Friday, May 30, 2014

..good libations..

Here we sit, poised to start another summer. The kids have a couple more days of school, Rich has wrapped up his 4th year as a professor, and there are graduation parties, end of year parties, and barbeques galore.

With planned celebrations and impromptu meals alike, a special drink (or drinks) always adds a nice (and sometimes necessary) touch.

Enter: basil sugar.

I created this on a whim. I had purchased some basil at the market, and used it to make a pesto. This pesto, however, did not call for all of the basil, so I had a bit left over. What to do? Rich loves to give me a hard time about having left over odds and ends in the fridge that get overlooked, so I wasn't about to give him the satisfaction.

Fancy drinks on the brain, I wondered what a basil sugar might be like. So I, quite literally, mixed the basil leaves with sugar in the food processor. That's it. So simple. Utterly divine.

Having a mason jar full of these beautiful green-flecked crystals, I started to think of all the ways I could put this jar to work -- immediately. I bordered on obsessive, really.

Some ways that have worked:

basil sugar, lemon juice, lime juice, hendrick's gin, sparkling water

Rimming a glass for lemonade, or a variation on lemonade-adult style. 

Topping blueberry muffins. Kids were not a fan of the green on top of their muffins, but it was delicious.

Filling for a homemade pop-tart. Ricotta + basil sugar = mmmmm.

As I continue to look for other uses, this marvelous sugar is keeping just fine in the refrigerator.  I do believe my very favorite use, thus far, however, has been to rim my glass. Try adding some rhubarb syrup to a little St. Germaine, sparkling water, and a glass rimmed with basil sugar ... divine.

I urge you to give this a try, I really do. You won't be sorry.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

..on the mend..

It was a tough winter, but I hadn't any idea what lay in store for us this spring.

About a week before spring officially arrived, Rich was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was a shock to us all--something we were not expecting. Thankfully, his prognosis is the best we can hope for, as surgery removed the tumor and should be enough to be curative. There will be rigorous testing for the next couple of years, to make sure there are no changes. It's a small price to pay for peace of mind. And to have peace of mind is a wondrous thing.

I suppose we are fortunate. Our situation is one in which we can look forward and leave these moments behind. We will be cautious going forward, but we can go forward with hope -- with the knowledge that the odds are in our favor.

Oh, I have been on the other side of that fence too, though. I remember the weight of finding out my mother suffered from progressive dementia. There was no cure, there was only the knowledge that things would get worse, and then she would die. I know that pain and fear, and the dark cloud that seemingly follows you everywhere you go. From that experience (which I have the benefit of having some distance from now), I learned that sometimes, maybe most times, in order to endure the pain, you must find the good.

Strangely, this whole ordeal illustrated that good in many ways: the devoted and caring family and friends we have, and the wonderful community in which we have chosen to make our home. Rich's care while in the hospital (and even before, when we were still figuring things out) was better and more honest than I could've expected. I appreciate those people that know their limits, and are not afraid to voice them.

Even in times of panic, when I wasn't sure how to function, it was the people closest to us that offered us prayers, encouragement, meals, comradery, and enough humor to forget for a moment that darkness we found ourselves in. It's marvelous, isn't it? Sometimes I think these things happen to serve as that very reminder...we are not alone. We do not need to, and sometimes cannot, do things alone.

I am thankful for and humbled by each and every person who lifted us up. Your kindnesses continue to be felt by all of us, and someday, those kindnesses will most certainly be returned.

Rich has since recovered from surgery, he is back to work, and life is back to (semi)normal. We're now in the midst of a school year winding down, with lots of grading, field trips, and school functions. The kids spend a larger proportion of the day outside, and later sunsets mean later bedtimes. Our yard-full of mud and dirt beckons, with plans being made for concrete and *eventually* some gardening boxes. I am back to unpacking boxes, slowly and methodically, trying to make sense of how everything will fit together -- for now.

Spring is normally a time for renewal, refreshment, an opportunity to start over. I suppose in some ways our spring has been just that. We can look forward, continue onward, and enjoy what lays ahead.