Farewell, dear Durham

We have been living in Maryland for just about 3 months now, and I’m just getting around to my good-bye to Durham post. Part of this is because of the busy-ness of the summer and new school year, but some of it has been mental block. I think I’ve gotten to where I can finish it up, though.

House #1 in the winter

House #1 in the winter

House #2 in the winter.

House #2 in the winter.

Of my 32 years, I spent the last 8 in Durham–one-quarter of my life, and over half of my adult life. This may end up being a fairly small blip, depending on where I spend the rest of my years (I certainly hope it has the potential to become a blip!), but right now, in this season of my life, it’s a major part of my experience. It was also a fairly eventful 8 years. During our time in Durham, we bought our first two houses (and sold one of them), earned 2 masters’ degrees and most of a doctorate between us, and had three children. We both had our first professional jobs. We started going to a church because that’s where Mark worked, and ended up with a church family who watched us grow, welcomed our children with us, and let us challenge them and be challenged to grow by them. We made a group of friends that I hope we will keep in touch with for the rest of our lives.

P1020373

I thought I would do a “favorite places” post, and I’m going to go ahead with that, with a few caveats. The first is that when I think “Durham” (at least, from here in Maryland), I’m really thinking about the whole Triangle area, and not all of the places I’m including are even there. The second is that I know I will miss some. These happen to be the places that I am missing the most right now (and they are in no particular order):

  • New Hope Presbyterian Church. We are starting to get to know our new church family, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still missing our old one. I learned so much here about being part of a church, even though we never officially joined. So many of our friends are here. Every church has its strengths; theirs are a love of music and worship and a strong sense of community. When we started going there, I wouldn’t have necessarily recommended them to families with kids, but now I can whole-heartedly–just remember that you’ll have to give your gifts to the church, too. If you happen to be looking for a church in the Durham-Chapel Hill area, I recommend that you visit New Hope!
  • NC Museum of Life and Science. I didn’t even know about this place (not really), until our son was almost one, so almost 3 years into our time in Durham. But I can’t imagine the following 5 years without it, and I miss it very much. We always visited at least some of the animals, and my kids knew most of the farm animals by name. I don’t know that there’s any other museum quite like it–both committed to learning for all ages and just plain fun.
    A now long-ago day at the Life and Science Museum.

    A now long-ago day at the Life and Science Museum.

     

  • North Carolina Zoo. Yep, not in the Triangle at all. But such a fabulous zoo, well worth the car trip. We made a point to go there several times a year because we joined as members, but I think becoming members ended up giving us excuses to go somewhere we loved anyway. We’ve recently visited the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, and it was fun, but it just doesn’t compare to the NC Zoo in terms of attractive, large habitats for their animals (although to be fair to the MD Zoo, they are making LOTS of improvements from when I was a kid) and a beautiful natural setting to put it all. [AHH!! I just went to put the link in, and saw that they now have LION CUBS!! If you live in NC, I am officially charging you to go admire them for us.]
    Seals.

    Seals.

    Giraffes!

    Giraffes!

  • Hillsborough Yarn Shop. One of those places I liked to go for myself, and what will forever be the (probably too-high) standard for how I judge yarn shops. They are always friendly and helpful and always welcoming of my sometimes-crazy kids. One of the things I liked most about them is that they stuck to their mission of providing only natural fibers, but were willing to help me find quality materials within my budget–or simply learn how to make things with yarn from my stash.
  • Duke Gardens. I remember this as one of the first beautiful places I found in Durham, and I have a very happy memory from my time in library school of going there for the afternoon just to read with a good friend. The Gardens also became a fun place to take the kids and the pick-up spot for our many CSA deliveries. It was another good place to go if we just needed to get outside.Photo069
  • Sparta, NC. Way out from the Triangle, but one of the places that connects my childhood with my kids’. I loved going here during summer vacations to visit with my extended family, and we were lucky during our time in Durham to go out and visit my aunt and uncle several times a year. I know we will still return to Sparta (and Durham!) many times in the future, but I miss being able to do it, realistically, in a weekend.P1030814

As I said, I’m leaving out a lot. I didn’t mention any restaurants (too many to choose from, with different reasons for loving different favorites), or any universities (three of which we have close family ties to, now). But we miss a lot of places, and especially people, in Durham.

In the last two weeks, I’ve started to feel more settled and at home here in Forest Hill. The start of the school year and getting back into familiar routines has definitely helped with that.  So, of course, has time passing and giving us a chance to explore our new town. I’m sure we will continue to get to know and love this part of Maryland (and remember favorite places in other parts of Maryland), but I just wanted a chance to note how much Durham has come to mean to us over the past 8 years.

So farewell, dear Durham. We miss you a lot, we look forward to visiting in the future, and we will always cherish our 8 years with you.

Out of the void…

Here are some things I did not do in the month of April:

  • Keep track of the library books we read.
  • Actually, go to the library that much.
  • Blog. (Well, except for my monthly post for the Hub.)
  • Pack anything in our house.
  • Catch up on laundry (yes, you can insert a laugh track here).
  • Re-organize the file cabinet (ditto).

Some things I did do, instead:

  • Attend the 2014 NC Literary Festival.
    Our Lego creation of Cinderella's carriage.

    Our Lego creation of Cinderella’s carriage.

    Hunt Library (my first time visiting!)

    Hunt Library (my first time visiting!)

    Three kids enthralled by the "book robots" at Hunt.

    Three kids enthralled by the “book robots” at Hunt.

  • Enjoy the redbuds during our last spring living in NC.

    Redbuds (yes, they look purple)

    Redbuds (yes, they look purple)

  • Share meals and catching up time with some friends and family members.
  • Celebrate Easter. (I have really cute pictures, but they are basically all of the kids. Instead, enjoy this version of the Widor Toccata that my husband arranged for organ and saxophone quartet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dldzAgsQor0 )
  • Have a dog visit for a week.Angel
  • Visit the Life and Science Museum several times, and Marbles once.
  • Go hiking at Eno River State Park.
    Pretty view of the Eno River.

    Pretty view of the Eno River.

    Can you find the bridge in the picture?

    Can you find the bridge in the picture?

    Favorite activity of the day: stone throwing into the river.

    Favorite activity of the day: stone throwing into the river.

  • Finally see the movie Frozen.
  • Celebrate a 6th birthday.

    Another perk of living in NC: strawberries in season for an April birthday.

    Another perk of living in NC: strawberries in season for an April birthday.

  • Go to a Durham Bulls Game.

DBAPNot such a bad month.

 

Spring Cleaning

My generally feeling about spring cleaning is that it’s a good idea, in theory. I mean, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family did spring and fall cleaning every year, and they always lived in “little houses,” so if their houses needed it, mine probably do, too.

I have, however, yet to actually complete spring cleaning of an entire house. We are kind of close this year…the main part of the house is uncluttered and about as clean as it’s ever been, but we’ve kind of cheated by shoving lots of stuff out to the garage and getting new carpet and paint to help the house sell. I’m enjoying the feeling of a clean house in the meantime, knowing it will not last and is unlikely to be duplicated in the near future.

But today, I did a different kind of spring cleaning: cleaning out the freezer to prepare for the return of the CSA box next week!! Since we never eat all of our produce on a given week, I tend to cook and freeze lots of it, and I wanted to start off with a (relatively) clean freezer, plus a better knowledge of what food we already had.

Here’s what I threw out (and I am quite proud that this list is not longer):

  • lots of ends of bread loaves (both good bread from the bakery and not so good from the grocery store) that never made it into bread pudding or breadcrumbs
  • lasagna sauce from June 2013
  • pizza sauce from September 2013
  • grease from the grease pot, which was already slated to be thrown out but just hadn’t gotten there yet
  • shredded zucchini from August 2013
  • 1 quart bag of cooked kale from May 2013
  • a can of orange juice that said “best before May 2012”

On my “need to use soon” list:

  • 2 kinds of chorizo
  • 1 quart bag of collards from November 2013 (I’m giving myself a 6 month grace period on food in the freezer, and the collards and chorizo is all going into Mexican beans and greens this week)
  • Cheese and pasta casserole, also from November  (we ate it tonight, and so far everyone seems healthy)
  • 2 pie crusts from December 2013
  • Ham and green bean casserole from January 2014
  • Navy beans from February 2014
  • Frozen raspberries from who-knows-when, but they still look ok
  • Frozen cookie dough that my mom brought down in February, so I assume they still have some good freezer life in them

And finally, on my “need to use, but less urgently” list:

  • Duck stock from January 2014 (at least 5 or 6 cups, but it’s easy to use a lot of stock in a few dishes)
  • Pancake mix leftover from March’s pancake supper at church
  • Frozen green beans (from the store, not the farm share)
  • Frozen broccoli (ditto)
  • Pork chops
  • Pork roast
  • Bread bought in the last week and put in the freezer to last longer
  • Girl Scout cookies bought in February
  • Frozen macaroni and cheese (also from my mom)
  • Ice cream bought in the last month
  • Granola made last week
  • Ground beef bought last week

We’ve got some eating ahead of us, but I think we are ready to start the next growing season…next up to tackle is the random ingredients in the fridge and pantry that I don’t want to move to Maryland with us!

Do you have tips for saving/using up food?

Life and other complications

Well, my writing New Year’s resolution has completely gone out the window. February was a busy month. My husband traveled to Maryland and passed his commissioning exams with the Methodist church. Hooray! This means we are moving to Maryland (although we don’t yet know where) this summer. Just before he left (because when I do something, I like to do it thoroughly), I got a bulging disc in my spine. It was not fun, but drugs and physical therapy are helping me heal. This led my parents to come down for a week to help out and enjoy the second snowfall of the winter with us. It also meant that, while I’ve gotten almost no writing done in the last month, I got a good bit of reading done.

Aside from those major events, life keeps trucking on with school, church, library time, music class, birthday parties, etc. Time continues to fly.

My major goals over the next 4 months are to heal completely (or completely enough to get on with regular life) and to get us moved to Maryland (enjoying our time left in Durham in the meanwhile). Writing time will probably continue to suffer accordingly, but I’m not giving up, and I hope to attempt adopting more of a writing routine again when July comes.

For now, here are some pictures from the last month. First, a baking success from my husband’s birthday in January:

Chocolate jelly roll with ice cream in the middle...on the way to being baked Alaska.

Chocolate jelly roll with ice cream in the middle…on the way to being baked Alaska.

The person he has to meet with for his performance reviews is one of the owners of Maple View Farms. Yes, we lead a charmed life. Anyway, she gave him a whole lot of ice cream for his birthday, and we decide the best thing to do was make baked Alaska. I used the instructions from Joy of Cooking (we have the 1997 edition), which included the possibility of making a jelly roll, and then I followed the jelly roll instructions (including things like lining the pan with waxed paper, flipping the jelly rolls several times and peeling off and replacing paper with tinfoil). And, lo and behold, they worked! I was both surprised and pleased.

Next, a few snow pictures:

Snow!

Snow!

 

Snowman (He wasn't melting yet, just really small.)

Snowman (He wasn’t melting yet, just really small.)

 

And finally, we have begun the packing process:

Books in piles.

Books in piles.

Books in the garage.

Books in the garage.

We may do some decluttering in the process of moving, but the books are not on the decluttering schedule, apparently. M. makes the point that we could be placed in a church near a very small public library, so we are simply being prepared.

 

 

 

 

Cucumbers and Pickling

Thursday is our last CSA pick-up for the year. On the one hand, I’m always a little sad to say good-bye to the farm family and their employees, who we’ve gotten to know over the last 5 years. On the other, I am thankful that I will not have to brainstorm ways to use up the weekly bounty before it goes bad. Overall, I feel pretty good about how we’ve done this year. I’ve had to throw out some lettuce, a few cucumbers and squash, but I think we’ve gotten better about either eating up the produce or cooking and freezing it for later. Some appeals to friends on Facebook definitely helped–especially when we had a bumper crop of cabbage back in the summer.

Our last extreme bounty this years was cucumbers. I like cucumbers just fine, so does my husband. My kids range from indifferent to opposed. We don’t eat a whole lot of salad as a family, so while I used a few cucumbers in salads and even made a couple just-cucumber salads, that didn’t nearly take care of all the cucumbers we were getting. Since four out of the five of us like pickles, I finally decided to give pickling a try.

My experience in food preservation is pretty small. I will cook and freeze lots of things (my husband keeps joking about getting me a chest freezer for Christmas; part of the joke is that I would actually enjoy the gift even while laughing at it), and that includes having made freezer jam. I have never canned anything that requires processing in boiling water. Every time I think I will try that, I get a book out and start reading it and get scared off by the warnings that sounds something like “Follow the recipe exactly or you might die of botulism!!” Maybe next year I will be brave enough to try real canning. For now, I found a refrigerator pickle recipe here: http://spoonful.com/recipes/the-worlds-best-and-easiest-dill-pickles that sounded good, easy, and up for tinkering with amounts (since I didn’t know if I would have enough cucumbers to make a full recipe).

The recipe was as easy as it advertised, and it was a recipe that easily lent itself to small helpers. I made the brine, and then the kids helped me fill jars while we waited for it to cool. We are dill pickle fans–no sweet pickles or bread and butter here!–and the only ingredients besides the brine and cucumbers were fresh dill (which we had to buy special, but I managed to use it up just for pickles, so it wasn’t wasted), garlic cloves, and peppercorns. Then we just had to wait for a couple days while the pickles pickled.

They turned out wonderfully. I’ve ended up making these pickles three times: one half batch, one full batch, and one double batch (when the cucumbers just kept coming) and so far all the jars except one turned out great (that one turned out mushy). I had enough to give some away, and all the reports have been good. I may make one more batch if I can get to it in the next day or two, and then I will say so long to cucumbers for a very long time. At this point, I’ll probably discover a recipe I have to try that calls for 20 cucumbers or something. But such is life.

I did actually think to take pictures while making my first batch, so here they are:

Filled pickle jar, waiting to add brine.

Filled pickle jar, waiting to add brine.

Jar from the side.

Jar from the side.

Cucumbers turning into pickles.

Cucumbers turning into pickles.

Field Trip: Duke Gardens

Duke Gardens is one of our favorite places that we don’t visit often enough. Over the spring, summer, and early fall, we stop by every single week to pick up our produce box, but we don’t take time to go and enjoy the gardens every time. This summer, we got there about 3-4 times total. Duke Gardens is a beautiful gardens on Duke’s campus that’s open to the public. You have to pay for parking, and you can buy duck food in the garden gift shop, but it’s overall an inexpensive outing. My kids love feeding the ducks, and since we almost always go in the afternoons, it’s a good place to get wiggles and crazies out in the before-dinner hour.

I’ve enjoyed going to Duke Gardens since before I had kids…one of my best library school friends and I made an outing there in between our two years of school just to enjoy reading in the sunshine. There’s a beautiful variety of plants and types of gardens. I don’t think I’ve explored anywhere near everything there is, but some of my favorites are the terraced garden (weddings are often held here, but they don’t close off the whole gardens, so you can glimpse wedding parties in their finery on many weekend days!), the duck pond (of course), and the rose garden near the entrance. I’ve only been to the native plants garden once, and I’d like to explore there more, and we also have not visited the Discovery Garden, which is supposed to be perfect for kids…so hopefully we’ll make a few more visits before we leave the area.

Back in August, I managed to grab a few pictures (all on my phone, and I’m not a great photographer even with a real camera, so temper your expectations accordingly) during one of our exploration/duck feeding expeditions:

The rose garden and fountain.

The rose garden and fountain.

 

Terraced Garden

Terraced Garden.

 

Lily pads in the pond at the bottom of the terraces.

Lily pads in the pond at the bottom of the terraces.

Huge goldfish in the lily pond.

Huge goldfish in the lily pond.

 

Duck pond (ducks not really in view).

Duck pond (ducks not really in view).

Sorry, but I didn’t get any pictures of feeding the ducks–managing three children who aren’t sure whether or not to be afraid of hungry ducks is all I can manage during duck feedings.

I definitely recommend Duke Gardens as a place to enjoy the outdoors, with kids or without. Here’s their website for more information: https://gardens.duke.edu

Knitting Class and the Yarn Harlot

One thing I didn’t put on my Durham list last week was “take a knitting class at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop.” That’s because I COMPLETED this item over the summer. I’ve been wanting to do this since I discovered the shop in early 2011, and I’m so happy I got it in. It was everything I’d hoped it would be: an outing by myself, a chance to learn a little more about knitting, and an excuse to do some shopping at the store. As a bonus, the project is something I’ve been wanting to make for myself but didn’t know how (a shawl–at church, it always seems to be cold, whether because the AC is up too high or because the heat isn’t on!) and is something I can make with alpaca yarn that my husband brought home from a trip to Peru this spring. Here’s the work in progress:

Beginning of shawl.

Beginning of shawl.

It obviously has a long way to go, but I feel like I learned enough to confidently continue the pattern and do the blocking and finishing when it’s done. (And if now, well, then I’ll have to make another trip over to the shop…)

In a somewhat related category, I finally discovered the Yarn Harlot this summer. That would be Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a knitter and writer from Toronto who writes about knitting, mostly humor and stories rather than patterns (although she has those, too, I understand). I read her first book during some unexpected traveling in July, and I was laughing out loud and making my mom listen while I read her sections. In my defense, my mom laughed, too! Although I realize (and so does Ms. Pearl-McPhee, for that matter), that knitting humor is a very specific genre, I wholeheartedly recommend her books to anyone who does any kind of crafting, or if there’s a crafter in your life who you are trying to figure out. If you suspect someone is hiding yarn around your house, Yarn Harlot will tell you where to look!

Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a KnitterYarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here’s the original. I didn’t think you needed my whole review since I basically told you everything already.

And here’s some text to make the pictures

line up correctly.

All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a SpinAll Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars