Friday, December 30, 2011

Life 101–Settling into an exercise routine

Ben and I have finally settled into an exercise routine. Last year we worked at it for months, but never really lost any of our winter storage. This year we’re already progressing in our program faster and with more stamina than last year, though we got behind and lazy on our workouts during the holiday buildup leading to Christmas.

We started back at it on Monday and this week have worked our way through all five workout DVDs we bought last year. Yes, we’re stiff and sore, but tired enough of our storage tanks that we’re determined to tough it out and stick to the program.

Tomorrow we’re planning on going to soak in the hot springs at White Sulphur Springs. Ahhh! Time for a little reward.

The Writing Life

I’ve been working on an essay about the attempt I made trying to take care of my parents by taking them to their home of thirty three years rather than leaving them in the nursing  home. I had been working on a sci-fi short story connected to the novels I have mapped out for writing in the future, but the short story had too much depth and the characters were too complex to write all I needed to say in a short story without making the whole story seem trivial and superstitious. So I set that aside and started on the essay.

Personal experience essays, when as emotionally charged as this one is, are difficult to get down without sounding like a big whine. I’m still sorting some things out from the ordeal, but all that I need for this essay has passed. Trying to tell more would require a lot more paper. It’s not that I’m still emotionally wound up about what I consider a failed attempt to care for mom and dad (I’m not), but I am still figuring out how my story fits together to make it all seem logical.

I’m nearly done with the first draft. It’s taking a lot of mental energy working through the rough outlines and notes; adding and deleting what does and doesn’t belong in this essay gives me a headache. I keep wanting to tell other details, but that only confuses what this particular essay is about. I plan on finishing it this weekend, or by Monday at the latest.

When I write, I have to start out sitting away from the computer and writing out my notes; then, also with pencil and paper, I map out an outline. Then, still by hand, I write a rough draft. Finally, I revise it as I’m typing it on the computer, ending up with a first draft. Lately, I’ve been reworking the first draft a couple of times, then print it out and go over it again, making notes with a pencil. I repeat this a couple of times, then I get someone else to read it for clarity, flow and tone. I’m hoping that when I get this essay that far I can finalize it with the suggestions from my readers and start sending it off.

I need to get quicker, though. It takes me far too long to get something out.

So, off I go, back to work.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Life 101–Keys to Happiness

What drives us as individuals (what brings us happiness, satisfaction and contentment) is making progress, improving our selves and our lives. The best way to destroy hope and happiness is to prevent progress through rules, regulations and social norms. Certainly preventing progress conserves things as they are in a boxed-in, comfortable sort of way, but it destroys the human soul. People focus entirely on life after living, hoping for golden streets of happiness, but if we’re not allowed, by law or social stigma, to make life on earth filled with “golden streets of happiness,” then how can we expect to realize that in what comes after this? How can our reward be that when we’ve so strictly prevented it among our fellow earthly beings?

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Ah, the holiday season.

It helps to bring in the long, cold winter without so much dread: the storing of fat to be burned off next spring (and summer and fall), the parties and gatherings with family and friends to celebrate, the bright lights and cheery packages being exchanged.

But my favorite part of this season is the solstice, which promises the light will come back and with it, my energy level and ambition. I left the tree lights on last night and will do so again tonight to help quell the dark of the shortest day of the year. Today brings with it the promise that longer days, more energy and ambition will help me accomplish more. It’s all an illusion, of course. There are no more hours in a day, just more light hours. The diet will begin in a few days, so I’ll be fighting against my body’s desire to continue packing on the fat. And it will be months before the daylight hours will make enough of a difference to truly note it.

But it is a new beginning with real meaning.

I have long wondered why the new year doesn’t correlate with the solstice. The timing of the new year has nothing to do with anything tangible besides a paper calendar. Our lives revolve around the sun just as our planet does.

So, I guess the calendar doesn’t really matter. What matters right now is that the days will no longer continue to be shorter, the nights longer. Today is the bottom of the cycle and this year it is mostly sunny and beautiful in spite of being so cold this morning that the old, blind rooster didn’t rouse when I reached in to give him food and fresh, warm water. Now, midmorning already, the sun is above the mountains and warming the world around me. The magnificence of this world is gleaming in the light of the shortest day of the year. And (no, I’m not ignoring what the rest of the winter will bring) it can only get better from here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Life 101–Genetics in Motion

Years ago we planted a pair of twin lodgepole pines outside the studio window where I sit each winter morning beside the wood stove with my first cup of coffee. From that window I have watched the trees grow taller and wider every year since they were tall enough to see from my winter morning perch. I don’t recall what year we planted them nor that we had deliberately planted two trees together and it was several years before I realized they were two separate trees, but their growth patterns are very different. Despite growing side by side, one is bushy with needles that cling for years, the other has bunches of needles on the ends of the branches with only two years’ growth by this time of year. The third year needles fall off during autumn.

Genetics. Our genes regulate not only how we look, but how we intuit certain outside stimuli. Ben and I watched a documentary film a couple of nights ago about the differences of three sons in a single family. The oldest boy had been adopted, so he had different genes than the other two. That boy had grown up with a propensity for being the center of attention; he made several movies with his parents’ camera and was always the star of the show. And though he didn’t know how to play the piano, couldn’t read music, he was able to sit down and play beautiful tunes.

During the period of time covered in the documentary, the oldest son found out who his birth mother was. She had died, but he discovered that she was the offspring of two famous actors. He also found out that his great grandmother had been a pianist.

Many kinds of animals on the earth have what we term genetic imprints. These imprints, or what scientists believe are imprints, are different than instincts and can lead some animals to follow established migratory routes even though they were never led by their parents.

We don’t like to believe that we humans could be regulated by genes, but we know our genetics affect many aspects of our humanity. We don’t want to believe we have any sort of regulatory imprints and we have fought for generations to vanquish instincts that every other animal on earth has. No matter how much we want to believe otherwise, we are deeply affected by our genetic heritage.

But what I don’t believe is that we cannot overrule traits or tendencies that are undesirable, destructive, or lack benefit to us or our loved ones. We have one trait that most other animals don’t have: reason. It’s the most powerful genetic trait that we have, but is also the one we use the least. Through reason we can benefit not only those around us, but ourselves. We can override destructive traits and develop beneficial ones.

So why don’t we more fully access our reason? It’s not the easy way to live; it’s a lot of hard work and self-discipline. And it takes a lot of concentration which many people believe is better used to make a lavish living. And so many of the undesirable traits serve people well in establishing that lavish living.

But another thing I know is that letting those traits fly free, we cannot find true happiness. We may be able to find riches and status, but not joy, not love, and not spiritual freedom. And, yet, we can still develop lavish living without those traits. Just as we can make use of hard work to overcome undesirable traits, we can use hard work to develop desirable traits which will bring wealth and prestige if that’s what we truly want. In short, we can earn it and earning it brings a rich, full happiness on it’s own.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Life 101–The Mystery of Holiday Cheer

It’s the biggest and brightest holiday season of the year. Lots of love and good cheer, hugs and kisses, and presents are being freely exchanged. But what I’m wondering is why all that great stuff is so harshly limited to this time of year. Would we not all be better off if maybe we scaled back a little every December and spread the goodness out over the rest of the year?

I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions. I just mean that maybe we could all behave a little more December-like all year rather than just in December.

If we can’t loosen up and spread that kind of cheer out over the year, does it mean we’re really just putting on a false persona in December because it’s the popular thing to do?

I hope not. Maybe we could start a revolution.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Life 101–Enjoying the Holidays

Yesterday Ben and I went to the mountain to get a tree for the holidays. There were some really nice small trees less than twenty yards from where we parked, but it was a beautiful and sunny day so we hiked into the woods to find a tree there. We always choose a tree growing right next to another one – it’s usually a little lopsided, but Ben figures we save space that way since it will sit closer to the wall – so that when we remove one little tree, the other one will have more resources and grow up stronger and healthier. We found a pretty little lodgepole pine tree about a quarter of a mile from the car, so we had a nice little hike that burned off some of the extra calories we’ve been stocking up on.

The days are still growing shorter, of course, but I was actually shocked, or maybe just dismayed, to figure out that we actually have less than eight hours of sunlight a day. So, for us, the lighted tree is more of a celebration of the return of  the longer daylight hours. Longer days means more ambition to use more of those stocked up calories.

We had the beef bourguignon on Saturday, then yesterday (Sunday) we went to Ursula and DeeDee’s for a terrific pot luck. Everyone invited was an exceptional cook, so everything was really delicious. Ben and I took chocolate mousse, which we all ate as we sat around watching a slide show of Ursula and DeeDee’s trip to Turkey. What a great time: good company, good food and good entertainment.

That’s what’s so great about this time of year. We get together with friends and family to eat lots of really great food.

As I’ve said before, my mother wasn’t much of a cook. She hated cooking and never really tried to learn how to cook much besides fudge, which she made exceptionally well. Because she couldn’t cook, eating was not much more than a survival activity until I met Ben and then it became enjoyable. Yesterday, however, as I was rubbing my over-filled belly, I was thinking about all the good things I’m learning to cook and how much I’m enjoying learning to cook and how I’ve learned to enjoy eating even more. And then I realized I’ve become a foodie! It’s really showing around my middle and by my wardrobe, which now consists of summer wear and winter wear, designated by the size the garment rather than the color or style.

I can just hear the younger generations, after I’ve died, remembering how old Uncle Steve got so chubby when he got older. Yikes, back to the exercise routine . . .

Cooking 101–Beef Bourguignon

Honestly, it’s not difficult to prepare. It’s takes a lot of time, but it is worth it. Julia said, in essence, that it’s one of the most delicious beef recipes ever. I disagree. However, I would agree that it’s one of the most delicious beef and bacon recipes ever. It’s truly a fantastic dish.
Here’s the way I made it:
1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon
into one inch pieces. Boil for ten minutes, drain, rinse then and sauté in a cast-iron Dutch oven with
2 Tablespoons canola oil
until lightly browned. Remove from oil and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brown
3 pounds stew meat cut into one inch chunks
in the bacon fat and oil a large handful at a time. If you try too much beef at a time, it will put too much water in the oil and won’t brown properly. Set the browned beef aside with the bacon and then brown
1 large sliced carrot
1/4 cup diced, dried onion
in the same oil. After I browned the beef, there wasn’t any oil left, so I put the bacon back in the Dutch oven to cook out a bit more of the bacon fat. It didn’t provide enough to finish browning the vegetables, so I added a little water and cooked them for a few minutes then threw the beef and bacon back into the Dutch oven and added
One regular sized bottle of good red wine
2 cups water
2 teaspoons beef bullion
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves diced fine
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
Bring the mix to a boil, then put into the oven on the second rack level from the bottom. Check occasionally to be sure the liquids are simmering slowly; check for tenderness after about 2 1/2 to three hours.
1 diced onion with
1 pound mushrooms
Put the mushrooms and onions into a small serving dish;  remove the beef and bacon from the Dutch oven into a serving bowl. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes and if any fat floats to the top, skim it off. Pour the sauce into a gravy boat or sauce pot. Serve the beef over
Steamed rice
top with the onions and mushrooms and cover with the sauce. Serve
as a side dish, and red wine if you wish.
As I said, this is an incredibly delicious dish. It is heavy, so you don’t need a whole lot more, in my opinion, but the salad does add a nice touch.
For desert Ben made a peach upside-down cake. This was an excellent finish for a grand meal.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Zen Continues

I thought I had a common cold and was on the mend, but it turns out I have the flu. My head won’t clear and my lungs hurt, so I may have another week of this. I can work briefly, though I tire out quickly, but at least I can get some things done.

I am not sleeping as much during the day as I was last week, but my mind fatigues more easily, so I can’t read as much this week. Therefore, I have more time to just sit, and think . . .


My musings at the moment are not news, but I need to get something off my normally quiet chest to relieve some of the pressure and the pain, because there are those among us who don’t have the slightest concern for what happens to anyone but themselves. A great deal of our modern day culture is based on the philosophy of those people, for their personal gain: we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, never accept “charity,”  depend upon no one but ourselves, and pick ourselves up to dust ourselves off and climb back on that wild horse because it’s a cause worth dying for . . . There are too many clichés for me to list here that describe our ‘fierce independence,’ our lack of tolerance for living among people we might come to depend upon or, worse (and here’s the key) who might come to depend upon us.

I do not count myself as  innocent in this way of living. I have been as guilty as anyone else in my quest for independent living, in striving to live indebted to no one.

The only problem with this philosophy is that we live in societies and cannot possibly, as individuals, produce or generate everything we need to survive in the world of today. The philosophy itself is problematic enough that some people give up before they even get a chance, because they realize they cannot do it all themselves. We have separated ourselves from the very concept of ‘community’ with such a distance that we ‘create’ on-line communities. That sort of group is a wonderful, interactive (albeit impersonal) social outlet for us to seek out like-minded people, but it certainly cannot act as a true community.  It takes, as the saying goes, a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to feed and protect each of us, and to keep us safe and secure. Our very lives depend upon many, many people we will never meet. Whether we admit it or not, we’re tightly connected to all the individuals within our society. The more we strive to segregate ourselves, the more strife we create, sometimes for ourselves, but always for others.

And that’s why I say there are those among us who don’t care about what happens to anyone but themselves. As long as those individuals are comfortable, safe, secure, and well-fed, they believe the world is fine just the way it is. There is an old story of Marie Antoinette who said, when told the peasants were rebelling because they had no bread, “Let them eat cake.” She didn’t have a clue the people were starving because she just didn’t care; after all, she had bread (and cake and meat and . . .). Our society today is run by various incarnations of Marie Antoinette. They see individual rebellions, but they don’t have a clue that people have genuine needs that are not being met, because they just don’t care.

And the reason they don’t care is that they have souls that absorb, rather than emit, light. They take and they take, and they never give unless society forces them to do so; and they have far too many of the rest of us believing that their way is the righteous way to live, despite what our various doctrines tell us.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes us to understand what’s really happening and to make the adjustments we’ll have to make to create a genuine change. America was once far and above the greatest country in the world, but China is quickly overtaking us, buying us out by offering cheap goods, and as long as we insist on segregating ourselves from our fellow Americans in our attempt to go it alone, as long as we continue to refuse to support ourselves and each other we’ll never be able to compete with what China, with its vast wealth of resources and people, is offering us.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cooking 101–Squash-layered Crepe Mound

I made a crepe mound for Thanksgiving Dinner here on the creek and filled it with a thick version of Ben’s famous Squash Soup recipe. It was a big hit.

So, here’s the recipe for Ben’s Squash Soup


3 cups baked squash

2 tablespoons dried, minced onion

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon rosemary

1/2  teaspoon dried garlic granules

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix these together thoroughly with just enough water or milk to make the mixture smooth and creamy and let sit in the fridge overnight. Then add:

2 cups milk (if the squash is thick and dry, you may need to add more)

4 tablespoons butter

Bring to low boil on medium heat, stirring often. Simmer for about fifteen minutes, serve with sour cream and chopped pecans, seasoned bread crumbs, or toasted squash seeds.

When I made the Squash-layered Crepe Mound, I put the initial ingredients together, let sit overnight, then layered them cold between the crepes, topped it with cheese sauce and some extra grated cheese, and baked it for about 30 minutes.


Here’s how the crepe mound looked before I put it in the oven


Fresh out of the oven

The Zen of Being Sick

Early in the week I came down with a cold and spent most of the week sleeping. Yesterday I finally woke from a foggy cloud and peered through the haze to finally make my way back into the studio to finish pots I had started a few days earlier.

I hate being sick.

What a waste of time, energy and resources.

What is the Zen message in being sick? No, I mean I’m really asking. I haven’t figured it out and I’m not sure I ever will. I suppose someone on a higher plane than I am could figure it out, but the only good I get out of it is getting caught up on a little reading. Yes, I read when I’m sick – at least when I’m not sleeping. Reading takes my mind off feeling poorly, however temporarily.

Now I’m nearly another week behind where I had hoped to be with everything I’m working on.

Thanksgiving was great, except for getting exposed to a nasty cold virus. Two major pig-outs, one here on the creek with a great group of friends and one with Ben’s family in Wyoming. At both dinners it was great to see so many people we don’t get to see very often. Life is far too hectic and we’re all spread too far apart, both friends and family. It wasn’t enough time, of course, to fully catch up with the events of their lives, but it was still fun to reconnect and cover what we could in the time we had.

Now there’s a Zen message in that, of course: appreciate those precious moments when they’re happening, enjoy the moment in the moment. But getting sick? The only message I get from that is try to take better care of myself when I’m healthy to keep the times of sickness fewer and shorter.

Hey, where did that come from? It’s not exactly Zen, but that’s a pretty good idea. And, gee, I used to do that . . .

Friday, November 18, 2011

Life 101–The Busy Lifestyle

I’ve been neglectful again; this week has been hectic. We’ve been scrambling to get the last of our Christmas season pottery orders out, keeping the kilns hot. We also picked up our beef this week and had our big shopping day in the city. Then we came home to find the kiln had failed, indicating we needed to replace the heating elements. It used to be we could get several hundred firings out of a set of elements, but I guess the manufacturers decided they weren’t making enough profit, so now we get around seventy-five firings. The worst part about changing the elements so often isn’t just the expense of the new elements or the time lost with a failed firing and having to set everything else aside for a day; each time we change the elements the soft insulating bricks break down a bit more when we remove the old, misshapen elements and the bricks are far and above the greatest cost of a new kiln.

But that’s enough bitching. We’re having fun in the studio despite the crunch. We made some Christmas pieces this year, for the first time in many years.


We’re going to have to modify our delicious dietary experiments somewhat. Ben and I were comparing notes and figured out that we’re both having some gastro-intestinal difficulties going on. We have been eating so healthy for so many years that all the butter and cream was too much of a shock to our systems. So we’ll modify Julia’s way of cooking. It won’t be as creamy and buttery delicious as her official recipes; I’ll be using a lot of canola oil instead of butter, and milk instead of cream. I’ll report on how things go.


Also, part of the reason my schedule is so hectic is because I’ve started writing a monthly column for a small paper published in Missoula. I don’t get paid, but it’s a lot of fun and will be a good writing experience. It’s also good to have a deadline every month.


Life moves slowly out here in the wilds of Montana, but it does move if you pay attention. There never seems to be enough time to do all the pottery, writing, reading, exercising and recreating I want to do, so I tend to spread myself pretty thin. What a shame that my body doesn’t follow suit and that my somewhat ADD mind does. It seems the older I get the more interests I pull out from my past and decide now is the time to start doing it. I certainly don’t have more daily time now than I did when I decided to wait until I did have more time, but I have far less time in my future than I had then. I just woke up one day and discovered I wasn’t getting any younger and that, indeed, I was progressively getting older so a sense of mild panic set in.

I suppose it really wouldn’t matter to anyone else if I never published a book or created great pieces of ceramic art or read a pile of wonderful books; but, then, if I cannot do something worthwhile for myself, how can I really do anything worthwhile for anyone else? If I’m too busy for myself, how can I not be too busy to be helpful for someone else?







Ben painting tumblers for Wyoming 4H



Wedging the clay



Throwing one of the 4H tumblers



Putting handles on a bean pot

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cooking 101–Egg-free Chocolate Mousse

Well, my not-so-tight pants are tight now and my fat-boy pants are quite comfortable. So, Ben and I finally started our exercise program. Yesterday I jumped on the elliptical for twenty minutes, sucking air the whole time, and today we did the Biggest Loser Weight Loss Yoga video workout. Whoa, are we out of shape . . . again.

But, the mousse was . . . well, I can’t even tell you how incredible it was, because I’ll sound over-the-top.

I looked on the internet after reading Julia’s recipe and found several that sounded great, but they all used egg yolks and you can’t really cook the yolks or they turn to scrambled eggs. Now, as I’ve said before, I trust our egg supply because they’re home grown, but I cannot expect everyone else to trust their egg supply. On the one cooking website that addressed that issue, they basically said that, well, you do heat up the egg yolks to 160 degrees and egg whites aren’t usually as much of a problem and, anyway, cases of salmonella aren’t all that common . . .

So, I scoured through the various recipes and devised a recipe that didn’t use any eggs. It was a gamble, but I won on this one. And I won big. This recipe is actually easier than some of the ones I researched. It is rich and it is fattening, but it is worth it.

I used chocolate chips, as some recipes used, instead of baker’s chocolate because they’re cheaper and because I know which chips are good quality and which are not and I know nothing about the quality of the various brands of baker’s chocolate. I used a mid-line price, Nestlé's semi-sweet chocolate chips, and they were great. I advise that, unless you’re feeding your mousse to children who honestly can’t tell the difference between Hershey’s and  Dove, that you don’t scrimp on the chocolate. You get what you pay for when it comes to chocolate quality. The better the quality of chocolate that goes into your mousse, the better the mousse will be.


You will need: electric mixer (or a wire whisk if you want to whip the cream by hand), medium mixing bowl, double boiler (or a bowl to melt the chocolate chips in the microwave), rubber spatula, ice water or very cold tap water (if you have a well), spoon.


Melt 8 ounces chocolate chips in the double boiler, add

4 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

then dribble in

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

to the chocolate mixture and stir well. The mixture should be smooth and creamy; if it is not, add a little water to it (or a little more cream, since from a pint you’ll have 1/4 cup left over, unless you made the crepe mound for your dinner). Put the pan into the ice and water or the cold water in the sink or large bowl and stir to chill the chocolate mixture. If you put hot (or even warm) chocolate mix into the whipped cream, the whipped cream will melt and flatten out and your mousse will be ruined. But do not chill too much or the chocolate will stiffen too much to fold into the whipped cream. Once the mixture is cool to the touch of your warm finger, it’s ready, but should still stir easily.  When the mixture is chilled, set it aside.

Pour 1 & 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream into the mixing bowl and add

2 Tablespoons sugar.

Whip until just past the soft peak stage and the peaks come out a little shorter than the soft peak ones. The soft peak stage is what you would normally use for topping, but just a little more keeps it whipped well when you fold in the heavy chocolate mixture. Do not over-beat your cream, though. Some recipes suggest you whip it until the stiff peak stage, but the so-called ‘stiff peak stage’ when referring to whipping cream is what you get just seconds before you’ve beaten the cream into butter. Just ask Julia.

When you fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream, do it as quickly and as thoroughly as possible with a rubber spatula. Unmixed chocolate stiffens into hard bits, but over-mixing will flatten your whipped cream. All the recipes I read insisted on chilling the mousse in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, and well-chilled mousse has a fine and buttery texture to be sure, but I sneaked a spoonful before I put it into the refrigerator and the texture was very good. We ate our first serving after chilling for two hours and it certainly wasn’t any sort of disappointment, though the texture was more like the classical texture of mousse the next day. And, unlike some store-purchased egg-free mousse mixtures, we ate the final servings today (two days after making it) and it was still holding its mousse texture and delightful flavor just fine.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cooking 101–Florentine Crepe Mound

I don’t know what ‘Florentine’ means and I changed Julia’s recipe around a bit, so I don’t really know if this would still be classified as Florentine, but I also don’t know what else to call it.

Anyway, as I wrote in yesterday’s post, making this was rather time-consuming, but it was well worth the trouble.  I cut the mound into fourths when it came out of the oven and Ben and I each ate a fourth, but it was rather heavy, so we were wishing I had cut it into smaller pieces and had served a side vegetable or salad to lighten the meal. Yesterday and today for lunch we cut the remaining fourths in half and each ate an eighth of the mound with, yesterday, a serving of green beans and, today, pork chops. By today we were acclimated to the heaviness of the mound, so eating a pork chop and applesauce along with the portion of mound felt satisfactory.

So, on to my recipe. Again, this is heavy because of all the butter and cheese, but it is certainly delicious.

You will need: rubber spatula, small sauce pan or small fry pan, 2 mixing bowls, a round baking dish or pie plate, knife, fork.

Make the crepes according to instructions I gave yesterday.

In the saucepan, melt

2 Tablespoons butter


2 & 1/2 Tablespoons rice flour

simmer the flour in the butter until thoroughly mixed, add

1 & 1/2 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

dash of white pepper

dash of nutmeg

bring to a boil and  cook until thick, reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in

1/8 cup of heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup grated Swiss or sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

set the sauce aside.


Chop and blanch or cook 1 & 1/2 cups spinach in the microwave, drain and set aside.


Soften one 8 ounce package of Neufchatel cream cheese in a mixing bowl, mash with a fork. Then sauté

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1/4 cup chopped onions

in 1 Tablespoon butter and a splash of canola oil

mix the mushrooms and onions into the cream cheese.


Pile the crepes into the pie plate with alternating layers of spinach and the cream cheese with mushrooms. Pour the cheese sauce over the entire mound, sprinkle with 1/4 cup more grated cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven for about a half hour until the mound is nicely browned on top.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cooking 101–Wheat-free Crepes

Actually, since my digestive system doesn’t tolerate wheat, nearly everything we cook at home with flour is with brown rice flour that we grind ourselves or a combination of our brown rice flour and Pamela’s Bread Mix and Flour Blend. With this recipe I used straight rice flour. Unless I note otherwise, you can directly substitute regular flour in all of our recipes.
Crepes are simple to make, but they take a lot of time. The crepe mound with cheese sauce we had for dinner last night was a joint effort for Ben and me and it still took over an hour. You can make crepes ahead of time and refrigerate them, then make the mound later, since it’s heated in the oven. I’m pressed for time this evening, so for right now I’ll just give you my recipe for crepes.
By the way, it took so long to make dinner last night (and the crepe mound is so rich) that I didn’t make the whipped cream mousse until this evening (and it’s incredible, so I’ll give you that recipe later as well).

This is not, by the way, quite the way Julia made her crepes, so they probably won’t be just like hers.
You will need a blender, a mixing bowl, a rubber spatula, a 1/4 Cup or 1/3 Cup measuring cup (this will depend on the size of crepes you’ll be making; I made mine about 7 & 1/2 to 8 inches in diameter, so I used 1/3 Cup; if you have a smaller fry pan and baking dish, 1/4 Cup will make 6 to 6 & 1/2 inch crepes), a small non-stick fry pan and a baking dish. The bottom of the baking dish should be just a little bigger than the bottom of your fry pan.
In the blender, put:
1 Cup cold water
1 Cup low fat milk
4 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 cups of rice flour
4 Tablespoons of melted butter (make sure it’s melted, otherwise you’ll just have chunks of butter in your batter)

Blend together for a couple of minutes and then stop to scrape down any flour remaining on the sides of your blender pitcher, then blend again for half a minute or so.
Heat up your frying pan (if it’s not a non-stick you’ll have to grease the pan before putting each measure of batter into it) on medium high heat (I used 7 on the scale of one through eight and then high) and measure out your crepe batter into your measuring cup. When the pan is good and hot pour the batter into the pan and swirl your pan around to coat the entire bottom. After about a minute and a half or two minutes flip your crepe over. I had to loosen the crepes with a plastic spatula for mine and then slid them to the side, grabbed the edge and flipped them over. About another 20 seconds to half a minute will be enough to finish cooking them.
My measurements of 1/3 Cup per crepe rendered a dozen crepes and it took about 35 minutes or so to mix the batter and cook the crepes one at a time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Life 101–Perceptions

The mound of crepes with spinach and cheese sauce is in the oven. The first few crepes were a little funny looking, but by the end, they were looking good, albeit not at all resembling a shape you could call round. I didn’t do everything the way Julia taught how to do it, but the sauces were delicious going in, so we’re watching the oven door and the clock pretty closely.


Yesterday we drove into Columbus to deliver pots. It was the first real snow of the season and we woke to the wonder of the enchanting beauty of a freshly blanketed landscape. The air was as crisp and cool as an iced glass of water on a hot, thirst-swollen tongue. A soft haze from the gentle snowfall filtered the whitened landscape, washed with yellows and greens from the grasses poking through the blanket and with the charcoal grey of sagebrush, trees, rocks and shrubbery in the distance, creating an image as illusory as a painting.

As we ripped along the highway returning home, the snow seemed to be flowing past us in a fierce wind, blowing and snowing with the force of a blizzard that made us shiver to see it when, in reality, the snow was falling with a rare gentleness, piling light upon the fence posts and wires.

How strange that our personal perspectives, seen through the filters of our experiences and built upon the base of a belief system, can paint life so extremely different than reality.

I have a related set of recurring dreams that just this week I began to understand. In the dreams I’m either wandering out of a church and cannot find my car, or I’m rushing through a shopping mall full of meandering people and I’m searching for Ben. I’m not actually lost, but I cannot find my way home. A third type of dream I have is that I’m at an airport with a group of friends or relatives, but we cannot all get on the same plane. Sometimes I’m on a plane with only one or two people I know, but usually I must fly alone on a very small plane that I have to board by climbing a long spiral staircase.

Writing these dreams down makes the meaning seem obvious now, but I woke Friday morning after such a dream and as I was drinking my first cup of coffee beside the wood stove I had a sense that I’m blundering through life in a filtering fog that leaves me blind to anything beyond my immediate surroundings and, so, cannot see which way to go. The problem, of course is that we humans are not gifted with sight that allows us to see more than our immediate lives. We have the media to show us what exists ‘out there,’ but we’re so caught up in our own immediacy that we cannot recognize anyone else’s perspective as legitimate.

What I want, then, is to learn how to see beyond my own blindness. This is not a goal or a project like the others I’m working on, because I don’t know how to go about it. But, then, if I don’t make it a goal or a project, how can it ever come to be? Perhaps it will have to be some sort of exploration through writing.

I’ll have to explore this further.


The crepe mound just came out of the oven, so I’m of to satiate my baser needs for the moment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cooking 101–Lesson 2

The second primary lesson I just learned (or maybe this is the third?) is not to expect people to eat a rich dessert right after a big turkey dinner.

The dinner was great and so was chocolate soufflé, but we gathered to eat at 6:00 p.m., so we were all still very full and half comatose when the soufflé came out of the oven. Soufflé doesn’t keep. Ben and I suffered through eating our share and also suffered for it all night, but Lori and Dawn couldn’t eat much of theirs, so a big portion of my labor of love (or would that be lust, for chocolate?) went into the compost pile.

And I figured out that I really prefer mousse over soufflé. Whipped cream mousse, that is. Soufflé is fun and delicious, but no matter what you put into it, there is that decidedly eggy flavor, even to the dark chocolate variety. Now, I love eggs and I love egg dishes, but dessert, to me personally, just should not be an eggy thing. So, I looked up mousse recipes on the internet, since Julia’s chocolate mousse is, essentially, an uncooked soufflé. We’re delivering pots in Livingston tomorrow morning, so we’ll stop at the grocery and get a few things and this weekend, I’ll make a mousse for dessert. For supper, I'm going to make a stack of crepes with entrée filling and cover it with cheese sauce before baking. This is a Julia sort of dish with lots of butter and cream and cheeseSmile with tongue out.

By the way, Ben and I haven’t started on our exercise program yet and we just relented – with grave reluctance -- to the weather and put our bicycles away. We’ve done few things semi athletic since our landscaping season ended,  but it’s getting late in the season and even though we haven’t been eating as many goodies as we have been lately, we haven’t lost any of the girth on our waistline emergency supply. But, then, as hard as we worked all summer, we didn’t lose much of that. Without working we’ve already re-packed what little we worked off. And, to make matters worse, I have noticed, from our big turkey dinner last weekend, the waistline of my tight pair of pants is pinching a bit more than usual. From a single meal! That’s something new.

So, the challenge to lose the extra on our emergency supply has just increased in intensity a notch or two. Yeehaw!!


Now that we can’t get into the mountains for a good excursion until ski and snowshoe season, I’m staring at them every day and longing for a good hike, so I’m reminiscing. Here are a few heretofore not posted pictures from this past summer.







Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cooking 101–Spinach and Cheese Soufflé

How do we take our life back and shift it toward the direction we want it to go? It can certainly be done, but when others are dependent on our efforts and responsibilities, we must make the shift gradually or we will disrupt not only our own life, but the lives of many others. I have wanted to be a writer since I was in the fourth grade, but I listened to too many other people giving me “good advice.” I figure that if I don’t start now, I’ll never have enough time left to establish myself as a writer.
After today I will report my own saga as I begin the journey of becoming a writer. I’ll log it in this blog under the title of Life 101 and hereafter all my philosophical musings will be recorded there.

I made a spinach and cheese soufflé for lunch today. It worked perfect and I realized what I had done wrong on the previous two soufflés that caused them to flop. That first soufflé I made, the cheese soufflé, turned out great while the other two failed and I really made them the same, other than ingredients. The problem was that I had made a whole recipe for the first one, since that was our entire meal, and a half recipe for the other two, since that was our dessert and a whole recipe would have been too much. Soufflé doesn’t keep.
The problem isn’t making half a recipe, however, that should work out just fine. The problem was that I had baked the two smaller soufflés in the same size of dish that I baked the first one in. And that is a problem. Okay, so now those of you who are already real cooks are laughing your heads off. But, you see, I don’t have a soufflé mold, so I was using one of our pottery mixing bowls which is pretty much straight sided. It’s a little taller that it needs to be, but, measuring 7” diameter across the top and being 4 1/2” tall, it works rather well for a six-cup soufflé.
The soufflé was really quite good, so I’ll give you my recipe, which (I admit) is a variation on Julia’s recipe.
Now I still don’t know if a fruit-based sauce will work in a soufflé, so I’ll have to experiment with that one again. I plan on making a chocolate soufflé this weekend when Lori and Dawn come over for an early turkey dinner before they join Ben and me for our traditional autumn picnic under the aspens (which this year will just be a light snack, or maybe another dessert, and a bottle of wine).
On to the recipe.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease your mold or baking dish (straight sided or slightly tapered, but not wider than seven inches at the top and at least three and a half inches tall) with butter. Do not use melted butter, since you cannot coat the dish heavily enough and your soufflé will stick to the sides and collapse. Smear a teaspoon or so of butter with your bare, washed, fingers to be sure to coat the dish thoroughly and thickly. Set aside.

One tablespoon butter
A handful of fresh spinach leaves
2 Tablespoons of onion, finely diced
In a saucepan, sauté the spinach leaves and onion in the butter until the onions are browned and the moisture from the spinach has evaporated. Set aside.
Make a sauce with:
3 Tablespoons of butter
3 Tablespoons of flour
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir for a minute or so. Stir in:
1 Cup milk
Add the spinach and onion, bring to a boil and stir until very thick. Set off heat and add:
4 egg yolks
Add them one at a time and thoroughly stir in before adding the next one. Set the mixture aside.
Add one more egg white to the other egg whites for a total of:
5 egg whites
If you’re feeling vigorous, you can whip the whites by hand with a wire whip, otherwise whip them with an electric mixer making sure you’re whipping all the whites thoroughly and not leaving some only partially whipped around the edges. When the whites begin to look fluffy, add:
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Whip until the whites are shiny and stiff enough that when you lift the beaters up and sideways the peaks don’t curl. Don’t overbeat or the whites lose their loft. If you do overbeat and the whites look grainy and the sheen becomes dull, then add another white, stir in and whip just until you have shiny, stiff peaks.
Scoop a big spoonful of the fluffed whites onto the sauce, add:
1 Cup grated cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, but you need a mostly strong, flavorful mix of cheeses)
Stir the big spoonful of egg whites and cheese into the sauce, then pile the rest of the whites on top and, with a rubber spatula, cut into the center and quickly fold the whites into the sauce. Do not over-fold, which will deflate your egg whites and soufflé is all about being fluffy. Don’t spend more than a minute folding in the eggs and if you have some bits unblended that’s better than deflating your soufflé.
Scoop the mixture into your baking dish and set in the middle of the oven. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees. (I forgot to do this and had a well-browned soufflé. We both actually really liked it that way, but then we both like burnt cookies, too.)
Bake for thirty to thirty five minutes, a few minutes longer than it takes to brown the top. Do not underbake or the soufflé will quickly collapse. In general, soufflés will begin to collapse several minutes after removing them from the oven, so they should be served as soon as you take them out.
Ta Da! Not so bad, huh? The keys to success are to have the right size of baking dishEmbarrassed smile, don’t have an excess amount of sauce or a runny sauce, and make sure your egg whites are fluffed properly.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cooking 101

At what price do we declare it’s too costly to follow the pathways others set for us?

When we’ve lost ourselves to the dreams and schemes of others, how long will it take to gain our own lives back? How much of the little time we have in this life will have been wasted before we realize we are who we know we are and not who others want us to be?

Last week Ben was making a sort of quiche and we wanted a crust under it (I was the one who mentioned it, but my main motive was that it takes a lot of elbow grease to clean egg dishes out of the pan). Ben thought it would be a good idea to make a crepe for the crust so he picked up Julia’s book, found the recipes for crepes and spent, oh, maybe a couple of minutes looking through them. Then he whipped up the recipe in the blender and made an incredible quiche.

The next day he whipped up another crepe for an apple dumpling kind of thing . . . without even looking at the recipe again.Green with envy And again it was excellent. Steaming mad 

But it wasn’t soufflé.

So. Tomorrow I’m going to try another soufflé. I’m not sure what it will be, yet. Maybe a spinach soufflé. But I’ll have to study the recipe again, since the last two weren’t so successful . . .

My cooking 101 lesson for this week, then, was humility. How am I doing?Angel


The aspens in the mountain are turning gold. Yesterday Ben and I went hiking with Lori and Dawn. It wasn’t a particularly nice day, because of wind, but we found a beautiful grove and lay on the ground watching the leaves quake and the clouds flying by. The breaking sunlight flashed brilliant on the gold leaves, then was doused again as another cloud soared beneath the sun. The sky was an intense blue contrasted by the billowing white; together they bounced the brilliant yellow of the aspens and the deep green of the pines on a reverberatory canvas of my memory. We stayed beneath the aspens far longer than Ben and I had planned and, so, didn’t get our main chore for the day done – namely, butchering the old hens. We were bothered only because now that chore is once again set into the future as an undone task.


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Our favorite fall hiking area takes us past this little cabin: our grand and elusive fantasy home.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Elizabeth Mae

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Our friends Sonja and Brendan lost their infant daughter, Elizabeth Mae early this year, so with people across the globe burning candles in remembrance, we are burning one to remember Elizabeth.



Friday, October 14, 2011

The Fall of Autumn–Flight of the Geese

We humans are paradoxical beings. We tend to stew our lives in hope, spiced with either pessimism or optimism, depending on how we view our circumstances of the moment. When times are rough, we sprinkle heavily with pessimism; when all is well, we’re liberal with optimism.

The term ‘karma’ is largely misunderstood by most of the western world. It is not a predetermined destiny as we’ve been trained to believe, but a predeterminable outcome based on our reaction to a given set of circumstances. In order to change our futures for the better, we must change the way we view and interpret the way our life plays out, which will change our reactions and, thereby, the results of those reactions. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your goals and aspirations; quite the contrary, what you have to give up is the habit of giving in when you encounter obstacles in your pathway to achieving your goals and aspirations.


All my bright and beautiful leaves are falling, stripping the luster of autumn.

The geese are flying over our place every morning at around ten o’clock to spend the day at the reservoir to the west of us. At seven in the evening they fly back to the field beyond a ridge to the east of us. A couple of weeks ago there were probably about four or five flocks of around fifteen or twenty geese per flock. Now there are nearly twice that many. Before long there will be more still and then, one day they won’t stop at the field beyond the ridge and they’ll be gone for another year.

We haven’t watched the geese as closely as we did last year, when they landed in the field across the road every evening. We carried our chairs out to the front lawn and sat there every evening just before seven o’clock to watch them return from the reservoir. One evening early last fall, when there were still only a few flocks, we noticed a couple of geese in one flock flip a quarter turn in the air as they began their descent. We weren’t quite sure we saw what we thought we saw until the following evening when we then saw a few more do the same flip. The sound from their wings fluttered as though they had faltered, but they did the same thing again just before landing, some of them flipping halfway over and then back upright.

Over the next few nights several more geese began flipping on their descent and within a week or so geese from all the flocks were flipping. Shortly after new flocks joined our original group, some of them began flipping and by then most of the originals were doing flips, several now flipping a full circle. Before they all left, nearly all the geese were doing flips and some of them flipped several times, plummeting toward the earth before pulling into a soaring coast into the field.

This year we were curious to see if they were still doing their descent flipping, but for the first several evenings we couldn’t see, since they were descending on the other side of that ridge. We watched carefully for several days, then finally saw – as they flew over a saddle in the ridge – that, yes, they were still doing their flips. We clapped and cheered as they vanished behind the ridge.



Ben took this photo last week and within a couple of days the aspen leaves were turning brown and the red Amur maple leaves were falling.



The wreath we made today from some of the last leaves of the grove of trees above.


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A foggy day last week.

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Garden color – broccoli leaf

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meatballs and White Sauce

We humans tend to hate chaos. We want everything to fit into neat, tidy parameters. But the entire universe functions on chaos and all the plant and animal kingdom, except us, thrives because of that chaos. We want tidy, weed-free lawns and flower beds – and we work hard to achieve that – and we want the rest of our lives to be like our lawns and gardens. We also tend to want simple answers to everything,and for everything to fit into a well-planned scenario we can buy into without having to study or think about it. And when chaos enters in spite of all our efforts, we fall apart.
I made meatballs yesterday. They’re not Julia Child kind of food, but I am really fond of meatballs. I researched meatball recipes on the internet, combined a few recipes and took out ingredients we don’t have and came up with a really delicious dish. So here it is. Change ingredients around according to your own taste. (For example, those of you who love garlic, add more to the meatballs and put some in the sauce as well.) It’s a complex recipe, but it’s really worth it.
1 lb. lean burger (I used beef, because we grow our own beef)
2 eggs
1/2 C. onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
1 C. cooked brown rice or bread crumbs
1/4 C. soy sauce
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. white pepper
1 T. Italian Seasoning
1 T. fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 T. fresh oregano, chopped fine
1/2 C. grated parmesan cheese
Mix thoroughly. Roll into ping pong size balls. Makes about 30 meatballs. Fry on medium heat in a few tablespoons of canola oil until browned all around. (As they warm up they tend to flatten some, so roll them often to keep them round.) Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. (Although you can skip frying the meatballs and just bake them, they will go flat on one side. You could, though, fry the meatballs, set them aside while you prepare the sauce and simmer them, covered, for twenty to twenty five minutes. If you do that, though, you won’t need the oil or the flour, but after you’re done simmering the meatballs, add two and a half tablespoons of cornstarch to a quarter cup of cold milk or water and add that to the sauce to thicken it.)
When the meatballs have only a few minutes left to bake, prepare White Sauce:
3 T. canola oil
3 T. flour
Heat oil, (I used the oil left in the pan from the meatballs, which added more flavor to the sauce) add flour and stir into the oil. Cook for a minute or two, then add:
3 C. milk
1/2 C. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 T. or 1 cube beef bullion
2 T. ground dried onion
1 T. Italian seasoning
Bring to a boil and simmer on low until thick. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water and stir. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for five minutes or so. Serve over pasta with salad on the side.

Our weather has finally shifted and it appears the cool temperatures will be around at least for awhile. We got snow on the mountains which showed up yesterday when the clouds finally lifted.




Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Hollandaise and S@!*# Soufflé

We have to keep picking ourselves up and trudging along, striving to maintain our balance and improve ourselves. If we can do this and pass what we learn to the next generation, and if they can improve on that and pass their wisdom on to the next generation, then some day . . . some day we’ll have a genuine era of enlightenment.

It won’t be in our lifetime or the one after, or even the one after that. We can make remarkable improvements in our own lives; however, until we learn that if we don’t each allow others to grow and develop and advance, it will never be possible for ourselves.


I did finally get to making a proper hollandaise sauce. The eggs are not cooked, but since we have our own chickens and I know that our eggs are safe, I didn’t worry about them. However, the sauce was rather boring compared to a lot of other sauces made in America. I decided not to pursue hollandaise, since I cannot recommend the sauce for any of you who don’t know the diet and health of the flock laying your eggs.

So, I moved on to soufflés. I read that section very carefully a few times before my first attempt, which was a cheese soufflé. And, actually. it turned out exceptionally well. The essence of a soufflé, Julia said was getting the eggs whipped up to form shiny, stiff peaks and to fold your sauce into the egg whites quickly and smoothly so you don’t flatten the whites. Simple enough. I got it.  I was so confident, in fact that I decided to try a rhubarb soufflé just yesterday. It looked beautiful (and tasted wonderful) as it went into the oven.

It flopped.

I studied several other types of fruit desserts to see where I might have gone wrong, but found that Julia doesn’t reference any sauced fruit soufflés. She did make something similar, but called it a custard, unbaked she called it a cream to put into cream puffs. My crashed rhubarb soufflé, had actually tasted really good and reminded Ben and me of a bread pudding. (Custard.) But it wasn’t, of course, a soufflé.

Today, then, to soothe my corpulent, male cranium, I decided to try a chocolate soufflé. Simple, right?

It flopped.

It did make a good chocolate pudding. So, after Ben and I had a dinner of meatball burgers, Swiss chard with balsamic vinegar, and borscht, we ate the chocolate pudding with chokecherry sauce. It was so unbelievably delicious that I nearly cried when it was gone.

But it wasn’t soufflé.

Obviously I didn’t learn the lesson. Therefore, I’m heading back to the book. (I was so ready to move on!)



So, I’m drifting back into the beauty of Autumn for a couple of days to console myself.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Autumn Bliss

What meaning is there in life but to improve ourselves and then strive to  help others?

Our social systems in this so-called modern era are focused not on improving ourselves, but on making ever greater material gains. We’re taught to ignore our true inner needs and told we’re selfish if we don’t ignore them, and at the same time we’re trained to satisfy ourselves by focusing entirely on gaining status with stuff.

But what does material stuff do for our souls? Absolutely nothing, other than deteriorate them to destitution.


Summer is finally over!!  (Apologies for my glee to all of you summer lovers.) Now I can get back to my writing schedule without falling asleep before I can write even a single sentence. Summer is a time for intense activity and, due to the heat and landscaping all week, I had to stay intensely active to stay awake.

Gardening is one of those intense activities. After weeding most of the summer, we started to harvest the garden several weeks ago, long before landscaping season was over, and we’re still at it. I love the harvest. We’ve prepared and frozen broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, Swiss chard, kale, rhubarb sauce, and Nanking cherry sauce and grated zucchini from the garden and filled one freezer. Sue brought us two boxes of peaches from farmer’s market in California; we sliced and froze one box and made peach sauce, which we canned, out of the other box. We also canned apple ketchup, apple sauce, Chokecherry sauce, pickled beets, salsa, chili sauce, and dill pickles, also from the garden, so the pantry’s full. This has been a better year for harvest than we usually get, which means it was more work, too. But as soon as we get the beef in the other freezer we’ll be completely ready for winter.

Not that I’m anxious for winter. I love winter, but I’m not anxious for it. Autumn has always been my favorite time of year and it could last for six or eight months as far as I’m concerned. I love the vivid colors and the cooler temperatures, the sleepy landscape. I love spending time outside harvesting the root crops and clearing the frosted and dried debris out of the garden to let it rest until next spring. I love watching the compost pile grow. I also love planting, around the border of the garden, the seeds of bushes and trees I’ve collected over the summer in hopes that next summer they’ll sprout and grow and eventually add to the harvests and autumn colors around here.

Autumn is a time for slowing down a bit, enjoying the landscape, contemplating, daydreaming, remembering, hoping. Despite all the denial, lack of recognition, and dragging our feet, Ben and I are in the autumn of our lives. I can’t say it feels any different than the spring or summer felt, other than it hurts a little more and is a little harder to do a few things: we can’t run as fast, jump as high, or hoe as long of a row. But from the inside, with a dash of denial -- and looking out to anywhere except the mirror -- it’s difficult to tell the difference. Perhaps that’s why we humans try to deny it happens.

Sure, as I’ve said before, there are a few things I’d do different if I could do it all over again, but I’m certainly enjoying the outcome of what I did do.


Here are a few pictures showing the glory of summer now past and the peace and quiet of autumn around our place.










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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hiking and Hollandaise

When we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves or try to fulfill the fantasy expectations others have of us, it causes intense stress that puts us out of sync with our real lives. To really understand what we are truly capable of, we have to get to know ourselves deeply. In order to do this we must learn to see life around us a little more deeply and understand our connection to it.
And we must allow ourselves to be an individual, to be different, and to acknowledge our own aspirations, desires and dreams.

We went hiking on Wednesday with Ursula, Dee Dee, and Nancy up to Pine Creek Lake.
Both the hike and the lake were spectacular. I’ve put photos at the end of this post, but photos, as usual, don’t even begin to show the beauty. This world is such an amazing place if we just get out and see it.
And the hollandaise? It was exactly the opposite.
Let me explain. Ben and I watched the movie Julie and Julia. It was a really fun movie. I never really knew much about Julia Child. Mom wasn’t a good cook, so I wasn’t a good cook, so cooking was a mystery. I wasn’t interested in cooking, because food just wasn’t that great. Before I met Ben, who IS a really good cook, eating was an obligation. Eating really good food was an expensive restaurant experience. Ben changed all that. Still, I believed I couldn’t cook. There were a few things I could do well enough, but if it wasn’t on the grill, you weren’t in for a treat if I cooked.
I was motivated by the movie and ordered Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Wonderful book. If you really read it, that is. I already knew how to make white sauce, from watching Ben, so I moved on to hollandaise sauce. I’m a little ADD (That’s Attention Deficit Disorder with an emphasis on deficit). I looked at the pictures and read the captions and tried to make hollandaise sauce. Doesn’t work. You have to read the fine print. Actually it’s not fine print at all if you’re not ADD.
So I went back to that fine print and read what I was supposed to do. There was a lot left out of the captions below the pictures.
You see, Ben is such a good cook that if we want something good to eat, he has to cook. All the time. I have made a mental conviction to learn how to add to our menu. And I’m determined. When I recall the years we’ve lived on Muddy Creek, I remember all the great food Ben has cooked. And all I have done in that vein is grill steaks and burgers. Good food, yes, but extremely limited. So I’m going to learn how to cook with Julia for the next year, then I’ll move on to other cookbooks. I’m going to prove you can teach an old dog new tricks (like reading the fine print in a cookbook).
There’s another aspect to this challenge. As we get older, Ben and I don’t burn off the fat as easily as we used to. One of my favorite lines from the movie was a quote from Julia:  “Everything is better with butter!“ (Meryl Streep is amazing in that role). Up to now, butter is something Ben and I have used in our diets on only a very limited basis.
So here’s our challenge: have a meal once a week from what I learn (really learn this time, by reading the text and not just the pictures Smile with tongue out) and exercise enough to still trim our waistlines.
Wish us luck. I’ll be reporting our menu choices and any recipes we concoct, and I’ll be honest and let you all know how we’re doing with the waistline/weight factor.