Friday, November 15, 2013

Hello.



I keep wanting to talk to you guys.  I keep thinking of things to tell you, ways to share what is in my heart, how I spend my days, the things I love and the things that hurt me.  The science is right (of course).  A body at rest stays at rest.  Inertia is incredible. 

The longer I don’t write here, the harder it is to come back to these pages.  They feel foreign.  The act of publishing becomes filled with meaning, as if the words must be particularly special now to warrant so long an absence. 

What if I don’t live up to it?

What if my words are just words after a long absence?  No more brilliant or filled with epiphanies than any other words on these pages?

Fear is such a bully – so comfortable stepping into the driver’s seat and taking the wheel whether you asked or not.  Fear will pick the whole route for you if you don’t shove it out the door and slide over.
 
* * *

Hey guys.

I’m here.  Living day to day.  Some are good.  Some are bad.  Most are a mix, and I’m practicing practicing practicing - like scales on the piano - gratitude.  Sometimes I forget.  I’m late for work, and the house is a disaster, and there are still boxes, and another person tells me my job is ruining their life, and I am overwhelmed.  And I don’t want to practice anymore.  I want to scream and cry and eat ice cream and cheese puffs and feel miserably, inconsolably sorry for myself.  And then it starts to flurry and I catch a downy woodpecker nibbling on the suet my dad hung outside my kitchen window and my wife’s chin fits perfectly in the curve of my neck.  And then I remember. 

These are my days. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekending


We've been packing it in these last few fall weekends.  This one was all about raking, picking apples, and preparing the garden for winter - with a little football and knitting thrown in for good measure. Life feels so very Autumn right now.  A never-ending raking job'll do that.  As will piles of vegetables and herbs that must get stored or preserved asap and garlic that needs to get in the ground before the frost.  (I hope Laura Ingalls is listening.)

I'm soaking it all in before "stick season," the affectionate term given to the winters here.  Then we'll hibernate as best we can, but for now it's all about being outside and enjoying these gorgeous days.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival


A few weekends ago, we fit in a quick trip down to Tunbridge for the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival.  I love these types of festivals, both as a knitter and as an admirer of adorable fuzzy animals. Navah and I walked around, watched a sheep shearing demonstration and a sheep herding demonstration, and ate some delicious food.  I limited myself to buying one giant skein of yarn - restraint that was worthy of a pat on the back.  I didn't leave with a single sheep!  Or goat!  And as you can see, there were plenty of precious contenders.  I was particularly smitten with a little black Angora goat that watched coyly while I took pictures.  

Somewhere down the road, perhaps we will orient our lives in such a way that sheep or goats or alpacas are a part of our days.  For now, we enjoy visiting them when we can.  



Getting to give a little head rub is just icing on the cake.


Friday, August 30, 2013

The Anatomy of A Fear



When we got home from Maine, the mailbox was stuffed almost to overflowing with catalogs and bills and the weekly neighborhood newspaper.  I pulled out the giant mass of it and placed the bundle in the crook of one arm so that I could leaf through it while I walked back to the house.  As I scanned the return addresses, I felt the unmistakable tickle of tiny legs - too many tiny legs - scrambling over my shoulder.  With a shriek, I threw the mail to the ground and shook my arms as a brown spider with a sizable abdomen dropped to the ground at my feet.  


I jumped back and stared at it, secretly pleased to see that it was large enough for my hysteria to be warranted.  It didn’t move - likely catching its breath after being hurled from the equivalent of a skyscraper, and I called Navah out of the house so that she could witness the horror to which I had been subject. She grimaced appropriately, and I shuddered as I picked up each piece of mail and inspected it for other eight-legged creatures.  


I have checked the mail twenty-four times since then, which I consider a sign of great personal maturity.  


I know there are those who love spiders and laud them for their excellent insect-killing abilities and their beautiful webs, but try as I may, I am not one of those people.  I cannot explain to you why spiders terrify me.  I can only tell you that they do.  I have screamed about spiders. I have cried about them - specifically, in a hostel in the jungle in Guatemala where Navah and I slept with the covers tucked in around our bodies and wrapped over our heads because the spiders just would not stop appearing.  When I've been able to recover from my own hysteria and they've been inside my house, I have killed them. Once I see one, I cannot forget its presence, and I live in fear that it will quietly sneak up beside me.

Off course, size is a major consideration.  Along with location (i.e., far away on the other side of the room versus crawling on my person), ratio of body size to leg size (bigger body equals bigger shriek), and furriness (fur is bad, obviously).  The spider that crawled out of the mail and onto my bare shoulder (very bad) was bigger than a quarter (bad) with short legs and a body bigger than a nickel (bad).  It had fur (bad).  


So you will probably want to run over to my house right now and give me a huge pat on the back and perhaps a medal or a small trophy when you learn that each and every one of those twenty-four times that I have checked the mail since my run-in with the brown hitchhiking spider, an enormous quarter-sized black spider with a nickel-sized body and a funnel-style web has peered at me from the back of the mailbox.  


We have a system.  


I warn her that I’m about to open the mailbox by gently tugging on the handle without actually opening it.  This gives her time to run back to her web.  (Once she was resting on an envelope, and we almost came to blows.  But I closed the mailbox door, went back inside, and when I came out again later, she had re-considered the situation and made a better choice.) So she stays in her little web watching me as I slide each piece of mail out of the mailbox with one finger while watching her.  

So far, we have each held up our side of an unstated agreement not to touch the other.  I assume that every afternoon after I check the mail, she breaths a sigh of relief and congratulates herself for her courage and exceptional moral character.  

Just like I do.



 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Favorite Meal: Chipotle Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes



There are some meals that are always in our regular rotation.  Pasta and spaghetti sauce.  Vegetarian chili.  Bean burritos. A simple tomato and hearts of palm salad.  Stir fry with rice.  And then there are meals that we're obsessed with for a while but that somehow fall off our radar.  Beer and sausage pasta.  Tofu scramble.  We'll eat it once a week for a month and then not eat it again until, a year later, one of us says, "Hey.  Remember when we used to make [insert delicious dish here] all the time?"

Well, I'm hoping this new favorite doesn't disappear anytime soon because it is so delicious and different from our normal flavor palate that just knowing I'm going to have it for dinner can sustain me through a rough day.  I'm serious.

You can find the recipe over here at The Stay At Home Chef.  I've traded out the spinach for kale when that's what I had on hand, and it was just as delicious.  I leave out the chopped chipotle pepper and just use chipotle chili powder, and it's plenty spicy enough for me.  But if you can't find chipotle chili powder, I would definitely recommend using a chipotle pepper because that taste is delicious and way better than just regular chili powder.  And we use cheddar cheese rather than mozzarella because Cabot cheddar is all aged long enough to be lactose free (hurrah!).

(Word of caution:  Chipotle chili powder is spicier than chili powder.  If you add a bottle of it to your spice rack, don't accidentally interchange them in other dishes.  I say this from experience!)

What's your favorite meals these days?



Monday, August 26, 2013

This Week in My Garden :: August 26



It's cool now when we wake up, and I don't go out for my morning walk without a fleece or a sweatshirt.  I worry about when we'll get the first frost, but I'm hoping it's still a ways off since I've got a dozen or more green tomatoes on the vines and a cucumber patch that still has lots of producing to do.

I'm terrible at keeping up with the weeding.  And the harvesting, to be honest.  The tomatoes are easy because I see them flaming red on the vine and run out all excited.  But I've let some good kale leaves get devoured by slugs and Japanese beetles before picking them.

We harvested the garlic too late - neither of us knew exactly when that should be, and when I finally looked it up on the internet, we learned it should've been a week earlier.  As a result, the cloves won't keep as long.  They've lost some of their protective wrapping - the many layers that hold them all together.  The bulk of them will be stored in jars of vinegar in the fridge.  I've been told this won't dramatically change their flavor - it'll make them a little less potent but still good for cooking with.

You might notice that there's no longer a fence around the beds.  My dad was kind enough to dismantle the whole thing while he was visiting a few weeks ago.  (We've stored all the pieces for later use.)  Some folks weren't sure whether we should be taking it down, but I'm glad I stuck with my gut.  I always thought it looked a little weird because it was such a tiny little fenced area in a big yard, and I love the more open look now that it's gone.  We haven't had any issues with animals yet (knock on wood), and the fence would've only kept out deer, not rabbits or other smaller things.  But if we start seeing sizes of animals chomping in there, we'll throw up a temporary chicken wire fence that we can take down once winter begins.  

It's been a season of experimenting.  The okra didn't really turn out - either because the bed wasn't getting enough sun or they plants got too wet during June and July.  We're not sure.  Our peppers weren't a great success either.  But we've got some good tomatoes coming in - the San Marzanos are doing the best right now.  And I'm anxiously awaiting the burst of cherry tomato deliciousness when the dozens on the vine turn red.  The romas have been hanging green on the vine for what seems like forever, and just today I saw a hint of color forming on one of them.  The same with the Early Girls.  So far I don't have enough for the grand tomato pickling adventure I'd imagined, but I'm hoping to make a little salsa or sauce with the four San Marzanos I picked last week.

The cucumbers are sneaky.  If you don't do a thorough scan under all the big leaves, you can miss them.  But I've got enough now to make some refrigerator pickles - using dill and garlic from the garden.

In the kitchen with bounty from our own soil feels like the place to be now that there's that crispness in the air, that hint of fall, a few leaves already changing colors.  My desire to nest and putter and "put food by" feels almost primitive, like I'm carrying out a biological plan.  And perhaps I am.  Though thank goodness we get to count this season of gardening as an experiment, and I don't have to try to feed my family through the winter on a couple jars of refrigerator pickles and some frozen tomatoes.

What's going on in your garden this week?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Maine

Oh hi.

I could go into a long song and dance about why I've been away from the blog for a while, but that's no fun.  And I'm following the advice of my old therapist who, when I came to therapy once after missing several weeks and bemoaned all the time I would need to spend getting her up to speed, said "or you could just start where you are."  So there you go.

Our trip down the coast of Maine (from Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park, through Camden and Rockland, and finally Port Clyde) at the end of July was gorgeous and a welcome vacation from busy work life.  We got in some hiking, some reading, some lounging, some quality time with each other, and some laughs with friends.  And of course, a lot of photography.





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