transition

I’m standing in the kitchen making risotto. I simply don’t know what else to do to fill this gap I feel myself wading through to get back to life here at ‘home’ after ten days of special time away.  I want to fill this transition with something that celebrates all the time I have just spent in sacred space in some way.  Being here in the kitchen feels right, and endeavoring to replicate the delicious pot of risotto made on the first night of my journey with dear female friends (spiritual sisters) comes to me with a certainty that this is exactly what is needed….

This overnight with my ‘sisters’ is on the way to a highly anticipated week of ‘Quilting by the Lake’.  And where I usually arrive at our gatherings with a basket of goodies in hand to share and/or incorporate into a meal, this time my car is filled with baskets of fabric instead, along with all the other supplies I will need for my week at quilt camp.  So when it is time to make dinner, our hostess simply empties her cabinet of items that could become a meal, including a bag of arborio rice and jars of marinated artichokes and olives.  When I inquire if there is chicken broth and white wine, she produces a container of homemade broth from her freezer and several bottles of cooking wine.  We decide to make risotto!  In addition to these finds,  there is onion and patty pan squash, fresh garlic and lemon juice, basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese. The spoon gets turned by us all at some point while I chop the next item to enter the pot while Julie prepares a tomato & basil salad. It is a memorable meal that marks for me the transition being made from home to quilt camp through a generosity of spirit I am so grateful to be able to participate in….

‘Quilt camp’ is an annual re-connecting with like-minded creative souls.  As an artist retreat, it is the week each year where total immersion into the world of fabric and color and design consumes and creates another kind of community filled with the generosity of spirit.  I connect with friends old and new.  This year is especially poignant, as Kathy (http://www.materialobsession.typepad.com/), my dearest friend of 45 years who lives half way across the world as the talented quilter and teacher and ‘patchwork’ shop owner that she embodies, is here teaching at QBL this year.  I now get to experience who she is in all her glory and watch as she inspires and lights up the souls of her students and it is beautiful, her dedication to share ‘the promise of joy’ with everyone she comes into contact with.  And I do what I do, taking a class that allows for entering into a flow that will take me to a new place, this year a class called ‘touch and tell’ with gifted South African teacher Rosalie Dace, and endeavor to make something that can be simply experienced with eyes closed as well as open.  I never know what I will ‘make’ when I am here, and this year it is a piece called ‘Making Christmas’, still in process and holding all the love I feel for this work of making texture with fabric and thread.

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This week at QBL this year is also punctuated by sharing space both in and out of the studio with a group of women that soon begins to call ourselves ‘the tribe’, smile. Moving together from living room to studio and back, we discover a sweet and unexpected compatibility.  It is such a gift to make new and lasting connections within an existing structure that allows for creativity to flow.   I am home here and feel it in every way.

And then, like a big giant cherry on top of the proverbial sundae, I leave the circle of life as we know it at QBL and head east to the new love in my life.  Gary.  Oh my.  Carrying the energy of the week into the arms of this man I am falling in love with is just too delicious, if there can be such a thing!

I soon remember it is ALL transition, all that is done, every connection made, every encounter experienced.  Even coming ‘home’ to this familiar house that I know is just mine for a time is a transition, not a forever.  Making the transition here is harder though for all the attachments that come with it.  So here I am standing in the kitchen, making risotto to share with a rare night at home with my kids, Ben just visiting on a break from school, Molly just here temporarily until her return to Peru….

A medium chopped sweet onion is sautéed in olive oil in the 10″ wide, 4 quart stainless steel pot.  Add a handful of chopped cremini mushrooms.  Meanwhile, heat up a quart of chicken broth in a small pot on the stove and make fresh squeezed lemon juice to add.  Molly is happy for the exercise of walking into town for a bottle of white wine so off she goes.  I rinse two cups of arborio rice and set aside.  Chop up the 8 oz. jar of marinated artichokes and about 1/4 cups worth of chopped green olives stuffed with pimentos.  Slice a big handful of fresh basil into thin ribbons.  Grate a bowlful of fresh parmesan cheese.  When the sautéed vegetables are soft and translucent, add the rice and stir to warm and coat.  With fire on medium high, begin to add the lemon chicken broth in ladles, stirring constantly, only adding another after the last has been absorbed.  Stirring stirring stirring.  This is risotto.  Adding things slowing, letting each ingredient become acquainted with and acclimated slowly with the contents of the pot.  Molly returns with the wine, and I add that this time instead of the chicken broth.  Then add the artichokes and olives.  Stirring stirring stirring.  More broth, more wine.  The texture is beginning to change now.  The rice is becoming risotto.  There is no hurrying this dish. It will be done when it is done.  Finally, the basil and a pour of organic half & half gets added.  More stirring.  Then at last the cheese, the whole bowl of it (or at least a cup’s worth), some fresh ground pepper, a little salt….

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It is done when the rice is soft.  It can be ever so slightly firm to the bite, but you’ll know, the texture is simply exactly what it is supposed to be when it is done.  It holds its shape on the plate and is completely creamy at the same time…

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It is delicious the way I remember, tangy, savory, and cheesy creamy in just the right combination.  The generosity of spirit that has characterized these past weeks has now transitioned successfully into my home space and I am momentarily happily completely full…

all things favorite

It’s the last week of June and time for our annual Ford family reunion.   My brother comes from California with his wife Samantha and three sons Charlie, Luke & Hugh.  Molly, Ben, Yankee and I arrive from the east, all converging with my parents at Canandaigua lake in NY.  This lake is home to me in so many ways, evoking childhood family time at the Crumps, renting the little cottage next to the Olney’s, high school outings at the Ryans, and now the past 30 years of literally coming ‘home’ to the Bristol Hills just above the lake on the west side. This year, a cottage has actually been rented at Seneca Point below my parent’s home, right on the water, offering ample room and fully appointed with multiple decks facing the lake, hot tub, basement pool room, waterfront bar, argentine grille, fire pit, and of course the dock with kayak and paddle boat at our disposal.   A lake dweller’s dream….

the whole scene w Ben

Everyone quickly finds their niche.  Within minutes of arriving, my brother Rob discovers the argentine grille and barely leaves its side the entire week,

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except to take the kids on their many forays water skiing and tubing in the gorgeous boat he has rented for the week….

IMG_0401Samantha and Hugh are in the water continuously, often sporting their wetsuits to allow maximum time in.

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Molly takes daily marathon swims, with me paddling alongside in the kayak for company and alternatively makes herself available for bonding with her newest and youngest cousin…

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Ben tries out the kayak with great enthusiasm,

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but that activity is trumped the rest of the week once he discovers the thrill of tubing.  Charlie discovers the joy of being able to read one book after another when he isn’t water skiing.

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Charlie water skiing

And Luke is like the glue, moving around and engaging each of us in his circle of camaraderie when he isn’t indulging his own passion for water skiing.  I love his persistence in asking for days “Aunt Kathy, do you want to play pool?”  until I finally follow him down to the pool room and have a blast playing a game I also loved to play when I was his age.

gorgeous Luke Luke - playing pool

Dad is the breakfast man, the proverbial short order chef, making endless pans of eggs as each person wanders into the kitchen.  When that is done, he hangs down by the dock, the center of all activity swirling around him, often with cigar in hand, turning nut brown from all the sunshine we are fortunate to be having, or entertaining us with his smooth dance moves to nostalgic tunes.

dad sunning

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Last but not least, Mom finds her favorite seat up on the house deck watching us all from her perch, there to converse and commune with on our many trips up the stairs to the house for whatever we need.  She is my confidant this vacation, reveling with me as we sip our coffee, in the morning ‘letters’ I receive each day from the new love in my life.  She plans and organizes the big family party the last day, replete with cousins and aunts and uncles from both sides of the family, honoring the 92nd birthday of her beloved Uncle Norm…

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…while creating the context for us all to have memorable quality time together…

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Kathy Rob & alan

Early morning is my time.   Before anyone else is awake, I steal down to the furthermost edge of the dock and practice yoga, surrounded by the soft lapping sound of the morning lake.  I discover the joy of skimming the surface of the water in the kayak and spend hours moving slowing up and down the lake.  I paddle out some distance, feeling my strength in the easy pull through clear cold water.  Feeling like I am alone on the lake in this moment with just the rising sun low on the horizon, I stop paddling to sit and feel what the current of the water has to offer.  It is a sublime feeling, and I know now this simple and primary way of being in relationship with the lake will now always be part of my repertoire of all things favorite.

Of course, what is a Ford family vacation without dancing with food!  Most meals are collaborative efforts and all the better for it.  I think the reigning favorite is the roast turkey w/ natural gravy Dad makes early in the week, accompanied by a huge pan of beans and greens that I make with over five bunches of fresh locally grown organic kale, and a huge pan of Thanksgiving style mashed potatoes that Ben puts his love and muscle into.  Then there is the impromptu dinner down by the water a few nights later, presided over by the two who make it all possible for us to even be here…

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with appetizers of Molly’s famous guacamole and Rob’s slowly grilled barbecue chicken legs,

argentine grilled chichen

Sam’s pasta w/ grilled tomato/zucchini sauce,

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and a large pan of my marinated roasted veggies made earlier in the day.  It is a magical evening filled with music and laughter, taking us into the dusk and another open fire in the stone pit, with more s’mores and more stories, and eventually, the June ‘strawberry’ full moon providing a spotlight for Molly & Charlie to jam together….

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July full moon

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The next morning I come up for my breakfast to find a few eggs left from the four dozen purchased just days before.  I’m really hungry after yoga and kayaking and leave the rest of the meat and eggs in the pan for my nephews and decide on a veggie version for myself.  Saute some brown rice (yes, I make a big pot to have on hand for the week) with a sliced up portobello mushroom, chop up some of the marinated veggies from the night before and add them to the pan too. Whip up two eggs to pour over the cooked veggies and rice, flipping until the eggs are just cooked .  Add some beloved Greek olives (which live on the counter of any house my father is in) to the plate and head out the deck….and smile.   Of course I have to take a photo,

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realizing that here too on this plate are all things favorite even if an odd combination, assembled in a way that allows for maximum pleasure, not unlike the assembly of this family in all its perfection and imperfection….

It is a good week and I’m wishing for more…hopefully same time again next year….