I brake for Boiled Peanuts

I love boiled peanuts. Despite basically growing up in Virginia-peanut-central, where all elementary school social studies classes toiled under the watchful eye and impressive moustache of George Washington Carver year round (not just honoring the brilliant scientist, early environmentalist, and nitrogen-fixing-peanut-pioneer in February/if then! as in many schools), boiled peanuts were never a thing for me in childhood.

Hubbies—in the opinion of my mother highly superior to Whitley’s but don’t tell anyone—at a cocktail party, definitely. While my brother would be catting around stealing nips from abandoned drinks, I’d be innocently and judiciously polishing off the contents of an omnipresent cut-crystal dish of salty roasted peanuts placed exactly at childhood eye level.  But briny, wet, steamy-hot flavor bombs dipped from deep brown glistening waters of unknown origin full of mysterious spices into nested styrofoam cups? I didn’t discover that until I was grown and zipping around the backroads of the deep American south.

When native-New-Yorker Sweetheart and I drove to New Orleans many Decembers ago via the Natchez Trace, stopping in to visit Miss McKay in Oxford, Mississippi, he said to me “I thought when I moved from New York to Virginia ‘oh, it will be so wild and strange to live in the south‘ but looking around here… that’s not the south. This is the south.” As the legendary Barry Hannah said “In Mississippi it is difficult to achieve a vista.” And he’s right, the dun brown winter flatlands—pecan trees festooned with latent choking dormant kudzu—roll juuuust enough to prevent seeing above the next rise. Vistas notwithstanding Mississippi does, however, achieve many opportunities to spoon up a steaming hot cup of boiled peanuts from a roadside stand or ubiquitous gas-station slow cooker.

For me, boiled peanuts are the ultimate roadtrip snack. You get two styrofoam cups (one for the nuts, one for the shells) and sit them both in the cupholder and go to town. One hand on the wheel, one wet, three fingered claw dipping into the cup and wiping on your pants, driving into the sunset with your hands wrinkled from salt and peanut juices, trying make it to Savannah before the blue laws shut the city down for the entirety of Sunday.

Honestly, since they’re wet and drippy and tend to explode with their deeply-spiced-brown juices when squeezed, boiled peanuts are actually terrible for eating in the car. I am reminded of Bap’s wedding where they SERVED BOILED PEANUTS AS HORS D’OEUVRES AT COCKTAIL HOUR (expert level). Since I was pregnant at the time, I volunteered to drive everyone the three hours home as late as we could stand it. The plan was to meet at the car at midnight and at 12:15 our last buddy appeared out of the inky blackness with a six pack of Coors and three gallon ziplocs of boiled peanuts lifted from the buffet, the entirety of which the passengers consumed in the dark hours and winding turns of our late night journey home. The backseat of our car is still brown. #noregerts.

I suppose the reason that wanderlust and boiled peanuts go hand in hand for me is heretofore I have only ever had boiled peanuts on the go. Dueling slowcookers (one cajun, one regular) do not make an appearance at my local gas station. Roadside shacks featuring an unimaginably giant pot set over a turkey fryer do not dot the byways of my daily travel. So, like macarons or pintxos, boiled peanuts have always felt place-specific, suited for adventure, best when discovered in the wild, unicorn-style. Even though I literally say “I should make these at home” every time I eat them, I never do, never have.

UNTIL NOW. BOOM! Did you see that coming? To be honest, it was another wanderlust whim that led me to making my first (and second. and third) batch of boiled peanuts myself. Visiting Katie down in North Carolina a few weeks ago, she and I took the kiddoes to Cherokee to do what one does in Cherokee (namely: dip our bones in the sacred waters of the Oconoluftee river/buy moccasins). We were crestfallen when multiple hand-painted signs advertising boiled peanuts led us to an abandoned stall, with nary a goober pea in sight. I repeated my refrain…Mississippi vista…Bap’s wedding…scuppernong juice on the upholstery…one time my friend (who was also my boss at the time) responded with ‘boiled peanuts: get in my face!’ when I told her by text I was taking the week off to go to Georgia…I should make these at home… blah blah blah etc. etc. The very next day, tasked with getting groceries for our weekend adventures, LO what should I see on the shelf at the local Ingles but a 10lb bag of raw peanuts for $9.99. Not on my list, but into my cart it went! 24 hours and the valiant labors of a  tiny vacation-house-crock-pot later and, my friends, magic was made.Like most great things, this isn’t a recipe, per se, more like general instructions that you can tweak to your liking. Also like the greatest things, you can’t really mess this up. Just make sure to keep your peanuts hot after you cook them or fridge/freeze ’em before they get funky. I just keep mine in the slow cooker on low for dayzzzz until I finish them and it’s been hunky dory*.

Also: DID YOU KNOW BABIES LOVE BOILED PEANUTS? Talk about a snack! For babes who are too young to eat hard nuts but who love flavors, these are incredible. While certainly salty, since these are, in fact, nuts, they have much more staying power in the belly than your average serving of goldfish. Interesting nutritional facts on BP’s here. Antioxidant Isoflavones! Who knew! Older kiddoes also have a blast peeling and eating them (and that sensory, tactile barrier to entry means they also last way longer than a pouch etc.). Of course, THESE ARE PEANUTS. So peanut allergies and all that jazz applies.

boiled peanuts

  • Raw Peanuts in the shell.
  • 1/4 c. Salt
  • 2 tbsp. Ball’s Cajun Seasoning (I use Ball’s because it has an alligator on the label and is also delicious…but you could literally use anything… keep in mind that many spice blends also contain salt, Ball’s does. If yours does- or doesn’t- you might want to adjust the amount of salt you use up or down)
  • Water
  • Slow Cooker (I have a 6qt)
  • Time

Fill your slow cooker with peanuts. Fill your slow cooker with water. Add salt + spices. Cook on low for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Eat a few at 16 hours. Pretty damn good. Let ’em keep going. If water level dips below peanuts, add some more. When peanuts are to your desired level of softness, ladle out with a slotted spoon. And you don’t eat the shells, darlings.

* a note on food safety from Dr. Rob, resident dobro player/medic/boiled peanut aficionado who brought me a frozen gallon bag of spicy and delicious BP’s to the beach this summer: botulism is real and dangerous! If you put your slow cooker on “warm” instead of “low” pop a thermometer to make sure yer peanuts stay at at least 156° . 

* another note from Dr. Rob about peanut water: You can use the same water forever, it just gets spicier and weirder and more wonderful. When the peanuts are gone, fridge or freeze the water, and bring it to a rolling boil again before using the next time.

Because discussing botulism and recommending salty peanut snacks to babies other than my own makes me nervous:

*I am a plebeian layperson. While the information herein is carefully researched and checked for accuracy, the author makes no warranty regarding the content of this website and will not be liable for any loss, damage, or injury arising from the use of any information on the site.

I am not a medical professional and the advice on this site should not be taken as such. It is not the business of the author to render professional opinions or medical advice. Readers should always seek professional medical advice from their pediatrician, OB/GYN, or midwife, blah blah blah.

Thanks to lucieslist for the language.

 

 

 

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Baby Shower Tie Dye

Historically I have never loved baby showers. It should surprise exactly no one that the construct of most baby showers gives me (or gave my 22 year old self, anyway) the extreme heebie jeebies. All the cooing, all the fawning, all of the mandatory performative group gift opening resulting in a hat made of curlicued ribbons for a probably-already-somewhat-beleaguered-sober-woman-with-swollen-ankles-pounding-cake-at-10am. Also, where are the dudes? You call this a party?

Hearing my best group of (single, non-mother) girlfriends talk smack about an upcoming baby shower this spring in front of our 5 months pregnant friend (“God. They’re the worst. All the moms standing around looking tired just waiting for their gift to be opened and then saying (does awful high pitched voice) ‘I know it doesn’t look like much BUT HE’LL LOVE IT WHEN HE’S OLDER I PROMISE!’… “Oh yeah, oh yeah or like ‘THIS WAS A TOTAL LIFE-SAVER FOR US’… Seriously? BARF!”) makes me also think my 22 year old self was probably kind of a jerk. Sorry, Stacey + Ev!

That being said, there are aspects of the modern baby shower that definitely suck. And there are aspects of it that are totally and completely luminous, heart-lifting, and truly amazing. Under the latter file: bringing together a group of strong, fierce women at the height of their wolf-running-wisdom wherever they are on their trajectory towards (or away from) motherhood. Creating a kinship network of oral history and babe-rearing tradition based in experience and trust the likes of which would have existed if we all still lived in a village or on a commune but is now difficult to authentically muster from the smoking ashes of interdependent female communities in the age of distance and distraction. Experiencing the generosity of spirit and in-kind support at a time when you literally need a whole crap ton of stuff (did I need a gravy boat when I got married? nope. but when babe came along I sure as hell needed a car seat and thems expensive). Being given the opportunity to feel like the wondrous-yet-mundane thing you are doing—the thing that is at once as giant as the cosmos and as small as a pinprick of blood—is not a solitary, isolating pursuit relegated to bloated midnight lonelinesses and WebMD fear-cycles, but is actually an interconnected miracle in a long line of lady-power-history? That is incredibly potent. And, you know, love.

Chief among the legendary bummers at baby showers: no booze. GAMES.

I completely understand the desire for some sort of “activity” at a shower… after all, at a regular party there’s music and dudes and dinner and bonfires and shenaniganz and oysters and unpasteurized cheeses and someone might end up dancing on the picnic table so hard it breaks. At a baby shower? If you’re lucky, there’s ribbon hats and a diaper cake. Womp Womp*. If you’re unlucky, well, you might find yourself in a self-made hell of eating fake poop made of candy bars out of a Huggie. You can’t make this Baby Ruth up.

*(though, TBH, at Rav’s baby shower we did go through a case and a half of champagne and someone did end up asleep on the glider on the porch around midnight with a piece of fried chicken in her hand. IT CAN BE DONE).

Like everything in life (and in parenting, as ye being showered may soon discover) there can be a lovely middle ground for every dilemma.

Enter: TIE DYEING ONESIES.

As an “activity” it’s essentially perfect. It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s safe and non-toxic for babe (unlike paint or similar), there’s no fake poop (why is this even on a list), no one has to do it, it gives perhaps disparate strangers from different eras or circles in the mama-to-be’s life something to talk about other than their pregnant woman in common, someone is usually secretly (and perhaps surprisingly) excellent at it, and when it’s all said and done, the mama leaves with a ton of killer clothes for the little bohemian that, in addition to looking fresh to death, also do a great job at hiding stains. WINNING ALL AROUND.

Long story long (and the putative reason for this post) I’ve been point person for a few tie-dye-onesie extravaganzas at various showers (including my own) and subsequently, I’ve been asked for a breakdown of instructions and supplies multiple times since. After my dear one Reid wrote me this week asking for a rundown for a shower she’s throwing, I decided to just write it all down in one place. Perhaps the internet will find it and it may help like-minded souls avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous diaper games and nudge our collective inner-20-something’s feelings about showers from “BARF” to “actually, that was really so very lovely”.

Who knows, if there’s champagne we might make it all the way to “man, what a fun party!”

BABY SHOWER ONESIE TIE-DYEING

SUPPLIES 

  • White onesies– Gerber or Carters makes great standard onesies but WalMart also has a new in-house line of plain ones which are way cheaper/just fine if money is a concern (which it often is if you’re throwing the shower with a bunch of women in a group/sometimes all the time). If you’re fancy then you can buy organic ones from the local/sustainable purveyor of your choosing. If you’re really thrifty you can sometimes score plain ‘ol stained ones from thrift stores and that’s fine for this purpose. You do you. For people who don’t spend hours googling baby clothes, they call them bodysuits sometimes which can make it easier to search for them online. You’re welcome. You can explain Tinder to me some time.

Get an array of sizes/sleeve length. Ravenel somehow worked out exactly how many short sleeved vs. long sleeved onesies in appropriate size ranges for babe age at the given season (e.g. my Lois Rose was born in February so we had long sleeved newborn onesies, then a few long sleeved 3-6 monthers and a lot of short sleevers for that spring>summer, then a few short sleeve 6-9 monthers and a lot of long sleevers for summer>fall)… we had enough/still do for the babe to be outfitted in tie dye basically until she’s done with onesies/is in high school.

From divine mama Meags, here’s the exact breakdown of what they got for a winter babe:

3 Pack Long-Sleeve (0-3 Months)
5 Pack Long + Short Sleeve Variety Pack (3-6 Months)
5 Pack Long + Short Sleeve Variety Pack (6-9 Months)
3 Pack Long-Sleeve (12 Months)
3 Pack Short Sleeve (18 Months)

  • Dye- I love Procion dyes which are brighter/more colorfast, but do require a bath in soda ash fixative prior to dyeing. Rav bought AMAZING COLORS (turquoise, cobalt, green, and hot pink) for me, but this kit has primary colors which can be mixed. I ended up loving the prettier colors so it was definitely “worth it” to buy the colors individually.
  • Soda Ash Fixative: The “soda-ash” in the aforementioned kit is sold in a tiny cellophane bag like it’s diamond dust. It is NOT PRECIOUS. This Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (which is sold at most grocery stores in with the laundry stuff) is the same thing for like one dollar.
  • Large bucket or pot for the ash pre-soak.
  • Gloves- I bought a pack of these nitrile gloves for this purpose and have since become addicted to having them on hand for dealing with bones or skulls when I find them (or, you know, whatever you use fine touch plastic gloves for).
  • Squeeze Bottles You can dip the onesies into pans of the dye (and I use disposable tinfoil roasting pans for this purpose) but it’s also cool to be able to direct the stream of the dye to have more control over what goes where. Especially useful if there are any people in attendance who are secretly super good at this kind of thing you’ll get, like, five from that person with hearts and stuff shibori’d into it.
  • Rubber Bands- For tying up the knots/making the patterns
  • Individual plastic bags- Having a big stack of plastic grocery bags is super useful for separating individual onesies out when they are done being dyed so they don’t drip dye all over each other in a big pile and ruin everything. The onesies are also supposed to “set” overnight, so it’s nice to just have a paper bag full of the plastic bags corralled and not making a mess anywhere.
  • Aprons, plastic tablecloth, newspaper, etc– nice to cover the area/floor if doing it inside. Do it outside if you can.
  • Bring other stuff to tie dye if you want! Swaddles, crib sheets, or boppy cover for the mama, or old t-shirts/stained throw pillow cases/whatever you have lying around that’s old and tired while you have the dye stations set up it’s NBD to slap a new coat of many colors onto a tired old thing. Keep all of the things separate.

INSTRUCTIONS

Obligatory duh warning: dye will dye clothing and stain things. Use a plastic tablecloth with newspaper over it and gloves, but people should be mindful of their clothing. The squeeze bottles will also sometimes burp little toots of color.

  • Fill canning pot or large bucket with hot water and stir in 2 cups of washing soda/dye fixative.
  • Soak onesies in hot water with fixative for at least 15 minutes before dyeing. Washing the onesies first makes them more receptive to the dye but, honestly, not enough that it’s a deal breaker if you don’t get around to it. It’s a party! Relaaaax.
  • The ash water is not caustic or harmful, but some people find that it dries their skin out, FYI.
  • Mix dye powders in squeeze bottles to desired colors using hot water. Use at least a teaspoon of dye per bottle. More dye=more saturated color. Enjoy deep discussions re: primary vs. secondary colors/favored colors/gender normative color assumption.
  • Squeeze ash water out of onesie, tie/twist/fold and rubber band into your desired design, squeeze or dip dye onto onesie in desired location.
  • Place each finished onesie in its own plastic bag and corrall them all in another bag so whoever is in charge of processing them (the mama, someone else) can grab them and bounce when the party’s over.
  • Once the onesies are dyed they can just chill in their plastic bags until processed. At least overnight and not so long that they get moldy.
  • To process: Officially, the best practice is to rinse the onesies in cold water with their rubber bands still on and then rinse them under warm water while removing the ties before machine washing… but parties have happened where one or both of those steps have gotten skipped with fine results. How intense you want to be with it is up to you.
  • Wash onesies with detergent in the washing machine with hot water and a cold rinse. Et voilà
  • It’s nice to clean up soon afterwards so the dye doesn’t stain the squeeze bottles/any other thing. FYI, procion dye is fine to pour down drains in newly glazed porcelain/enamel sinks or metal sinks but may stain old porcelain sinks/tubs.

ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY BEST OF LUCK WITH YER BABES + YER PARTIES!

ps. Here’s Lois this week in her tie dye in the same raised bed with the same gardener (Ann Marie, tending bounty with grace, always) as in the first shot. Time flies when you’re making things grow. as an afterthought because the world be crazy especially ab babies:

I am a plebeian layperson. While the information herein is carefully researched and checked for accuracy, the author makes no warranty regarding the content of this website and will not be liable for any loss, damage, or injury arising from the use of any information on the site.

I am not a medical professional and the advice on this site and newsletter should not be taken as such. It is not the business of the author to render professional opinions or medical advice. Readers should always seek professional medical advice from their pediatrician, OB/GYN, or midwife, blah blah blah.

Thanks to lucieslist for the language.

Be kind and generous with yourself

Recently my mother and I were on an email chain with a dear friend who is (hopefully) at Battle-of-Yorktown-status in her own journey through a serious illness. By this I mean that the last major engagement has more than likely been fought and won, the commander pissing in a hidden cave somewhere, not daring to show his face, but it’ll take a while for the news of victory to reach the outlying provinces and so there will more than likely be minor skirmishes and bummers throughout the colonies for the next little bit until armistice is declared and earthworks abandoned in favor of picnicking. This absurd off-the-cuff metaphor brought to you by your friends at Growing Up In Colonial Williamsburg™. Onward.

This dear friend is a real person. The kind of woman who is totally authentically herself at all times and has a sort of luminous power that she carries everywhere like a torch. She is a bringer of light. And she was telling us that this whole thing has made her feel… not quite like her old self. I answered that we’re never our same old selves, only who we are in the present and that there is a strength there. But my very own ever-lovin’ mama up and responded with this…and I quote:

What I now know for sure is that these extremely difficult (unasked for and definitely unwanted) experiences that show up in our lives provide us with an opportunity, if we are very brave and stand up to them, to become expanded versions of our previous selves. It’s the tempering of our minds and bodies as a result of going through hellish times that can introduce us to our most authentic selves: stronger and more resilient than we ever knew we could possibly be.

Also, it’s been my experience that the sense of fragility and feeling unmoored that arises when we have no choice other than to accept how much isn’t (and never was) in our control that helps us to become more compassionate of others because even though everyone’s story is unique to them, nobody makes it through life unscathed.

Be kind and generous with yourself in all things and try let it all unfold without undue worry. You are doing great.

And if that isn’t something to hold dear to your heart always and re-read in times when one feels at loose ends in the chaos and terror of the universe then I don’t know what is. This is an opportunity, dear ones, to stand up and be brave. Live with compassion. And in all else, be kind and generous with yourself. You are doing great.

*Those are also mama’s hydrangeas up top. They’re seriously like 15 feet tall.

This (very) little light of mine

Plants and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. One needs to be in a certain place (both literally and figuratively) to set down roots, to care for something other than yourself, to nurture a thing that takes years in the offing and may or may not say “goodbye cruel world!”, committing herbicide in a strong crossbreeze or going all brown-fronded if you decide to take a few days extra vacation. In my last days in New York City I was *getting* nearer, intellectually, to that place where I yearned for green things and it was perhaps this gentle metamorphoses that finally drew me out of the city and back down south. In that final Brooklyn apartment, a “garden apartment” (read: deepest darkest basement), I kept a tired philodendron right up next to the window. Every day the sun’s slow march up the narrow skyway of our block had the plant pressing its leaves against the wavery old window panes like a little match girl in reverse. What warmth and light there is… out there. City darkness descending at 4pm had me dreaming lustily of golden mote-filled southern farmhouse afternoons surrounded by blooming Meyer Lemon trees and gardenias in winter as if “The South” was some sort of magical giant tropical jungle (which it kind of is) and “my farmhouse” was some sort of airy glassine hothouse (which it decidedly is not). Our house was built in 1895 and, in the manner of houses built before the advent of electricity or running water, it is sited on the highest natural elevation of our land and oriented exactly due east/west. These simple, profound spatial choices make it so that any water runs down and away from our house (no flooding, ever) and that, since the sun travels directly overhead, our house is often 10 or 15 degrees cooler than it is outside. This is just the sort of brilliant old-fashioned use-case practicality that thrills my soul when I encounter it in the wild. How fascinating! How ingenious, you builders of yore! How fortunate we are when the power goes out, say, for a week in an epic summer storm, and we sit, cool as cucumbers, as modern houses with their giant south facing windows and sturdy retaining walls heat up like peeps in a microwave.

The thrill is gone, however, absurd nostalgic feelings of superiority short lived, when one realizes that what this sunshine situation ALSO means is that while our house stays easy breezy day in and day out, direct sunlight shines in the front windows for only an hour or so after rising until the sun meets the roofline and then again for about an hour in the back windows as it retires for the evening. Needless to say that isn’t NEARLY enough to support my own personal citrus grove (I know, I know,  a concerto is played on the world’s tiniest violin). But it IS enough to support a hearty menagerie of general shade lovers wrangled by myself by hook or by DIY crook into the few areas that are treated to the brief patches of sunlight that meander across the walls throughout the day. Several feet of a patch of wall perpendicular to a window in my bedroom gets a generous slant from noon onward… so I built a vertical hanging shelf based on this tutorial using some super old boards and rope that happened to be lying around in the shed.A row of Sweetheart’s tiny succulents and divisions of happy shady growers stands at attention in a motley collection of narrow vessels on the windowsill in the laundry room, gilded for a brief but adequate time in the 3pm-ish range.My search for vertical solutions led me down vintage-style hanging planter rabbit holes, which led me to discover that even the simplest ones were selling for, like, $50 on Etsy, which led me to my first attempt at macrame (decent! I should have gotten special string for the purpose, the twine I had on hand is a little… hairy… but considering the whole thing was basically free? Bon.) using a turned wooden bowl I inherited from Rav as the base……gets suspended in the small patch of diffuse light by the kitchen sink, alongside a mother-in-law’s-tongue (still there, happy…actually very much like my own mother-in-law, these little pals are lovely + easy going and have the best time quietly doing their thing pretty much anywhere where no one will bother them), a prayer plant cutting (no longer there, not bright enough), and a basil start (never had a future there other than as pesto, finally deposited into the herb garden/in my belly):***Note: these are not blog photos! Well, they are, I guess, exactly that, by default of being en blog, but, they aren’t, like, “styled” or whatever that is or means, that striving perfection that might keep people from posting in places for years at a time because oh look at that it’s actual life… see: drying dishes, old tupperware, soda stream, Sweetheart’s aeropress (not the photogenic Chemex set there, just so), an ancient sponge used only for wiping up babe’s post-prandial mat, and the cluttered little hook under the cabinet where I hang recipes from a butterfly clip when I’m cooking to keep my v. limited counter space free from books + papers (from this picture it looks like I was last making an almond cake). Eff it. ***The little landing at the top of the stairs gets the best light in the house, doubled and reflected off the white standing seam roof of the front porch, it’s the only actual direct sunlight we get all day, and it’s absolutely glorious in this slender little zone for a few morning hours. Three plant stands, a small plant table, a terrarium on the floor, and the cat (obviously) soak up any rays they possibly can while they can. It’s like plant YOLO. This is where I put green things that maybe, possibly, just perhaps are inching towards that tropical dreamscape of higher light + care requirements… palm types, jungle types, and an eight year old fiddle leaf fig impulse purchased from the Ikea in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The Fiddle Leaf Fig just put out a new branch WHILE WE WERE OUT OF TOWN.

Oh ho ho! My how the tables have turned! I find myself completely surrounded by green things, each with its own distinct personality, each thriving in its own special zone, each chosen to thrive despite perhaps less-than-ideal conditions. Like all things: you might not always get the heady jasmine and winter clementines of your dreams, but finding what fits where and working to make beauty green up and grow in the space you have… well, that’s pretty darn nice too. Or, like someone once said better than me: once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right. Or, perhaps even more to the point: you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.

The Five Year Journal


I’ve never really kept a diary. Younger versions of myself have eternally been enamored of the idea: a tiny special book with a tiny special lock and a tiny special key the trappings of which would enable one to spend daily meditative time alone exploring the wild, wonderful, and occasionally dark recesses of your own beautiful mind and noting them for posterity. I ended up with a few physical diaries in my early days, most quite pink, with gilt edged pages, and inevitable unicorn motifs and the key (! a key for fairies ! a key for setting magic boundaries as if with a tiny spell !) that I would immediately put in one of the series of tiny boxes I have been obsessed with for my entire life and then… forget about. Any attempts I ever made at putting down *feelings* always came out cringingly upon revisiting them even hours later. The ritual of the diary, the strained self-reflection seems… terribly self-involved? (she says from these pages which are wholly about her own self and srsly what is this dern whole blahhhg thing anyway if not a dang diary? We’ll leave that there).

Acknowledging my frilly inability to keep a journal in the traditional sense, a slightly more grown-up version of myself then became enamored of the idea of the 5 Year Diary. Seeing the sturdy little volume on Miss McKay’s beautiful desk in her sun-slanted Oxford studio, delineating quick’n’dirty what she did on that day today and, at the beginning, projecting 4 blank days of possibilities into the future, and (if you kept it up) at the end, a referential document on how you spent your days and seasons for the previous 5 years. Surely I could manage to keep up with that? If I did it I’d be creating a tangible physical record of who did what where when and just the remembering of the event, daily-reminder-style, as I wrote in today’s reveries, would bring with it again the feelings of June’s first cascade of fireflies, of dipping into the coldest water I ever did dip into at the Lac d’Ayous, of eating oysters in Tomales Bay, of making dinner with Sweetheart after a long day of work on the random quotidian Wednesdays in that brief but wonderful season (hello, January, 2015) when we were completely obsessed with making ramen from scratch.

So I got a 5 Year Diary and it was my constant companion, on my bedside, in my carpet bag, getting delightfully care-worn with the juices of roadside berries and pages crimped from salt air mists. And I kept it religiously, every day from January 21st 2014 through November 15th 2015.

Then I fell off. The diary went into the mouse hole in my old desk (which, since the last known record, has moved south six states, is now painted dove grey, and holds my ever-expanding-collection of birds nests).

This coincided with, perhaps obviously, me falling off here, writing in a flurry of monthly and/or seasonal recaps as if to say “hello! I’m here! the dream of the diary is alive!!”. After all, part of the reason I started writing here was to capture those parts of diary-keeping that were compelling to me. Less angsty poetry, more exercise in examining the rhythms and contours of my life and to have a place for remembering and reminding myself of the true beauty and history of life lived well, of annotating of the living of the dang thing. With pictures.

I last posted here two years ago TODAY (see what I’m doing here?), but I started my record keeping again in earnest last February, when my father gave me his own version of a diary that previous Christmas, a University of Virginia 2017 Day Planner with the inscription:

“Merry Christmas wonderful girl! Perhaps you will want to write a short summary of your daily activities for the first year of your life with Thunder Babe! Or not…”

Classic and perfect, Daddio. He was (as he almost always is) definitely correct. In fact, yes indeed, I would, yes please, so very much like to record the daily activities of my first year with my Thunder Babe, the electric spark, the elemental shift, the Pisces, born in late February 2017, the day my camellia bloomed for the first time, my brand new daughter, my Lois Rose. Or not… you know, if it doesn’t feel right, that’s ok, too. “Be gentle with yourself, wonderful girl”.

But, the same dreamy desires that compelled me to attempt to capture the fleeting joys of summery afternoons and footloose roadstrips of adventure-seasons past surely would take a brand new power and potency when documenting A WHOLE NEW LIFE. So I kept a new Journal. A new way of being. A new…everything?Lois’ diary (like everything about Lois) was different. The wonders of these days were, on their face, smaller and quieter than the sweeping vistas of grandiose “before” adventures, simultaneously more mind-blowing and miraculous and more achingly mundane. Every time she did something for the first time I put a box around the word “first” so that reading back on it my heart expands with the simple wonder of the continual stream of “first” things. First dog (Finn), First sunset stroll, First time wearing my work overalls again since being pregnant (me), First time wearing shorts ever in her whole life (her), First Passover Seder, First roadtrip, First time sleeping in a new place, First time meeting her cousins, First trip to Manhattan, First run-in with the NYPD (hai, Papa), First time on a beach. And that was just the week of 4/10/17-4/16/17! Six weeks in the world and already been to Sahadi’s!

My mind explodes with the possibilities on what to write here about Lois Rose, but that’s dangerous territory. The multitude of feels and potentialities of things to share (and things to keep close to my heart like a tiny burning ember that I alone have nurtured in serene darkness) makes it almost impossible to begin. That kind of massive collective synapse gap can keep someone from writing ANYTHING for, oh, about two whole years.

But the diary? What happened? That’s simple. And the constant reminder to be aware of newness, to slow down to acknowledge the wonder of something like never even knowing a dog existed and then… meeting one! And having that dog be Finn-dog!? Or, conversely, the subtle push to be present in the beauty of the simple daily ritual: the walk to the end of the road and back, the shared breakfast on the porch, the daily summer afternoon swim, the endless hours the cat spends under the woodstove… those things are basically the “cinnamon raison d’etre”, as R.S. used to say. The miraculous in the mundane. Who doesn’t need more of that?

When every single day of Grandaddy’s Day Book was filled up with all of the tiny-massive goings on of 2017, I was at an impasse. Do I get another Day Book? Do I stop keeping a record at all and count on my memory (and the rose-colored-glasses version of my memory immortalized on Instagram) to be enough? Will I feel guilty if I don’t use a sliver of my precious free time to record an entry or can I let it go since quiet spots of time are like diamonds these days? Will I regret this later? What is time? Who am I? Did someone just say “mama”?… and then January 1st, 2018, Lois Rose took her first bath in the square tub of my childhood and swum on her belly like a tadpole and I took the path of most/least resistance, got my 5 year Journal out of purgatory, and wrote it all down. Again and Again and Again. Every day up to today and again tomorrow.

And Again, I am here. I don’t think I’ll be up to writing here every day, but I want the record to live. I want more places for wonder in the world. I want the tiny key in the tiny box and I want the tiny babe to have it all, SEO’d with pictures, and so here we are. I see you. You are seen. This all happened. We are together. We are alive.

 

A Cold Brew Revolution

coldbrewcoconutwater

Let me now interrupt the regularly scheduled summer programming of not writing new blogs, but yes swimming in new swimming holes, picking new peaches, and stockpiling new honeys to bring you a quiet revolution you didn’t even know you needed until this very moment:

THE COLD BREW COCONUT LATTE

I was up visiting Miss Rav in Cleveland (what what, Cavs!) and her miraculous twin babies, taking them for afternoon strolls on the town, hanging out with my favorite fatty bear dog (above right), and of course, getting coffee. Rav’s favorite place, Phoenix, is like a perfect version of the classic hipster-Brooklyn coffee joint, except that it’s in Cleveland so the baristas are sweet and funny and kind and know her and the babies by name and are super friendly and cool and everything is, like, $4. IS THIS SHANGRI-LA? Considering the following revelation, maybe.

Perhaps you will recall my obsession with Cold Brew, we started drinking it almost a decade ago (wtf), before it became gloriously ubiquitous, its inky goodness our primary weapon in the war against central air being waged in our old tenement and continuing in our old farmhouse. I’ve made and drank it religiously every summer since, only upgrading my metal-bowl-multiple-seive-mess-making-factory to the Toddy system when I received one as a wedding present (it is totally worth it). My usual get down is: insulated cup (like this one), full of ice, 2-3 fingers of cold brew, milk to the top. I didn’t think there was anything really wrong with this set up, though I don’t really love drinking tons of milk, but the cold brew is too strong to drink straight. Jitters for dazzzeee.

On the menu at Phoenix: the aforementioned Cold Brew Coconut Latte. It was INCREDIBLE. I asked lots of questions and upon returning home immediately got the goods to make it for myself.

COCONUT COLD BREW OF DREAMZ

• cup full of ice
• 2-3 fingers of cold brew coffee
• CHILLED COCONUT WATER almost to the top
• A splash of half and half (Rav prefers Almond Milk)

The result is subtly sweet and fresh and lovely and refreshing and non-jittery and non-heavy-dairy. Sweetheart says it tastes like a milkshake.

Time to go make myself one.

That’s all.

Wild Geese

 

WildGeese

Just this time last year the world was frozen and deeply, softly, quietly covered with snow and Ann Marie was here, snowed in, I hoped, forever, but really only for a few days. We left the embrace of the woodstove and went out to the spring-fed pond, a small park nestled in a deep valley, to stretch our legs and rosy up our cheeks and be like children or wild animals for a hot second and revel in the just-being-outsideness of it. We went when the sun was getting long in the sky, that slanted winter light that—even if just for the single minute of 4:36-4:37 pm in February—is richer than any Provençal golden hour, perhaps made even more precious by its fleeting gilt. The little park has miles of trails, most of them impassable in the snow, so we just took the one that circumnavigates the pond—spring fed and running, but frozen solid nonetheless. Cold. Out on the ice, 30 or so wild geese sat all facing the same direction in the sun, like chess pieces, utterly still, utterly silent, and we could see them through the trees from our various vantage points around the water. As time passed, the sun gilded the ice, the snow, the geese, covered in that thin winter gold. We made it almost to the very end of the loop, around towards the back of the pond, immediately opposite the setting sun, at that exact moment that it began dipping under its ridgeline, the bones of naked trees stark against it, that all at once and definitely by some mysterious and ancient signal the geese took off in a collective rush of feathers and, once they reached altitude, put their harsh and joyous cries out into the stillest cold. AHHHHH. Time goes, wonder stays, this year it is lush and green instead of still and cold, but the geese still call overhead, wild and mysterious and constant like the sound of the high lonesome trains in the distance, and I am always reminded of this, from Mary Oliver.

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.