Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Curse of the Sasquatch Hunter

Brief Update:
All is well, mostly. Christmas morning was interrupted by a belligerent sasquatch hunter who promised to put a curse on Dad when Dad made him leave the property. According to this man, who appeared to be in his 50s, thin, gaunt, bearded and dressed in tattered clothing, Sasquatch walks the woods enrobed in a cloak of light so as not to be seen by Homo sapiens. Luckily, however, the footprints are indeed visible to the naked eye. The 'squatch hunter was asked to leave because he was scaring some customers.

Today is the first day of sun in a week or more. The overcast, rainy and snowy weather has made this world seem at times dangerous and dismal. I woke up to a quiet cove covered in snow. The morning sun cast long rays over Franklin Mountain in the distance. I could see illumination through the branches of tree skeletons, a bright mountain against a thick dark blue grey sky. ominous. I thought of my mortality. Winter is set.

Jenna has the flu, which also reinforces my mortality. We wear our masks and annoint her with all manners of healing substances: homeade chicken soup, elderberry syrup, vitamins galore, oscillicoccinum, lavender oil. We quietly pray to someone that full health is reinstated very quickly. Godspeed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Wilson Touch

Do you like creamy sweet things? Do your body and psyche both start to crave rich fat-infused treats about this time of year? Do you gag at the thought of drinking raw eggs?

If you answered "yes," "yes," and "yes," in that order, then this recipe is a Christmas present for you!

My sweet neighbor and friend, Illiana, is from Costa Rica. (A lot of people move to Shelton Laurel from Costa Rica. Just kidding.) Everything that hails from Illiana's kitchen is very, very excellent. I'm not sure what's going on in there, but it's like she has some special touch that automatically imparts deliciousness on everything it comes in contact with. I will call it The Wilson Touch.

A few weeks back I drove over the mountain to pay Illiana and her husband James a visit. We talked, laughed, played with the cats, and, of course, ate awesome food. I nearly overdid it on ropa vieja, a slow cooked beef dish, in which the meat is infused with juicy, tomato-y savory flavor-y greatness. Rice and fresh salad accompanied and rum cake and rompope followed.

"What the heck is rompope?" you might be dying to know. Well merry Christmas because I am telling you right now.

Rompope Recipe from Illiana

1 can (or about 14 ounces) coconut milk
1 can (or about 14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (or about 14 ounces) evaporated milk (or equal part fresh whole milk)
1-3 cinnamon sticks
vanilla extract to taste
nutmeg to taste
1-1/2 cups rum


Place the cinnamon stick(s) in the whole milk (or evaporated milk) and bring to a low boil. Turn off heat and let the cinnamon infuse into the milk for a few minutes.

Strain the milk. Add the coconut milk and the sweetened condensed milk to the cinnamon infused milk and whisk. (You can adjust the thickness of the drink to your preference by using thicker or thinner coconut milk, or by adding a little corn starch. If you are going to use corn starch, put it in when the milk is heating.)

Add 1 or 1 1/2 cups rum, vanilla, and nutmeg to taste. Put the cinnamon sticks back in. Chill completely.

Serve alone, on the rocks, in hot coffee, in hot chocolate, in the morning, in the evening. Whenever and whatever. My favorite is in hot chai tea.

This drink is thick, creamy, fatty, sweet and spiced with some of the world's finests. It is the perfect comforting treat for this time of year and like a golden gift from the angels themselves for those of us who, for one reason or another, can't bring ourselves to accept the raw eggy factor of our popular holiday drink entitled "eggnog."

Rompope is a Costa Rican party drink. Illiana says you can find it at Christmas, birthdays, Quince An~os (that's a big birthday celebration for turning 15- kind of like our Sweet Sixteen), and other special occasions. Different families and individuals have their own variations on the recipe. I happen to be fond of it exactly the way Illiana made it. She graciously gave me permission to share here, so thank you Illiana, for gifting my handful of readers with a sort of virtual version of The Wilson Touch. And Merry Christmas to all of you who answered "yes," "yes," and "yes" at the beginning! (And to the rest of you crazy eggnog drinkers too.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Portraits of Hopey at Rest

No need to worry. I have not gotten any weirder than I used to be. I am not "that person."  Please just allow me this brief moment of indulgence in the utter regal cuteness of this one plott hound who I may or may not love to the moon and back. I swear she just gets better by the day.

At rest with Ruby

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rat's nest

Literally. I stepped into the Airstream yesterday to take a mini-step on the GIANT-SIZED CLEAN UP that I have barely commenced in there. It was nearly dusk, and the camper is still unplugged, so I waited a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dimness of the musty environment. It took me a few minutes to realize that the LARGE MASS of stuff spilling out of the closet wasn't just some normal mess, like a shirt or a mouse nest. This one had turds the size of my pinky fingernail, and when I reached in to the closet to extract the mass, I discovered it was like a seemingly endless cavern. God help us all. Rat's nest. This one proved to be a sizable gom of:
                     pink insulation
                     a teal colored scarf tube I knitted a few winters ago
                     a snake skin

Readers may or may not be aware of the following highly boring trivial fact about me: I hate cleaning. It is among my least favorite ways to spend time, particularly when the junk to clean is a) moldy and b) rodent infested. (I know, shocking.) My beloved Airstream, at present, meets both of these disgusting criteria. How could my sweet little winter home from just a year ago be so awfully dank and vile?

Do not worry. I will handle it. I removed the massive tumor which was the rat's nest and set a trap with peanut butter. I took my baby step in cleaning, which was removing a couple of bag loads of stuff from the closet to organize and tuck away in the currently rodent-free safety of my brand new house. Once I finish evacuating all of my belongings from the ole Lady, I will bleach, scrub and repaint her in preparation for next spring's possibilities, which may or may not include a variety of most interesting guests.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Getting my bearings: Take 2

Another way I need to get my bearings is to try and figure out where I am in the passing of time. Time is funny because it passes yet loops back around, sets the pace yets seems to change paces, seems straightforward but can be really disorienting. It marks our lives. Dormancy breaks and gives way to growth. Growth gives way to fruition. Fruition gives way to harvest. Harvest gives way to death. Death offers dormancy. I move through the cycle again and again, each time finding my bearings within each season.

Ritualistic repetition saves me. In the spring I hunt morels and take my first plunge into the vital icy water. It is spring. Mid summer Sally and I visit Mount Mitchell and pick Hypericum graveolens. August 2 I swim in the French Broad at dark after launching a raft with morsels of the garden harvest. At Thanksgiving I cook greens, bread and pumpkin pie to contribute to the family dinner. We eat the same things every year. The same people prepare the same dishes. I jump in the creek before or after dinner, and everyone asks "Was it cold?" to which I sometimes reply, "Does a wild bear shit in the woods?"

In December Sally and I set aside an entire day to bake a large batch of biscotti. We 10 times the recipe that Jude gave me years ago. We both bring a mix cd that we made and snacks to carry us through. We run a tight ship. Each year we choose a secret ingredient to put into the biscotti that our recipients are to guess. The recipients expect this and guess with enthusiasm. Our biscotti day is always called The Biscotti Bake-Off. It is supreme fun. Certain individuals always stop by the Inn where we are baking and sample the end pieces.

This year's biscotti bake-off fell early due to travel plans. I realized that traditions like this one not only warm my heart (and fill my belly), but they give me my bearings. Another year has passed. We are doing what we do again, and we are different and the same as we were last time. Somehow it really helps.

Biscotti recipe is here:  biscotti recipe click here!