Friday, September 4, 2015

For Love of Figs

It’s late summer, and that means one thing to me: figs.

Figs are my favorite fresh fruit. Two weekends ago, a friend invited me over to pick figs from her trees, and I happily took her up on her offer. She has no idea what kind they are; she inherited the trees when she bought her house. After a bit of research, I identified them as Celeste figs. They are a small fig but quite sweet when you let them ripen sufficiently.

My favorites – and the sweetest to my palate -- are black mission. I wish I could grow that variety, but they don’t do well here in the American South.

People ask me what I do with figs, and I tend to reply, “Eat them.” Duh. Figs are so seriously good that eating them out of hand is the absolute best way to enjoy their flavor. But you have to wait until they are perfectly ripe, bordering on overripe. Sitting out on the counter, they get that way fairly quickly.

I also enjoy figs for breakfast. A few sliced figs, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a swirl of honey creates a bowl full of joy.

I also adore fig preserves. Aforementioned friend and her mother put up several pints of homemade fig preserves, and I was the happy recipient of a jar. Scrumptious on a spoon!

However, in case you are the type to want more options, here’s a link to a Pinterest search page in which I looked for fig recipes. Just for you.


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Linking up with:
A Delightsome Life's A Return to Loveliness
Share Your Style at Common Ground

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Birdsong at Night

I'm sitting in our cabin here in Maine, listening to birdsong. That's not unusual, except that it's fully dark, almost 9 PM, and I'm sipping a nice Cabernet, not my morning cup of coffee.

I love wild birds. I love feeding them, watching them, identifying them, and listening to them. My daughters once shared my delight and awe, but now they are teenagers and not much delights or awes them any longer. It's quite sad. But I remain hopeful that once they get past this stage (which has its own delights, I assure you), they'll return to those things that once bright them joy.

The bird I hear now is a hermit thrush. I've been enjoying listening to them for years here in Maine. I never hear them down South. They have a very unique and lovely song; it's intricate, whereas some birdsongs are quite simple. And there's a unique whirring aspect to parts of it.

I first learned about hermit thrushes a few years ago when the girls and I visited Birdsacre and the Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary, a wonderful house museum and bird sanctuary in Ellsworth, Maine. There we learned about the life and vocation of Cordelia J. Stanwood, a 19th century pioneer ornithologist and photographer whose passion was birds. We enjoyed out tour of the house and the girls got to help the volunteer feed the birds that live there. Our favorites were the sawwhet owls.

As a memento, I purchase a biography of Cordelia, written by Chandler S. Richmond and titled Beyond the Spring. Frankly, I did not hold out much hope for a well-written book. So I was pleasantly surprised at the engaging style of Richmond's prose. And what a story, too! More to the point of this post, however, is her deep admiration for the hermit thrush. She wrote:

“When the thrush speaks to me, it seems as if the rags and tatters that enshroud my soul fall away and leave it naked. Then I must be simple and true or I cannot feel the message the small voice brings to me. When the thrush sings, I desire to live in a small, scrupulously neat camp, open to the sun and the wind and the voices of the birds. I would like to spend eternity thus, listening to the song of the thrush.”

My response to the thrush's song isn't quite as strong, but I do love it. Here's a link to the hermit thrush page at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website. You can see photos of this bird and, more importantly, listen to recordings of its song. And here's a link to the hermit thrush page on the Audubon website. Excellent recordings of its song are down lower on the page. Prepare to be charmed. And the next time you hear a bird singing at night, think of the hermit thrush.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Perils of Getting Dressed

A while ago, I posted on Facebook this plaint: “All I want is a white, scoop-neck tee shirt that isn’t see-through. Is that too much to ask?”

Apparently I’m not the only woman my age with such desires because I got a lot of responses. Some suggested stores I’d already checked with no luck; others suggested stores at which I do not typically shop. I checked an online store a friend recommended and found such tees in various colors – including white – and on sale. Shazam.

I’m not a clothes person. I mean, I wear them so I won’t get arrested and also to cover up the awful things time is doing to my body. But I’m not a fashionista, and I don’t like shopping for clothes. All that searching through racks, taking off my clothes in hideously cramped and ill-lit dressing rooms, trying on multiple items that disappoint. . . Yuck.

I don’t like to think about clothes much either. Lately I’ve been drawn to the minimalist wardrobe approach that’s sprung up on the internet. The capsule wardrobe, the 10-piece wardrobe, the French woman’s guide to fashion, etc. And I like the concept behind these as well. Why should I waste my “creative energy” on worrying about what I’m going to wear every day? Who needs the stress?

But these approaches have limitations. For example, I find I want to have more than just a black and white closet, a la fran├žaise. I don’t do much accessorizing, so rounding out with handbags, headbands, and other colorful accountrements is not my style.

Another issue is that shopping options for women my age are more limited. Places I used to shop, like Old Navy, Gap, etc., don’t suit me anymore. I’m no longer friends with sleeveless tops, for example. And form-fitting maxi dresses don’t flatter my form. After two kids, I’m a little hippy. And low-rider jeans? Don’t get me started.

And even though I don’t have much fashion sense, I do have a budget. So when I peruse fashion/lifestyle blogs for women my (ahem) age for some ideas, I balk at paying 90 bucks for a three-quarter length sleeve tee shirt. Which is the same reason I don’t use those online clothes shopping services where they send you a selection of clothes items picked JUST FOR YOU based on a questionnaire. They’re too pricey.

So if you have no style, a small budget, an even smaller amount of interest in clothes shopping, AND you’re nearing a certain age, you’re pretty much out of luck when it comes to getting dressed and liking what you see in the mirror. It’s basically out of necessity that I’m a jeans and tee or sweater person (although I’ve been known to throw on a scarf for a touch of flair). I’m not completely hopeless.

Frankly, I'd rather spend my money on other things. And if you take one look at me, you'll see that fashion is not my top priority.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bien Dans Sa Peau at the Beach

My daughters are in the ocean, jumping waves. The water is frigid, just like the ocean at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, at the height of summer. It took them a while to get used to the water, but once they surrendered to its frigidity, they threw themselves in with abandon. Now they are drenched, salty, sandy, and ecstatic. I am certain their lips are blue.

They say that it's more fun to come to the beach with daddy than with me. He gets in the water with them, while I sit on the beach and read. There was a time in my life when I would have been in that water. In fact, I enjoyed the ocean then more than my daughters do now. My sisters and I paddled on our floats, body surfed, searched for fish and shells, and nursed a few jellyfish stings. A small price to pay.

Now I sit in a beach chair with my book, my big white sun hat protecting my face, my sunglasses covering my reading glasses. I must look ludicrous, but I don't care. I am ecstatic myself. The wind and the smell of the salty air and the feel of the velvety sand on my toes, sand that has just recently been underwater, are heavenly.

There is a narrow lookout between the wide brim of my sun hat and the top of my reading glasses.  I watch my girls through that slit. As I read, I look up periodically to check that they are safe. They don't need me as much any more, and there is freedom for all of us in that. I am able to sit and relax and enjoy. They are able to play and splash and run. And we don’t worry too much about what the other is doing.

We do, however, keep our eyes on each other. We look up from time to time to make sure that the other is still there. That's our touchstone, our way to make sure we are where we are supposed to be in the world.

They've come back to the towels to warm themselves in the sun for a bit. They have taken the time to tell me that I look ridiculous, which I know, but I am beyond the point of caring. In fact I’m beyond the age of caring. And it's rather freeing, this not caring very much of the kind of picture one presents to the world. Sometimes I do care. I take care with my appearance and my clothes and my hair and all of that. But at other times I just let it all go and just be myself, who I am in that moment. And the world can keep its critique to itself.

For me, this is one aspect of the French woman’s ideal, to be bien dans sa peau, literally, “well in her skin.” It’s an all-encompassing phrase with many life aspects. But at the moment, I’m well and truly enjoying one of them. And I’m at peace with myself.

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