A Sense of Place

I’ve felt at home many places in my life. My childhood room, summer camp, dorm rooms, staff quarters, apartments and homes.  I’ve always enjoyed new starts in fresh places and the challenges were met in great part because I was able to identify a safe place, a home base, where I could recharge, reflect and renew. These bases allowed me to venture out into new territories while still carrying a sense of place in my heart. Even in my most awkward stages of life, I have been able to identify a place to cry, pray or sit with my thoughts. The roof of my parents’ house, the cab of my first car, a state park in Nashville, the Loch trails of Scotland, a porch in South Africa. Each spirited me forth anew with balanced confidence, no matter the blows I took before or after.

I thought about this, what I’ll call a “sense of place”, when I went down to my family’s farm for my birthday the other weekend. I love that place. I always have. Such a delightful mix of dirt and sunshine and old and new. I came there as a child to run and explore and play and I go there as an adult to…well, run and explore and play. No matter that I have no legal rights to the land. I have claimed it with my heart and in the event it is transferred or sold I have still felt that sense of place with my feet in that dirt and it can be recalled through a memory, a photo or a story.

I think perhaps the ease with which I recall this sense of place is the product of practice. My mother and father made me equally welcome in both their homes, in both their lives. They also thrust me out alone into the world early in my childhood, my first stint away from home being two weeks at a girl’s camp in North Carolina when I was six years old. I learned to make Cabin 1 on Hillbrook Hill a home and from there the sky was the limit.

How important it becomes when you’ve been thrust out into the world to be able to identify and claim a “home” of your own; to carry and exert a sense of place no matter the territory. This translates easily to confidence and ease, both graces that attract others to your little circle of life. I know in my own life it’s been when I have had the least sense of place that I have had the fewest comforting companions; that I’ve felt most alone. It’s then I’ve had to be carried through by my faith that I will feel those feelings once again, that I’ve had to reflect on those places, or even that I’ve had to run to those places to remember the certainty they bolster; to recharge my sense of place.

How awful it must be if you’ve not felt these feelings. I can hardly begin to understand the struggle to find balance when you’ve never felt a sense of place. I’m sure there are those people out there. Unsettled, still searching people who never seem to relax completely. Looking for a place where they can let down their guard and recharge; prepare to go out into the unknown with perceptible balance and grace. Entire foundations have been built to provide this sense of place to people who have none. People have dedicated their lives to helping others achieve it. It is a powerful need, indeed.

Find a place for yourself. Go there and recharge. Prepare for the next day of your life and prepare to live it with balance and grace. Trust me when I say it will be easier each time you consciously do so. And, when the opportunity presents itself, please do what you can to welcome others and give them that same sense of place to carry with them. It’s a gift like no other.

This post is dedicated to the people of Rainbow Village; may your blessings be bountiful and your sense of place strong.

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A Pot Luck

I like pot lucks for several reasons. They lift the burden off host(s), ensure everyone who comes will have at least one thing to eat they like, are an opportunity to show off and never leave me hungry. I like to see what people were proud to make and hear the stories behind the dishes.  I also like the pot lucks where everyone chips in on the work, offering their services and expertise;) They are generally gatherings of like minds…I just dig ’em, ok?
(duh)

So this post is going to be a pot luck of sorts. I’ve been working hard this week and have ideas and plans and well, it was my birthday for Pete’s sake! So I’m just going to throw out a few of the things that have been floating around my mind and see what you do with them. Oh, and I also wrote a post on the VikingToGo site we just launched. The Community is still a little buggy (email notifications are not going through at time of publishing) but I enjoyed writing the first blog post and I hope you will enjoy reading it. You can check it out here:

A Foodie Knows No Borders

Have I mentioned what my go-to pot luck dish is, by the way? Baked brie. Easy enough to keep puff pastry in the freezer and just buy a wheel of brie when you have an event. Wrap it in the thawed pastry, topping the cheese first with a dollop of jam. Brush with egg (less waste with Egg Beaters) and top with some nuts. I usually have shaved almonds on hand. I also like to drizzle some honey over it about halfway through the baking process. Anyway, cook it at about 350 F and/or according to the pastry directions (I’d say about 40 min.). Let it cool at least 10 minutes before cutting it…otherwise it gets crazy runny. Serve with crackers and Bob’s your uncle!

So here’s my baked brie for this week’s pot luck:

  • My family’s visit to the family farm last weekend fell on a weekend when work needed to be done for my cousin’s new blueberry endeavors. How wonderful to spend that time growing food with my family in the south Georgia sun. That and the slip and slide was also very cool:). Anyway all this had me thinking about what it means to have a Sense of Place. I think that will be my next set of musings
  • I made my first batch of laundry detergent and it’s brought my cost per load to about a cent. It took me 35 min of work and I’m sure I can do it in less time next time. I have detergent coming out of my yen yang, too! Oh and more importantly, it works – well – in my high efficiency machine. Well done, Suite101.com:

Making your own Laundry Detergent

  • I have all the ingredients I need to make my first batch of sunscreen. Keep your fingers crossed/thumbs held for me, please! I’ll let you know how it goes!
  • Have you planted everything you planned to plant this year? I still have some things that need to get in the ground…I’m getting behind…

Hope everyone has a great week! 🙂

Pot Luck Kindness 2010: The Big 3-0

Yay, I'm 30!

Yay, I'm 30!

Last month I read Robyn Bomar’s How I Celebrated My Birthday (aka 38 Random Acts of Robyn) and was inspired. Have you seen this yet? Robyn decided she would spend her 38th birthday doing 38 random acts of kindness. She made a list and spent the day running around town with several members of her family doing random acts of kindness. What’s more, she asked her “friends, readers, Facebook fans and fellow Twitter-ers to each perform one Random Act of Kindness and to let [her] know about it throughout the day”. What good stuff, man! I wanna put some goodness like that out there!

So here I am, a few days from my thirtieth birthday and I haven’t gotten my act together. I actually considered doing a belated Earth Day post this week because the work involved to pull together something like Robyn pulled together is not work I want to be doing this week. Can you believe I would let lazy beat out good karma on an occasion such as this?

I do feel like it’s a special birthday. I own it, I love it and I feel somehow as though I’ve turned a corner in the past few months and I am so very excited for the me walking into my thirties. I had a lovely meeting today for the Netweaving Pay It Forward Week and this evening I spent $28 on $50 worth of groceries – a milestone in frugality. Two for two, man…can’t I make this idea work for me somehow?

Well, maybe with some help;)

Here’s the deal. The one thing I didn’t care much for on Robyn’s project was that so many of her random acts involved money. As I read through her list I was tallying the costs and the project felt less and less practical for my personal situation. I also really don’t need to take Monday off…I’m in the middle of some very cool projects and would rather spend my birthday working on them:) So, I’m going to rip off Robyn’s idea and dilute it down to my taste…throwing just a little bit of good stuff out into the world is better than not throwing out any, right? 😉  So…

Pot Luck Kindness 2010: The Big 3-0

  1. I ask that anyone so inclined to celebrate this milestone birthday with me perform a random act of kindness. I’m going to do as many as I can on b-day and I’ll tweet them out as I do them.
  2. I ask that you make every effort to perform a ROAK that doesn’t cost you money or at least doesn’t cost you much. Let’s put a $5 cap on it, ok?
  3. I ask that you let me know about your RAOK somehow. You can comment here, text me, FB me, tweet me; whatever. I’ll post any messages I get from other channels here later. My hope [read: gift] is that this post will collect a long string of creative RAOKs, inspiring anyone who stumbles on this post in the future to perform one themselves or perhaps celebrate similarly on their birthday.
  4. My birthday is Monday 5/3 but I’m not going to attach the request to the date. You can do it the day you read this post, the next day, a week later, whenever. I will certainly be pleased if some of you think about me day-of but I’ve been stretching out my birthday for years so I don’t know why I’d stop now;)

That’s it; my birthday wish. I hope you want to celebrate with me and I hope you have fun doing it. Thanks for reading, too…I can’t tell you how much this outlet – this regular writing – has done for me. And your attention, dear reader? It’s speaking my love language🙂

Mouthgasm 2010: Sandestin

For those of you who read last week’s post, you know I needed to chill out. I did:) On Thursday afternoon I headed out to Florida with some of my best friends for some R&R on the Emerald Coast. We arrived just past 9 pm and by 10pm we were seated at Tommy Bahama’s for our first mouthgasm. The instigators?

LOKI-LOKI TUNA POKE
Fresh Ahi tuna, soy and sesame oil layered with freshly made guacamole and served with Tommy’s flatbread and tortilla strips

SOUTH SEAS SCALLOP SLIDERS
Pan seared, fresh basil, roma tomatoes, chipotle aioli, crispy “Tobacco” onions with Asian slaw

BAHAMA BASIL SMASH
Tommy Bahama White Sand Rum, muddled blackberries, basil and fresh ginger, “from scratch” sour mix and Sprite

Friday morning we headed over to the beach (first and last time…very odd for me on a beach trip) for a couple of hours and then hit Wine World (aka Chan’s) for some lunch and to peruse the gourmet cheeses (we ultimately bought blueberry cheese, jalapeno havarti & two large mozzarella blocks). After lunch we went to pick up some groceries and found we were all on the same, healthy mission. We didn’t end up with a bit of junk! Yogurt, dried fruit, nuts, juices & fresh vegetables were the picks of the day and I am so thankful for it. I swear putting these good things into our bodies made all the difference in the world…especially as the level of alcohol consumption was just the slightest bit higher than usual;)

Friday night turned out to be another late night, with us only sitting down to our crab leg boil around 10pm. Mouthgasmic…

Saturday morning we went to Another Broken Egg around 11am for breakfast. As my early to rise self had already feasted on yogurt, nuts and dried fruit I decided to order “light”:

BAKED BRIE DELIGHT
A delightfully mild white cheese softened and smothered with sautéed apples, raisins & pecans in a sweet Grand Marnier butter sauce. Served with lightly toasted French bread for spreading!

BLACKBERRY GRITS

At this point we understood our meals were off schedule. We embraced it. Some fun in the sun then we picked up some fresh fish for supper and hopped in the golf cart to go over to The Village for  oysters Christine was just dying to introduce us to: raw, served with wasabi and soy sauce…mmm…

We walked by a sushi place on the way to oysters…it seemed appropriate to stop for an appetizer…

I had some of the best salmon nigiri I’ve ever tasted (the fish tasted better than it looked…pleasant surprise!) and lovely, soft white tuna nigiri that melted in my mouth like butter. We also had a tasty order of edamames.

Palates whetted, on we went to the Acme Oyster House at The Village in Sandestin. Beautiful, beautiful oysters. More melting mouthgasms…totally smooth. We had a dozen baked and three dozen raw. Good thing we stopped in at the sushi place, too…Acme no longer had their soy sauce & wasabi oysters on the menu, so we ran back over to Osaka Sushi Rocks to ask our new friends if we could borrow some fixin’s. I must say, hands down, this was the most interesting and divine way I have eaten oysters to date. So-very-good.

We decided to skip the midnight fish taco supper we’d planned and hit the sack at a reasonable hour Saturday night. My internal alarm clock woke me up around 6:30am Central time (thank you, kiddo) so I decided to cook them up for breakfast instead. My friend Ann had the great idea to use naan bread for the tacos…good, good, good!

Us Georgia girls hit the road for home with a pit stop at my Aunt & Uncle’s in Marianna to have a bite for lunch and bring my grandmother back up to Atlanta to spend the week with my mom. I love Ruth & Larry’s place. I got to look at their garden and new greenhouse (foreplay) before sitting down to my last mouthgasm of fresh shrimp salad with avocados, 2 hr old radishes, remoulade sauce and muffins. For dessert we had Sticky Black Bean something with ice cream. It reminded me of rice pudding but was wonderfully different at the same time. I also saw these beautiful bay leaf garlands for the first time and was absolutely fascinated by them…very cool!

I found it interesting the way this little trip of ours shook out. Our meals were not of the interior grocery store isles, but fresh concoctions- most from the sea. The trip was soon centered around these mouthgasms – they were pursued so thoughtfully they became the cornerstone of it. I snatched up my morning alone time for yoga practice and stretching. I finished Eat, Pray, Love (and cried) – so apt. As each day passed, the same two words floated around in my mind: Restorative…Elemental…

And I am restored. The lovely food, when we dined both in and out (thanks, Erin, for knowing all the best places to go!), fed me not only physically but mentally. It makes me wonder – can our greatest imbalances be leveled with some attention to elemental needs? Moderation and health in nutrition and exercise certainly seem a reasonable way to test the theory. It’s not likely to hurt you, anyway…and you might just be surprised with multiple mouthgasms in the process!

Bay Leaf Garlands

I can’t wait for Mouthgasm 2011:)

Mean Mama

Kiddo has been wearing me out lately. If it’s not an incessant plea for attention it’s good old fashioned disobedience. I never felt “shake the baby” urges with him as an infant but I’m feeling some kick the kiddo urges something fierce now (not repeated kicking, mind you…just a solid drop kick…one that gets some distance…).

I don’t dig the rage. It does not become me. I remember telling our flatmate two days before my wedding that he’d made me so angry I wanted to pull his head down his throat and out his arse…see? That’s ugly stuff…

At church on Sunday I lost it. I picked kiddo up from the nursery after the passing of the peace so he could be with us for communion prayers. He squirmed, spoke too much and did not follow my instructions. At one point he was reaching for a hymnal on the pew in front of us and I told him not to. He began arguing with me and I got angry. I was mostly angry about arguing about something so stupid – something I didn’t really care about – simply because I’d put my foot down. But I’d put my foot down. War was waged.

At the same time, familiar, peaceful words were left unattended. I was missing the parts of my worship I know by heart; my speaking role. And in the midst of the words I love I snatched up that damn book and I pressed it into his belly. Not too hard, mind you – but I’d wanted to shove it at him.

I cried through the next hymn, my mother’s arm across my shoulders telling me it’s ok…

Then I began to reflect. I started thinking about how I have been doing things, how I might change things, how I might rustle up a happier relationship with the 3 1/2 year old I love so dearly. Here are a few samplings of those meditations…I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts.

  1. I think stay-at-home moms generally have a better sense of routine. It is at the fiber of their very survival and most kids respond well to it. Maybe it’s not because I work…it could just be my temperment…but I wonder if I should mindfully create more structure in our time together
    1b) This idea later sabotaged me when I lost conviction on a punishment decision (withholding his bedtime story)…
  2. There’s a concept of emotional banking I’m familiar with whereas if you (for example) want to have leave to make decisions for a child without suffering him independent growth you supplement that growth with created decision opportunities: Do you want to play outside for fifteen minutes and then take a bath or do you want to go ahead and take your bath now?
  3. I was already looking for guidance before the Hymnal Incident, and our pastor was talking about Doubting Thomas. It’d take some explaining to give Mary’s sermon justice (it was very good) but the message I heard was it’s ok to have doubts: they lead to questions to meditation to growth.
    3b) This was especially comforting as I mused further and thought of how much more confident I’ve been in my parenting at other stages of kiddo’s life. I’m struggling to find my confidence on this one. It’s unsettling.
  4. I am totally getting mine. I never shut up as a kid (and rarely do now). The irony of having an incessant talker for a child is soo Alanis Morissette;)

I’ve spoken with hubby, sissy and mama about my frustrations. They brought new ideas to the table and helped me find more peace on the matter. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. What kind of parenting have you witnessed or practiced? Any guidance, reassurance or (cringe) criticisms for me?

Tending the Gardens

Spring is sprung on my side of the world. My perennials are popping back up (as are weeds) and I’m sorting through my seeds figuring out what vegetables to plant in my square foot garden. Long days are upon us and I know I will soon neglect the house and the laundry in favor of the yard and gardens. This will go on a couple of months before the heavy heat of Georgia Summer chases me back in to the air conditioning where my boobs don’t sweat. Then the yard will be on it’s own until the temperatures moderate and I’m ready to venture out once again.

The yard won’t wow anyone these next couple of months. Though I will toil, my greatest rewards will be limited: the rediscovery of plants I’ve already cultured as I pull back weeds, the potting of purchased (not nursed) plants in my patio containers. I’ll kick myself for not planting more bulbs last fall and applying pre-emergent weed treatments to the lawn. I know because it went down like this last year and I made few changes to my routine to alter the outcome.

It’s hard to believe it was Easter on Sunday. This year is flying by. It seems just yesterday I was beginning my spiritual preparation for Lent, thinking about my relationships and my self…trying to identify ways I can improve both. Now here I am, a chorus of “he is risen, indeed” echoing in my head and still I find myself wondering what I’ve actually accomplished. Fortunately, my spiritual growth is not regulated by the same seasons as my gardens. I do not have to wait for next Lent to plant my bulbs. I may find the heat of introspection chases me back to my comfort zone from time to time, but those seasons are my own and I have more control over them than those that guide my physical planting.

Knowing this, I have made some conscious decisions about my yard and gardens – both physical and spiritual.

1) I will not neglect the yard just because I value the fruits of my gardens more. If I make the effort with the yard (weeding, edging) I will have to mow less frequently. I will not have to deal with the shame an unkempt yard evokes. This behavior is neighborly. My body is my yard and my soul is my garden. Though I value the fruits of the soul, I will do the hard work necessary to get my body in good shape so that I may be free of the shame an unfit one elicits. Once the hard work is done, I’ll be able to work less frequently. I’ll take pride in my healthy body and my next door neighbor (hubby) is bound to appreciate it;)

2) I will wait for the rain before I weed. There is no sense busting ass digging at roots in solid ground. That behavior only leaves me frustrated and unsatisfied. Similarly, I will not force spiritual growth on myself when my soul is not ready. Much like rain, circumstances for growth are beyond my control. There’s no sense kicking myself for not scaling some grand spiritual staircase this Lent. I’m better off working on something else until that slow, steady rain comes in it’s own time.

3) I will prioritize and make the time. No one becomes a master gardener overnight (nor a master of anything else, for that matter). I will sometimes set aside laundry or other housekeeping responsibilities to work in the yard when weather permits. For my soul? I will tear myself away from a work project to go to the Wednesday noon church service or miss a self-imposed writing deadline to play with my son. Also, as my gardens are shared with my husband’s, I will make time to tend them together – even if that means doing the “tasks” he wants to do rather than those I’d like to do.

4) I will make every effort to learn. I will identify my trusted sources, open my mind to positive influences and make every effort to soak up ideas.Through this I will achieve growth.

5) I will not be afraid to try new ideas, even if they are foreign to me. Nor will I be afraid to cast aside those that do not suit my soil, plants or climate.

6) I will share. Just as many plants can be split and rooted to grace a new space, so can positivity be shared and fostered to grace another soul.

7) I will compost. I will not cast aside scraps of food or life lessons. Instead, I will allow them to ruminate and culture, applying them when the time comes, that I may grow beautiful vegetables and the fruits of the spirit.

So there you have it – my gardening plans. I hope the exercise of writing them down helps me stick with them:) I find sometimes the best gardens are those that require little effort (thank you, zinnias!) but even when the grandest of my planting plans are left unrealized I can at least see the outlines of them to guide me the next year. Here’s to a happy season (whichever yours may be) and a yard and garden to be proud of! What about you? Have you ordered your seeds yet? Which plants will you share with friends?

Carcass 101: Stock (with a side of Dumplings)

I’ve always said I would have been great in a Depression. It’s a rare occasion when I allow food to hit the waste bin and more often than not it’s after several rounds at the table. I am a left-over reinventing queen. My hubby rolls his eyes at the end of nearly every family occasion as I pack leftovers and carcass(es) for the trip home. He later tolerates me as I clutter the kitchen, sometimes taking a shelf’s worth of space in the refrigerator with my various stages of stock-making. But when you see what you can get from what you might have thrown away…whew-ie! Totally worth it.

So here’s a little Carcass 101 with some pot luck tips…

1.  If you have a large carcass, sometimes it’s better to take your time processing it. There are good break opportunities in the process so if your life will be less complicated by slowing it down, put on the brakes. Knowing this has made the idea of starting stock at 2:00pm on a Sunday much less daunting.

2. Break the carcass if necessary to fit in your pot. I generally let my carcass occupy about 2/3 of the pot and fill it with about an inch or two of water. Add water throughout the process to maintain these approximate levels.

3. Throw in some seasoning (sugg. bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, etc.) and whatever veg you choose. Chef Shea Markwell (Cooking School @ The Viking Store) gave me a killer tip on stock veg: as you prepare veg for meals save peels, skins, ends – anything you would compost – then freeze them. Just bag ’em, tag ’em and put ’em on ice until you have the occasion to make stock again.

4. Heat your stock and simmer for several hours. I’ll sometimes turn off the flame for little stints in between once the pot gets good and hot (it keeps cooking, anyway); I just have a hard time justifying such long use of my stovetop.

BREAK OPPORTUNITY: Nothing wrong with letting the pot cool down a bit before sticking it in the fridge. You can pick up the process tomorrow by just heating it up again.

5. Place a large pot/bowl in your sink and set a colander in it. Pour your stock through and set aside the broth. Let everything cool.

BREAK OPPORTUNITY:  This is a great stopping point if you have room in the fridge for both the broth pot/bowl and the rest. Either way, you really should stick the broth in. If you leave it overnight the fat will congeal on top and you can skim it off before freezing.

6. Pick out the meat from the bones and skin and toss it into the ziplock (first label and date the bag) you’ll be freezing the stock in.

IF SKIMMING FAT: once it has congealed, skim the top of the broth with a large spoon and toss it in the bin (not down the sink!).

Skimming fat from stock 1Skim fat from stock 2Skim fat from broth

7. Add the broth to the meat, squishing it around so the meat is surrounded by it. Get as much air out of the bag as you’re able before closing it.

6. Freeze.

And there you have it – Carcass 101. Does anyone have anything to add to the process? What do you do?

When I made turkey stock on Sunday I also made a batch (this one not low fat:)) into Turkey and Dumplings for our supper. This was both my first and second attempt at dumplings…the second turning out better:) I’m going to include a link to the recipe here, as well as my notes.

Epicurious.com: Chicken and Dumplings
– I only used the dumpling recipe (the quick recipe in the footnotes) and the cooking instructions from this recipe, but I’m sure it’s all tasty:)
Instead of Bisquick, I used Aunt Jemima’s Whole Wheat Panacake Mix. I’ve also made a tomato pie crust with this and both turned out lovely :})

PS. While making this I also made my shampoo for the week.