Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Year In Review

Above: Liz holding a quartz-bound book of mica over the newest addition to our yard – a Brown Turkey Fig tree.

I recently turned a year older. The point was driven home today after I walked into one of our local restaurants to grab lunch to go. I decided to have a pint while I waited on the order. The girl checking me out checked my ID to ensure I was of age (a compliment I will take) before smiling, and stating, “That looks nothing like you.”

Have you ever seen those side-by-side images of presidents before they enter the office, and when they finish their presidential term? That is what this past year has felt like. That said, much has happened in the past 12 months.

  •  Liz and I bought our first home in Durham, NC, and committed to our love of the wonderful city, by growing roots here.
  • I quit my job at an advertising agency (after almost 7 years in the game) to take a leap, and follow my heart. It has been the hardest, and simultaneously, one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
  • I proposed to Liz on a snow-covered beach on Lake Superior.
  • We began planning a wedding, before saying “Nope” to tradition, and running off to the mountains to elope at the base of a waterfall.
  •  I (finally) successfully made the transition from “agency life” into personally fulfilling activities that I want to give my whole mind and heart to. More on that later, but it has been a long time coming… and I couldn’t have envisioned a better new beginning.

Presidents before: bright eyed, smooth skin, and minimal grey. Presidents after: experienced eyes, more wrinkles, and grey hair galore. The past year has kinda been like that. I still have (and will always have) the child-like twinkle in my eye. I’m pretty sure I will act like a kid until I throw in the towel. My smile lines have deepened, and hopefully will only continue to deepen.  And my hair… well, let’s just say I might be a silver fox before too long. It is both hereditary and inevitable (a least it is not falling out). If wrinkles and grey hair equals progress and a happy life, then may I age quickly… and hopefully gracefully.

I can honestly say that this year has been perfectly imperfect. While it is not the future I considered one year ago, it has turned into more than I had hoped. Cheers to the next 12 months of life.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Weekend Breakfast

Top: Seared grit cake, avocado, pea shoots, poached egg, roasted okra.
Middle: Buttermilk cracker, cream cheese, smoked salmon, garden cucumber, spicy dill mustard, “everything” spices.
Bottom: Buttermilk biscuit, sharp cheddar, cream cheese, avocado, fried egg.

I like to make breakfast. Liz highlighted it – here – before we were even man and wife. I’ve continued to play in the kitchen, and think that I just might pick up the Weekend Breakfast baton.

Chocolate milk cheers.

Monday, September 15, 2014

To Thirty

To a brilliant, beautiful, fiery, red-headed sweetheart, full of nothing less than piss and vinegar.

Happy birthday, Elizabeth. To 30 plus more years.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Appalachian Trail Care Package

Since I moved to North Carolina, 3 years ago, I have found that I very much enjoy hiking. I’m pretty proud of myself when I leisurely knock out a 3-mile loop at Eno River State Park. That said, what I call hiking is humorous compared to what a former coworker, and good friend of mine, is in the process of doing. This Spring Mr. Schwing put his career on hold to follow his heart, and hike the Appalachian Trail. The entire Appalachian Trail. In June, he started his trek in Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

Before he is finished (in less than 500 miles now!) he will have entered, and exited, 5 national parks over the course of 6-ish months. He will have hiked 2,185.3 miles through 14 states.  That is 5,500,000 steps (give or take). 5.5 MILLION steps! Occasional tweets note his progress (and reassure friends and family that he is, in fact, still alive). Inspiring Instagram photos share the magestic scenery he is trekking through. And this morning I got a text from Schwing. A care package I had mailed intersected his path in Damascus, VA.

It was a challenging process deciding what to pack, and send him. Who am I kidding? Hiking the AT in its entirety is challenging. Deciding what to pack, and send him, took a little bit of consideration. Consideration because he will have three options when he receives the package. 1) consume the contents immediately 2) pack them for later or 3) give some away/leave them for others. When hiking nearly a marathon daily, the less weight the better. So, he was sent all kinds of nonsense. Here is the break down…

- 2 packages of natural and unscented wet wipes – don’t want bears sniffing him out, and dude probably needs a shower.
- 10 assorted tea bags - the guy enjoys his tea.
- 12 Starbucks VIA instant coffee - although he is a tea drinker, he can trade or earn some trail magic (aka random acts of kindness), +12 xp!
- 6 Justin’s nut butters - the more calories consumed the better.
- 3 mini liquors including Maker’s Mark, Jameson, and Patron - for sterilization purposes or bug repellant, of course.
- 1 bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10 - thoughtfully provided by a friend of ours… Good luck chilling that beautiful beer, Schwing!

Realizing he won’t carry it all with him, I hope that he can make another hiker’s day by giving them some coffee, honey peanut butter, or a stiff shot. Boost that trail magic karma!

As an aside: I could hear the single bottle of beer, and all 3 mini booze bottles, slosh around as I set the package on the post office counter. My tell-tale package. Glug-glug. Glug-glug. Thank you USPS for not asking me a single question about its contents. Cheers!

After the crazy amount of time, the crazy amount of miles, and the crazy, crazy amount of steps, I have this vision of Schwing emerging from the wilderness. He is changed both mentally and physically - a sense of enlightenment, wrapped in a slender Grizzly Adams package. He has a bird on his left shoulder, and a trail of small-to-medium-sized mammals following behind him as he emerges triumphantly... Either that, or he stumbles out of the forest mumbling something about beer, pizza, and a soft, air-conditioned place to sleep. In either scenario he has accomplished much, and has a wicked unruly beard.

Whatever the case may be, I hope the little package helps him along the way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Homemade Sausage

Recently, good friends of ours gifted us with a sausage making attachment for our mixer (they know me so well). After much anticipation, I finally dove into the challenge of making my own, homemade sausage.   

I bought a “Boston Butt” – the “A” portion (actually a shoulder) from the image above. It is my favorite cut since moving to North Carolina. That is a big statement coming from a boy that was born and raised in an area of the country known for beef. I’m pretty sure I knew the saying, “Beef. Its what for dinner.” before I knew how to cook dinner.

That confession made, I carved the butt/shoulder into small cubes before throwing them in the freezer to get firm while I mixed spices, and ground herbs from our yard. One portion of spices was for breakfast sausage, and the other was for Italian sausage. I hooked the attachment up to the mixer, and apprehensively started the process. Liz pulled a chair into the kitchen… partially because my 90’s R&B music was too loud for us to speak to one another from different rooms, and partially to support/supervise the venture. All right, mostly for support.

We watched the cut cubes of meat turn to ground bits as I fed them through the grinder. It was impressive to see the meat, and fat, exit the contraption in a way that was recognizable as… well, meat. I could see meat. I could see fat. It wasn’t pink paste. It wasn’t sausage-flavored mush. It wasn’t elbows and assholes. It was sausage… that I made. I knew everything that went into the sausage before it went into my mouth. And I’ll be damned if both kinds didn’t turn out better than expected.