Tag Archive | Wren

The Pedal

I’m grateful that the new pedal for the sewing machine works! It’s not perfect: it doesn’t want to stay plugged into the back of the machine. But I braced it to stay put, and got some projects finished yesterday. The fifth and last panel for the sunroom curtains (which I started twenty years ago) is together, the one on the left with the eyelash viper appliqué. Only one curtain is actually assembled and hanging, and now I have four left to finish decorating and sew onto the Warm Window lining. Originally I planned these to insulate the five sunroom windows from winter cold, but as our winters became increasingly mild (along with some major distractions) I kept putting it off. Now I’m motivated to finish them, and another shade for the landing window, to insulate the house from summer sun and increasingly uncomfortable heatwaves. I’m very grateful that I’m fortunate enough to have an adobe house whose temperature remains relatively stable season to season, year to year; knowing full well there are millions of people who don’t have this kind of protection as our climate becomes increasingly unstable.

The first thing I sewed with the new pedal was the gown-curtains. They’re not fancy or fussy, with some rips and raw edges here and there, but they’ll do the trick of mitigating hot sun in the east and west windows in summer, and tempering the cold in winter. And finally making something out of that gown? A priceless feeling of accomplishment.
Here I am in the gown in college, on the way to a costume party with my page, Brian. It was only fair that he was my servant this year, since I was his slave the year before that…

I’m grateful to have these old photos to prompt memories of fun times and special people. But I’m thinking about digitizing just a few special images and throwing all the rest–all the loose photos in boxes, all the albums from childhood, from generations of ancestors before me, from the Colonel’s Army days, from my mother’s last year–just throwing them all away. They take up so much space. And after I’m gone, who will want them? Do I even want them? There’s a certain discomfort in looking at them now, especially those that cover my life. I’m no longer that person. I no longer know Brian, or almost anyone else from my past. I found in looking through the album that contained these two pictures, in looking at these two pictures, that much more than happy memories comes up: memories of embarrassing moments, emotional wounds, longings unsatisfied, choices made, chances missed, a melancholy retrospective. I don’t want to look backward at what and how my life was. I don’t want to think about that girl or her angst. For every fun or happy moment, there were hours of anxiety and dissatisfaction. I didn’t know who I was or what really mattered to me. And none of that past matters now, when there is so little future left.

I want to look forward, not backward. Who am I today? Who do I want to be tomorrow, if I get there? I’ve found contentment in the simple life I lead, close to the land and the wild, growing food, listening to birds, watching clouds; cherishing each day on this beautiful planet even as I witness its unraveling. Finding gratitude and joy in the smallest things:

Baking Aunt Clara’s biscuit recipe, and eating one warm out of the oven with the first taste of apricot jam…
Serving an amuse bouche of blue cheese-stuffed portobellos for Boyz Lunch…
…trying a new recipe with eggplants from the garden, stuffed with a peanut-spice mixture and then steamed in a pot of same…
… serving the Boyz eggplant, stuffed squash blossoms, and a bowl of garden zucchini and orach with créme fraîche and parmesan, along with biscuits, and chocolate chip cookies… enjoying their enjoyment of the food and our time together, and deriving deep satisfaction from serving a meal grown mostly in my garden.
And, of course, I’m grateful for and find meaning in giving a good life to this dear, comical little creature.

Planting Seeds

Here I’ve tipped over and pinned the arugula stalks, in order to open sun space over the carrots beyond, and to allow self-sowing of any little rockets that pop out of the drying seedheads. In between I planted rows of flowers I failed to get started this spring. If they make it, great; if they don’t come up, oh well.

I’m grateful that the monsoons are truly upon us, even though there’s been precious little moisture on this mesa. The foothills are getting some rain, and we a bit farther west are getting humidity and clouds. This helps the plants and ground (and our skin) retain some moisture, and keeps the temperature down in the 80s and even 70s for much of the day, a welcome respite. Wren helped me plant some seeds this morning, anticipating a midday shower though none came. I resorted to a watering can to set flowers, lettuces, cilantro, and two varieties of carrot seeds into the soil, grateful for a forecast of moderate temperatures and increasing chance of precipitation over the next two weeks. I’m grateful for planting seeds both in the garden, and in my heart and mind: seeds of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and equanimity. What we water grows.

I’m grateful for this beautiful Sirenevyi sweet pepper harvested this morning. I used half of it along with some red onion, basil, oregano, and ricotta cheese to make stuffing for the four blossoms the zucchinis offered up. After sautéing diced pepper and onion and chopping the fresh herbs with the herb scissors I mixed them up with a pinch of salt and pepper, stuffed the flowers, and put them in the fridge for later.

Then we did some other things for awhile.

And then it was time for a late lunch. I had awoken achy and queasy, and optimistic for rain, so I cancelled Boyz Lunch. It was a hard call. It turned out to be for the best, though it never did rain. I was forced to eat the fried blossoms by myself. No shortcuts this time! I made the batter with one egg, a third cup of flour, and a quarter cup of 7-Up. The recipe calls for beer, but what it wants is the bubble action, and the soda worked fine. The smooth thick batter clung beautifully to the flowers and fried to a golden light crisp.

I mixed a dip with some mayo and sour cream, and a splash of Penzeys Arizona seasoning. I added some chopped celery and mayo to leftover cold pesto pasta, garnished with some sliced avocado, and enjoyed another simple, virtuous lunch. It brings me great pleasure to prepare simple, delicious meals, even just for myself. Like many single people, I used to think it wasn’t worth cooking for one. It’s been a long road to learn that I deserve my love and compassion as much as anyone else does. And it’s been a joyful journey learning how to make the most of simple ingredients and techniques, leftovers, and effortless aesthetic touches. I’m grateful I’m finally learning to care for myself.

Finding Lost Things

The flip side of the medallion has the same bear claw design with a pink stone as the earring on the right. I wore this set a lot before I lost the special hooks. Coming across them the other day brought back warm memories of my mother, and I wanted to wear them again. I’m grateful for the memories that reside in material things.

I’m grateful today for one of those precious moments of finding lost things. I have these silver earrings that my mother bought me many years ago when we went to Canyon de Chelly. I chose them, along with a medallion, from a gorgeous selection offered by the Navajo artist on site. They’re reversible. I hadn’t worn them for a long time because I lost the special hooks that allowed easy (and secure) flipping. I put them away for years, but came across the box the other day and realized I could just put them on regular hooks and not reverse them. But I tried to be clever, and leave a little gap in the bottom loop, so I could flip them without needing pliers to open the loop. Within a few hours I had lost one. I’d been outside watering, folding laundry, in the bathroom cleaning, in the kitchen doing dishes, gardening… and glanced in the mirror as I washed my hands… I was grateful for equanimity.

This is why we can’t have nice things, I thought with a sad chuckle. I remained calm, and considered the most likely scenario where my ear could have gotten jostled enough to knock the ornament off the loop: When Wren leapt up in my lap and nuzzled my ears, as she does a dozen times a day. I carefully pulled the blanket off the recliner seat and shook it, then I bent to reach along the cushion, when my eye caught a glint in the seat back. There was the lost jewel wedged between the head and the back cushions! A lucky find.

Just for fun I made the mythical $250 cookie recipe again, this time with all the right ingredients. Grating a four ounce Hershey bar on a microplane was the most tedious part. Otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward chocolate chip cookie recipe. I sprinkled in a little cinnamon for good measure, and pulled out the Demerara sugar to press some into the tops before baking; but then I remembered Amy’s tip, and used flaky sea salt instead, dipping my fingers first into a small bowl of salt then pressing the cookies lightly to flatten a bit.

I was grateful I had one cup of coffee left to enjoy when the cookies came out of the oven. I gave most of them away today, but have some dough leftover to bake another batch for lunch tomorrow.

That apricot harvest? The whole single bowl full, minus the four or five that I ate… I turned it into a single pint of jam this afternoon. Not enough to even bother canning, but it should last into winter in the fridge if I indulge sparingly. It really puts things in perspective: there have been years that I’ve canned two dozen half pints, plenty to last me all year and give a bunch as Christmas presents. There were so many blossoms on the tree this spring, but three hard freezes in a row decimated the harvest. I’m grateful that the professional orchards didn’t get hit so hard.

Little dog napping on clean sheets before I had a chance to fold them.

A Chest Freezer

Blanching the beurre du Rocquencourt beans…

Years ago, when I had a very small solar power system, I had to rent freezer space in town at the meat processing establishment. For awhile I shared a locker with a friend; we were both buying large quantities of local meat, like splitting half a pig, or large amounts of fruit. One time I froze most of a butchered deer there. I was so grateful to be able to finally buy my own chest freezer once I added another solar array and some larger batteries. Home storage capacity really enabled me to step up my garden game.

I’ve never had more than a two cubic foot freezer in any refrigerator I’ve had here, first a tiny propane refrigerator/freezer, then a replacement. I was grateful when I could finally afford the price and the power of a Sunfrost. The Sunfrost was designed specifically for homes using solar power: it has four inch thick insulated walls and uses a minute amount of electricity compared to even the highest rated EnergyStar commercial appliance. But the tiny freezer doesn’t hold much; certainly not half a pig. I no longer eat that much meat, but what meat I do choose to eat I purchase from local ranchers in bulk. I also process a lot of garden produce over the summer. I’m grateful to have a chest freezer to hold green beans, snow peas, tomatoes, bulk-baked lasagna, burritos, apricots, peaches, pesto, you name it. Plus of course enough ice cream.

For lunch I enjoyed a chicken-cheese-bean burrito from the chest freezer, with last summer’s salsa from the pantry, and this summer’s pickles from the Sunfrost.
I also froze a half-pint of pesto this afternoon, using up the first basil harvest and the last of the pecans in the fridge, plus some garlic and parmesan.

It was a full day in the kitchen. In addition to blanching and freezing beans, and making pesto, I needed to feed the sourdough, so I wanted to find a recipe to use up some discard to make space. These spicy cheesy crackers were just the ticket. I didn’t bake them quite long enough–the edge crackers were perfect but the center ones are a little caky. Next time, thinner roll overall and a lower longer bake. They were delicious, nonetheless, with some Boursin for an evening snack.

Wren enjoys her crackers, too, and I use her treats to train her for various things. Now that car training is over (she leaps right in every time), and crate training is underway, we’re working on letting me hold her paws and clip one nail every few days. Today we took a break from that as I checked out her willingness to put on a little pink sweater. Even though she arrived here in April, there were some chilly mornings that she shivered miserably on our walks. She has got to get prepared now–winter is coming! It was so easy to get the sweater over her head that I think she must have worn one before. But with her foot sensitivity, I think it’s wise to get her used to me putting her feet through the arm holes before we have to.

I left it on her just long enough to make sure she was comfortable in it. I’m grateful for another quiet, gentle day.

The Right Tool for the Job

I’m grateful for having the right tool for the job for all the new and exciting foods I’m making, like this dedicated baguette baker from Emile Henry. I’ll have to bake a hell of a lot of baguettes to justify the expense, but the satisfaction of perfect baguettes the first time? Priceless.

In my Covid-related kitchen obsession, I’ve been investing in more kitchen tools than are strictly necessary. At first, I justified this as having the right tools for many kinds of food preparation as I was planning to open a small-scale retreat center and provide specialty meals. By the time it became apparent that Covid wasn’t going away soon and I wasn’t going to be comfortable opening my home to people for awhile, it was too late: kitchen shopping had become retail therapy. I’m not proud of this addiction. But I am proud of the culinary education I’ve been getting, and the gustatory delights I’ve been turning out.

I’m grateful that the Colonel taught me the value of having the right tool for the job. I’ve been wanting to bake baguettes for a long time, but never had the courage to try it, largely because I lacked the right pan. The Colonel inspired my early culinary efforts as I’ve mentioned before, as well as any handyman skills I possess. At one point he combined his two interests to fashion a sheetmetal baguette baker not too different in principle from the ceramic one I just bought. His only held two baguettes, and they were bigger than these. It looked kind of like this, but not perforated. I’ve had that in my head forever, but it never occurred to me I could just buy something like it til I stumbled upon this elegant baguette baker while shopping for a different kind of pan.

I’m grateful for the male blossoms the zucchini plants are offering up, and for the first ripe zuke, as well as for the second bean harvest. Stuffed squash blossoms seemed hard and scary two summers ago when I started experimenting with them, but today I just squished together a little feta and leftover sausage with some Penzeys Forward, stuffed the flowers, rolled them tight, and refrigerated til I could cook them tonight. I didn’t want to spend a whole egg on batter for just three blossoms, so I rolled them in heavy cream, then in cornmeal, and sautéed in olive oil, for a delicious amuse-bouche for an intimate Death Café dinner.

My friend brought sliders and coleslaw, and we sat outside in the 90℉ evening to share our meal, and work on some end-of-life planning. I got mine essentially done last winter, but she is just starting hers. It’s a daunting but necessary chore, and I’m grateful I could help her start to make some sense of it. Will, powers of attorney, advance directive, choices, provisions, designations… You look at those forms and your brain just goes numb–and not comfortably numb, either, but numb in an agitating buzzing kind of way. Grateful we could help each other navigate the necessary melancholy conversations, and motivate each other to take the next steps in this grueling process. Grateful, too, for the close time together which is rare and precious.

Speaking of rare and precious, I’m grateful every day for this little dog who always makes me laugh.

I saw something very strange in the night sky about an hour ago. I took Wren out for midnight whiz and stood there looking up as I always do. I was grateful there were stars, and then there was a short line of light that appeared and disappeared, like a few dozen stars strung close together; or like a section of a strand of patio lights. Then it appeared again, and moved across the eastern starlit sky from south to north. Like the side of a flat spaceship. I watched mesmerized for a couple of minutes as it remained lit up and moved steadily northward, diminishing with distance until it reached the vanishing point on the horizon. So weird. I’m grateful for unknown phenomena.

Truth

The most riveting TV drama of the summer is paused now until September. It’s not the kind of thing I normally would have watched, but after the first episode I was hooked. I’ve watched all but one of the January 6 hearings in their entirety, and only missed half of one because it overlapped with Boyz Lunch. I’m grateful that the final hearing of the first set occurred this evening, so that I could enjoy lunch without distraction, and focus on the hearing without distraction also. I’m grateful for truth in general, and I’m grateful for the committee’s lucid, compelling, and relentless reveal of the truth of that devastating day. I’m grateful that this truth remains public record, that all the hearings are available to watch on the committee’s website.

I’m grateful that Wren is getting more comfortable with company.

I mentioned an upcoming hearing to a friend a couple of weeks ago, and someone else on the zoom referred to it as “another nothing burger in the witch hunt.” I’m flabbergasted that anyone can think like that. Especially after today’s hearing, in which a truth that was already crystal clear was made even more strikingly irrefutable. I have no more words. See for yourself. Trump must never return to power, and his followers must come to understand that he lied to and betrayed them from the beginning. I hope the tide turns soon; when it finally does, it may be a tsunami.

I’m also grateful for another Top 5 Boyz Lunch, and the overwhelming success of the twice-baked pizza. I’m grateful for green salad, homemade peppercorn dressing, and a 7-Up cake that mostly held together even though I ejected it from the pan a little too soon. It was a big hit with the fellas, “the best ever.” That’s a high recommendation to make it again, especially since it was so easy. I’ll have to do a little research about the physics of baking this particular kind of cake, leavened only with 7-Up, at high altitude. It needed about twenty minutes longer than the recipe suggested, and maybe should have baked at either a higher or lower temperature to keep a portion from falling.

Reading

Little Wren occasionally interrupts my reading, but I don’t mind…

I just love reading. I’m grateful that I learned to read when I was three, and that I have loved to read ever since I could. I’m grateful for the SRA reading program I still remember from grade school; though I don’t remember much about it except that it was color-coded and I sped through it faster than any other kid in class. Remarkably, after fifty-five years I still remember its initials, though I probably never knew what they stood for until I just looked it up to fact-check myself. I’m grateful for the Bobbsey Twins and The Borrowers, for L. Frank Baum and all the Oz books, for Narnia; for Charles Dickens and The Three Musketeers and Anna Karenina, and for goddammit Thomas Hardy: I threw The Mayor of Casterbridge across the living room one time when I was home from college. I’m grateful for One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’m grateful for Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich and Chinua Achebe and hundreds of other great novelists. I’m grateful for stories and the ability to read them.

“I long ago abandoned myself to a blind lust for the written word.”

An Unnecessary Woman ~ Rabih Alameddine

I haven’t been reading as much the past couple of years as I used to all my life, but have found myself in recent months falling back in love with reading and devouring one story after another. I’m grateful for used book stores, library book sales, regular book stores, school book stores, Amazon, paperbacks, hardbacks, holiday book exchanges, mailing books we’ve read back and forth with Chris and sometimes other friends, and for my Kindle paperwhite. I’m grateful that I can check out tangible books from a library ten minutes away, or check out a library e-book online. What a world!

I love reading, especially fiction: I love stories. Loving stories is also why I’m grateful for streaming services and the gazillion options for visual fiction. If I could, I’d do nothing all day but immerse myself in stories. But I can’t so I won’t, and I’ll just be grateful all day every day that I know how to read, and have access to way more stories today than the most obsessed bibliophile could ever read in a dozen lifetimes. So many books, so little time.

Atmosphere

Last night’s beans for lunch, sautéed in oil and butter with a few good shakes of some Penzey’s spices. So simple, so delicious!
Yesterday’s cucumbers transformed into bread and butter pickles…
…and the leftover pickling syrup poured over lettuce, feta, red onions, and cashews for dinner salad.
Amazing clouds at sunset in all directions: North…
… South…
…and West…

I’m grateful for another full day of mindfulness, considering my values and trying to put them into action. One of my deepest values is gratitude, of course; another is savoring wholesome food and making the most of the gifts I’m given; yet another is witnessing the beauty of this fragile planet. I’m grateful for its atmosphere, what I can experience of it anyway: the clouds above, aridity and humidity, heat and cool as they fluctuate with day and night; and each breath inhaling air here as pure as anywhere. I’m grateful for a friend to spend these precious days with, and the atmosphere of playful joy she brings to everything we do.

Ripening

I’m grateful for snapdragons I started from seed flowering abundantly enough to clip some for a bud vase.
I’m grateful for jigsaw peppers started from seed now flowering in the foreground of violas…
…their tiny purple blossom turning to fruit

I’m grateful many of the peppers are starting to fruit, though many lag behind. Above, Blot peppers hide under dense, dark green leaves. Below, Leutschauer paprika peppers are also thriving. Out of three I planted this one in a mineral tub with feral horseradish is doing the best, several feet tall with dark green leaves. Another, in another mineral tub the same color but alone, is medium size, and a third in a raised bed, is less than a foot tall with two tiny peppers on it. So much variation in how the same seedlings are growing in different beds and pots this year. Wish I had kept notes on which soil amendments I used in each location, but I have pretty good recollection, and the Coco-Loco potting soil from Foxfarm seems to encourage really healthy growth, while the other amendment I used does not.

This year’s Sirenevyi pepper crop is already double last year’s. I learned to plant them with plenty of space around and lots of sun exposure: last summer’s got crowded out with squash and beans.
I’m grateful for the first zucchini, and hope for many more.
Those cagey cucumbers! I hadn’t even seen this giant growing amid the leaves until this evening, when I went to harvest three other smaller cukes I’d been watching. I’m grateful for ripening!
My little veggie loving dog chewed on a tiny cucumber that wasn’t going to ripen, but she left it half eaten.
The first harvest basket of the season: peas and broccolini for seeds, and four fat cucumbers for the first jar of refrigerator pickles. Yum!

Mon Dieu!

Speculoos breakfast cake for dessert

I fell asleep watching Drag Race France, even after a nap this afternoon. This oxygen thing is taking a toll. I’ll be grateful when it’s resolved and I have more energy in a day. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for Drag Race France, and for Boyz Lunch, and for all the fun I had in the kitchen this morning. Mon Dieu! It was 95 degrees outside and I slaved over a hot oven all morning, baking first that Speculoos breakfast cake at last, and then homemade hot dog buns. Both were delicious.

Lunch underway, a kitchen whirlwind this morning
I’m grateful for these herb scissors: boy, do I love having the right tool for the job! The Herby 3 Bean Salad recipe calls for ¾ cup fresh herbs, and this tool made short work of chopping the dill, fennel leaf, parsley, basil, and rosemary from the garden.
Herby Three Bean Salad, with garden fennel, last summer’s green beans, and fresh herbs, plus some canned beans, store-bought red onions, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
I’m grateful, as always, for the technology to find the right recipe for the job. I found hotdogs in the freezer this morning and decided that’s what’s for lunch, but had no buns. I searched ‘quick hotdog bun recipe,’ and pretty quickly found Bonnie’s 30-minute bun recipe. Amazing!
The last of the Homestead all-beef hotdogs from the freezer, saved after they weren’t needed at Michael’s memorial party almost exactly a year ago. I’m grateful for a chest freezer filled with wholesome local meats and garden produce, and also for this new Staub grill pan/lid that just happened to arrive yesterday with its cocotte bottom.
A perfect July luncheon.
And a restful nap afterwards for the chef and the tiny sous-chef.