Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Pastry Observation

Cinnamon rolls.

They take a bit of time and patience, some kneading and punching, buttering and slicing. A watchful eye to be sure. Timing is everything.

Christmas morning - rolls are eagerly separated, warmed or not, and eaten by an expectant - yet grateful - family of six. Quickly. Gone. Poof! Like that. Leaving contented smiles on sticky faces.

Just like the whole Christmas season.

What new creation of life awaits in 2009?

Can't wait to find out!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


What do you do when you've got a houseful of kids - er, um, young adults - who are hungry and giving you that look?

You get out the pizza ingredients and put the hungry people to work, that's what. Cassie taught Ben how to toss a pizza crust. He got the hang of it in short order.

Caroline observes Cassie and Ben's differing styles.

Cassie adjusts her dough...

...then layers on the sauce and cheeses.

This summer-grown ingredient punctuates the flavor.

Cassie's finished product! Voila!

While the chefs gleefully play with their food, I mean prepare supper, Joe relaxes, happy he doesn't have to make his own supper tonight.

Holiday from ordinary days, reconnecting, making memories.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Sunrise: 7:44
Sunset: 4:36
Length of visible light: 9 hours, 59 minutes
Length of day: 8 hours, 52 minutes
Tomorrow will be 4 seconds longer

Today marks the Winter Solstice, an event often overlooked and generally undervalued.

Marking the reversal of the gradually lengthening nights and shortening days Winter Solstice brings comfort, for I know it marks the beginning of the return of energy and vitality to me. While I treasure winter's rest, tedious grows the challenge to fill dark hours with purpose - however pleasant and meaningful - and the effects of enforced semi-hibernation takes its toll on my emotions. Hope for gray-darkness to endure just long enough to offer recharging before politely stepping aside for Spring clarifies my fuzzy mind.

According to Wikipedia, "The winter solstice occurs at the instant when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane from the observer's hemisphere...The word solstice derives from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still)."

So, 'stand still' sun for a moment this day. I pause in my spirit to acknowledge the shift occurring on this amazing orb we inhabit.

Head lifted, torso straightened, countenance freshened, I shall endure, open to possibility and surprise.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Old Folks

In her wheelchair she rolls her 85 year-old self out of her bedroom and down the hall of her loving son's home. Naked, she sits, arms pushing the wheels, her adult diaper on her head. Smiling. Her son and his wife's hearts weep.

Would she, at 45, have wanted it so?

She was fine until the doctor gave her some new meds. Then she, 'Went crazy,' her son tells us. 'Just changed almost overnight.'

Is there such a thing as living too long? Wouldn't it be better to die naturally, with dignity, than to exist in a body drugged and strung along? Isn't old age hard enough on all of us - those who have arrived at that stage and those who watch and help - without turning it into an unnatural, massive, soul-wrenching science experiment?

I'm reminded of lyrics, which may be recalled incorrectly, but the sentiment is there.

Makes me sad. Compassion wells up for us all.


Old Folks

The old folks don't talk much
They talk so slowly when they do
They are rich they are poor
Their illusions are gone
They share one heart for two

Their homes all smell of pine
And old photographs
And an old fashioned song
Though you may live in town
You live so far away
When you've lived too long

Have they laughed too much?
Do their dry voices crack
Talking of things gone by?
Have they cried too much?
A tear or two still always seems
To cloud the eye

They tremble as they watch the old silver clock
When day is through
Tick tock, oh so slow
It says yes it says no
It says I wait for you

The old folks dream no more
Their books have gone to sleep
The piano's out of tune
The little cat is dead
And no more do they sing on a Sunday afternoon

The old folks move no more
Their world becomes too small
Their bodies feel like lead
They might look out a window
Or else sit it a chair
Or else they stay in bed

And if they still go out
Arm and arm, arm and arm
In the morning's chill
It's to have a good cry
To say their last good-bye
To one whose older still
And then they go home
To the old silver clock

When day is through
Tick tock, oh so slow
It says yes it says no
It says, I wait for you

The old folks never die
They just put down their heads
And go to sleep one day
They will hold each other's hands
Like children in the dark
But one will get lost anyway
And the other will remain
Just sitting in a room
Which makes no sound
It doesn't matter now
The song has died away
And echo's all around

You'll see them as they walk
Through the sun-filled parks
Where children run and play
It hurts too much to smile
It hurts so much
But life goes on for still another day
As they try to escape the old silver clock

When day is through
The clock goes so slow
It says yes it says no
It says I wait for you

The old old silver clock
That's hanging on the wall
That waits for us all


The life cycle.

I ache.

And am reminded...

..."We simply dare not waste our youth." ~~ Keith Green

Monday, December 8, 2008

Food as Medicine

In an optimistic effort to maintain perspective about the unfortunate gift some of our Thanksgiving guests left for us - sneezed and coughed-out germs that create a nasty bout of cold/bronchitis - I prepared food for my family that not only nourishes the body but brightens the spirit as well. Afterall, wellness begins in the mind, right? It may not end there, but it begins there.

Chicken soup made with lots of vegetables including roasted yams and parsnips bubbling in homemade chicken stock not only lent its aroma to our home, but soothed sinuses and bellies all around.

Norwegian Kringles offered holiday warmth and comfort. Part bread, part biscuit, and part cookie these little gems seemed to drive the fog away.

My daughters are getting well. Tom and I are keeping the illness at bay - so far. We can feel our bodies fighting that ominous tickle at the throat and headache behind the eyes.

After I made and served this meal I went back to bed to watch Simon Birch while I sipped orange juice and spring water in a candlelit room, on a bed with lots of fluffy pillows, thick wool socks around my feet.

It all helps.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

'Bread and Roses'

As we go marching, marching
In the beauty of the day
A million darkened kitchens
A thousand mill lofts grey
Are touched with all the radiance
That a sudden sun discloses
For the people hear us singing
Bread and roses, bread and roses

As we go marching, marching
We battle too for men
For they are women's children
And we mother them again
Our lives shall not be sweetened
From birth until life closes
Hearts starve as well as bodies
Give us bread, but give us roses

As we go marching, marching
We bring the greater days
For the rising of the women
Means the rising of the race
No more the drudge and idler
Ten that toil where one reposes
But the sharing of life's glories
Bread and roses, bread and roses

~~ James Oppenheim (1912)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Storm to Awaken the Senses

Cassie, Caroline, and I sat looking at one another last evening. We all felt overwhelming sleepiness.

"I feel like I could go to bed now and sleep all night."

All three of us echoed that sentiment.

It was six o'clock.

The dog looked up at me with luminous brown eyes waiting for me put on shoes and grab his walking leash.

"We've got to fight this hibernation instinct or we are going to have too long a winter, girls," I said with all the strength of voice I could muster.

Resistance. And more resistance.

But I can ramrod notions.

Two grumbly teens changed out of warm flannel pants and into jeans, grabbed hoodies and a flashlight. I leashed up the now-exuberant pup, and we plodded outside.

And it felt good. Sleep stalled for a few hours, we ended up working out on the Wii Fit, the girls practiced their guitars, night fell, and we slept - soundly.

A storm whipped up overnight - probably the reason for the instinct to curl up and doze - leaving rain, wind, and bulbous clouds this morning, with the sun curiously peeking through the gray now and then.

Perky girls once again.

Invigorated family.

How I love a storm!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Out of the Blue

Without naming any names, an acquaintance of ours was hit by a car while she was pushing her two year old in a stroller. The child is fine and home with her family. Our friend has a broken pelvis, scrapes, bumps, bruises, and I imagine is in a bit of shock.

I just happened to catch her name on the news this morning as I was walking through the living room. It's always stunning when the name in the news is familiar.

My heart goes out to M. and her family. Besides her husband, children, and extended family she has many friends who will be supporting her in the days to come. From what I know of M. she is a joyful, effervescent woman. I know she is creative, with a marvelous eye for beauty for she creates art that stirs my soul. She loves her husband, her kids, her friends, and it's a shame that this has happened to her.

The driver of the Yukon crossed over the busy street and was driving on the wrong side of the road. He hit her, crashed the SUV, got out, and ran away. Coward. The police know who he is, a man-hunt is on-going.

I say it over and over again, life is fragile and fleeting. Cherish, cherish, cherish the life around and within.

(Here is a link to M.'s husband's note of thanks on her blog where he describes the accident and the aftermath, along with his personal thoughts which are inspirational.)

UPDATE: Tom said he heard on the news that driver of the Yukon turned himself in tonight.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


"Joy is an inward singing that cannot be silenced by outward negative circumstances. Yes, even when life seemingly is falling apart."

~~ Robert D. Foster

Friday, November 7, 2008

Spaces Between the Drips

Warm temperatures and dry skies called us outside today. So much to do.

After rain smashes into flowers, squishes dirt into mud, and blows leaves off trees a garden droops like a hobo's hair in a rain storm. But that's okay. Rain is good.

And so is getting outside under a bright low sun for an afternoon.

We didn't get it all done. The mums were dead-headed so that new buds could meet the sun. The patio was washed of leaves and mud. Lavender pruned. Wilted summer plants snipped back. Weeds pulled.

And Cassie pulled up the last of the tomato plants and began the work of putting the once bountiful vegetable garden to bed.

She had fun playing in the mud, can you tell?

Tomorrow we tackle - the carpet of leaves!

Before the rains return.

Like a game of cat and mouse.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Light

One week of gray and rain and my mind turns to darker days ahead when S.A.D. will plague some of us who live out winter in sunless semi-darkness.

Some of you advised me last year to buy happy light bulbs, so I did.

Now I lie on my sofa, eyes closed, visualizing afternoons only weeks ago when I'd sit on my sunny porch in shorts and tank top, feet resting on a cushy chair, dark glasses on my nose, body soaking sunshine.

One does what one must to keep her spirits up.

It's never too early to begin preventative measures, no?

How I am enjoying the challenge of living season-consciously during months that normally sap my energy, crabbyizing me until spring returns bright new life.
Decades of 'doing it wrong' have instilled crusty, moldy habits - habits that feel as instinctual as breathing and eating. I'll root 'em out.

As Bob Dylan says, "He not busy being born is busy dying." Busy being born here - anticipate the unexpected!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Triple Chocolate Caramel Apples

Caroline didn't feel like Trick-or-Treating this year. All four of our kids found their moment when dressing up and walking the neighborhood lost its appeal.

She handed out candy to all the little kids instead. "It was really fun! They're so cute."

The little girl who commented, "I like your house. It's pretty!" received two large Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

While the front door was busy opening and closing to little bumblebees, princesses, and military boys the kitchen was busy, too. I made homemade caramel with fresh milk, cream, dark corn syrup, and more. Then, I coated a bunch of apples.

After they hardened I coated two-thirds of the apples with melted milk chocolate. Back to the fridge for cooling. (First photo is after milk chocolate dip.)

Tom and Cassie added a coat of semi-sweet chocolate to all of the milk chocolate and/or caramel apples. (Second photo, Tom and Cassie melting white chocolate)

Once the goodies had chilled, Caroline watched as Tom and Cassie drizzled the ever-expanding apples with melted white chocolate.

More refrigeration. Thirty minutes. It's all we could stand.

We sliced an apple in half then into quarters, slicing out the core, and we each enjoyed a hunk.

The remaining treats? Noooo, we won't eat them all. There were over a dozen. Joe and Sam, Joe's friend, will be gifted with a couple. We shall present a couple more to the kind friends who came over to console the girls during the Sammy/pit bull ordeal. I'm sure the leftover coated fruit will find bellies to sweeten.

Hope your Halloween was safe and fun!

I'd write more but I think I need a little snack - say, an apple?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cheese Genius

In the deli department of one of our favorite markets, Market of Choice, there lies a huge wheel of cheese. Huge. The lady behind the counter, after pointing out all the delicious cheeses on sale during their Harvest Sale, told us that if we could guess the weight of the cheese wheel we'd win a small prize.

Tom asked if he could pick it up.


He did. And as he was setting it down he said, "That weighs 85 lbs."

The lady's mouth dropped open. She reached under the counter for his gift, a small jar of jam.

She asked, "How'd you know? I mean, that's exactly what it weighs."

"Felt like a tire and tires are 85 pounds."

My husband the mechanic - and now enjoyer of a fine jar of rhubard jam, with almonds.

And he shares.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hidden Meals

I'm ever surprised - stupid me - that there are so many meals hidden in my food storage areas, in pieces here and there waiting for someone to put them together. It took me getting irritated at food prices - okay, outraged - before I rediscovered my stubborn streak, the one that fights back.

Tom's been after me for some time to dig out the old, frozen chicken parts, the pork chunks, and the nuts and berries, etc. from the back of the freezer. And to reacquaint myself with the mason jars of various dried beans, peas, and lentils in the pantry. He mentioned as he walked out the door for work yesterday, "Is there something that can be done with these bananas before we have to throw them out?" While his helpful little comments normally have a negative effect on me - down-side of the stubborn streak - I've taken his pleadings to heart in an attempt to strike-back at rising grocery prices.

I've had the ability to cook and bake for a long long time, yeah sure. But after twenty-eight years of husband and children, well, it sort of loses its appeal now and then. Especially when my chore list remains long, responsibilities demand, and contemplation is taken seriously.

But occasionally - especially when the seasons change - the mood strikes!

And this time it struck a double-whammy! Seasonal cravings coupled with high grocery costs.

I really had no choice. I, being who I am, took up the sword and sliced the grocery bill down by using what I already have to feed my family. Swoosh! And I cleaned out the freezer making room for more good harvest delights. Swoosh again!

The mood will pass. It always does. But this time I have pictures to remind me of the satisfaction. Maybe I'll be motivated again sooner. And this time I have a freezer full of things I normally would have been too preoccupied - lazy - to make up ahead or save from the garden.

I think I'm changing.


Crisp Weather/Chicken Soup

It rained yesterday. Nice! I pulled a bunch of chicken pieces from the freezer and made stock.

The girls and I rolled out a batch of rustic pasta last evening, spreading it out to dry overnight.

This morning as I skimmed the fat off the refrigerated stock I remembered that our last CSA box included purple potatoes. Why not make chicken soup with purple spuds for fun? Over the weekend Cassie picked the last of the green beans. As I didn't have any peas, I added a few of the late bloomers instead.

The soup foamed and dripped a little onto the stove as it simmered away. Oh well, it still smelled divine.

This afternoon, right before the girls left for French class, and before Tom headed for work, we sat down at the table over steaming bowls of chicken soup, and watched the gray fogginess of a chill October day creep over the butte and into our world.

Hot soup and a drippy day.

Perfect timing!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gathering Pieces

What do you do with these too soft to peel and snarf bananas?

And what about these remnants of walnuts crammed to the back of the freezer? Have they outlived their usefulness?

They can still contribute. Yes, they can. They may look used up and worthless, old and spotted, too soft, but together they create a whole new food!

A gentle touch finds good fruit inside...

..a new banana form. Smashed! Pile up the nuts and chop chop chop.

Introduce the duo to a few fresh friends.

Send them on a cruise to a warmer climate.

Sun tanned, bananas and nuts, a whole new offering.


Never underestimate the value deep inside each and every one of us.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Apres Summer

I know I'm the most boring blogger ever. My posts are about desserts and soups, harvesting and preserving, and the joy that these simple things bring to me. Complete, peaceful joy.

I'm in a very relaxed, content place right now. Embracing the new season, letting the chill wind brrrr me, letting the warm house toast me, and letting the satisfaction of a summer well-spent console me. l rode fearlessly on the crest of summer this year, rode her from spring to fall, noticing her nuances, making time to stop and making time to participate, squeezing out all that I could of her loveliness, her offerings, her opportunity and poetry. It has left me very mellow.

It's boring to read about, I know. But these simple posts reflect my experience, my feeling.

I hope it's not the calm before the storm.

I hope it's just me...learning to listen, to absorb, and to be grateful.

We'll see.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hazelnuts Revisited

Food tastes better when cooked or baked from scratch, yourself. Even better when some effort and sweat have been expended gathering ingredients. Whether foods are grown from seeds in backyard gardens, foraged from the wilderness, squeezed from a goat or cow, or cracked in a family circle around the kitchen table, patience is necessary and satisfaction guaranteed.

Uncertain economic times turn my mind to solutions. How to feed my family real food while staying within an affordable budget. How to get the most out of what is available to us. Local berries, nuts, CSA boxes of produce, local grass-fed beef, local dairy products, and stores that stock their shelves with fresh ingredients grown kindly are a few wonderful solutions.

It's not hard to eat close-to-the-earth foods. But one must be dedicated - and patient.

My latest dessert creation began with an idea and recipe from a friend. The rest was up to us. To make this maple-hazelnut pie we gleaned nuts from a local farm, dried, cracked, and roasted them, then chopped them with a sharp knife. I could have purchased nuts from a bulk food bin, but I wouldn't know where they'd been grown, they'd be stale, and well, I would have to pay for them. A little effort and family time spent harvesting and processing filberts produced more than a bowl of nuts. It produced bonding, joy, laughter, exercise - and satisfaction.

While I was putting the ingredients together according to the instructions I thought of my Canadian friend, WC, who shared this recipe on her blog. It looked so good I had to give it a whirl. To spend time in the kitchen thinking about her and all the wonderful foods she prepares and shares, the art expressed in every dish and photo, well, it made me feel pretty good. Sharing with someone I've never met but who has a common interest in healthy edibles prepared with joy gave me a very pleasant afternoon.

My pie just came out of the oven. We'll let it cool and sit overnight, to be sampled tomorrow. For now it is a solid reminder sitting on the counter offering its sweet, nutty aroma not only to our household but the neighborhood as well, an enjoyable reminder to me that preparing food can be art, it can be responsible, it can be affordable, it can be proudly shared across nations - and it can be fun.

It's just a pie, sure. But it means friendship to me. It means time spent with Tom and the girls on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. It means pampering my family with whole tasty treats. It means there is an aspect of life - eating - that is too often unappreciated, hurried, even toxic when it can be so... so much more.

While I can't cook treasures for every meal I can present them often. It's a choice and it makes a difference to family and friends - and to me.

(Bowlful of hot, roasted filberts, exploding with flavor!)

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Craving hazelnut biscotti but unable to find any fresh enough for me in stores, I decided to make my own. Finding my freezer void of the chosen nuts, I schlumped into the house, defeated.

"Let's go glean some from the farm!" suggested an energetic Tom. Dog and kids loaded into the car, we headed for the nuts.

After drying them in the oven we began our cracking party.

Once we'd cracked enough for my cookie recipe I began stirring up the dough and forming the logs.

Nuts that weren't added to cookie dough were roasted in the oven, cooled, and frozen for later use. It was hard to not grab handfuls and eat them all!

After baking and cooling the logs, I sliced 'em up and baked them again.

Craving satisfied!

(Thanks, WC, for spurring my creativity with your Hazelnut Pie!)