Saturday, July 16, 2011

Notes for a Rainy Saturday. . .

--Let’s start with this quote from Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Almanack (I don’t think she really hates to cook because no one who truly does would ever consider writing cookbooks. . . but this is not a cookbook I would use, either, because in the name of simple, there are way too many canned and processed foods—the status quo for when this book was written in the 60’s. I just thought you'd like to know all of that!):

“Everything that was of use, Mrs. Dancey hid away. Anything that was of no use to anybody, she proudly displayed. That was another reason Linnea knew she was a lady.” (Ardyth Kennedy)

Sometimes I think I’m doing too much of that, like with this hutch:

There was a time (and may still be in some homes) when a dresser like this served an important function. It was a place to hold china and other items for the kitchen or table. I do have dishes and kitchen items on it now, but I don’t need it because I have ample cupboard space in the kitchen, and I will not walk across the kitchen to grab those plates when I can reach into the cupboard more easily. But there it is—the hutch—in the kitchen, and something needs to go on it, and dishes or pottery seems the logical choice. I do like this piece of furniture (handmade in England from old, reclaimed pine).

I could do like my daughter Michelle and make it a place to set art supplies and nature finds like bird nests and collections of shells and leaves and pretty stones (useful and beautiful at the same time), but in my crowded kitchen it would only look like so much clutter. So a streamlined placement of dishes is better. Someday, I’ll have it set up so that it feels just right.

And it doesn’t have to be purely useful. Beautiful or interesting are good, too.

But I’m lingering too long on this item. Let’s move on to the next.

--There is a good reason that a blender has a lid. Don’t ask. Just don’t forget to use your lid. Take my word for it.

--I woke up to rain this morning. The window was open, and it sounded nice. Then I noticed the birds were singing (“we’re singing in the rain, just singing in the rain. . .”). And it made me smile. So, rather than be disappointed that rain falls on a day when company is coming, I decided to be glad I don’t have to water the grass (which saves me money), and, further, I determined to make it a cosy inside day. So, I turned on YoYo Ma and friends playing cheerful Baroque music and brewed a pot of coffee.

--Speaking of which. I never finish my cup of coffee anymore. Sometimes I don’t quite drink even half of my mug. What gives? I still love brewing the stuff, I still think it tastes good, and it continues to be a cheerful, compelling routine, but maybe my coffee drinking days are numbered. Tea? I’ve tried to drink tea routinely before because it’s good for me (I even bought a kettle created specifically for brewing tea—see it up there in the photo?), but I’ve never loved tea or been routinely eager to sip a cup. I do have some really fine green jasmine tea from China. A friend that travels for business often was given beautiful tins of this tea (it is a tea that is reserved mostly for diplomats and important people), and he gave the tins (with the tea!) to me. My family loves this tea. Can I actually learn to like it? Is it time to hang up the press—that beautifully designed staple of my kitchen?

--If I go to bed at 11:30 p.m., I still wake at just before 5:00 a.m., and less than 6 hours sleep nightly is not going to suffice. Tonight, it’s earlier to bed for me!

--I finished writing on the last page of my current journal this morning, and why does this always strike me as slightly sad? Because I’ve spent so much time with that journal and poured my heart out to it, only to relegate it to a dark box? But I do like starting a new journal, too. Who knows what will fill those pages!

--I have a cookbook shelf just around the corner in the living room, but piles of books seem to migrate steadily to the kitchen. They end up on the hutch, on top of the fridge, on the counter, on the table. I put them all away this morning, and, already, there are six books back in the kitchen: Super Natural Cooking, The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, Falling Cloudberries (gorgeous book), Simply in Season, Tender (by the unrivaled, brilliant Nigel Slater—he’s the best!), and The Food of Spain. I do love my cookbooks.

--I’ve dusted off the aerobics workout I created when I was in my 20’s (it was a maniacal workout!). Even though I’m in very good walking and climbing shape, all of my movements have been going in that same forward direction for too long, and I needed to use muscles besides those used for walking and hiking and climbing. I needed lateral movement, core exercises, stretching, and bouncing up and down and forward and sideways. So I cranked up the music and started slowly. At first, I could barely make a dent in that old, very demanding workout, but I’m slowly getting bouncier and stronger and able to do more of it. I just do this three or four times a week, and I don’t intend to push like I did in my 20’s (I just want to be healthy, and I prefer going on long, hard, hilly walks to this stuff).

--And now I shall get ready for company. I’ll sweep the floor and give the bathroom a once-over. Then it’s off to the farmers’ market, then to the natural food store, then to collect Aaron and bring him here. And then I’ll start cooking to get a jump start on the simple celebration meal we’ll be eating later today.

Have a lovely weekend.


  1. I only drink 1/2 a cup of coffee too, but it's a blissful routine that will never end for me :) Made Peach Shortcakes on Thursday evening (from Mad Hungry) and thought of you!
    We are packing up to leave to drive to Dallas, TX, b/c my MIL is about to pass away...I love reading your simple, lovely posts in this time of upheaval.

  2. Ditto here about the coffee. In fact, it's 3:30pm and I'm still sipping away on my (now cold) cup from this morning! Just the smell of the beans and the routine of it brings comfort. Tea only appeals to me when I want to conjure up memories of England. Susan, I can't imagine you ever really hanging up your press though, right?!
    I've always admired your pine hutch and have imagined it filled as it would have been in times past with spices and root vegetables and herbs drying and flowers. You've got the flowers and the dishes could be useful with company coming. :)
    And way to go with the aerobics! It's true that our bodies get overly used to forward motion. But, most assuredly, nothing beats exercising outdoors in the fresh air. Wish I could come mountain hiking with you. (I fear you'd have to slow your pace for me though!)
    Have a lovely weekend with your company, Susan!

  3. It's the routine for me too. Just one cup in the morning. Please never hang up the French press! Rain here too. Pilates does the job for me, especially as now my running friend has moved away and I just can't run on my own.

  4. I really enjoy reading this blog and was glad when it reappeared!(after desert home was finished) and have to say that I adore the dresser - I have one too and have had it for all our married life, despite changes to fashions and the like. I will always keep it - it looks warm and loved and cosy - just like yours!

  5. love this post . .

    * coffee : i have a full cup in the morning and one in the afternoon, always from one of my vintage coffee makers (electric percolator, stove-top percolator or one of several drip selections). found a new-to-me one yesterday at a vintage sale (american cancer society thrift shop). happy. that's me. as if i need another!

    * the hutch : perhaps you would consider using the hutch in a different room - a bedroom perhaps, where it would be of a new use? in its place, a collage of family photos..?

    * the blender : oh wow - been there done that. strawberries and orange juice. that was a joy to clean up after - not. ha!

    * YoYoMa : yes. just simply, yes.

    * Falling Cloudberries : thank you for the reminder of this book, i've been wanting to investigate it further. :o)

    * aerobics, etc : as i'm unable** (at this point) to do serious walking, jogging or aerobics, i bike. currently i'm at 4-7 miles a day and usually incorporation stopping by trader joe's or to the park for a mid-ride break. that and swimming are my loves. **i have plantar faciatis (sp?!) and 2 dislocated toes :: the toe condition from younger years (through 20's) of dance (interpretive) and wearing pointy high heels. ugh. now? crocs. sensible and necessary and right for my poor feet. :o)

    enjoy your time with family and other guests..

  6. Had a blender moment this morning and laughed out loud when I read your post! Yes, always put on the lid!
    Can't wait to see what you end up doing with the hutch. It is a beautiful piece of furniture.
    Happy Sunday!

  7. Okay, everyone, I won't hang up that coffee press (I drank my entire mug this morning!). :-) (Jane, sounds like you have a great collection of coffee makers!)

    Ha! So I'm not the only one who does kooky stuff like leaving off the lid of the blender (ever done it with the coffee grinder? because, wow, grinds go *everywhere*!).

    Good idea for the hutch. I tried it in different places (the bedrooms are too small), and it just didn't work at all. I didn't want it in the kitchen, but it seemed the best place, and everyone who came here thought so, too. Megan, you described a scene like one in the Brambly Hedge books! So sweet and charming, for sure, but it might make me feel crazy having to actually *live* with it in a smallish kitchen! :-) I need a lot of streamlined space around things and not-too-much cluttery stuff happening. I might come up with something along the lines you're thinking, though. . . hmmm. . . but I need a break from house-y thinking because my brain gets burned out on it!:-)

    Lucille, I've always meant to look into Pilates, too. (It is really nice to see you here!) :-)

    Thanks, all!

  8. Oh, Aimee, I'm so sorry I didn't say something earlier. I just remembered that I left it off. I am thinking of you and praying for your family. I'm so sorry you're having to go through difficulties right now, and I pray God will be your strength and light and hope. And, by the way, it's nice to be thought of in someone else's kitchen! (I'm glad you like the book!).

    Susan :-)

  9. Beauty is its own excuse : ) One thing I never fret over is whether a pretty thing is useful. Never. If its pretty, then its obvious.

  10. Kim, yes, well said! "Beauty is its own excuse." A worthy quote!