Monday, April 28, 2014

Real food

I have always loved chicken.
I also love chickens, but that's another matter.
I remember as a child, cleaning off the chicken carcass until there was not a scrap of meat left. Dad always said we didn't need a dog in the house because we had me. I just loved meat that much. Pork crackling, chicken skin, the parson's nose, beef gristle, tongue, you name it, I slurped it up. Except for innards. I have never done innards. 
And today, my dad would be proud.

Having bought three (!) Costco rotisseried chickens on Good Friday, I was left with massive amount of which to dispose after the feast. Bethany nabbed one of the carcasses to make stock (after telling me I should clean off all the meat because she wouldn't) (but she makes her mama proud nevertheless) and I decided to try canning some good homemade stock from the other two. 
Jeff was out of town for most of last week, so I ate leftovers until Thursday, and after that I couldn't make another bite of mashed potato and chicken go past my lips.
I just couldn't.
So I threw the carcasses and some leftovers veggies and an onion into the stockpot and boiled it all for about 24 hours. The plan was to be brave and can up the stock on Friday, but the day got away from me. We were heading to the beach for a bit of a relax, so I got it all ready and put it back in the fridge.
I arose this morning and knew I was doomed to face the pressure cooker today. I could procrastinate no longer. Fear was in my heart, as it always is when I contemplate using the beast.
But darned if I didn't get it done, after talking to a couple of friends and Google and reading the manual.
And look what's sitting on my kitchen counter while seven more bubble away in the canner and Crystal Gayle plays on the stereo.

I think they are purely beautiful.
And with a bit of extra stock and some carrot water and the last of the mashed potatoes and carrots, I made some soup which I ate for lunch and will eat for lunch again tomorrow.

The only thing that would make it better is if I could share a bowl with Dad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter came and went....

...and all that's left are the Cadbury mini-eggs and Lindt bunnies that I nabbed from the post-holiday sales.
Oh, and the memories. Mustn't forget the memories!
I was busy in the kitchen most of the day, so photos are sporadic. Luckily, I thought to send Jenny outside with my camera during the hunt.

I found a lady who was making these minion crocheted egg covers for only $2 each, so I had her make up seven different ones. They were a bigger hit than I expected. I love it when the grandkids are thrilled with little things.

Kenzie spent the first half of the weekend helping me make peanut butter eggs to put inside them. They were awfully yummy, covered in dark chocolate and less sweet than the Reese's variety, which I can hardly eat any more. I even came up with a peanut/milk-free version for Josh, using tahini and chocolate soy butter.
I know, I'm perfectly brilliant. 

Bethany has taken over the responsibility for the egg hunt, and Jeff and Chris hid the eggs. Madelyn got to find some eggs before the general melee of the other six hitting the turf. I think she quite enjoyed it! 

She had missed her nap and was on the grumpy side, hence the binkie in the mouth.
Desperate times call for desperate measures!
Don't you love the looks of longing on the faces of the older kids?

Pardon the brown, dead grass. The lawn and I had a long conversation about its proliferation of dandelions and rogue grasses, and the lawn lost.

There commenced an overabundance of sugar inhalation.
Before dinner.
Stickiness and elation abounded.

It was better than Halloween. 

I had the ingenious idea of buying Costco rotisserie chickens for dinner, which worked out rather well. I bought them on Friday and they reheated wonderfully. Cheaper, easier, and more delicious than just about anything.

These are some bug-shaped gluten/dairy-free rolls I made for Josh and Bethany.
I'm getting the hang of this stuff.

Hope your Easter celebration was full of good memories.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Married to amazement

Three very dear friends of mine have passed from this earth in the last few months, all younger than I and after long illnesses. News of the passing of other acquaintances is becoming a regular topic of conversation in my circles of friends. Each one leaves a hole in the fabric of my life, so that sometimes I feel I am unraveling. 

Not that I want to make their deaths all about me, you understand. 
It's just that sometimes I wonder, Why not me?
Maybe next time it will be me. Or the time after that. 
And I think that maybe I should live differently, with an eye to eternity, instead of today. And I want to give away money and be nicer to the annoying survey person on the phone or my husband when he irritates me or the person next to me in line at the supermarket, who reeks of cigarette smoke and is coughing all over me.

On Monday, on a whim, I started to clear out a big pile of newspaper and magazine articles that I have accumulated over the years. Home improvement, gardening, crafts, recipes, and all kinds of useful tips. Most of them were pre-internet, because nowadays a simple bookmark will do the trick. I feel a need to clear out the unimportant, so that when my girls have to decide what to keep and what to toss, they will only be greeted with beautiful and useful things. 

Somehow, it doesn't feel morbid, just another way of being prepared. 

The book club at our local library read poetry this month instead of fiction. I chose a collection of Mary Oliver's, remembering this poem that impressed me a few years ago. I only read the first few poems, but this one I love, particularly the line, "all my life I was a bride married to amazement."

That's how I want to be.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes 
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common 
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, 
tending, as all music does, toward silence,  

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, 
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

All that glitters is not gold

'Twas Jeff's birthday on Saturday, so we spent the weekend at his favourite place in the whole world. I know the next three photos are almost exactly the same, but if you look closely at the gong in the upper right corner of the photos, you can see how hard the wind was blowing. From inside the house, it's kind of comforting to hear the low-pitched vibration that the gong emits in high winds.

Last spring, we would remark to the locals on the terrific winds we were experiencing out at the Ranch, and they would say, "Oh, it's very unusual for this time of year," and we eventually decided that they were all in denial. So now, whenever gale force winds start up again (almost every day) Jeff is wont to say, "Yes, it's very unusual for this time of year," and we both crack up. 
We are easily amused.

I suggested a trip down to Bend, which is Central Oregon's shopping mecca. Jeff had requested a tie-tac for his birthday and I hadn't been able to find one. A nice lunch and a walk to the top of Pilot Butte were also on the agenda, not necessarily in that order.

The first time we saw Pilot Butte was in the mid-90's, when we chaperoned Bethany's band trip to Bend. It stuck in my memory, being such a pronounced bump on the otherwise flat landscape of the town. At that time, it was fairly isolated, but now it is surrounded by houses and businesses.

The wind was fierce and we thought that perhaps we wouldn't brave the steep mile to the top, but it was such a lovely clear day and lots of other people seemed to be doing it, so we did too. I had to wear my baseball cap backwards so that it didn't blow away and I looked like a real dork.

It doesn't look very high, and in fact it is only 500 feet above the surrounding land, but it is at almost a mile above sea level and I find it harder because of that.

Junipers are the prevailing timber. This must be an old one. The trunk has a lovely patina that only age can bestow.

The view from the top wasn't astounding, mostly buildings and mountains in the distance, but it was a fun little detour anyway.

We walked down the paved road instead of the rocky nature trail, given my tendency towards disaster on rocky downward trails.

We headed straightly to McGrath's Fish House, to fill our starving bellies. 
We both had a bowl of clam chowder and Jeff had a seafood platter.
He wasn't going to share, but he caved.
Those baby blues, right there is one of the first things I loved about him, way back when.

Mm-m. Cod, prawns, scallops and clams.

We were very full, but indulged in dessert anyway. Jeff had marionberry cobbler and I, a German Chocolate brownie with ice cream.  

We were disgustingly satiated and barely had enough energy to shop for a tie-tac, so it was lucky we found some at the second place we tried. Macy's, if you care.

There was a sign that said "40% off" on top of the stand upon which the tie-tacs resided. It wasn't perfectly clear if it applied to the jewelry or not, so when they rang up full price at the register, I pointed it out to the cashier. "Yes, it is a bit confusing," he said, and took off that 40%, which suited my little cheapskate self quite well.

Yesterday, this arrived in the mail from Annie's crew in North Carolina. I believe it is showcasing the artistic talents of three-year-old Elsie. 
Some things are priceless.