Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There's magic happening in my kitchen

And the magic has come in the form of a new kitchen gadget. It's taken me 10 months since I received this as a gift to use it, but I wanted it for the apple season. And I'm putting it to use. Behold, the magic apple peeler-corer-slicer.

I've been using it on debate nights. It seems it's on those evenings I'm working in the kitchen with apples, cranking, cranking, CRANKING while the candidates are cranking, cranking, CRANKING.

Me and my apple peeling on debate nights
I've made applesauce, apple butter, and curried apple chutney. The applesauce and apple butter couldn't be easier...

Fill your crockpot up with the sliced apples, add 1/2 cup of water, and cook on low overnight. In the morning, you awake to the scent of an applesauce factory. Just season with cinnamon and if you need it, sugar, and then use an emersion/immersion blender to whirl that into a fine sauce. That's your applesauce. If you're continuing your journey to applebutter, throw in a few cups of sugar and some great spices of cinnamon, allspice, maybe a dash of cardamom, and continue to cook it down. This time, prop the lid up a bit to let the steam out, and after another 4 hours or so, you'll have the consistency of apple butter.

And look how beautiful apples are. I can't resist taking their picture.
Apples are beautiful

Here's a secret for you. This overnight method for the applesauce is primo perfect: it means you can make pancakes for breakfast and have them with freshly made, hot applesauce.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dinner with Rudy

Rudy showed up right on time. It helped that AdRi went to pick him up. He had inquired if it would be a fancy dinner, and we had assured him it was not. We discovered two pomegranate’s on the front porch, left for us by our friend G., and Rudy and I cut into one and figured out together how to get the juicy seeds out. He asked what you’re supposed to do with the seeds in the center of the juicy bits, and I told him you eat them. He wasn’t so sure about that. But he was intent on cleaning out that piece of pomegranate and worked it until each seed was out. He declared he wouldn’t want to go to all of that work himself, but if I wanted to pick them out and give him a baggy with those seeds in it I could. Ha! That Rudy is a jokester.

The weather has been warm and just right for walking. Rudy said he had been outside that day, and had set up his chair in the sun. I know exactly where that chair is. A plastic white chair in the driveway, where the light reflects on the white house and the white cement: it's a perfect spot to warm up.

Rudy is worried about the winter. “I just hate it,” he says. “Nothin’ to do but sit around and watch TV.” He gets bored. As a man who lived his life fishing rivers and climbing around outdoors, winter, alone, in your 90’s, is not the best of times. I told him not to worry and we’d have him over to visit.

A green salad with a vinaigrette made from our blueberry basil vinegar was a hit. Tangy and sweetened with a little honey, I showed Rudy the bottle of homemade vinegar. Our homemade tomato sauce was used in the lasagna, and apples gifted from Mark and Rodger starred in a dessert of apple pie. Rudy had seconds of lasagna: he says his girlfriend tells him he’s too skinny.

We talked and talked, about his childhood, about his children, about growing up with a father who was once a farmer and then a longshoreman. I had never noticed Rudy was missing three fingers, and when I asked, he told the story. They had gotten caught in a mill he worked, and cut clean off.

Bringing up politics is always interesting. And I brought out the camera so his words could be delivered to you directly. I asked him who he was going to vote for and this is what Rudy said.

Obamer. I love that part.
More here.

I’m so proud to know a smart, wise, funny old man named Rudy. And now you know him too.

P.S. You can help seniors in the Portland area by eating out this Thursday at Widmer Brothers Gasthaus. Half of all proceeds benefit the Meals-On-Wheels organization, Loaves & Fishes.
Thursday, October 30, 4-10pm, 95 N. Russell.
Rudy gets Meals on Wheels and is proud to say he eats a salad every day because of it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Listening to it all

I couldn’t sleep last night. It was 2:33 AM. Tossing in my bed, I knew this feeling. I used to wake up at times like this and not be able to sleep. Constantly. But it had been 2 years since my nights were filled with sleeplessness, and my stress levels were now lower. It was odd. I hovered at the edge of sleep, couldn’t get comfortable. Too hot, too cold. This went on for an hour or two.

Sleeping in that morning I was out cold. When I finally did awake, I felt odd. Out of sorts. The sleeplessness bothered me because it was a rarity now, of something that used to be familiar. Why had it returned? Why was it bothering me?

The news of the fire came mid day. Another fire in another old house at another neighbor. This one, just two blocks away. Just one street over from ours. A woman died, a woman was critically injured. The firefighters arrived to hear sobbing. The body of one was found near the door. Tragedy. Absolute tragedy.

I looked at the time of the fire. It was my sleeplessness. I hadn’t heard the sirens, or engines or voices, that I could remember. Which surprises me. Maybe I had smelled the smoke. But whatever happened two blocks away, shook me inside. And I’m troubled by that. I’m troubled by their struggle to get out of their burning house, and the fighting of it so hard that shook me inside to wake up.

It feels like a precious time. An odd time. A time to listen to yourself and to your insides. To trust yourself. To help others. To be kind.

And it’s time to check your smoke detectors.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Can you feel it?

I felt it. The chill that enters your elbows, spreads along your arms and down your legs. It makes your nose water. I smelled it. In the musky layering of freshly fallen leaves, cinnamon and smoke. I may have heard it, but I don't remember. I think that is yet to come when Wink and I crunch across the leaves, or listen to the pounding rain. Aaah, then I did hear it on my car's sunroof, shut for the season but still a window directly up to the sky.

And I've seen it. In the deep blue night sky.
sparkles and the deep autumnal sky

In the warming of the colors of the fields.
the colors in fall are golden, red, and deep

In the angle of the light and sun. Golden, warm, nostalgic, bittersweet. The color of mustard and the late bloom of an orange dahlia.
autumn light

In the licking flames of a bonfire.
autumn bonfire

And of a produce stand turned into a concert venue.
music in the produce market

Of pumpkins and a night time tractor ride.
nighttime on a tractor

And the blur of a cornfield as lit at night by farm equipment.
corn at night

It's time to warm by the fire and watch the sparksfly, hold hands and dig out those gloves and matching scarves. For wearing things with texture, like corduroy and nubby sweaters and suede boots. It's time to live, and to love each other. And to be warmed.
sparks fly

Friday, October 17, 2008

A visit to a wonderfully abundant place

My latest Sassy Gardener column hits the streets today. You can read it online, but if you want to see the photos from my visit, you can see them here in Flickr.
The farmers in their element
I have to say how fortunate I feel, to visit and write about such wonderful people like Rodger and Mark. I've "known" them from online for awhile, and have been such great resources to me in learning canning. They have always been so generous in sharing what they know, and visiting them in their garden, was no different. I left with more jam, and some apples, and just a really wonderful feeling of content. I hope the story reflects that. I think they're pretty fantastic people. Thank you, Rodger and Mark, for sharing your garden with me. And now my readers, too, you lucky people.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I didn't get the memo: it's take your kid to work day

And they've all decided to join me today. The family that works together, stays together.
Bring your kid to work day
And why yes, Wink does like to stretch out and get comfortable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It’s within.

Plug n Play
All the fuel you need to drive the songs of yesteryear back into your blood, back into your brain, back into your realm of understanding, is within. The electroshock therapy of late (and not so late for those who have served so much longer) will dissipate. But our prints in sticks meant to prevent the shattering of teeth will always remain. There are patterns there in the indents, a Braille of history we need to remind each other to read from time to time.

But the music is starting. Actual strings of notes—F major melting into the haunting of an E minor and back to the buoyancy of C. And they will push away the buzz of old circuitry. And they will ignore the old gauges that indicate a drying up of the supply.

Tap the reserves friends, because we are almost there. Speak and forge and touch and reach out. They are the tools no one can strip away or break. The jukebox is gonna play number C3 soon and you’re gonna wanna dance.

(This is a guest post by my wickedly talented friend Kristin Steele. It's a riff she made on the photo I took.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

A different kind of harvest: hydrangeas

hydrangea harvest
So much of my garden writing has been about edibles this year. Due to the economy, eating local movement, and our increased focus in the past several years in growing more of our own food, we've removed more grass and planted more tomato plants. But when we first built our garden, I was focused on ornamental gardening, and we still grow tons and tons of ornamentals. And hydrangeas are one reason.

I could wax poetic on my love of the old flopsy mopsies. They're classic beauties, and this time of year the flowers on our Nikko Blue turn these wonderful antique colors. Once bright blue in July, they've faded to this gorgeous green, antiqued with purple, and before they dry up to a crisp brown with the onset of winter, this year I harvested them.

And what better to do with the harvest than to can them?

canning hydrangeas

I couldn't help it. The jars fit the bill perfectly. The thing about drying hydrangeas is that they'll just dry right there in place like that. Their color will fade a little, and I won't keep them longer than a few months, but until then, our dining room is filled with the harvest of hydrangeas, and the irony of a mantel decorated with canning jars.

hydrangeas at their best

Thursday, October 09, 2008

There's more than one way to look at it

things are looking up
I'm trying not to get caught up in the anti-Palin hoo ha. But it's pretty hard. I keep saying to myself that every time I say her name, I'm giving her more attention. And what I really should be doing is focusing on why Obama is my candidate and that the Obama/Biden ticket is a better choice for the future of my country. (It's the PR voice inside of me.)

Instead, I've joined the "Women Going to Hell" group in Facebook.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On the other side of the world

Dad and LiLee
Originally uploaded by 4 Corners1

Walking along, hand in hand, one step at a time.

My lucky parents are visiting my sister and her family on the other side of the world. Australia, to be exact. I just saw these photos in my sister's Flickr this morning, and thought it was such a wonderful one.

I used to walk the Ventura pier when I was a little girl. My heart would race and pound when I looked down. Between the slats I could see the ocean, and the water pounding the barnacles covering the pier posts. I'd hold my breath and step one slat at a time. Concentrating. Concentrating.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K

nature comes indoors

As seasons shift, the rains have started, and intriguing things are occuring in my life. Work, home, interactions. I feel like I just need to take it all in, welcome it, and find ways to give back the sweetness that is coming my way. I want to be a conduit for this good stuff, not a block: take it in, give it out. Give it out, and take it in. Kind words, money, friendship, good things. I'm not sure what all this means, that's the kind of time it is. Chaos, but good chaos. I think it's tied into the political landscape and economy as well. Crazy weird times, no? Be good to each other when strange things are afoot and be gentle. But please, don't wink at me when you speak: I may want to punch you.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fritillaria and alliums and other flowers with two Ls

allium Christophii
No, there is no break for the weary. Not yet, anyway. Preserving food, lots of work, volunteer obligations, things are still going strong. And I'm not complaining. The nice thing about writing my Sassy Gardener column is that time just keeps marching on and I've got to keep thinking and writing about gardening. So I've been thinking about bulbs. Have you? You know now's the time to be getting those spring bloomers into the ground. Bulbs are the topic in my latest Sassy Gardener column, and I'm even giving recommendations if you have problems with squirrels eating your bulbs. There are some bulbs they don't like and won't eat. Those are the ones I'm interested in.

Have I ordered or purchased my own bulbs yet? Of course not. Have I been oogling some online? Of course I have. Do I need to get my butt in gear and get on that? Of course I do. It's on the list people. Go get some tips and even some gentle instructions for newbies on which side is up when it comes to your bulbs. It's okay. We've all been there.

I've got some fritillaria and alliums to order.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hi ho, it's LeLo on the Radio

I have no idea what I said because it's all just a blur. Really. I have no idea. I'll have to go back and listen to it sometime this weekend. Maybe. I think I said some nice things about my mom and her canning. But it was fun and I was just very honored to be there with the amazing Harriet Fasenfest of Preserve. Her economic theories and connections to food preservation are right on and exactly the reasons why I've been exploring canning this year. There are those people who get it when it comes to canning. And there are those people who don't and who would rather play golf. And that's okay. But Harriet gets it. She really gets it.

I loved that my Twitter friends commented on the blog there, and shared such wonderful stories and their thoughts about preserving as well. You can read the fantastic comments here, and if you'd like to listen to the show, you can listen to it online here. (the first 20 minutes or so are a follow up to a previous story)

The only thing I regret is not being able to work in the new saying my friend Loraine taught me earlier this week about the abundance of the harvest. It's really the best. It's a little ditty. And it goes like this. "Eat what you can, and can what you can't." You need to pass that one on, don't you? Or at least say it out loud. Go on. It's a fun one.