Friday, July 22, 2011

Discovering the brook

It was hot. Too hot. We sat on the front porch, flicking mosquitoes and melting into our beers. "What can we do?" I said.

"We can... I dunno," said Patrick. Coming up with things to do is my department.

"We can... take a bike ride, go get ice cream, build a campfire, open a bottle of wine, take a walk, go to the state park," I offered.

"Hmmm-mm," said Patrick, encouragingly.

But that wasn't it. I didn't want ice cream or a camp fire. It was definitely too hot for a bike ride. I sighed. "I just want to play in a creek." I grew up on a creek, or brook, actually. It was probably the best thing about my childhood. I've been drawn to them ever since. I put my chin on my hand to think. I consulted my beer.

Gilbertsville has two creeks. The larger of the two, Butternut Creek, makes big lazy S-curves east of town. The second, a mossy, athletic sort of creek is called Dunderberg Brook. It runs straight through the heart of the village, flanked on both sides by ten-foot-tall century-old stone walls. Up behind the stone church, I knew, it gives in to wildness, flowing through a shady gorge fringed with hemlocks. This is where we headed, in shorts and creek-approved sandals, yesterday evening.

We discovered the brook. For that magic hour between sunset and full dark, we clambered upstream on smooth brown rocks and slick mossy banks. We admired schools of trout fry in the shallows, and watched crayfish scuttle away into the silt. 

A big part of why I love Patrick has to do with magic. We explore things together, and though I'm usually the more emphatic half of the couple, Patrick's quiet, laid back nature lets me get carried away in celebrating things like crayfish and trout fry. He is quiet, and the magic unfolds around us.

On a little shelf of land sticking out from an inside curve, we passed a stone fireplace and bench thoroughly upholstered with moss. It had been there a long time-- a fixture, we imagine, of the childhoods and young adolescences of Gilbertsvillians for many generations. We paused and explored, wondering how many of our middle-aged neighbors celebrated here as young men and women.

With twilight deepening, we decided it was probably better to not chance a turned ankle on slippery rocks in the dark. We turned around. We trudged back towards home, our water-logged sandals squidging behind us. I don't know what Patrick was thinking of-- but for myself, I was completely caught up in knowing our kids might enjoy a creek as the best thing about their childhoods. And thrilled that an evening of crayfish hunting and creek splashing is only a few blocks away for me.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eggs-and-greens wraps with lemon herb sauce

I'm a greens person. I have to confess. There's nothing I love more than a pile a rich, silky greens cooked into submission, with lots of oil and garlic and preferably eggs, too. And if not eggs, cheese. Fortunately, this little garden of mine is cranking out the green goodness like that's its job, and I'm all too delighted to swoop in to gobble it up. Every night this week, dinner has started with a trip out to the garden, paring knife and salad spinner in hand, knowing that with a few key staples in the fridge (cooked beans, wraps, feta, eggs) I could turn out something reasonably delicious in under twenty minutes. This one, I thought, surpassed "reasonably delicious" and shot straight to "really delicious." So, I will share it with you. It's perfect for anyone growing a garden-- even if your garden is just a pot of fresh herbs by the back steps. The herbs are the best part. This comes together quickly and is endlessly adaptable.

Here's how I did mine.

Eggs-and-Greens Wraps with Lemon Herb Sauce

1/2 cup assorted fresh herbs, minced. I used a mix of basil, dill, cilantro, sorrel, and parsley. 
2 tbsp mayo
1 tbsp lemon juice (or to taste)
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp horseradish sauce (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Steamed kale or chard, or raw spinach
Chopped raw broccoli
2 fried, poached, or hard-boiled eggs per wrap

Spread an ample quantity of sauce on a 10" wrap. Add a modest pile of vegetables, and top with eggs. Roll up and eat. 

Of course, you need not limit yourself to the vegetables listed above. Sauteed zucchini would work-- and you better believe I have zucchini on my brain this week, after carrying in five fat ones stacked like stovewood in my arms last night!-- as would steamed green beans or snap peas, and some slices of tomato. 

That's all for now, folks. I have a strong feeling the next several recipes I post will contain zucchini...

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Renewing my faith in humankind

Remember that I mentioned, a couple weeks ago, that I'd received some Anna Maria Horner fabric in the mail? Well. It was an experience coupled with an ordeal capped off by a whole lotta elation. Now that it's all played out, let me tell you the story.

The short version is: beautiful fabric went on sale, I ordered some, my order got mildly screwed up, I emailed customer service. I almost didn't email-- I knew my email wouldn't be read by some faceless employee in a huge fabric warehouse; I knew the email would be going straight to Anna herself, to her lovely attic studio abode, and that it would probably hit home a lot, and that it might even hurt. But, I emailed. I was kind, and also honest. 

Within ten minutes I was refunded for the missing fabric. Almost as briskly, a heartfelt email detailing the ins and outs of why and how my order got screwed up appeared in my inbox, from Anna Maria herself. I was mollified, and grateful, and impressed. But, somehow... somehow... and I'm sure you understand, a missing half-yard of fabric was worth way more than the $6 I'd paid for it. The $6 which had been refunded. It had intrinsic value far beyond its monetary worth. I wanted to hold it. I wanted to pet it. I wanted it live.

Silly me, though. The email wasn't over. "Please just let us know a few of your favorite fabrics," she wrote, "and we will send you a textile apology in the mail."

Textile apology. The sweetest possible words. I got all hot and bothered and spinny-eyed. I went and ogled my very favorite fabrics in the whole entire world, again, for the privilege of receiving a surprise. I LOVE surprises, but I'm also very good at ruining them. (Ask Patrick sometime about the day he proposed.) This one, I knew, I couldn't ruin.

I wondered at what would arrive, and when, and how much. Then I got a package.

And like, woah. I sat on my porch and I petted my fabric and I got all teary. It was like one of those dreams in high school when you're suddenly making out with your big crush while the whole school looks on jealously... what? You didn't have dreams like that? Oh well, never mind.

The piece on the right there-- Baby Bouquet Sweet-- was the cause of the screw-up. They'd sold out, completely, before shipping out my order, hence the missing half-yard. But then-- happy day!-- Anna Maria and her able assistant discovered a Baby Bouquet Sweet deposit (I imagine somewhere in the colorful jumble of the attic studio) and sent it on its way. Along with-- oh yeah, that's right-- about a yard and a half additional fabric, for free, because this isn't some faceless fabric warehouse, this is Anna Maria's studio, where one stinkin' half yard of fabric and one stinkin' screwed up order is enough to warrant a whole avalanche of kindness and beauty. 

That's the story. If you want me, I'll just be sitting on my porch with my mouth hanging open, petting my fabric. 

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Monday, July 18, 2011


Our weekend consisted of...

 :: Our Favorite Summer Breakfast. Yogurt, homemade granola, and berries.

:: Watching a neighborhood cat (middle) trying to make friends with Pete and Ophelia. Skeptical, confused looks all 'round.

:: A picnic with baby toes! The best kind.

:: Hoeing asparagus with the awesome hand-claw-hoe thingy my parents gave me. Digging in horse manure and mulching with shredded leaves.

:: Standing back to admire, and wipe sweat, and wave away sweat bees, and imagine the day when my garden will fill that whole view...

How was your weekend?

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

In the garden

We're getting pretty close now to the most wonderful time of the year: the time when we cross over from "a little of this and that" to abundance. Walking in the garden, I'm all smiles. Green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini are loaded with flowers and immature fruit. It's the best possible kind of ticking time bomb.

Broccoli figures prominently in next week's meal plan. Our favorite: whole wheat wraps with raw broccoli, spinach, a little salsa, and a fried egg with melted cheddar. Oh yeah.

I have many, many good seasons of growing ahead of me on this land. It feels so good to have begun.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

In the bedroom

Our bedroom as it was, the week after move-in.

It happens every summer. The thrill and delight for stepping on shovels, for digging and hauling, for having dirty fingernails slowly ebbs, with the evening light, so there's just a little less each day. And as it goes, slowly, slowly too there's the trickling in (or rather, trickling back, like the tide) of a desire to be nesting

That's really a good thing, because about the time the garden-passion starts to ebb, the "Oh my GOD the house is a wreck!"- thoughts begin to rear their ugly head. 

It felt so good to focus on the inside, yesterday evening. Oddly, the bedroom is the one room of the house that's really beginning to pull together. I think it's because I've had the clearest vision of that room, from the start, and so it's just a matter of connecting dots. In most of the other rooms, there are still decisions to be made, options to be considered. In the bedroom, things are falling into place.

Patrick helped me put the bed skirt I made on the bed before leaving for rehearsal. It's a little wonky, admittedly very wrinkled, but I'm really loving the contrast with the dark floor. I made it out of two queen-size sheets I thrifted for $2, which allowed me to skip out of having to pay $80+ for a pre-made bed skirt. Who in their right mind would do that? I wanted something so basic, I just screwed up my courage (knowing it would be an extremely boring, repetitive project--and it was!) and got it done.

And I should mention-- the bed frame is one of those super-cheapo metal ones that we outfitted with a big piece of plywood (because we don't have a box spring) and nice long wooden legs (courtesy of my dad at Brookside Woodworking). I am thrilled. But that's me. I get thrilled whenever awesome results are achieved with a $20 bed frame and $2 sheets.

The lamps I picked up at a yard sale last year for $10/pair; the shades were scooped up last week as part of Home Depot's lighting sale for $9 apiece. I made the throw pillows. The dressers came to us, for free, by way of my wonderful in-laws and good connections. The duvet cover (sans duvet) was part of the guest room in our old house. The pictures leaning against the wall everywhere ended up getting hung on the walls right after I took this picture (it was getting dark) and I love them. They're from Puerto Rico; a nice souvenir of a trip there when I was twenty.

I really, really love the curtains. They need to be hemmed-- small potatoes-- but so far I'm enjoying rolling over in the mornings and watching the sun and leaf-shadows playing through the delicate flower-printed voile. They look more washed-out in the pictures than they do in real life. That, I think, is the best part of the whole room.

Here's what's left:
  • Find a pair of nightstands so Patrick's lamp doesn't sit on the floor and I don't have to use a chair for mine.
  • Refinish an old door (from Binghamton) and hang as a "headboard" on the wall over the bed.
  • Hem curtains
  • Hang a full-length mirror on the wall by the door (just to the left in the picture above).
  • Buy a wastepaper basket
  • Swap current light fixture (ugly gold "boob light") for chic ceiling fan. Retire oscillating fan to closet.
  • Find a rug-- perhaps a runner for each side of the bed?
It's such piece-of-mind having one room beginning to feel like home. Well, the whole house feels like home-- I smile every time I see the dining room light fixture or the flower wall-- but in the bedroom, things are taking shape. Chaos is ceding to order, to chosen details that add up to contentment. 

And that, friends, is what nesting is all about.

Anyone have any door-as-headboard war stories to share? How does it work? Most importantly, what color should I paint mine? 

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Two-week Update

Raspberry progress! Some of 'em even have flowers.

Well, it's been two weeks since the last one, so I guess it's time for another veggie garden update!

The scene two weeks ago:

Pretty amazing, isn't it? Like, two weeks ago you could see dirt--lots of dirt-- and now you can't. At all. It's gone. The deer who came for two consecutive nights and "topped off" my green beans and peas have been kept at bay, so far, by a combination of aluminum pie plates (pictured) and some 100% organic deer repellent spray, which smells pleasantly like rosemary. The green beans have completely recovered; you can't even tell they got eaten they grow so fast. 

I've been picking peas and eating peas. I made our old standard sesame baked tofu with snap peas over the weekend, and a pretty slammin' pea-and-radish salad with feta and mint the other night. I don't know why I love pea season so much-- certainly, there are other veggies I like more. Maybe it's because they're the first veggie each year to go from seed to sprout to bud to flower to fruit? Whatever the reason, each year my reverence is renewed. 

We've also been eating salad, salad, salad; garlic braised greens; spinach frittata; and the occasional mint leaf straight off the plant. All the while, watching the broccoli crowning, the zucchini buds swelling, the little green tomato-marbles appearing amongst the leaves.  It's thrilling, and unlike last year, this year I can dream of making everything a little bit bigger next year. Oooh baby. I dream of potatoes and sweet corn rows, and enough beans to dry some for winter. We're only just beginning...

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yay, Progress

I was just telling Patrick last night that we need another summer. A double summer. After a few moments (and a few more sips of wine), I revised that declaration. What we need, I decided, was double the summer weekends. Is anyone with me, here? We've been spending our weekends outside, by and large-- Patrick at festivals, and myself in the garden-- or out having fun, which has had one very predictable consequence: nothing is getting done inside. Boxes still need to be unpacked. Refinished furniture projects are piling up in the back bedroom. We haven't cleaned since the party. ::Shudder:: I can't go much farther down this list before I begin feeling the need to sit and breathe deeply into a paper bag, so I'll stop there. Life is a long time, Kristina, I tell myself, wheezing at the piled-up laundry, the weedy flowerbeds, the unpacked boxes.

As an alternative to wheezing, let's focus on the things that are getting done, shall we? Last week sometime, we met after work at a very lovely very hoity toity overpriced nursery in Binghamton. And Patrick gave me a late anniversary present. He let me make a pile on the counter, and then he nodded and handed the lady some money and I got to take the pile home and plant everything in my garden.

I kept wandering back and forth from the counter to the nether reaches of the nursery, returning with a couple of this or that to contribute to the pile, looking at Patrick, begging for him to impose some limit on me. Because that, I knew, was the only way to keep me from going nuts. 

In the end, I came home with a fernleaf bleeding heart, two Japanese painted ferns, two frosted brunnera (on sale!), and one fat, sassy pot of lady's mantle. The larger shrubby things are oakleaf hydrangeas I bought two weeks back (and forgot to blog), at the same hoity toity nursery. It's a big improvement, I think, from this:

(Funny. I took this picture just before I planted the hydrangeas. You can actually see one off to the right, sitting on the lawn. How's that for keeping it real?)

The sedums have been relocated, as have the ferns, and a whole lot of weedy nonsense headed for the compost pile. 

I still have tons of space, and lots more weedy nonsense to cart off. And this is where the life is a long time part comes in-- I can't afford to fill all that space up this year, so I will let it be. Life is a long time, and a journey, and so I will take lots of pictures of this happy, maintained, attractive corner, and do my best to ignore weedy nonsense. After all, there will be an anniversary next year, too...

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Received Anna Maria Horner fabric in the mail (= bliss.)

Spent a whole Saturday driving to Binghamton and loading and unloading the truck again. An iced latte, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, lunch in the "old neighborhood," and time with my sweetie made it the nicest of days.

Was thankful for tables full of understanding customers Saturday night, who forgave me when the kitchen ran out of steak.

Left Gilbertsville in the pouring rain Sunday, embraced beautiful, glorious weather on the other side of the state.

Ate and drank and then ate and drank some more, and enjoyed fireworks over the lake.

Coasted back home yesterday, thankful for family, food, and a rare summer weekend with Patrick.

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