes in case you’re into that kind of thing.

Speaking of bougie, we’ve also got an Instant Pot aboard the Shanti*, and I’ve gotten REAL good at using it. I know it’s a terrible sin in society to boast – especially if you’re a lady-type – but I live at the fringes of society these days, and I no longer abide by the same rules as the citizenry. So let me just tell you that I have become a true kitchen witch. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m a genius in my little makeshift galley. I can do things with beans and rice that haven’t been done since early pioneers settled the Old West. I can even make steel cut oatmeal taste like dessert.

Let me paint a picture for you.**

Currently, my kitchen consists of a vintage enamel tabletop situated on a plywood floor. Because I’m a fancy lass, I’ve got a lovely weatherproof cushion from our outdoor chairs to sit upon while I stir my brew. Nothing makes a perimenopausal woman feel more crone-like than cooking at ground level. The Instant Pot is, in essence, my cauldron, and within its stainless steel interior, I work wonders with carrots and celery and onions and cabbage and whatever ingredients happen to be on hand. My pantry consists of two Tupperware boxes where things are quasi-organized until I take one thing out, causing the whole controlled chaos to collapse in on itself.

A view of the galley at night when it’s eerie and mystical and I’m cooking up marinara or a potion for flying.

In the mornings, it’s oatmeal that I work my wonders on. When I say “in the mornings,” I want you to understand that I mean every morning***. I wake, make coffee in the mother-in-law’s vintage percolator, light my magical cooking candle, gather my ingredients, and start the oatmeal a-brewing.

Kneeling over my cauldron on a cushion with my two cats weaving around me makes tossing in spices feel more magical. Being of a theatrical nature, I lean into that vibe, whispering a few made-up words into the pot and giving Jack an indecipherable look to make him wonder how the rest of his day’s gonna go.

Once the oatmeal is cooked, I’ll conjure up a topping for it. The most delicious is canned peaches sauteed in butter with ginger and cinnamon and sugar. The aroma alone is enough to lure in local alligators and loons to get a better whiff. It’s that good. Anyone with a cartoon nose would be lifted up off their feet and pulled by a cartoon fragrance finger directly to our Shanti. And they’d be delighted by the breakfast awaiting them.

Except for some of the more aristocratic members of the crew <cough> teenager <cough> who feel like breakfast should be more varied. I’ve resolved this conflict by appealing to his fascination with socialism. I gave him a quick shaming for not being A MAN OF THE PEOPLE and renamed the oatmeal Proletarioats™****. Now my young comrade heartily and happily eats his morning victuals with nary a complaint. We’ve also assured him that when he goes to college, he’ll win the inevitable competition for “weirdest childhood”*****.

Morning is my favorite time of the day on the Shanti because making oatmeal in an Instant Pot on the floor makes me feel like a real, old-fashioned anarchist. This is the time of day when I expound my best conspiracy theories and really give it to THE MAN, which the men on the boat thoroughly enjoy. Or they don’t. They certainly won’t argue as I control the supply of oatmeal and coffee and demand to be heard.

If you’ve been vicariously living the Shanti experience with us via our blog posts, you’ll know that I like to end on a buoyant thought, a lesson learned, and in this case, that lesson includes the recipe for happiness. Or, at least, a recipe for happiness.

Sometimes, life gives you oatmeal for breakfast every. damn. day. Even for an oatmeal lover, daily oatmeal can wear the nerves thinner than gruel during a six month voyage. There’s something about having to eat oatmeal every day that can make it feel like you’re being treated unfairly (despite the fact that a large swath of the Earth’s population subsist on rice at every meal without a lot of griping). But the fact is oatmeal is good for you, it’s affordable, and it’s quite tasty, especially when you take the time to top it with ginger-spiced peaches.

So do this: Spice up your daily oatmeal the best you can. Re-name it something silly that makes it a little more palatable. Eat it with people you love. Drown out the sound of their groans with a noisy diatribe against capitalist robber barons (or whatever you happen to harangue your loved ones about). Remember that there are people who would be delighted for a bowl of your oatmeal. And continue thinking buoyant thoughts.

P.S. One last thing before I sign off. I’d like to assuage any worries about The Great Spoon Shortage of 2018. We do have sufficient spoons now as well as bowls, plates, and colossal coffee mugs. We’ve also got the whole bed situation covered as mentioned earlier, and we’ve even got a TV. So while conditions are certainly not Pottery Barn posh by any stretch, they’re charming and thrilling and always improving.

* Yes. I know. I’ve mentioned it once or twice or three times. When you’ve only got one appliance, it gets a lot of airtime.

** Oh. You want an actual picture? Well, look up at the top of the post. Jeez. Do I have to tell you everything?

*** If you can’t eat oatmeal every morning and enjoy it, you won’t make it aboard the Shanti. This isn’t a cafeteria for princesses, princess.

**** Don’t even try it. Proletarioats™ is mine. Yes. I realize that trademarking a meal of the working man is exactly the kind of thing that a capitalist would do. I’m a complicated crone.

***** I was not lying about being a propagandist. I’m very good at my occupation.