moving forward

Back in May, to mend a battered heart, I fled to Italy with a mission to explore the University of Gastronomic Science in the tiny town of Pollenzo. I have this intensely vivid memory of walking by myself between the school’s old walls on that hot spring afternoon and pebbles crunching under my feet. The smell of spring, where everything is absurdly fragrant, gave me the same sense of euphoria I get everywhere. I simultaneously realized two things; I could do this and that “this” had already begun. It just took my brain a little longer to catch up.

When I got home I spent a month filling out my application, writing 26 essays questions and working my way around a maddening Italian government. I submitted my portfolio like I had hit the red button in the oval office. All I could do was wait….I HATE waiting…

Move forward 7 months… The morning of knowing finally came…early. I sat in my kitchen with Kudra flopped over my keyboard when the email arrived…Twenty-five people were accepted into this program. I was given the random number 198.  I opened the list. 23, 455, 199, … I scanned the list and my heart pounded in my chest….then I saw it, 198. I had to blink twice and look again. Was I really in? Holy Shit. Here we go.. Deep breath.. I am moving to Italy. I am quitting my job, leaving people I love, paying for this how? I will figure it out! I AM MOVING TO ITALY!

Now it is December 22. Winter Solstice. Each day I try to complete some small step forward. I occupy myself with other things but there is no doubt, I am moving away. For one year. People move to other countries or across their own country all the time. I wasn’t doing something extraordinary, but to me, it is everything. An old soul recently told me that my life is a movie waiting to be made. I think life is an ever-changing, slightly maddening, always moving picture show. I am going to have a kick-ass sound track.

Birds and Bees…In Motion

This last weekend, my friend Sami and I decided to head to the coast and dedicate ourselves to fall craft. We arrived at the beach house with mountains of supplies.

On Saturday morning I woke up to the insane flapping of hundreds of pelicans out on the river.  The sun was shining and the burlap was calling. After moving the dining room table onto the deck, we sorted a pile of coffee bean bags and went to work. The pelicans continued flapping and the bush next to the table was swarming with honey bees, getting in their last hurrah. It was a perfect day to be outside creating.

lunch break: roasted tomato soup and smoked cheddar and peppercorn grilled cheese sandwiches.

bees!

and more sewing

I think the burlap rugs turned out great! i am hoping to add a few big pillows into the mix.

After a long walk in the sunshine,  we met up with Brian and Stacey for dinner at the Pelican Brewery and headed to bed early. Crafting is exhausting!!

Sunday morning, I woke up to more crazy flapping pelicans but not so much sunshine. Perfect day for canning. While Sami spent more time with the burlap, I started canning my veggies. I made spicy pickled carrots, spiced Indian pickled green beans and cauliflower. They are so beautiful!

Sami canned mountains of apples and pears.

We had another night to relax and another morning to wake up with crazy birds, had the BEST prawn tacos in manzanita and headed home with our goodies.

Perfect weekend!! We decided this must be done every year. We even had time to get a little surfing in! We pretty much rocked the weekend!

Here Piggy Piggy

Several weeks ago, at a Willie Nelson concert, my friend  Joel proclaimed that he wanted to roast a pig for my Annual Green Bean Birthday BBQ. With the help of a couple glasses of wine, i didnt hesitate before saying SURE! that sounds fantastic!  i even appliqued a pig on my skirt to celebrate!

Move ahead 2 months on a Thursday evening and picture me, invitations sent, RSVP’s returned, large BBQ built in my back yard, another year older and a large, slightly bloody, dead pig in my back seat. Disturbingly it looked like a human being wrapped in plastic. i almost wished i had been pulled over, just to see the expression on the cop’s face.

Sami, bless her heart, let me vent by apprehensions and kept me laughing while we picked up the piggy and made sure she got into her bathtub of briney goodness. Lucky for us, my neighbor Loree also popped over so we had a third person to take pictures! After unwrapping the pig I salted her cavity and gently prodded the kidneys and head. It was all rather fascinating to me.

 

Friday…piggy in her salty ice bath

Saturday morning, Joel arrived the night before and we woke up bright and early to start roasting! Joel started the fire (no matches for this kid) and i made a nice glaze from apple cider, spices and maple syrup.

 

Oh yeah, and Joel butterflied the entire pig! crazy!!!!

We then carried her over to the BBQ and made a cover from foil and an old screen door.

There were a couple hours of mystery temperature fluxuations but we figured it out.

By 2 the piggy was off the grill and covered with foil and burlap.

By 6 we were digging in!

 

By 730 all the plumbing in my house freaked out and we had to bring in the big guns! Nothing like a minor crisis and really fantastic friends to make a party official. Thanks again guys!

 

 

Here is the quick and dirty lowdown

BBQ

1 – bbq made from 3 layers of cinderblock, 4 long and 3 across with 1 grate that is NOT coated in weird chemicals, galvanized or painted.

1 – 50 lb bag of charcoal

1- pile of cured apple wood chunks

PIG

1 – fresh 75lb pig

1 – large tub

15 cups of salt

2 cups of oregano and thyme

2 bags of oranges

several bags of ice and a water

Fill the tub with water, salt, herbs, squeezed oranges and juice. Put in the pig and several bags of ice, depending on how hot it is outside.

cover with a screen door to keep out the raccoons and curious pets

TIME TO ROAST

keep the heat around 225-250 degrees. it is easy to put in too many coals so be gentle with the pile!

75 lbs of pig should take about 60 lbs of charcoal or charcoal/wood combo and take about 5 hours to cook

we let her rest for a good 2 hours before we cut into it but i doubt you have to wait that long.

This is where I found our how-tos! this site is really fantastic!

http://cuban-christmas.com/pigroast.html

The Pig was moist, smokey and perfect! Friends brought over fantastic sides to share and i think that beside the rain, we had a fantastic time!! Joel says that the most important thing he learned from this was that he wants to do it again!! now that i have done it, i would do it too! it was fun!

ENJOY!

Hey Joel! is that a pig tongue in your mouth?

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain High

I am two days home from another beautiful visit to Montana. I always look forward to my trips out, even the 10 hour drive through beautiful country-side. This time, I didnt drive out alone but  had 2 friends, Molly and Steve join me, neither having been up to Glacier. Molly was a little nervous about the free-spirit adventure but I was so excited to show them all my favorite places and hoped my excitement would rub off.  Perhaps Molly had foresight for the 8 foot grizzly that decided to greet her on the trail! Lucky it was just saying hello! and not YUMMY!

For me, there were 3 highlights to this trip.

1) Hiking up to the Hidden Lake Outlook. I have been up there several times but i have never ventured all the way to the look-out (read pansy-ass). This year i decided i HAD to do it! after a short rest with a couple visiting from Florida, i was rewarded with the most stunning views. After i came down, i read that the trail only climbs 450 feet?! WTF?!

(yes there is a bear in there!)

( you cant get insanely $$ gas if the temperature is over 80 degrees. God i love Polebridge!)

2) Spending a night in Polebridge with my dear friend Greg and renting a kayak to float Lake McDonald Creek. After a couple beers at the Northern Lights in Polebridge, Greg and i ventured back to his family property for a fat bonfire and good tunes. We also saw a bear, keeping my record at 100% for bear sitings!

The next day we packed up slowly and headed down to Apgar. I know that this little adventure was very nostalgic for Greg, having lived up there the majority of his life. Everywhere we turned, he had a story from his youth. It was awesome wandering down memory lane. I cant imagine a greater place to grow up! We rented a kayak and tooled around the lake for a bit, had a light lunch and a quick dip in the crystal clear lake. Then we ventured down McDonald Creek. I last floated this creek in 1998 and had such fantastic memories of it. It was just as perfect this time! the flowers still bloom out of the weeds under water, the creek is still the most intoxicating turquoise and the fish can still be seen in depths of 10 feet. We jumped off some rocks, me on the lower level, and after we pulled out, hid the kayak in the bushes and trekked back to the car about 2 miles down a beautiful tree-lined bike path.

That evening, we enjoyed a farm to table meal at the Belton Chalet. We were RAVENOUS and started with a glass of wine that almost put me under the table. We quickly consumed duck and wild mushroom crepes and fresh hot bread. I had Veal with Farinata(!) and fig compote. Greg had scallop and prawn raviolis with chipolte cream sauce YUM!!! we rolled out of there and stopped by the Hungry Horse Dam. As the sun set, we were the only people around and Guitar Man played softly on the stereo.

3) I got to celebrate my birthday!! After a very chill day on the lake, Greg and I made Lobster Tail Ettouffe. My friends Molly and Steve joined us as well as Greg’s mom Donna and Donna’s brother Neil and his lonnnnnnnggggg-time girl, Lisa. Donna, had taken a trip over to her friend Shirley’s house that morning and brought home the heaviest densest most fantastic home-made chocolate peanut butter pie i have ever tasted!!!

Home with fantastic memories again! Thank you for such a wonderful visit. Greg you are my old soul/ partner in crime. Until next time…

Hot and Humid, Time to Sew in the Garden!

Every year I get this urge to drag my sewing machine outside when the weather is at its hottest. What the hell? who knows but it is one of my things…That being said, i did have a project to work on and NPR on the radio.

Last winter I took an applique class and made a pillow. I have a few other projects that i want to applique but in the meantime, I have two birthday gifts to create and the crafting spirit was in high gear.

Here are skirts i made this week. I LOVE THEM!

Oh and I made a couple of cute shirts too for my god-daughter and my niece.

FUN!! i’m hot!

Feel free to grab your sewing machine and joining me. I need to make a skirt with a pig on it for my birthday bbq/pig roast!

It’s All In the Details

Last weekend I was invited to a Dinner Party in the Garden by my friend Kris. i had been following her garden progress through spring and summer and it was lovely! I was slightly confused because she referred to the garden as the Sister Wives Garden, and not having seen her in a several months, wondered if she had become a polygamist. Of course I accepted the invitation and asked if I could bring my visiting cousins. Kris said Sure!, just bring a couple extra bottles of wine.

It was the hottest day of the year.  As we melted our way through the day, my friend Joel drove down from Olympia to join us, without AC, poor guy. He is planning to create a similar dinner party at home and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get some ideas. I know i did!

We arrived in Camas at the Sister Wives Garden. Two young gentlemen greeted us at the top of the road guiding us down a VERY STEEP HILL. As we made our way down the hill the valley opened up before us with a beautiful field, the garden and a table, with seating for 60. I audibly gasped. It looked like something from a magazine.

We parked the car and made our way over to the festivities. The first thing to catch my eye was the John Deere full of ice and wine bottles. I decided at that exact moment that if i own a farm, i will do exactly the same thing, every chance i get.

The appetizer table was piled with fresh fruit, cheeses, puffed pastries, blue cheese crackers with fig tapanade and of course gorgeous crudite from the garden.

Joel and I grabbed a glass of wine and made our way up the adjacent hill to take in the view, and find a patch of shade. The feeling of happiness was palpable. Everyone was enjoying themselves and so pleased to be there. After meeting some fantastic people, dinner was announced and we took our seats. Our meal was served family style and prepared by Kris! I cant imagine how early she had begun cooking!!!

We had a beautiful salad full of garden veggies, a caprese salad, roasted vegetables and chicken mushroom pasta. For dessert we had beautiful fruit tarts and smores around the fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could have stayed all night! the bon fire was keeping the mosquitos at bay and a slight chill in the air. A few hay bails had been arranged around the pit and covered with warm old quilts. Alas the time had come to say good-night as we drove bck up the VERY STEEP HILL.

Thank you Kris, Susie and Steve for inviting us to this really fantastic evening. I feel so lucky to have shared in it. And no, Kris is not a polygamist, she just has really awesome neighbors who love to garden, host beautiful dinner parties and celebrate the magic of a vegetable garden. My kind of people.

For more beautiful photos, you can view Marcie, the professional photographer’s photo album HERE

Ode to a Fig

 

3 of my favorite things are truffles, figs and chickens, as my blog expresses. Lucky for me, I have 2 of these 3 things thriving in my back yard. I will work on the truffles. Early this morning, i was chatting with the chickens and watering the garden.  As I wander around the garden, checking things out, i also like to give my figs a gentle squeeze. I have been fawning over this fig tree all spring and summer, waiting, waiting, waiting for the squeeze to respond with that perfectly soft yield.

Today was the day! My first fig had grown enormous! It is about the size of a french pear. I plucked it from the vine, turned off the garden hose, tripped over a dog, and a chicken, without taking my eyes off this precious treat. I could already taste the sweet pink  flesh and slight crunch of the tiny seeds. Thoughts of goat cheese and honey, proscuitto and greek yogurt all buzzed around in my head but this baby was going to be enjoyed in it’s perfect natural form.

The variety i grow is called Conadria and has light green skin with a deep magenta flesh. They are super soft and sweet. My fig tree is 3 years old and is producing figs for the first time this summer. I have hundreds of figs growing slowly.

I think they are rediculously sexy too.