Monday, April 24, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not

Recently, I've been trying to be more aware of our consumption level (and consequent waste) of food. Though over-buying has never been a problem for us (thanks to never having a pantry or large fridge/freezer), there are still things I find myself regularly throwing away that, with a little extra thought, could be used/consumed/enjoyed and we would consequently be getting the most thorough bang for our food budget buck each week.

It seems that this sort of thinking really comes back to mindfulness...a large pillar in the slow living lifestyle. When we finish with what a recipe requires, we seem to mentally conclude that we're "done" with an ingredient, don't we? Any leftovers are just waste or excess. But they don't have to be!

This week, when I was doing some prep cooking for the coming days, I was really mindful of what was in our refrigerator, and a) what I could do to make it most easily consumed, and b) what I could do to make the best use of the ingredients I bought. Here are a few of my findings:

One of the most-wasted fruits I buy are strawberries. We like strawberries, they just come in a larger package than most fruit, require some prep work, and often by the time we get to the last 4 or 5, they are bruised, mushy, and not consumable. So this week, as soon as I got home from the market I soaked my berries in the vinegar-water solution we use, rinsed them thoroughly, topped and sliced them, and placed them in a glass container to store in the fridge. This makes them easy to see, instantly grabbable and ready-to-use for a snack, to top some yogurt and granola for breakfast, to eat with a little fresh whipped cream for dessert, whatever! The result: we went through the entire box of strawberries with zero waste this week. Win!

Another thing I wanted to tackle was the little bits and bobs left over from recipes...mainly citrus (lemons and limes) and fresh herbs. I use these, forget about them, and then find what's left in the back of a drawer weeks later having died a slow and lonely death. - So this week, as I was making a spring pea soup requiring fresh mint, I used the several sprigs I needed from the package (can't wait to have my own herb garden again!!) and dropped the remaining sprig to two into a pitcher of water in the fridge. Incidentally, I was also cutting up a cucumber for a kale salad, and snuck a few slices of that into the pitcher too. A recipe that called for half of a lemon obligingly donated the other half to our infusion, and the result: we've been enjoying some deliciously refreshing cucumber/mint/lemon water for the last few days with no bits and bobs going to waste!

Bananas: these guys can be rather unpredictable in their ripening habits. Sometimes I find myself with a whole bunch of very ripe, quickly darkening fruit. When that happens, I often peel and freeze them to use later for smoothies - the riper, the better!

Kale is another sometimes-forgotten bottom-drawer-dweller. I'll use what I need for a salad, and then the last bit I didn't use will languish away into eternity. So now what I'm trying to do is to just wash it ALL at the same time. Use what I need for my salad, and then tear the rest into moderate stem-less pieces, dry thoroughly, and store in a paper towel ready to grab for smoothie use. Somehow, having it already washed, and de-stemmed makes all the difference. Plus knowing it's there ready for me keeps it on my radar throughout the week.

Have you found little tips and tricks that helps you use up all your food and leaves you with a cleared out fridge at the end of the week all ready for a fresh filling from the farmer's market? Please share them in the comments!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

One of THE absolute best thing about our transient home downtown, has been our neighbors.

We always craved community life while we lived at Windy Poplars (which was located in a country neighborhood where people lived because they wanted to be left alone). In our romantical minds, we had visions of finding a fabulous apartment complex where everybody knew everybody, and regularly hung out after work... That's how things are when you live in communal housing, right? Obviously, my husband and I had never done this before... But as we shared that idealistic hope with friends, they would share story after story of how they never even met the people who lived on either side of them during their years of apartment tenant-ing. 

Moving ahead with trepidation: we find our floft (loft+flat = floft in case you're new to the game), move in, and meet a couple neighbors right off the bat who seem potentially friendly during the move-in process...And some who don't.

Our hopes lifted ever-so-slightly-ish.

A few weeks go by, and once we'd settled in and collected enough chairs for company, we decided to host a Hot Cider Social and take a stab at blindly inviting the people who live behind the doors of the "Back Alley" - the length of our hall has maybe 8 doors or so, and 6 of us have our own entrances, so we don't necessarily run into each other coming and going inside the building. Jesse's cautiously optimistic that maybe 2 will show. I had zero expectations. A day of crickets went by, but then lo and behold the RSVPs start rolling in! Nearly every.single.neighbor. came by for a bit during that open-house style social, and most of them were meeting each other for the first time (even though some have lived here for years! What??!). We've gotten together with many of them often since then...some for dessert, some for wine, some for tea, some for dinner, some to celebrate, some for conversation on the terrace... It's been such a gift getting to know these people!

Nothing makes my heart happier than a neighbor popping in wearing socks and sweats to share some snacks and what's been going on lately in their life - or a neighbor knocking on the door on their way home from work excited to tell us about their new job offer - or a neighbors girl's day complete with manis and face masks - one bringing over a DVD they thought we would enjoy - or many tea times full of relaxed newsy put-your-feet-up chat - or one texting to borrow a blow dryer - another to borrow some fresh lemon - or one bringing over some stew to share that came out extra yummy... 

We just adore our neighbors, are so thankful to find that community in apartment complexes CAN exist, and already feel a little tinge of sadness that we all won't be living here on the back alley together forever!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Travel | Glacier Bay Alaska

Last summer, we enjoyed a family reunion trip with 20+ of the Esterly clan up to breathtaking Alaska! Yes, it's everything that people say it is: unspoiled, majestic, fresh, vast, new... Landscape that puts life (and your place in it) quickly into humble perspective. A destination that should be on you bucket list to be sure. Here is little a photo journal from our afternoon in Glacier Bay. 
Behold: The Last Frontier

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Free Anne of Green Gables | Courtesy of Alexa

If you have an Amazon Echo, did you know that for the month of April you can listen to the audiobook Anne of Green Gables for free through Audible? This series (AoGG is the first in a set of 6, with 2 continuation books by Lucy Maud Montgomery) has remained near and dear to my heart since I was old enough to read books without pictures! I am an Ann-with-an-e fan through and through. Yes, I have the movies memorized, yes, Anne quotes are part of my everyday speech, yes, I've been to Prince Edward Island, yes, my last home was named Windy Poplars, yes, my vintage camper is named Patty's Place, yes, this blog is called Ingleside... I'm sure there are many other fangirl references in my life, but those are just a few that come quickly to mind. ;-).

If it's been awhile since you've enjoyed these books and their captivating red-headed heroine, just ask Alexa to "Read Anne of Green Gables" while you're making dinner, dusting, or folding clothes this month... It'll be the perfect lead-up to the new Anne series being released on Netflix in May!

Any other Anne fans out there?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Moving On...

Those words have a double meaning in our life these days...

The first is a feeble explanation of our path to finding our way back to "normalcy" without our Chester-boy. Is there an acceptable time for grieving the loss of a furry member of your household? I feel the world readily hands you an empathetic handkerchief for maybe a week or ten days, and then your allotted time for pet-grief is over and you are expected to jump back in the saddle and carry on.

But the hole is still there. Still deep. Still smarting. Our life is not the same. Nor will likely ever be, yet, each day we try to slap on a bandaid and pretend that all is well. Yes, we're so grateful to still have our little Caroline, God bless her, but she is not a dog who connects with you. She's not loyal (if you let her lick you as long as she wants, you shoot instantly to the top of her "favorite persons" list...until the next person lets her lick them with abandon...). She's not really attached to either one of us. Sometimes it seems she's more excited for a stranger walking by our door than she is for us to get home from work. She doesn't sense human emotion. She doesn't really care if she pleases you or not. She isn't a cuddler. She isn't a comforter. She isn't obedient. She's just her own dog, doing her own thing, and at best, she's happy to have a roof and some food each day (I guess?) so she can go back to doing her own thing.

She's cute. She's sweet. She isn't Chester.

So moving on also looks like accepting her for who she is, and not being constantly disappointed in what she's not.

I guess it's getting a little easier? It ebbs and flows.

Strangely, when Chesterberry left us, all my words seemed to just dry up without warning. Somehow the part of my heart that he resided in shut down the epicenter of creativity. And once he was gone, there wasn't anything left that wanted to write, make music, dream, take pictures, arrange flowers, to do anything that usually brings me such daily creative joy and fulfillment.

But now that paralysis is starting to slowly lift. Like a spring thaw, I feel the urge to tap into that part of me again. And it helps me feel so much more like myself. I'm grateful.

The other "moving on" in our life is quite literal. As the time frame to build our new home narrowed to a sliver and then sealed itself away within the constraints of our floft lease, we decided to turn our attentions to existing houses that needed renovation work.

We've looked at a fair few now. Some were snatched right out from under us, others needed more imagination than even I could muster (and I've got quite the healthy imagination! ha!), and some were simply the dreaded word: fine. Oh may I never be accused of settling for something that is "fine" in my life.

There is this one though... It spoke to us the minute we walked through the door. But then our practical friends and advisers started drowning out her voice... Inside she's looking mighty fine for her age: just shy of 100. But outside, she's rather an ugly duckling, with ugly duckling neighbors. Sure, there are lots of concessions: greenish granite...three separate entrances to the master bathroom...two doors that lead to nowhere...a gas log fireplace...that's off-center no less...a huge front porch that needs to be fully redone...oh, and stairs..did I ever mention that stairs and I are arch enemies? A Pride and Prejudice quote comes to mind in this instance: "But all this would be nothing...if you truly loved him(it)..."

Is she practical? No. Is she pretty? No. Is she tiny? Definitely not. Is she an enormous risk that we might end up hugely regretting? Heck yeah. But in a roundabout way she still manages to tick a lot of the boxes on our list. And beyond all that, remember,

she speaks to us.


We'll see where the next week takes us. We have four other homes to look at on Monday, and then we really should make a decision on this old girl. Unless of course someone else has, before we're through with all our characteristic hemmin' and hawin'...

One foot in front of the other...Right?! We're movin' on.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

5 Ways You Can Help Someone Through Loss

So many of you sweet people have offered to help if we need anything during this time while the sting of losing our beloved Chester is so very raw and painful. That's such a hard question to answer in the moment though... It's tough to know how to articulate what your heart needs when you can barely put two sentences of thought together in your mind thanks to all the emotional trauma you're drowning in.

I remember feeling the same way when my grandmother passed away. People kindly offer, you really feel like you DO indeed need help, but you can't piece together an answer, and certainly don't want to be an imposition on anyone. Asking for/admitting that you desperately need the hand of human kindness extended to you is tough, even in the best of times. When you're in the midst of one of life's greatest challenges, it's nigh on impossible.

Last night as I lay awake at 4 in the morning wishing/praying/hoping to hear Chester's early morning "I'm awake and need to go to the bathroom" whimper and then couldn't go back to sleep, I really tried to give this some thought. I know how much I've wanted to be of help to those going through intense pain and loss over the years, but never really knew what to do, so I just offered the proverbial, "Please let me know if you need anything..." and never heard back from anybody, ever. - Now I know why. The very act of gathering ones thoughts, and reaching out for specific help is so insurmountably exhausting when your heart is sitting on the floor in a million pieces that it's just easier to remain in your grief and need, alone.

So, how can you help?

First, keep in mind that everyone grieves differently. These are just some ideas that I think might be universally welcomed; practical ministrations, fully initiated by those who love and desire to support the bereaved, without any decision making or reaching out required on the part of those who are painstakingly walking through the valley of the shadow.

+ Send Cards.
It is wonderful and comforting to hear everyone's immediate condolences when something bad happens, but the reality is, grief lasts a loooooong time. And starts to feel incredibly lonely after the first few days when everybody has forgotten about you and has gone back to their regularly scheduled programming. Sending cards helps those well-wishes, sympathies, and gentle thoughts extend a little further into the difficult journey those left behind must travel. And if you want to really bless somebody's socks off, set a reminder on your phone or calendar to send another card on the anniversary of the death the following year.

+ Send Food.
Especially for people who have special dietary needs like us (b/c they likely don't have a freezer full of frozen pizzas to live off of while they get their feet back underneath them), thinking about shopping for and preparing food seems impossible when it takes all the energy you can muster just to get yourself from the bed to the couch. For someone to bring over food, unbidden - even if it's just picked up from a local restaurant - is such a practical, life-giving, wonderful help. In the earliest days, those grieving may not really have any appetite at all. I know I couldn't eat a thing for 24 hours after my boy left this earth, and even today, I can only barely keep down light fare. So maybe dropping by some nutrient-rich smoothies, sippable soups, or the like would be best for those first agonizing days. If you plan to deliver your gift, text or e-mail ahead of drop off and ask if they would prefer for you to just leave it on their front stoop and run. Some people may truly be encouraged by a close friend or two stopping by for a cup of tea to condole (the extroverts, likely), and others would much rather be left to themselves (like us introverts). Certainly give them the option. Something that has caused me much anxiety is worrying that well-wishers might drop in unexpectedly. A surprise visitor in this instance, is nearly always unwelcome - often the bereaved aren't able to get out of their pajamas all day, their house might be a neglected wreck, and their eyes so puffy they can barely muster up the energy to converse and paste a fake smile on, even for a minute, is truly asking too much of their weary soul. Side note: If you live out of town, you can still investigate local restaurants or food delivery services that can drop off some nourishment to your loved one's door. Food is always such a messenger of love and care.

+ Share Your Memories.
I'd never thought about this before, but something that has brought such a smile to our hearts has been hearing from people who have known and loved Chester right along with us through the years, and their taking the time to share fond memories they have of him. Whether it was how he always happily greeted my piano students by the door then settled down in his bed (and sometimes under the piano bench covering the pedals) to listen to their music, or comforted a sister when she was having a really rough day, how people enjoyed reading Chester's blog that he "wrote" for a time, how good he was for his groomer, how impressed his trainer was with the progress he made throughout his time in training school (even as an older dog), how his undeniable charm made a friend want to adopt her own little fuzzy lap dog, how encouraging his vet was of how long we advocated for him and loved him through his unbelievably difficult journey, how others saw the loyalty and attachment he felt toward us... all of those things have been a sweet balm to our hurting hearts. Especially since the last year or two have been such challenging ones and through that time his personality was altered so much by his illness, being able to remember what a special treasure of a pup he was for most of his life has been so healing.

+ Give Them Something To Look Forward To.
Life looks pretty bleak as you face the never-ending lists of firsts without your loved one - human or four-legged, you're reminded of them every time you turn around, and more than anything, just. want. them. back. Life without them all of a sudden turns everything a shade of black and gray and you wonder how you will ever laugh again. So why not give your grieving friend something to look forward to in the future? Maybe movie or concert tickets? Maybe a massage or manicure? Maybe a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant? They desperately need these things that bring them joy in their life, but chances are, they are hurting too much to actually pursue them on their own. So give them the extra push to start rediscovering joy, when they're ready.

+ Send Flowers.
The classic symbol of friendship and sympathy. And it is for a reason. Sending flowers that remind you of the deceased, or those that quietly speak love and comfort to those left behind are such a beautiful tribute. This isn't the time for loud and crazy "cheer up" bouquets. It is a time for sweet and simple peace. If you have the option to send plants that outlast cut flowers, your thoughtfulness will be doing it's work of comfort long into the grieving process, even more so if you elect to send a dried wreath or something similar that will last forever in memorium.

Whatever you decide to do to help comfort your grieving friend or family member, don't wait for them to ask. They really can't. But they will remember forever whatever way you chose to reach out to love them deeply in their time of need.