Sunday, April 9, 2017

real life simplicity

Disclaimer: this post is written by a sleep deprived medical resident working the night shift and is likely to contain gross errors of grammar, spelling, and logic, not to mention unpardonable sins of style.

Simplicity is cool these days. Peruse pinterest (or look over your wife's shoulder while she peruses hers), or observe the preachings/postings of minimalists on social media or just think of your coolest possible friends who (of course) have embraced simplicity and minimalism at least in part.

Then there is our home, where Christy and I are busily doing what bunnies do best: we have Ansel speeding towards his 2nd birthday in October and his younger sibling slated for arrival the month before. Meanwhile I am working my way through Internal Medicine Residency at Dartmouth, Christy is being a super mom, and we are both working on remodeling our house and yard. I need to pain the trim, spackle/pain the ceiling, fix the fence, paint the fence, order more fill and topsoil for the yard, put windows in the basement, insulate the basement...the list really does go on and on. We also try to be involved in our local church, teaching Bible study or giving a sermon here and there. Oh yeah, and we are also the church-school treasurers (Christy does most of the work to be honest).


What does our model of simplicity home look like? I should really take some pictures  But just imagine our table at breakfast time. Ansel is grinning gleefully as food traverses between his plate and his mouth, or just as often, every imaginable and unimaginable remote corner of the table and surrounding floor. The living room, which had been "reasonably" clean prior to his pre-breakfast cyclone of activity is now a minefield of blocks, books, daddy's tools, mommy's credit cards, a pot lid, an open bottle of lotion, a random piece of string from who knows where, and some very important bolts for fixing the picnic table, now scattered across the room.

We love it all. Our lives are enriched by the fullness of our days, the endlessly varied topography of our living-room floor, and the shrieks of laughter and love from our precious little boy.

Where is the simplicity in such a life? It's a good question. In one sense, we feel an acute need for much more simplicity both in our time and space. Yet there are moments when I feel certain we are getting things right--when we pile into our aging Toyota Camry to go cross-country skiing together instead of cleaning the house, when we stay up talking in bed after Ansel has finally gone to sleep, when we make maple candy on the last snow of the season.

I guess my point is just that simplicity is not a Zen garden, a gorgeous tiny-house, or a neatly folded and ruthlessly minimized wardrobe. Simplicity is a means to an end, not an end in itself. No doubt, we try to get rid of stuff on a pretty regular basis that doesn't "spark joy", we actually do fold our laundry in the approved neat-and-oh-so-organized recommended fashion, we limit the number of toys Ansel has to a few quality ones, and so on. We also try hard to limit our time commitments--I stepped down as a local elder at church, for instance, so that Christy and I could work on the school board together rather than me going to a church board and her to a school board on separate days.

For us, simplicity in real life is aiding us in our ability to prioritize what we value most. We have some room for improvement but we are also enjoying the stage we are at and trying not to get so caught up in the idea of simplicity that we lose sight of what really matters.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

It's been a while..

Christy and I have talked several times about getting back into blogging here but we just haven't managed. Something really clicked for me when we were talking about blogs just last night though: one of the reasons we don't blog anymore is that we tend to waste time on the Internet. Sure, we are also incredibly busy. Finding time to keep up with just the bare minimum demands of life is often challenging. And yet if I invested the Internet time wasted on news stories, sports, Facebook and just general mindless web surfing into blogging, I'm quite sure that a regular stream of blogs would be the result. I really do have the time to do this, in other words. And why not? 'Twould be a much better use of my time, that's for certain.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Living Fences

I found this neat post today on Mother Earth News about how to build living fences.  I think the concept is really ingenious; definitely something I would like to experiment with once we have a place of our own!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Will You Bee My Honey?

I've gotten more interested in honey bees lately.  They are so vital to our livelihood.  Did you know that   a majority of the bees needed for the agricultural sector of America are shipped in from outside sources?  That seems so crazy to me!

I recently found this neat plan for a bee garden.  I would love to do something like this when we have our own little homestead.  This comes from Susan Brackney - author of Plan Bee.  You can visit her website here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Green Onion Pasta with Asparagus

We've been making our own pasta lately and it really transforms Italian eating.  I have been singing its praises ever since Christmas, when we got our pasta press.  If you have one sitting in a dusty cupboard, dig it out!  If you don't have one, this can be made by hand but it is a bit more labor intensive.

We made this delicious pasta last week and I wanted to write down a few notes about it before I forgot.  This is less of a "recipe" per se and more of some general guidelines.

Spring Pasta With Asparagus

The Pasta
Green Onion Pasta (devised and crafted by Barry!)
(We use this basic recipe.  The key to eggless pasta is to use semolina flour and knead it a lot!  A KitchenAid works wonders here!  You can add a lot of seasonings to the pasta.  This time we added about a cup of chopped green onions.  Often we'll add herbs, garlic, sundried tomatoes, etc.  The possibilities are endless!)
The Toppings
Steamed asparagus spears
Zest of one lemon
Slivered basil leaves
Carmelized onions
The Dressing
Juice of one lemon
2 TBSP olive oil (I added in a dash of truffle-flavored olive oil as well)
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Smooth Celery and Allium Soup

I found this recipe for a celery bisque this morning and felt like I had stumbled upon a revelation.  Smooth, creamy, celery (i.e. cheap, abundant, easy) soup!  It was the perfect way to use up that wilting head of celery in the crisper.  

Then I started contemplating, I had leeks that needed using.  That would be a nice addition.  I got out my chopping board and started down the list of ingredients.  I rummaged in our onion basket for a yellow onion - and came up empty handed.  Grrr!  We were out of onions again!  Barry asked why I couldn't use the purple onion that was in the fridge.  It was a logical, level-minded question to which I replied, aghast "No!  I can't use a PURPLE onion in my celery soup! Think of the HORRIBLE color it would make!"  

So, he suggested another logical option.  "We have those huge green onions in the garden that need to be picked.  I bet you could use the white parts of those instead of the onion."  And so, Barry solved the dilemma.  He's good at that :)

The picture you see below is not leeks, like they appear to be.  Instead, they are massive green onions which we should have picked months ago.  But instead they've been happily growing away, waiting for a moment such as this.

These are the real leeks, picked yesterday.

The celery, in progress.

Leeks, green onions, celery - an aromatic soup in the making.

The final product - delicious and creamy!

Recipe (adapted from Honest Fare)
Celery cluster (I only had about 2/3 left of mine)
Half a white onion OR the whites of 10 LARGE green onions
2 leeks (whites and 2-4 inches of green)
3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
2-3 TBSP McKay's Chicken Seasoning
1 TBSP Bragg's Liquid Aminos
Couple dashes of cayenne pepper 
3 cups water
Parsley, basil, or cilantro, chopped (for topping)

Roughly chop celery (including leaves), onion, and leeks.  Sauté with garlic and olive oil in heavy soup pot until tender.  Add water and seasonings.  Boil for additional 15-20 minutes.  Blend until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Serve hot with chopped herbs on top.

(The original recipe called for silken tofu, which I was going to use but the soup turned out deliciously creamy without it so I left it out.  Maybe I'll give it a try next time; it does sound delicious!)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Winter Garden

Citrus and leeks does a happy tummy make.  This bounty went into a potato leek soup and fresh orange grapefruit juice.  Both were delicious, made even more so from knowing where they were picked.