I’m grateful today that I got to make Fried Artichoke Sandwiches for Boyz Lunch. The recipe came to my attention a couple of months ago, but it wasn’t until this week that I had (almost) all the ingredients to make it. There was no organic red cabbage, so I substituted green; and there were no more dill pickle slices in the pantry, so I used dill pickle relish. The overall effect was, I assume, essentially what was intended. I was grateful, as always, to have the right tools for the job, notably the Fry Baby to deep fry the battered artichoke hearts. I served the sandwiches with smashed, roasted potatoes. It was a simple lunch, and so delicious that the Boyz put it on their short list and said I could make it again any time. If I only had an actual short list, it would include several dozen ‘Top Five’!
Later, after lunch, cleanup, and a work meeting, Wren and I sat by the pond and read a little more of our gripping nine-hundred-page novel, the third in The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. I’m grateful for the luxury of being able to toggle between the fantasy world of a novel, and the real world of my back yard which is just as amazing. Tonight we sat outside for half an hour under a blanket watching for shooting stars of the Orionid meteor shower. We only saw one before it got too chilly, but I was grateful to know about this celestial event and to spend some quiet time under the indifferent immensity of our visible universe.
My view of the Supermoon last night. I’m grateful for living in the country where I can step outside and experience a wild, natural nighttime. After a night sky break, I came in and made dessert for today, yogurt-lemon curd popsicles.
Continuing to eat down the meat in the freezer, I thawed a couple of lamb shanks overnight and braised them in red wine and vegetables, then reduced the broth and shredded the meat, made a biscuit topping, and baked a delicious lamb pot-pie. For my first pot-pie ever I was real pleased with it.
After Buddha School and Bibliofillies zooms I got outside just in the nick of time to pick two baskets of fruit before the storm rolled in. I gave away most of what I picked the other night, but quickly replenished the stockpile. From now on for a few weeks it will be all-apricot-all the time: lunch, breakfast, cocktail… and anywhere else I can think to use them. I’ve pencilled in Saturday to make the first batch of jam.
I’m grateful for so much today, starting with the middle of last night. Just before I crawled into my cozy bed, for which I am always ever so grateful, I stepped outside on the deck with binoculars to see if I could see comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). I don’t even need to know what that name means, except that I do know it was discovered less than a year ago as it approaches Earth for the first time in roughly 50,000 years. How exciting is that? I’m grateful for things we never knew.
Once I finally figured out where the Little Dipper is, which I never bothered to learn, it was easy to find the comet, and a thrill to observe it even though it was just a bright smudge in the dark sky through my birding binoculars. It will be another few days before it reaches its perigee, but it might be visible to the naked eye tonight in a dark enough sky. Last night, at 12℉ with a faint cloud cover, I didn’t stay out long. Talk about perspective though! I love the cosmos for putting me in my place.
I am little ashamed of myself that I boycotted the sciences in college because of judging the credit system to be unfair. It seemed wrong that should get three credits for three one-hour classes in English, and three credits for three one-hour classes PLUS a four-hour lab once a week in most of the sciences. I was also attached to what I knew, and I resisted the idea that in science, what we know changes constantly. I wanted to learn something and have that be that. That ridiculous bias faded through the years of simply living and recognizing the impermanence of everything, and now I kinda wish I had studied science more intensely. However, it’s been my hobby for decades, and one delight has been the night sky. For the requisite science course, I took Astronomy/Cosmology, which did not have a lab requirement, with a fabulous professor named Hans von Baeyer. I had a massive crush on him, and loved that he sent us out overnight to keep a star and planet log. I went with my new boyfriend and it’s one of the happiest memories of my college life, dozing and waking in our sleeping bags through the night to keep my log. I’m a fool for physicists still. Not the boyfriend, he was a sports writer who enjoyed a long career in that pursuit; I mean my crush on Hans and a couple of other physicists through the years.
I’m grateful that Wren had a rather uneventful vet visit today, with good heart and lung sounds, and the sad news that she is a little too chunky for her health. This did not come as a surprise, and it’s going to be hard to cut back on her treats, but she needs to lose a couple of pounds. She didn’t get even a tiny taste of the Sonic shake despite her best efforts at persuasion. She also has a little freckle on her belly that has been growing since I noticed it a few months ago. Dr. Emily measured it at 1.5 mm and told me to come back in six months or if it reaches 3 mm, whichever comes soonest. She mentioned the risks that come with anesthesia and didn’t want to do an unnecessary biopsy. So we wait and see, and hopefully it stops growing and is just a freckle.
I was so grateful when I first learned that relaxation is a skill that we need to practice. I’m grateful to have various means available to facilitate my relaxation practice, including a gentle chiropractor with a magic touch.
I’m grateful I could come home and relax with a quick pizza, small homemade crust from the freezer and some random toppings. I cooked down a dollop of plain sauce with a mix of dried herbs and garlic slices, sliced some red onion, martini olives, and the last of the summer’s spicy dill pickles, and topped with shredded mozzarella. Baked to perfection! After lunch I enjoyed a nearly perfect homemade creme brûlée, relaxing with a sense of great satisfaction that I finally ticked that recipe off my bucket list.
I spent a little time relaxing outside with the cameraphone, finally managing to get the moon halfway decently with iPhone alone. I’ve figured out the technique, and identified a challenge with rural living. I’m supposed to focus the camera first on a streetlamp, that’s what the tutorial said. My patio light isn’t bright enough or far enough away to lock the exposure and focus accurately to capture the moon when the lens is turned on it. There was a light cloud cover, which helped; the other night it was so bright the camera captured only a blinding white circle. I’m grateful I get to relax both outside and inside my house.
…Narrowly averted! Not life or death this time, but potentially even more uncomfortable. I’m grateful that Wren is such a well-behaved little dog. We went out for midnight whiz just now, and I was grateful to have a new headlamp with a super powerful beam, and grateful that she has a reflective collar for nighttime. I was playing with the headlamp settings and found to my delight that even on the red setting her collar glows–red! While we were in that stargazing mode, she uttered a long low growl, the first I’ve heard from her, and trotted a few steps toward the fence.
I whistled, and grateful that my lips weren’t too dry or cold, actually made a sound, which stopped her. At the same time, I switched the lamp to high beam to scan for trouble. My first thought, given all the recent visitations in the vicinity, was of course a mountain lion, which could have meant death for her.
She trotted another few steps and I whistled again, she paused, and I swung my head toward the gate in time to see a fat striped skunk waddling out through the gap. Whew! It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with a skunked dog. I’ve done it often enough, and have supplies handy just in case, but at bedtime on a cold winter night would be just about my last choice for that olfactory disaster to happen. Wren came on the next whistle, clearly also not interested in the consequences of a close encounter, and we strolled to the other side of the house, where she finished her business under a clear, quiet, starlit sky. I’m grateful for everything about that little adventure, and especially for the peaceful outcome.
I’m grateful for the intangibles in a day; not to be confused with the immeasurables, but including them. I’m grateful for the feeling of joy of just waking up alive, for the excitement and potential I feel at the end of pranayama class with a beloved teacher and the sense of understanding that passes between us even on zoom; for the joy of teaching and the sincere caring for the students in my classes (and graduates) to whom I can offer some help and guidance in navigating challenging lives; for the sense of humility I experience knowing that I’m just a step or two ahead of them on this journey to peace and contentment in a culture that demands more of us than we can realistically expect to render. I’m grateful for the facets of my life that I experience and treasure every day which cannot be captured in a photograph. Also, I’m grateful for those moments that can be.
Today winterizing began in earnest, deep-cleaning the sunroom in preparation for bringing in all the cacti, geranii, potted herbs, and a few peppers that I can’t bear to lose to colder nights. Above, one of the two Datil peppers, which I dug up and potted to bring in so that I can at least have a chance of some ripening. These hot peppers are native to St. Augustine, Florida, and apparently need a much longer season than I could give them here. Below, I also potted up the single Tabasco pepper plant, which took so long to produce blossoms, then flourished; but alas, it hails from Mexico and the US gulf coast states, and also wants a longer season than I could provide. Hoping these two pepper plants, and a little Scorpion that hasn’t even flowered yet, plus one of the Jigsaw peppers, will all thrive in the sunroom for a month or two more, without spawning aphids.
I’ve created a monster! My goal in spring was to have Wren trained by fall to race around the yard and find Biko quickly and consistently. She is doing an excellent job of that, when she can tear herself away from nibbling on the lush green grasses brought up by an extra rainy September. She runs ahead of me checking under sagebrush, rabbitbrush, juniper, and sits down when she finds him. However, when I pull him from his burrow each evening to bring him inside, she jumps at him and follows me, dancing around as I set him down in his indoor spot, then barks and sits down beside him to tell me she’s found him again! In the mornings, she yips and prances until I follow her into the laundry nook where she finds him yet again; each time expecting a treat, of course. And of course she gets one.
In my Covid-related kitchen obsession, I’ve been investing in more kitchen tools than are strictly necessary. At first, I justified this as having the right tools for many kinds of food preparation as I was planning to open a small-scale retreat center and provide specialty meals. By the time it became apparent that Covid wasn’t going away soon and I wasn’t going to be comfortable opening my home to people for awhile, it was too late: kitchen shopping had become retail therapy. I’m not proud of this addiction. But I am proud of the culinary education I’ve been getting, and the gustatory delights I’ve been turning out.
I’m grateful that the Colonel taught me the value of having the right tool for the job. I’ve been wanting to bake baguettes for a long time, but never had the courage to try it, largely because I lacked the right pan. The Colonel inspired my early culinary efforts as I’ve mentioned before, as well as any handyman skills I possess. At one point he combined his two interests to fashion a sheetmetal baguette baker not too different in principle from the ceramic one I just bought. His only held two baguettes, and they were bigger than these. It looked kind of like this, but not perforated. I’ve had that in my head forever, but it never occurred to me I could just buy something like it til I stumbled upon this elegant baguette baker while shopping for a different kind of pan.
I’m grateful for the male blossoms the zucchini plants are offering up, and for the first ripe zuke, as well as for the second bean harvest. Stuffed squash blossoms seemed hard and scary two summers ago when I started experimenting with them, but today I just squished together a little feta and leftover sausage with some Penzeys Forward, stuffed the flowers, rolled them tight, and refrigerated til I could cook them tonight. I didn’t want to spend a whole egg on batter for just three blossoms, so I rolled them in heavy cream, then in cornmeal, and sautéed in olive oil, for a delicious amuse-bouche for an intimate Death Café dinner.
My friend brought sliders and coleslaw, and we sat outside in the 90℉ evening to share our meal, and work on some end-of-life planning. I got mine essentially done last winter, but she is just starting hers. It’s a daunting but necessary chore, and I’m grateful I could help her start to make some sense of it. Will, powers of attorney, advance directive, choices, provisions, designations… You look at those forms and your brain just goes numb–and not comfortably numb, either, but numb in an agitating buzzing kind of way. Grateful we could help each other navigate the necessary melancholy conversations, and motivate each other to take the next steps in this grueling process. Grateful, too, for the close time together which is rare and precious.
I saw something very strange in the night sky about an hour ago. I took Wren out for midnight whiz and stood there looking up as I always do. I was grateful there were stars, and then there was a short line of light that appeared and disappeared, like a few dozen stars strung close together; or like a section of a strand of patio lights. Then it appeared again, and moved across the eastern starlit sky from south to north. Like the side of a flat spaceship. I watched mesmerized for a couple of minutes as it remained lit up and moved steadily northward, diminishing with distance until it reached the vanishing point on the horizon. So weird. I’m grateful for unknown phenomena.
Tonight I’m grateful for science. I’m grateful for science all the time. Can you imagine the quality of our lives without science? You wouldn’t be reading this blog, for one thing. You wouldn’t be pulling a cold beer out of the fridge or a pint of Häagen-Dazs from the freezer without science. Without science, we’d all have died of Covid by now, OR the pandemic wouldn’t have even happened because there wouldn’t have been air travel from China. Wait, I’ve just given myself an argument against science. But aside from all the down sides of science and technology, we do live a pretty good life because of science, and I didn’t die of scarlet fever in third grade because of science. So, I’m grateful for science. And I’m especially grateful for science when I look to the night sky and grasp an inkling of perspective that is brought home with a big bang as I marvel at the stunning first images from the James Webb Telescope. I am always grateful to be reminded that in the grand scheme of things I’m nothing, in a good way.
The total lunar eclipse of the full flower supermoon tonight has been captured with super fancy cameras the world over and there’s no image I can add to those that will appear in the news tomorrow. But the joy I derived this evening from sharing life with my friend, then sitting on my deck for hours with a cold martini slowly warming as it waned, and a warm little dog zipped into my sweatshirt and my dear departed mother’s little Audubon Nikon binoculars, acquainting myself with my new husband-camera and his super special lens, at one with crickets and the universe, well… that’s priceless.
The Moon. This was two years ago in spring, March 20, 2019. A year before the world changed with the Covid-19 pandemic. People think it’s over, but it’s not. It’s a new normal, because we as a species have chosen not to change our behaviors. We are attached to having what we want, when we want it, and we’re not going to let go of that no matter what incentives get thrown in our way. Climate chaos? Let’s get what we can from the planet and the future be damned. Pandemic? Fuck limits, I’ll keep living my life the way I want to. Individual responsibility, right? I’m grateful for the steady rhythm of the moon.
I’m grateful to have woken up alive this morning, and gotten outside with Stellar before the sun was up, before even the moon went down, the Harvest Moon. It’s ‘the solstice,’ as the radio said this evening, though they meant the autumnal equinox. It was a spectacular day here in western Colorado. Bluebird sky, few clouds, very little climate crisis haze, bright sun, cool breeze, the perfect fall day. I heard the first sandhill cranes this evening, heading south along the east flank of Mendicant Ridge, where the highest aspen groves are just now turning golden.
My goal today was to get through it with no regrets. Not sure I managed that, due to my choices, but no lasting harm done I’m sure. It’s such a dance: just navigating a day can be exhausting. I took pretty good care of myself and my dependents, and sometimes that’s the best I can do. The low was 36℉ near the house; half the cantaloupe leaves died back, and a few other tenders took a hit in the garden, but it wasn’t a hard frost and we’ve got another few weeks of mild growing weather. Pesto was on the agenda but won’t happen until tomorrow–that’s a regret but I’m too tired to worry about it now. I’m grateful for authentic connection and shared joy, for friends who know me, for a genuine sense of belonging.