Category Archives: Food

State of the Kiki Address

It’s a rainy afternoon. I just put a skillet of corn bread in the oven while a ham hock boils on the stove in preparation for tonight’s mess of collard greens and pecan-crusted catfish.  Travelling through the South with a new southern cookbook on the back seat of the car left me hankering to try out some of the recipes on Chuck, a very willing test kitchen volunteer.

A group of House Sparrows is on the lower deck by the river pecking up one of last week’s corn muffins (from a mix) that I crumbled up for them this morning.

Chuck is off doing his thing over in Michigan–putting in a few hours at the Red Cross followed by some time at his house getting it cleaned up enough for me to start helping him clean it up.

There is a lot I would like to be able to blog about but feel I cannot do so without compromising the privacy of the parties involved. There’s my sweetie and his privacy, my ex and his, and that of a close friend.  I have one friend I can talk to about the situation, but she is far away. She did help me a lot during a recent visit. I couldn’t really talk to my mom about it because we didn’t get a whole lot of mother-daughter time this visit.  Maybe I’ll try emailing her about it.

So that’s why the posts here have become rather impersonal lately. I can tell you about my trip and the food we ate. I can blog about my daily routines.  BO-ring.

What I can tell you is that it’s difficult. I feel alone in this.

What is this “THIS” that I’m talking about?

A couple of relationships–one very close one and one that wasn’t as close but was still important to me–have suffered as the result of my getting together with Chuck.  Those relationships were strained by my break-up with Sylvain, but the union with Chuck seems to have derailed them completely.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was when I arrived in Cedar Crest, NM and watched Chuck absolutely hit it off with one of my relatives. That felt so nice for me. Then my aunt took me aside after our dinner out on the night of our arrival and whispered to me, “He’s a keeper. Hold on to him!”

That felt validating, too.

I guess we bloggers can’t really use this forum to talk about our significant relationships at all. Sure, we can talk about the good stuff. The other party never takes issue with that. But then you, the blog reader, are never getting the full picture.  You didn’t have the full picture of my last relationship and you’ll not have a fair image of this one, either.  I might soon feel okay about sharing the fun parts, but I’ll never reveal our problems unless it can be done in a way where both parties agree to the message being shared.  Chuck and I have already agreed that if we are ever experiencing a rough patch, we’ll never show it in public.  We agree that it’s not appropriate to air one’s dirty laundry. It isn’t pleasant for the couple and it makes those who are exposed to the discord uncomfortable, too.

So I don’t really know what to do. I would love to be able to tell you about my new relationship, our bliss, our growth, our deepening love…but I don’t feel I can freely express myself here at this moment without risking being misunderstood and without risking hurting others.

Road Trip Part 6 – Soul Food and Family

This blog post has been moved to Bordercitiesblooming.blogspot.ca.

Road Trip Part 5…in Which We Are Not Abducted by Aliens

Chuck only had three things he wanted to do / see during this entire two-week trip: stop in Roswell, NM; stop at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock; stop at Crater of Diamonds State Park, AR to look for diamonds.  Everything else was from my personal agenda, and he tagged along for those activities with a degree of patience I found utterly astounding.  I know that if the shoe were on the other foot, I probably could not endure three different stops to meet another person’s relatives nor spend hours in houses filled with people I had never met before. He’s a trooper!

So when we arrived in Roswell in the late afternoon just in time to find a CLOSED sign in the window at the UFO Museum and Research Center, I was more than a little disappointed in my own failure to plan better.  Exhibiting the good humour that I’ve come to learn is typical of him, Chuck settled for a trio of hokey souvenir shops.

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lamp post in Roswell, NM

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invaded furniture store

Our next stop was Artesia, which is where my mom’s sister still lives. Aunt P is my godmother and housed me like a sibling to her other two kids for long periods of my childhood when my mom had to be in L.A. with my brother at Children’s Hospital for his multiple surgeries.  I have very fond memories of those stays in New Mexico when I was small. It was so great to see her again. We took her to dinner and spent time on the sofa going through photo albums.

After a restful night in one of Aunt P’s guest bedrooms, we set out for Lubbock, home to the Buddy Holly Center and Museum.  I was absolutely certain we had scheduled our departure from Artesia in time to enjoy the history of regional rock and roll until Chuck pointed out the change in time zones. I’d failed to account for that!

“You are seeing the Buddy Holly Center even if we have to spend the night in Lubbock,” I insisted, getting peeved with myself for again failing to plan well. We arrived in Lubbock, however, with plenty of time to enjoy the exhibits and even watch a documentary film about  Hardin’s short life and even shorter ballistic career.  I learned so much about this amazing young man and his music.  Later in the gift shop I got my brother a souvenir tee shirt and a memorial CD set for Chuck, which we enjoyed in the car all the way to Little Rock. Many of the tunes in this special collection had never before been released in the U.S., and some do not sound anything like what a die-hard fan would expect from the artist. Case in point: Smoky Joe’s Cafe.

We spent the night in Wichita Falls, TX and in the morning headed for Crater of Diamonds State Park.  By the time we got to the area, a long and steady rain reaching all the way to Little Rock was making the idea of diamond hunting less and less appealing.  Oh, well. Along with all the life birds I dipped on, we have to save some treasures for next time, eh?

When we passed a sign that Chuck thought would make a good story, I offered to double back so he could get a good picture.

“Don’t you want to be in the picture?” I asked.  He assented and posed in front of the green road sign just long enough for me to snap two or three shots. No sooner had he crossed the highway back to the parked car than he was frantically brushing little biting insects off his ankles, calves, thighs and from inside his urgently removed sneakers.  As soon as I saw the ants, I joined him in brushing them away as fast as I could.

Our next impromptu stop was a pharmacy.

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Sightings of Chihuahuan Raven in the western region soon gave way to a plethora of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Northern Mockingbirds.

As we neared my mother’s home in North Little Rock, my dreams of authentic southwestern cuisine began to be replaced by fantasies of black-eyed peas, turnip greens, fried okra and catfish, gumbo and corn bread, and diners where the tea is sweet unless you request otherwise.  Before leaving the area, we would taste most of those and more.

…to be continued…

Life Birds and Meeting Family (Road Trip part 3)

…continued from the last two posts…

With only two weeks allotted for the trip, I had resigned myself at the beginning of the journey to the fact that I would not be getting a great number of life birds unless I was willing to sacrifice one or more of my other priorities, such as seeing relatives, stopping for good meals, or spending a few days with Mom.

“Tomorrow you can sleep in,” I’d told Chuck at the end of my wonderful birthday since he had risen before dawn to get me to the sanctuary before they even opened. Keeping my word, I joined him in a later-than-usual breakfast at the hotel before we set out to find the first of three birding destinations of the day, a very easy birding schedule that I’d hoped might net me one or two life birds if I was lucky.

The sun was already scorching by the time we found the next hot spot I had highlighted in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico. We easily found Embudo Canyon at the end of a cul-de-sac in a residential neighbourhood. As we were coming to the end of Indian School Road, I got my first lifer of the day: a Curve-billed Thrasher was perched atop a green street sign! It swooped away before Chuck could turn the car around, but the silhouette had been clear enough for me to count it.

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feeling overheated

We got out of the car and began applying sun block. I hadn’t even started looking for birds yet, but my attention was drawn to a Scaled Quail singing atop a desert plant with a central stalk on which to perch. I felt as if he were putting on a welcome show just for me!

We walked the trails for a short while; I managed to pish up my first Black-throated Sparrow.  Then we went back toward the parking lot to stroll down one residential street and up the other, as alluded to in the guide book. Enjoying feeders, gardens and bird baths were Canyon and Spotted Towhees, several kinds of Hummingbirds, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Western Kingbird.

By the end of this walk in the midday sun, we were ready to find a place to cool off with a refreshing beverage. We easily found a Starbucks where we enjoyed free wifi and regrouped for our next trail walk.

With the help of Liddell & Hussey’s guide, we found the trail head to Three Gun Springs (Tres Pistolas). Perhaps I was feeling lazy at this point in the day, because I unfortunately failed to note the length or difficulty of this hike. I cannot fault the very comprehensive guide. For every stop it gives directions, target species, what to watch out for (such as bears, rattlers, harvester ants), etc. But the guide only works if you read it.  I had only skimmed the paragraph up to the point where I learned to take a left at a fork rather than a right toward the hawk watch tower.

Well.

We walked.  And walked.  And walked.  There were no springs in sight. And it was hot. And we did not have water with us.  Yes, I know. Stupid. All trails undertaken to this point had been easy half-mile hikes, one-mile hikes, etc.  My bad.

So we walked some more, guessing that we might come upon the springs ANY TIME NOW, the book being back in the car.

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There was no bird activity save three Turkey Vultures way off in the distance. Were they taking up a pool on how long it would take the two tourists to succumb while trudging uphill in the heat of midday?

Finally we spotted movement in some Junipers. I may have jumped up and down when I realized there were at least three Juniper Titmice flitting from evergreen to evergreen out there in the heat. That species had eluded me for the last two or three stops, and seeing them made the wild goose chase worth it.

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We turned back after what may have been a mile or more. Next time we’ll read the guide more carefully before starting a hike.

Back at the car we did spy a Western Scrub Jay, and flushed a Cooper’s Hawk from a tree, but neither time–arriving or departing–did zig-zagging through the adjacent residential area  render any bird sightings. Going in the early morning or evening might have proved more fruitful.

Finally it was time to check out the hot spot right next to the rendezvous place for meeting my little cousins that evening: Ojito de San Antonio Open Space. We found the old church on the corner of two unpaved roads using our usual navigational combination of GPS, iPhone maps app and directions provided in the book. We parked next to a pickup truck, noting “Someone is already here.” We were swapping out our sandals for hiking boots when the man sitting in the truck started to speak to us. He informed us that the open space was not open at all; we could not go in.  I then noticed the sign chained to the open gate.  Soon a second man in another pickup truck came back out the gate, and that man closed and locked the gate.

With a bit of a thumb to nose attitude, I said something to the effect of, “FINE, then! We’ll just go to my cousin’s house up the road and bird her PRIVATE PROPERTY.  Hrmph.”

And that we did, arriving much earlier than we were expected to.  Hence the bewildered teenager answering the door.  Hence our staring at one another until a quick phone call to his mom cleared things up and resulted in a gracious invitation to come in, join him in front of the television and have something cool to drink.

It wasn’t long before my late cousin’s ex arrived on the scene and we were soon in the midst of new cousins, old cousins, new husbands, uncles of cousins from the other side of the family and more people than we could keep up with as we shook hands or hugged our way through them all.

G had made up a crock pot of buffalo stew, which hit the spot and gave me energy for more birding around their gorgeous hilltop property.

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delicious buffalo stew

G’s husband heard our story of the closed gate and advised us that locals just ignore that and sneak through the bars of the gate, something I’m sure the authors of our guide would never condone.

Gate or no gate, the problem of the recent drought could not be circumvented. G’s husband told us that they had just had a 50-year drought two years in a row. There was no water trickling through the acequia.

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We followed the dry creek bed to its source, but there was no water there, either.  The location was not totally devoid of birds, though. A Broad-tailed Hummingbird followed Chuck and his red cap around, and I got a good look at a Say’s Phoebe before we gave up the hunt.

Our host was not comfortable leaving us to wander around the apple orchard without some way to scare away bears.  I am not going to blog about what one of the men carried throughout our hike. (We’re not in Canada anymore, Toto!)

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Determined to find running water, our host took us to a spring on his property, but it was also dry as a bone. Poor birdies.  There were a couple species of hummingbirds visiting their garden, but other than that there was nothing to distract me when my two little cousins arrived around supper time.

I spent the rest of the evening getting to know six-year-old J and eight-year-old M, both darling children with whom I can now begin a correspondence and relationship. Chuck spent the evening deep in conversation with the children’s father.  It was a delightful time; we didn’t start back to our hotel in Albuquerque until late in the night.

We would need to rise early the next day in preparation for our alien encounters in Roswell!

….to be continued…

Grace in Small Things 247

  • getting to meet Chuck’s brother, who lives in Chicago, and finding that I really like the man; we have enough commonalities to make conversation a real pleasure
  • learning from him about backyard foraging for sorrel and purslane
  • opportunities to eat grits for breakfast and turnip greens, corn bread and fried okra for dinner
  • the biggest meteor I’ve ever seen streaking down from the dark sky toward a nearby cow pasture
  • that this hokey little game awakened memories of trips we made when my brother and I were small enough to ride in the back of the station wagon all the way from California to Arkansas

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Grace in Small Things 240

  • a lazy indoor day after a bustling around-town day
  • a meal prepared slowly and with love
  • eating fresh wild mint from the riverbank
  • no lessons to plan
  • discovering another positive publication about our area

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Grace in Small Things 239

  • a sax player among the sunflowers
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Detroit’s Eastern Market

  • finding a source of lovage, sorrel and nasturtiums

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  • a bookstore so big and old that it exudes a smell of old books all the way into the parking lot

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  • not having to pay for parking due to a random act of kindness

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  • being presented with an opportunity to pay it forward within 30 seconds of benefiting from that kindness

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For more about our trip to Detroit’s Eastern Market,  Avalon International Breads,  John K. King Used & Rare Books and The Flytrap Restaurant, visit the other blog.

Grace in Small Things 237

  • being invited to to join an American family for a traditional Fourth of July meal

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  • delicious food made with fresh ingredients and herbs from the garden

Fourth-table

  • being able to enjoy a day with multiple outings thanks to a collaborative good care of my needs
  • fireworks bursting on the evening horizon as we drove home
  • tasting three new things: thimbleberry preserves, Italian sausage with fennel, and frozen custard

Custard

Grace in Small Things 231

Today was the end-of-term school-wide lesson held in a space large enough to host everyone at once. The topics were Canadian culture and civics, plus what fun things to do this summer in and around this great city. The planning committee did an amazing job putting together the program, which included the singing of the anthem by a talented student soloist, singing of the anthem again by all of us, short slide shows, a jeopardy game on Canadian civics, door prizes, and a pot luck. I get a bit emotional at the group singing of the anthem, especially when I think of how all of us have found our way here to a new motherland that we love and appreciate desperately.

At such events as today’s, the students cook up mounds of food, much of which is traditional in their homelands. The Chinese students often bring dumplings, many of the Middle Easterners bring dolmas, briyani and tabbouleh.A Caribbean student brought fried plantains, a Karen student had made sticky rice balls with coconut.  I always get to sample a few things completely new to me. Today my “must get the recipe” dish was a Latin American fruit salad.

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I was especially impressed to see that we put earth-friendly thought into the types of plates and cups we used. Not sure these are the best option, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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One student had bought me a riotously colourful bouquet of daisies.

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At the end of the time spent breaking bread together, one mother let her three wee ones (ages three, five and six) gather around me and my iPhone. They wanted to see a game. Note to self: download a few toddler-friendly games for the next time I’m in this position. I showed them the screen and they wanted to play “The W game.” So I opened an ongoing Words with Friends game and let them move the tiles onto the board with their little fingers. Thanks to my LifeProof case, I wasn’t at all worried about sticky fingerprints.  I learned their names and surprised them by being able to spell each name correctly.

“How did you know that?” the big sister asked.

“Because I’m a teacher,” I answered.

“Our mommy goes to school here,” she said, pointing out her mom seated not far away.

“I know. I’m not her teacher, though,” I said.

“Then why are you here,” the five-year-old wanted to know.

Finally it was time for them to head home with mom.

“Tell Kelly ‘thank you,’ ” she urged them.

The youngest stared at me with the widest dark-brown-almost-black eyes, saying ‘thank you’ over and over as he backed away from me, almost tripping over a chair behind him.  It’s all I can do not to find out where they live, go ring the doorbell tomorrow afternoon and beg to be allowed to play with them again.

Grace in Small Things 221

  • being observed by a student teacher and wondering if anything she sees in our warm, wonderful classroom might inspire her
  • eating mulberries straight from the tree
  • how quickly thirsty birds appear as soon as I refresh the birdbath
  • being in touch with my mother daily and sharing all my thoughts, fears and joys with her
  • the enthusiasm and friendliness of a particular student who always arrives early and comes straight to my doorway to say “good morning.”

Grace in Small Things 218

  • mama goose, papa goose and four goslings paying me a visit
  • slowly preparing a delicious meal for myself and my lover
  • welcoming him home after a work week away and long drive
  • the way my fingers smell after chopping fresh rosemary
  • flowers from the garden on the table

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Kiki Does Kalamazoo

This post has been moved to the other blog.

Chicago Part 3: A Reunion

This post has been moved.

I Love a Road Trip

Last year was the first that we had the summer (July and August) off due to cuts and re-appropriation of government funds. As soon as I knew about the temporary lay-off, I planned a road trip. There are so many birds in the prairies and desert southwest of the United States that are just out there waiting for me to discover them and add them to my life list. (More colouring–yay!)

I intended to go alone. I might take a tent with me, might not. I had already started ordering books from Amazon when something bigger took precedence in my life (my move to the little city cottage). The money, time and energy I had earmarked for the trip went to moving my stuff from one dwelling to another and then furnishing the little cottage. I postposed my trip by a year.

We learned in March that renegotiation of our contract did not include getting summers back, so once again I am facing a two-month lay-off.  I still have the tentative route marked out on Google’s “my maps,” complete with parks, motels, inns, restaurants, cafes and even friends I may want to visit, if they respond positively to that.

Well, now my life has undergone another big change.  Chuck is in my life; when I asked him if he would like to accompany me on my trip and meet my mother, he replied with a resounding yes. In fact, he may be looking forward to it as much or more than I am!

Now I just have to figure out what I actually want to do now that it’s not just me and a pair of binoculars rising at dawn near some park in the middle of nowhere hoping to catch a glimpse of the Crissal Thrasher and Cactus Wren. Now I’m travelling with a fellow foodie.  Now I have someone willing to share the driving.

So what I have to figure out (in conversation and negotiation with my partner) is: do I still want this to be a birding trip or might it morph into a culinary tour? What about a road trip to see strange and unique roadside attractions? Could we have a little of all of these treats and still get back here in two weeks’ time?

You know me. I don’t like to rush and I don’t like trying to cram too much in. I’d rather pick one or two things and do them slowly and well.

The main goal, of course, is to introduce my new love to my maternal unit mother. A second priority would be to visit the little first cousins twice removed whom I’ve never met along with their parents and my aunt, whom I’ve not seen in a very long time. The kiddos are growing fast and the only involvement I’ve had is receiving school pictures every year. They are in New Mexico. Mom is in Little Rock.

Well, I’m sure Chuck and I will figure it out.  What we know is that we’re both completely jazzed at the idea of travelling across the country together, discovering and experiencing new things side by side.

Speaking of road trips, this weekend will be my turn to visit Chuck rather than receiving him during his two days off. One reason is that he will likely have to work Saturday. Another is that he wants to show me Chicago. Plus I have a long, long-time friend in that area whom I could pay a visit. It would be good to catch up after so long. (Hi, Mary!)

Yes, I love a good road trip.

State of the Blog Address

Thank you all so much for your input into my decision process: whether to stop blogging here, start a new blog, or both. I have pretty much decided to do both. Due to your comments and conversations with Chuck, I’ve decided not to stop using this forum to express and share my more personal thoughts and feelings, as I’ve always done.

Chuck feels comfortable blogging with me on a new blog, including having his photo posted! I have already taken about a week’s worth of photos (mostly food but also one of him standing before a dinner he cooked).

The only thing holding me up now is a name / URL for the new blog. All the cute, punny stuff is taken. Some of the titles I’ve wanted to use are too close to the names of other blogs, some of which are about cooking or food but some of which are full of porn. So I have to be very careful when creating the new blog name.  I’m trying to come up with something so unique that a Google search doesn’t take you anywhere but to my blog. I don’t want to duplicate or have a name that is similar to any other website name.

I would like to allude to the area somehow. (Windsor / Detroit)  I would like to focus on the potential for transformation for these two cities, his and mine, as well as discover and showcase the little jewels that are everywhere but go unnoticed by so many (restaurants, events, festivals, groups trying to make a difference–such as Broken City Lab).

The new blog would also be where we could post about trips we take and any other adventures that he’s comfortable sharing with the world.

As for Chuck, he may post the odd socio-political diatribe now and then. That’s yet to be seen. I’ll let him decide what he writes and how often, if at all. I know for sure he’ll be contributing content for my recipe posts. He’s an awesome cook!

Can you help me brainstorm? Even if you just throw a word my way, it will help. Many heads are better than one.

Intense

I would like to sit down with all of you and have a chat. I want to let you know what’s happening in my life, because it’s big and it’s intense.

It’s no secret that I can be very impulsive at times. Or I can SEEM impulsive to the outside view. An example would be the time my realtor was taking me around to look at houses. We were inside the second one she’d ever shown me when I said, “I want it.”  She thought I was being rash.  What she doesn’t realize is that this moment of “I want it” was the culmination of months of screening hundreds of houses on MLS.  I knew when I was inside that little 1908 bungalow with the compost bin enveloped in a raspberry patch and a cottontail rabbit munching clover at dusk under the apple tree that this was my little dream house. Nothing the realtor said could change my mind about that.

When I saw C for the first time, there was an instant connection. I knew right away that I adored him. The more he spoke, the more smitten I became. When he walked around the car to open my door EVERY TIME, I swooned. When he consulted me carefully before ordering dinner, I smiled. When he taught me a new word (pica), my heart went pitty pat.

This is a kinky thing to admit, but I really get off on food talk and expertise. C has got that one in the bag. He stops at his local Italian market and bakery on the way over to pick up olives I’ve never tasted, breads I’ve never heard of, ingredients I haven’t seen since traveling through the south of France.

You know I like a well-read man. Not only is Walt Whitman in the “to be read to one another aloud” pile, but so is The Death of Ivan Illych and other Stories. Things like this make me wonder if I subconsciously submitted a wish list to the heavens and it was scooped up by an angel–one of those angels who is assigned to matchmaking detail.

Last night I finally cooked for him for the first time.  He’s cooked for me once and we’ve collaborated on a few meals.

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You know I like a cultured man. Over stuffed sweet peppers, C told me about the D.I.A. He’s been a member for years and will be taking me there this weekend for my maiden voyage into one of the best art museums in the Americas. As he was describing the Diego Rivera murals to me, I wanted to pinch myself. Am I dreaming?

While the peppers were in the oven, C was putting up a bird feeder for me, a special one designed to hold meal worms. Nesting Orioles really like those. I had asked him where I might hang it so that orioles would feel safe at it while squirrels would not feel comfortable investigating it and dumping the worms all over the place. C had suggested the metal canoe rack at the water’s edge. The next time he came, he brought his drill bits and tapping tool. While playing assistant on the project (oil spritzer), I learned about drilling into and creating threads in metal.

So anyway,… I guess I could sum it up by admitting that we have been all but inseparable since that first date.  Wow, eh? We’re just entering our third WEEK of knowing one another yet it feels as if it’s been a few months. There is nothing I can’t tell him and I think he could say the same about me. We are working out a very functional system for communicating with mutual respect and consideration.

Here comes the part I want to talk to you about.  It has to do with that fine line between knowing when to compromise for the health of a relationship and losing oneself.

There are areas where C and I see things differently.  One is religion / spiritual beliefs. He is a traditional Catholic and I’m certainly not either–traditional or Catholic. Another is political stance, though we really aren’t that far apart on most of the major issues. Another is how private or public we are. You know I’m pathologically honest and that I have no problem revealing very intimate details of my life here on a public forum, content to let the chips fall where they may. C is not completely at ease with that much public openness.

I know many of you have significant others who do not appear on your blogs. Either you use a pseudonym or refrain from showing his/her face or both. So this is something C and I are working out now.

No, I don’t want to lose myself or give up something that is important to me for a man or for a relationship. But I do want to be flexible and willing to compromise. I believe that’s an important component of a strong, resilient and long-lasting relationship.

So here’s what I’m thinking.

I’m thinking of stopping blogging here. I’m also considering starting a new blog. The new one would be about exploring Windsor and the Detroit area (much the way I started this blog by exploring Waterloo).  I would like to do restaurant reviews again; I’ve enjoyed doing them in the past. I would also like to do something along the lines of what Foodie and the Beast do… showing the meals they make for one another in their own home and then rating those. I was thinking of something with the word “pilgrim” in it, something referencing our two cities in their current throes of decline and rebirth.

Anyway, I’m still in the brainstorming phase and haven’t even gotten a vote yet from my partner in crime. I would love to hear your thoughts, though.

A Whole Other Country

One surprise is that the distance from his driveway to mine can sometimes be as short as 30 minutes, including the border crossing. I never imagined that an international romance could be so easy.

A co-worker  asked me the other day how it was going with the hot one–the tall, handsome guy who looked so sexy in his designer eyeglass frames and long wool coat. I told her he’d decided not to continue after three dates.

“It’s pretty slim pickings here in Windsor,” I’d said to keep the conversation going.

“You should open it up to the Michigan side,” she had advised. “There are LOTS of good men over there. But who wants the hassle of the border crossing every time you want to see each other?” she had asked rhetorically.

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Wednesday he came through the door with an armload of groceries and two bottles of wine.  He shooed me out of my own kitchen and told me to work on my lesson plans while he proceeded to cook scallops and monkfish in a white wine reduction, roughly mash Yukon gold potatoes (skins on) with butter, minced mushrooms and garlic while gently steaming fresh asparagus.

Clearly the man is hell-bent on impressing me.

It’s working.

Life is Good

That’s what my tee shirt says–the shirt I wore to the gym this morning. What a great way to start the day!  Hormonal fluctuations have me waking at really weird hours, so this morning I figured I would just go ahead and get up and get my workout out of the way super early.

LifeGood

I am not much for exercise, that’s for sure. As a child, I always had my nose in a book and my least favourite class was P.E. I’ve led a pretty sedentary life so far, with some sporadic exceptions.  I know I will not stick to any regimen that involves cardio, except maybe cycling outdoors and swimming.  Zumba and step classes or stationary bikes are not for me.  Weight training, however, is a whole different story.  That is something I managed to stick to for about three years at one point, but it’s been over a decade now since I quit.

Because my workplace offers a free gym membership, I really have no excuse. Plus, the gym is IN THE BUILDING. So I don’t even have to get back in the car and drive anywhere. How easy is that? I’m going to give it another shot.

The other day, I had my tour and was given a program to start with, one that is super easy and gets me in and out of the gym in under an hour. Once I’m in the groove on this core workout, I can add a few more machines.

Back when I worked out the first time, I read up on different philosophies of weight training and decided that the Nautilus system was for me. Hence I focus on high weight, low number of sets (just two). I take on the weight at which I can handle six reps. I try to increase that to twelve reps over the next few workouts. Once I am doing two sets of twelve reps with ease, I up the weight. In this way you can build muscle without spending a lot of time on each workout. Well, it worked before. I had hard abs (hiding under a layer of baby fat, mind you) and Michelle Obama triceps. I could see them in my wedding photo where I’m wearing a sleeveless 1920s style dress. Beautiful arms!

So today was my second workout. I was amazed at how different my entire day felt after having begun it with a visit to the gym. I felt energized and was so productive for the rest of the day.

My next project is to return to good eating habits. Shopping was really fun today, though admittedly a bit expensive. But can you really justify pinching pennies when it comes to your health? I figure that since healthcare is free in this country, the least I can do is invest some dough in preventative care.  I got hemp hearts, ground flax seeds, quinoa, red chard, rolled oats, broccoli, salmon, plain yogourt, lemons for the salmon, avocados, free range organic brown eggs, and coconut oil.  Already in my house are Ontario apples, raisins, raw almonds, celery, sweet potatoes (thank you, Olivia, for this recommendation; I love them!), brown rice, olive oil, frozen berries, garlic, and other healthful goodies.

In my house now there are no processed foods and almost no products containing sugar–just a few salad dressings that do, and I use those VERY sparingly. Mostly now I emulsify my own dressing from oil, vinegar, and a pinch of herbs and spices.

The whole day has been extra shiny. I’ve been singing more loudly along with my Eddie Vedder CD, was humming and smiling while I swept and washed the deck.

The weather was warm enough for me to leave the door open for short periods.  I spent the latter part of the day working on lesson plans for the coming week while watching the squirrels just outside my window fighting over the peanuts. Gulls were swooping down to get fish from the river. The Kingfisher was rattling away. Song Sparrows were singing to announce their nesting territories for the new spring. A pair of cardinals came to the shallow dish where I had spread mixed seed and cracked corn.

Indeed, life is good.

Contagious Verve

I have a student who might possibly LIKE me.  He’s a lot older than I am and happily married, so I think it’s just a harmless crush. He’s a very well read, cultured, analytical thinker who loves to explore current events, history, the workings of government, etc. He certainly seems to love class.

Anyway…

I have a habit, as many teachers do, of leaving my classroom and cabinet keys in my mailbox each day at 3:00 so that if I’m ever sick and have to call a supply teacher to cover my next morning’s class, she or he will be able to take the keys from my box and have access to my hole punch, stapler and dry erase markers.

Tuesday, I did what I RARELY do: forgot to leave the keys at school. I said to myself, halfway to my car, “It’s okay; I’m never sick.”

So naturally I woke up sick the next morning. Well, not really sick. I had consumed some Chinese herbal medicinal tea the night before without reading carefully what it was for or how it acted on the body.  It was a laxative…ha! Having that in the house was the result of my forgetting mainstream stores would be closed Sunday, which landed me at a Vietnamese food market on Sunday trying to satisfy a craving for fruits and veggies as well as stock my pantry for the week. The herbal tea was an impulse purchase.

This whole long and winding story has little to do with anything. It’s just background. I recovered by noon and was able to teach my afternoon class. That evening I got a nice email from the student who is so attentive saying he hoped I felt better soon and that he had missed my “contagious verve.” That comment landed on me so nicely, I’ve been repeating it to myself ever since.

Grace in Small Things 204

flannel sheets

flannel

immediate appreciation for a new feeder

Chippie

fruit that don’t ripen until after the first frost

persimmon

a Canadian school flag at half mast

half mast

and snow on Christmas Eve