Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

Ivy Brand Potluck

In Food, In My Kitchen on July 23, 2008 at 11:21 pm

Why aren’t performance fabrics and Gatorade marketed to farmers? This was the question I was asking myself while laying down straw between planting rows at Ivy Brand yesterday. It was 91 degrees and those straw bales — 200 this time! — were not moving themselves. Earlier in the day I thought I’d be hanging out with the kids while Sara ran deliveries or got ready for the potluck that night. Ha!


Yet again, my appreciation for the work that goes into farming is deepened. Yet again, my triathlete-self is humbled by the exertion required to be a producer. Yet again, I’m sweating and hot and tired as much or more as I am in a workout.

But by the time the sun was nearing the treeline, the temperature came down a bit and a breeze floated in from the South River. Friends and members of the farm started showing up along with lots of beautiful side dishes and some biodynamic meats. Music from the Seznec Brothers up near the firepit — jamming a mix of just about everything folksy and fun. 

The food was perhaps the best I’ve had at a potluck. (Likely because it was all prepared (or bought) by people who care enough about food to be choosy about where it comes from.) I’d brought a simple coleslaw with a vinegar-based dressing. My favorite dish of the night was a quinoa salad with grapes, cashews, and celery. Amazingly enough there was only one dessert, a peach and blueberry crumble. Why is it that most potlucks I go to are half desserts?

Madeleine and Dax had a great time with Sara’s boys and the other kids that showed up. Even Richard enjoyed himself once he realized he wasn’t going to have to schlep around the fields and could man the grill instead.

We came home filthy and ready for a well-deserved sleep.


Book Club and Blueberry Soup

In Food, In My Kitchen, In Other Words, Writing on July 22, 2008 at 6:35 am

Saturday night I met with my book club at my friend Bethany’s house. The way our club runs, we meet every 6-7 weeks, and whoever is the host chooses the book to be discussed and prepares a meal. Saturday was also Bethany’s book club, and her husband Jeff treated Bethany (and us!) to a catered dinner which included a fabulous chilled blueberry soup (see recipe below as promised!).

But besides the great meal, my favorite part of the evening was meeting Bethany’s aunt Carole. Carole is a vivacious woman who has frequently travelled and studied abroad (sometimes in a wheelchair), taken yearly vacations alone except for a shopping bag full of books, taught high schoolers and watched some of them grow into poets and some of them felled by disease, and fished at any and all possible opportunity. Carole has frequently influenced Bethany’s reading selections. She had told Bethany about As It Is In Heaven by Niall Williams, as she’s a big fan — she even participated in a workshop with Williams at his home in Ireland earlier this year.

I was sheepish about the fact that I had read so little of the book. Luckily, no one gets huffy about people not finishing the book in this group. And I have several times finished a book after our scheduled meeting. The fact that Carole was absolutely gushing about her experience in Ireland and how fascinating it was to work with Williams and compare the man to his characters really made me feel a little guilty, though. But Carole was completely gracious about our different reactions to (or lack of reading) the book. Her experience teaching high school English has thickened her skin, no doubt.

Her enthusiasm not only encouraged me to finish the book, but also to get back to writing fiction. I’ve been out of touch with literature for too long, having succumbed to the notion that the only writing worth my time was that for which I could project a paycheck in the next few months.

It’s scary — that fiction thing — just like anything else worth doing, I suppose. But I’m feeling more confident about it than I have in the past. So maybe instead of the J-O-B, what I need to do is get myself in front of a blank page to fill it with the stories I really want to write.


Whitney’s Magical Blueberry Soup Recipe

Authors note: Wear something blue or purple because it will get on your clothes and under no circumstances should you use a blender.


Take 4 cups of blueberries- usually the larger container at the store

1 cup of orange juice

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 tsp of cinnamon or a stick

(substitute with nutmeg)


Bring this to a boil and then let it simmer for about 3 min.

Blend this all together with either a mixer on a low setting or a blender stick

Authors Note: The Whitney prefers the blender stick.

Squeeze 1 tablespoon of real lemon juice


Let this stock cool completely overnight.


Before serving the soup, add 2 cups of 1/2 &1/2 or heavy whipping cream.

Add 1-2 Cups of plain yogurt to taste.

Authors Note: You can also use skim milk or milk if you prefer and non-fat yogurt to make it healthier.


Serve in glasses or a bowl.



Running Against that Little Voice in My Head

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2008 at 9:46 am

I just finished reading this great book, The Courage to Start: A Guide to Running for Your Life by John Bingham. The author writes a column for Runner’s World magazine that’s geared toward beginner or slower runners. The book is about why to run rather than how to run. I bought it before we went to Nags Head because I was feeling demotivated about my triathlon training, specifically about running, and wanted some inspiration — a literary kick in the butt.

There’s value in the book for anyone who runs (or is thinking about running), but there were certain parts that really spoke to me. The section “The Faces of Failure” really hit home for me. Despite the fact that my body is naturally inclined toward athleticism, I have only recently come to see myself as an athlete. Insecurity from school days lingers in my psyche and occasionally rears its ugly head, telling me that I’ll always be slow and awkward.

I see now that these insecurities hold me back. Running past the faces of failure, those voices from the past that tell me I’m not good enough or fast enough, is as much of a challenge as running through my lungs screaming for air as I sprint toward the top of the hill. They are even louder than the voice that tells me I’m bored or tired. My goal now is to cultivate the motivational voice, the one that reminds me that I’m having fun, that my body is capable of grace and speed and agility, that I can run right past the faces of failure straight through to the finish line.

A journey of a thousand miles…

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2008 at 9:04 am

My friend Earl is in trouble. He’s overweight and underfit, his blood pressure is misbehaving and his doctor is not happy at all. Richard and I have been encouraging him to join us in our boot-camp style workouts, knowing that the former college football-player in Earl would enjoy the commaraderie and mental challenges.

So at 7am on Saturday, Earl dutifully showed up in front of the gym. I had stressed to him multiple times that there were plenty of people who walked in the group, that he didn’t have to try to keep up with the marathon runners. Testosterone kicked in at least once and he reportedly ran a few times as our group moved through the trails near the gym.

B wanted to know if I’d taken out a life insurance policy on Earl. He was pale and sweating profusely and had inexplicably left his water bottle in his car.

I’m not at all convinced that Earl will join our group of crazy fitness nuts. I’m not even convinced that he’s really motivated to make the changes necessary to transform himself to a healthier and (I presume) happier Earl. But in that proverbial journey of a thousand miles, he’s taken that first step, tentative though it may be. I’m proud of you, Earl. And when you’re ready to finish that journey, I’ll be by your side the whole way.

99 Bales of Straw on the Wall

In Family, Food, In My Kitchen on July 9, 2008 at 5:19 pm

99 bales of straw! Take one down, pass it around, 98 bales of straw on the wall!

Yes, it was another day on the farm yesterday. And since I helped stack 99 bales of straw, Sara says I am officially a farm girl. Aw, shucks…

The kids and I were at the farm for a good 5 hours. Mostly I watched my kids and Sara’s while she ran CSA deliveries, then we had dinner. Loads of fresh veggies from the farm, burgers from her parents’ cattle operation, and chicken leg quarters from Polyface. And when I say fresh veggies, I mean minutes from vine to table. Can perfection be grilled zucchini?

It was the kind of day I hope my kids will look back on fondly — catching tadpoles in the ponds next to the greenhouses, feeding a bottle to a calf, gathering eggs, petting chickens, climbing on a stack of straw bales and proclaiming it a pirate ship.

By the time we got home, they were exhausted, and so was I. We were hot and sweaty (and probably smelled) and I at least was on sensory overload. Or maybe it was just the shock I got from the chicken fence.

Ending Vacation With a Bang…Literally

In Family, Uncategorized on July 1, 2008 at 5:42 pm


We had a lovely week in Nags Head, and the challenges presented by having both small children and the elderly in the party were minimal.

On Saturday, we closed up the cottage, had a big breakfast at Grits Grill then headed north to Norfolk to visit our old friend, Scott. The drive to Norfolk was uneventful, and as we drove about three blocks from where Richard and I used to live in Ghent, we were tapped by a vehicle running a red light. That tap caused us to slam into a telephone pole sideways at about 35 mph.

We are all ok. Our car, on the other hand, will likely be a total loss. Scary, but now the logistical hurdles are to be crossed. For example, I called our insurance company today to check on the status of our claim, and when the adjuster called back and left a message, she said that nothing had been done with the claim so far and they were missing information from us, and was the car driveable? If so, why was it towed? Grrrrrrrrrr…….

I was incensed, but still able to leave a reasonable message with all info I could offer and stating my expectation that the claim move forward no later than noon tomorrow. We’ll see.