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February 27, 2000
a year ago
two years ago

Journal, Garden and Beef Stew

Wrists were still feeling achy even after taking all of yesterday off, so I decided, first thing in the morning, to ride the bike. John rode as well, and while he rode I baked a Dutch baby in the cast iron skillet. It turned out differently, the puffs all through it rather than along the edges, but it was yummy and really good with plenty of yogurt.

After breakfast, John wandered off on another series of errands, while I sat at home and first just watched a little TV and knit on his socks a little now that my hands felt okay, and then, eventually, went upstairs to dictate some of the week before. Some of this time-remote journal entry writing is really distracting in some ways. I don't really capture the feeling of the day anymore, because I can't remember all the little tiny details, the taste and texture of the day a whole week away. Some of it is easy, perhaps, the things that I do remember, and the Con is easy to focus on as it was very narrowly focussed on the games that were played, but the days before get kinda fuzzy.

I got through a day's worth of stuff, and then realized it was 1, so I went downstairs to put together the beef stew as it would take about five hours to cook correctly. I cut up beef, trimmed off nearly all the fat, and then cut it into stew-sized chunks. I then added onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, and mixed it all together with spices, red wine and a can of Campbell's Tomato Bisque. For some reason that stuff really does the exact right thing for beef stew. I then stuck it in a 275 degree oven in the French ceramiced cast iron pot with a cover on it and just left it there.

After that, since John was still off doing whatever, I decided to make something that I love and John is okay about but doesn't love. I boiled water, put butter in a pan and let it brown while the water came to a boil. Then I threw spaghetti in the water, took the browned butter off the heat, threw a chunk of mizhithra cheese into the hard cheese grater, and then tossed the cooked angel hair in the browned butter and topped it all with a thick, almost dusty layer of grated cheese. It was wonderful. I first got hooked on the combination at some Olde Spaghetti Factory in Seattle, and it's so easy to recreate that it's just fun and cheap and quick and really satisfying in a cheese and starch kind of way.

John came home soon after I ate, and he pulled together his own lunch before then settling down to build a set of shelves for me. They were open slatted shelves with no back so that I could put it in front of one of the windows next to the back porch, which gets a lot of sunshine during the morning. The herbs in the planter box window beyond our kitchen sink got badly burned just on one of the sunny spring days, and I wanted to pull them out of the completely direct sun and make more room in the box for the things that really did want and love the direct, hot high-altitude sunshine. So he was really good and when he went to Eagle for other reasons, he remembered my shelves.

I, on the other hand, went out and fed all the trees. It was sunny and so warm out that I didn't need any kind of coat and just meandered about in sweat pants and a t-shirt and sunglasses. Tugged out the wheelbarrow from the cool garage and put it under the faucet from the house, and turned on the water. Pulled the green crystals of MirAcid from the spiderwebbed shelf and then measured out ten scoops of the stuff and watched them sink into the water and gentle fronds of green wove through the clear water. When the wheelbarrow was full, I found my watering can and then trundled everything over to the first few pine trees.

The trees are getting bigger now, I didn't used to have to reach above my shoulders to sprinkle all the needles with the solution. Now, with some of them, I do. So I went around them with the watering can and covered them with the pale green solution, adding a little around the stem of the tree, and then moved on. We have several dozen of them, and I always seem to water my own toes every time I feed the trees, so I wore my Teva sandles and squeaked about on wet rubber. It was relaxing to do, just something easy and thoughtless and physical. Satisfying to finish.

When I emptied the last of the solution on the blue spruces and trundled back to the garage and then pulled out various pots and potting soil. I then went inside and the peat things we'd filled just two weeks ago had a bushy mat of oregano on four of them. The others were starting to sprout, but the oregano was going wild, so I potted the peat in four different pots and when I was actually done with that, John was finishing the shelves. When he was done, I put all the herbs on the shelves and then watered them and all the other plants, with a dilute MiracleGro solution. It was very nice to dig in the dirt and plant live things so that they could live more. I liked that.

By now the stew was smelling pretty good, and it'd been in the oven for a good three hours, and with the higher altitude, I was worried about it drying out more quickly than down at sea level. So I made a cup of low sodium beef broth, pulled the stew out and, sure enough, the liquid level was low. So I added the cup of broth, recovered it and stuck it back in the oven before going upstairs and dictating a few more entries.

When it got dark, I went back downstairs and since it was around six, I served up stew. John loved it. I loved it, too, everything was tender, flavorful, all rich with the beef and caramelized tomatoes. I stirred in some frozen peas just before serving and the heat of the broth was enough to cook the peas, and it made it that much quicker to eat. John had bought bread during his time out, so we cut big, chewy hunks of the stuff and dipped it in the thick gravy and ate happily. Yum. And plenty of leftovers for next week. A good thing, all around, especially for probably less than $4 altogether.

After dinner, I went back upstairs and dictated more. I think I'm going to have to do this in smaller chunks, because this is really wearing out my voice, and I didn't even get all the way through all of the DDC weekend, yet.

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