Tuesday, August 26, 2008

month of figs


It's fig season. Our tree grew quite a lot this year, and all the new growth is covered in beautiful little figs. I'm enjoying eating them and sharing them.

As you might already know, we've lived in this house for almost two years, and we inherited the fig tree along with it. Before us, the house was owned by the first owners, who had been here since the early 1950's. A few months ago, we came home to find this little note on our door:

"My name is L.B.
My friend live here
and died here.
If you have any
figs for sale, Please
call me I will
take as many as you
don't need, ask for
Robin. Thanks."

Since then we've been really curious about this lady with her morbidly endearing note, who clearly loved our figs in past years, and wanted to keep her connection to her old friends. All summer HWWLLB has been asking when the figs would be ready, and reminding me to call her.

Finally, we have plenty of ripe figs, so I called her and she came by yesterday to get a bagful. She had fun looking around the house and the garden, and told us stories about her dear (departed) friends, for whom she made fig jam every year for many years.

I tried my hand at making fig jam for the first time this year, too. Now fig jam on homemade bread with cream cheese is my most favorite afternoon snack.

fig jam

Here's the recipe I used, from Deborah Madison's wonderful cookbook, the Savory Way:
fig jam with cardamom and rose water
makes 2 cups

2 pounds figs
1 1/2 cups sugar (I used about 2/3 of this amount)
1/3 cup rose water
1 tsp finely ground cardamom seeds

Remove those skins that come off easily and leave the rest on. Chop the figs roughly, then stir in the sugar, half the rose water, and the cardamom. Cover and allow to sit overnight. If it's hot and the figs are over-ripe, put them in the refrigerator to keep them from turning.

The next day, put them in a stainless-steel or other non-corroding saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook slowly for about 1 1/2 hours. As the jam begins to cook, check the bottom of the pot and make sure that all the sugar is broken up and dissolved; then stir occasionally as it cooks. When it has thickened, remove from the heat and add the rest of the rose water. Turn into sterilized canning jars; then immerse in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Find some more tasty fig recipes at Chocolate and Zuchinni - yum!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

my happy place

hammock's beach 2

Saturday we went to the beach. Aaaaaaaahhhhh.

We had a beautiful day of lounging, swimming, splashing, strolling, birdwatching, people-watching and just loving the peace and quiet of a sunny summer day by the ocean. It felt wonderful.

After a leisurely day of healthy outdoor fun, we stopped at El's Drive-up in Morehead City for some not-so-healthy beach food. I had the fried oyster plate... and I'm sure my arteries are a few millimeters smaller as a result, but it was delicious.

el's drive-up

Who could resist a place where the entire menu is right on the sign, and the waitresses come right on out to your car?

The car trip out to the beach also gave me a few hours to make some progress on this blouse I've been knitting for myself, slowly, in between other projects.


It's really coming along now. I can't wait to wear it this fall -- I am really pleased with how the design is working out.

On Monday I met with a friend and she gave me a wonderful gift -- a guided meditation session. We spent about 45 minutes sprawled on my living room floor relaxing... deeper... deeper... about mid-way through the session, when we were doing emotional relaxation, we were told to imagine the most wonderful, relaxing place we have ever been, and to go there... can you guess where I went?

Here's a hint: there weren't any fried oysters afterwards this time. But if the meditation had included a "go to your greasy place" cue, I'm sure I'd have been right back at El's Drive-Up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

lots of time


Have you ever thought about what you would do if you had a whole lot more time on your hands? I try to be careful not to fantasize about unemployment, because truth be told I've been there, and it's not as great as it sounds. But just what if you had a bunch more time for a while?

I thought that I'd be sort of aimless, for one thing. I thought that I'd have oodles of free time and do all kinds of lazy things like lay in a hammock sipping a cold beverage. I guess I thought I'd knit 8 hours a day, too. And somehow I also thought that my house would become very, very clean, because I guess I thought I would spend more time cleaning it (ha!).

It's funny, but none of those things has been true the last two weeks. I am knitting more, but not nearly as much as you might think. And there hasn't been much laziness, though I think there is overall a whole lot more ease. At least I'm not rushing from place to place. I also thought I'd blog more, but believe it or not, I don't even turn on my computer most days. In case you've ever wondered what you'd do with more free time, here's my list of what I've been doing a whole lot more of the last two weeks:

exercising -- I'd say a 5-fold increase over normal. This doesn't mean going to the gym (heaven forbid!), but it means that I'm at yoga every day, that I choose to ride my bike most places, which translates into lots of cycling, and that I'm always up for a long bike ride or hike with a friend.

cooking -- Oh, how I love cooking! It's easy to forget that you love something when you have to cram it in among daily chores. I've been baking bread, making jam, making tomato sauce to freeze for the winter, and cooking dinner every night. I'm also making myself interesting lunches, which is something I would never do in real life.

reading -- This is something I thought I'd do tons more of, but it's not. I am reading a couple of hours a day, which is an increase, and I'm enjoying it, but it's not the studious hours I was expecting. There's just so much to do!

chilling out -- Chilling out! What a great thing to do. This is something that I really don't do enough of in real life, and when I do it's usually highly-scheduled, and half the fun is lost in thinking about the thing I have to rush off and do next. Chilling out has meant puttering in the yard, picking bouquets, reading a knitting magazine, having lunch with a friend, snuggling the cat, snuggling with HWWLLB, watching a movie, lazing in the backyard with a stack of cookbooks, having a beer at Pub Trivia night... wonderful stuff like that.

I wish I could cling to all these things and keep doing all this more of them when I go back to the old routine in a couple of weeks. But still, it's important to notice that if I've multiplied my yoga and cycling time by 5 without really even meaning to, I must have been needing it. So perhaps this is an important lesson for any re-prioritization I might do in a few weeks.

So... what do you think you might do with an extra 40 or 50 hours a week? I bet it's not what you thought. And if you'll excuse me, I have a pressing rainy-day date with a cup of tea, and... nothing.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

it must be august

Oh, hi!

All that stuff I said about how I'd have so much time to write in August... what was I talking about? Well, maybe I will have more time later in the month when I'm running low on things to do, but jeez, I am almost overwhelmed by how much there is to do right now! Happily, they are all things I want to do.

This sabbatical thing is great. I highly recommend it. But if I was thinking that I'd get "work" done this month... ha! Nothing is getting done around here. Well, not nothing... but nothing that shows. Tomatoes and figs are getting picked, dinner is getting cooked quite regularly, the cat is getting a lot of attention, and the funky knots in my back are getting worked out, but beyond that kind of thing, I really don't have much to show for myself. I obviously haven't yet let go of the need to be productive all the time.

I haven't even really found much knitting time yet. Though I did manage to make these little guys yesterday:


Inspired by many of you who suggested making toys with yarn scraps, I made a teeny dent in the stash with these two little toy mice, who are a gift for a friend with new kitties.

I'm also (slowly) working on a new-baby gift, and a short-sleeved sweater/blouse for myself that's been in the works all summer. I squeeze in knitting a row of it every now and then between other projects. But since it's a project for me, it gets shoved to the back burner when there are gifts to be made, which seems to be always.

One thing I have been making plenty of time for is yoga. My only real pledge for this month was that I would do yoga every day, and this is definitely not a pledge I will break. I bought an unlimited one-month pass for the yoga studio and have been getting my money's worth, though I think I overdid it a bit the first week. My core is sore. But today was a "gentle flow" class, which was just what I needed after six straight days of being wrung out like a damp washcloth in class.

I have been fretting about how much my mind is chattering in class. Today I think was the first class since my break started when there were actually some (short) stretches of time that I wasn't really thinking of anything besides breathing. It was cause for celebration. I hope that by the end of the month I can have one whole hour-long class like that.

The other thing I'm doing a fair bit of is reading. Here's my current reading list:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (I know, what took me so long?)
The Open Road: the Global Journey of the 14th Dalai Lama by Pico Iyer
Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch
Essential Yoga Sutra by Michael Roach & Christie McNally

I also have ordered some books from Alibris and have some requests in at the library, so perhaps I'll share some thoughts about what I'm reading this month, too. I've been thinking about starting a short-term reading group when I go back to normal life this fall.

I've also been peeking in a bit on what everyone else is doing on Ravelry and Flickr and on your blogs. Summer is fun viewed through others' eyes as well, isn't it?