With Boston looming large on my calendar, followed by a week at home and then flying to Montréal, (I am still befuddled as to how I have 13 travel days in just one month) I am focused on home-centered tasks; the garden this morning and moving furniture this afternoon to prepare for the new living room floor.
Green beans – picked, blanched and frozen although an evening’s serving size has been set aside to sauté with thyme.
Blueberries – harvested and baked; this time in scones.
Tomatoes – just for eating; and likewise
Peppers – ready for some dish yet to be selected for our summer dining menus.
One week from today I leave for Boston. My flight out of Rochester (RST – MSP – BOS) departs at an inhumane hour that requires leaving home around 4 am. Admittedly, this was my decision as there are other departures with connections heading east but I opted to use already paid for Covid miles/dollars held in escrow by Delta for canceled trips to Phoenix, Providence, and Denmark. 2020 was to have been a travel-cious year.
I considered using Knit+ Librarian as a daily travelogue so you could join me vicariously as I visited historically important sites in Boston, Cambridge, Concord, and Gloucester but then re-thought this potential commitment. As with most guided tours, our August 9-15 itinerary is full enough to make me wonder just how much time I will have to write; there is no guarantee of strong Wi-Fi needed for posting; and, while I know technically it can be done, I lack any desire to blog on my iPhone. Plus, I have to wonder if you really want to read about the minutia of my days. Rather, I’ll give you a succinct postcard summary complete with an appropriate selection of photos (no – dinner plates, I promise!) after I return to Minnesota.
A sampling of anticipated highlights may include: King’s Chapel, Old North Church, Harvard Square, the Sargent-Murray House, Walden Pond, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery but you will have to wait until the end of my trip to know for sure.
While it is officially National Swiss Day (celebratory greetings to all my Swiss cousins!) I have declared this to be Blueberry Day at our house. I am feeling a time crunch to put our freshly picked produce to good use before leaving for Boston – but more about upcoming travels in tomorrow’s post. A Double Good Blueberry Pie is chilling in the refrigerator and Blueberry Lemon Muffins are on the menu as tomorrow’s breakfast treat with a few tucked into the freezer for frigid January mornings.
We estimate one more picking will complete this season’s crop. Our four bushes have produced 16.25 cups thus far; much better than last summer’s yield of only 9.5 cups but not nearly up to the bountiful summers of 2019 and 2020 with 24 and 25 cups, respectively.
The Double Good Blueberry Pie is super easy and, as promised, doubly good with two cups of fresh berries serving as the fruit base in a baked pie shell then topped with two cups of cooked glazed berries. We will add a dollop of Crème Fraîche to make it extra festive.
As I misplaced the paper copy of the Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins (shared by Betty D. last summer) and the web address produced an error message, I spent this morning recipe sleuthing (always a fun task.) The Preppy Kitchen covered my bases – blueberries, lemon and sour cream – although my muffins exclude the streusel topping, all the better to enjoy the berries.
This spring, I learned about a new creative project led by Suleika Jaouad that encouraged participants to “create one tiny beautiful thing each day” for 100 days as a way to bridge the isolation of Covid and return to an as-yet-to-be defined new normal. The choice of how to excite the imagination was to be determined by each participant.
When I was young, I enjoyed reading poetry but somewhere along the way, poems assumed an impenetrable guise and poetry become something I rarely read. Although I did take a significant plunge into well written verses during the summer of 2012 when I joined Karen Sandberg and Rose Mish in presenting a summer service comprised entirely of poetic readings. With the 100-Day Project the timing seemed right to revisit poetry. I decided I would read a poem each morning and discover (or re-discover) a poet every day.
I created a poem calendar to track my daily progress complete with hyperlinks so that I could re-read the gems I discovered. One such beautiful verse is Small Kindnesses by poet Danusha Laméris. She asked 1,300 teenagers about the small kindnesses that make a difference to them and then used their answers to write this poem:
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”
As reported earlier, this summer’s basil crop is the best we have ever grown and a quick cutting this morning yielded five individual servings of fresh pesto – one for tonight’s 3-cheese tortellini and four for the freezer; so good when the cold winds blow and summer basil is only a fragrant memory.
While Richard used the heat gun, applied citric solvent and scraped years of pigment (thankfully no lead) in preparation for the installation of nine new windows all part of our rennovation projects, I focused on our rain garden. A part of the yard, like mowing, that I had previously identified as Richard’s purview.
With his Parkinson’s Disease (PD) diagnosis last July 23, I made a conscientious decision not to immediately tackle “his” jobs. Rather, to allow him time to navigate what was still comfortably do-able and what was not before I took on a task (or we hired it done.) So last summer went by with very little attention given to our rain garden; that long expanse of ground which replaced the old tarmac driveway. It suffered from overgrown perennials, too few wood chips, and oh so many weeds.
Admittedly, we had never discussed a division of labor however, in my mind, there was a clear delineation. Each summer, while I focused on our square-foot vegetables and 20+ potted plants (the number always varies) I let Richard maintain the rain garden. Come to find out (amazing what a conversation reveals!) that he was unaware of this breakdown in gardening duties. What I had assumed was his preference was actually a simple default location determined by cool morning shade. Recently, following Richard’s wise example, I have started my morning gardening tasks in the shade and the rain garden now presents a bit of order sans so many weeds.
The color combos and at-gauge swatches knit in beautiful yarns as shared by my fellow Knit Campers proved too tempting. With today’s cast-on (after wavering earlier this month) I joined Marie Greene’s sixth annual 4-Day knit-along (KAL). Free patterns (always well designed and precisely written) and advance access prior to the actual pattern drop are among the many Knit Camp membership benefits. So while this KAL officially begins tomorrow, I already have Comfy worsted cotton in a lovely mix of silver sage and planetarium blue on my needles.
Sailaway is a top-down cardigan which takes its inspiration from the current popular Coastal Grandmother Aesthetic fashion style – classic, loose fitting designs, often in natural fibers, and perfect for a summer in the Hamptons. (Imagine Diane Keaton or other older women living in luxurious oceanfront properties.) Having just celebrated 70, with a swatch of purple contrasting against my more salty coiffure, I definitely fall into that demographic group sans the beach house.
There are times when layers are fun – chocolate cake with ganache filling – and then again when layers prove tedious – decades of paint needing to be removed.
Having received a text alerting us that our new energy efficient replacement windows might arrive in late June rather than mid-August, Richard began the arduous, time consuming task of stripping the trim from around the five large double-hung windows in our sunroom (more aptly dubbed the cloud room as it faces north.) Neither of us can remember why these windows were not stripped with all the others during our 1980s renovations. It may be that we simply got tired and thus opted to skip that important step; applied our choice of color and left the layers of old-people beige, harvest gold and sickly green which eventually checked that newer coat of paint. After stripping so much trim work we should not be surprised when the removal of eight layers of paint reveals subtle wood details but we always are. Now to start fresh with Sherwin Williams Magic Night 1201.
The potted herbs clustered around the backdoor are mid-summer hearty and offer a veritable Pantone spectrum from dusty silver sage to vibrant Genovese basil – my version of “50 shades of green.”
The basil crop is the best I have ever grown although, as to what might be different, I cannot claim credit as a variety of factors are equal – bought at same greenhouse as previous years, planted in the large Italian terracotta pot that formerly held a St. Thomas, V.I. lime tree from Dad, and tucked under the wind chimes on the left side of the doorway. Every day with easy morning sun and cool afternoon shade.
In an attempt to capture the lazy summer day in a jar, this morning’s task included harvesting and drying fresh basil. Great for aromatic hearty winter stews or tasty marinara sauce garnished pasta.
Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!
PS – Ever the librarian, my backdoor crop in alpha order: basil, bay leaf, dill, nasturtiums (although technically not an herb but an edible flower – both leaf and blossom), oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme.
For a large portion of my professional career I managed a library cooperative. The cooperative’s life blood was meetings; meetings to discuss when to offer ebooks; when to discontinue the 16mm rotating film collection; whether or not to charge fines. You get the gist – lots of discussions about everything.
Since my days were already full of agendas, I was judicious when agreeing to anything involving yet more meetings during my sparse personal time. Even at church, I was selective. I chose activities I deemed enjoyable although some might doubt my sanity since “fun” included three stints on a bylaws committee. But, for the most part, I stayed on the sidelines of church governance. I always offered tacit support by voting at every annual meeting but then, having voted, I stepped back and let the Board members do the work. Until one Sunday (thank you Amy N.) when I realized I needed to do more.
With the next election, I moved from the sidelines to the Board, first as member at large, then as secretary, vice president and most recently having been granted the privilege of serving as president for two years which, despite Covid challenges and wonky Zoom connections, a tenure that proved very rewarding. And now, eight years after agreeing to have my name placed in nomination, I have handed the gavel to another and rejoined the sidelines of church governance. Along the way I have grown spiritually, learned more sincerely about the impact of injustice, and felt supported in the hard work of striving for justice.
Several stanzas in a prayer entitled The Grout by Marcus Harlief capture my sense of purpose as I leave the Board:
. . . Religion not only lies in the beautiful mosaic bits and pieces but also in the grout – that chalky, gritty stuff squeezed between the cracks. . .
In a mosaic, the grout holds the image together, unifying disparate pieces into a whole. The grout of a community takes years to lay and settle. Grout happens in board meetings and committee meetings and endless emails. . .
And so we pray - Hold us, O Grout. Gather us in, through time and space, and make all our broken pieces whole in community. In our multiplicity, make us one. From each of our jagged edges, give us the shape of a communal beauty.