Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Rock-Climbing Tale

When a close friend offers to take you and a small group of people, free of charge, to climb limestone and you can use all their equipment and she brings two boxes of chocolate truffles and you get to spend a half day with 100% grown-ups... You say, "Yes, please."  And I did.  Not only was it proved that my fear of heights has been cured, but an instant affection developed with scaling the face of a mountain.  Or crag.  Whatever.

This first trip showed so much of how I have functioned throughout life.  Some of it was encouraging.  Some of it was... A great eye-opener at long-term ways of thinking that need to go.  The following narration could be said of many situations throughout my lifetime:

This is our fearless leader.  Spiderwoman.  She scaled this rock with such grace and ease.  She is an artist.  She gave us such helpful instruction. When at the top, she showed us the chain we'd slap to indicate we made it and to alert the belayer that we were ready to repel down.
I was chomping at the bit to give it a go.  She made it look so fun and... easy.  When it was time for the first person to step into the harness (after our fearless leader bravely roped the climb), I jumped at it. Feeling fairly confident in my physical capability and never caring (much) when people learn from my mistakes (I am a first-born, after all), I walked down to the starting line. (I am still learning rock climbing lingo.  For those who climb, forgive me.)  If you'll notice in the picture below, the climbing shoes are resting next to my feet.  Unaware of how easily it could have been misinterpreted as a chance show off, it seemed like I'd have a better grip of the rock with my bare feet.  I liked the thought of nothing between me and the limestone.  You can also notice our leader's expression of my naive decision.
And this is how far I got with no shoes.  It was cold, but for some strange reason, my feet were sweating incessantly, making it feel quite slippery.  
In go the sweaty feet to the borrowed shoes.  I owe her some shoes, I think.
The beginning of the climb was tricky.  It was hard to find my route.  But the middle of the climb had lots of finger and footholds, and I felt like that natural climber I thought I was all along.
Then came the last three feet.  From my angle, they looked completely sheer, I tell you.  There I clenched for dear life, for half of a day.  Well, maybe it was more like three minutes, but in the situation, I was pretty sure it was most of eternity.  Despite the helpful coaching from our group, I could not see any holds from my angle.  I was so close to the chain.  It was just barely out of reach.  Then came the reasoning.  I'm practically there.  If my arms were just a wee bit longer, I might look like an ape, but I could just hit the chains hanging right where I am.  It's my arm's fault, really.  So in actuality, I have made it to the top.  Okay.
"I think I'm done."
"No, no, just rest.  You've been really tense, you just need to relax for a little bit.  You're so close!"
Ugh.  Do you really need proof that I have already made it, even though the pit of my stomach is telling me that, in fact, I haven't?
Suddenly, my mind went at quadruple speed, making up for some of that hangtime, and in an attitude of "Quit your frettin' and gett'er done, already!  I'm bigger than this!" I found a foothold and made it to the chains.
Slap!  Who's yo mama?!
Oh yes.  I am.  So... It might not be the flawless victory I imagined, and it might have been the only climb I did that day, and it might have only been a "7," but I slapped those chains, and it felt life-changing.
And now I am hooked.  Climbing won't get out of my head.  I'm learning the language and researching the gear.  Someday, I'll have my own gear and someday, I won't climb with shoes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Things Learned in Small Spaces

The size of a home doesn't determine the amount of peace, laughter, and affection it's inhabitants enjoy; it's the choices of who's inside that influence a home's atmosphere.

Things get messy quickly but cleaned up almost as fast when it's taken care of right away.

Time can still slip between my fingers even with way less to take care of and no available "distractions" like unlimited internet and TV.

Sharing day-to-day life with those I feel a mutual sense of respect, love, sensitivity, and freedom inspires me to learn from and grow in their strengths.  Life naturally thrives.

Life with beautiful people in beautiful surroundings makes living in small spaces much easier than expected.
Nightly potlucks are fun with people who share an affinity toward food.  And lively children.

Small bathrooms (or what I refer to as porta-potties in a closet) need frequent cleaning, or else... Sticky.

After a year in this queen-sized bed, I think I might not be able to locate my husband in the vast expanse of the California King that's currently in storage.

I can still make chicken stock and refried beans in a tiny kitchen.  Storing it in a teensy fridge is another story...

Owning our home, even if it's in the form of a 5th-wheel, will forever be a priority over renting, even if a 10,000 square-foot home is available for a $200 monthly lease.

Teeny homes don't take the homebody out of me when living in a peaceful atmosphere.

Maybe we'll upgrade to a houseboat in a year...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Week's In-Season Recipe: My Roots Are Showing

Roots, roots, roots.  Beets, potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, radishes...  It's mostly what sustains the in-season, traditional consumer throughout the winter and early spring months.  Roots are yummy, but at the end of the season, right before the abundance of summer harvesting explodes, I flinch a little when peeking inside the week's CSA box to see more of them.  But then... it is a challenge to find new ways to stuff them down my family's throats with minimal complaining.  And I  do love a good challenge...  Tonight, the challenge was won, and I even managed to get some of those amazingly nourishing leafy greens down their hatches.  Hallelu.  To explain my somewhat random cooking method, in order to keep as much nutrition each food has to offer in tact, I like to heat them as minimal as possible.  Throwing the kale and radishes in at the end not only gave this dish a nice, fresh crispness, it also yielded the dish with more vitamins and enzymes.  Hooray!  We ate this as a main dish, but I suppose it'd be considered more of a side dish.  I guess you could call it a sort of an Italian ratatouille, but I decided to name it:

1-Skillet Italian Roots & Sweet Sausage
3 potatoes
2 carrots
1 beet
1 onion (or several young ones)
3 garlic cloves, seeded
1 10-oz package sweet Italian sausage (preferably nitrate-free, of course), sliced
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
4 kale leaves
3 radishes
1 jar marinara sauce
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a 10-inch cast iron skillet with half of the olive oil.
First, I like to prepare all the veggies by peeling and chopping off their ends so they're all ready to go down the food processor shoot. Off to the compost pile it goes...
Use the slicer blade on the food processor to slice the potatoes, beet, & carrots.
Throw them all in the skillet.  Change the processor blade to the mincer and mince the garlic and onions.  Toss those into the skillet, along with the sausage, Italian seasoning and the rest of the olive oil.  Mix it all around.
{I like this kind of seasoning (all good ingredients).}
Cover and bake for 45 minutes to one hour. In the meantime, chop the radishes and de-stem and chop the kale.  I cleaned up the dishes and the kitchen with the rest of the time, then out came the delicious-smelling roots!  Add the radishes, kale, and marinara sauce.
Top with cheese.
The potatoes were crispy on the edges and soft in the middle.  The kale was crisp.  The flavors blended perfectly.  We will be making this one again for sure.  The end.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Back on Track & the Three Sisters

    You know what?  I will tell you.  Happiness, thankfulness, joy, excitement, contentedness fills my being.  Why?  Because I am feeling back on track.  No.  Better than back on track.  On a new track.  A good track.  The track I'm supposed to be on.  It has been filled with many happy surprises.  Here come the bullet points that I love so!

    • We have internet in our trailer home.  Which means I am writing you from our cozy mountain dwelling that we have decided is our modern-day Little House on the Prairie log cabin.
    • My handy hubs has built about 593 shelves (give or take) inside our "cabin" making for delightful organization and a place for everything.
    • Our water comes from a well.  Chlorine what?  Bring on the hot showers!
    • The way to and from town is so utterly breathtaking, I find myself looking for excuses to make the drive.
    • My kids have friends (whom I love) that they get to catch bugs, jump on the trampoline, race go-carts, and make shows with every day.
    • We are surrounded by people who daily blow my mind with their wonderfulness.
    • I get to hang a clothesline.
    • I have just been offered a plot to garden in.  Heavenly angels sing!!!
    Just as I was about to give away my stash of this year's seeds, I received the garden news.  All I have to say is, it's going to be hard for me to sleep tonight, due to the utter excitement of plunging my hands back into some soil.  Oh, the anticipation of little sproutlets turning into plants yielding fresh nourishment!  There is no exaggeration here, I really will have a hard time sleeping tonight.  Sweet happiness!

    I pulled out my treasure box tonight and started dreaming again.  Isn't it wonderous? Oh, the many treats this basket holds within it's braided walls!
    I am so incredibly giddy about my first garden project, it must be shared.  First, there will be a circular plot of soil dug up and fertilized.  Next, I will start in the middle and plant about sixteen corn seeds in a cute little circle. (The variety of corn 6-year-old chose for this year would be called "Sugar Buns."  Yeppers.)  Then, around the outside of the corn will come a larger circle of Pencil Pod, Rattlesnake, and Black Valentine pole beans.  Lastly, there will be an outer ring of lovely Early Butternut squash.  There you have it.  The Three Sisters; a bit Native American wisdom.  

    I heart companion planting.  The corn supports the beans, the beans give nitrogen to the soil which nourishes the corn, and the squash provides a pest-resistant ground cover that holds in moisture and smothers weeds.  Beautiful.  I wouldn't be surprised at all if my dreams included the Three Sisters tonight.  

    Goodnight, kind world.  Tomorrow, I join the beloved league of home gardeners again.  Oh happy, happy day!

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Chicken Enchilada Salad, an In-Season Treat

    We have recently signed up for weekly CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) boxes.  Never have we eaten so much organic, in-season, local produce in all our lives.  Seriously, we just feel.. healthier.  You know, more energy and not yucky-feeling.  It's become a great reason to create new recipes, which is always exciting.  And by the way, if you live in California and are interested, we subscribe to Abundant Harvest Organics.  I couldn't be happier about the freshness (produce is picked the day before delivery) and the price.  Organic eating has been made affordable!  Also, if you're interested in making a little dough on the side, you might want to look into signing up as a community host.  I promise, I don't work for them, nor do I make any money off of plugging them, I just wanted to spread the goodness.

    Back to the salad...

    Organic Chicken Enchilada Salad (A Springtime/Fall-time, In-Season Recipe)
    For the salad:
    1-2 heads lettuce of your choice
    3 radishes, thinly sliced
    greens from the radishes
    2 carrots, grated
    1 avocado, sliced
    1/2 cup sunflower seeds
    1/2 jar olives, sliced
    1 cup jack cheese, sliced into strips or grated
    2 green onions, sliced
    1 1/2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded (I used some I had from making stock)

    Toss chicken with the enchilada sauce.  Layer ingredients or toss, as desired.  Serve dressing on the side or toss with the salad.

    For the dressing:
    1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
    1 cup salsa or leftover enchilada sauce
    1 Tablespoon milk or water (optional, if you want to thin the dressing out.  I didn't.)

    Put all dressing ingredients in a mason jar, close the lid tightly, and shake until blended.

    El yummo.

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    Week 1 ~ Trailer Treasure

    First of all, you make me so happy, I could cry.  This is the first chance in a week to find internet access, and as I logged on to write, I assumed I'd lost at least half of my readers due to the week-long silence.  But no.  There are still the same number of you, patiently awaiting.  Silly?  Yes.  But I feel loved, just the same.  So thank you.  You made my day.

    Could I have chosen a more cheesy post title?  I don't think so.  And yet, it stays.  It's what I'm feeling right now.  We've condensed our lives into a 5th wheel.  We've weeded, stored, and shoved until all that what's left is:  Cozy beds
    that turn into chairs,
    smoothies and croc pot soups,
    Skillets, teas, coffee, and spices,
    and jumping.
    Despite the harrowing appearance of this rig, the trampoline safely made the move, and no one got hurt.  There are currently up to four children occupying the tramp every second there is daylight.
    Apparently, we treasure nutrition, exercise, and coziness.  That's happy.  When push comes to shove, I honestly wasn't totally sure what was most important to our family.  This condensing process brought and unexpected clarity along with the presumed simplicity.  

    On a personal level, the greatness of this transition has been settling in this week.  Some nights, after the kids went to sleep and Jeremy was at the old house, cleaning his brains out so we'd get every possible penny back from our security deposit,  I'd sit alone on the bed as sounds of rain tapped on the thin trailer roof while my mind wrapped around the details of it all.  So many questions raced through my head, some of them helpful, some of them not.  Evenings have been filled with weeding through emotions and thoughts; pulling out the bad and cultivating the good.  When it all comes down to it, I know we made the right decision.  Excitement of relieving the weight of debt remains, friendship with the amazing family we're renting a piece of land from daily increases, our surroundings are breathtaking, and I'm learning how amazing close community can be (no, it is not a commune, and it never will be.  As long as we don't give it a name, it cannot be a commune...).

    Things are settling in, we're getting a better idea of what this next year will look like.  The future, as well as the present, looks beautiful.


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