Tag Archive | Topaz

Writing

In addition to being grateful for peaceful proximity of siblings, I’m grateful for attending an online writing retreat today with my dear friend and mentor, Sarah Juniper Rabkin. I’m so grateful that I met Sarah half our lives ago when she visited Dinosaur National Monument where I was an interpretive ranger for a few seasons. It was one of those rare, random soul meetings, but also I realized later, characteristic of Sarah who greets the world with an open heart and enthusiastic curiosity. We hit it off and have cultivated a long-distance friendship fortified with a few visits through the years. From playing in the mud on the banks of the Green River to writing in the desert, sharing letters and emails and mutual readings of our projects, I’m grateful for knowing Sarah, and for her unequivocal support of my creative endeavors.

Sarah gently juggling the aspirations and egos of sixteen writers through a day of provocative prompts.

Today, she skillfully led sixteen people through a dozen writing prompts, and gracefully encouraged us to share some of our words. It was great to devote the better part of a day to a practice I’ve been neglecting. Over the course of the day in my writings I explored my past, present, and future, through memories, insights, and motivations. It was exhausting! I’m glad I had nothing pressing to do between sessions, though I did manage some housecleaning and laundry, as well as baking the thank-you loaf for the neighbor.

I am definitely getting the hang of this recipe, and am also grateful that I got to share it and support the Bad Dogs through baking their first loaf. So simple, so delicious! And flexible, too. You can bake one loaf, or two loaves, or as I did today, one large loaf and one roll, inspired by the empathetic joy of my most loyal reader. For dinner I enjoyed the warm roll, half with butter and Havarti, and half with butter and homemade chokecherry jelly.

More than Enough

I’m grateful tonight for a brief burst of sunshine this morning, and for some more much needed precipitation this evening, but mostly for a glimpse of a sunny blue sky this morning, it did wonders for the spirits in this house. I’m grateful for breakfast with Topaz, who’s become more interactive in recent weeks, even jumping up on the recliner for awhile this evening. She’s really enjoying her new comb, and I’m enjoying less hair around the house. I’m grateful for coffee in the sunroom with her, Wren in my lap, Dickens on the Kindle, art on the walls, bonsais on the table, and sun outside. I’m grateful for heat in the woodstove, wood in the shed, friends in the neighborhood, friends across the country, friends in other countries, internet in the ethers, power from the solar panels, water in the pipes… I’m grateful for more than enough.

Forgiveness

My new-year’s good luck started shortly after I dumped the black-eyed peas into the soaking bowl...

A new friend asked my forgiveness this morning after she forgot our zoom-coffee date. That was easy–it happens, I’ve done it myself–and I was grateful for her ask because forgiveness is something I need more practice with. But then I got given forgiveness, unexpectedly, and after a long time, and that really made my day. A year ago, I left a message on a phone number I’d been trying to get for several years. An old friend from college whom I haven’t seen for about forty years, and whom I’ve been apologizing to in my head for decades, for several offenses.

It was complicated. I made a few selfish choices through the years of our friendship, and only later came to realize how hurtful they must have been to her. If I remember correctly, I’d made a half-assed apology for the last of them in a letter a few years afterward but hadn’t heard back. Then a decade or so ago I received a cryptic card with no return address and was too confused to pursue it. But I had a connection with a couple of her family members and eventually started trying to track her down, resulting ultimately in this phone number that may or may not have been hers. I left a heartfelt voicemail asking her to call me back because I wanted to apologize. When I didn’t hear for a few weeks, I texted. And left it at that. Writing several more apologies in my head since then. I was thrilled to see a response from her this afternoon. It was nothing more than a note that she’d be in Colorado this spring, maybe we could meet, it would be great to see me. Forgiveness was implicit; relief washed over me.

In the same way that it feels better to give than to receive, maybe it feels better to be forgiven than to forgive. It did in this case, anyway. But I’m eager for the opportunity to tell her in person what I’ve thought about writing for all these years: I’m sorry about the dog. I’m sorry about the car. I’m sorry about the trip.

The good-luck peas were delicious, the best I’ve ever eaten. I started with a simple recipe from Chili Pepper Madness but made some changes. First, I only had half a pound of peas, soaked them for most of the day. Chopped half an onion, half an orange jalapeño and a handful of Blot peppers from the freezer, one clove garlic, sautéed them with some Penzeys celery flakes since I didn’t have fresh (look at the little piece in the top of the bowl above), and their Cajun seasoning, kosher salt, a small lamb bone from the freezer, two cups of broth, and the peas in their soaking water. After a long simmer, with the lid on for about 40 minutes then without for as long, I threw in chopped young kale, and squeezed in a little fresh lime juice (thanks, Pamela!), cooking til the kale was soft. So simple, so delicious! I look forward to my year of good luck.

I don’t write a lot of product reviews, but felt highly motivated to give this cat comb five stars–so I did. The wad of hair Topaz is playing with all came off her this morning, and I was still getting more.

The comb was due before Christmas, but the package came ripped open and it had fallen out somewhere in transit. I called to get it replaced, and had the most delightful chat with Ibra, in India. She was helpful as could be, sorry it wouldn’t come til Friday, and I laughed and said that was ok, I’d just be patient and so would my cat. She asked what breed of cat I had, and thus ensued one of those ‘only connect‘ conversations between two cat-loving strangers that left us both happier than we’d been before the call.

Curiosity

My aspiration when Wren arrived in spring was to have the two of them lying together in front of the fire by Christmas. Well, this morning almost, but not quite! It’s a big improvement over yesterday, though, when there was a fight over my lap in the same spot. I use the little stool to sit on to start and feed the fire, and Topaz used to let me pick her up, lay her on her back, and brush her at that time. Since Wren’s arrival she’s not allowed that until yesterday morning, and as she lolled there and Wren sniffed too close, she reached over her shoulder and smacked Wren on the head. Then there was a kerfuffle which involved hissing, growling, smacking, and lunging before my ‘stop it!s’ stopped it. Oh well. One day at a time.

It was a quiet day at Mirador, slushy outside, cozy inside. I meditated, napped, generally relaxed all day, allowing this body to take the day off from sitting at the computer, shoveling snow, doing much of anything. It was restful and restorative. This evening I had some options but chose to watch a couple of shows, drink a salty dog, and chat with Amy, then tuck into silence and reflection. I figure about half of the New Year’s Eves of my adult life I’ve partied like a drag queen, but the more recent eves I have simply tucked in to reflect on the previous year and contemplate my aspirations for the new one.

This year, I’ll deepen my mindfulness practice by remembering to ask the four questions: What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Is it helpful or healthy? Is it based in reality? I’ll focus on the value of Curiosity. If I’m curious, I’m not judging; if I’m curious, I’m not reacting. If I’m curious, my mind is open; if I’m curious, I’m learning. I’m curious where that will take me in the coming year. Wishing everyone a fulfilling and peaceful new year! Remember, it’s not what you get from the world but what you bring to the world that creates genuine happiness.

Saturday

I’m grateful for a day of ease this Saturday. It started with a leisurely stroll through the woods on a cloudless morning, and a short meditation under a juniper tree.

Coffee beans arrived last night so there was a welcome pot of it this morning for the first time this week, and a relaxing read in the garden with hummingbirds, butterflies, and the little companion.

Two online mindfulness groups sandwiched lunch and a single kitchen project, the powdering of paprika. There are still a few to ripen, but the bulk of them have dried and were reduced to a half cup of ground spice. I’m grateful for a tiny pinch of this potent pepper year round in everything from deviled eggs to refried beans to squash soup. My use of it has increased exponentially since I started growing my own. It’s a small and simple accomplishment that, like many such, brings joy each step of the way from nurturing the sprouts, planting them out, watering and watching the green plants grow, flower, and fruit–to snipping the bright red ripe peppers, carrying them inside, slicing and drying them, and finally grinding them to a fine powder. The powder has to settle in the blender for awhile before decanting to preclude inhalation of fiery dust.

I’m grateful for the slow and meaningful life of growing food.

Paula’s Raspberries

Grateful for attention when I wake up in the morning.
Grateful that Topaz likes to hang out on the fancy patio chair, and that it’s easy to clean.

I’m grateful for Paula’s raspberries: I’m grateful for her friendship, and that she’s invited me to come pick at my leisure in summers past from her gorgeous organic patch. I’ve had a batch in the freezer for a couple of summers that I have picked away at, doling them out judiciously. But it was time to use the last of them all up at once, partly so they wouldn’t go useless and icky and partly to make space in the freezer for the harvest of my own efforts this summer. It occurred to me overnight to make a quick batch of jam with them, so that’s what I did this afternoon. I boiled equal parts raspberries and sugar for about five minutes and scooped out a some to strain for syrup. Then kept boiling the rest for another five minutes, and scooped it into a jar for jam.

I happened to strain the syrup into the martini shaker, which was the most convenient vessel at hand. So once I poured it into a jar I rinsed the shaker with gin and stuck it in the freezer for later. I’m grateful for ‘breakfast for dinner’ tonight, which I haven’t done in a very long time: two pieces of sourdough toast with butter and still-warm raspberry jam, and a raspberry martini with port instead of vermouth. This will not win me any points in my weight-loss challenge. I’m grateful for support in that endeavor, and I swear this will be the last time I eat two pieces of toast and jam for dinner, at least for a long time.

I’m excited and grateful to see the orange jalapeños ripening!
…and I’m grateful for attention at the end of the day, too.

First Salsa

Topaz and a young piñon on our morning walk
I’m so grateful that I could make the first batch of salsa with all the vegetables right out of the garden: two small yellow onions, one Jalapeño Tam, one Leutschauer paprika, and one Blot sweet pepper, plus the three pounds of tomatoes featured yesterday. The recipe called for a couple ounces of tomato paste, and I used two frozen tomato paste ice cubes made last summer. A little salt, garlic, cumin, apple cider and white vinegars, and it was done.

I’m grateful for the joy of canning the first batch of salsa this season. I don’t know where I got the recipe, but I think it’s going to be delicious. Everything worked out so perfectly that I didn’t even get a taste: When I scooped the finished product into hot jars there wasn’t a drop left over.

The recipe called for the chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, and salt to be drained over a bowl for six hours.
After draining, the liquid from the bowl is simmered with two vinegars, tomato paste, and garlic until it thickens a little, five to seven minutes…
…then the vegetables are added and simmered for another 5-7 minutes.
And then the mixture is ladled into hot, sterilized jars and sealed in a hot water bath. Looks like seven perfect seals to me! Normally I put everything on hold as I remove the jars from the bath, so that I can listen for the pops. Tonight I was hosting a meeting at the exact moment the jars were ready, so I cut their time short by a minute and they started popping as soon as I lifted them out. But I dashed around the counter to join the zoom meeting, and couldn’t quite count the gratifying pops as they happened. Yes, gratifying: there is something profoundly satisfying about counting a full set of sealing pops after lifting jars from a canning bath.
I’m grateful to harvest the first leek of the season, and grateful for lots more in the garden bed.

After the meeting I was hungry, and decided to try a quarter recipe of Creamed Leeks and Eggs. It’s intended to be served on thick toast, but I’m trying to cut down on carbs. Ha! Or at least saving them for dessert. And besides, I used the last sourdough sandwich bread yesterday and haven’t baked more yet. So I served it in a bowl. O.M.G. It was so simple, and so delicious!

Leeks simmer in cream, water, salt, and lemon peel slivers until tender, and this mixture is topped with scrambled eggs, parmesan, and black pepper. What a great comfort meal for cooler fall weather.

Bursts

I am grateful for bursts of flavor, like these Leutschauer peppers provide. I sliced the first two ripe ones today to dry for paprika, and tasted a tiny slice. It was sweet, and fruity, and kind of hot but not too hot, like the surprising little jigsaw peppers. Of course, I made sure I didn’t get any seeds with the paprika as I did with the little purple pepper. And I started with a smaller taste. It was gratifying to taste actual flavor rather than just want to run for the milk. This may be the year I take my tolerance up another notch. And not just for hotness, but for a lot of other resistible things in life, also.

Little jigsaw peppers drying whole in a tiny bowl
Paprika slices in the hanging dryer
I’m grateful for tastebuds! Even as the heat lingered on my lips and tongue, I plucked from the tree outside a wild plum. Another burst of entirely different flavor: sweet, tart, and barely bitter, mingling in my mouth with the pepper, a taste sensation.
Another milestone this afternoon, Wren and Topaz waited at the door to go out together.
A burst of a different sort brought most welcome water to the neighborhood, enough for puddles. I’m grateful for cloudbursts, too.

Acceptance

It’s a yawn, not a scream. For a split second it could have gone either way. Just as I was rolling over to get out of bed this morning, Topaz jumped up, almost on top of Wren’s head. Wren didn’t even flinch. The cat lay down with the dog, and there was nothing I could do but lie back and smile with a gentle hand on each of their tummies, grateful for acceptance, for peace in the kingdom, for a good excuse to stay in bed another twenty minutes.

Creative Mind

Another walk to the canyon this morning. She’s getting the hang of it.
And then with morning coffee, we all sat out in the shade of the apricot tree…
Wren, Topaz, Biko and me…
After lunch, while the others were resting, I set to work on the drapes in earnest. I chose the macaw panel to start to finish, and pulled out all the appliqués I’ve already cut, and the fabrics I cut them from to cut some more; then sorted them to split frogs and lizards evenly among the remaining panels. I got a few more butterflies and bugs cut out, and will finishing laying out this panel tomorrow, and begin sewing! I’m so grateful to finally have time to dig in to this project. I can’t believe it’s been packed away for so many years, years I thought I always had something more important to do…

This morning I dreamed again about art. Once again I was in a spacious gallery, surrounded by oversized artwork. It was Mary’s gallery, and most of the work was hers. I realized that I was supposed to have my art there to hang in the show that was opening in a couple of hours, but not only had I forgotten to bring it, I wasn’t close to finishing it. As I looked behind the scenes and saw racks and racks and walls full of Mary’s giant art, I insisted that we hang her work instead. Then ensued a couple of hours of frantic and fruitless efforts to select and hang her work, but I never got anything done except to wander in wonder among the beautiful paintings. One of these days I’m going to remember while I’m dreaming to save some of the amazing images that my subconscious conjures. I’m grateful for my creative mind and for all others. Where does creativity come from?

Closeup of the macaw, who’s been patiently waiting my attention for too long…
…and of this blue snake. It’s been so long since I made it that I don’t remember exactly which blue snake it is. There are more blue snakes in the world than you would imagine, from pythons to pit vipers, some naturally colored blue and others genetically engineered. Google it and see! My guess is this is a blue tree python, based on the shape of the head, and since I already have an eyelash viper (and this snake clearly lacks the telltale ‘eyelashes.’)
I’m grateful that the Aji crystal peppers are forming, and most of the other pepper varieties are finally coming on.
As I pruned some tomato plants this evening, I gasped in delight to see underneath the dense leaves I was trimming the first ripe tomato!
And I’m grateful that I have my work cut out for me tomorrow, cooking and freezing beans, and maybe making and eggplant parmigiana to have for dinner and freeze leftovers for deep winter.