GuitAlong Girl

We're on our way home from a hike, and we make a stop at the music store.

"I need some polish," he explains, and while I'm sure he does, I also know perfectly well what happens whenever we "make a quick stop" at a music store.

As expected, he makes a beeline for the guitars (with a brief detour to the banjos), and I amble along slowly after, admiring the many instruments that I will never play.  Once upon a long lost time I played cello, but... long ago and far away, and all that.  I also did my time on the recorder, like all good primary school children do, and I even spent a year on the piano.

And, of course, there are the many, many times I've attempted to learn guitar.

My father played.  My father was a wonderful guitarist, to the point where he ruined me for all those high school boys who thought they could play.  And my father bought me a student guitar, and started teaching me to play when I was about twelve...

...and then my father died, when I was thirteen.

Needless to say, I did not learn to play the guitar from my father.

Other males tried to teach me, bless them, my husband most recent amongst them.  He's attempted to teach me at least twice, and more likely three times, displaying great patience each time.  And each time I've... not given up, precisely, because that implies a decision being made.  Petered out, more like.

And always, always, I have felt Incomplete for my lack of guitar playing.  I have a list of things that I believe I should be able to do, to be the woman I envision myself being; most of those things I can and do do, but tied for first place amongst the "Not Yet There" items is playing the guitar (tied, if you were curious, with speaking Spanish beyond the level of a particularly slow two-year-old).  That being said, it's been almost two years since the last time I attempted it.

I join him in the room with the guitars, where he is making a surprisingly robust sound come out of an incongruously petite guitar.

"Try this," he says, handing it to me.  "I think you'll like the feel of it."

And I do.  I do like the feel of this beautiful, beautiful instrument, resting so comfortably in my hands, so perfectly scaled for my own smaller size.  He points out the way the curve of the back amplifies and concentrates the vibration of the strings, the way the mahogany gives it a richer tone than the spruce.  And all I can do is clutch it, wanting so badly to make it sing, but being so utterly, utterly helpless to do so.

The salesman must recognize the look of desperation in my eyes, because he crouches down next to me.

"Would you like me to show you how to make a chord?"  His voice is gentle, understanding.  "I can teach you like I teach the little guys,"

"Yes please," I say.  "Teach me exactly like you teach the little guys."

So he shows me how to make "Spider Man" and "Tea Cup" (which rise up from the misty depths of my memory as E minor and A minor, respectively), and I joke that I am one chord away from being able to join a band.

But the dog is waiting in the car, and we must be on our way.  Nathan buys his polish, and we head home... but I cannot get the little guitar out of my head.

I start doing math.  I could buy the little guitar, it would only take about ten weeks of concentrated savings.  But then I correct my thinking- it's not the money I need for the purchase so much as the determination to justify it.  And so I say to myself,

"You can have the little guitar if you practice with the ones we already own, every day for ten weeks."

We begin that night, and Nathan is beside himself with glee.  This is his passion, and to share it with me animates him in a way that I rarely see.  I hope to make him proud.

I hope to make myself proud.

Practice Makes Perfect


Beesweet Salvation (or: Honey-Sweetened, Strawberry Flavored, Coconut Milk Ice Cream)

This is another post about Cravings.

About this time last year I fell off the primal wagon pretty hard.  My downfall?
Okay, no not just strawberries, since strawberries are about as primal as it gets.  Specifically, strawberries in the form of Burgerville's Strawberry Milkshakes.  Aaaaand they are back in season again, so every time I pass a Burgerville I am full of resentful longing.

Which brings us to today, and my quest to give myself what I want without putting myself in a lot of pain.  The challenge?  Making ice cream without dairy or cane sugar.  As you know, I have already mastered the art of honey-sweetened ice cream, so today was really just about getting exotic with a can...
I'm calling this flavor "Beesweet Salvation" for two reasons: the first being that it is saving me from my own self-sabotaging ways, and the second is that my latest pair of pet missionaries happened to swing by tonight and I used them as guinea pigs (it was a good night for them- I let them read to me from their bible and pet my dog, and in return they let me feed them ice cream and fuss in an auntily manner.)

Now, on to the process!  The only real starting point I used for this one was my own previous attempts at ice cream, and in the end it looked a little something like this:

2 cans full fat coconut milk (apx 27 oz)
pinch of sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/4 c. local raw honey
2 pints fresh, ripe strawberries (more than you need, but if you’re like me you can’t work with strawberries without eating some [or a lot], so it works out just right)
I love paring knives.  Probably because they are so small and cute.
Hull and halve strawberries, put two heaping cups worth into food processor and puree (this comes out to a little over one cup).

Shake up those cans of coconut milk, then whisk together with the vanilla and sea salt until combined, then heat on medium, stirring occasionally until it hits a low simmer.  Remove from heat.

While milk is heating, whisk egg yolks in a bowl until they become pale, then whisk in honey.

Once the milk mixture is ready, have your kitchen-helper ladle in 1/3 cup at a time into eggs, while you keep up the whisking (more coordinated people may be able to do both at once: I cannot.)  Once about half the dairy mixture has been added, pour in the rest, then return to saucepan on medium-low heat.

Add strawberry puree.
Stir constantly until it passes the spoon test, then remove from heat and strain into medium bowl.
Let sit at room temp for thirty minutes, then put in fridge for until the bottom of the bowl is cold (this takes about three hours in my fridge.  I used the time to finish reading When She Woke, which I thoroughly enjoyed and would definitely recommend to fans of socio-scifi)

Follow instructions on your ice-cream maker.

While custard is churning, cut enough strawberries into small chunks to equal a cup, and add to mixture after apx 15 minutes, and churn an additional 5-10 (again, that's just with my ice cream maker- yours may be different).
I love my orange KitchenAid.
The missionaries showed up just as it was finishing, so we all ate it fresh from the churn- but I still had enough to take a photo of the finished results:

Craving Satisfied!
It was definitely exactly what I needed, and I was pleased at how well the coconut milk worked out.  There was a slightly chalky after-texture, but all in all pretty darn good.  Of course, only time will tell how it fares after being frozen overnight...


Scratching an Itch

Every once in a while I get hit with Cravings: capital C, all italics Cravings.  Often it's for something I can't have because of the gluten content (Velveeta shells and cheese, oh dear stars...), but sometimes it's for something I shouldn't have, because of the cane sugar.  Earlier this week I had a craving of the latter sort, for a lemon meringue pie (going on the assumption that I had a GF crust, obviously).

Of course the truth behind my lemon meringue craving was actually a craving for the lemon curd.  I've always been sort of "meh" about pie crust, and have a similar disinterest in meringue, so really I was just jonesin' for some tart, tart curd.  And I thought to myself, "Surely I can make that without cane sugar.  Curd is basically custard, right**?  And I've made plenty of honey-sweetened custards..."

So I decided I would make myself some lemony goodness, just for me (because Nathan doesn't like tart/sour the way that I do), and it was the knowledge that I would be making it this afternoon which kept me from giving in to cheesecake cravings this morning (went with some friends to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate them finishing up their events in the Spring Showdown).

I decided to start with this recipe, and of course make my own modifications (as I am wont to do).

the juice from two large lemons (apx 1/2 c.)
3 medium eggs (farm fresh- thanks Bekah!)
1/2 c. raw honey (local and delicious!)
1/4 c unsalted butter (room temp and cubed)
the zest from three large lemons (apx 3 Tbsp)


lemon zester
sharp knife
cutting board
lemon juicer (I have one like this and I love it.  Best $5 ever.)
measuring cups
immersion mixer  (it is seriously one of my all-time favorite kitchen tools, you guys)
medium metal bowl
large pot of boiling water
oven mitt

First I zested the lemons, and then I juiced those suckers.  I put the eggs in a medium metal bowl and beat 'em using my lovely  immersion mixer on level one, then added the honey and slowly poured in the juice while mixing.  Then the butter and zest went in, and I kept on mixing until it was 'good enough' (kind of chunky, but since it was about to go over heat I wasn't worried).

Moved the metal bowl to the boiling water, and clamped on with one hand while whisking like a fiend with the other.

I kept whisking until it thickened, and then I whisked it a little longer because I like a good thick custard.  I mean curd.

And then came the hardest part- letting it cool in the fridge for two hours.  But eventually it was ready for taste-testing:
Sometimes we have to make our own spring sunshine in the PNW.
Sour Girl
And it perfectly satisfied the craving I'd been having.  Huzzay!  The best thing is that I wasn't able to eat more than about five spoonfuls, so I'll have plenty to enjoy throughout the week, whenever I feel in need of a tart treat.

**(sort of...)


MY Elves on the Shelves

As I have mentioned before, I am (and have been for over two decades now) an ElfQuest fan.  Not nearly so obsessive as I once may have been (because who can match the obsessions of one's preadolescence), but I maintain a certain nostalgia...
...and a decent collection of books.
Aaaaanyway, I keep moderately aware of What's Going On With ElfQuest (35 year anniversary!  Woo!) by following them on the Book of Faces, and as such I took a bit of time today to read this article, which I enjoyed.

The author illustrated the article with his own ElfQuest fan art from the 80s, and it made me oh-so-nostalgic for the hours and hours my Katie and I spent drawing (reams and reams worth of) elves.  This nostalgia drove me to do a couple of quick sketches from memory, to see how deeply ingrained the images were in my psyche:

Doodled at work, photographed with phone.  Quality!
Not bad, not bad.  Certainly better than what I was churning out at age 12 (and thank heavens for that).  Her nose is far too large to be mistaken for a Pini elf (differently proportioned than humans, y'know), but that is just my style and my style makes me happy, which is actually something of a relief to finally be able to recognize and say.

One of these days I may go more into depth re:the extent of my obsession with ElfQuest (I may even dig through ye old archives for adolescent artwork), but not tonight...


Easter (Was LAST Sunday)

Here it is, one week later, and I'm finally getting around to writing about Easter.  Let's not even talk about the other  posts that are languishing in pre-production hell... ::sigh::

It was a really fabulous Easter, because Nathan's sister and her family came up for a visit, and holidays are always more enjoyable when there are niblings about!  The niblings in question were Eel and Bee, and we had a grand ol' time of it.

After church in the morning my sister-in-law, Eel and I headed over to the climbing gym (per Eel's request) to get in some quality bonding time.  The last time we went climbing there Eel stuck to bouldering, but this time around he decided he would put on a harness and try it on the "big wall"!
Auntie Jenny O ties Eel's figure-eight knot
He saw some other climbers using chalk, so I let him borrow my bag.
He didn't get all that far up, but considering he hasn't even been alive as long as I've been married, I think he did quite well- and I expect he'll make still more progress the next time we go climbing...

Once we got back from the gym, it was time for an egg hunt!
Bee was NOT letting go of the bubbles.  Priorities, people.

Isis actually turned out to be surprisingly good at hunting eggs, a talent my clever nephew quickly took advantage of.
Less surprising was her skill at being a throw-pillow:
Also skilled at giving kooses.
Eel generously shared some of his hazelnuts with me:
One for him...
...one for me!
Once we were good and worn out from egg-hunting fun-in-the-sun, it was time for dinner!  And since it was such a gorgeous day, we decided to take advantage and have a picnic in the backyard.
Isis guards the plates.  Or, more likely, positions herself to receive any dropped food...
Lamb burgers with pistachio pesto and butter lettuce "buns"!  (And bacon, OF COURSE)
Pre-meal affection.
 After dinner I looked over and saw this picture-perfect moment:
Solemn at Sunset.
So I crept a little closer and got this:
Bee has secrets.
So that was my very pleasant Sunday.  I also had an exceptionally good Saturday, but that tale must wait a day or two longer, because I'm still waiting for photos from one of my compatriots...


Four-get Me Nots

Four Years and Counting:

Awkward Hands!

Year four is flowers/fruit, so Nathan got me vintage, floral-themed jewelry, including a frosted-glass necklace, an amber bracelet with silver forget-me-not embellishments, and an amber brooch with petals caught in the stone (technically that gift hasn't arrived yet- it's coming from France- but he showed me a photo).  I got him a photographer's membership to the Japanese Garden in Portland, which we plan to take advantage of later this weekend (and also throughout the rest of the year).  I felt it was a particularly fitting gift, what with us having had our wedding in the Birmingham Japanese Garden, and all...

I don't really have anything super-insightful to say this year, other than I just really enjoy the hell out of being married to my husband.  We constantly crack one another up, and I love that.


That Other Thing I Write For

So by now you've probably put two and two together, and realize that my dog is a pit bull mix:
Pig Bull
If you've been reading long enough, you also know that we got her via Born Again Pit Bull Rescue, a wonderful non-profit whose motto is "Foster One, Save Two".  Go ahead and check them out- I'll wait.  Just don't blame me if you end up with a new dog.

Aaaaanyway, as one might expect, adopting a pit bull has turned me into something of a pit bull advocate...
I advocate smoochies!

...and that advocacy has led me to volunteer with BAPBR the best way I know how- via my words.  I've been doing supplemental blog entries for them for a little while now, and if you peruse their blog chances are you'll come across some of my jabbering (it may be hard to tell, since we all try to write in the same "voice", but the current entry, for 03/29, is one of mine.)  (Like the photos?  Guess who volunteers his photography skills...)

So yeah- that's part of what's taking up my time these days, and I hope you'll take the time to check it out on occasion.  And now have an outtake: