Tag Archives: life

Orlando, in words and pictures – Part I

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to loosen the bands of everyday thought and push forward your best progressive parts and perspective, it’s time to take a trip.

So I did.

A month and a week ago, with a minimal amount of planning, I got on a plane and headed to Orlando for five days. 

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It was an early morning flight, and not being able to sleep, I found myself reading through the Florida guidebook that I’d borrowed from the library but hadn’t really looked at yet. More than half of the pages in the Orlando section were about Disney and the theme parks and how to navigate that world.

“Oh, that’s why people come to Orlando,” was my first coalescing thought, which was soon followed by, “I’m not going to do any of this,” and then, “Maybe I should have done a little research first,” and finally, “No, it’s going to be good. I’m going to do whatever I want and it’s going to be a good trip.”

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Carrying with me those concluding thoughts and my one personal item, a mostly full Sierra Club book bag (thank you Frontier Airlines for the low fares, and thank you also for the carry-on bag fees that encouraged my light packing), I made my way through Orlando International Airport and to the rental car shuttle area. Along the way, I stopped to take a few pictures of a three-dimensional Mickey mural and a two-dimensional portrait (above and below), not only so I could joke that I checked off the Orlando Disney requirement before having left the airport, but also because they made for interesting, artful pictures.

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After collecting the rental car, my first stop for exploring that day was Thornton Park and Lake Eola, with the general plan being to walk around, get lunch, and take in the new scene before heading to my Airbnb place in the afternoon. Greeting me when I stepped out of the car and looked up was a tree dripping with Spanish moss.

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It struck me at the time, and then even more the next day while hiking and also on the days after, that there’s something special about trees and looking up at them, about seeing the shapes and lines that they silhouette against a bright blue backdrop of sky. There’s strength and beauty in the view. It’s solid and magical at the same time.

Walking around further that morning with open eyes, it was easy to find more things of interest and beauty. A short walk away, there was the lake.

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Venturing further into downtown, there was the library.

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Seeing the library’s name also prompted the following chain of thoughts: Orange County… Florida oranges… Local food… Oranges usually aren’t local… I need to find some local Florida oranges!… I wonder how they taste.

On the other side of the library, which I passed later in my walk, the palm trees provided another good sense-of-place reminder. It was also 75-80 degrees, and I was wearing shorts in March.

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Downtown, I also found shadows on a green house.

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And back in Thornton Park, I walked past a smoothie place with a sign that made me think, I wonder if every morning they kale-i-brate their signboard in a new way.

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At this point, I have another confession to make: prior to this trip, I’d never done Airbnb before. I almost did one time three years ago on a trip in Seattle, but then it worked out I could stay with my cousin. This is simply to say, Orlando was going to be my first time, and as with anything new and with my nature, I had a few (mostly irrational) worries. What if the people were weird? What if I wanted to be myself? What if we didn’t get along? What if it all worked out great and turned out to be a great decision??

The truth is, the messages that my hosts sent me through the Airbnb website leading up to my arrival were all welcoming, friendly, and helpful. And during my stay, my hosts were exactly the same: nothing but welcoming, friendly, and helpful. If anyone’s travelling to Orlando and would like a good Airbnb recommendation, let me know. I have one.

Their house was also only a few miles from downtown and centrally located between 4-5 local neighborhoods. As long-time residents (not much older than me) who loved the city and were plugged into the local food, drink, and activity scene, they also had great recommendations for neighborhoods and places to check out. My general plan for the trip was to explore a new city and the local neighborhoods, see nature at nearby parks, and as much as possible just do whatever I felt like doing and trust, relax, and enjoy my decisions in all those directions. It felt like a good home base.

If I hadn’t stayed there, one thing I wouldn’t have known about was Tasty Tuesdays, a weekly food truck event in the Milk District that became my dinner-destination that first night and that was also a good solo-traveler-who-doesn’t-mind-his-own-company-but-who-would-like-to-be-better-at-meeting-people training ground for talking to people he’s never met before. The food was good – my selections: plantain empanadas, FIlipino noodles, and a huge open-faced vegetarian tamale (a meal in itself) – and the other practice was good as well – my experiences: difficult, easy, and in between, with a later reflection-reminder that what’s there to worry about, really.

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Among the things I loved about the next day, Wednesday, was how it turned out to be a double meditation-in-motion day. After waking up with closer to the right amount of sleep, I had toast and went for a run. Running in and of itself helps you relax (it does for me at least), and when you do it on vacation, with your regular worries out of mind (jobs, relationships, friends, obligations, etc.), it’s like an even greater sense of freedom. My plan was to do an out and back on the Cady Way Trail, a paved running and biking trail that wouldn’t you know it was a block away from where I was staying (thank you again host couple for the heads up). I stopped a few times during the run to ask for directions, and one time the exchange went like this:

Me: “Hi, I’m not sure if this is the trail or not. I didn’t see a sign back there at the intersection.”

Friendly, middle-aged woman in fitness clothes (who was walking the other way and stopped to help me): “Yeah I know, the signs can be really confusing. I think the trail might be back there but I’m not sure. I wish I knew, I’m sorry…”

Me: “Oh that’s okay… I was just going to do another 15 minutes and then turn around, to finish up with an hour.”

Friendly woman: “You know, I just walked around this lake right here [gesturing behind her/in front of me]. You could do the lake. Trust me, it’s beautiful.”

After the briefest of pauses, I thought and said aloud at the same time: “How can you say no to that??”

So I did the lake.

And it was beautiful, and it became a part of the day’s running thoughts of remembering to have fun while exploring, asking for help when you need it and engaging with people, trusting yourself, and taking care of yourself.

Part two of my Wednesday took me to Wekiwa Springs State Park, a 7,000-acre park just 30 minutes north of Orlando that has hiking trails, canoe and kayak rentals, and a natural springs swimming area (72 degrees, year-round). On the drive there, the debate in my head was, “Should I go hiking or rent a canoe/kayak?” I wanted to do both, and I knew that doing one would mean I couldn’t do the other. After I got there and got more information on the timing of the rentals, the imperfection of my desires was confirmed. It was either one or the other. In the big picture of life, this bit of adversity wasn’t really an adversity, but it did produce some minutes of fear of missing out and self-criticism for not having planned better. I’m happy to say this thinking was short-lived though, and sooner rather than later, I gave myself permission to continue enjoying being exactly where I was at. It would be a hiking afternoon. And, I could come back two days later, on Friday, to kayak down the Wekiva River, which I learned was one of only two rivers in Florida recognized as a National Wild and Scenic River.

So I went walking.

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It wasn’t long after starting down this sandy path that 1) I stopped to ask for directions (I had a map, but the signs weren’t completely clear, and the more opinions the better), 2) the path moved towards a more surer underfoot feel and took a more tropical-feeling turn, and 3) I started feeling within me that friend that goes by the name of peace, ease, and relaxation.

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Part of it was the trees above, the path below, and the immersion all around.

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Part of it was seeing the Wekiva River, flowing slowly and steadily nearby and looking peaceful. (I imagined how I’d be flowing with it too in a few days, in a kayak.)

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And part of it was the singing.

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I mentioned once about a year and a half ago that I was taking a guitar class. Since then, I’ve continued to practice a little on my own and also write some songs. There are few family members and friends that have heard a few of them, and I’m hoping to stretch and share more in the future. Over time as they’ve become a small collection, I’ve also realized some common themes in them, such as love, hope, process, and progress. And so, the songs I was singing were my songs, and their familiar stories were ones that I’d heard and relaxed with many times.

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On the road and I’m a
Coming home and I’m a
Thinking how I’m gonna
Rock and roll again and
When the stars turn in and
Wake the sun again I’m
Gonna see the light in
Your eyes

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That’s the first part of one of the songs I was singing, as I was walking down this road.

I didn’t see too many other people walking that day, and I had this stretch of openness all to myself. The reason for this, at this point on the road, might have been that a little ways back at a junction, there was a plastic A-frame barricade blocking the way, which I decided to walk around.

I had a feeling I knew why the the barricade was there, as half an hour earlier I had come across the following sign in the trail, which I had honored by turning left and going down a different path.

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The new path lead me to the road, which led me to the junction. And not seeing a similar sign on the barricade or any visual signs of a fire beyond, I continued on. I was curious to see what would come next. I also knew I was only planning to walk for another 20 minutes or so before turning around, as going further would have meant doing a longer loop than I wanted.

This of course led to the following: me walking along in mid-song, and then a golf cart coming down the road towards me, driven by a guy dressed in full firefighter gear.

He stopped, and even as I started explaining how I came to be where I was at, I could tell it was okay. He said, “Yeah, you can keep walking. You’ll see where the fire was and smell some smoke… Just don’t walk through the burned area, and however far you go, make sure to always keep it on your right.” He also asked if I had enough water and if I knew how to get back, and he noted that I could also take the closed trail by the river back since it wasn’t part of the burned area.

So I continued on.

And soon enough, I was at the edge of the burn. If I had a small amount of curiosity within me to walk further, it was well-tempered by the charcoal understory and the remnant heat and smoke. This is how the path looked, looking into the burn.

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There was also the trail marker.

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Sometimes you don’t a need a written sign to tell you the trail is closed.

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Before turning back, I snapped a picture for Instagram:

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“Prescribed burn #lochnessmonster sightings today, immobile and jumping”

On the flip-side, turning myself 180 degrees around, while standing in the same spot, the path had a greener look.

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Having satisfied my fire curiosity and feeling the natural springs calling for a post-hike swim, I took this greener path (aka the closed trail by the river) and headed back. Not surprisingly, I didn’t see anyone on this short stretch of trail, and soon I found myself back at the spot where earlier I had turned because of the sign.

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How a “Hiking Trail Closed” sign looks when approaching from the other side

So I went under the ribbon, turned and followed the same path towards the road, and found a new, final path that led me back to the start.

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Driving back to the springs from the trailhead, I also stopped when I saw this sign on the side of the road. It was another reminder of how fire and burning help contribute to the beauty of nature, and to restoration.

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As far the swimming went, I will say the following: moving around in 72 degree water, at 4:00 p.m. on an 80 degree day, after two and a half hours of walking, was amazing. I went in for half an hour, and it was like a getting a one-minute cold wake-up call followed by a 29-minute water massage, refreshing and relaxing.

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It was also while hiking and swimming that day, and later while getting a drink at a local bar back in Orlando that night, that I came up with my general plans for the next day, Thursday. But more on that soon, in Part II.

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Today we answer the question: The watermelon in my kitchen: Death Star, or Let gone too far?

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This is actually an easy one.

Yes. And Yes.

Sorry little guy.

A better question is: How far is too far, to make a melon a death star?

The great thing about friends, and archived Facebook events, is that it makes this one an easy one too. Would you believe that it only takes six months?

Back in September last year, I went to a pair of friends’ housewarming party. And my contribution? A watermelon and a house plant. The former I selected from Stults Farm in Cranbury (I also got one for myself, pictured above), and the latter I plucked from my kitchen counter collection.

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This is how the counter looks today. Time for a little plant plug tidying and planting, I believe.

Currently in stock are spider plants, purple hearts, and philodendrons (lots, some, and a few, respectively). Ready also, with some foreplanning, could be Tradescantia zebrina and a few others.

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Anyone want a spider plant or purple heart???

I have plenty of pots waiting for new houseplants too (thank you periodic rummage sale attendance). I’ll make bringing the plants and pots together a weekend or coming week activity. This may also mean creating some more shelf space in my apartment, but as with something good to eat, with plants, we can always find more room.

As for the watermelon, I can say that two weeks does not a death star make. My friends ate theirs two weeks after the party, and it was still good. I’m not sure why I didn’t eat mine right away – maybe I had another melon at the same time from another farm – but at some point, maybe four weeks in, I did become interested in seeing how long it could last. Yes, the dark side of food curiosity.

The next Star Wars movie will be out in December, says the internet. But for a fresh, juicy, local watermelon, the wait is not so long. In Jersey and similar climes, we can start searching in mid-July: it’s coming soon to a farm stand, for you and me.

Tofu Cacciatore

Hi, my name is Dave, and I have something to say.

Tofu Cacciatore.

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Tofu cacciatore, in a pita pocket

Actually that’s only part of what what I have to say. As is often the case, there’s the food, the story, and the more of the story.

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The food and the story began a little over two weeks ago. I was trying to figure out what to make for the day-before-Valentine’s-Day potluck party that my friends were having. I wanted to make something new and different, but lacking full inspiration, I decided to go with Tofurky Sloppy Joes (in pitas with mozzarella). The night before the potluck, I got everything together and made it. When I tasted it, it was good, but it didn’t seem like anything special. It seemed like…Tofurky with homemade tomato sauce. It was done though, and ready to go.

I still had about an hour before I was going to go to sleep, so I started up another cooking project. Having just baked some tofu, I decided to try making tofu cacciatore, i.e., to try making something from the list I keep of new things to try, test out, refine, perfect, and then, after several tests, write about and finally share in their beautiful, glittering, and ‘Let’s make this right away because it’s ridiculously good’ final perfect form. That was the plan. But you know how plans can be – it’s not bad to have them (in fact it’s often good have them), but sometimes they don’t go…as planned. The key is to be open to adapting to change along the way.

The tofu cacciatore, on attempt #1, was actually pretty good. I wasn’t about to bring it to the party though because I’d made it only once. I didn’t even take notes or pictures along the way, as I figured I’d make it several more times before sharing it.

But come the next day, and the approach of the potluck hour, I was starting to feel a familiar struggle rising up, of, What should I do… Should I bring the Sloppy Joes, as already prepared and as planned? Or should I bring this other thing I happened to have, Tofu Cacciatore, which admittedly tastes better but isn’t perfect (isn’t what I imagined perfect would be, and not what I planned)? I stood there for 5-10 minutes, knowing that I had to choose and start heating one of them up. And then, without thinking too much, came a moment of clarity:

Bring the one you like more, the one you think other people will like more, the one that’s a little different, the one that’s more unique, the one that’s more you, the one that well it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect because right now, in the moment, it’s pretty good, good enough, and more than good enough. It’s Tofu Cacciatore. What more is there to say?

So I brought the TC. 🙂

It’s great when a decision feels right. And people liked it too.

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Tofu Cacciatore

Ingredients

  • 1 lb firm tofu, cut into smaller pieces (about 1″ x 1/2″ x 1/2″)
  • 1 Tbsp each: olive oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (in addition to the above)
  • 2 onions, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp dried rosemary, diced
  • 1 Tbsp dried sage, diced
  • 2 peppers (any color), chopped roughly
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/4 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Steps

  1. Prepare and bake the tofu
    • Mix the olive oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, and white wine vinegar (1 Tbsp each) in a bowl
    • Add the tofu pieces, and mix to coat them in the marinade
    • Arrange the tofu pieces on a baking sheet
    • Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, flip the pieces, and then bake for another 15 minutes (30 minutes total)
    • Let the baked tofu cool for 5 minutes, and then chop roughly into smaller pieces
  2. Saute the onions and the herbs (rosemary and sage) in the olive oil (3 Tbsp) over medium heat until the onions are soft, about 20 minutes
  3. Add the peppers and garlic, and saute for another 10 minutes
  4. Add the broth and wine, and simmer for 10 minutes
  5. Add the baked tofu
  6. Add the crushed tomatoes, and simmer for 10 minutes
  7. Add whatever is left of the tofu marinade
  8. Add the salt and pepper

The first thing I love about this recipe is the baked tofu. Over the past few months, I’ve made a lot of it, and the above marinade/time/temp combo is a keeper. The way I’ve been making the tofu is quick too – cut it, coat it, place it, bake it. You can also use this baked tofu for stir fry or as a hot or cold snack by itself. If you want, you can also leave out the 1 Tbsp of white wine vinegar (to make it mildly sweet rather than mildly sweet-tart).

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In the marinade

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Out of the oven

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On the cutting board

A second part of the recipe that makes me smile is how, near the end, I add the extra marinade to the Tofu Cacciatore mix.

You might be saying, Uhh, soy sauce and maple syrup, in cacciatore???

The answer is, Yup! It’s only a small bit, and really, what else are you going to do with it 🙂

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If you have fresh herbs, they’re always good to use. I still have a lot of dried sage leaves from my garden (if anyone wants some, let me know!), so that’s what I used for the sage. Chopping the sage also came with a satisfying crunch-sound of the dried leaves folding under the knife and an equally satisfying, ever-so-slightly-delayed punch of potent sage aroma.

Since I hadn’t taken any pictures and didn’t remember all the quantities from the first time, I did end up making the recipe two more times a few days later.

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Peppers and garlic – Take 2

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Take 3

I didn’t bring any leftovers home from the potluck, but I did learn today that this version of Tofu Cacciatore also keeps for at least 12 days. (I may have, um, had the last of the Take 2 and 3 leftovers today. Shortly before taking the first photo above, the TC in a PP.)

Overall, it was a good recipe and experience. I modeled the Tofu Cacciatore recipe on the Chicken Cacciatore recipe that I used to make before I stopped cooking meat a few years ago, and that recipe was modeled in turn on the Joy of Cooking one. If there’s a TC 2.0 to in future, it might include the addition of more herbs (basil, oregano, and/or rosemary), flour (a browning and thickening ingredient from the past version), capers (also from the past), and mushrooms (maybe, maybe not; they’re not my favorite, but they are found in many a cacciatore recipe).

Admittedly, without the mushrooms, there’s no morel to the story 🙂 But, it does remain a story with food and more.

I’ve written before about letting go of trying to be and wanting things to be perfect – for instance, the reminder of how The reason is in the risotto – and there’s a bit of that reminder here too, with my new friend TC. Every reminder leads to a further shift in thinking, just like every day comes with something new to see, feel, think, and learn from. That was one of my thoughts as I was waking up today, along with the thought that it’s amazing that this post, what I’d be writing here, would be slightly different if I’d written it two weeks ago, one week ago, or even two days ago. Something new happens, is seen, and is felt all the time, and it’s a kitchen ripple. And I feel it. And just like the TC may change and evolve in the future, so too may I. Where we’re at now is good and right, and where we’ll be at later will be good too.

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In some ways, it feels like a repost.

And with food, it’s also a repast.

Knowing that everything builds over time, we can say too: every day that goes by is a new past.

And as we move forward, every day that we live in, and are a part of, is a new present.

Friday Flowers and Pedal Progress

Two weeks ago, the sunflowers in my garden, that the garden planted for me, were just beginning to bloom. Friday, June 26 saw a couple of these:

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and a few of these

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Also present were some of the following:

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Readers of past posts and those who grow gardens will probably recognize these vegetable varieties. For others, who might need a helpful hint or who like a little challenge, here are clues as to what the three plants above are: the names of the plants, provided in the same order as the pictures above, in newspaper comics-page jumble form.

    • AHIRDS
    • MOTTOA
  • MURMES SSUAHQ

(*Unjumbled answers below)

Two days ago, on Friday, July 10, my morning trip to the garden included a show of similar, and greater, color.

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Yellow, red, orange, reddish-orange, and more, the full blooms have begun, and the bees are buzzing, about they go.

In the garden, I took a tour, and like walking through an outside room full of sun, the leaves and I are loving, all that grows.

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Along with the sunflowers, the three plants above (*radishes, tomatoes, and summer squash) continued on as well. Not pictured are some of the fruits and vegetables already harvested from these plants. The garden also planted some more of the following for me this year (July 10 portraits as well):

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Morning glories

and I transplanted in some of these

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Cucumbers

The flowers are from my garden back home, but the words come from the road. The petal progess is something to behold, and I’m happy to share it with everyone who loves flowers, color, and life.

Meanwhile, I’m also pursuing some pedal progress, about which I’ll share a bit too.

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Today I went for a 74 mile bike ride, from Oswego to Geneva, NY. Tomorrow will be another 60 miles, and then it’ll be about the same in the 70 to 80 mile range each day after that, until on the seventh day I arrive back at our final destination in New Jersey.

Along with 175 other riders and a crew in support, I’m participating in the annual Anchor House Ride for Runaways, which helps raise money for the Anchor House, a nonprofit in Trenton, NJ that supports runaway, abused, and at-risk children.

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The Anchor House provides temporary housing, counseling, and other important services for kids in need.

If you’re in a giving mood and would like to join in the support, here’s a link you can visit. Your generosity, whether expressed at home in your corner of the world, or expressed and felt also in Trenton, is always appreciated. If you like, you can also follow the events of the Anchor House Ride through the articles posted this week at Planet Princeton.

Hope you and everyone are having a great and bright week 🙂

-Dave

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A two t-shirt day

Those who know me, and in particular those who have seen my closet, know that I have a fair amount of t-shirts.

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I can’t remember the last time I bought a t-shirt, but I sure do have a lot of them. On this one shelf (not all pictured) there are 81. I counted. After tidying them up for the picture.

They have a variety of origins – gifts, giveaways, events, races, and the occasional (way back when) purchase – but mostly they’re from races. Run a race? You get a shirt! You get a shirt? Add it to the shelf! And then you kind of rotate through them, with some getting more attention than others, owing to factors like a good design, a better fit, and that it’s easier to grab the ones near the top.

This past Sunday was a two t-shirt day, as in, I got two new shirts to add to the collection. The reason was that I did a 5K, which naturally came with getting a t-shirt, and then after the race they gave me another t-shirt as part of the award…for winning the race!

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Race shirt

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Award shirt from one of the race sponsors, a toute heure

I usually don’t make a big deal about accomplishments, and part of me, as I’m writing this, wonders if I’ll actually post this when I’m done, but what the hell :). I haven’t written a race recap in a while, and I felt good and had a good time doing it, as in I was enjoying it while I was running. So here we go!

First as a disclaimer, I would say that yes, my current running fitness is pretty good, but it’s also not at the level that would typically win a race. Usually even in a smaller race like this one, there’s a handful of people who will go faster than the 19+ minutes I did. I also didn’t enter it because I had visions of winning. I entered because my brother was doing it and it would be another opportunity go see him and his family. Running it could also confirm where I was at running-wise; in the past month or two, I feel like I’ve been getting back into it, enjoying it more again and feeling like I want to keep building it up.

All things considered, my finishing position at the end was a highlight, since it’s a pretty rare thing for me end up there, but what else stood out? Mostly it was the process, which is to also say the story, the guts of it.

While warming up and then standing at the start, my mindset this time was actually better than it usually is. I was pretty successful at staying relaxed and not worrying about it. I don’t do too many races, but often there’ll be a time right before the start that involves some focused worries about ‘not doing well’ or ‘not running good enough’ (‘what if I can’t do it?’, ‘what if I don’t go fast enough,’), which are typical and understandable thoughts but also ones I could a little more without. Butterflies are good, but to a point.

A minute or two after the start, the field settled, and the following became clear: there were only two people in front of me, they were at most five seconds in front of me, and we were going about the same pace. My basic, non-winning and relaxing-but-still-pushing-it-a-little plan going into the race was simply to stay calm and collected and go slightly faster than would feel comfortable. And there I was, doing that, and near the front. Which then produced a minute or two of the old worry…what if I keep this up? what if I pass them and take the lead? what if I can’t do it after that???

And then I was like, Whatever, I’m just going to keep doing my thing. We passed the first mile mark at just over six minutes, with me still a few seconds behind and feeling good, and then the guy in second slowed his pace just slightly. I had a brief moment where I thought, I could just hang back, not take a chance, and run with this guy, and then the moment passed, and I passed him. And then I was up behind the guy in front, who now also was slowing. The thought repeated itself, but this time in more of a split-second format, and I passed him. It was about seven or eight minutes in, and I never looked back.

I kept going at my pace and my original plan, and it flew by. I noticed that being in front also seems to get you more cheers, but not considerably more than say, two years ago, when I last did the race and did it at a more modest pace, while pushing my niece in the Bob. I led in the stroller division that day and remember getting a equal amount of “Go Dad!” cheers from the people watching and “Go faster Uncle D! You’re not going fast enough!” statements from the four-year old getting the free ride.

My brother pushed his other, younger daughter in the Bob this time, and a highlight of the race this year came a little over two miles in, as the route made a left turn past the corner where my sister-in-law and my now six-year old niece were standing.

“Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D!”

I think that’ s an exact quote.

Plus or minus.

And then before I knew it, I crossed the finish line. And my thoughts went from, I’m doing this, to, I did it 🙂

What if I can do it. What if I believe in myself. What if I keep doing my own thing and keep enjoying it. What if what if becomes more of memory.

It was a good run, and one of more to come.

On time, and in time, in the garden

The community gardening season is back! Actually it’s been back for a month now, with the recreation department having prepared the plots and let us know we could get started on May 1st. I’ll admit that my initial reaction to the later start was to be annoyed (late March/early April would have been better for peas and other things), but when I did finally make it there on May 9th (yep, more than a week after I could), it turned out alright. Like it always does 🙂

Had I gone right away, I wouldn’t have seen the small plants coming up from the seeds left behind by last year’s plants – sunflowers, morning glories, and radishes! Apparently there were some strong little seeds that made it through the winter and the recreation department’s roto-tilling.

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Upon initial inspection, seeing a lot of brown

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But then after looking more closely, some green

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And some more

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And more! Here, a radish seedling.

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A cilantro plant said hello as well

It was a reminder that timing is everything. And that also important is how you respond. This time (and lately more times than not, I believe) my response was (and has been) one of more going with it and seeing the beauty and appreciating what’s there. I wouldn’t call it a laissez-faire attitude, which would imply a lack of action and responsibility, but rather more of a forward-moving, active one, with ownership acknowledged. I can control and act on what I can, like getting started in the garden and planting things (tomatoes, basil, hot peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, corn, edamame, and more sunflowers, cilantro, and radishes!, so far), but you never know how it’s going to turn out. So you go with it and adapt along the way. Like, for instance, how it looks like I’m going to be planting some more seeds or buying more transplants (I actually just got some cucumber and tomato transplants at the farmers’ market yesterday) for the places where the cucumber, edamame, and cilantro seeds didn’t come up. And that’s okay. And like, for instance, how I can take more classes, write more, draw more, apply for different jobs, go on dates, meet more people, and do whatever, and we’ll see how it goes and figure it out.

When you have the right mindset, things also seem to happen at the right time. A friend of mine, who read a number of foodnsight posts recently, remarked how a lot of them were about time, and I think he’s right. I’d thought about starting the blog for a while, but it didn’t actually happen…until it happened to be right time.

A coconut falls when it’s ready.

You can’t say your mother’s soup is the best until you’ve stepped out of her kitchen.

Proverbs add spice to language.

I think, but I’m not completely sure, that’s how these three food / life / thought proverbs go. That’s how I remember them at least, having heard them in lecture and in conversation by a bouncing, full of life college professor who was originally from Ghana and who you could tell truly enjoyed what he was doing both in school as a professor and outside of school as a minister, which in general was teaching, connecting with people, and adding a lot of energy and spice all around.

It’s always the right time to do what you want to do, and to do what feels right. The coconut for the inception of this blog fell a little over a year ago, and more have been falling since, at different rates. Sometimes it’s a chance encounter with a special rutabaga (and a day off from work, and the deadline of a family gathering), or sometimes it’s a neighbor’s gift of plantains (and a good run, plus a friend’s general suggestion to let the words come more easily), and then it falls more quickly. Other times it’s the lessening shelf-life of a winter squash, or that the gravity (and levity) simply builds up, and then it’s time. In any case, the cumulative result is also a chronicle of time passing, a certain curated version of my life that also, I hope, comes with bits of art, truth, and beauty mixed in with the radishes, pumpkins, and risotto. It’s also great when the fun, funny, and creativity are all flowing.

Given the timing of this post, more than a month after the last one, I say we also take a little time and a quick look at some of the food highlights and time-points from May.

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Plantains – I made them, and they were awesome! I more or less followed my neighbor’s recipe, which in my case turned out to be the following: after letting three yellow plantains ripen (after about a week they softened a bit and the outsides turned somewhat black), I peeled them, sliced them into coins, and fried them for 5-10 minutes (flipping them halfway through) in an oil mixture of 2 cups canola oil and 2 Tbsp palm oil. I also let the oil heat up first before frying them (medium heat), and when they were done I placed them on a plate with a paper towel to dry.

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Spinach – This one also deserves an exclamation point. Sauteed spinach with chopped garlic and rutabaga, made in a mixture of canola and palm oil! I could have eaten a plateful of this it was so good. It was easy too: I sauteed the diced rutabaga (about a cup’s worth) in a few Tbsp of oil over medium heat, then added the diced garlic (a few cloves worth) and sauteed that also until it was softened just like the rutabaga (this brought me to about 15 minutes now from the start), and then added the spinach (about 8 oz, but you can add more) and let it cook over low heat for a few minutes until the spinach was wilted (pictured above). As if that wasn’t good enough (though it was, believe me), I also tried the following: 1) adding a handful of chopped raisins and chopped sliced almonds, and 2) adding the chopped raisins and almonds, and also adding some finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Both ways, so good.

If the canola and palm oil mixture sounds familiar too, it should! It’s the same oil that I used for the plantains. And by the “same” oil, I do literally mean the same oil because, really, although plantains soak up some oil when they’re fried, the amount that remains from the original 2+ cups of oil when frying three plantains is…well, I didn’t measure it, but it looked something like 1-2 cups still remaining. So there was plenty left for me to use with everything I cooked for about two weeks afterwards 🙂 And the rutabaga! Like a squirrel saving a food-prize for later, I still had a softball-size piece of rutabaga left over from the original big one, tucked away in the back of the fridge, waiting for me to use. I had just gotten a fresh bag of spinach from the farmers’ market, and something in my head put the two together…spinach and rutabaga. Yes! It was time to cook the acorn. (I used the rest of the rest of the rutabaga, similarly diced and plantain oil sauteed, in a good tomato sauce the same day.)

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Asparagus – Spring time means not only fresh spinach, but also fresh kale, lettuce, strawberries, and asparagus! (and more). The picture above is from a few weeks ago, when I stopped at Terhune Orchards one afternoon after a bike ride and picked a few pounds of asparagus and several quarts of strawberries. Mmmmmmmmmmm, fresh local strawberries. I wish I had some right now… Yes, and asparagus too 🙂 Part of me also wishes that I had a good picture of the strawberries to use here, as a nice, sweet, juicy, red picture would look great following the yellow and green ones above. But that’s alright. And in the absence of such a picture, let’s give asparagus a little extra love. If you’ve never seen asparagus growing, that’s really how it looks in the field, the green shoots growing right up out of the ground (followed by tall ferns later if the spears aren’t harvested). To pick asparagus, you just snap the shoots off at the base. And then once you’re home, you can steam them, add them to pasta, put them in risotto, grill them, roast them with olive oil / salt / pepper and then add a little lemon juice right at the end!, and do lots of other things I’ll try sometime. Lately I’ve been steaming them since it’s quick, like 5-10 minutes, and then adding either a little salt or no salt. Easy and good.

In the process of finding the rutabaga, I came across a few other things in the fridge that, shall we say, ran out of time. Usually I’m pretty good at using things up, but there were a few small things I had to toss this time. And in the world where food mirrors life, and combine, so too were there some ideas I thought I would use when I started writing, but that now I know I’m going to have to toss. In the process of writing, and now feeling where I’m at and the writing is at, I’m reminded again that not everything can make it into the soup. Ideas, people, and stories can’t be forced; it’s better when it all flows and happens naturally. As another friend once reminded too, if it’s important and needs to be felt or said, there’s always another post, another time.

In the garden, things are growing. The passage of time, a month, allows me to share the following:

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May 9

May 16

May 16

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May 23

June 5

June 5

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Projected future outcome

Actual results may vary…

But where there are buds, flowers often follow 🙂

For now, I found some flowers of another kind, from thinning the radishes,

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Radish bouquet

and found some color, and neat patterns too, from underground.

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How about that for beauty? It’s like looking down at farm fields from an airplane, but with every shade of red instead of green (and with a lyrical inspiration nod to “The Hudson” by Dar Williams). I think I have a thing for radishes.