Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm Turning Off Comments for Good Now...

Thank you all for sharing with me and for being so kind. I've followed your links and have enjoyed your blogs and am glad to have had a chance to "meet" you. I'll have more to say before I leave, and I'll let you know when I put up that final post.

Blessings to you all,
Susan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Perusing Cookbooks Like Laura...

Oh, look, here's a photo of some of my cookbooks. I thought I had one in my files of all of my cookbooks, but I don't want to take the time to search for it (lazy!). And there are some of our Saturday scones and my French press and sunflowers from the market and the cake stand that I was tempted to give to Aimee-not-my-daughter.

Here I am posting when I should be packing, but, on the other hand, one needs to take breaks, and since Laura brought up the topic of cookbooks on her blog today, I couldn't resist doing this. Go on over and tell Laura what cookbooks you're enjoying.

Some of my favorite cookbooks are still at my mom's house, but the following are the ones I'm currently reading, perusing, and using. I say "currently" because the cookbooks I have in my reading stacks are constantly changing.

I mostly buy and use cookbooks that are prosey, educational, and kitchen-philosophical (I've said this all before). I don't have many books that are simply collections of recipes. There are some good ones out there for sure, but I want to spend most of my cookbook reading time really learning about food and cooking from the great chefs and cooks who write these books.

Laura mentioned in an email to me that, of the 1/8 of my books I'm packing to take with me, she's guessing there are a good number of cookbooks. Well, Laura, you are absolutely right! Exactly half of the books I'm taking with me are cookbooks. These are my comfort books. I love to read them, browse them, glean ideas from them, and find inspiration in their pages. I make up most of the things I cook, but the cookbooks help me pull my ideas together. And sometimes I follow recipes verbatim. That, too, though, is a way of learning to cook food your own way. It's like doing copywork to learn to write!

Here's my list of the cookbooks I'm currently enjoying. As always, I have made this much longer and more complicated than it needs to be, but that makes this a whole lot more fun. Sorry I'm not adding links to the books (lazy again!), and sorry I use the word "love" so much in this post, but I can't help myself:

1. The Unplugged Kitchen and Verdura by Viana LaPlace. There's no need to make things complex with you're working with outstanding ingredients. When you have that, you're almost home. Simple, fresh, hands-on, and to the point-- my kind of kitchen philosophy!

2. Any Deborah Madison book. Judging by the five cookbooks I own by Deborah Madison, you might say I like her food. Yep. In fact, in the oven for dinner right now is her Olive Oil Bread (foccacia) from her Greens cookbook.

3. Lindsey Shere desserts. I haven't been cooking from this lately, but I read it a lot, and I will make something from it before too long. Everything I've cooked from this book has been excellent. Lindsey Shere is my kind of pastry chef.

4. Nigel Slater, always. The Kitchen Diaries and Real Fast Food. That's just a start. I guarantee I will buy more of his books in the future. I love his writing, and I love his simple food.

5. Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I have four of their books (not including the latest one on China), and I love them. Love them. They're right at the top of my list of favorite cookbooks. I read them, look at them, and cook from them often. The photography is gorgeous, the stories are interesting, the cooking instructions and information is excellent, and the food is delicious (if you like various world cuisines).

6. Rick Bayless. Mexican Everyday, in particular. Bayless won the James Beard award for Best Chef in America last year (I'm pretty sure I've got that right... should check on it... nah!), and in this book, he shows his skill. Einstein's book on relativity is really, really short because he is a master of the subject. Likewise, the recipes in this cookbook are easy and to the point, and they're also really tasty. I guess I'm saying I think Rick Bayless is something of a master at what he does, and I'm sure he'd consider that high praise coming from an ordinary housewife in very rural Oregon!

7. Claudia Roden. Lately, I'm once again perusing Arabesque. I love the look of this book, it reads wonderfully, and the food is good, too!

8. Alice Waters. The Art of Simple Food. At first I thought of this as simply another good book on the basics of cooking, but the longer I have it around, the more useful I find it, especially as a resource and general guide. The simplicity of this book can be deceptive. It's really quite good.

9. How to Eat Supper. I've been packing this book around with me, reading through it again, and enjoying it just as much the second time through as the first. For dessert tonight, we'll be having the rustic jam tart from this book. I topped the almond shortbread crust with Bonne Maman cherry preserves, and-- yum!-- this super-easy-to-make tart is really good (Michelle and I were compelled to test it this afternoon).

10. Shall I say Tessa Kiros and her Apples for Jam or Donna Hay's The Instant Cook or Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques? All are good books that I've been perusing, but I'll go with Kiros because her book always makes me smile and want to bake a chocolate cake and decorate it and celebrate whatever is happening, or not happening, today. I've cooked very few recipes from this book, but I like reading it. Tessa has some nice essays and stories woven throughout her recipes.

By the way, yes, I'm still posting. I'm going through a little flurry of it right now, aren't I? But it will come in spurts because I won't be here all the time, and, yes, the computer will be packed away soon, and I'm still going to close the blog. :-)

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Evening Book...



"When evening arrives-- no matter what happened during the day, whatever "sturm und drang" occurred, whatever challenges were unmet, whatever disappointments and regrets-- people have a universal desire to find a serene place where they can put all the parts of the day together in some tranquil way. Given the spirit of forgiveness of the prior hour, at Vespers we are free to let go of the day and to luxuriate in the quiet beauty of the evening. The serenity of Vespers, wherein we gather together all the day's contradictions, is truly healing, since healing essentially involves a knitting together of what is apart, what is broken."

~David Steindl-Rast in The Music of Silence

Outside...

A cold wind blows hard, bringing in clouds and making dramatic the sky that was clear earlier today. A mix of rain and snow is expected tomorrow, so we're having our typical, temperamental, high desert spring mix of weather. I wouldn't say it's as bad as the author of Letters of a Homesteader Woman put it about her Wyoming climate: "We have three seasons here. July, August, and Winter." It does seem that way around here sometimes, but I love our unpredictable weather.

Everything is turning green outdoors. Perennials and herbs are growing more quickly every day. There are now some harvestable herbs in my humble little fenced garden area-- tarragon, marjoram, lemon thyme, and oregano (and maybe something else), and I need to remember that they're ready to use!

Inside...

I continue to build a fire in the wood stove most mornings because even on really warm days, our nights and mornings are cold and frosty. It was down almost to ten degrees yesterday morning, and it was somewhere around 20 degrees today when I awoke. And, once the fire is rumbling and crackling, I stand beside it with my mug of black coffee and a little stack of books. Once the warmth of the stove moves further out into the room, I sit on the chair or at the table for a bit of quiet time.

Boxes are everywhere, and it seems I've hardly made a dent in the packing. Today I was hit by a renewed wave of desire to get ruthless about getting rid of things. Who wants to pack and store or haul them? Things can be so encumbering, and since I tend to eagerly shake off whatever becomes entangling and burdensome, I'll take advantage of this current mood.

The hardest thing, by far, to pack has been my books. 7/8 of them are going into storage for a good year, and it gives me great pain to tape shut the lids on the book boxes. The rest of the stuff has been easy.

This evening, another fire has been built, and light is playing on the dining room furniture as the lowering sun shines through the wind-blown trees. It's quiet in the house as I'm here alone.

In the Kitchen...

Which happens to be inside (like everything in the description above) but deserves its own special category... I'm always happy when I'm working in the kitchen. When I settle in and embrace the rhythm and importance of the work and enjoy the process, it's satisfying, nurturing, therapeutic, and enjoyable on many levels. We've been having simple things to eat. I'm attempting to eat frugally without sacrificing nutrition and yummy food. I made whole-grain blueberry pancakes for everyone for breakfast this morning. Later when I was feeling really "snacky", there was an extra avocado sitting around, so I made my good old avocado-based chocolate mousse to share with Michelle.

For dinner, I was here alone, so I had a salad I put together from whatever was leftover in the fridge and available in the cupboard (pickings are currently thin). I mixed a vinaigrette consisting of lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and a squirt of agave. I tossed chopped romaine leaves with a bit of the vinaigrette, then I mixed some cannellini beans with minced red onion and chopped tomato and tossed that with some of the vinaigrette, too (if I'd have thought about it, I would have added some chopped fresh herbs from my garden). I spooned some of the bean mix onto the greens. The salad was fresh-tasting and enjoyable, and it looked bright and pretty in my clear Pyrex mixing bowl. I sat at the counter by myself, eating slowly and perusing a cookbook.

Pretty much everything in the kitchen is packed for storage except for what is going with us when we move. We'll be living small in our new place, and I'm determined not to have clutter around me, so I'm making a point of keeping things as simple as I can. And I'm really liking this!

Reading...

Oh, I'm not reading anything that is overly demanding of my intellect because my mind is currently being pulled and stretched in a few different directions, but I'm reading (in some cases, re-reading) plenty that is thought-provoking and worthy. The Attentive Life by Leighton Ford. Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. A few Deborah Madison cookbooks (I've always loved her good, simple food). Detox4Women by Natalia Rose.

Thinking...

I'm not even going to scratch the surface of this! I'm thinking about many things-- Simplicity. Service. Different ways of giving. Frugality. Community. Church. Growing and learning and developing. Family. God's goodness and provision. Making do. Recycling and "repurposing." Different types of hospitality. Caring. Frugal creativity and beauty. I guess I'm thinking about what it means to live responsibly as a Christian today. You know how it is. When hands are busy with routine and rhythmic manual work, like packing boxes, the mind is free to wander and contemplate.

Currently and until bedtime...

Just a few minutes ago, I stepped outside for a bit and was met with a bracing wind. I'll exchange my flip-flops for socks and warmer shoes, bundle up in a winter coat and gloves, and go back outdoors to stack firewood on the deck, to put the outside dog into her kennel for the night, and to bring in some things that were left on the deck this afternoon when Michelle, the boys, and I were sat out there together (it was warmer then).

Then I'll move around the house to do some tidying, drink some green lemonade, and sit down for some quiet reading time. I'll think over my day and count my many blessings and thank the Lord for them. Likely, I'll talk to at least one of my kids on the phone-- a welcome evening pleasure.

(I keep forgetting to turn off comments. Maybe I'll just leave them alone for a while longer.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Want You to Know...

I've heard (directly and through the grapevine) that some of you have commented below (on the post where I announced I'll be closing this blog soon), and your comments have either not gone through or they've disappeared after a time. I want to make sure everyone knows that I've never deleted a comment on my blog. If something has not shown up or has disappeared, I'm not sure what happened to it (this has happened to me before, too). I'm sorry to those of you who have had trouble commenting.

Also, some of you have my email address, and I'm having trouble with that, too. In the past few days, my emails started disappearing. I've lost everything from January up til now, so if you've written to me and you don't get a response, I don't mean to neglect replying. (Please resend any recent emails you've written to me if you don't mind... but only if you'd like.)

Thanks again for your warm kindness. I appreciate it very much.

The Littlest Pastry Chefs...

We were in Portland visiting Aimee and Josiah this past week, and, after dinner, someone (okay, maybe it was all of us) suggested that Josiah should bake chocolate chip cookies (he makes great cookies on demand). Aimee said it would be fun if Roman and Jayden could make the cookies, under supervision, of course.

Since there were no chocolate chips in the apartment (and that's the only type of cookies one should make when a craving strikes for freshly baked, warm cookies), Josiah and Roman walked to Trader Joe's, with Melissa and I tagging along behind (Aimee assigned Melissa the task of taking photos of the trip to the store). While Melissa followed Roman and Josiah around the store snapping photos, a Trader Joe's employee said, "Someone's first trip to Trader Joe's, huh?" Well, no, but we were on an adventure. It was dark outside, after all, and past someone's bedtime...

We walked back home and up two flights of stairs, with Roman holding Josiah's hand and jabbering the entire time. Somewhere near the top of the final flight of stairs, I overheard Roman say, "We've had a fun time, haven't we Josiah? Yeah, this was a fun adventure wasn't it? ...Whew!... My legs are really tired."

And then we went back into the apartment where aprons were tied round the boys and cookie making ensued. Aimee and Josiah measured the ingredients and put them into bowls, and the little boys did most of the dumping and mixing with Josiah there to oversee and help. Roman surprised us all by cracking an egg perfectly, pulling apart the shell, and dropping it into the bowl, like he'd done it a hundred times before. Really, it was his first time.

The boys grabbed handfuls of dough, plopped them randomly (wildly misspaced and greatly varying in size) on the parchment paper-covered baking sheet, and into the oven they went.

And, of course the cookies were absolutely delicious. The best ever, I'm quite sure.





Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Moving" Right Along...

Books are in boxes, and the bookshelves are now being used to store some stray garage sale and Goodwill things, plus a few things I'm as yet undecided where to put (store, sell, move, or donate). (See, Lissy, I really am busy packing!)

If I have time and inclination, I might post a few more things before I go-- maybe, maybe not-- maybe some pictures and a few light words, but nothing big. There is at least one more thing I want to say for sure, but I have a good two weeks before this computer will be shut down and packed, so there's no hurry. I think I'll turn off comments for any future posts I write since you've all already said good-bye and so many nice things. I'll just ease out of my blog and fade away... :-)

I'll go ahead and leave the blog up for at least awhile for those of you who said you'd like to have a chance to read it some more. I haven't made a longterm decision yet regarding that, but I will not, for sure, resume this blog again in the future. (Just wanting to let you know that I'm sure about this.)
Anyway!

I made cinnamon-banana smoothies for everyone who was here this bright, sunny morning, then I took an early walk down the road with the dog. Afterward, before it got hot, I sat in the sun on the deck for a little while to read, and then I got busy. I cleaned out all of the cupboards in the kitchen, living room, and dining rooms, sorting and packing as I went.

We've lived in this house for almost 13 years, and as I empty cupboards and go through my things, memories are stirred, and I tell Michelle stories of where things came from and what they mean to me. Aaron's plastic airplane spoon-- his first. The antique Neill's strawberry jam crock that was sold as a base for a lamp that I bought in England twenty-some years ago. The driftwood frame with shells on it that my Dad made for me. The glass candy jar that sat on Grammy's small, antique cupboard when I was a little girl (sometimes it was filled with old fashioned hard candies, and sometimes it was full of nuts). Things the kids made or collected while we lived here. So many good things. We are, and have been, blessed.

Some of this stuff is hard to wrap and place in a box because I don't want to store it away, but other things I'm happily discarding. Moving is a chance to gain a bit of freedom from possessions, even for someone like me who regularly gets ruthless about discarding and decluttering.

As for eating, our meals were light today. I made a beet and apple salad with orange vinaigrette as part of dinner, and it was extra refreshing and delicious on this warm day.


As long as I'm here, I'll keep enjoying our sky. I just love the blue sky and the type of clouds we get here. Weather was perfect today. 80 degrees in the desert dry air is quite comfortable. I love our clear, black night sky, too. One of the gifts of living in the country, in clear air like we have here, is the amazing view we get of the stars.


I'm glad to have my daughter and grandsons here while we sort through things and prepare to move. Michelle is a hard worker and always gladly jumps right in to help without being asked. She's seventeen or eighteen weeks pregnant now, and we're all excited to find out in a week or two what the next baby will be.

Roman draws a "guy" and a "bug."

And now it's dark, the air is refreshingly cool, frogs are croaking, and a skyful of stars are twinkling. I'm going to clean up the random messes that litter the house, find a good book, and settle in for some reading.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

And Another Thing!

Just thought I'd put up a photo that was hanging around in my blog folder. I don't think I've used this one before... I'll be hanging clothes on this line til the day I drive away for the last time! :-)

I just have to say that I'm really touched by your nice comments in the post below. Truly. Thanks for being so kind. I told someone yesterday that I just mosey along, putting up blog posts, thinking that just a few regulars are reading occasionally, and lo and behold, out pop more nice people to say that they've been reading here regularly for awhile. What do you know?! It's very nice to meet you, by the way.

I'm considering what some of you have asked me about leaving up the blog. I'm not yet sure what to think about that, but, for a little while at least, I'll keep it posted. That way I can think about what I want to do with it (but I'll likely turn off comments when I pack the computer and move). I really don't want to monitor the blog because I'll be focused on other things, and I'm not sure I want to leave it out there without keeping an eye on it. So, let me think about it...

It's a beautiful day, and the family is outside kicking a soccer ball around, so I'll go out with a big glass of lemon water to sit on the porch and watch! Take care.

Friday, April 17, 2009

It Seems This is Inevitable...

To get straight to the point, I won't be able to keep this blog going. We'll be moving away from our actual, physical home in the high desert in the next several weeks, and, at the same time, I'll be closing the door for good on my High Desert Home blog.

Some of you have recently wondered if I was going to stop blogging. And when I responded that I fully intended to carry on, I meant it. And now, quite suddenly, everything has changed. I've known for a long time that changes were coming into our lives, but they came about much differently, more quickly, and more wide-sweeping than I'd imagined. I realize that it's just impossible to keep this blog going-- and neither will I be starting a new blog. I don't even know yet if I'll have internet in our new place (I haven't yet decided).

I really wanted to finish my "learning atmosphere" series of posts, but try as I might, I haven't finished yet, and I cannot imagine having time to do so now. I am so sorry to have promised them only to suddenly have everything in my life turn hard in a new direction.

I have much to do in the next month. I've just gotten back to town after having been away, once again, for several days. We've been working out details and getting things arranged in the place where we'll be living now. I'm sorry I'm not offering more details than this, but I prefer to keep them private (and I appreciate your understanding).

Let's just say that our new life will be quite different from the one we are living now, and I don't consider that to be a bad thing. If the Lord is leading us elsewhere, very good things are in store. Always.

But I will miss this remote, rural, wild, arid part of Oregon that feels wonderfully like the edge of nowhere (it really sort of is the edge of nowhere!). I'll miss the big, gorgeous
high desert sky. I'll miss the rare kind of high desert beauty that not everyone sees. Some people see this region and terrain as a barren wasteland, and that strikes me as sort of sad. There is beauty everywhere if one has eyes to see it.

I'll leave the blog up for a short time in case anyone who is new here cares to read back a ways in the archives, but soon I will delete both this blog and my kitchen blog.

So...

I sincerely wish for God's best to those of you who have stopped by to visit so often. Thank you for your kind encouragement along the way. Thank you for just being so nice. I've very much enjoyed sharing the ordinary days and pleasures of my High Desert Home life with you.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I've Been at This for a Year Now...

On a whim, I started this High Desert Home blog a year ago in early April. I'm not sure exactly what day it was because my blog disappeared soon after I started it, and all posts were reposted on April 7, 2008. So, I'm right at one-year-old. And I've put up 239 posts not counting this one. Wow. Yikes.

I'm leaving sometime tomorrow to head west til Easter. And then I'll be back. There will be no posts until then, but I want to republish
the very first post I put up a year ago. It's a favorite passage of mine from Agatha Christie's autobiography. I love that this is my first post because it so represents the way I think. I tend to be exuberant about what each day brings, and what can be nicer than a lovely spring morning outdoors? The passage also reflects my thoughts about children and learning. For children, I think nature is the best schoolroom. There's a time to put nose to book and pencil to paper, but with a child, those times should be very brief. Much more time should be spent outdoors, smiling and working and playing and enjoying God's amazing world.

Here's that first post:

On spring days like this, when the sky is blue and the sun shines warmly, and all one wants to do is be outdoors, I remember this lovely passage from Agathie Christie's memoir, and I smile because I can't agree more. And it makes my heart sing with gratitude to the Lord that He led my family into a delightful, free, and natural learning life at home.


"Having arrived on the mound at half past six, a halt is called for breakfast at eight-thirty. We eat hard-boiled eggs and flaps of Arab bread, and Michel (the chauffeur) produces hot tea, which we drink from enamel mugs, sitting on top of the mound, the sun just pleasantly warm, and the morning shadows making the landscape incredibly lovely, with the blue Turkish hills to the north, and all around tiny springing flowers of scarlet and yellow. The air is wonderfully sweet. It is one of those moments when it is good to be alive. The foremen are grinning happily; small children driving cows come and gaze at us shyly. They are dressed in incredible rags, their teeth gleam white as they smile. I think to myself how happy they look and what a pleasant life it is; like the fairy stories of old, wandering about over the hills herding cattle, sometimes sitting and singing.

"At this time of day the so-called fortunate children in European lands are setting out for the crowded classroom, going in out of the soft air, sitting on benches or at desks, toiling over letters of the alphabet, listening to a teacher, writing with cramped fingers. I wonder to myself whether, one day a hundred years or so ahead, we shall say in shocked accents, 'In those days they actually made poor little children go to school, sitting inside buildings at desks for hours a day! Isn't it terrible to think of! Little children!'"

~Agatha Christie in Come, Tell Me How You Live

So, Happy Anniversary to me, and thank you to you. What a really nice bunch of people have stopped by my blog over the months with warm thoughts and comments. I appreciate you all.

Have a good Holy Week and a beautiful Easter celebration. He is risen!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This Evening...

These are the traveling tulips. They made their way to various places in the house and into several blog posts. And now they're gone.

I happen to be happily and productively distracted by some things I'm working on around home and in my life, so there's no post for here yet. I may just have a whole bunch to say soon, though, with all that's on my mind. I'm feeling inspired and motivated, and I'm also having to work harder at things than comes naturally to me (this is a very good thing).

I had my next "learning atmosphere" post very close to finished, and then, not at all surprising if you know me, I accidentally and irretrievably deleted it. I've done this before (maybe even with this particular topic!), but hopefully, I will never do it again.

Anyway, now I'm left with a sheet full of scribbly notes in my own messy, unorganized outline style, and I hope it's enough to give me the oomph I need to write the post again fairly easily. I'll start on that in the next day or two, and, hopefully, since I've already written most of it once, it will roll right out for me.

But I did put something up on my kitchen blog about our really tasty dinner tonight-- Asian Salmon Packets. Go have a look if you eat salmon and love an easy, good, healthy, delicious meal.


And Shannon and others, I did see the questions you've asked in comments, and I will get to them as soon as I can. Thank you for your comments! :-)

Now off I go to tidy any stray messes that are lying around the house, put some wood in the box for tomorrow morning's fire, return my daughter's phone call, and then read until I fall asleep. It's a very good night...

Snow is piling up outside, covering everything in white as dusk deepens into night. I hear the sweet sound of my daughter reading aloud to her boys and them laughing in response. The fire is crackling away in the wood stove. We're all fed and full enough and grateful to be blessed with good food to eat. And we've made plans to cook a nice dinner, eat dessert (one Melissa made up for herself), and watch a DVD tomorrow evening. Party Night! When the kids were growing up, every Friday night really was Party Night, and we all have fond memories of those special, fun times.

Signing off...