I Want to Very Summer

First and foremost, Bubba is very cute and, as you know, difficult to photograph well, so I’m happy to show off the latest from my parents. I don’t know that I’ve seen him hugging his tail like that very often?

I need you all to know that this violet is the most important thing happening in my life right now. I don’t mean that to say that my life is in a rough place and this flower is all that’s going on for me. I mean it to say that I love it with a deep and profound love.

It is in the driveway. That is all.

Further, happy Pride! In celebration of Pride this year, I’m going to continue to be gay. I’m happy to have finally made it to June. Meteorological summer has begun and today is meant to be quite hot so I’m going to take a few hours off and go swimming because I can.

As much as I love Christmas, I have been living in dread of next winter since, you know, January. I’m trying to focus on the now, though, and enjoy the warm and sunny and green while it is here. And in that pursuit, I am also trying to go to new places. For example, I took a little drive on Monday and visited Clarendon, Vermont, to see the little gorge-y bits of the Mill River. There is an actual Clarendon Gorge State Park and that is, in fact, not where I went but instead I hiked a little trail to a lovely swimming hole and saw some beautiful (if subdued) little falls/rapids in a certainly gorge-like little crevice. It was v pretty. Too many good angles to capture well but I tried.

Additionally, last weekend, I finally made the limoncello tiramisu which I think turned out wonderfully. I am glad that I split up the preparation, though, because there are a lot of different pieces. First, a friend actually made the limoncello so it was homemade but not by me. Then last weekend, I made the lemon curd, limoncello syrup (which was replacing the coffee), and the ladyfingers. I had never made curd or ladyfingers before so that was a fun adventure, I think both turned out well.

Then on Sunday, I made the mascarpone element and put it all together. I also got to whip cream by hand, which I take inexplicable pleasure in doing even though my forearms do not appreciate it quite as much. I’m quite pleased with the final product. Very lemony (there is really a lot of lemon involved) but also light and cool and refreshing (especially handy since it was a hot day.

Anyway, welcome to summer if you’re in the northern hemisphere where that makes sense for you right now. I’m determined to enjoy myself this summer because I desperately love the green and sunny and warm and also because last summer was pretty rough at work (and therefore, in general) and I’d like to make up for it. Let’s go outside! And I always have an ear open for more swimming hole recommendations, if you have them.


Glazed with Rain Water

I am a mess in nearly forgetting to post today?!? So here’s a couple more Nora pics for you and some half-baked musing on a wheelbarrow that was in my drafts. Happy Thursday.

So I recently watched John Green’s video where I learned for the first time that Gavrillo Princip and some of his co-would-be-assassins had tuberculosis and were therefore a little more willing to be, basically, suicide bombers for their cause since they were dying anyway.

As John says, we would very likely have had World War I even without tuberculosis, even if it might have looked slightly different. But it’s theoretically possible that war could have been avoided. Or at least drastically altered.

It made me think about William Carlos Williams’s poem The Red Wheelbarrow. I wrote an explication of that poem in college for a class which, in part, asserted that the line “glazed with rain” was a way to lend an everyday object the same significance and beauty as things like crystal and jewels (or something along those lines).

Bear with me, there is a connection. That poem begins: “So much depends upon”

We never hear with certainty what depends on the wheelbarrow but I do feel certain that it felt weighty to the speaker and minor to most observers. Small details with big ripples, at least in one life but also maybe in world history.

The Receiving of Visitors

This past weekend, my mom and step dad came for a visit and we did some Vermonty things and it was lovely. Though my mom had been to Burlington before, neither had been to the booming metropolis of Brattleboro and so we explored around town and southeast Vermont more generally. We saw some historic buildings, visited a couple covered bridges, took some pretty drives, and went on some pretty walks.

Stamford Stream in Woodford

I took some time off Thursday and Friday to hang out with them and that was very lovely–hanging out and also time off work. Then I had my choir concerts on Saturday and Sunday which I think went really well. It was fun to perform with an orchestra–not what I always want but it’s a fun change of pace, and our group is certainly large enough for it to really make it work well–and I really enjoyed the venue up at the former Marlboro College. And now I can say that I’ve performed the Lord Nelson Mass, as well as a cool work from a historic female composer (Dixit Dominus, Marianna Martines).

We also baked up a storm, since I had volunteered to bring dessert to the choir reception after the concert on Sunday and I also had a new boss starting on Monday and wanted to bring something for that. The kitchen was a busy place but it’s always nice to have some help.

And also, I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating, if ever you find yourself in southeast Vermont, do please make an effort to visit Starfire Bakery in Wilmington. It will absolutely be worth it, far and away the best bakery I’ve encountered in this area. Superb treats savory and sweet.

And because I know many of you are dying for my weather updates, the weekend was really lovely, not too hot and plenty of sun. This week has been pretty nice, too, but yesterday was a bit cool (mid-fifties) and we woke up this morning just a little below freezing. I guess the country wisdom around here is not to get serious about planting things outside until 1 June which I think is bonkers but clearly is sound advice.

The only other news I have for you is that tomorrow, I have a dentist appointment which marks one year of dental care in Brattleboro, woohoo.

I will leave you with Nora, whom the blog has met before all tuckered out much like I was after the busyness of last weekend.

Good Busy

We’re gearing up for another busy weekend here in Brattleboro but first, quick recap of last weekend, also busy. At least, it felt quite busy to me. Good stuff, but busy. Like this weekend.

Anyway, last Saturday was Town Green Up Day, which is this cool thing where every town in Vermont organizes trash clean up and general care for the town. I went with some friends and the town-provided trash bags and picked up litter for an hour or two.

It’s a great thing but a) it only happens once a year and b) Vermont organizes it in lieu of having an adopt-a-road litter control program. I’m sure I don’t know anything about it but surely we could do both? Or more than one green up day? Or something? I’m a little skeptical of you, Vermont.

Then, I volunteered to be on trash duty at Hampshire Pride down in Northampton so I zipped over there and emptied a lot of trash cans &ct. It was a very trash day. But, like, good. On the way home, I took the slow road up to Greenfield and had a nice dinner (I don’t eat out super often so it felt like a lovely sunny evening treat).

On Sunday, I went to Worcester to have lunch with a friend. Also lovely but it did take up quite a bit of my day since it involved three hours of driving total. I don’t mind driving, actually–I’m no great lover of it but it doesn’t bother me. It just, you know, takes time so I get home and go wow, I really cannot do anything else today.

But on the way home from Worcester, I finally stopped at this little park I had passed a number of times and it was very pretty! A lovely bend in the Connecticut River with some of these pretty slate-type outcroppings that we have all over here. I love them. Anyway, some time time reading in the sun by some water, v good spring vibes.

This weekend, I’ve got some visitors coming (this afternoon, in fact) so I’ve taken some time off to do… something Vermonty. And then we’ve got my choir concerts Saturday and Sunday. Plus, I’ve got to do some baking for the choir reception and a meet-and-greet with my new boss who starts on Monday.

I’ve no idea what exactly we’ll get up to this weekend but the weather is meant to be tremendous. Sunny and I don’t think it’ll be too hot for me, which is always nice. And some time away from work will certainly be enjoyable as well.

I May May

Somehow, inexplicably, we’ve made it to May. I cannot account for how April happened–it seemed neither too slow nor too fast at the time. But now, somehow, we’re more than a third of the way through the year. Bonkers.

But spring continues to advance and that makes me happy. Tomorrow evening is the first Gallery Walk of the season here in Brattleboro. I’ve only gone a couple of times but they’re the first Friday of the month spring through the end of the year. An event downtown that theoretically involves browsing the art galleries but also often includes food and music and activities. I should probably go, it’ll be nice, right? It’s not even meant to be rainy tomorrow evening, as it’s been quite rainy all week.

On Saturday, I’m helping with town green up day a bit (sprucing up the green spaces, not certain what exactly we’ll be doing) and then also volunteering for Hampshire Pride a little down in Northampton, Massachusetts. A bit early for my tastes but this weekend looks like it’ll be warmer and sunnier than this past week so hopefully that good weather materializes. And we’ll see what kind of event it ends up being.

And then it’ll be dress rehearsal for our choir concert next week, and the concerts next weekend, and that takes us already to mid-May and basically June! (and basically June is basically August which is the end of summer which is basically winter… that’s how my mind works but I’m determined to live in the moment and enjoy sunny, warm times {please})

The Stuff of Nightmares

It’s nearly May and I can’t tell you but that April has been weirdly quick for me. Weirdly in that it feels like I’ve gotten stuff done (at work) and also been very lazy and also like it was March just a couple days ago so I’m not sure what’s been going on all month but here we are.

The daffodils and magnolias are passing out of season but we are solidly in the time of flowers now and that makes me happy. We’ve also gotten more rain and even more is forecast for next week so hopefully that will be good for non-drought times this summer. The first half of the month had been quite dry and we were worried.

The rain does mean that I haven’t had as much time reading in the sun as one might hope–it’s also cooled off from the sporadic peaks of Quite Hot that we had–but it’s still in a general warming trend and I know we’ll get there soon enough.

I’ve lately been watching a Dungeons & Dragons show called Neverafter whose premise is fairy tales–but horror. For example, Sleeping Beauty wakes up alone and has to claw her way out of the thorns enveloping the castle to escape. With those fairy tale and horror elements in mind, take a look at this little bit of narration from near the conclusion of the series:

To change the world is the stuff of nightmares. It is a horrifying responsibility to think that, because things cannot remain the same, each and every one of us must shoulder some responsibility for how they will become different.

I don’t know about you but I do sorta think that’s true. I mean, there’s certainly excitement about changing the world, too, but it is an awful weight to carry. Even as a non-hero type regular person, I do bear a burden of trying to make the world different, trying to do my part to create a better world, taking some responsibility for the messed up world we live in.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately.

More or Less Swimming Hole Season

I get that talking about the weather is non-personal and generic but also it’s so important to my life. So I don’t care that it is literally a joke to always be talking about the weather, I can’t stop. This week has been a little but chilly, though thankfully we avoided the little snow that some got.

However, today is pretty gorgeous so far and tomorrow will be hot again so there you have it. Spring in continental climates. Ugh but yay flowers! There’s something magical about a strong blue sky broken by reaching branches dewed with pale green.

Last weekend was pretty packed for me, a chronic not-doer-of-much. First, I did get to a new swimming hole on Thursday, though I did not swim, then went back to a favorite on Friday and didn’t swim then either but did wade across the little river and it wasn’t actually super-super cold (though there was still a little snow on a part of the trail). Then over the weekend I went on two different hikes, had lunch with a friend, drove around all over the place, and arrived down in Massachusetts where I’m cat sitting for my former land family this week.

Very sweet and very related

My land family included a gift card to a local pie shop as thanks and let me tell you, what a great place. Florence Pie Bar, superb, can recommend if ever you’re in the area. I went yesterday and got a slice of black-bottom banana cream pie (chocolate between the crust and filling) and a pear-cherry-cardamom crumble pie (which I haven’t actually eaten yet but how can it not be excellent). They also have savory pies and some other baked goods.

I have no plans for the upcoming weekend and I think it’ll be nice to have a little recharge. Maybe I’ll do a little hike, maybe I’ll bae something, but mostly just take a breather (I mean, most of my time is a breather but so what).

Unsinkably Stale

This week, I read a delightful book called A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher. It was at once a bit young for me typical fare (even as one who loves young adult novels) and also decidedly dark for a younger readers’ book.

It is not about the magic of baking but actual, magical baking. This is a whole niche, FYI, you may recall that I also read a whole series of straight romance novels that involved a magical bakery. Those were more cozy mystery and this was just a YA fantasy adventure involving magical cookies and breads but still. I’m not the only one who is into such plots, clearly.

Anyway, it was a ton of fun to read. Plenty going on with death and treachery and war but also plenty of silly moments and one of my favorite specific author things (when done well): the set formula of saying if you’re familiar with x, then you might understand y but then make it absurdly specific for things no one has any reference for. Example par excellence: “If you have ever tried to stay afloat on a pair of magic bread slices, then you know what it was like. Otherwise, all I can say is that I don’t recommend it.”

That’s the kind of lovely silliness of the book. Floating away down a canal on a couple slices of unsinkably stale bread. A wizard’s familiar named Bob who is actually just a semi-animate lump of carnivorous sourdough starter.

I won’t spill any more beans but I recommend it for a quick read that’s a bit young, a bit silly, and still manages to tell a story of greater depth and gravity than much contemporary adult fiction, if you ask me.

I did some fun baking myself for Easter. Not magical and not perfect but pretty lovely if I do say so myself. I went for hot cross buns and pineapple upside-down cake. I couldn’t remember which recipe I used for buns last year, which was my first time making them, and the recipe I used was good, I think, but my buns ended up being more in the realm of scones, in terms of texture and things. Still good but huh. I also used the icing crosses rather than the traditional flour method which I did last year, which I think was for the best.

The cake, I think, was a pretty unmitigated success. I had made this recipe several times before. The caramel did overflow my dish a little in the oven so that wasn’t fun but three cheers for oven liners, it was not a big deal. The only flaw, which I probably shouldn’t even mention but I can’t help myself, one little pineapple bit migrated a little more than I would have liked. I had been so happy with my little pineapple sunburst.

In other news, it’s summer for a few days here with highs officially too hot for me. Next week, we’ll be back to 60 and get some rain but hurray for a little reading in the sun as a little foretaste of things to come.

I am so happy to see green coming from the ground, trees with little buds coming along, birds singing in the trees, and sun streaming in my window nice and early. What’s not to like about spring and a good book?

All Possible Resurrections

I didn’t realize it at the time but last week was my 400th blog post?!? That’s a fun little milestone for a blog that was originally just ‘my one year living in Ireland.’ Anyway, here we are at week 401 and not a ton to show for it but still, I’m glad to have this space to write truly just whatever comes to mind.

Bubba roasting himself in front of the electric fire back in wintrier times

On the note of wintrier times, we officially have 80 degrees in our forecast next week. Whether we actually get up there, who knows, but it’ll certainly be hot. But first, we have a few more days with lows in the mid-20s because, you know, why not.

I have been forewarned and have experienced it myself. Spring in Vermont may last a full minute or two but don’t expect much more. It’ll just head directly into summer (with a little more winter yet possible, but I think unlikely at this point).

This week, as we approach Easter, I am thinking of three things that I’ve encountered sorta recently.

A while ago, I listened to this podcast episode where the discussion included the phrase “all possible resurrections.”

I’ve also read the Mary Oliver poem, Don’t Hesitate, which concludes with the line “Joy is not made to be a crumb.”

Lastly, and unfortunately I can’t cite a source on this (it is fully lost to me in the depths of Facebook), I read a little blurb about Easter: how, in contrast to the loud, celebratory, exultant way we in the church generally celebrate Easter today, Jesus mostly did mundane, quiet things. Fold laundry, go for a walk, eat with friends, share his wounds with them.

No miracles, no sermons, no politico-religious confrontations.

But perhaps, in fact, there are miracles. Context of the podcast aside, all possible resurrections may include resuming a conversation with a friend. Renewing an appreciation of your favorite food. Walking along familiar garden paths with new eyes.

And in these mundane ‘resurrections,’ may we find joy more than crumbs but joy enough to fill and satisfy.

A Couple River Valley Facts, Sorta

If you’re in the general Pioneer Valley region (I don’t know if I’ve talked about this here before but I think it’s outrageous that the Massachusetts section of the Connecticut River valley named itself “Pioneer” in the 1920s) and have an interest in choral music, you should come to a little choir festival at Greenfield High School (MA) this Saturday. We’ll be singing with a few other local groups and raising money for a local pay-what-you-can cafe.

(for reference, Springfield was settled by white people in 1636 and I would not call those people pioneers–that feels like a much later, much further west sort of term–and also they didn’t decide to call themselves that until the 20s as some kind of marketing scheme?!? come on, I guess I can understand that Connecticut valley may be a little confusing since most of it isn’t in the state of Connecticut but still, do better)

I haven’t a ton of other stuff to report for you this week. We are really getting into spring now. I can see plenty of bulbs starting to shoot up. Some days in the forecast meant to peak in the mid to upper sixties this coming week! Though lows often still below freezing (and we had a chance of snow squalls last night, can’t tell if we got any here but it was low twenties, at least).

This morning dawned chilly but with clear, blue skies and happiness that we’ve made it to Thursday.

I also got my first look at the Hudson River not from inside a car last weekend and, while it didn’t exactly impress (I was not at the most scenic location and it’s still winter vibes for plant life), it was cool. A pretty important river around here. And turned out that I was not far from Martin Van Buren’s estate which I’d like to visit. I’ll once again reiterate that he was the first US president born a US citizen and also our only president whose first language was not English (thanks to the very Dutch character of the historical Hudson valley).

Wild that we’ve made it through March (pending any world-ending disasters tomorrow). Busy times at work are now approaching and I’m not looking forward to it but I can at least confidently say that it will be better than last year since I won’t be doing two jobs at once and won’t have a full month of on call shifts for bonkers high schoolers and so much COVID.

Lastly, soliciting ideas for rose water. So many rose water recipes are so involved and while I appreciate a baking challenge, I also love a low oomph recipe. If you have any low oomph rose recipes, I’d love to hear them. I’ve been a bit at loose ends since making my Persian love cake.