Being confined to the house can be awfully boring and intellectually stimulating in turns, but the upside is that there's tons of fun little things to do that we've had a hard time getting to when not ill. And the best part for sure is the license to drop everything to take an unscheduled nap.
In addition to nodding off regularly, I've written a few short pieces, chipped a little away at a big piece and even finished a couple of my 20 odd lingering blog posts. Don't be surprised if posting pace suddenly doubles. Then again don't be surprised if it doesn't.
First in the long line of "things I've been meaning to post about" is of course Mary's beautiful creation, The First Annual Terralectualism Bioregional Swap.
When we got home from the Fair three (!) weeks ago, what was waiting in our package-sized mailbox if not a treasure trove from Elizabeth. As excited as I was for the swap in general, my excitement was only compounded upon finding that she was to be my swap partner. Since she found my log and started commenting on it, I'd been wanting to get to know her a little better and what more perfect opportunity than this swap.
As a side note, I have to add that, man, it feels good to wear something other than bed-clothes. My philosophy has always been that if you have to wear clothes, might as well wear ones that reflect your personality and artistic temperament. Or to put it in plainer words: if you have to wear tights, they might as well be yellow. But you don't want to hear about that. You just want to know what was in that package.
Behold the multi-bioregional cat-en-tat!
No but seriously, M and Elizabeth did not send me a cat. They sent me hand-dyed yearn, home-made toffee and plum jam, Irish heather (the sage of the heath?), earrings, an angel for my christmas branch, pictures, art and cards, a beautiful dress and a scarf that C. promptly put to use...oh endless treasures!
The box was equal parts scrap book, a little museum, the perfect market stand...it had most everything I could have dreamed off and many things I never would have thought of.
My favorite has got to be this portrait of us by little M. I look forward to framing it and a bunch of other swap art from little girls and boys around our circle and hanging it on my walls. My own small gallery.
There was also another very special piece (very special among such special things) in the package that I'm waiting to show you when the occasion arises.
Thank you so much little M and Elizabeth! And, of course our fairy godmother Mary. If you want to see what I gave Elizabeth and M, here's a link to her post about the swap. If you haven't visited her blog before, you're in for a treat, her art is dreamy and her posts very thoughtful and inspiring.
While I've been ill, I've received so many blessings and such kindness from near and far, that it's been damn near impossible to even pity my poor sick self. Packages from friends and family, juice from my co-workers and two jars of chicken soup from my friend Julie, who is so kind you can taste it in her soup.
With friends like these, it's almost worth it to get really sick. Also, the cat really approves of this lazy, do nothing all day lifestyle.
I did manage to complete a couple of food-preservation projects during this time. First, there was the all-night adventure of bake-apple-sauce, which is just apple sauce baked in the oven.
Canning projects always take way longer than I think they're going to, so that what was going to be a few hours ends with you trying to learn ukulele cords, or finger-knitting around midnight while you wait for the last batch to come out of the canning pot.
The sauce turned out good, but I accidentally put a little too much sugar into the last batch. I have a very low tolerance for sugar and I like the taste and tartness of the fruits themselves, so that was a little disappointing. The actual baking of your apples first though, I highly recommend.
My second project was a kind of a fluke. I had a few leftover tomatoes that had been slowly ripening, and Mary's lacto-fermented ketchup inspired me to try making this American staple myself. Sadly mine's not fermented, but it turned out shockingly good, if a little spicy. (I accidentally used hot peppers instead of sweet. I'm having a lot of cooking-related accidents it seems. I blame it on that cough syrup...)
I've always thought of ketchup as one of those consumer goods not worth making yourself, since we hardly ever use it, but it was so easy and fun, not to mention a welcome change to the grind of canning salsa and pasta sauce, that I think I'll definitely do it again.
And breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You didn't think I was going to stop posting pictures of my cat?
After all that downtime indoors, it's been amazing to have our strength back, going on little strolls, harvesting the last bounty of Fall. This has been a good year for Madrone Fruit, the trees are simply laden with it.
As much as I love eating local produce, growing food, learning about farming and striving slowly towards more self-sufficiency trough homesteading, I'm even more drawn to learning to make use of nature's wild bounty.
It's not only fun to gather this profusion of wild edibles, but also to figure out how to eat it, what recipes to incorporate it in, how to process it and how to enjoy its unexpected flavors.
The Northwest is so abundant with wild foods that one can hardly resist the urge to gather them. Almost any time of year, there's something to fill a jar or just your pocket with. The shortest stroll turns into an expedition for edibles.
Though a little tart and dry, I like the flavor of Madrone Fruit fresh off the tree and some food hipsters even seem to think it's a superfood. Whatever. I'd like to try preserving it like rosehip and mountain ash berries, a jelly with the seeds still in it. I'm also trying a bunch for tea.
The day of this particular gathering trip was very stormy, the wind chasing the clouds so fast they did not have time to rain on us and the weather changing from moment to moment.
We wandered around the park aimlessly, just feeling happy to be together, alive, on this blessed piece of earth.
There's so much perspective one can gain from illness and hardship, a clarity that really makes you appreciate that which is right there in front of you each moment; a mushroom, a mountain top tugging at a cloud, a cluster of red berries.
As Sheri so gently reminded me in a message she wrote in response to my sick post, music can heal the soul and the soul is needed the heal the body. So I took her advice and put on some of my favorite good time jams, most notably Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros.
I dare you not to smile and get that warm, fuzzy loving feeling inside. And possibly flail your arms around like a loon.
A few weeks ago, Heather wrote about that ridiculous, giddy feeling of still having a crush on your own husband and how wonderful that is. I think I know just how she feels.
The best part of this whole miserably being-sick- together-extravaganza has been for us having lots of quiet snuggly movie watching, cat-loving bed-time together.
Being married can be hard sometimes, butting heads over the same small things time and time again, but damn if it isn't the most awesome thing in this life too. To me Home embodies that feeling.
I also love how filled with pure, naive, uncynical happiness the song is. It makes me wish people, myself included, could let go of their hang-ups and burdens more often, and just be well, happy.
If there's anyone I've met that knows the art of doing so, it is definitely Heather herself.
Happy Birthday Love!