Category Archives: Friends

Sunday Self-Care: Family time

I love summer, but it puts a serious cramp in my style when it comes to spending time outside. Spring, fall and even winter are much safer times to take the dogs out for a walk or let them romp around the park, and after an exceptionally hot summer that started early and overstayed its welcome, I’m making a concerted effort to enjoy autumn.

To that end, we take the dogs for several walks a week, and when time and weather allow, I like to join them on their trips to the backyard, too. Part of this is of necessity (if I’m not out there to supervise, Lillian refuses to leave the porch, especially at night), but it’s also nice just to be out there with my four-legged family members.

Riggy, left, and Lillian hang out on the deck, waiting for me to let them back inside the house. Songdog was busy playing in the yard.
Riggy, left, and Lillian hang out on the deck, waiting for me to let them back inside the house. Songdog was busy playing in the yard.

There’s something soothing about hanging out with dogs. Their worldview is so different from ours, and they notice things I’d miss. Each dog teaches me something different.

Songdog is one of the most affectionate beings I’ve ever known. No matter what’s going on, he looks up at me like I’m the most important creature in the entire world. Give him even the slightest opportunity, and he’ll teach you what it is to experience unconditional love.

Riggy is utterly irrepressible, as rat terriers tend to be, and it’s a joy to watch him stride confidently through the world despite having lost his eyes to a genetic condition several years ago. Every walk with him is a lesson in perseverance and resourcefulness.

Lillian — who was part of a breeding operation but ended up in a shelter for nine months after her owner got sick and had to give up all her dogs — is almost heartbreakingly neurotic. She responds to things differently than any other dog I’ve ever had, and she forces me to slow down and think about how my actions might look to a six-pound Chihuahua mix who is trying hard to trust me but hasn’t quite figured out how to be a dog and needs a little help understanding what’s going on before she can be OK with it.

Together, the three of them are helping to buff off my rough edges and soothe my frazzled nerves.

Emily

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Vegetarian Friday: Cranberry sauce

This post is late this evening because I had to pick up some canning supplies so I could put up today’s recipe as soon as I finished cooking.

Look at these gorgeous berries.
Look at these gorgeous berries.

About nine years ago, my friend Laurel gave me a big bag of cranberries she’d brought back from a Maine cranberry bog — and then, upon discovering I’d never made homemade cranberry sauce, gave me a recipe and instructions for making some.

I lost Laurel’s recipe in the Great Mac Crash of 2013, but I’d riffed on it in 2007 and had enough presence of mind to post it here.

I’m grateful for that. Laurel passed away in January. I think of her every year and smile as I listen for the berries to pop, remembering the day I stood in her kitchen in Tulsa as she explained the steps.

I smiled tonight, blinking back tears and remembering Laurel and thinking about how amused she would have been by the latest political revelations that were pouring into my Twitter feed as I stirred the sugar syrup.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have and use it to make some happy memories of your own.

Ingredients
1 c. sugar
1 c. water
4 c. cranberries
2 apples, diced
1-2 c. other fruit (berries, grapes, or more apple if you like)
3/4 c. honey

Peel and chop apples. Wash cranberries and any other fruit you’re using. (I used grapes tonight because I had some on hand, but I’ve also used strawberries, blackberries and extra apples, all of which produced equally good results.)

Heat water and sugar together until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn't scorch.
Heat water and sugar together until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch.

Stir sugar into water and bring to a boil in a big saucepan, stirring frequently.

I love the sound of cranberries cooking.
I love the sound of cranberries cooking.

Add fruit, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. You’ll hear the berries pop as they cook. Remove from heat, stir in honey, and let stand to thicken.

Makes about 2 pints.

Cranberry sauce cans very well; just leave a half-inch of headspace and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. I made three batches tonight and put them up in wide-mouth pint jars.

New friends

I got to help with a cool project Saturday morning. Some volunteers from the local Islamic Center teamed up with some members of Abbey Road Christian Church — which I’ve been visiting for the last few weeks — to pull weeds and trim back perennials in the flowerbeds around the church’s labyrinth.

There has been a strong effort lately to foster better communication between members of the Muslim and Christian faith communities here in Cape, which delights me to no end. (My favorite high-school anecdotes all start with what sounds like the setup to a bad joke — “A Muslim, a Jew, and a vegan walk into a pizzeria” — and end with a bunch of kids laughing until our faces hurt while our scholar-bowl coach tried to figure out what we were up to this time.)

Anyway, between my fondness for interfaith activities and my love of labyrinths, showing up Saturday was a no-brainer, and I spent a couple of happy hours making new friends and working in a pretty garden.

Unfortunately, the project became less pleasant for three participants who encountered a colony of red paper wasps that were nesting in one of the flowerbeds. Paper wasps are usually fairly docile, but if you disturb their home, they’ll invoke the castle doctrine.

Several church members suggested using pesticides to kill the wasps, as they presented a safety issue for the volunteers as well as anyone who might come out to walk the labyrinth.

I understood their concern, but as a beekeeper, I knew I could suit up and remove the threat without harming any adult wasps, so I suggested everybody simply avoid that flowerbed while I called Ron to bring me a protective suit and gloves.

Once Ron arrived, it took about 15 minutes to suit up, find the nest and remove it. Problem solved. I brought the nest home so the pupae developing inside the sealed cells could finish maturing and hopefully hook up with a colony in my garden when they emerged. (Sadly, the larvae and eggs were doomed the minute I removed the nest from its original spot, but I’d rather lose a little brood than destroy the entire colony.)

I’m always amazed at how far I’ve come with respect to wasps.

As a kid, I didn’t know much about stinging insects, and I was terrified of them. As I grew up and learned more about pollinators, however, fear gave way to understanding, respect, and appreciation, and today, I’m not the least bit shy about running interference on their behalf when necessary.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Emily

For Mary and Sharon

Two of our former colleagues are getting married!

I’m still pretty hacked off about the Hobby Lobby decision and its aftermath, but every now and then, the Supremes get one right. They most definitely got it right today.

Constitution, 1; bigotry, 0.

Enjoy your day, ladies. You know we’d be there if we could. As it is, I’ll just sit here in Missouri with Vienna Teng’s voice running through my head and joy in my heart as two fine journalists and dedicated wildlife rehabilitators add “changed the world for the better” to their resumes.

Emily

Route 66 memories

In sifting through my digital photo archive the past few days, I’ve run across quite a few images I’d forgotten I had. Most of the stuff in my archive is stuff I shot myself, but some of the most gratifying photos were the ones other people shot of me doing things on or for the Mother Road. For about 12 years, my life more or less revolved around Route 66 advocacy. Here are some highlights I found in my archives:

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I’ve identified the photographers as far as I can remember. If you recognize something you shot, and I didn’t give you credit, please let me know in the comments. Some of these images go back a decade or more, and I’ve slept since then.

Emily

Friends in strange places

Marlene Dietrich once said, “It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”

I would add, “But it’s the friends you can take out chasing ghosts and photographing houses of ill repute while listening to ’60s folk revival CDs and discussing sci-fi-themed pranks at 1 a.m. that ensure life is truly a Rare Entertainment.”

I learned this when my friend Greg and I found ourselves sitting on a curb next to Route 66 in Galena, Kansas, late last night, discussing the pros and cons of vandalizing enhancing the exterior of a bright blue porta-potti to make it look like the TARDIS.

We ultimately decided such a prank was likely to be more trouble than it was worth, given the venue, so I suggested a Spooklight-hunting excursion instead.

A search for the Spooklight basically entails chasing a mysterious (and notoriously fickle) will-o’-the-wisp down poorly lit backroads all over one little corner of southwestern missouri, southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. This is obviously a brilliant thing to be doing after midnight when you’re due to have breakfast with about 200 of your closest friends a few hours later before driving 350 miles to get back home in time for work.

An ordinary person would have said, “Hell, no. You’re a lunatic. Go to bed.”

Greg’s response: “Do you think I’ll need my tripod?”

We didn’t see the Spooklight, mostly because we started to run out of steam by the time we got out to the spot where the light supposedly shows up.

We did, however, see a creepy-looking deer staring at us. We also had a good conversation about miscellaneous geekery; saw a few groups of people sitting along the backroads, waiting for the Spooklight to appear; listened to “Diamonds and Rust”; and stopped to look at the slightly risque stained-glass window in a 19th-century bordello.

I had a good weekend, obviously. Hope you did, too, wherever you are.

Emily

Ludlow to San Bernardino

Here’s the next batch of photos from our vacation a few weeks ago. I really do have some good intentions about keeping up with this blog a little better now that I’ve started to settle into the new job.

Abandoned building just before sunset.
Love this old house. I spent a lot of time shooting it with both the Rebel and the iPhone (which produced some nice Instagrams).
Mojave, Route 66, signpost, abandoned buildings, “magic light” just before sunset … if you can’t get a decent shot out of that, you don’t need a camera.
Ludlow sunset. This motel is nothing fancy, but I love being in the Mojave overnight.
Look closely, and you’ll see an unkindness of ravens gathered in the branches of these trees, which are behind the Ludlow motel. I just took this picture because I love the fact that a group of ravens is called an “unkindness,” as opposed to the more menacing “murder of crows.”
This may be the weirdest architecture on Route 66. Love it. Daggett, Calif.
Gorgeous invasive non-native species: the royal Paulownia tree. Fast-growing, terrible for the environment, but absolutely beautiful, and they’re all over Southern California.
Had to get a shot of the Dreamcar at the Wigwam Motel. Excuse the dreadful lighting conditions.

In unrelated news, my old Community World staff got together last night for an informal reunion. I haven’t laughed that hard since our office closed. We’re all off doing grownup jobs now — one girl works for a nonprofit in L.A., at least two of us are in P.R., another guy works for a big publishing company in town — but it was great to see everybody and to be smartass kids again, if only for a little while.

Emily

P.S.: I feel a major creative outburst coming on. Stay tuned….