Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a list

It’s yet another rainy day, sigh. The skies have pressed down dark and unyielding for days now. Saturday afternoon I caved under the pressure and took to the sofa where I languished away the hours. Each day since has been a battle in which I struggle to think up meaningful activities and then do them in hopes of Making It Through.








They’re calling for sun on Friday. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

***

Pre-lunch, we watched the first episode of Cosmos, a TV series that a friend from church loaned to us. It's a well-done series (though I supposed I should withhold judgement until I actually see the whole series). My youngest was actually moved to tears over the mistreatment of Bruno, and all the children got their minds sufficiently blown. Afterwards, when I asked the kids if they wanted boiled potatoes mixed in with their tuna salad and then got mad at them for their rudely-voiced opinions, my older son said, “Mom, in the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?”

***

We won the lice war. At least, she’s been clear for nearly a week. Once the sun comes out, I'll do one more round of washing of sheets and blankets, yet another head check, and call it good.

It was the weirdest thing, though. She had a pretty fierce case—I’m not even going to tell you how many lice I pulled out of her head and stuck on masking tape because you would be very, very disturbed—but no one else in our family had them. We share hairbrushes, towels, bedding, hats, everything, and yet the rest of us remained perfectly clear. If lice are supposed to be so contagious, what’s up with that?

Also, we still don’t know how she got them. Best we can guess, she contracted them at camp several months ago.

***

I ate rice for breakfast (and then I ate it again for lunch). It’s just sausage links that I sliced open to make bulk sausage that I then fried up in bacon grease with onions and peppers before adding leftover brown and white rice and some cooked peas. I ate it while standing at the kitchen sink watching my daughter canter Isaac in the upper pasture.


In other food, we finished up the chocolate peanut butter cake leftover from the birthday party at the barn. I have a big bowl of cut up butternuts waiting to go into the oven once the granola finishes baking. This pumpkin pie-that-isn’t is calling my name. But where to find maple cookies for the crust?

Also, the donut party is this weekend. Or it will be, if it ever stops raining.

***

Ha. You didn’t think we’d make it through a whole blog post without a picture of a horse did you?

Here's the thing. I find it exhilarating to watch my older daughter fly through the field on the back of a horse. The pounding hooves and streaming tail: there’s something both primal and magical about it. Freedom and power and speed...

I don’t know. Whatever it is, it makes me happy.

***

I finished Still Alice, a book about a woman who gets early onset Alzheimer's. It’s eye-opening and terrifying. What a horrible disease. Now I’m reading Half Broke Horses, the sequel to The Glass Castle.

And we finished up yet another family read aloud: The Giver. Not sure what to start next. Any suggestions?

This same time, years previous: three vignettes: my husband, puzzling it out, and going up.

Monday, October 13, 2014

the quotidian (10.13.14)

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


Ruined clothes: after a day of mucking stalls and riding.


At the foot of my deck steps: there really is a horse in my yard.


He has the sweetest personality.


A coat for Charlotte, fashioned after a horse blanket, naturally.


Post-op: she's fixed.


Attempting some black-(purple?)-smithing.


The internet moochers.


He goes upstairs to tuck her in and then everything gets waaaay too quiet.


Birthday party at the neighbors' red barn.


This same time, years previous: roasted red pepper soup, old-fashioned brown sugar cookies, the dogwood wild runner, my answer, why it ain't happening, anticipating the mothballs, and potential.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

the boarder

This is Isaac. He will be living with us for the winter.


Normally, Isaac lives and works at a camp for disabled people, which happens to be the same camp that my daughter volunteers for. This is the same camp where she was volunteering when she got hooked up with the farm where she now works. So, first she gleaned a job and now a horse. Moral of story: volunteering pays!

Actually, that’s not the moral. There is no moral. It’s just a story.

Anyway, a month or so ago, our neighbor (and one of the lead volunteers at the camp) stopped me as I was passing her house on my way home from my morning run. We have this horse at the camp and he’s getting sick of going in circles around the ring, she said. He needs someone to ride him. Would your daughter like to take him and ride him this winter?

Privately, my husband and I discussed the factors: electric fence installment, sufficient pasture space, large animal on the property. Within minutes (if not seconds) we agreed it was a not-to-be-missed opportunity. We told our daughter. She hit the roof.

Somehow, in all the conversation about Isaac, I got the idea that he was old, as in almost-dead old. I pictured him as a crotchety, rundown horse, slow moving and placid. So when my daughter walked him into the yard last night, I was caught off-guard.


Isaac was clearly not old, run-down, or placid. He was gorgeous and enormous. When I expressed my surprise to my neighbor, she said, “Oh, no. Isaac’s not old. He’s in his prime!”

After walking him around the perimeter of the field—a home-tour, if you will—my daughter removed the halter. Isaac tore around the pasture, kicking his heels and freaking me out because it looked like he’d run straight into the fence.


Because he belongs to the camp, they provide his feed, vet and farrier services, and tack. Our children can ride him (we’ve signed the paperwork) but not anyone else. And actually, only my older daughter has complete access to Isaac. She’ll teach the other children to ride, sure, but Isaac is her responsibility and privilege.


Last night before bed, I stepped out on the deck. I shone a flashlight down through the field. Isaac’s eyes glowed green. I shut the light off. He snorted and stamped. In the thick dark, the horse noises seemed quite close.

There’s a horse in our yard, people. This is weird.

This same time, years previous: home, party on, the quotidian (10.10.11). what we came up with, green soup with ginger, and happy pappy-style cornbread.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

up and over

Before heading off to work, my daughter always tells me if she has a jumping lesson scheduled for that day and what time it will be. She’s forever hopeful that I will come watch.


Days she is at work, I hold in the back of my mind an awareness that she’s working with horses and accidents might happen. When she’s jumping, my awareness is heightened. I’m not fretting and worrying, and most of the time I’m not even aware of my awareness, but when the phone rings, I get a slight ping of what-if panic, a little kick of adrenaline.

A couple weeks ago the phone rang. It was my daughter. She was supposed to be in the middle of a jumping lesson. Cue the adrenaline rush.

Her (at least it was my daughter and not the instructor, whew): Hi, Mom. It finally happened.

Me: Yes...?

Her: I fell off.

Me: Are you okay?

Her: Yeah, I’m fine. My mouth still has sand in it, but I’m going to go get another drink of water.

Then she filled me in about how the horse was going over the jump and did some weird wiggle thing mid-air and she went flying, landing ten feet away. Her shoulder and hip were sore, but otherwise she was just fine.

Her: I’m going to finish the lesson now. I just wanted to tell you.

She called again after the lesson was over. “It was the best lesson ever!” she said. “Now I know what falling off is like!” She made it sound like such fun that I wished I'd been there to see the drama firsthand.


Last week, at her behest, I showed up for a jumping lesson, camera in hand. I find her lessons super confusing because horse-speak is a completely different language. But it's interesting, too. I always learn bunches.


For example:

*My daughter is doing “gymnastic jumping.” It’s called this because the horse is doing two consecutive jumps—he goes over, down, and over again. VoilĂ , gymnastic jumping.
*It seems like the lesson is as much for the horse as it is for my daughter. The horse is like a second person, opinionated and moody with a mind of his own. The instructor is forever asking, Did you start that canter or was that the horse? And the entire lesson centers around warming the horse up and then getting him in a good frame of mind for listening. It’s fascinating.
*The instructor can tell when the horse “has a poop in him” and whether or not he can wait to go. (!)

First jump.


Between jumps.


Coming off the second jump.

No mishaps occurred while I was there, though there was one point where the horse nearly went down.

It was over in a second and no big to-do was made, except for the instructor scolding the horse for being “sloppy.”

The barn is dark and there’s lots to watch, so it wasn’t till I got home and had a chance to study my photos that I saw even more of what is happening. Like how my daughter always chews her lip before taking the horse over the jump.

Also, I got to admire her makeshift riding boots: my old ankle boots with the mismatched laces. Classy.

This same time, years previous: clouds and apple pie.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

salted caramel ice cream

This summer, a bloggy friend who is now a real friend came to visit. We ate waffles with spinach-bacon-and-egg gravy and then sat on the porch in the Saturday morning sun and visited while the children played. It was nice, but that’s not why I’m telling you this. The reason I’m bringing this up is because of the gift she brought me: Jeni’s Ice Cream Book.


An aside about hostess gifts: I was not trained in the art of hostess gifting. My family was forever hosting and being hosted, it seemed, but no one bothered with the formality of gifts—the hanging out together was gift enough. Plus, the guests took their turn playing hostess, so it all evened out in the end. Then when I grew up and started hosting, I found myself continually being surprised when guests came bearing gifts. In fact, it still catches me off guard every single time it happens, and it never ceases to tickle me pink. (The converse of this is that I have never mastered the art of giving hostess gifts. Upon receiving an invitation, I get so excited to be A Guest In A Different House that a gift never crosses my mind. Instead, I prance in the door, shuck my shoes, ooh and ahh over every little thing, ask a million questions, and then plunk my butt on the softest chair like I mean to never get up. I’m a-feared that others must think me a most ungracious guest indeed.)


But back to my friend and her gift. Truth is, I wasn’t completely surprised that this friend came bearing that book. A week or so prior, she had posted about some ice creams she had been making and when I asked her if she might please post the recipes, she responded with, “I'll give you your answer this weekend. smirk.” So I kind of knew.


I read the cookbook from cover to cover while sitting backstage during Kiss the Moon. And then I made a four recipes in quick succession: salty caramel, sweet corn and blackberry, coffee, and lemon frozen yogurt. They were all a hit. Well, all except for the salty caramel which I scorched. (It also had bits of melted rubber spatula in it, but I didn’t tell anyone that.)  I made it again and then it was a hit.


For the making of the caramel, the recipe requires the dry method. Translation: cook the sugar into a syrup without the addition of liquid. I had never done this before. It made me nervous. Turns out, it wasn’t hard at all. Sure, the first batch scorched and I had to toss it, but then I got a handle on the situation. Sometimes you have to go too far to learn when to stop.


Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home Cookbook.

On the one hand, it’s tricky because the sugar can go from dry to burnt in seconds. But on the other hand, once you figure out how your kettle and stove work, it’s a piece of cake.

The process moves quickly, so have all your ingredients measured and ready to go.

2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) cream cheese
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, cornstarch
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (approximately 1 glug) corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla

Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. In a large bowl, mash the cream cheese with the salt. Measure the milk into a separate container. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of the already-measured milk. Into yet another container, measure the whipping cream and add the glug of corn syrup. Have at the ready a heat-proof spatula, a wooden spoon, or a whisk.

Now, pay attention. Put the kettle with the sugar over medium high heat. When the sugar gets syrupy around the edges, gently nudge it around with a spoon or lightly swirl the pan. The goal is to get a golden brown syrup about the color of a copper penny. However, my syrup always darkens faster than my sugar melts, so once the melting has started, I let it finish off-heat. Once it’s melted, sniff it good to make sure it hasn’t scorched.

Put the kettle back on the heat and add the cream with corn syrup. The caramel will burble and splatter, so be careful. Also, my caramel always seizes up into a rock-hard lump. If this happens to you, pretend it didn’t and move on. Add the milk.

Bring the mixture to a full boil and simmer-boil for 4 minutes. It will froth up really high, so keep an eye on it, lifting it off the heat as needed and stirring frequently. By the time the four minutes is up, all the lumpy caramel should be dissolved. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and boil for another minute. Remove from the heat.

Add the hot milk to the bowl of cream cheese a little at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition to incorporate the cream cheese. (Don’t worry if little specks of undissolved cheese remain—they eventually disappear.) Add the vanilla.

Chill the ice cream base in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to another container, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until solid.

Serve in cones or with warm brownies and more caramel sauce or with a wedge of fresh apple pie.


The half-naked dishwasher boy gets the plate-licking privileges. 

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (10.8.12), green tomato curry, pie pastry with lard and egg, and a fundamental lapse in judgement.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

o happy!

On Saturday my parents stuffed the contents of their house and barn (of 25 years) into a giant u-haul and drove the two hours to their new house which happens to be three miles down the road from our house. As they drove by our place, my children lined the road and waved wildly. My younger daughter threw rose petals.

The next afternoon, we (my brother, my cousin's fam, and our crew) met at the new house to unload the truck. I offended my husband’s sensibilities by standing around too much. But someone’s got to take the pictures, patrol the donut box, and patch the wounds inflicted by the an unfortunate blend of flip-flops, slippery metal, and careless hurry-scurrying! And anyway, even without my hauling prowess, the truck was emptied in a fast two hours.



























Yesterday I stopped by with the kids and a plate of going-stale-but-still-okay maple pecan scones. The giant windows were open, filling the house with the gentle purring of breeze-ruffled trees. The mid-afternoon sun dappled the fresh white walls and the crazy-tall mountains of boxes. I found my mother in the back bedroom unpacking clothes into the white antique chifforobe.

“We live here,” she chortled. “We actually live here now!”

This same time, years previous: contradictions and cream, holding the baby, my new baby, and pear butterscotch pie.

Monday, October 6, 2014

the quotidian (10.6.14)

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


Self-portrait.


Fall = apples.


For a change of venue, they moved their game to the bathtub.


Her sense of style is a sight to behold.


The walk-up bookstore.


Making my list for town.
(I am not pulling my hair out. It just looks that way.)


Day's end.


This same time, years previous: catching our breath, it's for real, one foggy morning, maple sugar and cinnamon popcorn, when the parenting gets funrustic cornmeal soup with beet greens, playful shenanigans, a touchy subject, Edna Ruth Byler's potato dough, and sweet rolls.