The importance of holiday traditions is very apparent in my profession. As a kindergarten teacher, I spend my days surrounded by that particular joy and magic that only occurs in childhood. For the wee ones, whose little minds have yet to grasp the concept of time, the progression of a year is gauged by the succession of holiday traditions. Turning a page of the calendar does not signify the beginning of another month, a seasonal transition or another phase of this year’s journey around the sun. Turning a page of the calendar means it’s time to move on to the next phase of festivities. These days, it seems the first of December marks the beginning of Christmas, a month-long holiday that has less to do with the winter solstice or the birth of Christ and more to do with candy, crafts and extravagance. As I grow older (a little less young, I mean to say), I find the spirit of the season waning as, one-by-one, I discard my own favorite holiday tasks and traditions all in the name of “simplifying”. What is a tradition anyway? This thing you do to mark an occasion, this custom passed down through generations, this habitual ritual in which you engage simply because your calendar page proclaims the time has come…and so it must be done?
Hello November. And welcome Autumn! I’ve been anxiously awaiting your return. I hope you can settle in and stay awhile, for I do so enjoy your company. I adore your seasonal sensations above all others, you know. Your cool, crisp air kissing my cheeks, the golden glow of your color palette, those wonderful spices of yours that tickle my tastebuds and the warmth of your cozy embrace. Oh, do stay…please? And join me for a cup of tea?
Do you ever feel like the path you have chosen in life is like an amusement park ride? You know, one of those roller coasters with the endless loop-the-loops. Trapped on a track, flying far too fast, forward, backward, ’round and ’round, then upside-down and back again. One minute you’re screaming Yay! Weee! Hooray for me! and the next you’re hollering Please no! Let me goooo! Finally, the track begins to level out, you slow to a stop, the safety bar lifts and you find yourself suddenly released. No longer trapped, you are free to step off that loopy track and back onto solid ground. Dizzy and reeling (and slightly nauseous), you stumble awkwardly as you struggle to gain your footing, get yourself oriented and pointed in the right direction. And as you stand there all wobbly and woozy, you ponder your choices…do I hop back in line for another wild ride or simply enjoy where I’m at?
Sometimes I get the greatest satisfaction from the simplest of things. I often have this experience with food. I love those moments when you create something beautiful and delicious and it fills your body and soul with delight. I have not been having many of those satisfying kitchen experiences these days. Lacking excitement and filled with frustration, my healthy food explorations have been uneventful and devoid of delightful discoveries. So, when I unexpectedly experienced one of those increasingly rare moments of culinary satisfaction, I decided I better milk it for all its worth.
Wow. It’s been quite a stretch of time with not a single visit to this little space of mine. Sorry about that, to those of you who faithfully visit. And thank you for coming back. I do so enjoy our little chats and I am trying to get caught up. Life has been a little chaotic lately and I seem to be suffering from, what I fondly refer to as, a busy-hangover. Too much busy time with the To-Do’s and the Need-You’s can leave a person feeling slightly out of sorts, you know? Yesterday, I woke up to my first free day in what feels like forever and I had no idea what to do. To be honest, I am feeling a little lost and very much out of control these days. My body is sluggish, my brain is in a constant fog, my inspiration and motivation seem to be on permanent hiatus and my physical space is in utter disarray. You know how that feels…blah. So, I sent my hubby packing yesterday and set about looking for a way to clear my system, calm the chaos and find my way through the fog. Whenever I find myself suffering from the negative effects of a busy-hangover, I turn to nature in one of two places: the kitchen or the great outdoors. Nothing revives the senses and calms the mind like a little visit with Mama Nature.
Last Sunday morning I was so rudely awakened by the sound of my phone alarm. I stumbled out of bed and into the kitchen in a state of confusion, wondering why it was still so dark. It’s not a work day, after all, so what’s with the sounding alarm before the hour of dawn? I had forgotten about that “spring forward” thing, but my very smart phone did not. Sleep is a pretty precious commodity and I do hate to lose even an hour of it. However, this little shift in time does bring back those daylight hours for evening walks with clouds and sunsets that I long for during the winter months. This subtle time shift also triggers a seasonal transition in the kitchen, as the root vegetables begin to dwindle and the early spring greens begin to make an appearance in the weekly produce box. Having not been much in the mood for hearty winter cooking this year, I have been looking forward to this particular change. So, I have been doing a little spring cleaning in the kitchen lately, trying to find creative ways to use up the last of Winter’s roots and greens and make way for the lighter, brighter spirit of Spring. And though my project started out slightly uninspired, I somehow managed to clear a path to an unexpected adventure.
We’ve been having some beautiful spring-like weather here in the desert, with unusually warm temperatures, an abundance of sunshine, blooming trees and busy bees all over the place. Mama Nature has decided to skip right over winter and head straight on into spring, it seems. The desert floor is a lush carpet of green and wildflowers and I am feeling the pull outdoors. I want to be out and about, climbing rocks, hunting flowers, chasing rainbows…I want to go play! Needless to say, I have not been enjoying the confines of my kitchen these days and I am certainly not in the mood for warming winter meals. I have to remind myself that it is still February, hence the over-abundance of hearty winter roots and greens. And since I choose to eat from the earth and cook with the seasons, and technically, it is still winter, I am stuck with this surplus of hearty seasonal bounty. Though Nature’s confusion has thrown me for a loop, I think it’s time to get creative, lighten things up and seek a little color in my dreary winter food palate.
After desperately craving autumn for several torturous weeks now, we are finally beginning to experience our brief little fall moments here in the desert. It is still much too warm for cozy sweaters and comfy boots with midday temperatures still hanging out in the eighties. But when the sun goes down, that cool air creeps in and beckons you out to the back porch to sit awhile, breathe it in and savor a little autumn moment. Savor, isn’t that a great word? To give oneself to the enjoyment of; to perceive by taste or smell, especially with relish. It is the perfect word for this season, these few transient moments of fall. I shall give myself to the enjoyment of it, relish the flavor of it while it lasts and I will start with my favorite savory sauce.
Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. There is something about this particular seasonal shift that triggers certain welcomed cravings as the days grow subtly shorter, the air begins to cool and nature’s color palette turns to warmer hues. It is that time of year when pumpkin permeates your menu plans, the crisp autumn air is infused with cinnamon and the golden glow of turning leaves is reflected on your dinner plate. Unfortunately, in my hot little corner of the world, it does not feel like fall at all. Summer is making her traditional last stand, stubbornly refusing to give way. And while my fellow foodies indulge their autumn cravings, I am still desperately craving autumn.
After our lovely Labor Day backpacking trip last week, I decided to stay at home to rest my aching joints and tend the to-do list this weekend while my hubby headed out for a solo Sierra adventure. Anticipating a big day in the great outdoors, he kindly requested a burger for dinner. A homemade one…with hormone-free, grass-fed beef…on a gluten-free bun…and fresh hand-cut potato fries on the side…and a gluten-free beer? Pretty pleeeease? Well, how could I say no to that. Of course I will make you a burger and fries. Oooohhh…with fresh herb and garlic salt on my fries? Okay, buddy, now you’re pushing it. I agreed to the burger and fries, but drew the line at the fancy garlic salt. However, as the day drew on and I shopped and prepped for my hungry hiker, I found myself chopping fresh herbs, pressing garlic and making that darn salt. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of fancy salt to make someone smile. And I must admit, I do love making my special someone smile.