I’m grateful for FedEx Ground, which I learned a lot about yesterday when a package got delivered to my yard gate. I’d been trying to update my delivery preference by phone or online for a month, after a 50-pound bag of animal food got left at the dropbox at the top of my driveway. It’s a bitch for me to lift that much anymore, much less into my car from the ground and then out of it again into a wheelbarrow. The dropbox is there for when the driveways are impassable in winter, but somehow that specification got lost over the years. But I wasn’t successful with the online or phone intervention, so when drove out last week just behind the FedEx truck and saw him pulled over a mile later, I pulled up behind him. He was courteous and friendly, and happily agreed to deliver to my yard gate from now on.
So I walked out to thank him when the truck pulled in yesterday, but it was a different driver, and she said, “It said dropbox but I didn’t see one so I hope it’s ok to bring it down here.” I was delighted and grateful, and explained again that it was an obsolete instruction in their route notes. Then we fell into a delightful conversation in which I learned that she and her husband bought the route–who knew? It’s a FedEx Ground thing–and it’s now their family business, she is the mother-in-law of the regular driver, she wasn’t planning to drive but it’s hard to find a driver applicant who can pass a drug test or has a clean driving record, five of her family now drive the routes from Cedaredge to Somerset, and so on. We ended up talking about raising meat animals with non-GMO feed, ethical eating, the challenges of gardening in this arid climate, and more. She was in no rush, which was refreshing, and she ended our visit by thanking me for supporting her family with my business.
I’m grateful for this kind of random interaction that illustrates for me, lest I should forget, the value of being open to authentic connection with strangers, and recognizing the interconnectedness that permeates all our lives. Other recent examples of this potential for meaningful connection out of the blue include developing a virtual friendship with The Hungry Traveler, and meeting an online mindfulness friend in real life today.
Today I’m grateful for any tomatoes at all. I planted half as many as last year, and they did less than half as well, so I found myself with a decent early crop of ripe tomatoes with which I made a couple of small batches of salsa, and with big expectations for a future which did not come. Yet. Last week I picked all the good-sized green tomatoes because I was nervous about a potential frost, and they are sitting in brown paper bags ripening, I hope. Meanwhile, the basket of ripe tomatoes grew smaller by a fruit or two a day as I was too occupied with other obligations to process them. When I finally got to it today, I roasted them with a couple of paprika peppers and an onion from the garden, as well as a store-bought garlic head. Then I ran them through the food mill to remove skins, and got a delicious thick marinara-ish slurry–but only just over a pint. Last summer I canned quarts and quarts of sauces and salsa. You just never know what you’re gonna get with a garden. I’m grateful for the domestic adventure a garden provides!
I’m grateful for little Rocky dog, who entered our lives about fifteen years ago. I rescued him from an untenable situation when he was just over one, and kept him here with the big catahoulas for a few weeks until we found him a wonderful home in the neighborhood. He’s been everybody’s favorite resident for years with his inimitable spirit and unfettered cuteness. It’s hard to see him getting so old and wobbly, but he still wakes up bounding with excitement for a new day. I’m glad to be babysitting him while his mama’s away for a few days, and he and Wren are fast friends. He is, like so many friends, a mixed influence on her. He gets up way too early and barks, which isn’t a habit I want her to imitate but she does. However, he’s so mellow with visitors that she may learn better manners when meeting someone new.
By request, here’s the recipe for the B’stilla ‘hand pies’ I showed yesterday. I combined several recipes to come up with this version, and it’s definitely something I’ll make again. So simple, so delicious!
Chicken B’Stilla hand pies
2 Tbsp frying oil
2 boneless skinless organic chicken thighs, opened out
¼ cup blanched almonds, toasted and finely coarsely
¼ raisins, currants, or golden raisins (optional)
2 sheets of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry sheets
(or any other, but these for size)
2-3 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
Mix these together and set aside
¼ cup butter, melted
Pull puff pastry out of the freezer 40 minutes before you want to roll it, and take them out of the box. Lay separately and leave folded until thawed.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Sauté, turning once, until just cooked through, about ten minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool, then chop into half-inch bits. Put into a large bowl.
Add remaining oil to the pan over medium heat and cook the onion until softened. Add spice blend and cook til fragrant, a minute or so. Stir in sugar, then add egg and scramble lightly.
Add onion-egg mixture to the bowl with chicken. Sprinkle in the ground toasted almonds, orange zest, and raisins, squeeze lemon juice over it, add more seasoning to taste, and mix well. Let cool.
Open the pastry sheets one at a time gently, and roll out on a floured surface until thin and about 50% larger. Cut into thirds in both directions to end up with 9 rectangles.
With the short end of a rectangle facing you, put about 1 Tbsp of chicken mixture near the top of the rectangle with about an inch of pastry beyond. Fold ½” on each long side over the filling, then starting at the top roll the pastry over the filling toward you, keeping the sides folded in, til you have a little fat cylinder. Set cylinders seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
When all the cylinders are done, brush each with a little melted butter. At this point you can freeze them for an hour until they are firm, preheat your oven to 425℉, then bake them 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through for evenness. (I could not wait, and had preheated my oven as I prepared the pies, and they turned out fine. I think they’d have been better if I’d chilled them first, making the buttery pastry even flakier.)
When the pies are golden brown and crisp, remove from the oven and let them cool slightly. Then dust with powdered sugar-cinnamon mix and serve.
The pies can be frozen before baking and should last a couple of months in an airtight container.
Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart plus other sources
It’s been a challenging few weeks. Between internal and external events, I’m tired all the time. It’s hard to rise to each occasion. But from this glum place, I’ve reached a conclusion: I need to return to my daily gratitude practice. And why bother with a thousand words, when a couple of numerals and some pictures can do the job? So, catching up for the past couple of weeks, here are just some of the things I’m grateful for…
42+ is a gratitude practice from the Active Hope course I just completed this evening. It’s freely available online, and one of these days I’ll probably facilitate a group engagement similar to the one that just ended, hosted by a friend. Today, I’m grateful for (4) having been given the opportunity to take the course, having made the commitment to take it and participated in it fully, and for the wonderful classmates I shared the eight-week journey with. I’m grateful to (2) Deborah Sussex for offering the course for free, and for her skillful and open-hearted facilitating of it through an increasingly difficult time in our country, when active hope is needed more than ever. The + part is how I will express my gratitude: right here, right now. Many thanks, Deb, Denali, Kes, Renee, and everyone else, for the inspiring experience of virtual connection.
I’ll admit to a bit of stress this past week since Stellar’s seizure. Actually, watching his decline over the past few months has been stressful, though I’ve been coping well. It’s felt good this weekend to have accomplished some things, and given myself permission to relax. Rocky arrived this morning for a couple of days, and the three of us spent the whole day in the garden. Rocky is recovering from ACL surgery, and Stellar is moving along on his own journey, and I was content to spend the day with them in a shady little corner of the garden reading, writing, and occasionally getting up to do a little work with the plants. I’m grateful for relaxing today.
I’m also grateful for those of you who have expressed concern for Stellar, and for me. Thank you. Please don’t be anxious for us. While he’s now on a path that is ineluctably downhill (from one perspective), he seems to take two steps down and then rebound one. He may be around for a lot longer than I thought last week, and then again, he could go out with another seizure at any moment. This is the searing uncertainty that we all live with when we choose to accompany someone we love through their dying process. The hardest part is when he gets agitated and confused. His vet is coming by tomorrow, and I hope she’ll give me something to help him with that. Meanwhile, rest assured that unless I mention otherwise, he is toodling along at his own pace, and we are both ok with it. I’ll post a special edition of Morning Rounds when he takes his last step and ascends to Doggie Heaven, because that is surely where he will go; or else straight to the realm of enlightened beings, and those two places may just be the same.
I’m grateful I rescued this little fella a dozen or so years ago from an untenable situation; grateful Pamela suggested a new person for him; grateful Deborah wanted him. I’m grateful he’s been in my life since then, and feels comfortable and safe at my home, and gets along with all the animals here. I’m grateful he enjoyed his week here, and grateful his mama came home safely to pick him up this evening. I’m grateful for his exceptional example of the skill of relaxation.
I’ve really missed Zoom cooking with Amy in the six weeks that my tendon has been healing. I’m grateful for the diagnosis and the therapy, and the home exercises prescribed by OT Marla, and that I have had the dedication to be compliant. I can do so much more with my left hand now than I could two months ago, and with much less pain. Amy was up for spontaneous Zoom cooking, and went out to buy carrots to make the recipe I’ve been dreaming about for weeks.
With the second carrot harvest yesterday, and some leftover store-bought carrots, I needed to use up some, and sent Amy this recipe that looked too good to pass up. I didn’t have yogurt, so made a tomato-herb-sour cream sauce; without enough cilantro in the garden, I added parsley to the carrot-egg-garbanzo flour pancakes. They were delicious! I’m grateful for carrots from the garden, for ranch-fresh eggs, for improvisation; for bacon fat and olive oil, and for all the people and processes involved in getting these staples into my kitchen from where they originated; I’m grateful for the internet, and all the hundreds or thousands of people, and the materials, engineering, and ingenuity that cause the internet to come into my house and open the entire world to my curiosity and appreciation. I’m grateful for Zoom cooking with Amy, who’s been my friend for fifty years.
Riding with my neighbor down the hill I realized I had an opportunity not to miss. I asked her to pull over at the bottom, in the hairpin turn where Buck Canyon emerges and crosses under the road on its path to the Smith Fork River. She opened the sunroof and let me stand on the seat and ride like a prom queen up the hill to Crawford, slowing down or stopping when I asked.
Looking back uphill from the hairpin turn.
Heading towards the Smith Fork.
Crossing the Smith Fork.
Looking down into the Smith Fork past the power line.
Towards the Crawford Reservoir dam, and beyond, Mendicant Ridge.
On the other side of town, coming down Buckskin Pass to Piburn Flats.
Rocky on my knee looking out the window to Needle Rock with the Sleeping Indian beyond clothed in snow.
Heading home, we took the back road cut from 92 to Hotchkiss to scoot past the stripe painters poking along the highway.
We stopped at the Hotchkiss bridge so I could shoot the river…