Up On the Sun

I wish you could smell where I live once the Summer Solstice arrives, and I do mean that in the best way. The scent of high summer in the Midwest, especially during a sunny, hot, and humid summer like the one we’ve been having since late May, is its own heady cut-grass-and-clover beast. Or its own pungent warm-dill-breadseed-poppies-and-horse-manure beast. You pick.

IMG_5280

 

I love that about 1 mile away from 909 and our very cute neighborhood, we can see these guys in something approximating a natural habitat.

IMG_5287

IMG_5289

 

Orange: It’s the color of joy and creativity, of warmth and determination… of FUN! No wonder it’s been Jim’s favorite for decades.

IMG_5284

 

O, these sunflowers with their pale-yellow petals and chocolate-brown centers against that as-yet-unhazed summer sky.

IMG_5298

 

Summer also = international tournament/cup soccer. I’m off today, having myself a little Solstice-fueled vacation, and I’m eagerly awaiting my family’s arrival home from work in a bit so we can prepare to watch the US Men’s National Team take on Argentina. 909 is all about the flags at cup time.

IMG_5306

 

I was thinking today: Why is the phrase “real life” or “the real world” or “reality” so often used pejoratively? My daughter is working a fast-paced restaurant job this summer. Oh, that’s good, that’s a bit of the real world for her. Really? Hm. Sure, I guess. But… what IS the real world? I mean, I say shit like that, but this morning I was examining some of the things I say and I thought, well, that phrase, used that way by me, has GOT to go. I’m defining “real life” differently this summer. Real life can include working and earning money and enduring stress and trauma and stupidity and traffic and people being assholes and being tired and wondering IS THIS ALL THERE IS?, but it’s certainly not SOLELY or even PRIMARILY those things.

Thunderstorms are beautiful and terrible and necessary, and they are real life. Beautiful, hopeful weddings are real life, and, sadly, death is also real life. Ripening blackberries are real life; so are the thorns we have to deal with to get at them (unless you have the thornless kind, which I do not, but am still eternally grateful to Tim for letting me dig some up at his old house). Enthusiastic discussion with Lilly about filling out her proposed schedule for college – just a couple of months away – is real life. So is pondering the unverbalized question what will it be like when you’re away at school? And… so is admitting I’m afraid to find out.

The backyard at 909 is my real world. So is driving along listening to this interview with two absolutely awesome guys (twins!) in Ireland. So is sitting down every morning to write and watching difficult truths emerge. Vacation and daydreaming with Jim are real worlds. So is working at my desk at my job. It’s all real… but some realities seem to have the wrong weight attached. Recalibration is required.

Welp. I’m going to go smell some tomato plants and basil leaves. More soon.

Last Day of May

Dear May 2015:

It’s not really like me to say this, but… I can’t say that I’m sad to see you go. There were highlights during your time here, but overall you were unpredictable, difficult, moody, and kind of a jerk (especially for giving us a high of 57° on your last day). But! I’m an eternal optimist, so I acknowledge that by being all of those things, you did provide a bit of clarity in a backassward way. Thank you for that… I guess?

As previously mentioned: Though you rather sucked, you weren’t entirely lacking in sweetness. Check it out.

IMG_1735

Salad mix 1.0.

 

IMG_1744

Strawberry lemonade cupcakes by Hopscotch for a colleague’s retirement bash.

 

Lone tomato given a good home out front.

 

IMG_1749

Cherry tree on the walk to work.

 

IMG_1750

Cute little mobile food operation in DT Urbana.

 

IMG_1753

The lindens are blooming in C-U.

 

Nevertheless, I’m pretty pumped for June.

*****

Here’s a micro-LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs, Saved Aggressively):

Some roadblocks encountered by public media on the way to “digital first”

Provocative headline: “How Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Slow Food Theorists Got It All Wrong” (I have the book referenced in this piece and am STOKED to read it)

(Not) One Direction

DucksI took this at Caveny Farm in Monticello, IL, back in early October 2013. I was there to see the turkeys, and they were impressive, but I was quite enamored with these geese living behind the barn. Connie Caveny gave me a bunch of heirloom tomatoes to bring home that day, too. She had too many – the plants were super-prolific into early fall. There was no hint, really, of what the winter would be like.

It is the midwest, and we know cold (and there is nothing colder than a big, swooping wind coming down through the prairie in January). But winters have been quite warm in our part of the midwest for several years, and the brutal cold (as I type, it’s 0.0 degrees and falling, and this is the second round of very cold weather we’ve had this month) has taken almost everyone aback. The windows here at 909 are the originals, so we’ve plasticked some of them and hung heavy quilts in others in an effort to limit the amount of cold seeping in.  Quilts! It’s like a freaking Laura Ingalls Wilder cave up in here! There is nothing like a super-cold winter to keep one inside, making a mental list of all the crap that really needs to be done to one’s house, slightly mortified about putting it off all this time. My list includes windows and a furnace. I have to stop there before I get the vapors.

The planning for “Ramen Shamen” is going nicely. We shoot Saturday and Tuesday. I’m working on Jim to help me with some graphic elements for the videos, for the site, for… whatever. Baseball hats? T shirts? Pint glasses? MASON JARS? Ooooh.

Not Ketchup, Catch Up

tomatoes2

It’s a long weekend, more cold weather is coming, and I feel like making things, so I planned meals for the upcoming week today (you may be surprised to know it’s something I’ve been out of the habit of doing for YEARS), went shopping for the food for those meals, roasted some grape tomatoes in the vein of Nom Nom Paleo and Smitten Kitchen (same basic  principle, slightly different methods), and now I’m patiently (?) waiting for Jim to come home from refereeing soccer matches so he can get started on his chorizo chili so I can just sit here and inhale while he cooks. The chorizo is from Triple S Farms in Stewardson, and – god. Our family has a RELATIONSHIP with this chorizo, an affair. It’s great in fajitas or as nachos, but chili is what is needed tonight. Acceptance-yet-defiance of winter in a bowl, that’s what this chili is.

Post-holidays (is it just me, or do the holidays seem like they happened MONTHS AGO?), I think it’s good to get creative with your comfort food. We’re past everything-pumpkin, we’re past the family traditions that dictate the holidays – now, January/February, before fresh food is truly available here in the midwest, that’s when we get down to the business of really figuring out what we want to eat. For, you know, strength when spring comes. My favorite winter foods come in bowls. How about you?

reading

I am utterly, woefully behind in my reading. I found myself at the bookstore this afternoon (very much a “How did I get here?” moment), looking for more magazines, another cookbook. Never mind that I have the above to read, plus two more cookbooks arriving Tuesday. And I still have two cookbooks I received for Christmas from one of my dear sisters-in-law that I can’t wait to read. It’s a sickness. I LOVE ALL OF THEM and occasionally fantasize about literally building a fort out of all these books and magazines, the better to surround myself with culinary and food (and life) wisdom. I haven’t done it. Yet.

I did, however, finish Provence, 1970 this afternoon. I adored the first 2/3 of the book, and was really excited to find out what happened, but after that first 2/3, I thought it just sort of ground to a halt just when I thought something explosive, some a-ha & super-influential moment that I’d never heard of before, would happen, which it… didn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. I did. I cannot get enough of good, evocative writing about the food and farming and conviviality surrounding food in France, especially from that time period. Author Luke Barr had access to all kinds of correspondence between the principals (MFK Fisher [his great-aunt], Julia Child, James Beard, Richard Olney) as well as Fisher’s notebook from her time in France at that particular juncture. Anyway, if you have a thing for France and French food and The Days of Yore, I do recommend it.

I’m thinking ahead to next weekend, when we begin shooting “Ramen Shaman”. We’ll be interviewing the Shaman himself at his place, surrounded by his cookbooks and tchotchkes (the guy has a hundred times the cookbooks/food books I do… he could build a palace), and then filming the preparation for his next ramen event, and then filming the event. I’m a little nervous; I made a drastic change to my appearance ahead of all this filming, because I was feeling very what-the-hell about it, but now I’m more like, what the hell? Oops.

Anyway. The ramen is the story, but Mark is the story, too. I can’t wait to hear it, to help tell it. Right now, though, I’m all about swooning over this chili; Jim’s home.