October 31, 2010

Back to my roots

The past couple weekends Allen and I have enjoyed going back to our roots and spending Saturday afternoon rooting for the home team. That happens to be Auburn for anyone reading this who happens to know anything about SEC football. It's kind of nice. We pull the game up on ESPN.com and share a moment with all our friends and family back in Alabama who tend to keep an ear to the game. And hey, it's a good year to be an Auburn fan. They're number 1 ranked right now, and looking good.

It's not the way I wanted to spend my weekend. I wanted to go off to see the fall colors that I've heard are about peak in parts of the eastern Sierras. But since I haven't been able to shake this darn cold of mine Allen sort of made an executive decision in favor of staying home. It's not surprising. I was actually looking at getting a hotel for the night and not camping at all. I'm the girl who takes her tent down into the 20's and loves it. I plan week long trips over Thanksgiving. I really, really enjoy camping. So when Allen hears me start talking about hotels in conjunction with me telling him how tired I am and how I'm not looking forward to the 6-8 drive I'm contemplating......He said maybe we could go next week if there's still any color in the mountains. The eastern side isn't my favorite anyway. It's a lot dryer than the western Sierras albeit more dramatic. I'm really missing our autumns back east. Aspens might be pretty, but they aren't a replacement for seeing all the oaks and maples turning along the creek down at the farm.

So we watch football and think about home. It's a good life out here, but it's still mainly just California. This time of year especially, home is back east.

October 25, 2010

wedding nostalgia

I've got to wait for some laundry to finish washing before bed, so I thought I'd reminisce a little about the recent wedding we attended.

My brother-in-law's wedding was the first family wedding I attended, and the rush of emotions left me thoughtful for many days afterward. I saw my father-in-law's pride in his son's marriage, the little disappointments that ruffle every family event, my mother-in-law's misty eyed pleasure as she watched her youngest son make that most grown up of commitments, and through it all ran the memory of my own wedding. I'm not terribly photogenic. My mom wasn't there with me. The family fighting in my corner was one I'd met comparatively recently. I had one of my dearest friend's there with me that day, but she was as confused as I was about the various events that had brought me to the bride's room without mother or sisters. But through it all I appreciated getting to see how very much my in-laws love their sons and how glad they are to have daughters come into their family. In an odd sort of way they reaffirmed my position as first born - first daughter both to my parents and to them. They are parents to me. They may drive me crazy sometimes, but they stick by me too and are always looking for my best.

Seeing so many lovely weddings it's easy for me to regret all the things my wedding wasn't. I was tired, stressed, nervous, and largely alone. But I'm not alone any longer. Not only do I have Allen, I have a whole new family. If the memories of my wedding elude me (surely I felt something walking up the aisle, but I sure can't remember), I have crisply etched memories of early morning walks in Yosemite, gingerbread cookies on Christmas Eve, nights curled up together, and miles together in the car. I have a whole scrapbook in my head made possible by one faltering step after another towards an altar some four years ago. My impatient, sinful self wants to pout and pine that my pictures will never be as good as someone else's or that my memories can never be as joyful or complete as some other bride's. I want to complain that the world (and God) shorted me on the rarest and most special of days in a woman's life. Sometimes I do. But what happened that day? A whole bunch of people who didn't have to rallied around me to try and make up what was lacking. I married a man who has proven to be a far, far better husband than I ever dreamed possible. I discovered a family that drives me crazy and yet prays for me far more often and earnestly than I pray for myself.

So I sat in the pew beside my parents-in-law and watched a lovely woman walk up and join herself to this family of which I am a part. Ok, so a line or two in the wedding vows made me cringe. I don't like modern language and phraseology in our sacred ceremonies. But I watched. Where Allen and I were they are now; where they will go Allen and I have been, and my father and mother in law are there watching both couples slowly go over ground they first encountered years and years ago. We watch and pray knowing that we can't help each other very much, perhaps wishing we could recapture some essence of early marriage, and finally relapsing back into the realization that maturity is the dearest gift.

They have plighted themselves one to another and are now a new entity who may or may not open their Christmas presents in the traditional family living room with the rest of us. I wish them the very best in their new life, and I'm appreciative of this chance to look back again at my marriage - to see the good and the bad- and above all to be grateful for the gift that marriage has been to me.

October 21, 2010

Best Butter Crust. Ever.

I have to link to this pie crust recipe because it is a combined miracle of serendipity and google's search engine.

While visiting my in-laws last week I decided to make a pie, but I didn't have my normal pie crust recipe around, so onward to the Google I went and found this lovely recipe. When I say lovely I mean my father in law mentioned this pie crust at least half a dozen times over the course of 4 days. He's an easy man to cook for in some ways (like Allen he likes plain homey food), but when he goes around talking about several days after said pie was made you know you've found something.

I don't want to violate copyright, so I'll just tell you to view her wonderful recipe for yourself and then I'll jot down a few observations.

You back yet?

Ok then.

I usually make pie crust by hand (unless I'm making a three or four at a time) because it's really not much harder. Also, I think it keeps me more in touch with how the dough is developing. Learning to have a "light hand" with pastry is the proverbial skill that will keep things coming out flaky and delicate. Speaking of which, here's a trick I learned that may have helped with this recipe. After cutting in your shortening agent take a fork and gently toss or whisk the dough for a couple seconds after adding each table spoon of water. You'll be left with lots of dry bits, but try to resist the urge to add more water. Otherwise you might end up with a tough crust. If it doesn't work out quite right the first time you can adjust it later as you get a feel for the dough.

So you've resisted adding more water, and now you're staring down at a rather dry, distinctly un-crustlike assemblage of butter, flour, and salt. Well, since you didn't over mix your dough you should be able to turn all that out on the counter and smoosh (ok, knead) all the bits together without worrying about ruining your crust. Stop just before you think you should and then get after it with a rolling pin. I rarely wait to chill my dough anymore, and I have very few problems with this so long as the dough isn't too wet in the beginning. The rolling pin should get all the last bits together. Just remember to keep turning the dough frequently (and sprinkling flour over it) so it rolls out easily and doesn't stick or tear. (I forget this a lot - especially when I start rolling.)

And one final tip for crusts that I had heard but never took seriously. Trim the bottom crust a little bit long and fold the extra under. A very little will do. When I go to crimp the crust it looks much more finished and doesn't seem to shrink as much in the oven.

Even if you have a working pie crust recipe I recommend you look this one up. It's light and buttery and flaky and everything a good pie crust should be.

October 9, 2010

philosphy of hiking

When you spend 8-10 hours hiking up a mountain side you have a lot of time to think. At such times a lot of my thoughts center on just why I wanted to climb this mountain in the first place. After a few hours just putting one foot in front on another can lose its novelty. It's uphill all the way, there's a weight on your back, and the trail is pretty dusty. For a while I just think about where my boots are landing and watching the dust puff up. I listen to my pack creaking and hear the scrapes and clicks of my trekking poles as we traverse a stretch of granite covered hill side. I remember all the days I decided I was too tired to do my yoga or visit the gym, and I wish I'd taken the time when I could. Then I remember the days when I did my workouts anyway and am grateful for the ongoing push and pull of my muscles as I persevere over rain rutted trails and push upwards over awkwardly stair stepped boulders. Gulping the ever thinning oxygen into my lungs I inwardly say thanks that I've been able to work at correcting my anemia. I'm tired but not exhausted. Weary and yet eager to reach the top. I'm stronger for this hill than I was for the last. I rest my eyes on the peaks before me and reach for our evening's camp.

These are most of my thoughts as I tramp my slow way up the mountain. I'm the tortoise and not the hare. I walk long and arrive at camp after others have eaten. But I'm here. I can breathe the sweet September air and feel the first breath of winter rush over us every night. And so I walk over the mountains thinking these simple thoughts. Then, I raise my foot, put it down, and realize that this is life. It is so simple and yet so true. All of our days we spend making our way over the course set before us. We remember the good decisions and the bad, and we add to them according to our own bents. Sometimes we can rest our eyes on some goal and stretch out our hearts to it. Other times life closes in around us and rises before us so that all we can do is keep moving forward in faith that once day we'll reach the top of the mountain and find rest for our journey. The only way to learn how to live is to do it. Providence is both teacher and taskmaster. Every good decision I make at home makes my time on the mountains easier. Every lesson I learn on the mountain illustrates and prepares me for my life at home. I have found it so in other areas as well. Life teaches itself. God is revealed everywhere. We just have to keep looking.

Cause if you keep looking around and putting one foot in front on another, you might end up here:

From Vogelsang

Fletcher Peak on the trail up to Lake Vogelsang. Sometimes it's good to be reminded both of how far we've come and what lies ahead.

October 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Yep, it's my birthday. Went and gave a lecture on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, bought some yarn, and hung out with a friend at Stanford. Tonight there will be steak and coconut spice cake. It's been a good day.

Also, I am wearing a new (and wonderfully cobalty) plaid shirt I found at Ross. Life is good.