Truth From The Lake

I’ve wept for worldwide losses. Smiled over simple joys. Felt blessed to make dinner despite shortages. Prayed for the less fortunate. Contributed to causes.

What more could I do while social distancing and staying at home, as “personally” as the internet allows? Make bread.

A lil’ lovin’ from the oven goes a long way — plus the store was almost out.

This is 2020, yes? What a different world we live in. But, back to the basics can be a good thing — a vital reminder to cherish life and change what you can, even if it means kneading dough after your arms are tired. (Imagine what it must be like for folks on the front lines… doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMT’s, police, firefighters, first responders, gas station/convenience store/ grocery clerks, etc. — God bless ’em all — and thank you.) Sometimes we need to start “from scratch.”

While I was pummeling dough, the song “I Need You” by America came to mind. (Probably because my brain accesses random trivia when I least expect it; remind me to become a Jeopardy contestant.) “I knead you, like the flour needs the rain.” [sic]. You get the idea. Hopefully you can access this link to their recording session, along with a few o’my own in bold blue. Some things bear repeating.

I especially loved the banter at the beginning wondering if they should do over and their producer’s advice: “Just keep going.” That’s where we’re at right now, America.  Just keep going! Stay inside, wash your hands, listen to/follow the CDC guidlines, and make the most of your time on the planet. Make bread and music if you can, too — you never know whose soul you might inspire, save, or feed. Keep it up!

Enjoying an introspective moment at the lake,

~ Kim

Snooze If You Must

How many people do you know who’ve made best friends with a fox?

Other than Kevin Costner’s scenes in Dances With Wolves while he attempted to befriend “Two Socks” (the elusive wolf), I seriously doubted it could happen for “real” unless it was cinematographically staged. Then I ran across this photo in my archives, which immediately sparked a sense of wonder to the point of being compelled to share it with you again… with a story.

Yes, this actually happened.

In the weeks prior to that Kodak moment, my ever-lovin’ patient hubby (The Man Of Few Words, aka: TMOFW) worked as a groundskeeper at a retirement community between trucking jobs — mowing lawns, edging sidewalks, watering flower beds, making repairs, and courteously attending to its elderly residents.

One day he came home and said a fox showed up at his workshop door. Per TMOFW, he proffered a nonchalant “hi” (in a no rush, whenever you’re ready tone of voice) and the fox stuck around to “observe.” Later, it began following him on his rounds — trotting beside him or slightly behind. What a sight that must have been.

Their relationship continued to grow on innate curiosity and a mutual respect for boundaries — the story of our marriage (feeling blessed) — even though it was tentative at first. Sometimes the fox skittered off when TMOFW made a sudden move (truthfully, I did too) and other times it stuck around longer and longer to absorb the wonder. Isn’t that what life is about? Building trust one day at a time?

Long story short, I’m certain the fox never encountered such a calm human being. (Bonus points for Russ’s moniker meaning “red like a fox.”) As the days wore on they continued to forge the bonds of friendship.

Kindred souls.

One day TMOFW called. “Can you bring your camera please? Mr. Fox is getting sleepy.” I arrived just as it sidled up to a cedar fence and yawned. The fox didn’t appear overly concerned about my presence (see trust above) and allowed me to get fairly close before he settled in for a snooze. Speaking of which…

How do you feel about using the snooze button on your alarm clock and/or phone? Although I resort to it every once in awhile, it feels like I’m delaying the inevitable. As Maria Von Trapp once extolled: “When you wake up, WAKE UP! It’s healthy…

That said, I’ve adopted a much more relaxed approach to life and blogging lately, despite my previously stated intentions to post more frequently. Some days I don’t have much to say, but I observe a lot. Spring is just around the corner and I plan to write more… cook more… show you more… after I hit the the snooze button.

Wonder is where you look for it (and blessed to find it) when you’re AWAKE!

Enjoying memories at a slower pace,

~ Kim

Sharing Is Caring (Carnitas)

Some things are too good not to share. Take Carnitas for instance. Translated as “little meats”, a hunk of pork is slow-cooked for hours, shredded into shards after it’s fork-tender, then sautee’d prior to serving. Talk about flavor this side of heaven. (The leftovers freeze and reheat well, I might add.)

A few simple ingredients contributed to that stunning transformation: onions, oranges, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, salt, sweetened condensed milk (truth be told, I punted and mixed coconut oil and coconut palm sugar to achieve that effect due to my dairy allergies) and lard. Confession, I subbed “bacon fat” — a Southern staple. Oh my!

Several years ago I made David Leite’s Authentic Carnitas and enjoyed every bite, then filed his recipe for future refence. When I looked it up again last week, the only note I discovered on it was: “These are fabulous!” (Click on the link for the recipe.) Who doesn’t want to eat fabulous food?

Shown above with a skewer of black olives, a side-salad of baby spinach, arugula, and orange segments dressed in a lime vinaigrette with avocado slices drizzled with lime juice and liberally sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, plus a gluten-free wrap I was trying out that evening, (ditto on oh my!) it exceeded my flavor expectations. In the future I may incorporate some of the sides into that hefty structure (who doesn’t love a good fusion taco?!), but on that particular evening I wanted to taste everything separately. Unfettered. Fabulous!

Re: the taco shells… BFree Sweet Potato Wraps. Described on their packaging as: “Scrummy with sweet potato, beetroot & carrot” I have no idea how they ended up on our local grocer’s shelf with their UK pricing and origins, but they were mighty tasty. (Thanks, adventurous grocery store buyers!) FYI, they’re also good with a slice of pastrami, a “schmear” of Dijon mustard mixed with mayo, and an assortment of greens. Gotta love cross-cultural-flavor adventures.

Re: Life On The Lake, we’re still in the throes of winter in Oklahoma — torrential rains, hail, tornadoes, fog, frost, ice, sleet, snow, and temps ranging from 70 to 30 or below — but I still love it here. Don’t let weather — or life — distract you from your dreams. You never know when the next surprise or inspiration will show up.
Speaking of which — above is a “just because” mid-winter bouquet TMOFW showed up with one afternoon. It was least I could do was to surprise him with FABULOUS food that evening. Isn’t it lovely how that all works out?

Well, that pretty much sums up life at the lake lately. Cook! Eat! Enjoy! And, be sure to look up a few recipes while you’re at it.

Enjoying revisiting FABOULOUS food,

~ Kim

Bleak Friday at the Lake

Yes, you read that right. Today is “Bleak Friday” at the lake. God bless the folks who brave early morning risings and long lines on Black Friday, but I’m not one of them. Especially when it’s raining, thanks to a continuation of Thanksgiving Day’s 24-hour drizzle. The sky is overcast (not to mention dripping) so I opted to stay put. Ahhhh… it’s been a productive day.

Thanksgiving leftovers bagged, tagged, and in the fridge or freezer for future use? Check. House cleaned and festooned for Christmas? (Paltry though my decorations may be…) Check. Music perused, practiced, and in place for a memorial service on Saturday and two church services Sunday morning? Check. Dishes and laundry done? Check. Airplane ticket booked for a holiday in New Hampshire? WOOHOO!

You get the idea. I don’t sit around or shop much. (Unless it involves following my heart to visit my daughter on the East Coast between Christmas and New Year’s — the first holiday we’ve spent together in over a decade — plus I get to meet my son-in-law to be and his family!) Some things are worth the wait or long overdue. Decide what’s important to you! Even if it means standing in line.

Below is a synopsis of Thanksgiving dinner. (After the fact I know, but it was wonderful.) Hope yours was as equally magical, colorful, and tasty! Smiling about the empty “pumpkin without the pie” dish, thanks to TMOFW and his Mom. After 50+ years of rolling out pie crusts for family dinners, she decided to bake the filling (or in my case, the overflow filling) in a separate dish. No fuss, no muss. Russ ate the whole thing before dinner! Who says dessert can’t come first?

Although that turkey breast may resemble Ol’ Mother Hubbard’s shoe, it was the perfect size for the two of us. After it was stuffed, skewered, and roasted I served it alongside a very small ham with a few side dishes. We felt blessed (and stuffed) beyond measure! Thanksgiving was good at the lake — hope yours was, too. And if you’re still standing in line to snag more Black Friday deals, God bless you.

The roses were my last-minute idea for a lil’ shot of color to overcome a soggy Thanksgiving Day. (And today.) So glad I impulse-bought ’em. I’m sure there’s a lot of that going on yet. :) You GO!

Enjoying “Bleak Friday”,

~ Kim

A Slow Roasted Kind of Day

Summer is in full swing here with temps near 100, but today also included an early morning thunderstorm, revisiting old and new kitchen utensils, simmering spaghetti sauce (not pictured), baking a batch of five-cheese garlic toast (also not pictured), and roasting garden-fresh veggies because my oven was going. A good “inside day” with time to regroup and re-evaluate. Thank God for A/C! Hope you’re all cool and comfortable, xo.

I also swept floors (a perfunctory chore I enjoy for its instant gratification), unloaded/loaded the dishwasher, cleaned the fridge, wrote several letters, two thinking of you cards/notes, a birthday card, and answered a couple of emails. Basically, I had the house to myself. Peace and quiet. Sheer bliss! Don’t get me wrong. I miss my hubby when he goes to work, but sometimes a girl needs a lil’ “alone time” — and I’m not one to waste time. All in all, it was a productive and peace-inducing day.

Ahhhh…

Pictured above is my “Toy Box.” (The Land of Lost Toys for kitchen gadgets!) Most of them are/were from my mother-in-law circa 1950’s — potato ricer, et al — but they’re too precious or one-of-a-kind to discard. By now you know I tend to be nostalgic. :)

Over the years I’ve added a few others to the mix due to infrequent use or lack of a place to store them, but it’s always a delight to open the lid to discover what I “shoulda/woulda/coulda” been using. Wonderful innovations, now and back in the day.

Plus, I like mixing things up. Speaking of which…

Here’s my latest kitchen mat — an ergonomic wonder featuring “air pockets” to relieve fatigue. When I think of my Grandma hovering over her ol’ cookstove on a linoleum floor (or worse) I feel entirely spoiled, but grateful. Grandma would have embraced change. And kitchen mats. A very forward-looking lady.

The next one was “just for fun” after I acquired a lil’ wall decor at the Mission store. Gotta love it when themes unexpectedly appear in life.

What are yours saying to you?

Re: garden-fresh veggies, I’m talkin’ new red potatoes, pattypan squash, a head of cauliflower sliced, diced, & drizzled with EVOO, and sprinkled with a variety of flavors — summer savory, marjoram, freshly ground black pepper, pink Himalayan sea salt, and a dash of garlic & onion power — my makeshift version of Herbes de Provence minus the rosemary and lavender. I was too lazy to walk out to our front yard, plus it was pouring buckets. But, I wore my “lil’ French housedress” — or at least I imagine it to be — a cute black & white number trimmed in hot pink. We should all feel so lovely when we cook.

Stirred with a spurtle procured from my aforementioned Toy Box, the golden goodness that resulted will feed me for days to come.

Ditto on ahhhh…

Are you mixing things up? Do tell!

Enjoying slow-roasted days,

~ Kim

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Summer provides a revitalizing palette for my soul. (Ahhhh…) Besides the brilliant backdrop of greens and blues from our lawn, lake, and sky, there’s a veritable rainbow of fresh produce to cook with — and eat.

Serenity mixed with intensity.

Looking back through the ol’ blog archives (which I do every once in awhile to ensure that my writing and photographic integrity are still intact) I was tickled to rediscover these blasts from the past in somewhat “rainbow” order:

Regarding the Ranier cherries in the first photo (with a batch of ‘flat belly water’ in the background —see previous post) and the bell peppers below….

Sometimes colors meld into each other, transitioning from one hue to the next like “in between” colors of the rainbow. Love when that happens! Gradual is the name of the game here.

The striated cherries were a lovely snack all week and the peppers are soon to be stuffed. (Sorry, no recipe — “throw-together” supper tonight.)

What’s your favorite color of the rainbow and/or summer food to eat?

Enjoying subtle transitions,

~ Kim

Herding Armadillos and An Overdue Letter

How close can you get to an armadillo? Depends on how brave you are. The Man Of Few Words recently got close enough to photograph the hairs on its back, gently poked at them and concluded they’re more leathery than armored (oblivious, too), and grinned at me. We should all be so trusting.

Last week one of ’em almost ran up my leg. After a few “Oh, OH’s!” it scampered into the underbrush. (Didn’t realize they could run so fast!) As a result of that — plus previous encounters with cottonmouth snakes and a stray dog — I’m still a lil’ gun shy and/or photo shy with unexpected “up close and personal” opportunities to document Oklahoma’s wildlife. But, I appreciate “seeing” all of it — even through someone else’s lens — and I’m feeling braver by the day.

Thankfully Mama armadillo wasn’t around. (Not sure what I would’ve done with a full-sized armadillo chasing after me!) Here’s another pic of one of the babies courtesy of TMOFW, followed by a long-promised letter from me. Sometimes words are more forthcoming than photography on my part.

Dear Friends,

I’ve been a letter-writer all my life. Pen pals. Best friends. Family members. Even long distance crushes. (More on that momentarily.)

As long as I have a pen in my hand with access to paper, stamps, and a mailbox, I’m a happy camper. I’d even go so far as to say that if I don’t write something every day I’d be as skittish as an armadillo. (Bet you’ve never heard that comparison before.) Whether or not my thoughts make it to another human being’s mailbox, the fact is: I WRITE every day. Some days I scramble into the underbrush. Tentative. Unsure. Unable to to portray the real “me.” Still, I write nonetheless.

Life’s too short not to be candid.

Speaking of that long-ago long-distance crush, what a humbling moment that was in my letter-writing life. I grew up on a flat, fenced farm in rural Minnesota and the nearest body of water was a tributary named the “creek” (pronounced crick) a quarter-mile away. More of a dribble than a tributary, except during the Spring and Fall rains when it overflowed and chewed away at our rural gravel road with a gaping whirlpool — it served as a convenient get-away after a short hike — a respite and quiet place to think and write. I’ve been looking for the ideal spot all my life and finally found it at “The Lake.” (Thank you, God.)

Round about that time the musical “Oliver” was released. While everyone else was enamored by Mark Lester — the “star” — my girlish notions were captivated by The Artful Dodger, Jack Wild. (For some reason, I’ve always favored the underdog — a life-long habit, ahem.) I wrote a letter to him on the banks of the “crick” and put it in the mail, hopeful of his personal reply. Imagine my chagrin when the mailman returned my letter a few days later due to “insufficient postage.” (Who knew international postage rates applied?!) Appalled and ashamed, I tore up my love letter and tossed them into the flowing waters of the “crick.” Since then, I’ve decided to do a lil’ more research, pay the price (as needed), and continue to let people know how I feel — postage rates or not. Also sorry to learn that he succumbed from cancer at an early age.

I’ve also learned not to mess with Mama!Above is TMOFW’s favorite goulash with corn because that’s the way his Mom made it. Who am I to upset tradition? Ever the faithful wife. :)

Some lessons are learned alongside fledgling waterways, heart-felt love letters returned with insufficient postage, and “the lake.” (Even armadillo encounters…)

I’m grateful for every one of them on the journey toward being “me.”

Enjoying discoveries one day at a time,

~ Kim