Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Bit of This, A Little of That

The external drive attached to my laptop is full of pictures that haven’t even been looked at since they were downloaded from my camera. It’s been a daunting task to sort through and begin editing them for use. And that use is right here on this blog. Blogging is more fun when I have a stash of photographs ready to post, and it’s easier to write if I have a picture to work from; it’s a good starting point.

And now, after sitting in this chair for two hours, I have to get up and move before my muscles start screaming at me. First, laundry (because it’s always better to do boring chores first), and then I’ll prep two bags of fruit from the freezer for jam-making.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Like I Need One More Hobby...

Now I've added soap-making my list.
Lavender Soap made with flowers from my front yard.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cranberry Conserve

Cranberry Sauce is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. I learned - a long time ago - how to make fresh sauce, and haven't looked at a the canned stuff since. So easy, so delicious.

The cranberry conserve recipe that follows is not just a "serve with turkey" condiment. In fact, the dinner plate is the last place I'd personally put this bit of winter joy. I've layered it with chocolate ganache in a tart, served it with cheese, and sometimes eaten a big scoop straight out of the jar.

The recipe comes from The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard, one of the first canning books I bought.

Cranberry Port Conserve

4 cups cranberries
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup port
1/2 cup finely chopped peeled orange
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Combine cranberries, sugar, and port. Bring to a full boil until berries pop. Add orange and raisins. Return to a boil, reduce heat to gentle boil until mixture forms a light gel. (It doesn't take long, so keep an eye on it.) Remove from heat and add nuts.

If you're making a batch to be used within a reasonable time - Thanksgiving week - go ahead and refrigerate it. I wouldn't bother canning it if you've got a houseful of cranberry lovers. If you do want to can it, follow safe canning procedures and process for five minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Quiet Celebration

We’re just back from a weekend away, celebrating our wedding anniversary. We wanted to spend some quiet time away from the busy-ness of work, and we found exactly what we were looking for way up north in the forests of Humboldt County. I can’t believe we’d never ventured that far north on the coast; let me tell you, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

The beaches are perfect for walking, the forests dark and dense, and the wildlife is astounding. And there are blackberries everywhere. We’ll go back, hopefully soon, and explore a little more.

Agate Beach Stairs
Roosevelt Elk (yes, I really was that close)

Trinidad Harbor

More pictures later....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


First berries of the season, a promise of good things to come.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Crazy, Stupid Weather

Here we are in June and it's supposed to be sunny, at least in the afternoon. We get morning fog here during summer, but then it clears and we have gorgeous weather. Sweater in the morning, tank top in the afternoon. It's the way it is here. Really. Usually.

Yesterday I wore a wool coat to work. This morning I turned the heater on to take the chill off the house. It's supposed to rain into next week. I'm ready for summer and the weather isn't cooperating!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I must be getting better at this gardening thing; today I picked up a snail with my bare fingers.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A New Friend

 Meet Jeremy. Okay, it's not his real name. I don't know what his real name is; he's not ours, so it doesn't really matter.
He's pleased to meet you.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Starry Night

Tonight, under a clear, star-scattered sky, I burned a bad time in my life. It’s been a long while since I held a fire ritual, the letting go of what no longer serves me well. Something about flames and purpose gives me a sense of a fresh start. And that’s where I am right now – cherishing the moment, recognizing the hard work that’s led me to this sweet time.

For the past couple weeks I’ve been clearing old files, digging through storage bins, drawers, closets, and cupboards. I’m astounded at what I’ve found. Things I didn’t remember owning. Or writing. Things I’ve kept for no rhyme or reason.

In the bottom of a drawer I found my old journals. When my first marriage ended, and for several years after, I poured my guts onto paper, frantically trying to figure things out and fix myself. While reading through a few pages this evening I wanted to reach back in time and smack that girl I was then, the one who so willingly took all the blame and cried how all her dreams had been destroyed. Maybe slightly amused pity is a better response. Because life has turned out almost exactly the way I wanted it to, despite my fears I’d never be happy again.

I watched the smoke from those journals curl away from me, like a living thing. A satellite eased across the sky; hundreds, maybe thousands, of frogs croaked melodiously while I sipped blackberry brandy and snuggled deeper into my coat and scarf. And I let it all go.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Bit of Summer on a Cold Winter Day

Last summer I was a blackberry fiend, picking more than 40 pounds of wild blackberries. From most of those berries I made far more jars of jam than I’ll eat, which makes them ideal for gifting, and a few jars of blackberry sauce that I could fall into and happily drown. That left one large bag of berries still in the freezer, calling out to be made into something easy and summery in the middle of this cold winter.
Because I’m on a big organizing spree, I don’t want to can anything right now. The prospect of hauling out canning equipment and then waiting for jars cool on the counter just doesn’t appeal to me right now.  Clear counters are so pretty; I want to enjoy them a while longer and still have the satisfaction of having made something delicious to enjoy later. Last year I made a small batch of blackberry brandy that has aged perfectly. It’s a good thing to do with fruit when you’re already up to your eyeballs in jam and can’t face another jar.
Here’s the basic recipe. (I’ve played with it a bit in the past, using more berries, granulated sugar, and letting it sit for about a month longer.)
1 lb. blackberries
8 oz. superfine sugar
1 liter brandy
Combine all three in a gallon jar (or divide it between smaller jars) and stir. Stir it again once a week or so for the next two months. Strain, bottle, drink.
This batch of blackberry brandy won’t be ready until we’re well into spring, when we’ll lift our glasses of summer to toast the passing of winter.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Morning Memories

This morning, still half-asleep, I rolled over and asked my husband what time it was. It was 8:20 a.m. and I should have been awake and out of bed at least half an hour earlier. I didn’t jump up right away, but lay there thinking for a few minutes, letting my mind wander wherever it needed to go.
In the year and a few months since my father died some of his more endearing quirks have come back to me. You know those things parents do that embarrass or frustrate us when we’re kids and later seem kind of sweet? Those things. My father wasn’t an easy man to be raised by, so there aren’t many moments that I can describe as sweet or warm. But, thankfully, some memories settle on me gently these days. My father never lost his “old country ways”. His place in the world was strictly defined by his speech patterns and attitudes and he held fast to that to the end.
This morning I remembered the way he’d give the time; it was half past, five of, or a quarter past, with no reference to the hour. Half past what? 3:00? 5:00? It was yet another fine point of contention between generations and cultures, in the power struggle between parent and teen.
Today I’m a little sad, not because I miss him – we never had enough relationship to miss now – but because we never had enough relationship for me to miss him now. He was, in many ways, a good man who did his best. That’s what I think about now. I remember that he sang at the top of his lungs, horrifying us kids because the neighbors could hear. An overheard turn of phrase or line of dialog in a movie reminds me of my father in his better moments. And some of his not so great moments.
It’s the nature of loss and grief that memories sneak up on us in quiet times. In the ten minutes it took me to completely wake up and start my day I missed my father.
The clock on the wall reads a quarter past.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Worm Glow in Winter

A while back I wrote about how much I’d like to have worm beds for composting and that I have a love/hate relationship with worms. I like the idea…not so much the slippery, wriggling reality. You might remember that we have a big, round composting ball that breaks down our kitchen scraps pretty quickly; I love that thing.
At the very end of last year, the week between Christmas and New Year, I got a horrible cold. It was the mother of all head colds and I was truly miserable. I came out of it glad to be part of the world again and thankful to have a husband who cooks, makes pharmacy runs, and buys trash magazines without complaint. (Because, really, you’ve got to have mindless reading when you’re sick, and People magazine fits the bill perfectly.) I learned I’m not a terribly cheery person when I don’t feel well – there may have been some whining going on and I looked like hell. I’m still newly-wed enough to be slightly appalled to have my husband see me like that, and old mature enough to know that “for better or worse” includes colds.  
The few times I was out of bed and downstairs in the kitchen I looked out the sliding glass door at my frost-covered composter and wondered if any of the worms who’d made it home during the warmer months were surviving the cold weather. I was sure they’d all frozen to death just as I was getting more comfortable with their sliminess.
Last week I finally made it out feed the bin and check on their welfare, peering in, for a long time, with a flashlight one night after work. (I’m sure the neighbors think I’m a crackpot; clothesline, compost bins, prayer flags over the garden beds – our suburban, golf course hugging neighborhood just doesn’t see much of that.) Not only were the worms alive and well, but the bin was warm. I can’t tell you how relieved and excited I was. Worms and heat. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year's Phrase

It’s a new year, bright and shiny and full of possibilities, but there will be no resolutions made; they only bring out the defiant child in me and I end up breaking them all, not caring that it costs me the achievement of a goal. Instead, I’ve decided to adopt a phrase, a nudging reminder that there are changes afoot and now is the time to make them.
A few of the changes are standard – exercise more, make better food choices. Most of us know those goals very well. Some are more personal, rising from questions that barreled at me around my birthday last year. There’s no doubt I’ve entered the phase of life called “mid”. It’s not the half-way point (or, most likely, beyond), but the point at which the balance can shift. I can be lazy and it’s all downhill from here, or, better, I can take a good, long look at what I need to be to stay happy, healthy, and contributing to this world. Fixing a goal in mind does no good if I do nothing to support getting there.
My reminder, the whisper in my ear, will be a question: If not now … when? There has to be a starting point for everything and it is now. Otherwise it’s always tomorrow, next week, after the holiday, when I have more money, when the cows come home and pigs fly.  When I’m tempted to slide it will be the question that calls me to make a choice – if not now, when? That doesn’t mean I’ll always follow through. Good lord, where would the fun be in that? But a conscious choice is always better than being an old horse following the same track home every night.  There are lots more trails to be explored and this year, now, I intend to gallop a little.