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Posts from the ‘A Word or Two’ Category

a letter to friends

graveside-1I come out of this season while away knowing a few things for sure:

Final goodbyes are the most painful sort

They become no less so with repetition

Four feels too many

Little girls – and little boys – mend hearts

Sky and earth make good medicine

 so do rainy streets

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Dear friends,

I never dreamed that I would be away from this space for so long. For us, this has been a season to remember. Maybe it has been for you too.

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Luke

I posed the question to you last spring, where do you find your sunshine? This spring I’ve been asking a similar thing – but this time, a question posed only to myself.

I’m one of those who feels life deeply. At times it seems as though I could burst apart, a sparkling, confetti-ed explosion of  joy; at other times, I fear I may be crushed by the boulder of a weight behind my ribs. My husband says it’s the result of living with an open heart. Maybe, I don’t know, but I do know it’s not in me to do it differently. This Spring our dear golden dog Luke, who we’ve shared home and life with for 13 years, suddenly grew very very old. We’ll lose him soon. He’s been  a true friend, a mind-reader, a leaner, sun-seeker, a soulful soul, a dear and constant companion. We’ve shared so many playful happy times, a deep and mutual affection, and now we share a suffering. This we do, because we love, and suffering and love are bound.

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this little light…..& shortbread cookies

for those of us who live north of the equator, we’re only 4  days from the darkest day of the year. But for many among us, it felt as though last Friday must surely have been that day.

. . .

in this hurting world

don’t think that for one moment

your light goes unnoticed.

don’t think for an instant that your light,

just now, is too dim to shine for anyone.

. . .

don’t believe that what we face

is either too big or too complicated,

or that our little light

is powerless

in the creeping shadow of it.

. . .

in this hurting world, the one thing,

the one thing, we can each do

is let our own light shine.

whatever shape or brilliance your candle,

it is exactly what the world needs…

this shimmering little light

that is yours alone

to share.

___

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Sometimes, when it feels like sadness might overtake us,

we bake.

something so small.

An unseen part of us knows though that an ancient comfort

is resident in our kitchens. When hope seems dim, or our candle flickers,

and we really haven’t much of a clue where to put our sorrow,

we can always bake cookies to share.

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these little shortbreads are aromatic and truly lovely. if you already know and love lavender in the kitchen, go for the full teaspoon. if you’re trying for the first time, you might start with the smaller amount. but if you don’t have lavender at all, it can be omitted. or try replacing it with ¼ to a scant ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, very finely minced. (Culinary lavender is easily obtained on-line.)

however, if chocolate is your flavor, a recipe for chocolate shortbread follows.

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Lemon Lavender Shortbread

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½ cup butter at room temperature

½ cup powdered sugar (unsifted)

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

¾ to 1 teaspoon culinary lavender  (see above) 

¼ teaspoon lemon extract

1 cup flour

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Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Drop the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Mince very finely the zest of lemon and the lavender and add them to the powdered sugar. Add the lemon extract.  Stir to mix; then add to the butter and cream together. Work in the flour, scraping the bowl as you go.  Once the dough has mostly come together, remove to an unfloured board and knead  until nice and smooth.

Either spray with non-stick vegetable spray or brush a thin layer of vegetable oil on the bottom and sides of your pan. Firmly press the dough into the pan. (I used a clay pan with Scottish thistle imprinted on it, but an 8-inch round cake pan or 9-inch pie tin will work just fine!) Prick the entire surface with a fork and bake at 325°F (165°C) for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set the timer and allow the shortbread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. (If it doesn’t release right away, tap one edge of the pan.) Cut the shortbread into 8 pieces while still warm.

( to print lemon lavender recipe, click. )

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Best Food Blog 2012 contest…

 No strangers to beauty…

If you follow my blog, you undoubtedly follow others. And if you frequent (or are a part of) this expanding world of food-writing and recipe-sharing, you’re no stranger to some jaw-droppingly beautiful food photography either. As a member of this community, I’m in some pretty wonderful (and at times very humbling) company. It was a real honor then to learn I’d been nominated for Best Food Blog 2012 in the Food Photography category. (The contest is sponsored annually by FriendsEAT.com…an online social community for foodies.)

Contest winners aren’t evaluated and selected by a panel of judges. This is a contest judged  by a jury of readers and followers like you. And there’re only a handful of days in which to vote. If it would please you to vote for Spree, it would please me no end! And if (by chance!) you wanted to pass the word around to family or friends and ask them to have a look… JOY!

You can vote here.  **

**  (Please see exactly HOW to register your vote at the bottom of this post.)

Voting concludes the end of this week on FRIDAY, December 14! And only one vote per person per category.

The gallery below samples some of my work over the past year-and-a-half of blogging… to scroll through the photos, click any image and use the right and left arrows that appear at the sides…

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a trip in ruins

One short kilometer from the town of Saint-Remy where we were staying, on our way to visit a famous Roman ruin, we passed this.

Guinea Pig did a swift and highly illegal maneuver with our rental car and came to a skidding gravel-spraying stop. We climbed out to explore. As it turns out, what we’d come across was the Mausoleum to the Julii – erected around 40 B.C.E. – one of the best-preserved mausoleums of the Roman world. We’d heard about the ancient ruins of Glanum and figured we must have arrived. We expected there to be more to the fabled site than this, but we didn’t see it, so we took our time examining closely what we could see. It was still early morning, hardly a soul up or out.

My camera was still pressed to my cheek when Guinea (whose attention span can be a bit short at times – more truthfully, mine a bit long) wandered across the street, wag-jerked his head, lifted his paw and waved. He’d found something.

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the dream…Saint-Remy de Provence

The Guinea Pig and I took a fast train south, from Paris to Provence. It was our first time in southern France and we  weren’t sure that we’d made the right choice on where to land…that is, until we arrived. Then we knew.  Saint-Rémy was just our speed.

Situated in the heart of the Alpilles,  Saint-Rémy is built on one of the oldest archeological sites in all of Europe. (The next travel post – I’ll share some amazing ruins virtually “next door” – inhabited by the Romans between the 6th century BCE and 3rd century AD.) The current town of St. Rémy is encircled by remnants of its original 14th century walls. Some of the buildings’ facades date to the Renaissance.

This town was the birthplace of the famous astrologer and physician Nostradamus.

(More recently, Van Gogh spent years here…but more about that in a moment.)

Nostradamus

Saint-Rémy is filled with Renaissance facades, residences, convents and chapels. Its winding streets are cobbled and water drains down the center.

The sun shines hard here and the mistral winds blow fiercely when they do.

Pick a color, and then pastel it…or silk it…these are the colors Saint-Rémy wears.

Windows bear shutters

and frequently wear flowers.

~ ~ ~

Because the Guinea and I tend to eat our three squares no matter where we are, we’ve developed a nose for the aromas of good food rising from the stove and wafting out the windows. We found some of our favorite here…

‘Twas so good in fact, we found it twice…

~ ~ ~

We experienced a couple highlights during our stay in Saint-Rémy, apart from the food. One, the Roman ruins of Glanum I’ll share next time;

the other, so moving, was the Cloître Saint-Paul, and with it, the Asylum where Vincent Van Gogh was confined for a time. (1889-90)

Some of his most famous paintings were done during his stay here. (Among the many,  Starry Night and Self-Portrait.) When you walk the beautiful hushed grounds here, you’ll see where he set his easel and pulled out his brushes to paint. And you’ll see the magic that was Vincent’s mind.

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the road traveled

~ ~ ~

For 3½ weeks I haven’t driven, chopped herbs, sifted, stirred or baked.

For nearly a month now, not a load of laundry, a trip to the mailbox or a bill paid.

No garden tended, no floor swept, no counters wiped clean.

No phone ringing, door-knocking, no dogs wagging. (I did ache for the wagging!)

Familiar comforts, left behind. Rhythms and patterns, well-established,  set aside.

In exchange, there was to be newness in every step.  “Knowing” suspended. Curiosity indulged.

No apron. But a heavy camera around my neck. And from my shoulders, a weighty loaded pack.

Miles upon many miles of footfalls, blistered and tired (but ever-willing) feet.

Ears perked. Eyes wide.  Body stooping, reaching, climbing.

And a bursting happy heart!

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on the farm

Growing up, our grandfather (Big Papa) had a farm. Quite a large farm. It nearly encompassed the entire world for me as a kid…that and the woods behind our own house back in town. Most of the time Big Papa had a caretaker who looked after the farm property which was acres and acres of horse pasture, huge barns with hay lofts, tall silos filled with the sweet smell of fermenting hay, leather-scented tack rooms where saddles and horse blankets were hung, a milking barn that smelled like cottage cheese and cream, all kinds of old farm equipment, an old-time fire engine, a gas pump. You get the picture. There were woods there too, and sand banks where we’d play for hours on end. There were Shetland ponies and two big beautiful Pintos. A milking herd of sweet-faced Jerseys. A Brahma bull, just because he was fiercely fantastic. There were pea-brained guinea hens forever running from us, though they had no reason to. There were attics filled with beds and bunks, chenille bedspreads, old dressers and vanities with dusty mirrors. Old women’s clothes, men’s work boots. Old baby buggies. Indian blankets. The farm was a child’s paradise.

I was blessed to grow up free to roam. I explored for endless hours the woods out back, built forts with the guys. I believed there was a gang who roamed those woods. “The Dick and John Gang.” Mean as all get-out we were told, but we never met up with them. (I’m not sure anyone ever did.) I climbed water towers. I’d frequently ride my bike down to an old abandoned saw mill and investigate. I rode my horse, alone, and  fast  along sandy trails! (I was taught that I’d gone a step too far when I woke in the middle of the night with the express purpose of  driving my dad’s car down onto the beach nearby. The lights were on in the farm house when I returned. There was to be no sneaking back to bed. I think I was 12.)

~ ~ ~

Seems to me that we’re each formed in good part by the experiences we had as children, the games we played,  the woods or yards or streets we roamed. There’s no question, the farm runs in my veins.

About three miles down the road from we live now is an old family farm. The city next to ours bought it from the Luscher family and it’s been turned into acres and acres of gardens for the community to share. This time of year the gardens are populated by brooms wearing clothes. You’ll see. I went there yesterday to breathe and wander. I thought I’d share a few photos of my time there.

Click on any one of the photos below to enlarge it, or by using the arrows you can flip through them all if you like.(Click on the little x in the left-hand corner to return to the post.) I hope you’ll enjoy a few minutes of peace in the gardens where the bees buzz and people quietly turn over the dirt and tend their tomatoes.

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a bird in the hand…and hope

I had the feeling I was running behind in life…Do you ever? As if life were meant to progress by a schedule – like an efficiently-run German passenger train (which of course, we all know, it is not) and here I was, about to miss it.

Wasn’t it Lewis Carroll who said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get?” Was it the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland? Or was it me? Certainly it was me.

The other day I was feeling as though, no matter how long I might live, I could never catch up.

{ O woe is me, my name is Pity! }

hmmm…

It might have made some sense had I asked, “But dear, exactly what is it you’re trying to catch up with or to?”  But of course, when you’re in “that mood” (meaning the complete absence of all good sense) you don’t ask such questions.

Sometimes though, in a life of grace (which is the life we all live, whether we know it or not) something happens. Something flies through the window to break the spell – the hex – we’re under, and set us right again.

The other day, I found myself in such a state of mind. And then…

Through the open doors of summer, a chartreuse vireo flew into our house. She was fluttering against the windows, seeing beyond them to the sky and trees, and trying desperately to find her way out again. Slowly I took my hand to her. To my surprise, she allowed me to lift her, fully enveloping her trembling tiny body between my two hands. She weighed little more than air. I walked with her back outside, then lifted my top hand. There she was, eyes wide. I expected her to fly. Straight away. But she didn’t.  Instead, she stayed.

She stayed and stayed as I walked with her, carrying her from place to place, in search of that spot where she might feel free again to fly.  Instead though, her tiny gray feet clutched tight to me as I spoke softly to her that it was safe to leave now. She closed her eyes and took long rests…opened her eyes and looked around…and then closed them again. Here she rested. And rested.

And so did I.

’twas perfect peace to me.

 My husband and I watched, relieved as finally she flew, un-hurt.

And in that, All things were made right again.

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There is a fellow-blogger I’ve grown especially fond of – Shira – her blog In Pursuit of More …Living with {just a little} Less will be so worth your time to check out, if you haven’t yet met her. She has a generous and gracious heart. She puts wonderful, healthful food on the table, and gives us words of wisdom to grow on.

Before leaving for a family trip to France recently, she was asked to say a few things about


H O P E .

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we interrupt…

We interrupt our normal interruptions to bring you a new kitchen. (Normal interruptions, which will include food, will resume tomorrow.)

Long dreamed-of, our kitchen is here.

Pots are bubbling, freezer’s making ice, spices sprinkling, soapstone’s silky, cookies in the oven, mama’s smiling big.

a welcome-back-to-the-kitchen gift from spree’s Grateful Guinea Pig

So many of you good people have offered encouragement these past few months while we went through a fairly major renovation at our house. Some of you spoke from multiple experiences of your own. Your kind words have meant so much to me!  I’ve held and replayed them in my mind on the most discouraging of days (and there were a few of those.) Many of you have asked for a peek into the newly remodeled kitchen – how could I possibly say no when you’ve brightened so many of my days?

We were able to save our cabinets and simply have them re-finished. We attached new pulls on drawers and cupboards.

We replaced our gas cooktop (who does that?!) with induction. It’s hiding over there under the rooster. Love it! Induction is wow, amazing, and since it’s fairly new technology and not all that widely-known, I plan to tell you a bit about it in another post. (I’ll feed you too.)

We replaced sinks and faucets. 

The button on the counter above? It replaces another that had been situated on the cabinet to the side. It was one that everyone’s hip accidentally bumped to start the garbage disposal.

sil-granite sinks – made of granite dust & silicone they’re durable, virtually heat & scratch-proof, quick-drying & easy easy care

 

We replaced a 23-year-old fridge with one spacious and light, so that fruits and vegetables no longer go there to die.

Have I already mentioned to you that we replaced our old countertops with soapstone? I want to warn anyone out there considering them – they will scratch. (Well, more precisely I mean, you can scratch them – even as careful as you are.) BUT, much to their credit, they are smooth and silky as baby skin (for those of you tactile like me –  you’ll spend a ridiculous amount of time petting them at first .) And because of their satiny finish, light doesn’t glare off them. They’re very very easy on the eyes! And have I mentioned they’re fun to pet?

So what haven’t I shown you or told you about? I think that about covers it. Except something you would have guessed anyway – it is such a joy to be back in the kitchen. A lot of interruptions still, and dust, because our bathrooms are more than a week away from being complete. But this is the heart of the home…the place where we prepare the food that becomes love put on the table…

savoy cabbage on soapstone…look for an Indian-inspired recipe next week, and salmon on a cedar plank tomorrow.

Thanks for sharing in the journey with me and for your thoughtfulness & patience along the dusty way. And Brydie! (City Hippy Farm Girl)  Thank you for the kangaroo cookie cutter from down under! Look to see Joey’s jumping off the platter here one day soon!

love, spree