Kitchen Cabinet Refresh

Over the past six years I have replaced all of my kitchen appliances, refinished the heart pine floors, changed out the light fixtures, door knobs, faucet, cabinet pulls, exhaust fan, ceiling fan, door to the deck and man of the house. Next up: kitchen cabinet refresh.

Since even after 23 years I like the layout of my kitchen, I nixed the idea of ripping everything out and starting over. I thought about just having new wood doors custom made, but that was out of my budget. My Ikea cabinets are still structurally sound, if yellowed with age.

IMG_1009The original European hinges and recently replaced  knobs and pulls are in great shape, so painting seemed the best option.

At first I thought I would do the painting myself — to save money.  I researched Ikea mentions to see if anyone else had done this, and decided that the project was viable because my cabinet and drawer fronts are solid MDF, not foil or laminate covered. Benjmain Moore makes a water based paint called Advance specifically for cabinets that has gotten rave reviews, and I’ve done a lot of painting over the years, (but no spraying).

On a whim I looked on Angie’s List to see if I could find a shop that specialized in this kind of thing, and low and behold Allusions, Inc. was offering a special.  I figured, what the heck, at least I can get an estimate! After Bonnie, the owner, came to the house and confirmed that this was a reasonable solution for my dingy, yellowed cabinets and the poorly painted Crate and Barrel china cabinets in the eating area, I pulled the trigger.

Chaos came to my kitchen on Thursday as a pair of cabinet refinishers disassembled all of my cupboards, and asked me to relocate the contents of sixteen drawers. I had been told that only the drawer fronts would be removed, so I wasn’t prepared and had a bit of a panic.

This is what things looked like after things were disassembled:

What is it about having junk drawers that is inherited? I so clearly remember vowing to myself that I would never, ever, have those “hold it all, stuff things in there to be dealt with later” drawers that were in my childhood home. I have to face the fact that I have at least three of them. And how many times have I culled the herd of Tupperware, throwing away orphaned lids and BPH laden containers only to again have a full bin of them ready for Goodwill? Do they just multiply in the drawers while I sleep?

This is the “after.”  I spent all day yesterday sifting through random and haphazardly erected skyscrapers of dishes and everything else that had been unceremoniously dumped in a giant pile on my kitchen table or in boxes on the floor.

This whole process has caused a bit of self reflection. I do love to cook, but how (and more importantly WHY) do I have so many spices? I try to recycle them every year, checking expiration dates and doing the sniff test to see if they have the ability to flavor anything with a taste other than musty kitchen cabinet.

And the sprinkles, cupcake papers, cookie cutters, birthday candles — do I really still need all of this? Isn’t that from a previous life, or do I really think I will be that neighborhood lady who is always arriving at the doorstep with beautiful Martha Stewart inspired home baked cookies complete with piped, monogramed icing and the appropriate seasonal sugar crystals? Really?

And what about the two drawers full of pet medicines, clippers, toys, combs, leashes, etc.etc.etc.? It’s hard to throw those things away, especially because one is not supposed to put medicines in the trash, and throwing away old rabies tags from long deceased pooches feels a little bit like sacrilege. Did I mention how carefully I moved the pretty wooden box with my dearly departed dog Sydney’s ashes in it so as not to accidentally drop it/him necessitating clandestinely vacuuming him up as happened to Ben Stiller and grandma’s urn in Meet the Parents?

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Meanwhile, the remaining pets couldn’t wait to jump into the newly created playground of doorless cabinets!

I feel as if my entire life in retirement is about decluttering. Room by room, drawer by drawer, file cabinet by file cabinet, and yes, even book by book I am questioning the detritus of my life. Handling each object brings back memories, some pleasant, some not so. Husbands, children, bosses, siblings, friends all speak to me as I weigh the utility, the sentimental value or the sheer size and weight of  all of thesethings and the memories they generate. “Pick me,” each object says, like puppies greeting potential owners. “I’m downsizing and my house is already broken,” I reply.

I am so not a hoarder, and yet I have acquired a great deal of baggage in my years on this planet. I’m ready to let a great deal of it go. I don’t want to be burdened, tied down, needing to dust and reorganize my grievances or unfulfilled desires. “Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free,” says the Shaker hymn. I’m going to try to apply this to my kitchen drawers, yes, but also to my aspirations, be they for the larger society, my immediate family, my yoga practice or my mindset. Perhaps a new coat of paint, a tidying up, and getting rid of half of my “stuff” is enough. We’ll see. I’ll let you know!

How to be Your Own Travel Agent

Planning a travel adventure isn’t the mysterious process it used to be before the Internet made a wealth of information available to anyone with connectivity. Ideally, your planning should happen roughly four months before your trip to reap the best deals and guarantee availability. Here are my tips and tricks for getting the most out of your next trip, broken down into parts. I recommend that you read them in order, but feel free to skip ahead.

  • Step One: Establish your vacation vision / travel personality
  • Step Two: Purchase airline tickets
  • Step Three: If required, acquire visas / inoculations/medications
  • Step Four: Refine the pace/scope of your travel
  • Step Five: Research transportation at and between destinations
  • Step Six: Book your accommodations
  • Step Seven: Explore sightseeing/day trip opportunities and book ahead where necessary
  • Step Eight: Figure out what to pack

Continue reading

Being a Tourist on Your Home Turf

I’ve often felt as if I give the city I live in (ok, 10 miles outside of) short shrift. Traveling around the world I photograph and explore, but I often forget or choose not to take my camera when I’m in D.C.  Or at least I used to, until I got a tiny but mighty pocket camera that is no bigger than an iPhone and much higher quality, my trusty Canon S110, purchased for about $250 after the newer  S120 came out recently at twice the price.  It’s now my constant companion.

This weekend has seen Indian Summer  weather in the nation’s capitol.  Mr. D and I decided to do an urban explore without any particular destination in mind.  We took the new silver line metro to the Eastern Market stop and just walked.  We were both truly surprised by the gentrification around the Marine Barracks / Eastern Market / 8th Street area, which is now filled with outdoor cafes and stores catering to young families and hip singles. After browsing through the outdoor stalls and the indoor market itself and getting pizza and beer at Seventh Hill, we sauntered down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Library of Congress

IMG_0979to the Tidal Basin.

IMG_0984I hadn’t strolled here for years, and I didn’t remember what a glorious view it was looking up toward the capitol.

IMG_0987I hadn’t  ever paid attention to the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on the west side of the capitol. On the south side is the infantry

IMG_0985facing a tableau of the cavalry on the left

IMG_0988with General Grant in the middle.

IMG_0986After stopping briefly at the National Gallery’s East Wing too close to closing time for anything other than a pee break

IMG_0990we walked past the Museum of Natural History on our way back to the metro.  I couldn’t resist photographing the beautiful prehistoric looking plantings outside.

What a fun way to spend an afternoon.  I have to remember to sightsee near home more often!

Living La Dolce Vita at Borgo Pignano, Volterra, Italy

Ever wish you could live as if the Downton Abbey lifestyle were transplanted to a Tuscan estate for the warmth of the Italian soul and sun and delicious, home grown food and wine? Well I got to experience this and more, if “only” staying in the farmhouse — not the five star villa —  with a band of merry yogis on a week-long retreat.

Riding from Florence to our lodgings in the back of a VW van, suitcases piled high in the way back and beside me in the third row, careening along narrow, winding, hilly roads with our ebullient hostess Camille (also known as Pushpa from her days as a child in India) was, shall we say, unforgettable. The landscape was breathtaking.

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The farmhouse where our group was staying had a beautiful common room dominated by a huge dining table and french doors looking out across a pond.  The kitchen was ours to use as well, which we took advantage of when our chef Lennie was not around:

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We rose each morning at 7 in time to make our own cappucino, gnosh on baked goods left for us in the cupboard, and walk to the yoga studio about a quarter of a mile away near the main house:IMG_0557

After morning yoga we trundled down the hill to a feast of a breakfast provided by Lennie.  What a challenge he had! Some guests had gluten intolerance, the week was vegetarian even for those who were normally carnivores, and some of us had random food allergies such as mine regarding pine nuts, unfortunately often a staple of pesto genovese — boo 😦 . Everyone agreed that our meals were outstanding.  There was plenty of variety in the unbelievably fresh produce, the bread and cakes and cookies were to die for and the presentation was always a combination of down home and carefully plated:

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Our afternoons were never the same twice. We had a tour of the estate with Pushpa, who delighted in telling us about the history of the place, built on Etruscan ruins and added on to throughout the centuries,most notably in the nineteenth century by two feuding family members who literally divided the home in half:

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Pushpa is deservedly proud of the green way in which the estate is currently being managed. Solar panels provide hot water, heirloom varieties and authentic milling and processing practices contribute to the sense one has of really experiencing what this soil and climate have to offer. All animals range free, the honey used is from the villa’s own hives, herbs and aromatics are made into salves, potpourri, and soaps:

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We did get a peek at the accommodations in the main house, with my favorites being this bathroom and Pushpa’s domain — the bakery:

IMG_0685IMG_0674We were also treated to a pizza night at the outdoor area adjacent to the ancient Etruscan walls:

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Afternoon trips to Siena, Volterra and a hot springs spa, as well as the grape harvesting described in the previous post helped to whet our appetites for the delicious dinners Lennie prepared, sometimes with tutorials for those interested, and always with organic, private reserve red wine from the neighboring vineyard.  We began dinner preparations and socializing at sunset, dined for several hours as the moon rose, and went to bed, grateful to have been alive and together in this beautiful place. Namaste!

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Stay tuned for capsule summaries of the rest of our trip in the days ahead.

Grape Harvesting in Tuscany

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Next to Borgo Pignano, the estate where we are staying, is a limited production “boutique” winery owned by relatives of our yoga teacher. We had a once in a lifetime experience yesterday, harvesting grapes and learning about the production process at MonteRosola Winery.

The weather was beautiful, with a crisp Volterra sky, just enough heat and sun to warm the bones. I could not just understand but feel how important the quality of this sunlight is to the vines and the grapes they bear. Row upon row of specific clones graced a hillside, dripping with clusters of deep purple fruit ready to be harvested.

A family operation, two tow-headed preschoolers skedaddled about, clippers in hand, at one with the Tuscan earth and ready to participate in the harvest. Two enormous labradors padded about, pausing to nuzzle each other or sniff out ripe olives to lap up from the chalky soil. A robotic lawn mower meandered about the lawn in front of the residence while our host explained to us our task and the process of turning grapes into award winning red wines.

I am no oenophile. In fact, I cannot drink red wine due to its tannins and oak barrel aging. But picking and then eating three varieties of organic grapes — cabernet, shiraz, and the local Italian specialty, sangiovese — even I could discern a clear difference in taste and even feel in the mouth depending upon the variety.

We were tasked with cutting and then perusing sangiovese grapes, looking especially for mold, but also being attentive to overripe, already fermenting grapes. These were to be selected out, tossed on the ground and allowed to return to the soil from whence they came. Several hours later the baskets of grapes we had selected would be put through a destemmer, sorted on a small conveyor belt to select out any remaining imperfect specimens, and then crushed, flowing into gigantic oak barrels where they would be tended like delicate hothouse flowers, with minute temperature adjustments and coddling, but with no additives or artificial acceleration of fermentation permitted.

Because the winery operates completely organically, rose bushes at the end of each row signal the presence of insect pests, which are treated with concentrated chamomile. Grape clusters often had spiders within, and the occasional yellow jacket buzzed drunkenly about, feasting on the fallen overripe  grapes.

It will be several years before the grapes we picked will end up in bottles in some lucky person’s wine cellar, but many more years than that before this unforgettable experience fades from my memory.

You can read more about MonteRosola here. 

What I’m Packing (carry on only) for Three Weeks in Italy

Mr. D and I are off to Milan, Bellagio, Venice, Bologna, Florence and finally a one week yoga retreat in a villa in Tuscany.  Having successfully navigated three weeks in Asia this past spring carry on only, we are committed to avoiding the baggage carousel.

Osprey 40L backpack

Using my trusty packing cubes and my Osprey 40L backpack I was able to fit in:

  • 4 elbow length Adea tops in black, grey, light and dark blue
  • 1 short sleeve Adea top in white
  • 1 cotton tee shirt for sleeping
  • 2 sleeveless Adea tops in pale peach and pale yellow
  • 1 dressy black button front blouse
  • 2 Prana camisoles for yoga and for under the dressy black blouse, black and  white
  • 1 J Crew pale peach lighweight merino pullover
  • 1 off white lightweight merino cardigan
  • 1 grey and black striped Merona pullover
  • My awesome grey travel pants from Lululemon (see my Asia post)
  • 1 pair dark blue skinnyjeans
  • 2 pair yoga capris
  • 6 pair ExOfficio undies
  • 1 bra
  • 1 reversible Athleta knee length dress in blue
  • 1 black Athleta below the knee skirt
  • 2 silk scarves from Cambodia
  • 2 necklaces from Cambodia
  • Patagonia black ballet flats
  • Black sandals
  • Black Naturalizer tennies
  • 4 pairs merino socks, really three are “sockettes”
  • 2 pairs tights, black and grey
  • Patagonia Nanopuff
  • Yoga towel
  • 1 quart bag of non-liquid junk like bandaids, soap, etc.

Cinched and ready to go! Travel yoga mat included.

Cinched and ready to go, travel yoga mat included. I know, right!  How the heck did I get all that stuff in?  I’m telling you, packing cubes and really smart brands like Adea, Athleta, ExOfficio, Patagonia, and Prana make it possible.

I’m also taking a black Longchamps large bag with a zipper that expands its size:

Longchamps large bag with zipper to expand.

I don’t need to open the zipper for the trip over, but who knows, perhaps on the way back after a bit of shopping. The bag is very lightweight, sturdy and can function as a carry all or a purse.  It will hold my Canon Rebel camera, my iPad, my packable black trench, charging gear, my 1 quart liquid bag, my deflated neck pillow and compression socks and, if need be to get past the airline regs, this:

Baggallini cross body bag

Most of the time toodling around, this Baggalini cross body bag will be all that I will need.  For the flight it holds my passport in its RFID case, boarding pass, iPhone, Canon s110 pocket camera, RFID wallet, small comb and brush and some wipes. Once through security it will also have some small makeup articles from the quart bag.

Its kind of amazing that I can take all of this in such a small space! In fact, I’m kind of thinking I have packed too much … but Italians are very fashionable and I don’t want to look like a frump or have to do much laundry. Everything can dry overnight that needs to be washed in a hotel sink. That’s key.

On the plane I’ll be wearing black leggings (not yoga pants but more stylish so I can wear them out to dinner), a black merino knee length cardigan, a merino shell, a scarf, and Sam Edelman black booties.

Some things are different tech wise this trip. (You can see what I did tech wise last time here). Mr. D and I have added Viber to our phone apps so that we don’t have to bother with an Italian sim card or a later model phone.  I’ve ditched the tripod and the telephoto, both of which I did not use and which took up valuable weight and real estate. I just don’t think my iPhone cuts it in low light situations like a dinner out and I hate that I can’t shoot raw with it or do much editing. So, I’ve gotten the tiny Canon s110 to carry in my Baggallini when we go out and I don’t want to lug the big Canon.

So that’s it!  Ciao! I’ll let you know how it goes!

I’m Going to Live Like a Dog … Or a Goose

Every morning between 6:30 and 7:00 a passel of geese squawk noisily as they fly over my bedroom, presumably commuting from their riverbank home on the Potomac to the corporate campuses and golf courses where they congregate during the workday. For twenty-one of the last twenty-three September morns their honking has signaled that it is time to begin my own trek to work. Like them, I returned to Great Falls at dusk, only to repeat the pattern at the break of the next day. We are all creatures of routine after all.

But now I have retired, and if I am not already up and out of bed their beating wings and loud exhortations to stay in formation and flap harder suggest that it is time to get some coffee and my iPad in preparation for a leisurely catch up on the world’s doings overnight. I no longer need to find and work to keep my place in the human version of the goose pecking order made visible in their aerial V. Geese can live between ten and thirty years depending upon their circumstances, so perhaps some of the same birds are flying over me as were young when I moved in. I wonder, can geese retire, and what happens to them if they do? Do they get to stay back at the water’s edge with the goose version of social security, meals on wings and senior discounts at the marsh grass feeding area? Are they left in charge of the goslings or just abandoned after they can no longer contribute to the working age flock?

Questions like these about aging, longevity and vibrancy have hung over me like a shroud these last few weeks as I inch closer to the dreaded birthday that signifies that I am officially “old.” I don’t feel old, and most people are kind enough to say that I don’t look my age. I don’t really want to be young; I’m “comfortable in my own skin,” as they say, even if it does sag. But being classified as “old” puts things in perspective and forces me to consider big, philosophical questions that are hard. How much time do I have left, and what do I want to do with it? What is the right balance between living now and providing for a possibly lengthy dotage? What is the definition of “quality of life?” How will it change as I age?

Ever since my beloved terrier Sydney passed in March and his younger, devoted (if bratty) companion Addie had her own bout with cancer in May, I have become acutely aware that time is relative. I never used to think about a day as a unit of time in a dog’s life, busy and unconsciously living, selfishly perhaps, according to my own sense of what sunrise to sunrise meant in the 80 or so years that I might be expected to inhabit this earth. I know that Addie and Sydney have been loved, cared for and treated with patience in their infirmity — even if I was not always as sensitive as I should have been to the meaning of each day of their so abbreviated lives. Now I understand that a day in a dog’s life really does equal a week in mine, and I need to make each one count. Retirement has allowed me to insure that Addie has an adventure nearly every day, that I don’t waste whatever remains of her time at my side.

I’m trying to extrapolate this epiphany to my own activities. Ezekiel Emanuel, the renowned physician and public health advocate so associated with the Affordable Care Act, has a riveting piece in the latest issue of the Atlantic explaining in detail why he wishes to die at age 75. Now 57 and in good health, he makes a compelling case for letting nature take its course after 75 rather than prolonging what is usually a debilitated and diminished endgame. He points out that while each of us think we might be one of the outliers who remains vital and productive until well into our 90s, the reality is that most of us will spend our old age in increasing physical and cognitive incapacity. Therefore, for him, setting a deadline by which he will have accomplished his life goals and will thereafter refuse all but palliative care is liberating rather than depressing. He will live as long as nature or God intends, but without benefit of modern medicine after age 75, except for the alleviation of pain.

When I think about this stance toward mortality as someone just hours from my 65th birthday, I come to the conclusion that I should live life like a dog, imagining each day as more precious than I have heretofore and assuming my lifespan to be just ten more years — Emanuel’s age 75 and the average lifespan of a canine. I am in excellent health and spirit and I love deadlines, so thinking that the next decade is all that I have focuses my mind and banishes indecision about which pleasures to partake of and which adventures to seek. Like Emanuel, I am not advocating hedonism in the meantime — that “We are all going to die anyway so why not eat that extra cupcake” mentality. I will continue to live a healthy lifestyle, not just because it gives me pleasure to be fit, but as an act of social responsibility. I won’t squander my limited but nonetheless ample resources on consumerism, but I will have the kitchen cabinets repainted because they need a refresh and because it will make me even happier to walk into my kitchen in the morning. I won’t get a facelift or a tummy tuck, but I will continue to spend a hefty sum on my hair. I’m giving my thirteen-year-old still perfectly working car to my daughter and buying a brand new one, because, well, because she needs one and I want one. I’ll spend the next ten years traveling as much as I possibly can, while I still can. I want to live to see grandchildren and to enjoy watching my daughters become mothers. I want to read, and write and cook to my heart’s content, but I am sick to death of cleaning and as soon as I can afford it I will pay someone else to do most of it for me. Money is really only useful when it buys survival, security or experiences, and while the temptation is to hoard it for the for the first two, with my ten year perspective and my newfound dog brain I want to use it for living, not staving off dying.

Geese and dogs have much to teach. Both are extremely loyal, the birds mating for life and the canines closely bonded to their pack, whether human or other. Both have strong nurturing tendencies in each gender, sharing the care of young (remember that old adage “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”). Both like to work and love to play, being social creatures with the ability and intelligence to learn and to participate in complex interactions. As far as we know, despite their ability to feel jealousy, affection, sorrow and many other so-called “human” emotions, neither geese nor dogs have a dread of their own mortality. They can plan, but not for IRAs or 401(k)s or tax deductions. They do not live in the future. Whether my remaining lifespan matches that of a dog or a goose, I will try to be more like them, staying mindful of the now, of the ever-present “here” and enjoying the company of others. In my experience, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and I do love a wild goose chase! Wish me luck.

“Reboot” … for Shannon Whitworth

IMG_1238Twenty plus years ago I found a pair of red cowboy boots in a consignment store that just had to be mine.  As a teacher in a relatively conservative private school with a strict dress code (also then attended by my preteen and early teen fashion forward and highly constrained daughters) I was supposed to be setting an example, acting as a role model. I did that by wearing Laura Ashley dresses, pearls and those red cowboy boots. They actually seemed just right with everything, and I lived in them until they finally died quite a few years later. I had forgotten about them until about a year ago. A former student of mine (who also happens to be the daughter of my headmaster at the time of my none too subtle rebellious statement of anti-authoritarian individualism) was playing a gig at a local music venue. I hadn’t seen her in at least 15 years, but I had supported her Kickstarter project to fund an album. When she saw me, we shared a hug and the first thing she said after “You look fabulous” was “those red cowboy boots! I’ll never forget them!” When I saw these red Ariat boots on special online while looking for discounted booties for my upcoming trip to Italy, I knew I had to have them. They are so comfy, so indestructible, so ME that they might just be going to Italy instead of the staid black booties I also purchased. After all, they go with everything, especially my gioia di vivere, or joie de vivre in Italian. Thanks Shannon, for reminding me how much I loved those boots and for sharing your beauty and talent with the world.

You can sample Shannon’s amazing, sultry, gorgeous voice here. Better yet, go to iTunes and download some of her stuff, and tell her I sent you 😉

Today is National Dog Day (I know, every dog has his day…).

Life without our four-legged canine friends would be infinitely less. Dogs live in the moment, but they also never forget their people. When family members return home, even after an absence of several years, dogs can go absolutely bat shit — as all of those returning veteran YouTube videos have shown us. Dogs don’t care whether we meet our specie’s standards of beauty (even if some of us hold them to their breed standard). Dogs have a range of emotions, including jealousy, as a recent New York Times article affirmed, although anyone with more than one pet already knows that. Dogs can be the shoehorn that gets us off the couch and out the door to enjoy the natural world, rain or shine. They can be the vehicles for meeting new people or talking to people we already know as we stroll through the neighborhood. In tough times, they can be the glue that holds us together, not just as individuals but as a family — snuggling us, kissing us, or just sharing those wise knowing stares that say, “I know you are hurting, but I’m here for you.” They can make us laugh at their antics, cry at their passing, bark at their misbehavior, marvel at their bravery and stoicism, wish for their simple joy in life. They have inspired poets for centuries. While cat videos have become an Internet meme, it is our canine friends who most teach us to be human through the poignant brevity of their time with us, the depth of our mutual respect and affection, and the knowledge of mortality that our sometimes brief togetherness bestows on us, if not them.

Three of my favorite poems follow. They are sad, but capture so well what is so special about the canine/human bond. Moral of the story: live each day trying to be as wise and good as your dog.

 Dog’s Death

 She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, “Good dog! Good dog!”

We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.

Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest’s bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet’s, on my lap, she tried

To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.

Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there.  Good dog.

                                                            John Updike

 

Another Dog’s Death

 For days the good old bitch had been dying, her back
pinched down to the spine and arched to ease the pain,
her kidneys dry, her muzzle white. At last
I took a shovel into the woods and dug her grave

in preparation for the certain. She came along,
which I had not expected. Still, the children gone,
such expeditions were rare, and the dog,
spayed early, knew no nonhuman word for love.

She made her stiff legs trot and let her bent tail wag.
We found a spot we liked, where the pines met the field.
The sun warmed her fur as she dozed and I dug;
I carved her a safe place while she protected me.

I measured her length with the shovel’s long handle;
she perked in amusement, and sniffed the heaped-up earth.
Back down at the house, she seemed friskier,
but gagged, eating. We called the vet a few days later.

They were old friends. She held up a paw, and he
injected a violet fluid. She swooned on the lawn;
we watched her breathing quickly slow and cease.
In a wheelbarrow up to the hole, her warm fur shone.

 John Updike

 

A Dog Has Died

By Pablo Neruda
Translated By Alfred Yankauer

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I’ll join him right there,
but now he’s gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I’ll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I’ll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he’d keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea’s movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean’s spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don’t now and never did lie to each other.

So now he’s gone and I buried him,
and that’s all there is to it.

RIP Sydney, my sweet furever boy.

Summer Bounty: Cornucopia

To my amazement, some members of my CSA put their sweet corn in the swap box!!! Without hesitation I traded my green peppers and zucchini for extra corn to freeze.  Here are the steps I used:

First, duh, I shucked the corn.  I cut off both ends then made a slice down the ear making it easier to remove the leaves and silk smoothly.

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I had two dozen ears, but since the corn was organic one ear had a few too many critters and rot to use. Five ears were for dinner, leaving 18 ears to freeze, not a whole lot, but enough for a first batch that will be my succotash at Thanksgiving.

Next, I boiled the ears in a total of four batches for four minutes each batch.

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I used my large stainless steel colander with a clean dishtowel underneath and stood the ears upright in order to let them cool and drain excess water. When they were cool enough to handle I cut the corn off the cobs standing each ear upright in a shallow serving bowl. After all the ears were scraped I poured melted butter (about 3 tablespoons) into the corn and tossed it to break up the clumps and insure that the butter was evenly distributed. I don’t have pictures of these two steps because by this time my visiting daughter and I had hit the wine, and you know, forgot to take pictures!

Last, when the scraped, buttered corn was totally cool I filled quart freezer bags about two thirds full, closed them, flattened them, opened the seal and squeezed out all of the air, and then resealed them. I stacked them in the quick freeze section of my refrigerator and later transferred them to the freezer in the carriage house.

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My 18 ears produced 3 nicely packed quart bags, so obviously I need to repeat this process about 3 or more times to get the quantity I would like for those chilly months when fresh frozen corn will be a treat. We’ll see if there are more orphans this week at the CSA.

Meanwhile, we ate the rest for dinner with sliced beets, green beans from the CSA and our garden, and grilled salmon. YUM!