Category Archives: creative week

Home, Grown

I made carrot cake jam today, and then I went on my social media networks and asked myself this:

“Why oh why do 6 jars of homemade jam sitting on the countertop make me so darned happy?”

Seriously, why?

Why do I feel so accomplished, like I’ve really done something, somethingsomething, when all I’ve done is shred some carrots, chop some pears, measure some spices, apply some heat, use a timer, and follow written directions?

Why are the 6 jars of carrot-cake-batter-y looking goodness sitting on the counter something to make me so pleased?

Why do I get a thrill when Jim comes up from the basement with a jar of homemade pickles?

Jim says it’s because I value “old knowledge.” Which could be the reason, because I did major in Classical Languages in college. Latin and canning — two things most people don’t know how to do anymore. He also says it could be because canning is sort of subversive, sort of cutting edge, and sort of old school all at once. And I guess because I’m sort of all those things?

Meghan and I have frequently discussed that among our generation — the late-20-somethings and early-30-somethings — there is a resurgence in home canning, bread baking, gardening, local foods, CSAs and farm shares as a result of heightened environmental awareness during our formative years. We’ve simply been exposed to it longer, and sooner, than the late-30-somethings.

The term “greenwashing” was first coined in 1986. The Slow Food Movement also began in 1986. Captain Planet ran from 1990-1992 (my ages 6 to 8). The Land at EPCOT, opened in 1982, two years before I was born, is a 2.5 million square foot facility “dedicated to human interaction with the land itself.” The Land has undergone a few facelifts in the last few decades, but the central tenet has remained the same. The “Living with the Land” attraction has remained basically the same since 1993. Twenty years! Nearly two-thirds of my life!

So what did I do before writing this post? I googled the question.

And I found “Zombies vs. The Joy of Canning: Motivation in the Productive Home” by Erica at NWEdible. Go read it, I’ll wait – she’s hilarious. She goes more in-depth in to the gardening/urban homesteading side in her discussion, but she still strikes near to what I believe is the heart of the issue. At least, for me. Especially down toward the end, which I’ll quote here if you don’t want to read her whole post:

Right now, we do have a choice – those #10 cans of tomatoes are cheap and easy to buy. Those pears from Argentina are available in June. That feedlot ground beef is on special for $2.49-a pound. McDonalds is on the way and Hot Pockets and Lean Cuisines are in the freezer section.

So why go to all that trouble? Why not run out and grab a can of crushed tomatoes and a jar of jam right alongside the Lean Cuisines and Hot Pockets?


Because I have a pantry that reflects a summer spent in relaxing work and joyful creation.

Because cooking dinner makes me proud.

Because the food is delicious.

Because this kind of work makes me happy.

That’s why. And that’s enough.

This is why I support my friend Amber at the Farm School, why I’m in love with the local apple orchard, why my Valentine’s Day present was a half-share summer CSA from a local farm. It’s why I’m excited to find a local source for my eggs at this year’s farmers market.

It’s why I want to get my own tomato plants in this year, why I planted blueberries, why there’s an old kitchen cabinet in the basement (next to the auxiliary freezer) filled to the gills with canning supplies and groaning with canned goods.

Because I can open a jar of my own early-September apples during a February blizzard. Or October cranberries in May.

Because I like knowing what’s in my food, what I’m feeding myself, my husband, and my growing little daughter, though she isn’t even HERE yet: jams, sauces, and pickles I made; animals husbanded and eggs raised by my friend; fruit and vegetables from nearby farm families.

Because this kind of work makes me happy.

That’s why. And that’s enough.


Leave a comment

Filed under creative week, food, thoughts

Pay It Forward 2013

My friend on Facebook had — or co-opted, I don’t know — a genius idea. “Pay It Forward 2013”: the first five commenters on her status won a small something, a treat, a craft, from her. The only catch is that you have to be willing to Pay It Forward in your own status update to five more people. I like the idea of crafting something to send out in to the world, and in fact I prefer it. I get the benefit of crafting the fun craft, then I get to give it away. The only problem is that I can’t craft the thing and ~then~ give it away, I have to plan to give it away before I craft it, or else I never know who to give it to! Now I get the pleasure of choosing something I think each recipient would like, and make it personal.

Of course, I have to add something additional to my year on top of having a baby. But, I’ve got six whole months before the little frog arrives in which I can craft, bake, and create to my heart’s content. And I’ve noticed that when it comes to making, my heart tends to have quite a bit of content in need of contenting.

So far I’ve only had two takers!

Leave a comment

Filed under creative week

Mental math

I just realized that for wanting to have had a more creative year, my creativity came out in places I wasn’t expecting in January. If I attempt a bit of mental math, I can think of:

  • 8 8-ounce jars of wine jelly in August (4 red, 4 white)
  • 21 8-ounce jars of apple butter in early September
  • 9 pint jars of cranberry sauce since mid-November (and 3 more to go…)
  • 20 dozen of Grandma’s T’s chocolate chip cookies in December alone…
  • …and 5 or so dozen butterscotch triple chip cookies…
  • 4 loaves of brown bread in December (so far)
  • my first loaf of challah (didn’t turn out too bad!)
  • home-fermented apple cider beer (4 gallons)
  • one batch of homemade baked beans that could do with improving
  • my first crack at matzo ball soup, which turned out a winner if I do say so myself
  • America’s Test Kitchen apple dumplings

And the year’s not yet over! Still plenty of surprises left in this kitchen….

Leave a comment

Filed under creative week, food

Things We’ve Been Doing

  • Weeding
  • Making wine jelly
  • Planning next year’s garden (what to plant, how & where to plant it, what to do with the harvest)
  • More weeding
  • Remaking the basement in to a more useful space — sealing the walls, dividing the space, et cetera
  • Trying to get over various qualms about making my own cheese — specifically, mozzarella. Jim says if I start with cow’s milk, I can eventually graduate to trying sheep and goat varieties.
  • Still weeding
  • Cheering on my blueberry bushes — two seem to be growing a bit, the third not so much maybe? Time to  give the little darling some compost.
  • Thinning out the vinca which are threatening to take over the blueberry bushes
  • Plotting out bulb planting — when & where
  • Gearing up for fall visitors — both sets of parents and at least one grandmother, maybe two, inside of three weeks
  • Buying scads of bed linens, on sale, no less
  • Eating chocolate

Leave a comment

Filed under creative week, planning

August – Alive & Kicking

So, it’s August — when did that happen? And I’m alive and kicking, I promise.

Things I have accomplished:
Traveled by myself to somewhere I’d never been before.
Got within two hours’ drive of my birthplace.*
Went to a friend’s wedding.
Saw some old friends for the first time in a decade.
Met new friends; love them dearly.
Made pinot noir jelly.
Watched Jim rip out so many yards of privet hedge, my mind is boggled.
Watched Jim build a new flower bed.
Ordered 155 fall-planting, spring-blooming bulbs.
Read some books.
Trimmed some corgi nails.
Made lamb & couscous.
Roasted some fish.
Got an Adirondack chair.
Had some really deep thoughts about perspective and culture, & attendant cultural pressures, but haven’t figured out the best way to verbalize them, yet.
Watched my best friend embark on a new chapter of her life — engagement!

*For many of you, this may not be a big accomplishment. It may, in fact, be commonplace. This was the closest I’ve been to my birthplace in 27 +/- years, and I’m not yet 30, so I make note of it.

Things I plan to do the rest of August & September:
Make more jelly.
Read more books.
Fuss in the garden.
Sit in the Adirondack chair.
Trim corgi nails — again.

1 Comment

Filed under creative week

Creativity Takes a Hit

Unfortunately, the month of June done got away from me. We got back from Pennsylvania and it was the beginning of June; now it is the 27th and I keep asking myself, “Where has the month gone?” My creative juices dried up in all the hectic hustle and bustle, except for one area: the garden. The little plot of earth in my backyard, and my plans for it, have kept me occupied and hopeful. When I needed a quick break from work, I’d find myself out in the yard for a half hour or so, ripping out weeds or vines, or running off to get something at Lowe’s to put in an empty pot just so I could say There, I did something good today.

Even when it was nearly 100 degrees, and I coaxed my brave little delphinium along. There’s one shoot left that might, just might bloom, but it doesn’t look too happy right now. I just couldn’t keep it moist enough. I’ve taken off as much of the dead stuff as I dared, and left the better-looking leaves, and one spire of buds. Here’s hoping.

I spent two days plotting out a bulb map, picking Double Lilacs and Princess Irenes and Ruby Giant crocuses and Mr Fokker anemone, and gladioli, and wondering what spring would bring.

Jim started pulling some of the front bushes out. Apparently, our boxwoods have been here since at least the 1930s. One of our neighbors wholeheartedly encouraged us to take them out, so the bushes on that side of the house have led the exodus. Something tells me that the bushes abutting the other neighbor will be let be, for now. “They’ve been there forever,” he says. We’ll put in hostas, or mounding annuals, or a fast growing ground cover. Something visually low, and physically low maintenance.

And then, a great sad thing caught up to us, to our little family of close-knit friendships. I lost a week just keeping the gears running at work, keeping food in the house, keeping Jim in suits and ties, talking everyone else off of emotional ledges, and letting my mind wander in between. I slept badly. I had strange dreams. When no one else wore makeup because tears would make it run, I deliberately put on eyeliner and mascara so I’d have a reason to not cry, to stay strong because that’s what was needed. If one person kept putting one foot in front of the other, it was going to have to be me who led the way. The heat wave kept my mind firmly in the present: Must water the delphinium before it gets too hot.

I’m not feeling creative so much as I’m feeling tired, spent, wrung out. I’m looking forward to my next chance to get out in the sun and get my hands dirty, and get back in to the swing of things.

Hint: Bluegold, Toro, Earliblue.

Leave a comment

Filed under creative week, the house

Creative Week June 3-9

It’s hard to be creative when you spend most of your waking hours working… So this week was a lot more about mental creativity than physical creativity, at least up until the very end, when the kitchen exploded in a food-creating frenzy.

Jim built me a beautiful, GINORMOUS planter/raised bed in the backyard. Pics will be forthcoming, but right now it’s just a wooden frame. We need some loam and rocks to complete it, for which purpose Jim is networking with one of our neighbors, who is a landscaper. I spent a lot of time this week planning out my theme and colors for my little garden. I want some sculptural interest and lots of bulb flowers, which I seem to have luck with. Bulbs don’t go down until the autumn, though, so I might get a flat of annuals at the local big box garden store just to get some summer color in.

CREATIVITY CALENDAR for the week June 3-9 2012

  • created two new wrap recipes for best friend’s birthday party — one meat, one vegetarian
  • made 24 wraps, 7 dozen chocolate chip cookies, and a slightly-more-than-1-pound cheese ball for said party
  • garden planning: visual interest using rocks, sculpture, or shells and driftwood; perennial bulbs such as tulips and irises

Leave a comment

Filed under creative week