Thursday, June 22, 2017

Three Years (or 12, Whatever)

We met in the summer of 2005.
I I immediately noticed the new guy with the blonde ponytail and wanted to make him my friend.  And then we fell in love without meaning to....and I gained my best friend in the whole wide world.
Yesterday--the summer solstice--we marked three years of married life--with Thai food, nice beer, and mini-golf.
Hip-hip-hooray for love, fun, and the blessed life we lead together!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beautifully Lost and Found Again - Silvercloud Campout

"One way to look at it... is that we are all lost, we were already lost the day we were born.  In music, we can become tragically and beautifully lost...and found again."
-- From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo
Matt and I went to a music festival with a couple friends the second weekend of June.  Over the winter Matt had proclaimed that we must go to a music festival this year.  For most of our time together we've attended at least one every year.  It used to be the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Minnesota until that one fell by the wayside.  Then it was the Love Your Mother Earth Festival in Montana until that one bit the big one.  Then we started catching Further as much as we could until they stopped touring and soon festivals had been absent  from the calendar for a couple years.  And we missed it.  Live music is a significant force in our lives, as is getting out camping and exploring nature.  Music festivals are a keen way to marinate in an abundance of music and nature all at the same time.  With friends!
As it happened though Silvercloud Campout started the day after my grandmother died.  It was just about agonizing to go--to choose to leave the family situation in which we were so enmeshed.  I hemmed and hawed about it for a good long while.  Josh almost sounded like he hated to ask when I called, "Um....are we still going to Silvercloud?"
I actually had to be reassured that it was okay to go.  Matt's mom said we should go.  Ryan's wife said we should go.  My dad said we should go.  Ryan was getting better.  Grandma had passed.   They argued that Matt and I needed some good cheer and there was no compelling reason to let our music festival plans fall away.  It was something we'd been looking forward to and planning with our friends for months....
They knew it would do us good.
And it did.
Full moon gazing, dancing in barefeet on the grass, camping out under the stars, laughing until my belly hurt, watching the sunset paint the clouds and the mist sweep across the mountains, wandering the forest spotting the white beargrass blooms gleaming under the moon.
All the music was swell--most of it utterly fantastic.  I can't stop singing the Shook Twins' song Toll Free--and think I might have to run off and buy all their albums.  That funk band from New Orleans was crazy--even if they did think they were freezing to death in the mountains.  The bluegrass was truly top-notch.  I could listen to the Kitchen Dwellers and the Stringdusters all the livelong day.  Or night, as the case may be.
It was pretty fan-foo-goo-tastic to be tired out from good times again, instead of just feeling weary.
It was an all around sweet little festival.  Small and intimate.  Affordably priced from the tickets to the beer.  An attractive venue with spacious camping.  Stellar music and cool art.  Nice people around warm campfires.  I even got a massage from one of the vendors.  There was no recycling and I needed to bring more warm clothes.  Those are my only two complaints--and I've no one but myself to blame for the latter.
This was the third year of Silvercloud Campout, but the first year we managed to hear about it.  I hope it is successful for the organizers because I could really get used to this as our new annual music festival.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Five-Spiced Chickpeas

I am a very cookbook oriented person.  (This dovetailing nicely with the fact that  I am a very food oriented person.)  I love pouring over recipes--examining photos, gleaning ideas.  I already have two shelves of cookbooks in our home library.  Of course, that doesn't stop me from checking out loads from the library or requesting review copies from Blogging For Books.  I especially love cookbooks featuring foreign cuisine.  Asian flavors are probably my favorite genre of foods.   Last year I went on a bender of checking out just about every Asian cookbook which I could lay hands on from the public library.  Chinese Five-Spice Powder kept cropping up on my cookbook reading and I'd never tried it.  I asked Matt to pick us up a jar so we could give it a whirl.  Eventually I suspect we'll just make our own, but for now the commercial version has been a good way to get our feet wet with this new seasoning.  And a little goes a long way, really, so this jar will be with a while yet.

Typically Chinese Five-Spice is comprised of star anise, cloves, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel seed, and cinnamon.  It is a bright, spicy, bold flavor with just a hint of sweetness from the anise and cinnamon.
This recipe is my current favorite of the five-spice concoctions experimented with thus far.  The melange of spices tastes friggin' great and the chickpeas get a swell chewy texture from the roasting.

Five-Spiced Chickpeas
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1/4 C tamari or soy sauce
2 T vegetable oil
4 t Chinese five-spice powder

Toss chickpeas with remaining ingredients until well coated.  
Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer.  
Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes, stirring half way though if you're feeling ambitious. 
Cauliflower pakoras, brown rice with peanut sauce, and five-spiced chickpeas.  Mmmmm-mmmm, good!
The recipe makes plenty because Matt and I tend to nibble them up rather quickly.  A half a batch might be sufficient for some people though.  The flavorful, chewy chickpeas work super as part of a main meal, but also make for splendid snacks at home and on the go.  Not to mention the fact that the recipe s superbly simple and quick to whip up.

Add five-spice powder to the perpetually increasing list of Asian flavors I adore.  Mmmmmmmmm....

Friday, June 16, 2017

The May-June-ish-ness Roller Coaster

Oh........where to begin, where to begin.
My life has been in a bit of chaos these last few weeks.  On May 24th Matt's brother, Ryan, went into cardiac arrest while at home in bed and spent the next two weeks in ICU before being transferred to a patient room and then a rehab center.  Three weeks ago I was terrified he was going to die.  Two weeks ago I was worried his personality, humor, kindness, sarcasm would be lost due to brain damage.  Yesterday he went home.  HOME!  It seems nothing short of miraculous to me.   Don't get me wrong.  He's still got a long hill to climb before he is back to his old self again.  He is frustrated by the gaps in his memory.  Still.  He cracks his same ol' jokes, teases us, can talk at length about beer, loves and remembers his family, friends, and his dog, plays Zilch, listens to the same music he's always liked, and so many other things that seemed light-years from possible just weeks ago....  It has been a remarkable and humbling ride to say the least.
On the evening of June 4th, as Ryan was blowing us away with his dramatic turn for the better, my paternal grandma fell and broke her hip in pretty much the worst way possible.  She was airlifted to the hospital here the next day.  So, Matt and I bounced back and forth between the two hospitals visiting Ryan and Grandma Fran.  Originally the doctors hoped to do surgery on Grandma's hip--pins, screws, etc.  However, further testing showed her vascular system to be essentially shot and the medical team realized she wouldn't survive the surgery--or if she did she'd be in even worse condition than when she went in.  Hospice was called.  Family started driving and flying in.  Grandma waited until everyone who was able to come had arrived.  She waited until the pastor gave her her last holy communion.  Then, just moments after this rite, she slipped away into her final peace.  It was rather beautiful, really, the timing of it all.  She was such a strong woman and she'd been fighting for a long time.  Such strength wrapped up in that tiny, little body.  I'll miss her--the funny stories about my dad as a boy, her beautifully penned letters, her spunk--but I am also thankful she's no longer in pain.  She flat out told us she was ready to go, ready to see her parents again.  That makes it easier, albeit far from easy.
Until this last month I'd never spent any time in the ICU.  I'd hardly spent any time visiting hospital.  Period.  I'd never seen someone intubated.  I'd never seen someone die.  I'd never seen someone almost die.  I'd never seen such fear in the eyes of someone I love.  I'd never witnessed such tranquility as in my Grandmother's very last moments.  I'd never seen such confusion as those first days in the ICU.
Grandma Fran is second from the left in this photo from my cousin's wedding.
What a month!  Gosh the world is crazy and relative like that.  Has it really been less than a month?!  Everything has happened and yet it simultaneously feels like I've been standing still.  Sitting in limbo.  Waiting really is the hardest part.  Hospital time is not the same as time in the larger world.  Sitting around "doing nothing" can really wear a person down.
I've certainly learned a lot since May 24th.  About my family of birth and my family of choice, about medical treatments and hospitals, about the depths of love, about the glorious fragility--the highs and lows--of life and death!  I learned so much.  Much of which I never really expected or wanted to know, but none the less... Throughout the whole thing, even at the bottom, I tried to find the silver linings.  Sometimes it was beyond challenging--just glimmers and hints--but they're always there.  Sometimes it seems like they're there to spite you.  I learned so much about myself.  That was surprising and I'm still trying to process it all.  New lessons make themselves clear daily yet.
And I failed rather miserably in Me-Made-May this year.  Turns out I don't own enough me-made dresses to last a whole month without repeats.  (It wouldn't have really mattered though.  After the 23rd I couldn't be bothered with clothing and just threw something on--Me-Made or otherwise.  I did sew a little something for the first three weeks.  That was a brilliant addition to the challenge.  Overall though it wasn't my best MMM year.  Oh, well.  There is always next year.)

And the garden hasn't even hardly been planted.   (And we're fine with that.  We'll just hit Farmer's Market more this year.  We DID manage to find time to harvest our swell crop of strawberries though--before the birds did!  We actually planted the potatoes in the dark because we just couldn't find enough hours in the day to get it done during the daylight hours. )

And the yard is a jungle and the house messy with laundry, dishes, and rugs very much in need of a vacuuming.  (And we're fine with that, too.  All of the sudden a tidy house really isn't that big a long as we've got clean underpants its all good.)

And the cats are beside themselves with missing us, feeling quite abandoned, I am sure.  (And we've missed them, too!  A purring kitty is salve for the soul at the end of a trying day.)

And I experienced physical and emotional exhaustion like I'd never known in my life.  (And impressed myself with how well I could take it and keep going!  One never knows what they can do until they have to, I guess.)

And I've felt love and support like I'd never known either.  (Where would I be without my friends, family, and colleagues?!?!  I hate to even think of it.)
Today we lay my grandmother's earthly remains to rest in the very town where she was born.  Today Ryan is back home with his family.  The highs and lows of emotion still continue, now seemingly in some strange sort of universal balance.  Its all good though.   Love always comes with a cost.  And is always worth the price.
I love you, Ryan.  I love you, Grandma.