Tag Archive | Topaz

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.

Just Being

I’m grateful that my grownup cat Topaz, whose nose has been out of joint since the kitten adventure, and not quite straight even after three months with Wren, finally jumped up on my lap this afternoon for no reason. She kneaded and purred, and curled up for a short visit as I picked weeds out of her thick fur. Wren got a little anxious about it, and came up to inquire; she and Topaz went nose to gentle nose for a few seconds with no tension. It was sweet. We all hung out for awhile in the shade of late afternoon on the east patio, doing nothing, content to just be. I love these peaceful breaks in the day, where I simply pause, take a time out from the busyness of correspondence, work, dishes, practice, anything, just being in open awareness for a few minutes.

Another Whole Day

I’m grateful to have been mindful of and attentive to another whole day, sunup to sundown and beyond.

I’m grateful to Sandra for being curious about my dream, and spurring me to analyze it a little more rather than just forget it. The live mammals that so horrified me were a rare (imaginary) catlike species from Africa who had been caught by a local hunter I know; they were essentially skinned white, their flattened heads and strongly slanted eyes even more noticeable without their fur. This speaks to me of a couple of undercurrent sorrows I hold at bay most of the time with gratitude for the moments in this precious life, since there’s not much else I can do. (Don’t misinterpret: I do what I can, but it’s not much.) Honoring our pain for the world means recognizing this Sixth Extinction we are in the midst of, as a headline today highlights; and also holding awareness that as we exploit species for food or whatever else our greed desires, we will continue to unleash more and more spillover infections like the current pandemic.

Meanwhile, on the home front, there is so much to be grateful for. I woke up alive, for one thing. The house had cooled overnight and I shut all the windows to keep the cool in all day as the temperature rose to 95℉ outside. I’m grateful for a meaningful meeting with graduates of the Mindfulness Foundations Course that I’ve been teaching, and for right livelihood. I’m grateful there’s water for the peach tree. And for me. I’m grateful for bright spots in the kitchen like this new little pot for a single serving of soup, or for melting butter; grateful for popcorn. And for a frozen banana bread scone which heated up beautifully in just ten minutes in the oven this morning…

…and grateful for the perfect scone-sized plate which I chose because it makes me so happy, no matter what I serve on it, to get to the bottom and see the little wedge of Brie. Who designed this plate, and why? What possessed anyone to think that this simple illustration would sell a plate? But it did, to Amy, for me, and it delighted me when I opened the gift, and delights me to this day years later, just to see that little brie and think of Amy, and of all the evenings over five decades when we sat together once in a blue moon eating Brie and bread. I’m grateful for this simple symbol of friendship so loaded with meaning, especially when it’s empty.

I’m grateful for a simple dinner salad, and once again grateful for Janis who taught me thirty years ago to throw anything and everything into a salad; grateful a conversation with her this evening prompted me to scavenge in the fridge for what I could add to some lettuce and dressing to make an interesting meal: cashews, broccoli, leftover beans, carrots, feta, leftover chopped pecans…
Grateful for the fragrance of new mown hay, even though it makes me sneeze, and for gorgeous clouds.

And I’m grateful there wasn’t more fallout from an intimate predator/prey interaction this evening, right after the hour I spent practicing patience and equanimity on tech support, and before our soothing walk to watch the sun set. Wren was minding her own business, nosing about in a flower bed, when Topaz got up and stalked her. How cute, I thought, she finally wants to play. She lunged, Wren ran, she lunged again, Wren ran farther, and then Topaz went after her in earnest. It looked a lot like this. Or this. But really more like the first one: she grabbed Wren’s flanks just like a lion would, and left a hole on each hip before I broke it up. There was hissing, screaming, growling. It’s not like dogs, I think, where you let them sort it out a bit and only break it up if you need to. Wren was outmatched in terms of weapons, or might have killed Topaz if she’d really fought back. I wasn’t willing to risk it. So…maybe they won’t end up cuddling in front of the woodstove this winter. But there’s still time! Hope springs eternal. I’ll get a squirt bottle loaded just in case.

This Precious Day

I’m grateful today for the capacity to participate fully in this life. From our early morning amble through our own trees to a late snack of sweet potato fries while exploring the rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park with Barack Obama, I thoroughly enjoyed this one precious day that will never come again.

A late morning phone call gave me an opportunity to sit in the car again until Wren came and joined me. I’m grateful for the conversation, and for how well car training went though you’d never know it from her expression. After about twenty minutes I urged her off my lap into her seat, snapped her in, rolled up the windows halfway, and drove all the way to the mailbox and back. She was a little tense and showed it with a few big yawns, but she stayed calm. Back at the house, she leapt from the car and danced for joy. That was enough for one day.

Still feeling trepidation about food and cooking, I made another cheese sandwich for lunch. I tried out the cilantro salt but won’t do that again, even a tiny bit was way too salty for a little sandwich. I got a few projects done outside and in before crashing at three o’clock and napping til five. I’m grateful I have that option. I’m grateful for the Mindful Life Community I meet with on Monday night zooms, and for watching “Love on the Spectrum” while FaceTiming with my Kiki on the west coast. I’m grateful for having technology in my little mud hut that brings the world to me. And I’m grateful for the world of living beings that I have the opportunity to nurture inside and outside my hut every day.

I’m grateful for the first peppers now appearing on the Leutschauer paprika plants. The other pepper varieties, though smaller, are not far behind in flowering. After plucking the first few tomato flowers I’m letting them grow now too: though tomorrow is officially the first day of summer, the growing season here feels almost half over already.

Peas

I’m grateful for peas, and lettuce, and broccolini, and radishes from the garden tonight.

I’m grateful for my two mammal companions (and also my reptile companion) who walk the woods with me in the cooler mornings, and hang out in the garden with me later.

I had to look up these snow peas since I couldn’t remember the variety, and I’m grateful that I did. They are golden sweet snow peas, and are best picked when they’re in their yellow stage at two to three inches long, before they turn green as the first couple just did overnight. I ate one outside and brought one in for salad, but tomorrow I will start picking the flat yellow pods for stir fries or freezing. It seems like just yesterday they were but blossoms…

I’m grateful for this rogue romaine that sprouted on its own, and for the paprika pepper thriving, and the horseradish that overwintered in this pot.

Eddie Eastman

Some of Eddie’s irises last year, after twenty years in my garden. Sadly, none of the irises did very well this year. I missed their variety of colors and scents. That’s incentive for me to tend their patches this summer or fall and try to rejuvenate them for next spring.

Eddie was in her nineties when she gave me some heirloom irises from her garden on Rogers Mesa. She’d been growing them there for at least fifty years. I didn’t know her well. She was an artist, among many facets of her long life here in the valley, and it was in this capacity that I had gotten to know her. I briefly owned an art gallery/frame shop in the late nineties, and she was a loyal patron and consistently delightful contributor to the monthly shows I hosted. I’m grateful for those years knowing her a little, and for that one afternoon she invited me over for iced tea and a garden tour, and gave me a bag of lilac, white, and pale blue irises to take home.

I thanked her for the note she’d sent inviting me over and thanking me for my work with the gallery. She told me then about a habit she’d had for decades. Every single day, she said, “I write a thank-you note to someone. I never run out of people to thank for something.” I’ve now aspired to cultivate that habit for at least as long as she was doing it, and have yet to come close to even one note a month, much less one a day. I thought about her today as the last of her irises this season faded, and I pondered my gratitudes this day. A blog a day feels so much easier than writing, addressing, stamping, and mailing a note. But is it, really, or is it just the lure of technology’s efficiency that makes it seem so?

I’m also grateful for the growing ease between Wren and Topaz, and the delight of walking them together in the morning, then sitting at the pond with a cup of coffee before the day heats up, watching Topaz watch her silly sister discover the joys of her new home.