• what we ate

    I don’t think I’m ever going to be consistant enough with my photography to be able to do an actual “what we ate in a week” post, but a “some of what we ate in the last month” post? Now that I can do.

    ***

    The first real thing I cooked in my ippy (aside from potatoes) was a pot roast.

    The process involved a few steps, like browning the meat, pressure cooking the meat and then removing it prior to pressure cooking the veggies, and then quick mixing up the gravy, but it was by FAR the best roast I’ve ever made. We feasted that night, and then again the next day on the leftovers, savoring every bite.

    I had plans to use the leftovers in a pot pie, but then my older son begged to take them home and that was that.

    An entire roast, gone in about twenty-four hours. Pure magic, that ippy is!

    (But then I tried oatmeal and it bombed: burned and gummy.

    Maybe because I delay-cooked it with an overnight soak? Not sure. Must play more.)

    ***

    I’ve recently been digging the fried rice.

    A great, last-minute meal, it’s the perfect way to use up all sorts of random veggies and leftover meats. I usually have rice getting hard in the fridge: a quick sizzle in a hot, cast iron pan with plenty of olive oil (or bacon fat), followed by a splash of water and a lid, and it steams back to life even better than it was the first time around.

    While the rice is cooking, I sauté some onion (celery, cabbage, garlic, whatever) in a separate cast iron pan. Carrots and other hard veggies get a brief boil in a saucepan. I scramble eggs. And then I start tossing things together, adding, leftover peas, sesame oil, a splash of fish/soy/hot sauce, etc, to taste. Green onions and/or fried cheese round it out.

    ***

    One night for supper, we had breakfast: pancakes, bacon, and smoothies.

    Weekday mornings, with only two kids at home (and since my husband leaves early and I often go running first thing), it’s yogurt and granola, or cereal, or eggs and toast, or whatever anyone wants, but I miss making pancakes!

    We’ve been eating a lot of smoothies, too: kefir (more on this soon), bananas (just bought a huge amount to freeze), frozen berries, jam.

    ***

    Left to my own devices for a solo meal, I often resort to cheese and crackers. With a sliced apple or a grapefruit, it’s pretty near perfect.

    There’s something so satisfying about it: the crunchy crackers, the cheese’s salty creaminess, yum.

    I often cut into a new cheese late morning when I’m beginning to get hungry, or late afternoon when I hit my draggy slump. The thrill of a new cheese is the perfect pick-me-up.

    ***

    Pizza night makes everyone happy. This particular night, I also made a pulled pork (leftover from Magpie) pizza with bottled barbecue sauce instead of tomato sauce. I think it worked.

    Pizza is a great way to use up random cheese bits: ricotta, mozzarella, something sharp(ish) that no one much liked. One recipe of dough makes three big pans: we feast, and then the leftovers get packaged up in one-person meal-sized portions for quick work lunches for my husband.

    ***

    These days, wedding leftovers are the name of the dinner game! Assorted soups, cider, cans of whipped cream (oo-la-la), homemade marshmallows and hot cocoa mix, rolls, chips, jams and hot sauces and salsas, whoop!

    Oh, and tons of cookies.

    The brown sugar cookies‘ mottled icing is due to freezing/thawing.

    I keep trying to off-load them on people (because there’s no justification to do more baking if I have a freezerful of cookies and I’m itching to bake), but my husband is like, Noooooo!!!! I want all the cookies, wah! For him, a bunch of cookies equals easy lunches: just run down cellar and load up a container with snacks. His favorite cookie used to be white chocolate cranberry, but the Kitchen Sink ones are making him reconsider. Something about that caramelly chew….

    ***

    The night after the wedding celebration, my husband and I went to our small group gathering, leaving the younger two kids to recuperate at home alone. When we got back, this was waiting for us on the table.

    We followed the instructions.

    ***

    My younger daughter called me from work to see if I’d be interested in some mac and cheese. Picturing a couple plastic containers of leftover pasta, I said sure (of course). And then she walked in the door with a large terracotta pie plate heaped high with homeade, unbaked mac and cheese — the fancy kind topped with crushed Ritz crackers. Apparently the head chef had made too much for some (private?) event, lucky us!

    A couple nights later when I baked it up and served it for supper, my husband borderline raved about it. And rightfully so. It was super cheesy and flavorful (spicy, even!). We all loved it. (Now if I can just get my hands on that recipe….)

    ***

    Have you tried a hot chocolate bomb?

    My aunt brought us five of them when she came for the wedding. She made them herself, and she said she’s still testing them, though I’m not sure why since they seemed to work just fine. Drop one in a mug of scalded milk and stir. The chocolate shell dissolves and the tiny marshmallows hidden inside float to the top, and there you have it: a fancy cup of hot chocolate.

    We have two left (only because I’m hoarding them): one peppermint and one plain. I call dibs on the peppermint!

    ***

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.4.21), just for sparkles, when cars dance, of an evening (and a morning), baguettes, my jackpot.

  • the quotidian (1.3.22)

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

    The kid eats everything.

    Kitchen games.

    Rapid-thaw hack: water + pump + tub.

    This year, he made all the Christmas cookies.

    To her Magpie Secret Santa (whose identity remains a mystery): she loves it!

    Christmas Eve at my brother’s place: the main course, spearheaded by my other sister-in-law,
    was fish and homemade chips (fries).

    Anomia!

    Once again, the head makes an appearance.

    Boosted.

    His favored crash-landing site.

    When I send them a blog post to approve, and they do.

    My childhood home, 1985-1987: Leadmine, West Virginia.

    This same time, years previous: my new kitchen: the computer corner, Lebanese dried lemon tea, high-stakes hiking, Christmas cheese, 5-grain porridge with apples, constant motion, cranberry crumble bars.

  • perimenopause: some goodies

    Lest you think I have forgotten about the perimenopause series, I have not. I’m currently working on several different interviews that I’ll post over the course of the next few months, but in the meantime, here are three peri-goodies — (feels kinda like an oxymoron, saying that, but maybe it’s not? hmmm, must ponder) — that I’ve discovered, often via you, my readers, over the last couple months.

    First, There Will Be Blood: Women on the Shocking Truth About Periods and Perimenopause (The Guardian). We tend to think (or at least I do) that menopause is all about missing periods, but not always.

    Second, Why Does Menopause Give Us Pause? (1A, NPR). A few highlights:

    • Terminology update: it should be called “Menopausal Hormone Therapy,” not “Hormone Replacement Therapy,” because HRT implies that the ovaries should be producing hormones all the time and this is not true.
    • Here’s a statement to chew on: “Menopause is the ultimate exercise in wholistic medicine. Not only does it affect every part of your body, but you’re grossly impacted by society’s ageist view of women.”
    • This is a conversation for men, too!
    • There is good sex after fifty.

    Third, this Op-Doc video: What Menopause Feels Like (New York Times).

    This video! These women! WOW. Their artwork, stories, insights — what a gift! In the words of one of the women, “Part of the change is we want to stay the same as we were and we need to embrace where we’re going.”

    ***

    While this peri-series focuses on other women’s stories, I, too, am in the middle of perimenopause. It feels weird to talk about, like I’m running around Costco naked, but considering half the human population experiences perimenopause, I’m not exactly sure why. Blood is blood, and we all have it (thank goodness).

    So! Because I’m not going to pretend this isn’t happening — because it sure as heck is — here are a few of my notes:

    *So far, peri has been fairly uneventful, yet at the same time it also feels like a big deal, mostly because it’s so utterly erratic. (“It” = my period, this stage, my hormones, etc.)  

    *Since having kids, cramping has been a big part of my cycle. Usually, there’s a 48-hour period in which I’m on meds round-the-clock. Recently, though, I’ve had cramps randomly. Because I’m ovulating? Menstruating? No idea. What I do know is that they interrupt my sleep (when the meds wear off, the pains wake me) and, complicating matters is the ever-present question: Am I bleeding? These nights, I’m running to the bathroom constantly. (And then I’m tired and grouchy and crampy, blah-blah-blah. You get the picture.)

    *A couple periods ago, I had the worst cramps EVER. As in, I was doubled over trying to breathe through them for a good quarter of an hour. Except they didn’t let up, so there was no “through” in the breathing experience. No other side to get to. No break. Eventually the double dose of pain meds (that my husband delivered to me on the couch) kicked in and I was able to resume regular activity.

    *My periods are all over the place. Sometimes I spot for two minutes each day. Sometimes I bleed as though it’s the real deal but only for just a couple minutes and then I have whole days with nary a speck of blood. Sometimes I have a fullblown, knock-you-flat period that makes my legs ache. Sometimes I have all the signs of an impending period (bloating, the high-pressured “my body and brain are full to bursting” feeling, general unhappiness, rage, insatiable hunger, sleep-disrupting cramps for nights on end, etc) but then— no period. Just, my body relaxes and one day I look up and notice I feel normal.

    So that’s what’s happening with me. Fun stuff, this!

    This same time, years previous: 2019 book list, the quotidian (12.31.18), family magnified, tamalada!, eggnog, therapy nuggets.

  • cheese tasting: round three

    So much cheese! So much tasting! So much fun!

    Colby #35

    After hours of work, squirreling it all away, and then weeks and months of waiting, I’m cutting into cheese after cheese after cheese. My method: open a cheese at the earliest point, often between three and six weeks (though sometimes I cheat and open a cheese even earlier than its recipe recommends because I can’t stand the wait, and because I want to know if I’m on the right track and whether or not I ought to make more of that particular kind of cheese), and then I repackage the cheese and pop it back in the cave for some more aging and another tasting at a later date.

    I take lots of notes in an effort to detect patterns between salt levels, curd moisture content, pressing times, etc. I’ve made dozens of hard cheeses (today I’m making Number Fifty!!!), as well as countless soft/stretched cheeses, and still, I feel like such a novice. Talk about a steep learning curve!

    For the record, I’m not going to report on every single cheese here. The new ones, yes, and the ones that stand out, either because they’re especially atrocious or fabulous, but not all the repeats. That’d be tedious. And boring. My goal is to discover which cheeses are our favorites, and which ones are fairly simple to make, and then produce a heck-ton of them, enough that we’ll be feasting on them months (years!) after Daisy’s no longer producing milk.

    Farmhouse Cheddar (#24)
    While traditional cheddar involves the cheddaring process — knit-together drained curd sliced into thick slabs that are then stacked, periodically turned, milled (crumbled or cut), salted and pressed — Farmhouse cheddar is a simplified version. For this particular cheese, the curds are drained in a bag for an hour before milling. Easy! And considering how this cheese turned out, I’m not sure why anyone would bother to make it any other way. 

    I made this wheel with four gallons of milk and a quart of heavy whipping cream. For the culture, I used a generous quarter teaspoon of MA11 (mesophilic culture). I cut the curd with a knife and let it rest for 3 minutes before cutting it the rest of the way with a whisk. I let it age for five weeks before opening. The bag was wet, and the cheese was slimy and stinky (all good signs, I’m learning).

    My notes read: HOLY HECK FANTASTIC!! Fine, creamy, smooth, mild.

    WOW. `

    Monterey Jack (#27)
    The main difference between this cheese (or at least the method I used, since recipes vary wildly) and farmhouse cheddar is that, in this one, the curds are held at 100 degrees for a longer period of time, drained, and then immediately tossed with the salt. In other words: both are fairly quick to make. 

    I used flora danica for the culture, and the cheese was, according to my notes, “Perfect.”

    It was creamy, soft, mild, and it had some small eye development. Crowd-pleasing, and a great snacking cheese.

    Butterkäse (#32) 
    This time — my second butterkäse — the cheese didn’t turn out great. Which is a bummer because I really feel like a proper Butterkäse ought to be both easily attainable and slamdunk delicious.

    Two main problems: it wasn’t salty enough, and it had a rubbery texture. According to my notes, the curd set up quite firm, so perhaps I had a little too much rennet? As for the lack of salt: perhaps my brine wasn’t strong enough? (In the beginning, I didn’t realize that, after each brining, I needed to add salt back into the brine each time after using it, which could explain things.)

    In any case, I rewrapped the cheese and transferred it to the barn fridge. It will still be good for cooking, I suppose.

    Lancashire (#33)
    I got the recipe for this English cheese from Gavin Webber, and, according to my notes, it’s a “fun” cheese to make.

    Apparently, I forgot to let the curd drain in the mold overnight prior to pressing, but it still turned out fine: “creamy, soft, smooth, mild, nice.” (When it comes to cheese descriptors, my vocab is woefully limited.)

    I’m beginning to think a bunch of the cheeses — Farmhouse Cheddar, Caerphilly, Lancashire, Monterey Jack — might be so similar in flavor that following different recipes isn’t worth the bother. Or maybe I just need to let them age longer to see the difference?

    Ibores (#13) 
    Ibores is a Spanish cheese, traditionally made with goats’ milk, and with a rind of smoked paprika mixed with olive oil.

    The first time I opened this cheese was at the end of October when it was just a month old. According to my notes, I wasn’t convinced. The cheese was dry, with a hit of acid, and I wasn’t sure I liked the smoked paprika flavor. It did have a lot of little white holes, and the cheese itself was white and pretty. Fried, the cheese turned creamy and melty, and we really enjoyed it, so perhaps this would be a good one to add to soups, like to a chicken chili? 

    I resealed the cheese, and the next time I opened it was the beginning of December. The package was wet and the cheese was very dry. It still had an acidic tang. 

    I resealed it — I’ll taste it again in the spring.

    Jarlsberg-Style (#26)

    Another one of Gavin’s recipes (called Jarlsberg-Style, since the recipe for the orginial Jarlsberg is a closely guarded secret), this was my first attempt at making a cheese that called for the addition of propionic shermanii, the culture that creates hole development.

    The process was fairly simple — the cut curd gets washed, and cooked, by adding 140-degree water — but the part that is weird is this: the vacuum-packed cheese is stored at 50 degrees for two weeks, and then it’s stored at 65 degrees for 4-6 weeks. A wheel of raw milk cheese, just hanging out in the pantry with all the other dry goods? How strange is that!

    The cheese itself turned out wonderfully: lots of small holes, and with a sweet, nutty flavor.

    We loved it.

    Leicester (#4)
    I first cut into this cheese months ago, but neglected to write my comments.

    November 4

    Just last week, I reopened it. This hard cheese is mild and pleasant, quite similar to a cheddar.

    December 25

    I think that, if left to age for a year or two, it’d probably develop the crystals that good hard cheeses are known for.

    Baby Swiss (#31)
    Another winner!

    note the craters, signifying the eye development

    This one was lightweight, riddled with gorgeous little holes, and tasted buttery and nutty-sweet. My older son thought it needed more salt; I disagreed.

    When pressing, the cheese is supposed to be flipped every hour for five hours while being held at 75 to 80 degrees, a challenge in the winter kitchen. My solution? I removed the oven racks, preheated it using the proofing setting, and then set the whole press on the floor of the oven. Every once in awhile, I’d briefly turn the oven on (just the proofing setting) to keep it warm. Smart, huh?

    This cheese got the same aging treatment as the Jarlsberg: a couple weeks at 50 degrees, and then just 3 weeks at room temp. (According to Google, longer aging results in bigger holes.)

    Manchego-Style (#22)
    Manchego cheese is made with sheep’s milk; thus the reason this one’s called Manchego-Style.

    I about pulled my hair out making this cheese. For whatever reason, it took forever to set up (five hours instead of thirty minutes), and then I had to rush the pressing (four hours instead of six) and then it had to sit in the fridge overnight until I got around to brining it. Whatever. It still turned out … decent, I suppose. 

    It’s quite sharp and dry, but it’s also nice. I’m assuming it’s the lipase that gives it such a sharp flavor, but I really don’t know. 

    Red Pepper Bel Paese (#38)
    “Bel Paese” is Italian for “beautiful country.” I got the recipe via text from one of the other cheesemakers in our group, and she, in turn, got it from a cheesemaking book (that I’ve ordered but haven’t received yet) by a semi-local (!) cheesemaker. It was my first time (nope, my second, thank you, Notes) using homemade yogurt as the culture, instead of freeze dried culture (more on this later) and it worked wonderfully.  

    I added too much red pepper, though — like, way too much: three whole tablespoons! But somehow it’s not too hot. (At least not yet anyway.) I also think I should’ve left it in the brine a little longer, and the texture was a bit rubbery.

    But all things considered, it was okay: a mild, nondescript cheese with a bunch of spice. 

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (12.30.19), our apocalypse, chopped locks, throwing it down.

  • 2021 book list

    in a corner of our upstairs library

    Here’s what I’ve read in the last twelve months.

    If I had to pick standouts, I’d say: Kate Bowler’s book, My Broken Language, and The Paper Palace. What are your top reads of 2021? I’m planning a library run in the next day or two, and y’all know how much I love recommendations! (I’m currently reading Edward Snowden’s book, parts of which make for some great dinner table read aloud entertainment.)

    Reference books I’ve used (heavily) but didn’t include in the list:

    To the younger two kids, I’ve read Look Both Ways (I enjoyed this interview with author Jason Reynolds), The Inquisitor’s Tale, Out of My Mind (perhaps my fave), The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, The Crucible (the audio), Word Nerd (another really good one), and Johnny Tremain. And last night we started Three Against the Wilderness, by Eric Collier.

    For Christmas, we got our traditional updated copy of Guinness Book Records.

    We also, last minute, picked up a collection of cutaway books from Costco.

    My husband totally geeks out over these.

    Happy reading, friends!

    This same time, years previous: 2020 book list, 2017 book list, remembering Guatemala, giant sausage and leek quiche, one step above lazy (maybe), tomatoey potatoes and green beans.

  • the talk

    Wow! So many of you asked to hear my parents’ little wedding talk! I’m thrilled.

    I considered posting the hard copy that my parents shared with me, but what I really wanted was a video of their delivery: measured and quirky (they sing!), it communicates so much. Thank goodness our dear friend Lery had the presence of mind to catch the whole thing on her phone (and then, just this morning, her son Dereck work his techy magic to get you the clearest video possible). Enjoy!

    (For those who want the quick version: Marriage is hard, you are so lucky, yay.)

    This same time, years previous: a mistake-based education, for my walls, Christmas 2010, windows at dusk, marmalade-glazed ham, lemon cheesecake tassies, a little elaboration.

  • wedding weekend: the celebration

    Planning a barn party in mid-December in Virginia is a little tricky. Would it be 70 degrees outside? Would we have a foot of snow? Would it be pouring rain? Would it be bitter cold with wicked winds? Since we couldn’t know, we braced for cold and crossed our fingers it wouldn’t be too bitter.

    We rented (and borrowed) eight propane stand heaters, plus a couple other odds and ends heaters. We had boxes of handwarmers and mountains of throw blankets. Visually, we tried to create a warm, cozy vibe with sofas and a carpet, lamps, straw bales, electric candles, poinsettias, Christmas trees, white table clothes, and yards upon yards of fairy lights. (The hanging ball lights and some of the central lights wrapped around posts and crisscrossing the ceiling were already there.)

    Turns out, it’s a good thing we prepared for the cold! The day prior was in the 60s, but the high on Sunday was the low 40s with a brisk, icy wind. The heaters raised the barn’s temp a good ten to fifteen degrees and, even though it was still cold, those who dressed warm and made it a point to seek out the warm spots reported they were quite comfortable.

    At about 11:30, guests began flooding into the barn and, soon after, the newlyweds arrived and we all cheered.

    At noon, the festivities began in earnest: my son and daughter-in-law welcomed everyone and introduced the order of events.

    Her younger sister led everyone in a brief meditation, and my husband and I spoke, too: through tears, my husband expressed how incredible it was to see our children cared for, and surrounded by, such a large community, and I explained the food. And then my side of the family sang I Thank The Lord My Maker, a prayer song that we often sing at our family gatherings.  

    This was my first time catering a meal (though it didn’t even occur to me that’s what I was doing until a few days after the event, ha!), and hot beverages and cauldrons of soup — Italian wedding, chili with all the toppings, split pea soup (made by my daughter-in-law’s mother and raved about by many), and sausage lentil — were key in the stay-warm plan. (That last soup was born out of a [foolish] panic that there wouldn’t be enough food, and then I rushed it and the onions didn’t soften properly, so the next day I made another 7 gallons of the soup, this time cooking the onions into caramelized oblivion, and it was perfect. The not-wedding-perfect soup we put in the freezer; my younger son labeled the containers “soup of despair” and “soup of sadness” and “soup of tears” and “soup of shame,” which pretty much summed it up, though he should’ve labeled one of them “soup of rage.”) 

    Even though I was pretty darn organized and prepared — aside from that (unnecessary) last-minute soup scramble — everything kinda fell apart in the transition from house to barn. Thank goodness we had two families who agreed to do serving duty! They jumped right into the chaos and carried the party like they owned it. Whenever my husband or I walked into the kitchen area to check on things, we’d be met with, “Everything’s good. We’ve got this. Go.” Their take-charge confidence soothed my rattled nerves tremendously.

    During the meal (and at every other free moment), I tried to talk with as many people as possible. Even so, there were so many I didn’t get to talk to which left me feeling a little verklempt — this, I think, must be the curse of a wedding. 

    Visiting with my daughter-in-law’s extended family members, learning their names and how they were all connected, was one of my favorite parts of the whole day (and the evening before, too). What a treat to finally get to meet these incredible people! I had so much fun visiting and laughing with them so much laughing! — bonding simply because one person from their family and one person from our family had fallen in love. Which, when you think about it, feels nearly preposterous. . . or magical. 

    Both the newlyweds are the oldest of four siblings (though hers are each a year or two older than mine), and watching all the siblings enjoying each other was special. Afterward my kids were like, “When can they all come over again?” Which was exactly how I felt, too.

    After the meal, sharing time.

    My brother was the moderator. He opened the time with an altered version of Country Roads that he’d written, sung by my brother and sister-in-law, my younger brother, our uncle and aunt, and two of their boys. I laughed the whole way through, and at the line “seems like yesterday,” I nearly shouted, “It WAS yesterday!” 

    video credit: my younger brother’s partner

    (Just watching that now, pre-posting, both my husband and I teared up … again.)

    A few people had been tapped ahead of time to share something. My son’s mentor and his partner sang a love lullaby, they same one they’d sung to my son and his fiancé when they’d told them they were engaged. 

    My parents had prepared a little talk which was quirky and hilarious and brutally honest: about how my son and daughter-in-law are not going to like each other all the time, about keeping perspective in the awful moments when teetering on the pit of despair, and how, after falling in said pit, one goes about climbing back out. They talked about coping with the other’s “revolting habits” and “hateful traits,” and how to deal with the normal romantic crushes that crop up.

    Throughout, they quoted famous people: each time my dad held up a sign bearing the name of the person they were quoting and my mom scurried over to the couple to give them a corresponding gift. (I still haven’t seen them yet, but they’re framed something-or-others.)

    What a riot!

    We weren’t sure anyone would share during the open mic time, but we needn’t have worried. Aunts and uncles, parents, cousins, siblings, and friends streamed forward to give advice and shared appreciation.

    My son’s friends talked about the time they built a zipline (and the broken butt that resulted) and about the time my son tied one of them to the clothesline pole with an entire roll of duct tape and then cut him free with a machete.

    My daughter-in-law’s siblings regaled us with a hilarious story of a camping trip gone awry that ended with park rangers having to come get them. 

    After the sharing, my brother and sister-in-law performed a set of their music for everyone, their wedding gift to the couple who had selected all the songs in advance.

    The music was exquisite. Take the Chance made me cry, and then, during Harvest Moon, my son and daughter-in-law surprised and delighted us all by getting up and dancing.

    The festivities wrapped up soon after. The temperature was dropping rapidly, some people had long drives ahead of them, and we were all pretty much whupped. We took care of the food, off-loading a whole bunch of it to friends, and went home to tackle some preliminary clean-up (we’d do the bulk of it the next day/week) before falling headfirst into our beds. 

    The end.

    The majority of the photo credits go to my younger son and daughter.

    This same time, years previous: a Christmas spectacle, right now, balsamic-glazed roasted butternut squash and brussel sprouts, 2016 garden stats and notes, cheese ball, hot buttered rolls, dancing mice and other Christmas tales, thrills in my kitchen.

  • wedding weekend: the officiation

    When my son and his fiancé decided they wanted the officiation to be a private affair — just the two families and grandparents — in a neutral location, it took some thinking. Where to find a cozy space with decent ventilation and a homey vibe? And then I remembered that a friend of mine had a yurt. Sometimes she escaped there for a weekend just to get away from her family, and sometimes they rented it out to guests. I’d never seen it, but maybe it could work? My son and his fiancé went to see it and came back with glowing reports. It’d be perfect, they said.

    (Funny story: when they were describing it to us, my husband started asking questions — and then more questions. He was being weirdly specific. Finally, he asked, “Does it have a wire railing on the outside deck?” My son said yes, and then my husband announced, “I built that yurt.” What a sweet twist!)

    Grandma Carol on tie duty.
    photo credit: my mom

    The plan was simple*: first the officiation and then dinner. The two of them planned and managed the whole event, outsourcing tasks to family members, hiring a photographer, thrifting materials and ordering supplies, and preparing the space. Our pastor — who’d been counseling them throughout their engagement — would be present, but the plan was for them to marry themselves. Which makes sense, when you think about it. No one can force marriage on two people — marriage is the commitment they make between themselves. 

    The groom and his vows.

    When we arrived, the place was a hubbub of introductions, final preparations, and outdoor family photographs. (The entire weekend, I hardly took any photos, and the ones I have aren’t very good, but still. Gives you an idea. Maybe later I’ll share some of the professional ones.)

    My mom and younger daughter were still putting the final touches on the wedding cake, and my husband had to run back to the house for the forgotten wine glasses. 

    As we entered the yurt and gathered around the table, they handed each of us a stone. They’d created a “talking piece” — a wooden box — and, to start the ceremony, they poured sand into it, sand they’d filched from the university’s volleyball court and that my mother cleaned for them. As the box made its way around the table, each person was invited to place their stone in the box and share a blessing, affirmation, or reflection, or they could say nothing at all. Simply placing the stone in the box was blessing enough. 

    It was beautiful. All the different perspectives, the quavering voices, the passing around (and lobbing across) the table a huge roll of emergency paper towels to mop the tears, the laughter, the unbridled admiration and appreciation for these two young people and their love for each other. 

    When the sharing was over, they read their vows to each other and then moved their wedding bands from their right hands to their left (they’d skipped the typical engagement ring custom and instead worn their wedding rings as a sign of their engagement — a Brazilian custom they’d learned about from friends), and the pastor presented them as a married couple with their new, joined last name.

    And then dinner!

    The gas lanterns were gifted to my husband and me during our wedding.

    Her mother and grandmother had made the lasagnas and salad. Her sister brought the sparkling cider, wine, and champagne. There was Magpie sourdough and homemade strawberry jam. My mother brought brown butter green beans, and the wedding cake, which she and my younger daughter had made together. 

    During the meal, I visited with her younger sisters and parents. We talked about cheesemaking (her father’s the one who loaned me the wine fridge for my cheese cave — to him I am forever indebted), and my younger son held forth about the intricacies of milking a cow. In his vest and tie, and with his older brother’s wedding cap perched jauntily atop his head, he looked every bit the gentleman farmer. (During the post-dinner conversation, he suddenly raised his sparkling cider wine glass and cried, “A toast!” When everyone automatically raised their glasses, his face lit up in startled delight, and he did a reserved, Napoleon Dynamite-esque fist pump and whispered, “It worked!”) 

    There was the cutting of the cake, then.

    photo credit: my younger daughter

    And the traditional feeding of it to the other (i.e. smashing it into each other’s faces, ha).

    video credit: my younger daughter

    And then, just when the evening was drawing to a close, my daughter-in-law (!!!) surprised my mother with a birthday cake.

    In the midst of all the wedding hubbub, her mother and grandmother had gone out of their way to make their family’s traditional birthday cake just for her. How sweet is that?

    The pastor signed the official marriage certificate document thingy…

    And we all pitched in to clean up the yurt and then scurry home to our beds.

    They are MARRIED.

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    *Regarding a wedding, nothing is simple.

    This same time, years previous: chocolate bourbon pie, or something like that, 2018 book list, sex for all creation, 2015 book list, 2014 book list, the quotidian (12.23.13), flat, raw.

  • wedding weekend: the pinning

    I hardly know where to start. 

    The weekend was a tizz of preparations and clean-up punctuated by life-changing events and celebrations: our son’s college graduation and pinning, the private marriage officiation, the big wedding reception. Laced throughout were countless precious moments filled to the brim with…

    New faces.
    Warm hugs and cold toes.
    Authenticity and vulnerability.
    Friends and family.
    Powerful, heartfelt words.
    Lasagna and champagne.
    Commitments.
    Work.
    Arguments.
    Pride and gratitude.
    Laughter.
    Tears. 

    Like I said it’d be: it was a lot to take in. The whole experience was so overwhelming and jarring that it left me feeling gutted. It’s Wednesday and I’m only now beginning to settle back into my body. 

    So, again: where to start?

    Well, Friday night, our son’s fiancé’s mother and grandmother came for supper and during the meal I ate a stinkbug. While deep in conversation with the grandmother, I felt something fall on my lap and automatically assumed I’d dropped a bit of tortilla chip. Without thinking, I popped the crunchy nugget into my mouth and chomped down — and then froze. Something was terribly wrong. Was it a bad bean? I spit into my napkin and a quick peek at the contents revealed the truth. Without a word, I left the table to rinse all the bits of masticated stinkbug out of my mouth. Only when I returned, did I tell what had happened, and I apologized to the grandmother for so rudely cutting off our conversation. Moral of the story: look before eating!

    That evening my older daughter flew in at midnight and my son picked her up, and the next morning, we interrupted our frenzied wedding prep to drive into town to his pinning ceremony. Which was kinda weird since it felt like just yesterday — both to him and to us — that we’d attended his white coat ceremony.

    For the past two years — most of it during Covid — he’s studied and memorized and tested and worked. My husband and I have been impressed at both his continued hard work and unflagging interest in the material. 

    I never quite trust that my kids are going to do what they say they will — not because I don’t believe they can, but because situations change and people evolve. I’m more about the process, and less focused on the end result, so when we do reach the end — a graduation! — I can’t quite help but feel a little bit surprised.

    And happy, too, of course. 

    Afterward, there were lots of hugs and a whole lotta tears.

    Our boy done did do good.

    P.S. While his fiancé was sticking the pin on his shirt, the speaker reading his profile announced that our son had accepted such-and-such a job at a hospital. My husband and I were like, HUH? Is this his way of telling us he got a job? But no, turns out he hasn’t accepted any position just yet — who knows where that bit of misleading info came from — and his plans are still the same: to work with my husband for several months while studying for his boards. After that, then a nursing job…somewhere.

    This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week forty-two, rock on, Mama!, ludicrous mashed potatoes, 2016 book list, old-fashioned sour cream cake doughnuts, the quotidian (12.22.14), toasty oatmeal muffins.

  • all is well

    This is the song I consciously make myself think about when I’m up to my eyeballs, feeling like I might go under at any second. It’s a mood lifter and mantra, all in one. This morning I blasted it while precariously balancing atop a kitchen stool to wipe down the ceiling cobwebs.

    AND IT WORKS. ¡Viva the chaos!

    All is well!

    This same time, years previous: 51 pies, the quotidian 12.16.19), croissants, sour candied orange rinds, almond shortbread, brightening the dark, supper reading.