The Bar Napkin

Today marks a beginning. A beautiful newness of light returning slowly and deliberately to our Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice might be the oldest holiday in our brief human history with celebrations going back 30,000 years. Stone structures worldwide were created to mark this day, to aptly predict the coming of the warmth of summer, even with the fear that the light would continue dwindling until it was extinguished. Imagine the faith they had to believe the dark would move toward light. 

This is the perfect time to take stock of our year. Or not. Maybe that is a bad idea. 

Greg and I had a ritual each December around this time. We’d head to dinner and on a restaurant bar napkin (when they used to print restaurant names on bar napkins) we would write our new year’s resolutions. It was limited to 3-5. Not too many. They had to fit on one side of the napkin.

Over the years many ideas showed up and were completed. Law degrees, weight goals, numbers of books read, movies seen, new jobs and some goals never got achieved like stop drinking or finish the baseball stadium tour.

The ritual goes on to this day and now I have six more people setting their 2021 goals. Even though we can’t do it in person which makes this much less fun, they are sending them over with a broad faith that next year will be a different year. If you want to join, let me know, I’ll include you!

The other part of this ritual is grading the goals from the current year, which must be done per Greg Sabin, with a letter grade. A-F. This year I put an F on the goal find a piano teacher and an A on 20 mens pushups. Yes, some of you might say, I could still find the teacher but it’s too late. It doesn’t fit right now. Sometimes goals set to start in January don’t seem right in December. It’s okay.

I started this shortest day of the year with the sunrise. It rose low in a cold, clear Nevada sky. The snow capped mountains sparkly as it steadily came up rising from the East. The bookend to December 21, 2020 will come with early darkness. Light a candle, feel the warmth, remember the year with its many joys. Honor the sorrows. 

So with the 2021 resolutions taped in the book, the winter solstice in motion, the vaccine coming, the year close to ending — don’t forget to breath and be grateful for something. Anything that you can name or feel. 

Or if you prefer, do what my friend J.P.K. says at the end of his blog — wash your hands. 

Onward people. Onward onward onward. 

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The Everlasting Orchid

Greg loved orchids. I didn’t know much about these plants prior to Greg coming along.

One day we went hiking near Half Moon Bay and there is an orchid farm there. We bought another one. To join the one we already had.

Flash forward to 2016.

We move to Reno from the perfect San Jose growing weather with all the succulents and orchids, lime, lemon and kumquat trees, and cactus. Many of our garden friends did not like the Reno weather. Many moved inside.

Greg told me, “Orchids don’t like to be moved or watered too much.”
“Okay,” I said nodding.
“Orchids like filtered sun,” he continued.
“Yes,” still nodding.

So we put them in a west-facing window that gets full afternoon sun. They thrived.

Soon we had many more orchids. People donated them to us after their flowers had dropped. We tried to tell the people to keep them, be patient, and they will flower again.

Then one day I noticed white mold all over one plant. Then another. And another. We threw them all away.

Done with orchids.

Sometime in 2018 Greg went grocery shopping. As he’s unloading the car I’m taking the bags and unpacking them. All the normal Greg and Melanie grocery things . Until the end when he sheepishly wanders in with a new orchid.

“It was on sale,” he exclaims.Orchids

It had beautiful white, smallish flowers. Healthy.

Today we are here. With much of life looking different. In the midst of grieving so much of what was and is not now. Some people see their departed in the clouds, along roads they traveled, or butterflies.

It wasn’t until a few days ago I realized that this orchid Greg bought on sale at the grocery store is still flowering. It never stopped through all the life of the past two years. In fact, there are more buds, green leaves waiting to come up.

Even for the most cynical of us, hope comes in obvious places. If you stop and look.

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From My Farm to My Table

I did a thing today. 

I strolled out to the garden. Picked a bunch of fresh basil and some garlic. Cleaned it up and put it all in the food processor with olive oil and pine nuts, fresh parmesan, and made pesto. 
f65c38ca-8524-4311-bc35-736716b1b516While all that was going on the pasta boiled.

The entire process including the pesto making took about 1/2 hour and I had a plate of homemade pesto pasta for lunch. 

I ate it all.

I’m not a great gardener and fond of winter vegetables that don’t need much work like onions and garlic. You just plant them in the fall and voila, in the spring you have onions and garlic ready to go. 

This spring I added radishes and zucchini and rhubarb to my garden experiment. I enjoy starting all these plants from seeds. Not the fancy heirloom imported ones. These I found at the neighborhood CVS, among the vitamins and hairspray. CVS is a random place. 

The growing season in Nevada is short. We had a frost alert in June which had all the gardeners scrambling to cover everything for a couple nights. 

I read somewhere you should only grow what you like to eat. Sounds smart as there are many things that grow but then what? Thus begins the quest to kindly give it away or as my friend Bernie said — you can trade it!

I live around some fantastic gardeners. They are masters and have that designation by attending classes and getting certificates of achievement. That’s not me. I bought my first gardening book a few days ago. Super helpful now that my garden is in full swing and I’ve made most of the errors highlighted in the first chapter. 

Pesto is easy to make. The word comes from the word ‘peste’ meaning ‘to pound’, referring to the method of preparation, by wooden pestle and marble mortar. So ‘pesto’ in Italian actually refers to any number of different raw sauces which have been prepared in this way; it isn’t necessarily all pine nuts and basil. You can make this yummy combination with arugula, sun dried tomatoes, cilantro, or parsley. 

It’s a good thing to pick your own basil and make enough pesto to freeze a few bags so summer can last into winter and beyond.D5C9FA2D-0465-4D99-BD49-7F220CFF9671

To make pesto put the below ingredients into a food processor and grind into a paste. Unless you want to use a mortar and pestle which will take longer and most likely result in a more delicious, authentic basil pesto. Put this on fish, chicken, pasta, pizza, toast, with mayo on a sandwich….. on and on. If you need any ideas on this, let me know. Nom nom! 

2 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic (some people don’t like garlic so you can pass on this if you want)
1/3 cup pine nuts (pine nuts are traditional but you could use almonds or walnuts)
1/2 cup parmesan Salt to taste

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