Tuesday, September 22, 2009

autumnal

A first day of fall that finds me bearing my freckly shoulders is all right with me (only it wasn't so much when I lived in the land of Endless Summer. I craved sleeves and sweaters, then, the way I will surely jones for sunshine late next winter). I really do love the mix of seasons here. I'm looking forward to the cool coziness approaching, but this last hurrah of skin and ice cubes is pretty great.

The boy and I talked about the end of summer, about less sunlight, about Fall. We went into the backyard to look for signs of autumn (why not the front yard? because the front yard has different signs, red flashing obnoxious signs that say Unkempt Garden! Weeds! Unruly! but gradual seasonal changes are less noticeable there still).

Clockwise from top left: hazelnuts (our tiny tiny backyard has 3 old pretty big hazelnut trees and, boy! do we have a lot of nuts), grape stem (concords eaten by the boy who eats the most fruit), dogwood leaves (the first bud in spring, the first to change color in fall), deciduous redwood needles (kinda cute, when it's just one, but when we have several foot high drifts of 'em along the side of the house, less cute).


signs of autumn

The boy so kindly made hazelnut muffins for me, but I could only manage one. I am *still* full from all of the crackers I ate today. Crackers + Feta + Roasted Tomatoes. Oh man. So good. How good? Like a letter from home with a dollar in it (as my dad would say). Ten dollars. I've been slow roasting a lot of tomatoes lately, and while I aim to keep them them through the winter, I was particularly lazy with one batch. I started them late in the day and at bedtime, they weren't near dry yet and but I stopped them anyway. Because they're so gooey and soft, I am not so sure they'll keep as long as their more dehydrated compatriots, so what else can I do? Eat those puppies up. A boon on good crackers at the grocery outlet inspired me to do them up like this:

the most delicious cracker i've ever eaten


My children, who enjoy tomatoes otherwise, thought these soft oozey clumps looked disgusting. I goaded them for a moment and then stuffed my mouth with another one. More for me, suckers. These crackers are so good. If I didn't eat all the feta up or if I don't wake up with raw sores in my mouth, I'll probably repeat this tomorrow for lunch. And dinner.

In other related equinox news, I made up a batch of mix CDs today. I haven't done this in a while, the mixmaster hausfrau thing. I am not a hip music cat and I always feel a little sheepish sharing the stuff that's doing it for me right now. Here's my fall oh nine playlist:

fallohnine

The last track is my current obsession. You should listen to it straight away so we can drawl out, "alabama, arkansas. . ." together. You'll see.

I kept myself busy in a glue + scissors way for a while. I love being busy that way, but I don't indulge very often because, oh! what a mess. I can barely keep up with the creative pursuits of my daughter. Throw my silly little projects into the mix and we might never see the dining room table again.

I confess to pushing everything to the side so we could eat dinner. I needed it to remain handy so I can bust out some more CD sleeves tomorrow. There's a reason I keep every old calendar, scrap of paper, everything around forever. You never know when you'll need to make an envelope:

cd sleeve


That's a lot of stuff to make a fine first day of Fall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

listen to me! there is something i must do.

The very best thing about the facebook + youtube timesuckerpunch is being privy to every amusing thing my friends find. I love that. The internet is mostly boring me lately. I am slow to email, I 'mark read' huge swaths of entries from my blog roll, I can't remember the last time I poked into my local craigslist. Snore. But every single day, somebody shares something on the old facebook that makes me laugh. Laughing = good.

I wasn't going to share this anywhere, it was amusing to me yesterday and then I moved on. Until I went to bed last night. The mister was already back there, asleep, and what had he fallen asleep to? The soundtrack to Les Miserables. That sort of synchronicity is so weird. How long since I last even thought about Jean Valjean? Years!! Even though, yes, seeing the touring production was a pivotal point in our relationship and, sure, my daughter liked to startle people at age 3 by belting out Master of the House, I lost track of the CDs and never imported them into itunes and hey! who listens to CDs anymore, anyway? Apparently the husband had just undertaken a big old-CDs-into-mp3s project for his new ipod.

It's not every day I randomly hear Confrontation twice.



Hey do you remember when I sang the praises of Freaks & Geeks? Probably not. It's been a while. Anyway, Jason Segal's character is the drummer I referenced in that linked post and while I couldn't say he's my favorite F&G character (perfect ensemble cast!), I am quite endeared to him. This clip almost makes me want to check out their current sitcom.

sun/flower

I am trying something new, which is not the ukulele (not yet). I am feeling the pressing weight of, well, I want to say my years and doesn't that sound pensive and wistful, but really, it's the pressing weight of my ass. Totally different. I have to reconcile the space between pounds to spare and a closet full of pants that won't fit. For my next trick, I will attempt to bridge this gap by running. Or something like running, but slower. I will say this: it's going better than I thought it would. And there aren't a lot of things these days I can say *that* about, so. . .

Sunday, September 20, 2009

parting is such

we want things to stay but nothing stays the same

There is this voice that has been haunting me (no not that. haunting is too spooky of a word, too invasive and serious, how about compelling?), compelling me to listen. and last night I listened to it live and wasn't that a good time? The September of my adulthood is like the October, November of my youth: a brilliant string of clear days, and nights when windchimes clang and sleepy hands shut windows, grab for blankets.

So this voice. When he talks I think of Matthew McConaughey's character in Dazed and Confused. Oh, you know. Tell me know you. What, you don't know?!



And so when I say that the front for Deer Tick gives me an I Love Those Redheads vibe, then you should know, surely, what I'm talking about, yes?



The last day of official summer upon us. A celebration and a regret. The rough smoothness of a raspy voice. The looking ahead and looking behind. The wish to pause the best seconds -the ones with the most laughter, with children running in circles and tomatoes piled in heaps and insecurities almost too small to see- is strong.

There is a certain seventies good ol' bad boy sleazy rock and roll feel about Deer Tick. I am sorry I'm still talking about them. I can talk about one thing for a long time. I can eat the same thing every meal for weeks before I tire of it. I am insatiable until the inexplicable moment when, without warning, I've had too much.

I haven't had too much yet. Not of this song or bare legs or open doors or nectarines. Not yet.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

ride me, mama

There are some things you don't even want to whisper, not even in an empty room, because once said these things might be heard and remembered by someone. I tend toward the quiet, and have been mistaken for shy. But the truth is this: I am an extrovert with very quick moving thoughts and a tendency to blab too much about anything. Keeping quiet keeps me out of trouble. You don't want to know what I'm thinking, believe me on that one.

Today I've been regretting something I said last night, at a very fun and comfortable gathering with friends. Because just like I don't care to promise things to my children until I know they are for sure, I don't like that I announced (hm, a rather grand word, it was more like a casual mention) that I'm going to learn to play the ukulele. It's a fine idea, sure, but if I don't do it? Of if I try and fail? Well, then folks will know about it. I would rather keep that to myself, I suppose.

My birthday's coming up and I'm another year closer to OLD and another year further from being able to make music. Oh, sure I took piano lessons when I was a kid. And there are those nearly forgotten years of being in the school band (you will never guess what instrument I played and I won't tell you!) and there are the countless hours I inflict my singing voice on my helpless family members. But making music in a relevant, participatory way? No. And clearly this is a troubling thing because it troubles me.

I do not have any aspirations of being good. I would be content to just plunk along and not be too terrible. That's a doable goal, yes? For an old lady?

And now my pride's on the line. I've said it out loud. Ay!

So being that it's sunday (remember I was trying to share a song on sundays?) and I'm kinda talking music already, I will include a song that I have been enjoying recently. A friend of mine shared it on facebook and it was new to me and I liked it right away. Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show (apparently an old Bob Dylan song previously unrecorded by the old songster himself). I'd actually forgotten all about it, but on the drive home from Eugene today (we drove the two hours south on an errand and tooled around that awesome city; every time I find myself there I think it would sure be a great place to live), I was reading their local weekly alternative paper and noticed a concert ad upcoming for these guys. (Local music alert: they'll be in Eugene October 6th and in Portland on the 7th.)

Here's a good example of why I should continue to practice silence: I think this song is top notch, catchy and hummable, but I liked it better when I was mishearing the lyrics. The husband and I actually had a small debate about this, when I first played it for him. I was sure that Ride was the key chorus word and he corrected me with a much more prudent Rock. And after I listened for rock I couldn't hear ride anymore, and I conceded the point. But something was lost. Rocking is sweet and all; I have spent countless dear hours rocking babies and, well. Um. I think there's a time and a place for something a lot less sweet. Or something. Nevermind. You might be surprised that I really like this video quite a bit. I won't spill so much and tell you my favorite part, though. mmm. See? Must! Shut! Up!




Also! One more thing! I am pretty over the moon in love with looking up ukulele covers of songs on youtube. Did you know that was such a thing? Uke covers? Maybe you did but I did not. I barraged my effbee pals with a string of ukulele songs the other night but I'll only put one here (but choosing just one is hard! there are SO MANY). Seriously, if you have a favorite song, somebody probably played it on their uke and put it online. I don't think I've loved anything in a long time as much as I love all the people who love making music and putting it up on youtube to share it, for no other reason than because it clearly makes them happy. May I one day be good (and brave!) enough.


Monday, September 07, 2009

they're here

the light the light

I am seriously sitting here trying to find a way to cleverly tie in a tacky Poltergeist reference to the surprising, bright light that fills my basement staircase on sunny days, in the late afternoon, at this time of the year. But, one, I'm a lot less clever on cue than I used to be, and, two, maybe Carol Anne isn't pop culture blog fodder in two thousand and nine. Maybe you didn't watch the movie when you were quite young (what was I? nine? and why? on who's watch was this approved?) and maybe you didn't have years of nightmares and creepy feelings about it and maybe you wouldn't have any idea what I'm talking about anyway.

But if you were in the habit of walking up and down my basement steps so many times a day, as I am, you would also know how really remarkable it is to have such light fill the space. It's not an area that natural light typically reaches and the presence of sunshine is really an amazing thing. It is blinding and ridiculous.

For a few steps, it is so intense that everything else disappears into a flash of yellow white. There is nowhere else to look.

So at the risk of being overly sappy and incomprehensible, I will say that this light-filled staircase, these pictures, have been burning metaphors in my brain. This is a time of year when I have to buck up and own my resolve. I have to survey the effects of our previous choices and acknowledge that, yes, unconventional and off the main road and lacking infrastructure as they may be, it seems to be working for us.

Taking blind upward steps is tricky, but there is no sense in turning back once you've already gone halfway.

If you think this is about the starting "school year", you think correctly. Among other things. But for so many, September signifies a new start, a new routine, a new excuse to hitch a ride on someone else's program. And as much as this (this "not sending the kids to school") remains the best choice for all involved, when assessing all possible area choices, I admit that I can get a little envious. I have been the IDEA person for a lot of years. There is certainly a lot of awesome to be said about the flexibility of our lifestyle. But flexibility is a two-headed beast. There is also a lot to be said about having marked setpoints to navigate the rest of one's time by. And the determining and the planning and the enforcing of those setpoints is a challenge. For me. This year, especially. Today.

It's intense but quick. The self-doubt will shift and I'll be able to see where I'm going soon enough.

walk towards the light

Saturday, September 05, 2009

let's do lunch

When I stayed up reading in bed late last night, the rain was charming. A lulling, nostalgic background noise I missed so much when I lived in the desert, I bought a sound machine to replicate it (digital precipitation: not the same thing). When I woke up this morning, the cool drizzle was cozy. My kitchen always feels extra warm and welcoming when color out the windows is gray. But by mid-morning, I was stuck without a game plan and (it wasn't even raining raining, mind you, just spitting) kids who weren't so keen on going OUT but were getting UNDER my skin and I was done with the wet day. Done with Saturday, done with feeling like a whistle-less, clipboard-less, unpaid activity director. Done with being the nutrition director and chef. Don't you feel like that some days? And while the clouds later gave way to sunshine and although our later afternoon and evening were spent outdoors and active, I was in no mood to make lunch mid-day. "But, mama, I'm huuuuuungry." But, babies, the fixin's are slim. And, also? Mama is busy imagining life as a single chic with a fat wallet. (not really. really. well. what can i say? i was awfully grouchy.)

So what did I do? I bucked up and dug out some leftovers and did a little kitchen magic and made lunch quickly and amused myself by taking pictures. Taking pictures is like an instant attitude adjuster for me. Which is maybe why I take so many pictures. Ahem.

Lentil/Patty Pan Squash/and other stuff Stew from a couple of nights ago. I liked it. The husband liked it. But the children were less enthusiastic. I whizzed some up in the blender and then warmed it up with a little bit of coconut milk. Instant creamy soup!

new life into old dinner

Okay, so soup. And?? Um. No time to bake anything. No bread. No crackers. No rice cooked up. Nothing. Oh, wait. Is that one tortilla languishing in the back of the fridge, getting crunchy in a left-open bag? Yes! So I sprayed it with a little olive oil and threw it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes. When it was toasty, I took it out, ground some salt over it, and sliced it up. Chips!

tortilla chips

And then I ran out to the yard and dug up some carrots and cut them into sticks.

homegrown carrot sticks

There you have it! Lunch! Heavy on the wholesome, light on the grump, and apparently thrilling enough that I not only snapped photos of it, but I had to write about it, too. tralala.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

i scream, you scream

whirring

Today I finally did something I've been meaning to do for ages: I made ice cream from raw goat milk. Last week I picked up a dandy ice cream machine for a cool three and a half bucks. I'll tell you what, I usually have decent thrifting karma; I picture the thing I want or need or wish for and (roughly) I find it on some secondhand store shelf soon after. But the ice cream maker eluded me for so long! We have a super source for farm fresh and tasty raw milk right now, so early in the summer I envisioned plenty of homemade ice cream in our future. But mid-summer or on autumn's doorstep, a cold frozen treat is welcome any time. I'm just glad I finally found one and the price was so low (cheaper than a store bought pint!), I had nothing to lose.

To be fair, what I really made is probably more of an "ice milk" than ice cream, seeing that I just used whole goat milk and no separated cream. Goat milk does not separate easily like cow milk does and the cream cannot be simply skimmed off the top; goat milk is naturally homogenized and contains a lower fat content, anyway. I read some recipes online, but in the end decided to wing it. I didn't go out on a wild limb or anything, I stuck to the standards, but didn't have any specific goat milk reference.

Here's what I did: in the ice cream bucket, I stirred together 2 C raw goat milk, 1/2 C organic raw sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, pinch of salt. In a saucepan, I whisked together 2 C raw goat milk and 2 eggs. I kept whisking until it got hot and bubbly. I don't know. And then I dumped the milk + egg mix into the maker bucket and stirred together and then followed the machine's instructions from there.

parlor

Oh, this machine, a compact seventies jobbie called, charmingly, "Ice Cream Parlor", instructed to use straight table salt, contrary to the tempting rock salt of my youth. Wasn't there always something so irresistible about sticking a finger in the cranking machine to sneak out a big lump of salt? I did have to make a special trip to the grocery outlet for regular salt, since I exclusively use sea salt in the kitchen. But that's a tiny expense (salt cylinders, 2 for $1, man, that grocery outlet always comes through for me) and worth the hassle.

It took about 40 minutes, thereabouts, before the mixture was thick and ice-cream-like. I pulled out the paddle and licked a tiny taste and oh! hello unexpected time travel moment! I'm in my grandma's backyard! I'm 7! or 10! or 14! and I have a plastic cup held out, ready for my share. Somebody's complaining that Grandma didn't make butter pecan or something fancy but I'm so glad it's plain old vanilla. So so good.

I let the children have tiny tastes, also, but then I packed it all into a container and tucked it in the back of the freezer. I love the fresh from the maker softness, but I thought a few more hours of hardening (or, in official ice cream making terms, "ripening" but seriously? ripe? ice cream? let's just call it hard, okay?) would make it easier to serve. Besides, we weren't an extended family gathering in the backyard, we were going to be getting crabby if mama didn't make dinner soon. So the timing was perfect to make the ice cream earlier and then start right into dinner prep.

This has been the biggest hit since the first time I made cinnamon rolls, a few years ago, and finished them off with a powdered sugar icing and let the cat out of the bag that, yes, such delectable treats can be made, easily, right here at home. But that doesn't mean we're going to have them all the time! So stop asking! Special things are only special if you don't do them every ding day. But that's so much sugar and this is, still, healthy goat milk and not so much sugar and the unmistakable motor sound of an ice cream machine, the round and round and round whirring. I love that sound.

goat milk ice cream

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

quit yer bellyachin'

cucumber slice


Of course, of course, so soon as I whisper Cucumbers? What? How? My boy resumes his previous pace of consumption and I remember how right and delicious they are, sliced, alone, and doused with Goddess dressing.

Maybe the No Cooking part throws me off because (this is just between you and me, right?) for vegetarians, we don't eat a lot of raw vegetables here. And by "we" I mean "they" because I'm just one quarter of this gig. And this is funny because if you knew us when we made the leap from meat eating to not, you might remember that we did it with gusto. We were more Raw than not and every morning began with reconstituted barley grass juice.

Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you about why we stopped eating meat and why I still don't. But today I just want you to know one thing: almost everything is more beautiful when held up to the sun.

I miss August already. The light is changing, the evening more illuminated, in that glowy late summer way. I have to remind myself, I have to absolutely say out loud to myself, Be Here Now. Notice the beguiling shimmer of every plant at seven p.m. and do not stop to wonder about the missed sunrise or the passing of another month or how it's all going to possibly work out. Because this golden halo, this preternatural light, is the most important thing.