Monday, October 1, 2012

Eating & Drawing: Now with Baby.

"Here is sort of a thing. Damn it's been since April that I posted! That's terrible! Even given my usual summer garden-related blog slump, that is really bad." 

That's a draft I found when I logged into this blog yesterday, written last October. Ha, I thought that was bad, now it's July, & it's been well over a year since I've posted anything. Or drawn anything either, to be honest. 
And I'm not really sure where this is going to go-I'm writing this now from my iPhone while breast feeding a five week and four day old baby. 
Yup. I found out that I was pregnant ten days after I started writing that October blog post, & Eating & Drawing kind of flew out the window.  
My baby girl Iris Marjorie was born on June 14th at 2:27pm & she's sleeping in my lap right now. 
I was thinking that it would be nice to start this blog up again, as I am home taking care of the baby at the moment, & I spend a lot of time here in my breast feeding chair, with not much else besides my phone to entertain me & I'm getting rather sick of Facebook. 
Not sure how much drawing there will be or how coherent these posts will be, written in little snatches of free time here & there, but writing here is a little like talking to an adult so I'd like to give it a try. 
Should this become a mommy blog though? Wasn't this my art blog? Should I get a new blog, since my life isn't much about eating or drawing any more? Dare I put up posts with no visual content?
I think Iris & I will now go take a walk & think about it. 
And we are back. This was a big day for us-we drove to town to walk on the bike path & that went well so we went to cvs to pick up Iris' birth announcement cards. 
This is the fourth week that Iris & I have been home alone together (she will be six weeks old on Friday) & the first time that we have gone anywhere alone together besides doctor's appointments & our breast feeding support group. 
I'd imagined before Iris was born that we'd be spending the summer taking walks in the woods around home & working in the garden together, & that hasn't really happened. 
It's been very hot & unbelievably mosquito-y here this summer, & this has left us trapped in the house. For really the  first time in my life. 
I really like to walk, I really like to be outside, that is so so important to me, & in the last six weeks I have been inside more than I ever have in my life. 
It's weird. I love this girl so much. I would do anything for her in a way that I have never even felt close too with any other living thing. I am happy to do anything for her, but it is odd to suddenly feel like I can & do exist without what I used to consider my basic needs: art, fresh air, exercise. 
So, yeah, long story short, we did take the damn car ( I hate the car, I hate to drive, & driving with a tiny baby is just that much more terrifying to me) & go out today & that was good. 
And I wrote on this blog again & that was also good. 
I guess I will keep this up. See how it goes. Bear with me-there might not be much or any art for a while, & the only way I can really write is on my phone with one hand with the baby in my lap, so forgive sloppy spelling & grammar for now. 
Will there be any food? We will see, my post-partum feelings about cooking & food are complicated but that's another post. 
Hi y'all. Welcome to the new Eating & Drawing. 
I had a baby! Wild. Who would have thought that would ever happen, back in the Drinking & Drawing days. 
But here we are. And she us definitely the best thing I have ever done in my life. So stay tuned. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Egg Day.

Happy (late) Easter, if you're into that sort of thing.
Or "Egg Day" as my mom adorably said in a text yesterday.
"Egg Day" seemed appropriate, as we did begin our Easter Sunday with very fresh eggs for breakfast, courtesy Easter morning from Lulu & Miranda. Being relatively new chicken owners, every egg is still something to celebrate.
As a half Jewish/half Catholic girl raised in neither faith, I mostly celebrate holidays with food. Not to say that I don't take holidays seriously. I celebrate anything. I am a big fan of any excuse to cook a festive meal, pretty much. Mardi Gras, Saint Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, whatever, bring on the food.
& the rituals. Christmas trees, menorahs, Easter baskets, Mardi Gras costumes.
Upholding traditions in some form is important to me.
I plan on making chopped liver & matzo ball soup this week in honor of my Gramma Bess & Passover. (I celebrate all the Jewish holidays with those things, they make me think of her the most).
Easter I've always been fond of: Spring is something to celebrate, egg dyeing is a nice ritual, & there's something about the Easter myth that appeals to the drama queen in me. Plus, Easter is a holiday where I have traditionally managed to avoid family obligations & spend the day the way I like, at home cooking a good old fashioned Sunday dinner with the person I love.
This is the first Easter in a long time that I haven't had to work, & our first married Easter.
We spent it exactly as I hoped. We ate a delicious breakfast of our own eggs & bacon while listening to some of the truly excellent Christian Country hits of Randy Travis, then we dug in the new garden all day.
We are attempting to clear by hand an about 60x60 foot square of abandoned & totally overgrown garden space.
On this Easter Sunday we tilled two new 45'x4' beds & planted sugar snap peas, yellow beans, French Breakfast & Easter egg radishes, golden beets, & blue potatoes, then dug a cold frame to harden off the kale & Kohlrabi & broccoli & cauliflower seedlings we have started indoors.
I'm really getting to know that pitchfork. I'm pretty proud of the calluses I've gotten on my palms, these last few weeks.
Then we cleaned the chicken coop (yay farm chores!) & hung out laundry on the line (I love finally being able to have a clothesline here!) & other weekends tasks, trash, sweeping, dishes, etc.
So we totally deserved the completely indulgent Easter dinner we had.
Egg Day Dinner 2012.
 Roast Duck marinated overnight in wine, garlic, sage, rosemary, chili peppers, olive oil, & salt & pepper. 
We bought the duck on a Friday night as a weekend impulse & grilled the legs that night, served with curried rice & broccoli. Then marinated the rest of it over Saturday night & roasted it Sunday.
Owen's famous Cheesy Bacon Mashed Potatoes.
I swear that man is insane. One pound of bacon, both ricotta & fresh mozzarella, & 1/2 & 1/2. Into mashed potatoes. I love him.
With some leftover Kale Pesto because I like to eat a green thing & I'm still on the Kale Pesto kick.
Topped with, of course, Duck Gravy.  Huge amounts of Duck Gravy.
God damn I'm glad a married a man whose good with gravy. 
My leftovers for lunch at work were kind of insane. Yeah, I'm just eating my roast duck & cheesy bacon mashed potatoes & duck gravy over here, don't mind me.
I went to bed completely exhausted & satisfied last night. Good food, seeds planted, house & coop clean. 
Right now I'm making a soup from the duck stock. Fridge soup, don't you know it!
I have a huge pile of seeds on hold I'm gonna buy at work tomorrow. There is a whole cleared bed we haven't even touched yet.
I don't mean to always be all Pollyanna on y'all the time here, but mostly, stuff's good. I don't think we have anything real to complain about.
I guess somewhere along the line I've turned into a positive thinker. Or I'm just happy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Cleaning, Kale Pesto & Hey, It's Garden Time Again.

Hey y'all it's spring! Hence the lapse in posting. A new garden to till, seeds to plant, & since we actually have a yard here raking & clearing of flower beds & all that fun stuff. Including grilling outside!
Hells yeah to having a huge yard in a gorgeous place.
Watching chickens frolic while grilling meat is where it's at.
It's been busy busy times around here. I've been putting in many hours at the day job (numbers numbers numbers) & we have land to clear, since our cottage came with ample abandoned garden space. We were going to rent a rototiller but since for the past two weeks I've only had Sundays off, it just didn't work out & we couldn't resist starting to dig.
Then the awesome sense of accomplishment that comes with doing shit by hand got to us & we'll probably just finish it that way. We invested in a nice shiny new pitchfork. I'm totally loving it.
On top of all that, I agreed to make a painting at my boss' request as a present for my co-worker's son's first birthday, & that is guaranteed to make me a nervous wreak on all counts. I am always apologetic when people buy my paintings, I'm terrible at creating work on request, & I don't know anything about babies. Plus I love this co-worker, so even though I was being paid it really mattered to me that she like the finished product.
Here's what I came up with:
March 2012: Teenaged Chickens Love Kale. 
There you are. I CAN work on commission! Call me for all your chicken painting needs. Really, do that.
I need an agent. Or the right sort of self-esteem. 
I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. Those are two of our now eight week old chickens. They do adore kale. 
So I've been doing that, working, gardening.
I have this week gone on a spring cleaning spree. The house has gotten rather of out of hand with everything else going on so my goal this week has been to take on at least one major cleaning task every night, since I no longer have a painting deadline & I have a real weekend off this week so the garden can happen then.
I am quite fond of Easter. As holidays go, it pleases me. As does Passover. I do have a Catholic & Jewish soul I guess. I want the house in a good place by then. My plan is since we have spent every holiday since we got married last September running around between in-laws this one we are staying home & I am cooking a leg of lamb & we will eat chopped liver & matzo crackers first & we will spend the day living fabulously & decadently & enjoying each other. Hell, we have chickens now-we can dye eggs laid in our yard!
Oh yeah, Kale Pesto. Yes this is a food blog! Kale Pesto.
I'm obsessed with it. I feel like finding a cheap way to make decent pesto in the winter is achieving a major life goal for me.
I buy a lot of kale in winter because it's cheap & I'm poor & I like eating green foods.  I get bored with it though.
Secret fact: I'm a very food adventurous & love vegetables but until Owen had his vegan restaurant cooking job & learned a certain kale & cumin seed trick, I hated eating kale.
 What can I say? I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts & we had Kale Soup in the elementary school cafeteria quite frequently. It isn't easy to get over early food trauma like that.
 KALE PESTO has really blown my mind. Although I greatly anticipated garden food season, we are not there yet, not at all. Still a few weeks away from asparagus & fiddleheads & ramps, even.
A bunch of kale is a couple of dollars & making a quick pesto out of it is a cheering way to eat summerish food right now in early April when you want it but it is not here yet.
Recently I have made a kale pesto & chicken apple sausage lasagna. I made a nice pasta thing with kale pesto, anchovies, & cannelloni beans. Kale pesto makes a delicious sandwich condiment, & is fantastic mixed in scrambled eggs. Good over grilled applewood smoked chicken (we have a huge downed apple tree here). 
Recipe, Sort Of: Kale + Olive Oil + Cheese + Garlic + Salt & Pepper + Chili Pepper Flakes &/or Splash of Sriracha (Optional, I like it hot), into the food processor. Quantities to taste. Any cheese works fine.  
There you have it. There are always new things to learn about food. Thank Christ. I'd be so bored otherwise.
Kale Pesto! Fantastic!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Happy Little Trees.

Happy (almost) Spring from Eating & Drawing, where we don't normally feature landscape paintings.
But let's take a break from our regularly scheduled programming & enjoy the view from the hill beyond my house.
(Don't worry, I drew my beer too.)
3.13.12: Evening View From The Hill, With Beer. 
There's one goal accomplished: sit against a tree on top of the hill, drink a beer, & draw. 
It's the perfect spot for sitting in the sun & reading, painting, drawing, & enjoying a lovely cocktail. 
It is a truth of me that I spend my life seeking out such good outdoor sitting spots. My mom's deck & the dock at our pond are two. The Botanical Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is another, as was my old front porch on Prospect Street in Noho. Or any curb in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
This one though...there's our cottage, the chicken coop, then the gardens, a small wooded hill, & when you reach the top, a cornfield & a small dairy farm, framed by woods & distant mountains.
I love this spot. I take the hound up here every day just before dark & on the weekend mornings.
On our first full weekend here, back in January, coming home from errands we grabbed some beers & saw the most amazing sunset up there.
I have been looking forward to hanging out here in warm weather since we moved in here in December.
We have had some 70 degree days here recently.
I've been coming home giddy with joy from driving home with the windows open blasting country radio.
It get dark after seven pm now. God that makes me happy.   I love being outside. There's so much post-work time to be outside now.
It's gorgeous out here where we live now. I'm so excited about spring & summer here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Where Practical Meets Adorable: The Elements Of A Food Story.

This is what I see when I open my fridge. 
Home brewed beer & an oh so cute little basket of eggs. Broccoli, bagels, & cheese.
Fun fact: I like to take pictures of the inside of my fridge. The collection of foods one has on hand at any given moment tells a little story.
This is totally stupid, but one of the things I disliked about having roommates is other peoples' things in my fridge. That messes up the story.
I know, I'm odd.
3.7.2012: Fridge Contents.
This is one of those realities that is too cute to be believed, but is also practical.
Seriously. I've never had chickens before, & we were just collecting eggs & sitting them loose in the fridge. One night I opened the door too hard & one rolled off the shelf & broke & it was oh so sad because I still appreciate those eggs from our girls oh so much. Plus it made a gross mess in the way back hard to reach part of the fridge behind the veggie drawer & it was terrible.
Being me, I immediately introduced that cute little basket I just happened to have lying around (thanks Mum).
It makes me smile to see that cute little basket with those eggs every time I open the fridge.
 I'm looking forward greatly to more practical adorableness come vegetable harvest season. Nothing makes me happy at the end of a summer day like a basket of gorgeous, dirty, freshly picked produce.
Thanks again to my Mum for keeping me in Peterboro baskets.
It's the little things that make you happy that make everything ok, sometimes.
Here's the elements of a food story:
My groceries purchased at work today: broccoli, an avocado, bunch of green curly kale, two heads of garlic, block of Bridge tofu, bottle of Sriracha chili sauce, growler of Lefty's Brewing Co. Irish Stout, bag of bulk short grain brown rice & one of wild rice blend, & a bulk bag of Pierce Brother's Fogbuster coffee.
Go food produced in Franklin County!
Free slightly out of date food I also took home from work with my groceries: loaf of Bread Euphoria Three Seed Bread, & Blue Ledge Peppered Chevre.
Also present around the kitchen: two old potatoes, bag of yellow onions, half of a cheap Stop & Shop steak, salt pork back fat, two fresh eggs. 
From above will emerge dinner.
I like lists. I like food.
Maybe it's all my years working at the grocery store, but I love grocery lists & receipts. I find lists of food items very pretty. 
While we are in listing mode here at EnD, I'm currently listening to my itunes set on Country & shuffle. Enjoying especially this evening Hank Williams, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Toby Keith, Loretta Lynn & Taylor Swift. I don't really know where my current country phase has come from but I'm enjoying it. Blame Bear Country 95.3.
Reading Goat song : a seasonal life, a short history of herding, and the art of making cheese by Brad Kessler.
I think we should get goats. I just took Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats out of the library yesterday. What do you think? Goats? Yes? Tell my husband if you agree.
Also, what should I make for dinner? You know the players, tell me the story.  
It was almost 70 degrees today in here Western Massachusetts. My dog & I sat on top of a hill at dusk & took in the warm wind & breathed & waited for spring.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Heart Objects. There, I Said It.

Yeah, yesterday, I spent $20 on a Le Creuset pan at a thrift shop that I couldn't afford & didn't need.
Hey, my sister runs a really great thrift store.
I've been on a strict "no thrifting" policy.
We are really trying to invest in the things we want, i.e. chickens & this year's garden & more potential livestock.
We lead a strange life of possessions, being thrift store addicts both of us, my husband & me, in that we have so many nice things, but frequently lack very basic things that need to come new from real store, & that with our thrifting mentality it is difficult for us to buy.
Owen has piles of ties, Fendi, Gucci, Versace, Armani, Dior, etc, & yet only owns one pair of semi-decent pants he can wear to work.
I have two Hermes scarves & my own pile of vintage Coach bags, but I am in so desperate need of a bra that it isn't even funny.
We both have gorgeous cowboy boot collections, but Owen goes to work at the granola factory in pair of steel toe boots held together (sort of, not well) with dry wall screws.
At least he comes home to a good dinner. 
3.6.12: Cooking Dinner With DR.

 That's my kitchen, you know, where the magic happens. Using my new pan for last night's dinner, an unremarkable but delicious beef broccoli goat cheese cream sauce thing. 
 We have really nice kitchen stuff in general because it matters to me & it's what I want for presents & I take good care of my things.
Sometimes our economy with food seems weird considering our Le Creuset pans & our Wustof knives & our shiny red KitchenAid. 
But most of the ways we save money is what I believe we should do anyway-no convenience foods, no fast food, no snack foods or desserts, just vegetables, meat, & pasta & rice. When we cook a chicken, we always make stock. We always eat or leftovers for lunch. I make a lot of weird dinners to not waste food. We make everything ourselves that we can. The things I spend money on are worth it: coffee, spices, decent rice.
All of these things are the principles I want to live by anyway.
So, so what if I have a quite splendid Le Creuset collection (I am not entirely to blame for our lovely kitchen stuff-we did just get married!). 
I've been really happy lately, happier than possibly I have ever been, & if I want to buy myself a damn pan once in a while, I will.
I will make something creative out of the random kitchen items in it, & I will wake up without guilt, feeling like things are all right with the world in general.
I will never live a simplified clean shiny life without possessions. Neither will Owen. There will always be books & papers & paints & shoes & pets & scarves & ties on all our surfaces. Projects will be in the works everywhere, & the house will never be clean by most people's standards. Cowboy boots will litter the damn floor forever.
But we are ok with that.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cake & Homemade Perfection.

A piece of our wedding cake.
Owen & I were married five months last week.
I meant to write this post for Valentines Day, but, you know, the puffballs arrived.
9.24.2011: Red Velvet Wedding Cake. 
Like everything on the blog, & in my life, our wedding was homemade, a collaboration, & we made use of what we had.
We got married on the beach down the road from where I grew up, & had the reception in my mom's yard. One of my mom's friends & co-workers, a Unitarian minister, married us.
Two of my favorite people (Rin & Jed, my old DnD compatriots) & my very most favorite person, my dearest sister Ali, were our wedding party. Our ring bearer was four & charming & the son of another old friend.
Everyone stood in a circle on Cold Storage Beach at Sesuit Harbor, Dennis Cape Cod,  one of my most beloved spots on earth & we were married.
Our families made the all food & Owen brewed all the beer & there was swimming in the afternoon in our pond, even though it was late September, & dancing to Jay-Z & Kanye in the basement.
Our entire outfits (well not my very special treat, my wedding Lucchese boots-a girl needs gorgeous boots to get married in!) came from a thrift shop. 
Then off to our honeymoon in New Hampshire.
Which was another amazing present.
I hate to say perfect, but it was. Owen & I laid in bed that night afterwards & couldn't sop saying, but "that was so perfect."
Sometimes I complain too much, but I get that "it's so perfect" feeling a lot lately.
I love that guy.
I'm a very lucky girl to have found a man who cooks as good as me, sews much better, can fix cars, can fix anything in fact, loves trashy dance music & even trashier contemporary country & is happy to wear a Britney Spears T-shirt & cowboy boots & cares as much about having a garden & chickens & the rest of the farm stuff as I do.
DR liked him from the very first day. 
He also brews a pretty decent beer, which is nice to come home to after farm chores.
The completely brilliant Rin made the cake. It was red velvet, & it too was perfect. A very wonderful friend donated the eggs since we didn't have chickens then.
There's still a piece in our freezer, which I have almost accidentally thrown out about fifteen times but thankfully I have a better half to stop me from such foolishness now.

Meals With Eggs: Cilantro Pesto & A Fried Egg For Lunch.

In honor of my dear friends Lucy, Lulu, Amanda Jo, & Miranda, I bring you some meals made from their amazing eggs. It still feels like magic when I find one. Thanks, ladies.
2.29.2012: Snowy Leap Day Lunch. 
Last day of February. I came home from work around lunchtime due to impeding snow, just in time to kiss my husband goodbye before he left for work.
We had some leftover homemade cilantro pesto from dinner the night before. I try to eat in season, but the local discount grocery store, The Barn, had really cheap bunches of cilantro & I am craving spring tastes so badly. Arugula pesto soon. But not yet. So, the Barn.
There was a fresh egg in the chicken coop, perfect for frying on top of some pesto & cappellini reheated in a cast iron skillet, topped with a drizzle of sriracha & eaten at the dining room table, reading Achewood on my laptop, drinking coffee, & watching the snow. 
Who needs convenience foods! Eggs!
Having eggs seems like such an important step towards self sufficiency. We've had a couple of summers now of pretty much from all our own vegetables, but producing our own protein! That's so cool. With eggs & veggies we could really take a break from the grocery store, especially now that my husband is producing his own (now drinkable) beer regularly.
Seeds are sprouting under lights. one of the pullets is laying, hopefully the other two will be soon. The baby chicks turn four weeks old this Friday. I'm daydreaming about acquiring meat & fur rabbits.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chickens. Better than therapy. (an ode to farm chores)

My dear husband has been working 1-9:30 shifts all week over at the old granola factory, so it's just been me & the animals out here in the middle of rural nowhere when I get home from work myself.
It is really a change here from Northampton that's more apparent when Owen & I work opposite schedules. No more quick walks downtown, no more roommates, no more friends close by.
Surprisingly, I have found the last week very peaceful. Back in Noho I hated it when Owen worked  this shift.
The reason? Chickens.
 3.1.12: Lucy, Amanda Jo, Miranda, & Lulu, my new EnD companions.
Chickens plus the larger picture that includes the chickens.
I find I really like the routine of farm chores.
When I get home around four, I immediately have to check on the baby chicks, feed the outside chickens their afternoon cracked corn & some greens, take the dog for a walk, shut the outside chickens up for the night,  check on the babies again, bring in wood, build a fire, & then feed the dog & cat. That's all before I deal with the dishes & start dinner & maybe do some laundry.
I used to sometimes resent coming home from work to dirty dishes & housework chores when Owen worked these sorts of hours before, but for some reason the farm chores make me feel great, & I don't mind the other stuff either.
In these winter months I miss the summer routine of tending to the garden in the evenings. The chickens are a bit like having a garden in the winter. I like that their care involves me actually going outside frequently.
Not to mention that they really are good company. They make all these great sounds. They run to their fence when I pull up in the driveway. As my dear sister says, they have cool dinosaur feet. The little dudes are starting to really recognize us too & greet us.
The brilliant Jenna from Cold Antler Farm wrote something I read recently about how the absence of farm chores can be really disheartening once you get used to them, & I totally get that. I love my current routine. The chickens go up to roost just at dusk & I am so grateful to be outside when the sun sets every single day.
The view of the sun setting behind the trees that I see from the chicken cop is beautiful, the ladies make all their little good night sounds, & it makes me feel like I'm living my real life.
There is something about keeping living things alive that is fundamental satisfying.
I find that I breath easier after I finish my chores. 
I cleaned out the chicken coop last weekend on a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon by myself & finished feeling exhilarated. We found a shovel & fork for $1 each at a tag sale earlier in the day that were just the right size for me, & I couldn't wait to get home & use them.
I did wonder a bit, who am I know, exactly? I sure never got excited about tools at a tag sale before.  But I have never felt so calm & capable before either.
So, thanks, girls.  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow Day Nostaglia & General Laziness.

Slightly cheating black & white post (whatever I make the rules here). 
I have a lot of paintings in progress but they are all wet (damn watercolors) & I just felt like writing. 
It's a snowy evening here in Greenfield following a snowy afternoon, & I left work around noon (I am terrified of driving in snow) just in time to see my husband for exactly one minute before he headed for work (he's a better driver than me, & works about 25 miles closer to our house).
I've been at home with the animals all day. Started paging through the old sketchbook. 
I have been changing things around here & drawing less out of my sketchbook & more on paper & shit. Like a real artist. But you'll see little pieces of randomness from sketchbook here & there for old times sake.
So here are some unpainted drawings from a Mini-Vaca taken on an extremely rainy weekend last June.
6.9&8.11: Two Cape Cod Sandwiches.
A post-driving curried chicken salad sandwich & a next afternoon linguica & mustard sandwich, grilled & eaten on the deck overlooking the pond. Then some insane encounters with huge snapping turtles ensued. Damn those things are weird & prehistoric & creepy. Try swimming with one. & huge. Did I mention huge?
6.9.11: BBQ Pork During A Late Spring Thunderstorm.
Another one of Mum's great dinners. Plus the sort of thunderstorm I'm really looking forward to as we approach the end of winter. We had some thunder & heavy rain last week & it reminded me how good that sort of weather is.
 6.10.11: Egg Salad Sandwiches & Vintage Dresses.
Typical Cape Cod Mini-Vaca Sort Of Day. Ate some tasty sandwiches, some chips, purchased one of my now all time favorite dresses at a thrift shop in Yarmouth, & saw some swans on a pond. There were dogs.
 6.10.2011: Cookout!
All Cape Cod trips should include some sort of cookout.
The next morning we ate this meal, in the pouring rain we collected buckets of seaweed for the garden, & then we drove home. 
 I'm fearing we won't have much Cape Cod Summer this year.
We really like our new house. We can grill in the yard here. We can hang out outside here. I can sit on top of the hill & enjoy the view of cornfields & the neighboring dairy farm, & draw & read there. We aren't stuck in town in Noho anymore.  We are making the kind of farming-style commitments that make travel complicated. I think we all need to recover from losing a major part of those summers.
That's all. Apologies for the lack of color. It's still snowing. I'll probably be back with more tomorrow.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On NOLA, Abita Beer, & Grocery Stores Celebrating Mardi Gras.

The grocery store where I work does this crazy thing where Mardi Gras is celebrated very intensely.  Odd, right? For a kind of hippy grocery store in Western Massachusetts?
This year, Mardi Gras is being celebrated with all the fanfare of years past, plus is being extended until this Saturday, four whole days after the official start of Lent.
(Fun EnD Fact: Did you know this year that Ash Wednesday was also National Margarita Day? Yep.)
I lived in New Orleans from July 2001-July 2003. In the past I have found that my work's Mardi Gras fixation caused me to have a big old "I know more about New Orleans than you" chip on my shoulder, but this year, maybe it's the baby chicks being so darn cute, I seem to have lost the urgency of my protest.
This year I started to think of it as a very New Orleanian approach, just simply deciding that OUR Mardi Gras would last until Saturday & that was that.
I don't think any of the drunk people on Bourbon Street last week really cared about Ash Wednesday one way or the other. Probably celebrated National Margarita Day though.
The laws & traditions of Mardi Gras are sacred to New Orleans, but they are fluid too, & borrow shamelessly from whatever other culture or tradition they feel like. Look at the Mardi Gras Indians. 
I'm really conflicted about New Orleans.
It is so easy to love everything that is crazy & beautiful & absurd about the place, but it's such a frustrating place too.
Is it awesome or stupid that without question one stays up all night on Lundi Gras, puts on an elaborate costume at dawn, & marches in a 6am parade while still drinking? Part of loving NOLA is loving a city where you can't run errands for weeks at a time because you might run into a parade route.
Part of me does.
But then there's the "New Orleanians don't evacuate during hurricanes, we go to bars & party through it" attitude & I was always too practical to do that. Or not awesome enough?
General lack of amusement with potentially devastating hurricanes was one of the factors in my leaving, as was the horrible crime. Again, am I just a scardy-cat?
Since my first apartment at 17 in Providence, RI, I have loved walking at night. When I moved to New Orleans I was coming from San Francisco via Brooklyn via Providence. I thought what people said about the crime in new Orleans was basic fear of urban spaces. I was wrong.
New Orleans is a beautiful city, but it's also an ugly one. Floods, storms, crime, disease, garbage, filth are all jut as much a part of life as the gorgeous buildings in the French Quarter.
While I lived in new Orleans, I was employed as the database manager for the State of Louisiana Office of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Program, so I saw everyday the results of the other side of the picture.
Sometimes riding my bike during Mardi Gras season from one end of the Quarter to the other to get from my home in the Bywater to my work in the Central Business District was surreal.
Living in New Orleans was just completely insane. Everything that happened was a story.
I still find it one of the most beautiful places in the United States & I still miss it terribly.
A view of abandoned warehouses & train tracks from New Orleans is one of my most painted backgrounds. 
The first time I visited after moving away, in 2004, I was heartbroken to return home to Massachusetts & thought moving here was a huge mistake. But that was pre-Katrina, & Katrina reminded me pretty clearly of what my original objections where.
Last time I visited, during DnDnD2K09 , just the smell of the air as we drove along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi & got closer & closer was pure joy.
A memory from that trip that sums up the good: A Friday night crayfish boil at a neighborhood bar in the Marigny (the R Bar). I don't think I would have appreciated this so much when I  lived there, but after six years in Northampton, I sure did. The whole neighborhood formed a line with paper plates & received some of the best food you could hope to eat for free, & then sat on curbs everywhere to eat. The drink special was a PBR & a double shot of Jameson, $5.
My driving companions where looking glum & a man passing by told them not to worry, at least they were white. Then some near strangers bought us shots of Jaeger, tall boys of Budweiser in paper bags, & proceeded to take us down Bourbon Street on an adventure that included meeting miniature horses named Rascal & Dixie at a gay club. That's New Orleans.
This overly long post was inspired by my day at work, wearing Mardi Gras beads.
Here's your drawing, some Abita beers. I drew one on that road trip. They've changed the label since then. I don't love it.
 Abitas, Mardi Gras 2012, Greenfield, Massachusetts.
This really fine beer is now available at the River Valley Market for a very reasonable price (You can get Abita Amber at the totally fabulous Ryan & Casey's in Greenfield, too).
An Abita Amber tastes like everything good about NOLA, to me.
I don't think I'll ever move back. But it's still an excellent beer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Overdose of Cute? Nah, Just The Perfect Amount.

Obviously, I am talking about the day 27 of the cutest puffballs you ever saw arrived at the Greenfield, Massachusetts post office in a box & we took them home.
February 2012: The Arrival Of The Puffballs.
These little guys are just absurdly cute. For the first couple of days, it was really hard to keep from just sitting & staring at them & pointing out incessantly how cute they were. Well, more than a week in, & we still kind of do that. 
How did we end up living in Cute City? Well, it all began one early January Saturday morning sitting around drinking coffee & reading the Murray McMurray Hatchery online catalog. Or did it begin with my picking up the excellent book Farm City by Novella Carpenter & falling in love with the idea of a box of baby poultry arriving via the U.S. Mail? Or did it simply begin last December when I emailed about a seemingly perfect craigslist rental that came complete with a chicken coop?
No, it all truly began much much earlier in time, when I met, started dating, & then married a guy as into or even possibly more so, crazy garden & farm plans as I am.
From the day we met we wanted to do this, & so what, if on that fateful January morning it seemed totally insane? So what if we already had four chickens, & the money we spent on the chicks could have been better employed elsewhere.
Spring is the season for chicks. We, by some very lucky twist of fate, ended by living somewhere we could have baby chicks just in time to place our order. How could we not? If you asked us in early December, we would have said sadly that we were at least a year, if not years, away from this project.
Look at us now. Lucy, Amanda Jo, Miranda, & Lulu outside in the chicken run, & an assortment of Barred Rocks, Araucanas, Golden Campines, Black Australorps, Partridge Rocks, & Sliver Laced Wyandottes currently chirping away in a brooder in our second bedroom.
We started with 27, but we lost one on the second day. Very sad especially considering it was a trying day during which I mostly focused on coming home to baby chicks, so finding that sad little body was quite a blow, but a week later the other 26 are still going strong.
It is really amazing to watch them grow. In just a week & a day, they have gone from little balls of fluff to much more bird like creatures, with wings & the tiniest most adorable tail feathers you ever saw. Their tail feathers kill me. Seriously.
If this post has a point beyond the obvious fact that omg, baby chicks are cute, it is that sometimes you have to just take a risk & go for the things that you know you want in your life. You can't just wait around to make enough money to afford your dream life later, sometimes you just have to go for it, & buy those baby chicks even though we knew we'd need that money down the road.
I don't regret it. Just now I took a break from writing this post to go outside & shut up the outdoor chickens in their coop for the night, & I can't properly express how happy the chicken tasks make.
In the last couple of weeks I have been reading the books & blog of Jenna Woginrich & I hate to use the word inspiring, but they really have been.
Big shout out to the farm & garden & food sections of the Forbes Library of Northampton for making us not even miss tv or netflix online or hulu during the almost two months we have lived here.
Turns out, I love having farm chores. My days are more fulfilling with chickens. I am happier here than I have maybe ever been, scary finances or not. We are on the right track.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wood Stove Cookery & Being Thrifty.

As promised, a little more detail on the soup.
Soup On The Wood Stove, January, 2012.
Some facts: our finances continue to be terrible, we like cooking, winter is cold, soup is good, & we have a wood stove & a lot of cast iron enamel pots.
For most of January, our propane tank was really low & we couldn't afford to buy more, but we are allowed to cut wood off our property, so wood is free. This led to using the propane stove as little as possible, & coming up with creative ways to cook on a wood stove. Solution? Frequently SOUP. 
(We boiled water for pasta & made red sauce & slow cooked bacon a lot too.)
It turned out to be a very good thing that we enjoy roasting a chicken as a cheap but really satisfying Sunday dinner & always make & can stock from any large meat thing we cook. Duck stock? Lamb stock? Yup. We moved a lot of frozen stock over to the new house, & we ate it in January.
Cheap Ass Back Woods Soup:  
Place cast iron enamel pot on wood stove. Simmer an onion & garlic in a bit of chopped bacon from your freezer supply for just these occasions. Add chopped beef from some large cut of meat you have been using sparingly from Stop & Shop. Add homemade chicken stock, a potato if you have one, rice or barley or both, a can of whatever beans you have on hand, season, cumin, oregano, sage, touch of cayenne, or whatever you like. Simmer at wood stove heat, stirring occasionally. Eat, hopefully with free day old bread & expired cheese from your work (one of my perks.)
Delicious. Keep reheating for lunches until gone. Repeat.
A tiny rant: I hate eating cheap meat. That really bothers me. I am a committed meat eater after many years in my teens & twenties of vegetarianism & veganism & my decision to eat meat is well thought out & firm but I hate supporting the meat industry that brings the cheap grocery meat to our tables. But what we can afford is the cheapest thing the grocery store has. 
I can't wait until we get to the producing our own meat level.  It'll happen pretty soon since we got straight run chicks with the intent of eating the males. It will be hard after knowing them from tiny fuzzy babies, but part of my eating meat agreement with myself is I be willing to kill it myself if I am going to eat it. If I can't do this, I guess it is vegetarianism for me once more.
For right now? We eat small amounts of meat & lots of kale (also one of the cheapest things at the grocery store, & way less troubling than the cheap beef).
That was a lot of opinion for one post. Dear me. 
I shall leave you with this: having a wood stove in your kitchen is very nice, & looking out the window while cooking on the wood stove to chickens is even nicer.

There Is Really No Better View Than Chickens.

An out take from Eating & Drawing @ Flying Object, & also a glimpse at our new life in Greenfield.
January 2012: Lunch At My Painting Desk With DR Watching the Chickens.
So having our chicken owning fantasy come true? It is pretty great. After all that time trying to figure out how to have chickens in our community garden plot, or in our tiny slopped front yard on busy South Street, & suffering through terrible chicken jealousy when someone did have, finding this place with its own resident hen in need of people, Lucy, a very opinionated & bossy & fabulous Plymouth Rock, was one of those moments of luck I still can't quite believe.
In another moment of craiglist brilliance, I found three Rhode Island Red pullets, Amanda Jo, Lulu, & Miranda. This was the afternoon of their second day here at Barton Heights. 
Today's words of wisdom: there is no greater gift to an indoor cat then a nice window seat with a plant & a view of an active chicken coop. 
What was lunch, you ask? As this is a food blog & all? Why homemade beef, barley, & chickpea stew, reheated on our woodstove in a cast iron enamel pot, a huge white vintage one from Denmark I inherited from my mom which is one of my favorite things. Oh yeah, did I mention the cottage came with a woodstove too? I'm really in heaven here. 
More on the soup coming up, to be continued... 

Eating & Drawing @ Flying Object.

Hello! Here I am! Still here, yeah. Lots of exciting developments here at EnD. 
First, I had this show! Eating & Drawing heads out of the sketchbook & into the big crazy world. The very excellent food blogger Jono of the brilliant Oil Changes  curated this show of my food watercolors, featuring, of course, DustyRose, at Flying Object, in Hadley, Massachusetts.The opening was last night. It pretty much ruled. I know some amazing people 'round these parts. You know who you are. Much love.
Western Massachusetts people, have you checked out Flying Object? You should, because it is pretty great, & also because MY SHOW IS UP THROUGH MARCH 11th! OMG! You yes you, could enjoy all this fabulous art in person. I know, it's mind blowing. Think on that.

 Ok, so, let's go back a bit, to last December...I was on track, planning my holiday food blogging, looking forward to on catching up on my sketchbook archives...when during a random craigslist browsing session, I found our dream rental (since owning land is still just a dream). Free standing cottage, lots of land & garden space, & I can't even believe this still, it came with a chicken coop & even a chicken! All that stuff we really wanted wrapped up in a neat little package.
Since then, we have somehow acquired three more pullet Rhode Island Reds (one of them laid her first egg Friday, just before I left to hang my show-seemed like a present from Lulu), & more recently 26 (there were 27. Very sadly, we lost one.) of the most adorable baby chicks you ever saw (I know all baby chicks are that adorable. But whatever, mine are cuter).  
We are now reporting to you here at EnD from our new, much more rural headquarters in North Greenfield, Massachusetts. Our nearest neighbor is a dairy farm. I love it. 
Needless to say, the blog has been on hold what with moving & art show & chickens. But I'm happy to be back. I've got some things to say, & some things to draw before my standard summer garden season hiatus.
Looks for chicken paintings soon! If you are in the area, go see the show!