I understand we are two months into the Year of Our Lord 2016, but I started this post two months ago today, and would still like to share it with you good people.
2015 was a year of growth, a year of running toward finish lines, and a precursor to new adventures. In many ways it was a struggle, but oh, so many small and big happy things were interwoven into the days. Sure, I office-droned away my daylight hours, but I came home to animals and people who were excited to see me, and a garden that rewarded my (our) hard work with the most delicious of treats. Etc. As I’ve said before, a lot of my thankfulness about life centers on moments of domesticity, and the human and animal people who are part of them. I wouldn’t change that a bit.
We ate approximately eight million tomatoes, ripening and slow-roasting some indoors after the sun left. I don’t regret a single one of them, or a single square inch of the limited garden space we used on them. Fresh tomatoes might be our house’s all-time favorite home-grown item.
Once again, I grew beans. And once again, I didn’t get that many meals of beans for my efforts. And once again, it was totally worth it. Look at these beauties:
My delight of a husband turned thirty, and we celebrated with hearty American food in, hearty German food out, and a carpentry project. A few months before that blissful week, we celebrated his graduation from college with family and friends, then stole away to Atlanta to Savannah to Charleston to Richmond to DC to New York, a whirlwind of a road trip that was a dream come true, in many ways. Domesticity aside, I want to go back to All the Places.
The holidays this year were a time to turn inward, to be more quiet, to meditate more, and to look at beauty inside our home-haven and out.
One of my favorite role models in writing and life experiencing, Liz Gilbert, recommends a “happiness jar,” in which you deposit a slip of paper with your happiest moment of every day. I’m doing that in 2016 with a modicum of success, and truly do look at the seconds I spend documenting the little, tiny things as “deposits.” The Psychology department head at the university I worked for the last several years is taking a sabbatical soon, and the entire focus of her research is the effect of gratitude on success in academics and in life. It is so important to be grateful, and I am working to cultivate that habit more and more in my personal life. We had to pull over while crossing the Columbia River the other day, because wind gusts made the cargo in our pickup bed scarily unstable. While Joseph took a moment to be grateful for the rope he always carries in the truck, I took a moment to gratefully document where we live:
Here’s Mount Hood as seen from another angle – the farm where we picked apples in October:
Since I last wrote something here, I quit my day job to complete the practicum of my student labor doula program – something I’ve been working toward the past two years. Along with the surreal excitement of being able to pursue a vocational passion of mine is the equal (greater?) gift of spending more domestically blissful hours gardening, preserving, cooking, being outdoors with my dog, and cultivating relationships I’ve let run a little dry, including the one with myself.
It’s really good.
I’m really grateful.
And now, a tutorial for startlingly simple homemade bread crumbs.
I’m aware I say this all too often: it couldn’t be easier. Fresh bread crumbs give that extra little something needed to take a recipe from great to excellent. What I do is save heels of bread and extra buns in plastic bags in the freezer, until I have enough to fill a cookie sheet. Then I do what’s outlined below.
Homemade bread crumbs
Extra bread – frozen or stale
Butter – a grass-fed variety like Kerrygold or local is best for you
Dried herbs, such as parsley, thyme, dill, and/or oregano
Preheat your oven to 400. Arrange bread slices (no thicker than an inch) on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Spread the bread with butter, as generously as you can handle. The generosity level affects the flavor level in the final product. Sprinkle each slice with a tiny pinch of sea salt, a bigger pinch of garlic powder, and as many herbs as you feel like. I usually do 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of herbs on each slice.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the slices are golden and somewhat crusty on top. Blitz them in a blender or food processor. Put the crumbs into containers in the freezer, where they’ll keep for several months.