Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dog Day

The sun is shining. The air has a hint of briskness.
The ash trees are a multitude of colors; purple, yellow, orange, red with a few stragglers still in the green of summer.
It is sandals and sweater weather.

I hear phantom dog tags and padding feet behind me everywhere.

I am pushing the stroller, hoping desperately that the children will be lolled to sleep. It has been one of those days. After two hours of climbing in and out of bed, drinks of water and trips to the bathroom I finally tell Ivory to put on a pair of shoes and climb into the stroller in an attempt to save what little is left of my sanity. Sylvan drifts off first humming to himself, and I realize Ivory is slumbering as well when the hand clutching her pink leopard finally relaxes.

I walk past the tent city that is rising up in front of our court house. The drum circle sneaks a little dance into my step and for the first time today I feel the dark cloud that has been hanging over my head lift a little.
I have been in a lousy mood.
I am angry.
And no, it is not because there are 14 million unemployed people in this country or because 49.9 million people lack health insurance. Sure, there always is an underlying current of frustration and disbelief about many facets of our society, but today in my pitifully selfish little world I am angry because of one dog.

The dog that has me hearing phantom dog tags and the padding of feet everywhere I go.

I picked up Ivory from school with Sylvan tied to my chest with the goal of walking to pick up our car and go and pay the water bill. We made it a few blocks from our house when I hear those clinking dog tags and there she is, Carrot, running after us. Just out of reach. I grudgingly turn around dragging Ivory . Walk to the house, wait for her appearance, put her back in the yard, grab a leash, just in case and try again. We make it a few blocks. I hear the tags again, and there she is. We turn around once again, put her back in the yard and make a third attempt to go and get the car.
This time we get nowhere. Ivory is screaming at me at the top of her lungs, hungry and obviously tired and not wanting to do this routine again. I give up on the car. I give up on paying the water bill.
Instead we begin our two hour nap time struggle. I pile the kids in the stroller in an attempt to outwit the mundane frustrations of motherhood.

And there, I hear them again: clinking dog tags, the patter of feet.

Each time I reach the edge of our neighborhood, she is beside me, and I make my way back to our house. Again and again until I finally reach the tunnel that passes under the train tracks without a canine stalker.

The kids fall asleep, I breath, slip into a coffee shop, order a cup of coffee and finally sit down.

My phone rings immediately. It is my husband, calling from the highway, headed home from work: “Animal control just called. Can you go get her? She is in the Providence Surgery Center parking lot.”
I want to scream. But instead I just whisper into the phone: “No. I will not go get her. I just got the kids to sleep. I am going to drink my cup of coffee.”

The dog has become our latest marital dispute.

I feel small and defeated. I have allowed one dog to ruin my day. I feel even more hopeless and helpless by my complete inability to move forward, which makes me even more unhappy. I feel petty, slightly (only slightly) unreasonable and very negative.

Adam has resolved to raise the fence by 18 inches and I, well, I am trying to not view myself as caged in with two smelly poop machines.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Off the Path

Everything is wet.

The bright yellow, red and green leaves against the black branches have a psychedelic crispness. The grasses and shrubs brush against our legs and drops splash against us as we push our way along narrow paths winding their way along the river.

It has been raining daily, and we piled into the car to check on one of our mushroom spots.
We are looking for Shaggy Parasols.
And we find – nothing. The pine needles lay wet and undisturbed.

We wander on, looking for nothing in particular.

We find a white, branching fungus growing like tiny candelabra out of a fallen cottonwood logs.

We walk past giant shelf mushrooms, glistening a beautiful red.

We see gray fungus reminiscent of coral.

From one log to the next we have wandered farther and farther from the official walking trail.  The ferns are all flattened and suddenly we feel that we have strayed a bit too far.  I turn on one of the many forked paths and realize that I am standing next to a giant tree that not to long ago had been used by something as a scratching post and that I am standing in the middle of the biggest pile of bear poop I have ever seen.  Adam and I say almost simultaneously: "Um, maybe we should head back to the trail."

We stop to admire a soft, pink and almost purple fungus that is pushing out between the bark and wood of yet another downed cottonwood log.

The clouds hang heavy and low, but the sun in shining the way it can only shine in the mountains.

Two bucks scamper out of sight.

My skirt has dark brown patches, Adam's toes are damp, Ivory's knees tell of slips and falls, Sylvans socks are no longer dry and our mushroom collecting bag is empty but we're filled with beauty and adventure and climb back into our car to finish our weekend errands.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Apple Beet Soup

So, Tuesday night my thought process was a little like this:

Adam is coming home a day early!
Did I make enough dinner?
I am making beet soup for dinner.

I grate, measure and stir and slide a baked zuccinni and egg side dish into the oven, and then am left standing there, staring at the soup simmering on the stove top. “Well, this will just have to do”, I think to myself.

When Adam walks through the door I hug him, and say slightly apologetically: “We are having beet soup for dinner..... I didn't know you would be home early when I started it.... ?!?.” I usually try to have a slab of meat waiting for him and tonight's dinner is vegetarian through and through. AND IT IS BEETS!

Adam – well – reluctantly admitted: “It was good – for a beet dish.” (Which I interpret as success.)
Ivory liked it. How could she not? It was fuchsia colored after all.

Sylvan loved it, clapping his hands excitedly between spoonfulls.

And I, well, I might have discovered a winning apple and beet combination.

Apple Beet Soup

3 tablespoons canola oil
4 leaks
1 large carrot, diced
8 beets* (directions on preparation bellow)
2 sweet apples, pealed, cored and chopped
1 ½ dried thyme
½ teaspoons dried sage
¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups water/ vegetable broth
1 cup apple juice

Apple Cream Sauce
½ cup apple juice
½ cup plain yogurt

  • *Wash whole beets, leaving stems, and place into a pot of boiling water until they can be poked with a fork. Once they are soft, rinse with cold water until they can be handled. Slip of the skin and cut into smaller pieces.
  • While the beets are simmering away, heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leaks and carrots, saute until softened. Add spices. Add the water/vegetable broth and apple juice. Add the skinned and chopped beets and simmer together for 30 minutes. Cool slightly and blend. (I like to blend only half of it and leave a few chunks.)
  • While the soup is cooking, pour ½ cup of apple juice into a small sauce pan and cook until the volume is reduced by half. Stir the reduced apple juice into plain yogurt. (I make my own from a Greek yogurt culture. It is creamy and mild flavored.)
  • Laddel the soup into bowls and drizzle with the apple cream sauce.

Enjoy the taste and bounty of the fall season.

If you try it let me know what you think!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bordering Insanity

I am in the kitchen canning the last few jars of apple sauce.

As soon as my kitchen counter is wiped off, I am going to unload the trunk of my car.

My trunk full of tomatoes turned into almost 10 quarts of spiced tomato sauce (think spaghetti or pizza) and 2 1/2 quarts of barbecue sauce.

I cleaned my giant pots, stacked my jars and stored all my tools away.  I can't take anymore of this, unless, I find some delicious pears somewhere.  I would love to can a few pints of amaretto pears.  They are a family favorite.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


   I pull out my soft scrub, fill up a bucket of water and scour the kitchen floor on my hands and knees.
The mop just will not do an adequate job removing the craziness that remains of the last week and a half.  Yes, I have lived with this dirty floor for at least ten days.

    I scrape a few stubborn tomato seeds of the floor.
Tomatoes.  Red, orange, striped and juicy. 

Hiding under leaves.

Exploding in our mouths, on shirts and, well, on my floor. 

They are squished into jars, to be opened on a dark winter night and add a bit of warmth an sunshine to our dinner plate. 

    I wipe the sticky streaks that stretch from my counter top to the stove.  
Little missiles of juice that coat everything - my knife, my hands and the tops of my toes - as I cut open plum after plum.  

They became a spicy plum sauce that is perfect with any kind of meat.  I canned twice the amount that I did last year.  I hope that this will last just long enough.

   I dip my rag into the warm water and wring it out.

Beets - bright red in the steaming water - are now lining the bottom of my pantry shelf.  

    I wipe down the front of the stove.
I wiped out the inside of my giant pot with a fresh slice of whole wheat bread and savored the remnants of the Apple Plum Ginger Jam that Kendall, Rachel and I processed in the downstairs kitchen while our children quietly dismantled the upstairs bedrooms. 

    I pour the dingy water out into my flower bed with satisfaction.

    I sip a cup of coffee.

   There is a giant bag of apples sitting on my counter.
Tomorrow, they will bubble on the stove, the smell will creep into every corner of our house and they will be transformed.