• my new superpower

    Saturday morning I had a dream. In the dream I gave birth to a baby boy. It was lovely. But then there were some insurance issues and the baby got relocated and I spent a lot of time walking around the hospital waiting room trying to figure out what I needed to do to get to my baby boy.

    And then I woke up.

    Even with the insurance problems, it had been a pleasant dream. I laid there in bed (it was 6-ish—not quite time to get up) and thought about baby boys and how my brother and his wife were expecting their third child in the next week or so. They already had two girls, and the oldest girl had her heart set on a baby brother. She’ll probably be crushed if it’s another girl, I thought to myself. And then I reconsidered, Nah, once she sees the new baby she’ll be fine.

    I drifted off then, and when I got up for reals about an hour later, my first thoughts were about that baby boy. And then—  What if they had the baby last night! Ha, wouldn’t that be wild.

    I fired up the computer and shot my brother an email. The subject line said, “Any baby last night?” In the body, I explained, “Weird dreams,” and then went on to ask if they wanted us to start sleeping with the phone by our bed since we were on call for the girls’ childcare. I wanted to ask, Any boy baby? but I thought that might come across as presumptuous and irritating, especially if they went on to have a girl.

    Twenty minutes later the phone rang. It was my brother.

    “We have a baby boy,” he said.

    GOOSEBUMPS.

     But wait. The stinker must have just gotten my email. He was pulling my leg to get back.

    “Ha. You’re kidding.”

    “Um, no…? We have a baby boy.”

    He sounded tired and confused…and happy. I stopped doubting and started squealing.

    Turns out, the baby boy—a real one—was born right about the same time as my dream baby. The midwife didn’t arrive at their house in time (not her fault, they didn’t give her enough time, or maybe I should say the baby didn’t give them enough warning), so my brother delivered the baby himself and everything was marvelously honky-dory.

    Perhaps I should invest in a crystal ball?

  • Oreo

    (Written Tuesday afternoon.)

    When lambing season started this year, we told our lamb farmer friends that we would take a rejected lamb should the need arise. This would be our older daughter’s project as she’s our resident animal lover and beggar of all creatures farm related: cow, goats, sheep, llamas…

    The call came yesterday. It wasn’t from the farmers we knew, but through the aunt (or mother? neighbor?) of a friend of a friend. There was a mad dash for bottle and milk replacer, old sheets, box, books on raising sheep, and hot water bottles. In no time at all we had a lamb in a box by the fire.

    The children were ecstatic. They couldn’t keep her hands off her thick black-and-white pelt. My daughter immediately named her Oreo and called all her friends to tell them the good news.

    The lamb was bigger than we expected, and she came with no history. She had been walking the day before, but hadn’t been able to stand since. She refused to suck. No one knew what was wrong, and with the original owner heading out of the country, we had no choice but to wing it.

    One of our lamb farmer friends stopped by to check her out that evening. She was a hair lamb, he said—raised for meat, not wool—and she was probably two or three weeks old. There was no sign that anything was wrong, just weak. And with no background story to fill in the gaps, well…

    So we gave her formula and a vitamin mix, recording each feeding as we went along. But then she started this weird thing where we’d feed her and she would act completely dead for five minutes. Should we feed her more? Were the feedings shocking her system? We had no idea, but things weren’t looking good.

    That evening another lamb farmer friend came over with his plastic box of medicines. He showed us how to insert a feeding tube into Oreo’s stomach—it was like having James Herriot in my very own living room—and he gave her mineral oil.

    He said that lambs are tricky business. It could be a vitamin deficiency, toxicity from too much grain (if she had indeed been given grain), or simple dehydration. He left us with an assortment of lamb supplies, not much hope, and the suggestion that we try enemas.

    So now I know how to do enemas on lambs. It’s amazing what a person is capable of learning when she has to.

    The original plan was for my daughter to be responsible for any lamb we got, but because Oreo was fading fast, we sent our daughter to bed and my husband slept downstairs with the lamb. When I came down at four-something in the morning, he was sitting in her box, her head on his lap.

    She hadn’t drunk more than a couple ounces of milk. She hadn’t pooped. Her eyes were glazed. Should we be trying harder? Should we let her go? There was no way to tell. I gave her another enema, and we inserted the stomach tube for another feeding. We watched her closely. If she rallied, even a little, it would be reason to press on.

    But she didn’t.

    Together, in the new-and-improved box that my husband built.

    The poor children. The tears and sobs. The petting and waiting and watching.

    I made pancakes while willing the lamb to just please die already. I couldn’t bear the slow decline. Waiting for the inevitable. No longer hoping but still sort of hoping. And detesting the idea of having a dying animal in my house. It was all so … messy.

    I put the supplies away. I scrubbed the syringes and stomach tube and bagged them up to return.

    We had an appointment in town that morning. I called my husband. “Oreo’s hardly breathing. She’s going to die any minute. Can you come home and check on her while we’re out? I don’t want the children to come back to a dead lamb in the house.” And then I packed the kids into the car. We listened to books on tape on the drive, and after the appointment we got ice cream. It was a nice break.

    On the way home, we passed my husband. He didn’t smile and he didn’t stop.

    When we walked in the house, Oreo and the box were gone and there was a patch of freshly dug dirt in the garden.

    The sadness came crashing back, unyielding in its finality. What a shattering disappointment.

    The last couple hours have been rough. But there is relief, too. Finality can be a gift.

    And in between crying jags, our daughter is already dreaming about and hoping for the next phone call….

  • roasted cauliflower soup

    It’s time to make soup.

    Seriously. I’m not even playing. You have got to listen to me.

    Are you listening?


    Are you?

    Because, PEOPLE OH MY WORD I HAVEN’T MADE SOMETHING THIS GOOD IN AGES.

    It’s not flashy and it’s not complicated but it will win you over with one bite promise. It’s a keeper, this one is.

    My process for getting around to making the soup—and it’s a roasted cauliflower soup we’re talking about here—was rather awkward, I admit. I first spied the recipe on a blog, a recipe which I recollected at the grocery store. So I picked out a cauliflower, but without any great conviction because, cauliflower meh.

    The head sat in my fridge for most of a week until Saturday when I decided it was time for some serious cooking. So, in the midst of making a pot of broccoli soup, roasting and/or simmering four butternut squashes, mixing up a double batch of biscuits, and completing an array of sundry tasks, I turned the cauliflower into soup.

    I chopped the lumpy head into florets, drizzled them with olive oil, and slipped the pan into the oven before going to the computer to look up the soup specifics. I thought the recipe was Luisa’s), but—Oh no! She didn’t have a recent post about cauliflower soup! To make a desperate situation even more desperate, I couldn’t seem to access any posts beyond the ones found on her opening page. How long ago had I read that recipe anyway? Perhaps she had posted it several months ago? My memory is a shoddy affair. So I shot Luisa a quick email explaining the problem and then, of course, promptly found the little arrow sitting pretty at the bottom of her page. After another email in which I told her to disregard the first—“and it wasn’t you who posted that recipe apparently… (sticks head in toilet and flushes)”—I started flipping through the blogs I most often find inspiring. After a bit of fruitless tooling around, I remembered: Joy the Baker!

    I did a recipe skim-through and then yanked the tray of sizzling cauliflower half out of the oven to sprinkle it with the missing ingredients: cumin seeds, curry, and chile cobán. I sauteed an onion and some garlic in a pat of butter and bit of olive oil, doused it all with a quart of chicken broth, and then added the roasted cauliflower straight from the oven. I added a cup of mashed potatoes (my only serious deviance) I found buried in the back of the fridge, left over from my crazy-day sweet rolls. A gentle simmer, a quick blend with the immersion blender, a taste test, and—ba-bam—I collapsed in a heap on the floor, eyes rolled back in their sockets. So good.

    (Clarification: I did not literally collapse on the floor. That was an exaggeration to illustrate how I felt about the riotous flavors. Actually, laying on the floor would have been a foolish thing to do because it’s hard to eat soup from a prone position, particularly when the bowl of soup is on the table and I am three feet below it. My arms simply aren’t long enough to reach. Plus, the kitchen tiles are hard and cold.)

    I ate two bowls for lunch and sent a pint jar of soup over to my sister-in-law’s house with precise serving instructions: heat it up in a mug and drizzle a little olive oil on top. She had just had a baby a few hours before and the soup struck me as being the ideal snack for a postpartum mama.

    There is one pint left in the fridge. I tried to coax my son to drink it (the one who has been on a liquid diet), but my heart wasn’t in it. I really didn’t want to share. He shunned my offer, as I suspected he would, and now I’m happily anticipating my next eating opportunity.

    Roasted Cauliflower Soup
    Adapted from Joy the Baker

    I used chile cobán in place of the red pepper flakes. Dried chipotle pepper would be another good option.

    I blended a cup of leftover, plain mashed potatoes into the hot soup. It wasn’t a key player, but it made me realize that any number of vegetables could be added to the soup, such as roasted squash, turnips, and potatoes. If you’re okay with the soup going green, toss in some kale. Or carrots for bright yellow. And why not roast the onions and garlic right along with the cauliflower? On the other hand, why complicate things? The soup is perfect—better than perfect—as is.

    1 head cauliflower
    3-6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    salt
    1 rounded teaspoon curry powder
    1 rounded teaspoon cumin seed
    hearty pinch red pepper flakes
    1 medium onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon butter
    4 cups chicken broth

    Cut the cauliflower into florets. Put them on a sided baking tray and drizzle with several tablespoons of olive oil, salt, curry powder, cumin seed, and red pepper flakes. Roast at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the florets’ bottoms are caramelized and they’ve gone tender-crunchy.

    While the cauliflower is roasting, saute the onion in the butter along with another tablespoon or two of olive oil (or just use olive oil only). When the onions are tender, add the garlic and cook another couple minutes. Add the broth and the roasted cauliflower (scrape in every last drop of the spice-infused oil). Simmer for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is completely tender.

    Blend the soup until it is creamy smooth. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil.

    P.S. I ended up sharing the last pint of soup with my mother. She fully understood what a tremendous sacrifice I was making, which made the loss bearable. We didn’t save any for my father who was dozing on the couch, though. My generosity only extends so far.    

  • the quotidian (2.24.14)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace



    At Shannan’s bidding, I downloaded FotoSketcher and have been 
    turning everything into watercolors ever since.

    It’s become a compulsion.

    I may need an intervention.
    Doctor’s waiting rooms: I’ve had more than my normal share this week. 
     This one got bonus points for having a Keurig and real mugs.

    The good part of a missed day of work (for my husband) for a medical appointment: he drives while I knit.

    Hurtling down the highway to the dental chair, needles, anesthesia, and sore gums.

    Minus ten teeth, plus chains.

    On a liquid diet for five days and counting.

    The rest of us, however, are most certainly not on a liquid diet: blueberry baked French toast.

    Butchering the squash.

    Weather confusion: a lawnmower turned snowplow with chains, a sled, and a kid in shorts.
  • peanut butter and jelly bars

    Earlier this week when Mavis posted a recipe for chocolate peanut butter shortbread squares, I was suddenly reminded about her other recipe—a recipe for peanut butter and jelly bars—that I was going to tell you about but then promptly forgot .

    Well, not exactly promptly, I suppose. I did make the bars, twice. Photographed them twice, too. But then my camera broke and a bunch of other distractions wedged themselves between the peanut butter bars and my keyboard and that was that. Until Mavis kindly reminded me, that is.

    Funny thing is, I’m not crazy about these peanut butter jelly bars. They are good, yes, and I’ve eaten (more than) my fair share of them, but I wasn’t all hog-snortin’ wild about them. And I don’t make it a practice to write about recipes that I’m not hog wild about. However, the children went bloomin’ nuts over those bars.

    The first time I made them, our house was filled with a higher-than-average number of children. Almost as soon as I sliced the bars, the kids were crowed around the table, begging and eating and reaching and eating, like you never did see.

    One little friend got rather repetitive in expressing her appreciation for them. “These cookies are really good,” she said. “You need to give my mom the recipe.”

    pause

    “I like these cookies a lot. You should give the recipe to my mom.”

    pause

    “These are yummy. Can you give the recipe to my mom?”

    (I never did give the recipe to her mom.) (Until now.)

    The bars are like granola bars, but with a cleaned-up ingredient list: flour, oats, brown sugar, butter, and, of course, peanut butter and jelly. They come together fast and are delicious served still-warm from the oven, washed down with lots of cold milk. This makes them an excellent mid-afternoon snack for those days when your house is overrun with short ruffians.

    So it’s for the children (and for the weary adults who have to feed them) that I make an exception to my only-write-about-my-favorite-things rule. These bars turn hungry children into happy children.

    So I guess I kind of do love them after all.

    Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
    Adapted from Mavis Butterfield’s blog.

    2 cups rolled oats
    1/3 cup flour
    ½ cup brown sugar
    ½ cup butter, melted
    3/4 cup peanut butter
    1/3 cup jelly (I used grape)

    Combine the oats, flour, and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and peanut butter and stir to combine. Set aside ½ cup of the oat mixture.

    Press the oat mixture (except for the ½ cup that I just told you to set aside, duh) into an 8×8-inch baking dish that has been lined with parchment paper. Spread the jelly over the dough. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the jelly layer.

    Bake the bars at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and the jelly is bubbling. Cool completely before cutting the bars (unless you want to eat them slightly warm, with a glass of milk, which I suggest you do).

  • almond cake

    I made you a cake.

    Just kidding. I made myself a cake, ha. The recipe jumped out at me from one of the more recent Cook’s Illustrated magazines (‘course, according to them, it’s the best almond cake in all the history of almond cakes, but I’ve already said enough about that, and ‘sides, I’m not above adjectiving my recipes with bold strokes upon ‘cassion), so come last Saturday, I was in the mood for some ‘sperimentin’, never mind you that I still had half a carrot cake imprisoned in the glass cake stand atop the kitchen table.

    (‘Sup with all the half words anyway? Weird. Moving right along…)

    So I whipped up the cake. It’s a simple affair. One layer, no icing, and everything gets ground, beaten, and blended in the food processor. The resulting cake is dense and straightforward, nubbly with bits of blended-up almonds and capped with a crunchy lid of slivered almonds and lemon sugar.

    It’s the kind of cake that:

    *belongs in a picnic basket (not that I have a picnic basket) and then eaten out of hand with juicy, freshly-picked berries (because berry picking is what’s supposed to happen on picnics).
    *pairs perfectly with a cup of morning tea.
    *gets on fabulously with a big thermal mug of milky coffee.
    *holds up under whipped cream and the scrutiny of an uppity guest (not that I ever have those).
    *keeps well, should you have to set it aside to finish up The Other Cake.
    *is underappreciated by children which means that you can hoard it without feeling guilty (not that I would ever feel guilty about hiding a cake that my children loved) (because I wouldn’t).
    *feels like a hearty breakfast in a dainty dessert’s body, if that makes any sense.





    I’m particularly fond of the buttery browned edges.



    Almond Cake
    Adapted from the January-February 2014 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

    The recipe calls for blanched, sliced, toasted almonds. The Cook’s Illustrated folks claim to be annoyed by the flecks of brown in the cake that come from the almond skins. Plus, they say the skins give the cake a bitter flavor. I used a mix of sliced almonds (not blanched) and whole almonds. I did not toast them. I’m not sophisticated enough to notice a bitter flavor, and I find the brown flecks enchanting. My recommendation: use whole, untoasted almonds and be done with it.

    for the batter:
    1½ cups almonds
    3/4 cup flour
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/8 teaspoon baking soda
    4 eggs
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    1 tablespoon lemon zest
    3/4 teaspoon almond extract
    5 tablespoons butter, melted
    1/3 cup canola oil

    Put the almonds, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in the food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Transfer to a bowl.

    Put the eggs, sugar, zest, and extract in the now-empty processor and blend on high for about 2 minutes. With the processor still running, add the butter and oil. As soon as the fats are incorporated into the batter, add the dry ingredients and pulse several times to combine. Pour the batter into a greased and wax paper-lined 9-inch springform pan.

    for the topping:
    2 tablespoons sugar
    ½ – 1 teaspoon lemon zest
    1/3 cup sliced almonds

    With your fingers, mix the sugar with the zest until combined—about 10 seconds. (Lick your fingers clean.)

    Sprinkle the almonds over the batter and top with the lemon sugar.

    Bake the cake at 300 degrees for 50-65 minutes. Let cool for ten minutes before running a knife around the edge of the cake. Cool completely and serve. This cake keeps well, covered with plastic, at room temperature.

  • the quotidian (2.17.14)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    The Snow Edition



    Outside…

    Luxuriating.

    ‘Twas rather windy-ish.

    Yet another wrestling match.
    Soaking up the rays.

    Wishing for wings.
    (The man has a thing for jumping into snow.
    When he was in college, 
    dozens of guys jumped out of their first, second,
    and third story dorm windows into the giant drifts. 
    You can probably guess who the instigator was.)
    Preparing to leap.

    Dog turned groundhog.
    We were all crowded ’round the window admiring her sweetness when she visibly shivered 
    and we realized that the kennel gate was closed with her on the outside. 
    And just like that, her darling-ness turned into straight-up pathetic-ness, the poor dear.

    Because this is what you do when white stuff falls. 
    (Except instead of being all cutesy and quaint, my children made a pack of slain snowmen. 
    Maybe it’s a subtle message to the gods of winter?)
    I’m guessing deer.

    Grateful for the sexy big equipment that plows us out.

    And inside…


    An Inconvenient Truth: good, extreme-weather entertainment.

    (And now they won’t let me turn on the lights.)
    Contrary to all appearances, she’s not attaching it to her pants.
    “Your move.”
    Grandmommy and a book, all to herself.

    Forget the stews and roasts, our snowed-in menu had a summery twist: 
    fruit salad, hot dogs, potato salad, ice cream, and green salad.

    And carrot cake.

  • chocolate pudding

    That I’m posting about a chocolate dessert on Valentine’s Day is entirely coincidental.

    I’m ambivalent about the holiday. Some people love it, others hate it. I’m somewhere in the middle. Celebrating LOVE is a wide-open opportunity. A person could take it in a million directions which I find positively paralyzing and the reason that I have not even mentioned it’s Valentine’s Day to my children or husband. I don’t want to get cornered in the kitchen with butter and pink food coloring, nor do I want reams of construction paper cluttering up the house.

    But maybe you love it? Maybe you do magical things for your children and friends? Fairy gardens, pink boxes tied up with twine, jaunty little poems, and cards with Beatrix Potter-esque illustrations? I bet it’s really nice.

    Maybe I’m feeling jealous. A little guilty, perhaps. It’d be such fun to be That Person loving on everyone with boxes of hand-crafted magic. People like that are so appreciated and loved. I want to be appreciated and loved—really, that’s the only reason to celebrate Valentine’s anyway, to get our warm fuzzies on.

    See, it all comes back to me. I’m so not cut out for Hallmark. (Speaking of which, there’s a whole bunch of awkward, not-really Valentine’s Day cards out there. If I were to write one, it’d say something like, “Here’s a gift because giving it to you makes me feel good.”)

    I suppose I could make pizza or some other family-loved favorite for supper. A nice dessert would be appreciated, too. But truth is, we eat nice desserts and family-loved favorites rather often. Case in point, this chocolate pudding.

    It happened, not because of V-day (in case you didn’t already catch that) but because I have all this cream on hand (thank you, kind neighbor!) and for some odd reason, I developed an inexplicable hankering for pudding. I recalled a post of Deb’s that piqued my interest, hit up her blog, and did what needed to be done.

    Her recipe is super basic, calling for straight-up milk and chocolate chips—there’s no need to even crack an egg—but I used mostly cream because it’s what I had. I served the pudding in little glasses with spoonfuls of whipped cream dolloped on top because I believe that chocolate pudding isn’t worth eating if it’s not topped with whipped cream. I have strong feelings about this. Do not contradict me.

    Serve this pudding to people you love and they will be happy which will make you feel good. This fact holds true for any day of the year, Valentine’s included. xoxo!

    Chocolate Pudding
    Adapted from Deb of Smitten Kitchen.

    I considered naming this pudding “Pantry Pudding” because it’s made from pantry staples, but then I decided, no, that’s too boring a name for something this good. Besides, Pantry Pudding doesn’t reveal the decadent chocolate nature of said food. So I scraped the idea. (Still, I like the economy of the name.)

    Deb calls for chopped dark chocolate. I used a mix of chips, both semisweet and milk.

    ½ cup sugar
    1/4 cup cornstarch
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    3 cups milk (I used half cream and half milk)
    1 cup chocolate chips
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    homemade whipped cream, not optional

    Put the sugar, cornstarch, and salt into a saucepan. Whisking steadily, add a bit of milk at a time. (Add it all at once and you run the risk of lumps. Making a thick paste first and then gradually thinning it out reduces that risk tremendously.) Stirring constantly, cook the milk over medium high heat until thick and just beginning to bubble. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Stir until they have melted completely. Stir in the vanilla.

    Pour the pudding into a serving bowl and top with wax paper, pressing it onto the top to prevent a “skin” from forming. Cool to room temperature. At this point, remove and discard (after licking clean) the wax paper and cover the pudding with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve with whipped cream.

  • colds, busted knees, and snowstorms

    It’s been a weird week. First there was the Sunday night return from the big city. It’s always disorienting to flip cultures so quickly. Plus, I was exhausted from all the gallivanting and missed sleep. I started the week playing catch up.

    (While I was gone, my husband knocked a big hole in my son’s bedroom ceiling and installed pull-down stairs so now, after eight years, we can finally access the attic without shimmying up door and wall and through a little hole in the ceiling á la Spiderman. Then he added a bunch of insulation and put flooring down in the unfinished half. His productivity—with four children under foot, no less—made me proud. It also made me exceedingly grateful that I had been in NYC for the duration of the renovation. I hate renovations more than I do traveling.)

    Monday was slow. We skipped the studies in favor of bunches of reading and catch up cleaning and cooking. That evening my younger daughter took off with her grandmother for the week, my older daughter came down with a nasty cold, and my older son went skiing and busted up his knee.

    So. Tuesday found us in search of crutches and with two separate trips to town to chat up the doctors. One, a retired doctor who used to attend our church, invited my son into his home and straight up onto his dining room table for a good thirty minute-long exam and thorough explanation about all things ligament. He even called our GP on our behalf and then lined up an afternoon appointment at his previous place of work. There, my son got a couple x-rays, another exam, crutches that actually fit him, and a fancy knee brace. Tentative diagnosis: a partial ACL tear. Next up, and MRI, and then, if it is indeed a tear, surgery. Yay us. (My gut tells me it’s just a sprain, but I don’t know how to ask intelligent questions or push for the lowest intervention possible while still being safe. So I’m just doing what they say and hope we’re not going overboard.)

    In the meantime, my daughter spent the day laying on the sofa, coughing, hacking, honking her nose, and worrying that she was going to throw up. Her younger brother ran wild and never changed out of his pajamas. In between appointments, I made a monster batch of sweet rolls to pay back all the nice people doing nice things for us: the neighbor lady who gives us milk (well, her cow does that, but you know what I mean), the friend who coaches me on knitting, and the unbelievably kind and generous doctor who let us crash his home.

    By evening, what with a third trip to town to make deliveries and an older son who was coming down with the same nasty cold and a daughter who was a giant heap of uselessness, I was turning into a spinning top.

    It was about then that I realized how much the children actually do around the house. With the two bigs laid up, there was no one to haul over huge wheelbarrow loads of wood, empty the garbages, wash the mountains of dirty dishes, vacuum the floors, carry the pans of sweet rolls out to the car, feed the dogs, etc. Plus, they weren’t just unavailable, they were needy. Juice, tea, cough drops, hankies, and medicine—you name it, they needed it.

    How encouraging to realize that all the training, nagging, and enforcing has actually translated into concrete benefits!

    How discouraging to realize that my man-sized helper may be out of commission for a number of weeks!

    (At least he can read books and play chess with the youngest wild thing. That’s something.)

    Yesterday I decided that getting to our studies was simply not going to be a priority this week, and we went to the grocery store and library in preparation for today’s snowstorm. This morning I woke up at five, looked outside and saw that it was crazy windy (the tin roof wasn’t banging all around as is its windy-weather custom thanks to all the snow piled on top), and rushed down stairs in a dread panic that the power would go out before I made my coffee or washed my hair.

    So far, so good: it’s snowing and blowing and we still have power. I’ve baked bread and a cake, cooked beans and boiled eggs, made a pot of hot chocolate, and knitted up a little storm of my own. My husband is home from work. He plowed the driveway, but the roads haven’t been plowed yet so Oh darn, guess I’ll have to go take a nap by the fire.

    One more thing: there’s been a spate of robberies in our little hamlet and some neighboring towns. The kids are on the sharp lookout for suspicious activity. Any time a car goes by (as of 2 pm, there have been three), they rush to the window to see if it looks robbery-ish. Part of my morning involved talking with the investigator assigned to the case.

    It’s been such a weird week.

  • and then I turned into a blob

    This past weekend, I attended a Fresh Air Conference in New York City. We stayed at a fancy hotel and ate fancy food and watched the fancy Olympics and went to a fancy nightclub and used fancy little bars of soap and rode in fancy elevators.

    It was nice.

    But after three days of sitting in conferences, milling around the city, eating, eating, and more eating, and spending hours on plans, trains, and metros, I was done. I missed my ordinary existence. I missed making stuff. After awhile I started to feel numb. I was slowly turning into a blob.

    There were only a couple times I felt truly alive.

    1. At the nightclub, I pulled out my camera and started fiddling with the settings, trying to figure out how to capture the opulent darkness. For a few minutes I was absorbed in what I was doing. It felt good.

    Actually, that’s the only time I can think of. There were many enjoyable moments—listening to stories, good conversations, figuring out the art of train travel (trains are awesome)—but there was only that one time that I got deeply absorbed in doing something.

    Is this odd?

    I don’t consider myself a busy do-do-do person. I have no trouble putting my feet up and being waited on. I’m quite fond of sitting on my arse.

    But I need a creative outlet: writing, cooking, making lists, scheming. My much-loved non-productive times are normally measured in hours, not days. And I like my independence; tourism, public transportation, and conference attending are all about being dependent. Or at least they involve a different sort of independent.

    On the train ride home, my friend commented that she doesn’t know anyone else who dreads travel as much as I do. It doesn’t matter where I’m going or how much I want to go, for days in advance, I get depressed and sluggish and cranky. It’s like there’s a dread weight pressing in on me, a dark cloud at the end of the tunnel.

    My friend, on the other hand (and everyone else I know), looks forward to trips. She savors the planning and anticipation. I think she’s nuts. She thinks I’m weird.

    Do I just not transition well? This could be it, I suppose. Come to think of it, I dread most things. I dread hosting and appointments and busy days. Once I’m out and about (or the guests have arrived and the event has started), I enjoy myself completely. I get a rush from the activity and love the settling-back-into-my-life tired feeling that I get at the end. The accomplishment of Having Done feels good. But I don’t look forward to events. (Unless it’s something really different, like auditioning for a play or teaching a class or going out all by myself for a morning of writing. But then again, those are creative outlets.)

    What about you? Do you dread trips and events and anything that requires you to shift gears and go out? To be contented, do you require the constant pressure of creating?