Sunday, September 28, 2014

Flying Down the Neuse

Saturday afternoon, Adam and I had the delight of sailing with friends who came to Oriental for a month this summer. Ted and Mili are friendly, hospitable folks who love to sail. They're back in Oriental briefly, and we snatched the afternoon for a trip down the Neuse to South River. Here's their boat, Morning Glory.
She's a beautiful, broad catamaran.
Ted picked us up at the dinghy dock in their dinghy and brought us around to the back of the boat. We stepped out onto the pontoon extensions and then up the stairs into their home-away-from-home.
This is what we found. Have you ever seen anything lovelier? I was overcome with how pretty, how relaxing, how welcoming this room is. Everything about it says, "Hello, you've just arrived in the Bahamas."
Here's Mili, a sweetie.
Here's Cap'n Ted, an utterly reliable sailor.
Here's the kind of afternoon we enjoyed.
Mili took me on a little tour of Morning Glory. Steps lead down into the pontoon cabins on either side.
She has a very agreeable galley kitchen. Where Mili's standing is another smaller dining room for when you don't want to eat in the larger room above. Sleeping berths are in both pontoons with double beds.
I loved her kitchen with the double sink and so much storage in those cabinets -- so handy!
I hate to post a bathroom picture, but they do have a lovely, clean head. No worries in that department.
Soon we'd motored out of the anchorage, and it was time to raise the sails. Ted did all this while Mili took the helm.
He raised the main and also put up the jib out front.
And we took off! We went 7 or 8 knots, that's 8 or 9 mph.
Token selfie. Mili leant me a jacket because it became chilly with all the wind coming at us.
We chose South River because there are some stories attached to it. Once a little community thrived here. I can only tell you what I've heard -- that their schools were closed, and the families had to move elsewhere to educate their children. Some families dismantled their homes and moved them across the river to Oriental. I don't know what year this occurred. I do know there's a cemetery still maintained along South River. I've heard you can only access it by boat. Some older folks still ask to be interred there, and their loved ones come across the water for the burials and to visit the graves.
In the protection of South River, the water stilled, the wind calmed, and we settled down for some snacks around the table.
I think Adam and I polished off the peanut M&Ms.
It really was so very lovely. I can't thank our friends enough for graciously sharing their boat and their afternoon with us. The river was choppy, and I did feel a little seasick (a rarity for me), but it did not spoil the beauty of the day. I was rather enamored of the peace and comfort of this boat, and I could see Adam's hopeful eyes. Will she possibly, someday, be willing to live on a boat???
Looking back down South River
Ted took a nice shot of us enjoying the view.
What a great day! Can you believe we get to live here? I know -- I occasionally still pinch myself :)
Thanks Ted and Mili! Y'all are the BEST, and we hope you'll come back to Oriental soon!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Village Walk

Adam burst a tire on his bike, so we took a walk one evening instead.
autumn tree at the town marina
Adam skips stones at the harbor.
a very fun local porch
A lovely old home being raised after the hurricane -- three years later!
I love how they've kept the wicker furniture on the porch.
boat decor in a front yard ... a bit past its prime
distinctive artwork on our beloved old theatre
new roof and marquis at the theatre - nice work!
Many sailors have found this true.
Lots of rain in recent weeks have made for soggy bottoms.
The lady who lives next to this area feeds the turtles each evening, I've heard.
A large turtle is beneath this slurry, but I couldn't get him to show his head again.
The boat below has been sunk in Whittaker Creek for at least a year. I don't know how it ended up that way -- a hurricane maybe? Folks have come and stripped it of all hardware, even the mast. But somebody decided it was worth raising again. (They put large inflatable balloon-like things in the boat, fill them with air, and get the boat to float that way.) I wonder what will be done with it now?
And ... an update on the cute little cabin in town! It's looking like a real house now. Windows in! Siding on and painted! The porches are coming along.

Last night's sunset was spectacular. Here's a series of photos, progressively closer to the ball of fire ~

Friday, September 26, 2014

Glamorgan Sausages

Adam found this recipe online and tried it on us for supper tonight. Accolades all around! We'll be having this fairly often, especially since our kitchen provides lots of extra bread crumbs. He put together his own recipe for the sausages from various online recipes he found. Here's what my plate looked like:
 A Glamorgan sausage is a meatless sausage. Adam's ingredients:
5 oz bread crumbs
4.5 oz sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 T crushed dry thyme
3/4 tsp garlic powder
4 T sauteed chopped onion
1.5 T dijon mustard
3 egg yolks
(Sorry about the ounce measurements, but Adam's a food snob, so he weighs ingredients.)
Blend the ingredients into little 2-3" long logs, as you see below.
 Adam fried a few of these little sausages in butter for us in the afternoon, and they were delicious. For dinner, he went a bit fancier. He whipped the 3 egg whites (left over) to stiff peaks. He rolled the raw sausages in the egg whites.
 Then he rolled them in more bread crumbs.
 So they looked like this:
 He fried some in olive oil and some in butter. The olive oil ones were prettier, but the butter ones (of course) taste better. I ate those. He made mashed potatoes and gravy. The gravy was made from the drippings from the pan, plus some potato water, some thyme, some wine, bouillon cubes, and corn starch to thicken. (I always, always have to look up the spelling of bouillon. Always.)
 How they look inside. Yummmmmmy.
All fried breads are delicious, let's face it. Donuts, hush puppies, whatever. Fry a dinner roll and it's fabulous. So this is really a fried bread, but it tastes different with those sausage flavorings -- very fun. Julia ate hers with honey-mustard sauce. That's pretty much her go-to dinner dip for 85% of the things on her plate.


Gift-giving has been an essential part of human culture for many centuries. I'm reminded of this as Julia and I study Beowulf. In the Anglo-Saxon world, a good king was a generous king; he gave rich gifts to his warriors -- land, gold, halls, gems, weapons and armor. A king's goodness was measured by the extent of his generosity. In response to this, his warriors promised and gave their lives in battle, committed to his defense and honor,   and their own. I was tempted to give a long description of this in Beowulf for your reading pleasure, but I'll spare you that.

Much of human history tells of gift-giving cultures. In Asia, this gift-giving/gift-receiving tradition is alive and well. We found this true when we worked at a Christian boarding school years ago; the Korean and Japanese students regularly gave us beautiful gifts from their parents back home. No junky candles or ceramic mugs for their teachers! I received elegant platters, silk scarves, little spoon sets. Each gift was exquisite.

Gift-giving has fallen on hard times. How many blog posts have you read lately, in our affluent Western culture, admonishing us all to stop giving gifts at Christmas? That gift-giving is ruining our children? That gift-giving promotes greediness and selfishness? That is brings debt, showing-off, competition? That it encourages an attitude of entitlement? What happened to the joy, the celebration, the community that should result from the exchange of gifts?

As I think of our gift-giving heritage, I'm reminded that gift exchanges are designed to bond people together. Again, I believe the Asians have retained this important aspect of the custom, while we've lost it. While in China, Anna was instructed to tell her students to give her small gifts; that if she received large, significant gifts from them, she would convey to them a deepened relationship that might involve a commitment on her part that she could not fulfill -- a commitment to house them and host them when the visit the U.S., for instance. At her stage of life, she's not equipped to do that. I think the only situation in our lives that retains a serious commitment tied to a precious gift, is a wedding ring. Otherwise, gift-giving in the U.S. seems to be a throw-away activity, a tiresome obligation.

When Adam and I were dating in 1988, and Christmas was approaching, he decided to give me a thing very precious to him, a set of antique books. They're deep green, marbleized, gold-trimmed. I was bemused at first by the gift. I mean, really ... used books, to your girlfriend? But he had a more romantic view of gift-giving than I. He was giving of himself, a precious possession. The implication was that he was giving them to me because he hoped I would soon belong to him -- that the books would draw us together, we would own them together. But if his gift-giving was wrong-headed, it would result in his loss, both of books and of me.

Anglo-Saxon kings didn't buy the gifts they gave their thanes. They owned the gifts, and gave from their private hoards. They diminished their own wealth to attach someone to them more strongly. I do wonder if such a serious attitude toward gifts might scare us. We're more comfortable now with giving something meaningless (even junky), and receiving something meaningless (even junky). It's safer. What if a friend gave you something you know was very precious to her -- an heirloom? Would you be awed, even uncomfortable, at her love? What if your mother-in-law gave you a beloved family treasure? Wouldn't it make you feel more bound to your new family?

Before we jettison centuries of human tradition this Christmas, let's consider what we're losing. Gifts are designed for expressing value, honor, to bind us together, a commitment of self. Gift-giving is historically part of a larger celebration -- music, tale-telling, food, wine, joy. To receive a gift is to be welcomed into a group. To give a gift is to extend your love and loyalty to include another. The entire system demonstrated stability, love, community, contentment, thankfulness.

What's not to love about that?

I, for one, will keep the age-old tradition of gift-giving alive this year. Perhaps we should simply change how we talk about gift-giving with our children, with each other. Perhaps we should give fewer gifts, but more meaningful ones. Perhaps instead of rejecting gift-giving, we should integrate it more fully into our relationships. We've lost the ability to humbly receive a gift. We view the experience as a cold monetary swap. Instead, gifts should have stories. Gifts should be remembered. Gifts should be beautiful. I want to bear this in mind as I look for gifts this year.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Great Tea Hunt

As you know, I make my own chai. While on our trip to Toccoa, we stopped at two Whole Food Stores to buy some whole cardamom pods. I use whole spices in my chai, and they are hard to find. The nearest store with cardamom pods is about five hours away from our house, in Winston-Salem!
As I said, we found some lemon zinger tea at Whole Foods, but neither store we visited had bulk spices! (boohoo!!!!) These are the stores in Columbia and Greenville, SC. However -- the very kind, very efficient fellow in the Greenville store told me about an Indian grocery just down the street where he shops. He checked online, found their phone number, and called to make sure they were open. What a great guy!
So we drove to the Indian grocery.
And here I'll wax eloquent on saving money when buying spices. Spices are so expensive, as we all know. At WalMart, the small jar of whole cloves below cost $5.18. It weighs 17 grams.
The bag of cloves above cost $8.99. It weighs 200 grams. Yeah -- do that math.
A bottle of McCormick cinnamon sticks at WalMart costs $5.48. It weighs 21 grams.
My bag of cinnamon sticks from our Asian market costs $4.95. It weighs 14 oz., nearly 400 grams.
My next goal is to find whole allspice somewhere.
Spices at the grocery store are a rip off. Find the ethnic markets in your area and shop there. You'll discover so many great foods and ingredients at a fraction of the cost.
Alright! On to the Great Tea Hunt! We discovered the Indian grocery. It ... um ... delayed our trip somewhat. After finding my cardamom pods, I was waylaid by the tea selection. I found this:
See the flavors? Ginger, star anice, cinnamon. Chai! And 72 tea packets inside! What a deal -- so I bought it. A pot of hot chai has never been easier. I'll still make my recipe, but this will be excellent for those rushed times when I'm out of the other. The little bag:
I was hesitant about the other teas. Their packaging looked so good, but I couldn't actually see the leaves. I didn't want a loose tea that was in granular form, and it sounded granular when I shook it. (You can read about the different classifications of tea here.) I don't mind small or crushed leaves. So in my doubt, I passed it by. :(
While at Toccoa, I went online and read about the various types of tea leaves, by size and cut, and decided that tea might have been a good deal, and a lovely tea. I decided I could live with the granules as long as they were simply a small cut of leaf. So on the trip back home, we stopped again, and I bought the Darjeeling, my favorite tea flavor.
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it to find regular old tea leaves -- well, regular for Americans. We tend to buy pretty chopped up tea. My mother has received tea leaves from China, and when the hot water hit them, they expanded and were huge.
This massive bag of Assam was an even better deal, so I bought it also. My mother's favorite, I'll take some to her this fall.
My loose tea supply was getting so low, it was a relief to stock up for the winter. In my locale, the only loose tea I can purchase anywhere is Lipton tea at Walmart. I kid you not -- last year we searched all the grocery stores. They all sold only tea bags, even Twinings, even at Harris Teeter. I don't mean to be a tea snob, but seriously people!?
I know it's only loose tea and bulk spices, but right now I feel pampered and rich, to be honest. I have a wealth of tea joy in my cupboards, and it makes me happy. Now -- to drink it all. It may take years!
Update: Today I found a large tub of whole allspice in New Bern at a discount grocery store (very happy). Now I have homemade chai for years to come.