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August 25, 2011

A Gluten Free Hurricane

As Irene begins her ascent up the East Coast, it occurred to me this morning that this is the first time in my adult life I need to prep for potential conditions that could put us out for a few days. When we were little, it was exciting. Mom and Dad made sure we had candles, batteries (Sean - do we have batteries??), a bathroom tub full of water (we need to fill the bathtub with water), canned food, and enough books and games on-hand to keep three young kids entertained as freakishly high winds howled away outside and rain pounded against the windows.

The last big hurricane I remember was Bob in 1991. I was 8, and the idea of a hurricane was exciting. It meant eating Spaghetti-O's out of a can, maybe making a fort out of blankets and couch cushions, and reading books in our makeshift fort by flashlight. Staying in our pjs all day was guaranteed. We helped Dad put deck furniture down under and tie up anything we were nervous would blow away. We lived in the woods, surrounded by trees, so I can only imagine a tree falling on the roof was at the forefront of my parents mind. Mine? I was focusing on pjs and Spaghetti-O's.

Now I find myself in the midst of hurricane preparations and I feel like there are things that should be obvious that I'm just not thinking of. My first thoughts were 'Wine! I need to make sure I have a bottle of wine! It's going to be a long couple of days...' Silly me... I am excited for a day of hunkering down and probably staying in my pjs with Sean. Our friends Bridget and Matt live 3 doors down, so we've put a plan in place for playing some games all day if it's not too terrible to go outside. Then I started thinking like a responsible adult (don't laugh) and all the things that could go wrong that we should be prepared for, such as:

Fill up the tub - I never understood this as a kid, but if for some reason our water doesn't work, it would be nice to be able to wash my hands or hair at some point.

Batteries and candles - Our apartment runs on electric everything, and it's a small company in town we get our power from. It went out in a bad thunderstorm in June, so it's a given that we'll lose it this weekend. We don't know how long it'll be out for, so flashlights, lamps, you name it, we got it.

Entertainment - We have books, board games, a cat, and imaginations, so I'm not terribly worried about being bored.


Preparing our apartment - Our building should be fine, we're at the top of a hill and hopefully don't need to worry about flooding. I had to clear our potted plants, rug, and cooler off the balcony last week so they could repaint the exterior, so those are already taking up residence in one bathroom. There's nothing else that could be blown away that requires being tied up.






Cars - Our cars are parked off the street. There's danger of falling tree branches, but we can't control that. One space is exposed and one is under the building. We'll just have to hope for the best. And probably best to fill up our gas tanks today or tomorrow in case things get shut down for a few days. 


Cash - In case ATMs/Banking Centers are shut down, it would be handy to have some cash on us.


FOOD

This is a big one. Gluten free and non-perishable don't go very well hand in hand, especially non-perishable that doesn't require some element of heating up. I stocked up on what I think will get us through a few days if need be. Sadly, we don't have a grill, so we'll have to make do as best we can. Here's what we stocked up on, which you be able to easily find in your local grocery store:

Breakfast

Chex cereal (2 boxes) we can eat with milk, or dry if we run out of milk/power goes out and fridge warms up. I got Honey Nut and Cinnamon.
Udi's bagels - can't toast but can spread a little peanut butter and jelly
Bananas
Green apples

Lunch

Udi's Multi Grain Bread
Tuna Fish
Peanut butter and Jelly
Utz potato chips
Sean has some Boars Head deli meats and cheeses to work his way through
Pickles

Dinner

On Saturday I will make either a pan of lasagna or mac 'n cheese 'n chicken to get us through a couple days.
Amy's Soups - Southwestern Vegetable, Lentil Vegetable and Chunky Vegetable. Can't heat up but good enough to eat out of the can if we desire something different.
Brown rice - pre-cooked packets from Trader Joe's
Canned green beans
Ian's frozen chicken patties
Betty Crock Potato Buds

Snacks

Trader Joe's Olive Oil Popcorn
Tostidos scoops tortilla chips and salsa
Larabars
Peanut MnMs
Glutino Chocolate Peanut Butter Organic Rice Bars

Beverages

2 massive multi-gallon jugs of Poland Springs drinking water
Lime seltzer
Cranberry juice
Redbridge beer
One previously opened bottle of Pinot Noir

And miscellaneous....I bought paper plates and plastic cups so we don't have to worry about washing a pile of dishes and the eminent stink that would develop.

Other than that, I think we're as prepared as we can be in this area. How are you preparing? What are some of your favorite storm memories? The area Sean and I come from used to get hit really hard during tropical storms, and I can tell he's a little sad he won't be home watching the waves crash against the storm walls. But we'll have a hopefully quiet, cozy day at home.

Be safe and have a great weekend!

August 2, 2011

The Fresh Smell of Nostalgia and Produce

Lazy summer days are the very best. Striking a loose balance between relaxation and play. A dip in the pool or ocean, a nap in the shade of a tree. Drinks with a friend, sitting by the firepit in the backyard with family and a bag of marshmallows. It's an easy time of year, which can be as busy or quiet as you choose. It was the same when I was little. We went to camp, and then we went to the beach. High energy games of dodgeball and Underwater Freeze Tag were punctuated with breaks for watermelon. We loaded up on ice cream sandwiches after lunch and had burned them off in less than an hour of biking to the beach and body surfing in the waves. The best days were finished off with skin smelling like dirt, sweat, sunblock and saltwater.


Food is a big part of summer. Big. Growing up, dinner was often whatever was growing in the garden accompanying clams, striped bass, whatever may have been caught or dug up that day. We had pizza at the local pizza joint on Fridays as a break from cooking and celebrating the start of the weekend. Cereal was dotted with blueberries or raspberries picked from my grandparents' yard, if we didn't eat them all right off the bushes.


Dessert was usually a thick slab of juicy watermelon, and we'd see who could spit the seeds the farthest off the back deck. Some nights we were treated to Far Far's Danish Ice Cream on the way home from fishing off the Powder Point Bridge or after one of my brother's baseball games. My parents used to tell us there was a magnet under the hood of our car that magically pulled us into the Far Far's parking lot. I believed them. I always loved Far Far's. I liked the sounds of the gravel crunching under the tires as you pulled into the tiny lot. I liked the giant roll of paper and bucket of thick crayons they hung on the wall where you could draw your favorite kind of ice cream. I liked the pictures of people eating ice cream and newspaper clippings plastered on the walls, and the college pennants hanging from the ceiling representing where the girls who worked there went for college. I liked that I could see the machines where they made the ice cream fresh every day. It just tasted better than anything you could ever buy in a store. It still does. It's good to know that some things never change. 

I'm grateful that the value of growing your own food and eating what's available is something that continues in my family. My parents always worked hard to grow what they could. The garden they now maintain is glorious, vibrant, green, lush. I was home this weekend and brought back some fresh picked goodies to enjoy this week. We'll be feasting on green beans, summer squash, radishes, onions, lettuce and herbs all week!


Being outdoors, eating fresh local food...this is how life should be. Now that I'm all grown up (well, kind of) and work in an office all day, the time spent outside, and finding time to relax, is even more valuable. There are days it's hard to get out at lunch time, but I try my hardest to do so because I need to feel the warm sun on my air conditioned skin. I need to sit in the shade at the park nearby and watch the ducks swimming in circles. I need to walk to the farmer's market on Wednesdays during lunch and taste the local fare. I like walking around the stands and seeing what people are cultivating. I like talking to the sellers. I like physically handing cash over to the person who has grown and picked this food. I like having to rinse the dirt off my kale because it was pulled out of the ground that morning. It's money well spent.


Last week was a jackpot. After watching Anthony Bourdain experience drool-inducing ragu and fresh seafood in Naples on the most recent episode of No Reservations, I went into the farmer's market with the mindset of "fresh, local, seasonal, make do with what you have". I spent $15 and walked away with a carefree bounce in my step, my bag full of fragrant produce.


It's too easy some nights to take the easy way out, to fall into a rut of "let's order pizza" or "let's just make pasta and call it a night". I love cooking. I find it soothing after a day at the desk. I love the feel of my chef's knife slicing garlic and chopping an onion. I love the smell of fresh basil in the kitchen. Store bought tomatoes can't hold a candle to the crispness of one that's fresh picked. When we moved, we discontinued cable, so I no longer have random tv playing in the background. I have the sound of the fan whirring overhead, Loki mewing for his dinner, or the breeze rustling the leaves on the trees outside the balcony. It's very zen.




SUMMER DESSERT: Peaches, Blueberries & Cream

I decided Wednesday night last week to make a fresh dessert with the peaches and blueberries from the market. Something simple yet delicious was the goal. I cut up the peaches and placed them in a small Corningware casserole. I sprinkled them with about 1/8c of brown sugar, a pinch of lavender and 1/2tsp granulated honey from William Sonoma, and a cup of rinsed blueberries.

Covered and baked for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. I topped it with a modest dollop of whipped cream. Heaven in a bowl!


As summer continues on, I look forward to seeing what's available at the market change. I look forward to more squashes and an overabundance of tomatoes, apple cider and sunflowers. I might even take a stab at my own homemade ragu. So what if I'm not Italian? "Fresh and flavor" is a state of mind.


So here we are in August. Summer is in that slow, winding down phase. We grasp onto the lazy day weekends for dear life. We savor each bite of watermelon and pop blueberries in our mouths like candy. The things we loved as kids are things that we still hold nearest and dearest. Somethings never change.