Monday, June 28, 2010

Precious time

Periodically, I do this. I dream an occasion, a guest list, a menu. I load our house with cantaloupes, black cherries, bags of summer squash. Patrick handles the beer. I consecrate an entire weeks' worth of after-work home time to scrubbing, slicing, and baking, for the heady joy of making the people we love full and happy.

The Menu
Pita chips with baked eggplant dip
Grilled Veggie Panini
Black eyed pea salad

Our big second-story porch was filled to capacity. Bottles and glasses clinked. Cats and dog scurried underfoot, snatching crumbs and making new friends.
The cherry bowl dwindled. Twilight descended. The hydrangea flower centerpiece was lit by the glow of citronella.

Entertaining provides this great opportunity to smile and take stock, to say, yeah, we're happy, we're doin' alright. It's a perfect little social snapshot, an attempt at creating a pocket of memory. Here, tonight, this milky June twilight, these hydrangeas, this bowl of black cherries, this circle of friends, this is what is worth remembering. This is where it's at. This is love.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Things I did this week

1. I picked peas every day.

2. I scheduled a home inspection.
3. I made two pans of Cashew Butterscotch bars for a big crazy gathering of folks this weekend.
4. I dumped half a container of bean salad on my foot, swore loudly, and spent an hour sulking.

5. I cut into Anna Maria Horner voile, and started making a dress.
6. I wrote two articles, and made headway on a third.
7, I devised a menu for my friend's baby shower in two weeks, which I am catering.
8. I killed no less than two dozen houseflies.
9. I refrained from eating ice cream every day.
10. I announced a giveaway, which you still have time to enter!

Have a happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Announcement, and a giveaway!

Well, it never rains, it pours. This season has brought us many good things, along with our new house. I am pleased to announce that I've landed myself a spiffy little writing gig. So far, I've written articles on things like growing sprouts, making aprons, and shopping at the farmer's market, for an excellent little sustainability-minded site called Grow and Make. If this sounds like it's right up my alley, well, that would be the understatement of the century.

This means several things. One, in addition to wife, daughter, caretaker, barista, gardener, seamstress, and chef, I am also contributing editor. I quite like the sound of that one. Three jobs, though, goodness. How did that happen?

Thirdly, we are looking for contributors. Next week we're going to launch a sort of Sustainability Show and Tell series-- like the Design*Sponge before + after posts, only green. Anything from refashioning clothing to making stock to reupholstering a couch-- it's all fair game, as long as you've got pictures. If you'd like to be featured on Grow and Make, and get a cute little button for your blog, let me know at adiantumpedatum (at) yahoo (dot) com.

The real point of this post (now that I'm finally getting to it...) is a giveaway. It seems only right to host one in celebration of things--houses and dreams and new directions--and for you all. You've been out there-- some since the very beginning--commenting and cheering me on even in those days of single-digit hit counts and three followers. Your comments make my day like nothing else. You rock my socks! And so, this is for you.

The apron I am wearing in the picture is one I made for a Grow and Make article last week. It's refashioned from a button-down shirt. If you'd like to win it, leave a comment on this post before midnight, Monday, June 28th.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Spilling the beans

Okay, okay, okay. I can't keep it to myself anymore. I wrote this post nearly three weeks ago, and have been waiting, since then, for the jumping-through of many, many arbitrary hoops before sharing. Each one brought us another step closer. It felt amazing. It was lonely, too, keeping this under wraps, not being able to celebrate with you all, my bloggy community, and some of my closest friends.

When we walked through the front door for the first time, I wanted to prattle on to you all about how right it felt. When we signed the contract, I wanted to turn cartwheels. I wanted to tell you. When we walked around the property line two weeks ago, discovering neglected scraps of flower garden and berry bushes eager for resurrection, I wanted to jump up and down, and I wanted to tell you. I settled for an enthusiastic hug from Patrick, but I wanted to tell you.

So, I'm telling you. Here's the sapped-up, misty-eyed post I wrote three weeks ago.

The Future Shining Before Us

Nathan and I turned away... and saw the future shining before us.
The future we faced was no more than the old Cuthbert place, but it
shone before us. After all that had happened, I was almost
surprised to see that I was still a young woman. I was twenty-six.
Nathan was twenty-four. We were young and strong and full of
desire. When I looked with Nathan at his place, soon to be ours, we
saw it as it was and as it might be. We knew what we would ask of it.

We were ready for what it would ask of us.

~Wendell Berry, from Hannah Coulter

It must be said: we are buying a house. We went two weekends ago and walked around it, upstairs and down, inside and out, and there it was, that future shining before us. At least that's how I saw it. Patrick, who's undoubtedly more logical and less inclined to getting swept up in romance, was doing practical things like checking the foundation and the attic and the furnace. But me, I was walking around that big, grassy backyard, watching the shimmering visions of fruit trees, vegetable garden, tree house, clothesline and chicken coop: strong and joyous tenets of my future life as wife and mother.

This is what I was talking about a few weeks ago. And, for my Facebook friends, what I was "elated" about on Wednesday. We are one step closer. In reality, we aren't there yet, we aren't ready to shove off confidently in this new direction. We aren't quite ready to leave the friends and community we love. So, rest assured friends and community: we aren't going anyplace just yet. For the time being, the only changes are on paper, and in the bank.

But it's there, waiting for us. When we're ready to uproot ourselves and move someplace sweet and bucolic, to a town of clapboarded houses and calm tree-lined streets, it's there. Like a friendly, floating bulls eye, or an honest-to-goodness pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Those of you who know me well know I am rural at heart. I have lived in small cities for the past eight years of my life, squeezing my tomato plants and dreams of land in where I could, between rose bushes and sidewalks and too-tight city curbs. And I have managed. Not unhappily, either. Binghamton has been very, very good to us.

In my heart I live in a place where fireflies rise out of the fields at dusk, and breakfast comes in warm from the chicken coop. Where there's room for a clothesline, a tree fort, a hammock, a frisbee game, and whomping enormous garden. We have that place, now. A few more arbitrary hoops to jump through, still yet. But the contract is signed, the pot of gold awaits. And now we'll have many more friends keeping their fingers crossed along with us.

Hot and sunny, with a chance of strawberries

My weekend to-do list looked something like this:

1. Pick strawberries
2. Make jam
3. Drink beer at a friend's backyard BBQ
4. Pick peas
5. Improve tan lines
6. Sleep under white sheets to the hum of the ceiling fan

Proudly, mission accomplished. All of them. Nine little red jam-jars, bronze-ish forearms, a few new bug bites, even a hike thrown in for good measure.

And the perfect five-alarm sunset.

What makes up your quintessential summer weekend?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sesame Baked tofu with garden peas

The second-best thing about pea time is the eating. That says more about me than it does about the peas. For their own part, they are freaking delicious. Fresh off the vine or after a quick steam or saute, they are the best green candy you'll ever taste. But the best part, for me, is the picking. It feels the way I imagine communion must feel to happy Catholics-- whole and splendid. It routinely fills me with the sort of gratitude that makes my eyes well up, for no apparent cause other than these plants, these pea plants of mine are just giving giving giving. The selflessness of plants makes me tear up. Okay, but you already knew I was crazy, didn't you?

Anyhow, I'm actually not here to wax poetic about my magnaminous pea plants. I'm here to wax poetic about how good they tasted later, drizzled with sesame oil and tossed with baked tofu and brown rice. This dish I stole from The Moosewood Kitchen Garden, a wonderful cookbook no home gardener or avid farmers-market shopper should be without.

And for the tofu-phobes, I'm sure this would work splendidly with chicken. Maybe try drumsticks? Just a thought.

Sesame Baked Tofu with Garden Peas

1 cake extra firm tofu
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame oil

1/3 cup whole almonds

2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp freshly grated ginger

2 cups (or more) fresh snap peas, steamed until crisp-tender
2 scallions, sliced thinly (for garnish)

2 cups cooked brown rice

Place the tofu between two plates. Weight the top plate with something heavy, and let it press for half an hour. Come back, drain off the expressed liquid, and cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the tofu in a 9 x 13 baking dish with the oils and soy sauce. Bake for half an hour, turning once every ten minutes, until the tofu is beginning to brown at the edges.

Meanwhile, steam the peas, cook the rice, and combine the dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar. Spread the almonds on their own separate baking sheet, and slide them into the oven for five minutes, while you're cooking the tofu.

When the tofu and the rice are done, throw everything in with the tofu (see above), and mix well. Makes four servings.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We interrupt this program to present...

A mouse!

This was the scene in our dining room this morning: an extremely excited and proud Pete-cat strutting about on the floor, and an ever-so-scared effete little mouse perched on the curtain rod. Unfortunately, we had to disappoint the cat by gently herding the mouse into a glass vase and releasing him outside. I'm pretty sure Pete is at home right now, sitting on a chair and gazing fixedly at the spot where the mouse was, just a few short hours ago. Where did it go, where did it go? My breakfast mouse! Gone?

Ah, life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Perfect June

Yesterday evening, Patrick and I went for an after-work before-dinner hike. The sunshine was pleasant and warm; the air had that lightness it gets after a rain.

Raindrops clung to oak leaves; wild roses opened bashfully along the lakeshore. You could smell them without trying to.

Later, on the porch, we ate chickpea salad with garden lettuce, and ate a bowl of fresh cherries. I quietly revelled in the fact that every meal this week is going to have something from the garden in it.
Broccoli, peas, lettuce, arugula, spinach, chard. A bowl of fresh cherries on the porch. A calm and lovely little hike. Bright greens and blossoms everywhere. Oh, June.

Month of anniversaries, milestones, special birthdays, garden greens and new directions. My favorite.

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