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These days, the buzz words of anything food or culinary related seem to center around the latest thing Michael Pollan has talked about. I’m no MP basher- I like the guy and I even willingly watched ‘Oprah’ the day he was on it because I think he’s got his finger on the right idea. But, and forgive me, he isn’t the last word in what we put in our mouths. We are. You are. Everyone needs to take their food rules to a level that works for them.

I haven’t read this book. I probably will when the hype over it lessens and it sits on the library shelf all by itself. It’s not long and it isn’t complicated, and from what I’ve seen, it’s chock full of sound advice. “Eat food that comes from a plant, not food that’s made in a plant” or something to that extent, is pretty clear. The more natural, the better. We all know that buying products with an extensive list of unpronounceable ingredients just isn’t good eating. We know that factory farmed meats are not the best option for our bodies. Vegetables are laden with pesticides. Sugar is hidden in everything. Every single day we’re bombarded with news about our well-being, proper nutrition and health crises that are out of control. People lament “I don’t know WHAT to eat anymore!” And to this I just say ‘Stop.’

We need to make our own choices. And we need to be content with those choices, both with what we bring into our homes and that which we see around us. Some of those choices may not be practical for everyone, and we need to remember that we’re not all the same.  We’re raised to be who we are, each with our own fingerprint, our own set of values and our own means of taking in and digesting the world around us.

My food rules have changed dramatically over the past few years, and I have a lot of ideas about how I want them to be different, but given our current financial situation, I’m not doing absolutely everything that I want. Some day, perhaps. I need to pick which ones, right now, are most important to me, are within my budget and my desire to live healthier.

Simple to address; eating out. We don’t do it much at all. I’m a very good cook and as much as I love to have someone else prepare my meal, I know about raw food costs, and sometimes menu pricing makes me irate so I protect my blood pressure by staying home. It protects my budget too. When we dine out, I like to go to restaurants that prepare food I tend not to make, so we frequent ethnic restaurants. And a few tried and trues places that make a 15-year old boy and both his parents happy. That’s not an easy challenge. We don’t eat fast food, but we’ve gone to Chipotle, Baja Sol, Davannis (local chain that serves pizza and hoagies) and Mavericks (local shop that makes killer roast beef sandwiches). Those places are OK by me, on occasion. I don’t make it a habit by any means. And it’s at those places where I tend to drink the only soda I ever consume. We don’t drink soda at home. If my son wants it, he spends his own money on it. I don’t like it, but it’s his choice.

At home, I make most everything from scratch, but I don’t make my own pasta sauce. I’ve done it from scratch and it’s fine, but the overall cost of ingredients can be staggering so I buy a good quality jarred option. I avoid any products with MSG as I am highly sensitive to it, and am adamant about avoiding high fructose corn syrup and any kind of trans fat. I love Wheat Thins, but they have HFCS. I love Ritz crackers too- again, HFCS. I buy some boxed cereals but they tend to be healthier options, occasionally a sweeter version hits my pantry, but I don’t eat cold cereal much, so when I do, it’s more like a treat. I buy and eat a lot of oatmeal, and get the thick cut version, basically one step down from Steel Cut, and I like the hot cereals from Bob’s Red Mill. We don’t eat frozen meals, frozen pizza, or boxed meals; I buy the best yogurt I can without artificial sweeteners. I make pancakes and waffles from scratch, and all my baked goods are from scratch. I don’t use cake mixes, and have recently decided that I need to stop using refined white sugar so I’m researching alternatives- thanks Angela!!  I started making almost all of our bread, using the Healthy Bread in 5 minutes book, and we make pizza dough from scratch. We love the flavor of the bread, it’s better for us, and cuts back on the cost of packaged. I’m very diligent about reading labels, and buying products that contain recognizable ingredients. My son loves to snack on Nachos, and I will buy jarred salsa only with fresh ingredients. I’m sure I could make my own but I don’t. That’s my decision. Sometimes those decisions are simple. Other times, they’re not so cut and dried, and I wrestle with the best way to choose.

We eat meatless as much as possible, and that’s hard because you all know that I refer to my boy as The Carnivore. He thinks that no meal is worthy without meat. I’m happy that he loves black beans, as beans and rice is a cheap meal that is nutritionally sound. He’s pretty good about eating what I make even if it isn’t his favorite; the alternative is to make his own dinner, and he’s just a tad too lazy for that. I don’t argue about the food he wants to eat. Up until a few years ago, he never made a stink about our meals, but now that he does, I feel it’s just his way of trying to control what he can. I don’t fault him. I know the ground work has been laid, and living by example is just fine with me. We eat cheese, but don’t drink milk. I use soy milk for coffee, cereal and baking and buy a soy based sour cream and cream cheese. I use butter and sometimes Earth Balance soy based butter. We buy only whole bean coffee of good quality. I don’t use canned goods other than beans, tomatoes, coconut milk, and pumpkin. I use olive and canola oil. I do not use margarine, I’ve got a container of non-hydrogenated organic shortening on hand for those recipes where it’s a must, and I basically sub whole wheat flour for all-purpose so much now that I won’t be buying AP once the current bag runs out. I utilize whole grains like farro, wheatberries, millet and barley, we eat a lot of nuts and plenty of vegetables. I prefer to buy some of my produce as organic, but it isn’t necessary that it’s all that way. During Farmers Market season, I buy almost all our vegetables from the markets.

And like I said, there’s lots more I wish I was doing, but this works for us, for now. I’d love to hear your personal food rules- what you eat, what you avoid, what you wish you could be doing. I think we all have a lot to learn from each other, don’t you? My quick on the draw friend Barb already has hers up on her blog. Feel free to put yours in my comments.

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One aspect of 2010 that is vastly different than the past years is that I decided I was going to tackle Project 365. You take a photo a day for 365 days straight. Doesn’t sound too hard, or does it? Because for me, especially in the last few months of ’09, I started seeing a whole new world through my camera and figured ‘Well this should be simple.’

It has been, but it’s also been a huge challenge. Weird dichotomy, isn’t it? A simple challenge? I carry an iPhone so there is always a camera with me. I love it for it’s ability to take some amazing shots.

Like this one.


And this one too

The bottom line of capturing your life on camera is not that complicated; the view through the lens can be profound and moving provided you lift your head long enough to look around and see what’s happening, and it doesn’t necessarily require a complex camera with a series of bulky lenses. Those do help, especially on the bright sunny day that one comes across the stunning image alongside the road of two eagles sitting majestically in a tree. The iPhone wasn’t going to cut it on that day. And I wasn’t carrying my digital with me. Although I have that image seared onto my memory, no one else will see it. I do need to remember to pocket my little digital camera more often. Because, with that, I am able to do some magical things.

Like find peanut butter rapture.

A beautiful selection of small and simple bowls

And the sunlight on tiny dipping saucers and cups

While these themselves may not be worthy of the Guggenheim, or even the corner coffee shop, once you place them all side by side they will tell a story of one month, a perspective I would have forgotten if it weren’t for 31 clicks of a lens. I like that it spurs me to continue, to wonder how the remaining 11 months of Project 365 will pan out. The end destination is always exciting, but the scenery along the way should never be overlooked.

Want to see the whole month? Feel free to look it over. The comments are my novel of January 2010.

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Whew….that one’s out of the way. I didn’t sweat this Thanksgiving, I just did a traditional take on an age-old meal. And I loved the smiles all around the table, the deep sighs of contentment, the numerous trips back to the bowls of food. Like I told my sibs…” I didn’t make a lot of different food, I just made a lot of food.” Even with them toting home care packages with glistening pieces of turkey and perfect wedges of pumpkin pie, my fridge is still loaded. That makes me ultra-happy. Today, I can relish the quiet and not think about meal planning. It’s a perfect day for my post-Thanksgiving indulgence.

That’s right. I make a mountain of stuffing with the sole purpose of having plenty on hand to eat cold, straight from the bowl. Tell me I am not the lone oddity about this. Another delicious and gratifying treat with leftovers? Good bread, toasted and topped with slices of brie, a smear of cranberry relish and some pecans. Warm or cold, it’s delightful.

And speaking of cold…..

We’ve had snow already in Minnesota, thick on the gold leaves of early October and wholly unwelcome at the beginning of our beautiful Autumn. To wake up to this dusting was not such a surprise, but it seemed far more acceptable running after the heels of Thanksgiving, pushing November off the calendar. Even a light snowfall looks far more natural when viewed among the bare and spidery (almost) December landscape.

What else can be accomplished on a post Thanksgiving Sunday? Griffin will be certain to plop on the sofa with the NFL. I may be powerless to join him in my lethargy. A good cardio pumping hike might be best though, before succumbing to a languid Sunday afternoon. I’ll be thinking of leftover magic too. What are some of your favorite ‘second meal’ options when faced with the remains of your turkey, stuffing and potatoes? I like to make potato cakes. Form a handful of cold mashed potato into a cake and dredge them in seasoned flour. Heat butter in a small skillet and cook the potato cake until a brown crunchy crust has formed on one side, then carefully flip it over and brown the other side. It’s so not healthy but it fills your tummy in a comforting and warm way, kind of like I feel when my big brother embraces me. With a poached egg on top, it’s a breakfast of late November, and like a brotherly familial greeting, perfect in every way. I like chopped turkey and apples together, the sweet crunch against the mellow meat, maybe a bit of dijon mustard mixed in with some nuts for a good salty crunch. We’ve already established that I can pick handfuls of stuffing out of the bowl until I sigh deeply in my satiety. There likely will be soup, probably tomorrow. And even though I saw plenty of second helpings for my perfectly roasted carrots, I did notice there was a small container of those remaining as well. The bread box is stuffed too. I am a happy, albeit tired gal.

Now we can gaze down the month of December, with the flip of the calendar page and look ahead to Christmas. There’s a cookie exchange looming ever closer -a week!!!- and I have yet to even make up my mind about my offering, much less bake 8 dozen pieces to pass out. There’s the requisite party or two. With wine. A tree must be hunted down, brought home and lovingly adorned with a lifetime of memories. Then I’ll have to sit by it and deeply inhale it’s piney, Christmas-making scent, in the dark with the lights twinkling. The cats will be intrigued and probably knock a few ornaments off of it. We’ll see more and more houses lit up in the spirit of the season. I’ll have to plan another meal with my family. With both families. I’ll miss my mom like crazy and play the Christmas CD that often makes me cry. I’ll send out a Christmas card. And like every year, I’ll be glad when it’s over and life can settle down to some pattern of normalcy, whatever that may be. There’ll be lots of paths to explore.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear a bowl of stuffing calling my name.

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I really need to make more of it. Time that is, especially when I can get this……

WW MG bread6627

for something like 15 minutes of actual work; like getting my hands messy, watching the mixer spin and covering a bowl with plastic kind of work. Whoa. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But really, I should do this more often.

WW MG bread6623

Maybe it’s because I don’t think bread photographs all that well. Like soup. I can make soup once a week but you rarely read about it here because it isn’t all that glamorous and hates to pose when the camera comes out. Some foods you can’t keep down if you tried. The camera turns on and they pose the heck out of themselves, flashing their merits for the lens to find, almost shouting ‘Look at me!!’ in their desire to be seen. And loved. Bread is just sort of there. The color isn’t superb and eye-catching; you can’t really show off the crumb in any photo and there’s no flashy edges, roasted and burnished, that tell it’s tale. And it’s bread. It’s a vehicle for your cheese, peanut butter, jam or fruit butter. It gets smothered in mayonnaise. No wonder it just sits there when the camera comes out. Rarely is bread honored on it’s own, although some of the best breads I have ever eaten can offer up their finest attributes with nary a spread in sight. But let’s face it. When you go for bread, you almost always have the thought of placing something on it, covering it up and hiding it from view, mashing it down in a press, or cooking it over a flame. Maybe over time, bread has developed somewhat of a complex, and when the camera points its way, it probably sighs and thinks ‘Oh great, next it will be the peanut butter jar. Or that god-awful mayo crap. Or that fabulous sharp cheddar in the fridge, maybe with chutney.’ It’s time to behold the bread. To claim it for the amazing food that it is, to place it forefront in the kitchen, to give it it’s due. To make time for it. To take 21 pictures of it like I did in an exhaustive effort to bring out the best of it, to try to make it shine. As I tapped ‘Command + Delete’ over and over again, sighing in frustration, the coarse and hearty crumb of this bread still playing on my tongue, I decided that the bread just needed to tell it’s own story in the only way it could. It needs to be made to be appreciated.

For five years of my life, I worked in the office of an artisan bakery and was subjected daily to fresh baked bread of all shapes, sizes and flavors. Some days all I could manage for lunch was to grab a ciabatta roll and maybe a little ham. Sometimes it was a Sesame Semolina loaf, a snappy and crisp Baguette or the mouth-puckering Sourdough Boule. My desk usually would be covered in crumbs, and when I cleaned out my keyboard, yep- you guessed it- crumbs. My daily log book was filled with crumbs. They crunched under my shoes, and almost every day as I exited the building and passed the rack of breads that were left, I would grab one to take home for Griffin. But I was surrounded by the wonder of all things yeast and it cemented a love for bread in me that lives strong still, nearly eight years after I left the job. I never really thought about how fortunate I was then, but now, when I want something yeasty, that snaps with a shower of golden snowy crumbs all over my lap, that’s what I think about.

And I need to give it the time and attention it should have, time it deserves and way more than I do, which is a rarity. Even if most of that time is spent gazing at a plastic covered bowl, faint drafts of yeast and flour emitting from within, while I sigh heavily, dreaming of warm bread covered with melted butter, a drizzle of honey or a gooey slice of melted Brie. The warmth of a 400° oven easily chases the chill of an October Sunday away, while I doze through the NFL game, one synapsis just awake enough to keep track of the time passing and bringing me ever closer to those dark brown loaves. And the smell. God really knew what He was doing when He created bread, didn’t He? Somebody say ‘Amen’.

Whole Wheat Multi Grain Bread
From The Essential Eating Well Cookbook

1-3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. bread flour
3/4 c. 7-Grain cereal (Bob’s Red Mill makes a delicious one)
2 T. milk powder
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp.)
1-1/4 t. salt
1-1/3 c. water
2 T. molasses (I did not have any, subbed in unsw.applesauce and loved the result)
1- 1/2 T. canola oil

Fit your Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook. Spray a medium bowl with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine flours, cereal, milk powder, yeast and salt in the mixer bowl and blend on low speed for about a minute. Whisk together the water, molasses and oil until combined, and then with the mixer running on low, slowly pour the liquids into the flour mixture. When fully combined, stop the mixer and allow the dough to rest in the bowl for 30 minutes.

Turn the mixer on to low again, and mix the dough for about a minute stirring in about 2 more tablespoons of wheat flour. The dough will not form a ball and will be slightly sticky. Scrape the dough into the prepared bowl and cover the top with plastic. Allow to rise until doubled in size- 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Coat a standard loaf pan with cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and sprinkle a little more flour over the top. Carefully collect the dough together to form a loaf and place in pan. Cover with plastic and let rise until doubled in size, 50 minutes to an hour.

Bake at 400° for 35-40 minutes, until top of loaf is golden brown and there is a hollow sound when you tap on the top. Allow to cool in pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

KATE’S NOTES:
Bob’s Red Mill makes a 5-Grain, 7-Grain and 10-Grain cereal mix. Although the recipe calls for the 7-Grain, I used the 10-Grain as it was what I had on hand. Either of the three varieties would work just fine in the proper quantity. I was a little skeptical about the amount of time the dough mixed after the rest period. It seems pretty short and does not seem to develop the gluten much like other methods. However, the result of the loaf tasted really good, with a dense and coarse multi-grain crumb and a nice texture. I might experiment with the amount of mixing time to see what the end result might be. I doubled the recipe and both loaves were a bit short but I might have baked them sooner than they should have though.

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August has descended to show us what it’s capable of setting out. I’ve missed the heat….. and I fully realize how strange that might sound, but here in Minnesota, this summer has been anything but hot. While there are some who may tend towards whining about weather, we often can feel cheated if a summer passes us by without whacking us a good one with it’s expected personality. July’s average temperature was 70° and that’s unheard of in this state. I wore a sweatshirt last month. And pants. Maple trees beginning to turn in July is no one’s idea of Summertime.

Did you know that the origin of the term ‘Dog Days of Summer’, those sultry and hottest days traditionally between early July and early September, were once considered an evil time when ‘the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies’ ?  Really….dramatic, huh? But I suppose in the days before air conditioning…..

dog-days-of-summer

Last night there was a spectacular lightning show to our Southeast. The flashes leapt from cloud to cloud, jagged arcs across an edge of the sky that was otherwise clear and filled with stars. I watched from our second floor window to get the best look at the awesome display and on occasion, would turn my eyes away to look at the glittering points of light around me. I was amply rewarded, during this, the time of Perseid, to see one lone asteroid streaking across the sky as lightning continued to flash in the other direction. It was an incredible sight.

Perseid97

I haven’t been blogging about much food, have I? My apologies. We’ve been eating, but it’s been simple fare, really the best kind. Isn’t it wonderful that often the best thing you can do to food is as little as possible? Farmers markets are stuffed to bursting with more fresh fare that imagineable; the deep purple eggplants, rich green peppers and in grand fashion, trucks that are overflowing with sweet corn.

sweetcorn

Like the sweet cherry season of early June where I am known to purchase a sack of ruby fruits several times a week, this time of year I will happily eat my weight in sweet corn. Or try to anyway. I’m not shy about indulging and enjoying it, my hopes pinned on being so absolutely tired of it that when it’s gone for the year I won’t miss it much. Until next summer, anyway. There such a joy to biting into that quintessential taste of summer, kernels so juicy that they spray an unsuspecting fellow diner, warm melty butter slicking my lips. I can find means to eat it every single day. Have you ever tried sweet corn, smoked salmon and goat cheese in an omelet?? I highly recommend it. With fresh basil, please.

cabin delights 008

Our suppers have been simple these days as well, lunches light and refreshing. I’ve been a bit obsessed with these beans, loving the simplicity as well as the taste. I can make an entire meal out of a thickly sliced eggplant, brushed with oil and grilled to a nice char. We enjoyed a spicy, kicky meal of chili-garlic grilled shrimp, another round of Mike’s famous burritos. There was time at the lake, where a simple mix of grilled vegetables made for an amazing side dish. Local tomatoes are starting to arrive.  I haven’t felt like there’s been much to blog about because what’s going on in the kitchen here is what should be happening in your kitchen as well, and others too. Very little. Your meal shouldn’t be putting you out, or taxing your energy. There’s a summertime outside, quietly slipping away yet with enough remaining moments to grab in your hands, maybe with a picnic on the side.

How about a nice Tabbouleh style salad to pack up and take along?

bulgur with veg 006bulgur with veg 008

Chickpea Tabbouleh
By Kate (with some help from The Minimalist)

I 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 c. cooked bulgur
1 c. fresh green beans, steamed with a bit of crunch and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on a microplane (watch the fingertips!)
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley
1/3 c. minced fresh mint
Juice and zest of half a lemon (more if you desire)
3 T. good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place chickpeas in a medium bowl and gently mash with a fork or other implement to break down into small pieces. Add in remaining ingredients and drizzle lemon juice and oil over all. Toss to coat and combine. Season to taste and chill for several hours. Stir before serving and adjust seasoning if necessary. Change-up veggies as you please.

SOME TIPS:
Make it less, make it more; vary the bulgur to chickpea ratio according to what you desire for your salad. Add more chickpea, less grain, or reverse it. When making a salad like this, the idea of having uniformity is pleasing to the eye and makes it easier to consume, hence the microplane for grating the carrot and the step of breaking down the chickpeas. It isn’t necessary though. As per any recipe with fresh herbs, personal taste prevails. Add more if you like, or less.

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If I had any say in the matter, I would wish to line the road to Heaven with wild summer raspberry bushes.

summer raspberries 013

There is nothing more rewarding and satisfying on a warm morning in late July to find the narrow country road upon which you’re walking lined with loaded wild raspberry patches. I was back-tracking on the road, having first traversed it’s dusty and worn tire tracks to the end where it meets the noisy highway, weaving along behind the properties that dot the lakeshore around our cabin when I suddenly lifted my nose to the wind and thought to myself  ‘I smell raspberries!’

I should have had a clue from the mass of deer tracks in the mud by the road that something was amiss in that area, but upon closer inspection, I saw the red orbs hiding deep within their brambly branches. The deer, and the delightful scent had led my eyes to the right spot. The ditch dipped away from under my feet, a steep incline on both sides that was littered with thick slabs of sharp shale, partially covered with tall grass,  and dangerous underfoot. I couldn’t reach to the farthest those branches spread, and gazed longingly at the dark red fruit hanging just out of reach. With a gentle hand drawing back the thorns, I pulled free what I could, and then moved on.

Barely 50 yards further down the road, with the sun high, another broad patch of berries caught my eye. This one was more accessible, hovering slightly under a stand of wild apple trees, the ditch was flatter and more easily stepped through without fear of slipping. And it was full of fruit. My bare legs bore the brunt of careless foraging among the thorns, but my mouth was leading the way. The fruit, at once warm and tart where the sun played on it all day long to sweet and cool underneath the canopy of trees, was abundant, deep shades of dark reddish purple and perfectly ripe. Just lifting the branches caused many of the berries to simply let go, falling to the undergrowth, and the ones that I could cup my fingers around fell easily into my hand. Their sweet flavor burst over my tongue, the purest taste of raspberry that one can get, with a memorable hint from the humid touch of our lake and the very grasses in which they grew present in almost every bite. In many spots the berries were as big as the end of my thumb; others they were miniscule, hardly more than that half a dozen tiny spores, but swollen with summer goodness and thick with the essence of late July. I walked among the bushes, plucking, lifting, slurping and sweating, brushing aimlessly at the lazy buzzing flies, my eyes riveted on the bushes for the next spot to pounce upon.

Among the Bee Balm, Crown Vetch, Indian Paintbrush, Black-Eyed Susan and thick woodland ferns, the bounty rose undisturbed under my feet, save for the lucky birds and a trio of Does and their Fawns that I startled out of their morning snack. The Does gazed at me, indignation apparent in their faces as I plundered their stash; the Fawns, with their huge startled eyes and flashing puffy white tails glanced about nervously, eyes darting from their mothers to me as if to say ‘Aren’t we supposed to run or something??’ I quietly slipped away from them, hoping they would just return to the same enjoyment that I was having, and since I didn’t hear the thunderous crash of their hooves through the woods, I imagine they did. Why wouldn’t they?

Wouldn’t you?
summer raspberries 010

Along the whole length of road, I wove back and forth, my eyes trained on the ditches in order to not miss one stand of bush. With each handful passed to my mouth, my thirst sated with their endless juice and the sunshine pouring down on my head, I almost felt like I was drunk with my bounty, filled to bursting with the very flavor of summer. When I finally emerged onto the paved road that led to our cabin, stuffed with fruit and drenched in sweat, I had to heave a huge sigh of contentment. The wind had picked up, some thick puffy clouds were dragging themselves lazily across the abundance of blue sky overhead, and across the road from our place, a field of amber wheat waved carelessly, paths rippling across the top of the grain sheaths in endless and hypnotic patterns. I longed to just drop into the tall grass with a sigh and take it all in, the parade of summer that passes far too quickly. Instead I retired to our screen porch to watch the lake pulse and dance from the touch of the wind, with a happy raspberry filled tummy.

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So this is how I am, hmm? Wax philosophic about blogging for three years and then vamoose for parts unknown? Some ‘reach out and touch someone’ blogger I am. In my absence I have been astonished, overwhelmed and sometimes moved to tears by your comments and I hope I adequately thanked you individually for your support, your love and your unimaginable kindness. You, dear readers, are the ‘raison d’etre’ that keeps me chug-chug- chugging along.

But I’ll tell you, I needed escape in a big way. I went to our lake home, a mere hour’s drive from where I reside in real time but eons of light years away in terms of the ultimate escape, proving that you don’t need to go far to leave it all behind.  Remember Mike’s broken back? The huge perspective shift? It’s been six weeks and he’s doing pretty well, but the constant vigil that I have laid down in order to help him has drained away a large portion of the ‘Me’ that makes me who I am. And in the empathy that I feel for him, I sense every wince of pain, every ache and twinge and see the frustration in his eyes in dealing with his limitations and it wears on me. It’s love, plain and simple; nothing he hasn’t done for me in spades, but still,  I needed to recharge my batteries.

After a few days of feeding all of our souls (again) with this beautiful face,

ninacollage

I took my leave…..

kate time 004

And Loveless Lake, in Western Wisconsin was just the place I needed. It’s been at the heart of my life with Mike in so many ways; we shared our first kiss there, I fell in love with him (and his family) there and we announced to everyone that we were getting married on the beloved screen porch to shouts of riotous cheer. It’s in my blood, my very bones. And this summer, with Mike’s back injury and the often rotten weather, I just haven’t been there as much as I need to- and I need to;  my heart has missed its solace, the sunsets and the ripple of the water, lulling the harshness of life out of me and replacing it with a steadier pulse. A glass of wine is often more indulgent on the deck at sunset, and coffee just never tastes so good as it does on the screen porch as the new day unfolds over the backyard and the first ripples touch the glass surface of the water. The smell of the lake, the call of the Oriole in the evergreens…..I need it like oxygen. And food.

And I need time away to just cook a few simple and favorite things- food for me, for my restoration. It always changes when I go, depending on the time of year and my current tastes. I craved fresh fruit and more greens- rabbit that I am- but I also wanted meats, like a good steak and some bacon. And I shamelessly wanted to be selfish. The steak, generously rubbed with a spicy jalapeno and garlic rub, was sputtering and so delightfully charred and burnished as it came off the grill that I couldn’t manage a photo before my knife and fork tackled it forcefully. It was  more rare than I ever imagine myself eating, still I contemplatively devoured each bite, delighting in the flavor, and the solitude as a gentle rain shower left it’s fragrance outside the open patio door. My bacon served it’s purpose across many meals, most notably atop a crispy slice of ciabatta, toasted on the grill and smeared with natural grainy peanut butter for a delicious and decadent breakfast treat.

What else did I do? Well, I watched the resident eagle fish for it’s breakfast; the great blue heron survey the water as the eager English Spaniel several doors down kept vigil over it from the dock. I spied hummingbirds on the lakeshore plantings. I stared at the leaping flames of an aromatic fire for a very very long time with nary a muscle twitch, nodding off in my chair outside and awoke, most likely just a few minutes later to a heavy splash in the water behind me, the flames still crackling, barely a few feet from where I was dozing.

kate time 007

Seriously!? I fell asleep outside by the campfire. Honestly, if I could have I would wrap up in blankets and sleep under the stars. I indulged too, in that simplest of campfire offerings.

kate time 015

I listened to the chipmunks chatter and chase each other around the yard, and I walked. I walked in casual pace along a gravel road, the peace of a Tuesday morning held tight around me, touched by cool breezes in the refreshing morning air. I listened to the wind, sipped another cup of coffee and napped if I felt like it. I absorbed ‘Treasure Island’, losing myself in Jim Hawkins’ narrative, cursing the fickle Long John Silver, cheering the bravery.  By all accounts, I disappeared; and I’ve never wanted it so much. Some people crave chocolate, or ice cream; I wanted uninterrupted time to just be me.

But I’m trying to refocus now on another round of blogging; I’m scheming, making plans and thinking about summer’s bounty. After a delightful holiday weekend, most likely back at Loveless, life will resume some semblance of normal, hopefully, and the blog will be back on it’s sumptuous feet. Thanks for your patience.

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