Tag Archive | friends and neighbors

Contentment

I’m grateful to see Ice Canyon forming up, and to be able to walk there with my little dog. I’m grateful for the vast, tremendous sky and all that happens in it day to day, moment to moment. I’m grateful for my life just as it is on this day of giving thanks, for where I live and how, for teachers and students, for friends and community, for a sense, in this moment, of safety and ease. I’m grateful for knowing any of this can change in any moment, which inspires me to appreciate all of it every moment as much as possible.

I’m grateful for a tidy stack of wood in the shed, protected from the elements, and for the helpers who stacked it. I’m grateful for the simple meal I made for my Thanksgiving dinner, cheesy samosa puffs, and for the jar of last year’s salsa verde I pulled from the pantry to dip them in. It was a delicious early dinner.

I’m grateful for eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter, and the knowledge to turn them into a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It’s not exactly like the Sarah Lee cakes I grew up with, but pretty good nonetheless! I did substitute cream cheese for some of the butter in the frosting because I could and plain butter cream is too–well, buttery–for my taste. I’m grateful that two dear neighbors wanted to share their Thanksgiving dinners with me, and that I was able to share this cake with them. And so glad that I’ll have plenty of turkey, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and more to enjoy for the next few days. I’m grateful for leftovers! I’m grateful for friends. I’m grateful for the leisure and opportunity to cultivate contentment in my life.

Connections

Evening harvest of peppers. Two red bells (one unripe but wounded), two juicy Blots, five Aji crystals, six Chimayos, and a mess o’ jalapeños. I’m grateful for this spicy abundance from the garden, for the resilience of these plants that I started from the miracle of tiny seeds inside in early spring. Amazing!

I’m grateful for a day filled with loving connections with friends old and new, from down the road to Hawaii to the east coast. I’m grateful for Zoom Cooking with Amy, Instagram Edition. Tonight we opted for simple and quick, and prepared two recipes we’ve seen on Instagram. We started by halving and scoring some small potatoes as the butter melted in a sheetpan in the oven. We grated parmesan and tossed in spices of our choosing, mixed those with the butter in the pan, then pressed the potatoes cut side down onto the yummy goo, and cooked for about half an hour at 425℉.

While the potatoes cooked, we of course mixed our martinis, and then chopped leeks into one-inch lengths, and seared them in butter.

First one side…
…then the other
Then we steamed them in stock for about five minutes, removed the lid, and mixed in some miso (I used red, she used white), tamarind paste, and a splash of Dijon mustard, stirring until the sauce coated the leaks and thickened just a little.
And that was our dinner. So simple, so delicious.
I read to harvest jalapeños by holding the pepper at the base and pushing up: turns out when they’re ready the just pop right off the stalk that way. I checked a few and ended up harvesting a lot. Also read to harvest them often so they’ll keep producing. We’ve got at least a month before first frost, so I’m hoping this huge harvest will result in more by the end of the season.
Since peppers are one of the few veggies that freeze well without being blanched, I halved all the jalapeños, scooped the pith and seeds out, and laid them on a tray to freeze. This way I can grab a handful whenever I want to make some poppers. Apparently you can just load them with filling straight from the freezer and put them right in the oven. We’ll know more later!

Food

I just can’t get enough of it. And I’m so fortunate to have plenty of it! I am keenly aware that many humans and other animals all over the planet don’t have enough food. There is a twinge of guilt when I consider my bountiful garden, my well-stocked pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Even when I think of all the food available at our local grocery stores, and farmers’ markets; not to mention what’s available to order online. There is too much food concentrated in too few places and way too much food going to waste in rich countries, rich households, even average supermarkets. I’m grateful that there are numerous non-profits and volunteers in many cities and towns that gather and channel ‘extra’ food to those in need so it doesn’t go to waste.

And taking all that (and more) into consideration, I am grateful every single day, every single meal, for food. I’m grateful to have good food whenever I want it, and to have the time and means to have fun with food, too.

I’m grateful for all my food teachers through my life, starting with the Colonel and the Galloping Gourmet, through Julia Child and Yamuna Devi, to The Great British Baking Show and my dear Amy and all the internet home cooks and chefs like Bello… Bello taught me how to make this super easy lunch wrap with a tortilla and four favorite ingredients. I chose fresh basil, sautéed onions and mushrooms, a Pizzutello tomato, and Havarti and mayo. One slice to the center, four quarters loaded, three folds, then onto the grill.

As if that wasn’t enough great food for one day, Wren and I were invited to a neighbor’s for roasted homegrown chicken and organic local corn this evening, so I made panna cotta, baked some rolls, and grilled a couple of small eggplants with a miso glaze.

In the midst of baking and grilling, I bubbled up a quick raspberry jam to go on top of the panna cotta, which had been chilling all afternoon in the fridge. So simple, so delicious!

The grilled miso-glazed eggplant needed to cook longer, or be pre-steamed, but it tasted good, and was fun to make. I’d read in a similar recipe for zucchini to score the flesh so it could absorb more glaze, which I think was a good idea.

I was grateful for a couple of short rain showers, one before dinner and one after, with a perfect interlude between when we could sit outside, appreciate the cool clean air, admire the clouds, and enjoy the meal, while the little dogs got to know each other better.

Patience

I’m waiting for a lot of things. I’m waiting for these Blot peppers to turn orange and purple instead of chartreuse and purple. I wrote to Baker Creek where I got the seeds to find out how long it takes them to change to their fully ripe color, and was told they will “appear to just sit for several weeks before making their final color change.” I feel like they’ve been sitting like this for more than several weeks. But I’m being patient. I’m waiting for the Sirenevyi sweet peppers also to change from their deep purple to their final ripe deep red, and that seed company rep told me she thinks it’s about three weeks after they color fully purple. But I swear this one pepper has been purple for at least that long. But I’m being patient.

I’m also waiting for Rise Broadband to get its act together and quit constantly dropping internet service here; and waiting for Boost Mobile to get its tower enhancement straightened out so I can get phone service in my house again, which has been out since July 2. I’m waiting for the Division of Vocational Rehab to get me scheduled for an intake session so I can get permanent hearing aids. After trying demos for two weeks, it’s clear to me how much benefit they’ll confer. I’m waiting for an appointment with the only local pulmonologist to try to get my O2 saturation situation figured out. I’ve pursued all these dangling diagnostics diligently as well as the pepper problems in the past few days, and I’m real grateful that I’ve learned to cultivate patience. Even as I wait for solutions, I can enjoy the quiet growth in the garden, the waxing moon rising, crickets singing, reading a good book, a delicious salad, conversations with friends, playing with Wren, a hot shower, and a long nap. It’s not what life throws at or withholds from you, but how you respond to it, that determines your happiness.

I’m grateful for a good salad, and for all the elements in it: bacon, Bad Dog lettuce, homemade bleu cheese dressing, pecans, and the second ripe tomato from the garden. And I’m grateful for all the hands that went into growing the local and non-local ingredients, and the hands that got them here, and when you dig down that turns out to be an awful lot of hands. The pecans alone: who planted the trees, who cultivated the land to plant the trees, who tended the trees, who dug the ditches and laid the irrigation pipes to water the trees, who built the dam to divert the irrigation water; who picked the pecans, who shelled them or built the machines to shell them, who packaged them, who made the plastic bag they were packed in, who drove them from wherever to City Market, who built and maintained the vehicles that delivered them, and the roads or rails those vehicles traveled… anything and everything I have depends on so many other beings. My contentment rests on the labors and the patience of countless others, and for recognizing this interdependence, I am grateful.

Loving Friends

Had I not gotten violently ill last night, I would have posted my gratitude for Raven and Stellar, yet again. And for letting go, finally. Yesterday I took their faded photos off the food bins that I’d used for them and have been using recently for Wren and Topaz, and replaced them with their current owners. It was hard, even knowing those photos don’t hold their lives, to throw them away, but it was time to let go of the pull of their memories in that context.

I didn’t feel quite right so I went to bed early. I’d only been asleep for an hour when I woke up all kinds of sick, and remained so for about twelve hours. I’m grateful for my Cousin Nurse who talked me through accepting it, there wasn’t much I could do to stop vomiting, but to be sure and sip some liquids as I could. I was able to get out of bed around two this afternoon and sip some dilute ginger ale and water. Once I felt a little better I texted around to see if anyone had some orange Gatorade or some Pedialyte to replenish electrolytes.

I am so grateful for a supportive community: for loving friends who cooed their concern and made various offers to get me something, and for Garden Buddy and her husband who actually had exactly what I needed and made a special trip over to deliver it. They may not even have had it on hand; they were out and about and may have picked it up. Knowing them, they’d have gone to extra lengths to get me Orange! The only flavor Gatorade I can stand–but I would have been grateful for any flavor at that point.

I’m grateful I got so much housecleaning done yesterday, it made it easier to come downstairs this afternoon and rest in the recliner. The slight fever is down a bit, the Covid test was negative, a cool rain drizzles outside, Wren and Topaz have been extra sweet. The awful helpless feeling is gone and I’m just tired and a little queasy now. The fear that it would get worse and all the scenarios that flowed from that are gone. I almost want to eat a cracker now, but I’m heading back to bed. I am grateful that I will survive!

This Week…

The apricot tree is in full bloom… a gorgeous and melancholy sight, as temps are predicted to fall well below freezing tomorrow night…
Magpies are nurturing a nest right outside the kitchen window, which will provide entertainment for months.
Biko has been enjoying his days outside in his round pen, coming inside each evening with an assist from me.
The does are coming around less often as surrounding fields green up. This is Stripe, who has extra small ears for a mule deer, and a white stripe down the length of her nose, which is not quite visible here because of the sun.
How did I never think to fry a burrito in butter??? So simple, so delicious.
Sometimes an image just demands the camera.
The bonsai jasmine is finally blooming, and its intoxicating fragrance fills the kitchen each evening.
I cook a skillet of beans once a week or so for burritos or whatever. Yesterday I craved cheesy grits also, and plunked some on top of the black beans. So simple, so delicious!

It’s been quite a week, full of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral events and perceptions. The days swirl by in a dance of mind with matter, and by the end of each day I’m too tired to post. In appreciation of those who have noticed my absence, I am sharing my simple gratitude today for another week alive, one precious day after another; without further ado, but with heartfelt thanks for the love and support of my community and friends across the country.

Focaccia

It was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I’ve read focaccia horror stories: For a first effort this was a great success! Life’s simple pleasures. The joy that baking has given me over the past couple of years.

Having rested overnight, covered, in the cold mudroom, the dough formed a slight crust. I was worried it was too dry to dimple… but it worked just fine, and baked beautifully. Maybe it could have been a bit airier, but it was delicious warm out of the oven with unsalted butter… and just as good this evening. So simple, so delicious!
And the joy of being able to share the fruits of baking practice, sending chunks home with the Boyz for their families.

The joy of serving Boyz Lunch again, finally, outside on the patio! Scrub jays squawked in now and then to pluck a seed from the spent patio pots, as we sat in warm sun, shedding layers as we ate and talked about consciousness. They are so gratifying to feed! Everything is the best, how will I live up to the high bar I set in the first lunch of the season? It’ll be easy–they are easy to please. Today they enjoyed broccoli-cauliflower soup from the freezer, Judi Wolfe’s mac n cheese with the Secret Ingredient, and makeshift fajitas. I cooked fajita meat from the ranch down the road in an overnight marinade, and laid it in 12″ tomato tortillas, with grated cheese (Blarney Castle!), homemade salsa, and ripe avocados.

For dessert, a tiny pear galette also from the freezer. I’ve got to start eating down the freezer, as we are blessed to be able to say here. The last of last summer’s frozen produce has got to get going, so there will be room enough in a few months to start restocking with this year’s bounty. Neighbor Fred says the apricot tree is loaded with fruit buds this year–if only we don’t lose most of them again to late freezes as we did last year. It was inspiring and hopeful to plant pepper seeds this afternoon, twelve varieties: enough to share seedlings, and enough, I hope, to make plenty of fermented hot sauce to keep some and give some away.

Birthday Week

Just a few highlights from my birthday week. I’m grateful for another turn around the sun, and for all the loving good wishes that came my way. I worked through the whole weekend, but paused frequently to appreciate the uncanny, glorious days, and a handful of visitors who dropped by with cards and gifts. A gorgeous bouquet was delivered Friday, Saturday brought earrings, a lemon tart, and a plate of hors d’oeuvres ready to cook. Various balms, candles, candies, and other goodies arrived over the next days in the mail or in person. I feel truly blessed to be so cared for. “Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”

I’ve been hoarding my Christmas grapefruit, but have been promised another shipment for my birthday, and so indulged in the last of them. Amy told me how to ‘supreme’ a grapefruit and it sounded like a lot of trouble and a waste of fruit, but I tried it, and (except for a little nick of a finger) it is by far the best way I’ve found to get the most fruit, juice and enjoyment out of a grapefruit.

Little cat, big cat, walking in the snow… I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m grateful to live where there are lions. It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen sign of one, so it was a thrill to come across a line of tracks.

Last night I went out to turn off the generator, and there was a huge moondog. As I stood marveling at it, I heard coyotes northeast of the house along the canyon. I haven’t heard them like that for years. There was a pack, singing like their little hearts were full. They would sing a round, then the dogs across the canyon would bark, and I’d hear the reverb of all those dogs roll up the canyon and stop when it hit the end. It was magnificent. It was just one grand thing after another all week long.

Leftovers

I’ve been grateful the past couple of days for Thanksgiving leftovers, with which to enhance cheese sandwiches. Yesterday, I toasted oat bread, then layered mayo, Swiss cheese, lettuce, bacon, and leftover turkey, and grilled it in bacon fat. So crunchy! So delicious. Other people love fancy cranberry sauces with orange pieces, grapes, nuts, and all manner of other bits in; but I only love Aunt Linda’s cranberry sauce, the ancestral recipe from my father’s side of the family. “It’s like canned,” said the hostess the other day. Well, I guess, but it was being made long before anyone thought to put cranberry sauce in a can. I didn’t make it this year, and so declined leftover cranberry sauce. When I set out to make yesterday’s sandwich, I really really wanted cranberry sauce on it, the right kind. It occurred to me to substitute chokecherry jelly, which is sweet, tart, and a little bitter, just like cranberry sauce. Which, our ancestral way, made only of stewing whole cranberries and sugar, is really just cranberry jelly. I’m grateful there was still some left from two summers ago, since there were no chokecherries this year.

Another Thanksgiving leftover, a delicious puffy yeast roll, provided today’s sandwich, cold this time, with mayo, chokecherry jelly, turkey, cheddar, and lettuce. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful that eating has become so much more to me than filling up with meaningless food. Eating is a gratitude practice in itself, holding in awareness the sources of all the ingredients, how they were grown or who made or provided them; remembering, with leftovers, their primary meals and who was involved in making and sharing those. I’m grateful to live in a community where hostesses remind me to bring containers to take home leftovers; and grateful that when I forget to, they are provided. As I remember Thursday’s dinner, I’m grateful all over for dining at last with friends again, and grateful there were leftovers.