Thursday, March 31, 2005

An Entertaining Evening

I always joke that my cooking adventures always turn out one of two ways. Either it turns out great or I set the kitchen on fire. Well I’m not always joking when I say that but it seems I’ve found a third option.

The planned menu was: grilled steaks, green salad with toasted walnuts, feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, mediterranean rice, green beans with roasted red peppers, honey wheat bread, and a rustic pear and apple tart for dessert.

Last night was our first experience in entertaining here in Georgia. My Dad said I had “moxie” to attempt to entertain David’s boss with the kitchen in its current state. That state being the fact there really just isn’t one. I love this house but what is supposed to be the kitchen was laid out during the last remodel by someone who obviously did not cook. In the modern era of house sized kitchens this closet-sized space is unusual. There is no stove or oven. We have a mini fridge and the five feet of counter space is mostly taken up by the microwave, coffee maker, dish rack, toaster oven and 2 burner hotplate. The cabinets are tiny, dark and inaccessible. We may get to adding all of the conveniences eventually but for now we make due and usually do just fine.

Back to the fire. Oh yes there was one and I don’t mean in the barbeque grill for the steaks. David and I were sitting on the back porch watching the train idling on the nearby railroad tracks when I smelled something burning. The rustic tart crust was literally on fire, flames licking out of the little toaster oven as I charged out the door with it and tossed it into the yard. It made for a rather impressive blaze, burning for several minutes and melting the plastic knobs on the front as we watched in semi-hysterical amazement. Well who wanted dessert anyway?

We still had several minutes to regroup so we opened the back door wide, turned on the ceiling fan and lit a few candles to cover the stench of burned toaster oven. I turned back to my cooking and at that point realized that the pre-cooked rice I had planned to use I’d made with bullion containing onion, a problem for our onion-allergic guest. I started another pot of rice and finished up setting the table. David went over to take a look at the train and returned to tell me it was unmanned. Odd, we’d never seen that before.

About then Joe arrived. He was as enchanted with this grand old house as we are and he and David spent several minutes walking through the house and yard. They talked outside while David grilled the steaks and I dressed the salad. The steaks were done about 25 minutes before the rice was finished cooking. No rice so on to Plan B, toss some small red potatoes in the microwave and before we were through the salad they were done. A dash of good olive oil, a quick step out to the herb tub and we had parsley potatoes. David had grilled the steaks to perfection and the rest of the food was simple and good.

We adjourned to the front porch in time to watch the train run down the spur line to pick up the last cars and then head off down the tracks. The engineers rarely blow the horn but I guess this one was being friendly and blew four deafening blasts just as he passed the house. David and I just looked at each other, shook our heads and savored our French pressed coffee, the last of the velvety Guatemala Huehuetanango from Seth. We sat on the porch awhile swapping stories and jokes with our guest by star and candlelight. David is a fantastic story teller. He has the old-south way of taking a tale three times around the dance floor with lots of dips and spins. It is one of the things I love most about him. Joe was clearly enjoying himself and I think he saw a side of David he'd never known. Our evening wound down and as we sent him off into the beautiful clear night Joe thanked us again and again for such a wonderful time.

As I went to round up the dishes I found a stunning palm-sized green moth swimming in my coffee cup. I fished him out, laid him on a dishtowel and put him out the back door which had been open since the airing out after the fire. He’s gone this morning so I hope he survived. When I walked back into the kitchen I heard a crash in the pantry. We investigated to find a rather large rat eyeing us from one of the top shelves. I guess he’d considered the open door an invitation. As we debated what to do about him he disappeared into the wall behind the water heater. What a night!

Later as we snuggled up under soft sheets we deemed the evening’s events a success. The most important goal was accomplished, our guest had a great time and so did David and I. We didn’t freak out when things didn’t go as planned. We rolled with it and came out mostly alright. So I guess I’ll have to add a third option to the list…. Sometimes I set the kitchen on fire and it still comes out pretty darn good. Our evening was perfect in its quirks and imperfections, like this wonderful old house, and in a whole lot of ways just like us.

Green Moth Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mom's Birthday

Yesterday was my Mother’s birthday. I feel like a bad daughter because I’m not sure which one but I think it would have been 75. It was just the kind of day she would have loved. A “premium day”. Bright blue sky, rich warm sun, a hint of a breeze and a perfect 75 degrees.

I planted pansies and violas in a bucket and a pot to celebrate with her. Mom might not have liked the color combination, a bit un-natural in orange sherbet, deep plum and lemony yellow. But she would have liked the planting and the sweet antique pansy faces.

I come from a line of pansy-lovers on both sides. Mammy’s were tucked into a huge cast iron pot and the tradition continues there still with Ellen. Grammy’s were all over her cottage garden yard and came up each year unsown. So each year I plant some pansies for all of us.

I also planted the Tombstone Rose we brought from AZ. It is our gift to this fine old house. I hope it, and we find a way to thrive here in Georgia. I’m pretty sure we will.

I had some visitors yesterday. Two geckos, skinny and sluggish from their winter’s nap, eyed me briefly before continuing their sunbathing on the back porch. A black snake was draped over the crotch of a tree I’d designated for the clothes line. He was plump and sleepy and I didn’t disturb him. I hope his girth was due to a mouse or two, we have an abundance of them under the house and in the walled up chimney behind the bed.

I opted for hanging the clothes line right off the back porch temporarily. David drove up in the Jeep and exclaimed jokingly how redneck we were. I liked the way it looked. Bright cotton boxers, sweet pansies and the old rocker I bought for $2 at the auction.

We broke out the bicycles at last, a little before sunset. It’s been years since I’d ridden one, and even then not a whole lot. But it was, as David remarked, just like riding a bike. After a few wobbly moments on my part we were cruising up and down the road in front of the house. I can see longer journeys ahead and I’m glad to have this new mode of transportation.

Dinner was simple, rather picnic style. Turkey wraps with baby greens, jack cheese, pesto and fat chunks of red roasted peppers. Almost Famous Coleslaw, Texas style with pineapple, Mediterranean Rice, and crisp Fuji apples for dessert. We lingered, joking and talking at the table and looked up to find it already 9. We spent a few minutes on the porch before bed. The full blast frogs were all in tune from bass all the way up to soprano. Yes David nature is loud!

More on the $2 rocker. It’s got an odd orangey color to the little bit of stain remaining on the wood. I finally found a pillow for the seat, a Ralph Lauren bed pillowcase I’d bought at a thrift store ages ago, rediscovered hunting something else. It’s funny how the colors of the fabric bring it all together. The blue gray of the porch, the peachy orange and plum of the pansies all in a old-fashioned cottage look print. I’m sitting in it now, writing this, in the morning sun with Seth’s coffee and the pansies, enjoying the raucous bird rock opera. This is something else Mom would have liked.

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Chilly Chile Chili

In honor of yesterday’s return to winter I decided to make Black Bean Chipotle Chili last night. A recipe on another blog Cooking with Amy inspired me to add Chipotle in Adobo to spice things up a bit. I changed the recipe some, substituting some things and adding others. It was pretty darn good – and even pretty! The cornbread balanced the equation however….overdone on top and raw in the middle. There are a few things toaster ovens can’t do I guess. Topped off with a green salad with ranch dressing (with adobo paste added to it – yum!) and we had a really nice meal.
Even though it’s back to winter outdoors inside it is spring! The tomatoes have sprouted! The got a jump on me, sprouting in about 5 days so I was pretty shocked when I checked for early risers to find most up and running! I rigged the lights in the guest bathroom tub until I can get out and hang them in the shed. When I see the little green shoots I imagine standing in the garden, a sunwarmed tomato, saltshaker in hand – my favorite way to eat them. I’m going to try not to go too overboard but 30 healthy plants or so should make for a nice surplus to set out on a table by the road. I’ve started all heirlooms , Yellow Brandywine, Black From Tula, Black Krim, Howard German and Chadwick Cherry. Some of the seeds were a couple of years old but still seemed to have a good germination rate. I may start a few more – you can never have too many tomato plants!
Later in the evening we had planned to take a nice hot bath. Having a real bathtub in this great old house is such a pleasure. I went to get some lavender essential oil while the water was running and returned to Eeeewww….! The heavy rains have stirred up the well a bit and a romantic bubble bath just looses its charm when the water is yellow!
Just before bed we went outside to see the almost full moon. Clear skies with just a few wisps of clouds, it was beautiful! The usual evening chorus was pretty quiet, too cold for all but the hardiest singers. The wind finally died down to just a breeze, winter departing again…back to SPRING!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Spring Inside Posted by Hello

The Windowsill

Last week it was spring but today it’s not so clear the season has changed. The sun is shining weakly through streaks of dark clouds and there is a raw wind whipping the trees. But on the windowsill this morning it is evident that spring is here. In the tall apothecary jar are the last of the crimson camellias and a branch from an unfamiliar tree with leaf buds as big as a baby’s fist just starting to burst. On the other side is a slender branch from a downed tree I found at the Kettle Creek Battle Site. The flowers look like tiny fuschia orchids and it has delicate leaflettes of palest green. Beneath the bower of these branches, in a tiny apothecary bottle, is an old fashioned pansy burgundy, ivory and purple. I’m generally not partial to pinks but against the background of gray outside it’s the perfect blend of colors to brighten the day.

Eventually I’ll have to venture out into the chilly day but for now I’ll enjoy spring indoors on this side of the window!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Late Start To Beaufort

Saturday’s meanderings started late. A wonderful morning lounging with coffee and conversation got us out the door by 11. Breakfast past we aimed at brunch. Dining in Georgia is an ongoing challenge. We have been spoiled by the kinship of good food and good company in Bisbee and have yet to find much of either here. But we persist in our quest. We ate at the Wishbone Café in Waynesboro. It was unexceptional in every way but at least it wasn’t awful. The waitress was telling a story about someone’s prayers being answered. I wonder if I prayed for a Bisbee Breakfast Club here in GA….

After dining our wanderings took us to Beaufort South Carolina (pronounced Bu-fort). The Southern coast is a bit odd to me. A little too lush, a little too tropical, I’m used to the Cape’s sparser look. But the water is the same - always the feeling of coming home. A few drops of salt water brought to my lips and wet on my forehead and I feel washed clean.

The coast is jagged now, a true testament to the nature of a hurricane. It is a strange feeling walking on a beach studded by tree stumps and outlined by entire downed trees, roots upended.

The Hunting State Park reminds me a little of the National Sea Shore. On Easter weekend the campground is loaded with kids on bikes and parents standing around the campfire. It is good to see families enjoying the outdoors.

We wandered around Beaufort for a little while, just enough to get a taste of what seems to be an interesting place. There are lovely historic homes and buildings. The town has an old New England feel to it and the downtown area seems quaint and prosperous. Not the touristy beach town feel of Tybee Island, more like people actually live there year-round. We’ll have to explore more on another visit.

We head home after dark, about 130 miles. We fall into bed tired and happy. David has made some good pictures and I’ve even managed to get a couple too. A good lesson today – just because you get a bit of a late start it sure doesn’t mean you have to waste a great day!

On The Road To Beaufort Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Almost perfect

Sometimes a day is almost perfect - even if you aren't quite in the place you want to be. I'd rather be in Bisbee. But that being said yesterday in Georgia was pretty close.....

Waking up next to someone you love - and snuggling back into the covers is such a pleasure. I love our mornings. Those few moments before the day begins when it it just us.

There are days in the spring where the sun shines just right and the breeze blows all good things your way. There were no sheets on the line but I could hear them snapping anyway.

I played in the dirt yesterday. There is something about the connection between the sun and the soil that makes me feel alive. I didn't plant much - a few morning glory seeds to wind up one of the old chimneys, some herbs in a washtub by the kitchen door. I can't decide what else to plant or where just yet. I'm holding on to the possibilities for another day or two.

Dealing with Bellsouth and DSL is too boring to include. Back online after some more minor technical difficulties. Wireless again with help from the Computer King later in the evening.

I did laundry. At first I hated to waste even part of a 'premium day' but I sat in the van with the door open and the sun on my face. I flipped through Moosewood Cooks At Home trying to find something fitting for such a fine day. Even a dirty parking lot in Wrens Georgia can be almost perfect.

David home at last, and while there was still enough light to enjoy sitting on the porch. In the rocker in his boxers on a conference call to AZ. Surprise love of mine, boyish and all man all at once. Snapping green beans and watching the last of the sun turn the world gold. There are those moments that you would like to capture forever.... the rich, full ones. You have to stop, look and remember.

Dinner was simple but memorable. Garden salad with balsamic vinegrette - I added a splash of OJ, have to remember that. Talapia with garlic and carmelized onions, lemon wedges from one of Dad's lemons. Fresh green beans with butter - still crisp enough to squeak. Brown rice with sundried tomatoes, feta, parsley and cilantro. Brown bread heated in the toaster oven. I guess I should have lit candles but it was so pretty it didn't need embellishment. My food is generally not pretty. I guess it was the day, and the company that made it come together so nicely.

Some of Seth's coffee from a french press and a quiet evening looking at pictures from our adventures may sound mundane but it made me perfectly content. The activities are simple but the partnership is the key. A few minutes on the porch looking at the almost full moon and listening. Nature does not feel the need to be quiet here. It sings out it's Nocturne full volume.

The end of the day. Fresh pillowcases. Those few moments before sleep overtakes us when once again it's just us. Perfect in all ways. These ARE the little things that make life sweet.

Art From His Eyes Posted by Hello

Friday, March 25, 2005

Country House Posted by Hello

Tulip Tree Posted by Hello

Georgia Daffodils Posted by Hello

At The Waterhole - Empire Cienega, Sonoita AZ Posted by Hello

Wheee!!! Posted by Hello

Swinging From A Star Posted by Hello

Monday, March 21, 2005


Small town living – you gotta love it!

Bisbee is a town of about 6000 people more or less with a core group of about 1000 active players. There is a strong set of pluses and minuses to small town living.

You’ll see everyone you like within 24 hours of rolling into town. But, you’ll see everyone you don’t like with in 24 hours, with special emphasis on ex-lovers and former friends.
You know everyone standing in line at the post office. It takes forever to get anywhere because you keep stopping to chat. The postal clerk will get your mail out of your box if you forget your key. You have the post office box because they will not deliver mail to your house!
You forget that the little market up the street does not take credit cards. However they do
accept IOU’s written on a little scrap of paper with no ID. This applies if you are a little short until payday too.
The speed limit through town is 25 mph which seems excruciatingly slow at times. But when you go whizzing by at 40 the local cop knows your car and just wags his finger in mild reproach.
Time has no meaning unless you want to eat! The local restaurants close at 8:30 pm are closed every Monday & Tuesday, and whenever else they damn well feel like it.
But when they are open you know 2/3 of the people in the café when you go for breakfast and end up lingering until almost lunch over coffee & conversation.
Shopping can be an adventure. The butcher at the big chain grocery store knows exactly what you like and comes bustling out from the cubicle to tell you when it is on sale. The downside to this is that buying anything of a personal nature gets you a nod and a wink from the cashier or a request for a date. There are no secrets here.

Sometimes you have to go away for a while to appreciate how nice it is to be where people are happy to see your face. During our exile in the Eastern Wastelands as David likes to call it we are realizing just how lucky we are to have found our little niche here in Bisbee. Being away helps us overlook the more annoying quirks and embrace the pleasures. Maybe we romanticize it a little but we really love this town, and it seems to love us. We’ve had two weeks respite from the anonymous world and the worst part about living here is leaving. But, we know when we come back we’ll have a spot waiting for us at the table (unless it's Monday or Tuesday!) and some new tales to tell. We’ll catch up on all the news and it will feel like we never left.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Recycled Martha

Ok I’ll admit it – I’ve always liked Martha Stewart! Not the most popular stance but it’s true. I know, she doesn’t do it all and I really don’t care! Personally I think finding the right people to do the job for you is nearly as big a talent as doing it yourself.
Do I feel lessened because I can’t do all I see on her TV show? No! Do I like to use her ideas – you bet!
Her latest incarnation is by far my favorite. While many people would have taken this whipping and slunk off into the shadows she’s still swinging. Martha has come back stronger than ever and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next! She’s certainly not perfect but I admire her determination. Planted in jail she's thrived - proving that she's more hollyhock than hothouse rose.