A tale of emergence

Bagworm 3 Brazos Cty TX 11302013 1 J_LW.jpgSo there I was out on the deck. It was early evening, so hot it felt aggressive, so humid the air was spongy. I was on my way to the garden to pick a peck of peppers, pretending my name was Peter, trying to think only of words that start with the letter P.

Pailing piserably.

But then I passed the three arborvitaes that we have potted on the deck. They’ve been there for years and I’ve developed quite an affection for them, in no small part because they require zero attention. About once a year I remember to throw some fertilizer on them, fertilizer meant for vegetables and flowers, not a coniferous tree of the cypress family, but bah, who’s in the mood to split hairs.

But this time as I passed, I noticed the second of the three trees seemed to have quite a bit of brown on it. I wasn’t shocked, since the pots they live in aren’t heavy enough and so the trees are prone to blowing over during storms.

Still, this tree seemed particularly unhappy, especially for a happy-go-lucky arborvitae. So I took a step closer. That’s when I noticed the tree had these brown, spindle-shaped bundles hanging off the end of many of its branches. Upon even closer examination, I realized they looked exactly like retro Christmas decorations, albeit very, very depressing ones. And so to get an even closer examination, I leaned in, nearly touching my nose to the spindle.

And then it moved.

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To sleep, perchance to dream

getty_rm_photo_of_woman_sleepingI’d like to apologize in advance for this column — yes, even before I’ve written it — as I’m not quite responsible for myself today. More specifically, I’m laser focused on one goal and am therefore distracted from all other things. That goal? To fall asleep.

The insomnia started after we returned home from a family trip to British Columbia (beautiful, by the way). We flew home on the Red Eye, which allowed us to spend extra time in Vancouver, as well as cut off a few legs and several hours from our journey since they have straight flights from Seattle to Cincinnati.

ANYway (see how none of that is important? That’s because I’m tired and can’t determine what is important, never mind interesting, and what isn’t).

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To Peter the Great

IMG_3358In a couple of days, I’ll be able to give my stepdad Peter his birthday gifts: a pair of Donald Trump socks and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I know he’s going to like to them and I know when he opens his gifts he’ll have this little smile on his face, this grin, actually. Then he’ll say, in an exaggerated voice, “Thaaaaaank you” and spend the next half hour inspecting every aspect of his new acquisitions.

The fact that he’ll appreciate such oddball gifts (and will, likely, wear the socks) speaks to what a cool guy Peter is.

I met him when I was 21. Though he lived in Calgary, he and my mom had started carefully dating and it was time for him to meet us kids. I actually don’t remember anything about that first encounter — in a way, Peter feels like he’s just always been in my life — but I do know I liked him so much and so immediately I almost felt guilty about it.

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Finally diving in

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I had one personal goal I wanted to reach this summer, something so small and inconsequential it’s embarrassing to write down. But at the same time, I’m so ridiculously happy I was able to accomplish it, I feel it necessary to, yep, brag.

So here it goes: Last Friday, I learned how to dive.

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Recipes for a summer kitchen

hfs_t1largIt’s that time of year when everything is ripe. You can practically hear it, that buzz that warbles when you slice through a tomato or eat fresh strawberry jam or bite into that perfectly perfect peach. As such, I wanted to talk about a few great recipes that I’ve run across over the past few months to help celebrate this ripeness in all its glory. So here we go:

Spaghetti squash and pork stir-fry

Spaghetti squash and I had an exceptionally rocky start when my mom told me, at age 8, we were having spaghetti with tomato sauce and the spaghetti ended up being squash. Boy, was I pissed. While I did eventually forgive my mom, I never forgave the squash for not being pasta.

My friends Sean and Hannah, who gave me this recipe, were able to talk me out of my grudge and I’m so thankful for it. Honestly, this is delicious. The squash takes on the flavors of the soy sauce and rice vinegar (I use extra of both, and I double the amount of minced ginger), making it taste tangy, almost pickled. Note that if you’re in a hurry you can just use regular ground pork instead of the chopped up pork tenderloin as they suggest. The best part is this meal is so healthy you can reward yourself with homemade hot fudge and vanilla ice cream afterward, which is exactly what I did last night.

http://www.eatingwell.com

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Wanna go on stay-cation with me? Answer: not really

staycation-chicagoStay-cation. Isn’t that a clever word? The concept of staying home on a week off, but still pretending you are away on holiday. It’s a celebration of sorts, but a very, very responsible one. Won’t it be fun, you tell each other as you clink glasses. What a good idea. We’ll save a little coin, we’ll take time for romance, we’ll re-examine what a beautiful life we lead in the comfort of our own home.

When you’re in the planning stages of a stay-cation, you highlight the advantages. First, you will get to sleep in your own bed. No wrestling with flat pillows. No suspect comforters. Move to the bathroom and there are no tiny, white bars of soap that leave residue on your skin. No small bottles of inadequate conditioner.

Just soft hair and good sleeps, that’s what our week will be.

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The bad luck road trip

wind-005-100629465-primary.idgeThis past weekend, I took my stepdaughter to Chicago for camp. We’d had an incredibly lucky drive up (no traffic, killer parking spots, even a tasty lunch) that culminated in arriving at our hotel to find, a), free parking and WIFI, b), an unexpected outlet mall nearby and, c), a Giordano’s pizza restaurant a short walk away. So upon embarking home the next day, it was with a mild sense of doom. I knew, after all, that if there were a luck bank, I had maxed out my account the day before. And the only way to fill it back up was with bad luck installments.

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Journey to the salmon store

RIVM-estimates-2012-smoked-salmon-outbreak-costs_strict_xxlWe had ourselves a mission. Or, least, I had assigned everyone one. The goal was to make the seven-mile return trek to New Victoria Fish in Montreal. We’d all applied sunscreen, filled water bottles, had cash in our pockets. Peter had his sports sandals velcroed, my mom had her sneaks on, William was sporting his Ferrari cap. It was game time.

We’d had the salmon lox they sell at this fish store one summer before. Peter, who is a master at ferreting out the most character-filled places, had heard about it from a friend, and he and William had checked it out. I had been out doing something, either running or stuffing my face, the two things I do best in Montreal, and missed the errand. But I’d heard about it ever since:

“You walk in and two old men are standing there. They say nothing to you. You tell them what you want and one starts hand slicing the fish. They continue to say nothing. Until one holds out a long knife, the blade as long as your arm, reaches over the counter with it, and offers you a huge sample of the salmon.”

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To Cheese, my love

o-GRILLED-CHEESE-facebookSometimes column topics take hours to come up with. Sometimes they punch you in the face. This week, the punch happened. Because? Cheese. Duh. My most favorite food in the world (tied with bread). How is it possible I’ve never written about my deep love for it? Come up with an ode, ballad, even limerick on its behalf? Well, the time has arrived. Presenting: Cheese, a love letter.

Dear Cheese,

I love you.

Just kidding. You know that. Obviously. Haha. Tell me something I don’t know, right? Haha. This flowery lavender stationary was your first clue, right? Haha. Sorry, I’m a little nervous talking to you. That’s where this annoying laugh is coming from. For the record, I don’t usually have one.

Ahem.

Anyway, how are you? I’m fine.

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Jupiter after dinner

Jupiter_and_its_shrunken_Great_Red_SpotLast night, my husband gave me Jupiter for dessert.

It had been a lovely Memorial Day and we were finishing dinner on the deck under what had become a dark and starry night. I looked up and there was The Big Dipper directly overhead, clear and bright. William started pointing out other constellations, his knowledge vast and exact, and I tried to follow his finger to see where he was looking.

William has a telescope that has lived unused in the bedroom upstairs for the nearly 12 years I’ve been here, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to dust it off. I brought it downstairs to the deck and William got to work, looking like a teenager in the dark as he popped off lens caps and adjusted knobs.

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