This Means War: My Neighbor Food-Gift Arms Race

It started with lettuce. You can’t freeze the stuff, right? Or bake with it, or make lettucesauce or lettuce jam. It’s just…lettuce. And there’s only so much salad two people can eat.

So I brought a bag to the neighbors. They were grateful.

Next week I brought some more, plus some arugula. Same story. Except Neighbor Rick mentioned they were going crabbing and would bring us some if they got lucky.

For a time, they didn’t. Meanwhile, I brought them more lettuce.

Then the crabs found their way into Neighbor Rick’s pots.* He brought us two–cooked and cleaned. We dined in ecstasy. And I brought them a small bowl of raspberries.

[One of my favorite sayings is, “I don’t want a ____, I just want a friend with a _____.” In this case: boat, pot, crab license.]

Couple days later: two more crabs. “I work at a bakery,” I told Rick. “Can I bring you some treats?” But no–Rick and family are trying to stay away from those kind of temptations. Curses! Nothing for it but to bring more raspberries.

Then Neighbor Rick upped his game. “We’re gettin’ a buncha crab now, gonna make some gumbo,” he told us. “Can we bring you a little?”

We were imagining a wee side dish for our dinner, and we were excited for that. But when Rick came over with the gumbo…well.

Unfortunately, I did not think to take a picture of the beautiful domed island of white rice, sprinkled with spices, rising from a sea of okra, tomatoes, shrimp, chicken, andouille sausage, fish, with four more crab-halves dangling their claws over the edge of the dish. But here’s what the leftovers looked like the second night:

This is only about a third of the leftover crabmeat…

…which is also when Neighbor Rick dropped off the rack of “extra” baby back ribs, barbecued in a marionberry sauce. This time I remembered to take a picture.

So…full…but it still makes my mouth water!

At that point I FORCED him to take home a fresh baguette from my bakery, and a bowl of truffle balls from my freezer.

If we don’t achieve some kind of detente soon, I may forget how to cook. But I see no end in sight. And me with no zucchini!

It’s August. Anyone have a food-gifting story to share? (I still have raspberries.)

Road Trip VII, Days 29-31: Down ‘n’ Out in Estes Park, Colorado–NOT

Getting sick sucks. Getting sick on vacation in Estes Park, Colorado, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park? That’s a bit harder to sound-byte.

Pretty sweet spot for a town, right?

On the one hand, I couldn’t do my usual racing-around-seeing-things stuff. Hiking? Noooo.  Biking? Also a no, thanks. Shopping–nope. And it’s hard to get excited about discovering restaurants when you’ve lost your appetite.

But on the other: I’m on VACATION. I get to lie around and not feel pressured about all the work I’m not getting done! What could be more fitting?

Even better, attitude-wise: getting sick when you’re vacationing with a friend with a scary heart condition.

The one hike I did manage, at 9,000-ft. altitude, had me gasping for breath and walking in slo-mo. Which is exactly what our friend does ANY day he hikes at altitude.

Pretending I don’t feel like curling up for a nap

So, Gretchen’s pity-party was swiftly cancelled. I spent the rest of the weekend soaking up scenery from the car or the window of our rented cabin, and soaking up friendship.

Long’s Peak–a LONG way away, thanks to the miracle of telephoto

Rocky Mountain hiiiiigh….from my car window….

Oh, and that friendship that was in danger of being tested by sports fanaticism? The sports gods were kind to me: our friends’ UCLA Bruins lost on Friday while our beloved North Carolina Tarheels won, so we all cheered together on Sunday as the Heels advanced to the Final Four. Just so you know. 🙂

Thanks, Nature. I needed that.

It’s a lesson I can’t seem to learn too often: compassion and gratitude beat back self-pity every time.

Vaterland, Ich Komme: My Excuse For a 2-week De-blogification

Anyone else out there have a special childhood home-away-from home nestled deep in their hearts? Mine is southern Germany. Die Schwartzwald. The Black Forest. Because I am one of the luckiest creatures alive, I got to spend a large portion of my childhood there, inside what still feels like a fairy tale.

Here’s how that came about. My zoologist father had a zoologist counterpart at a German university, who came to North Carolina one summer to follow Monarch butterflies. He brought along his little daughter. She was eight, I was seven. I lived on a farm with horses. We’ve been pretty much sisters ever since.

From 1969 through 1975, we mostly alternated summers at my place and her place. Only where “my place” constituted a fairly rag-tag compound of pastures, horse stalls and goat pens, “her place” was…this:

(courtesy bo.de)

(courtesy bo.de)

Gotta admit, that’s not my photo–last time I was there was eight years ago, when I did not yet own a digital camera. My friend’s folks have passed on, and the mansion’s sold now. But, as you can tell, she was part of an old, wealthy family. Besides this “house,” there was an adjoining one for caretakers (once upon a time, servants), a formal rose garden, a botanical garden of rare trees, and acres and acres of fruit orchards and berry fields. Not to mention the deep, black forest surrounding the creek below the house, where she and I would play our days out by the barn she built for her (plastic) horses.

If that weren’t enough, a mile’s walk down the hill took us into this adorable Dorf, or village, where we bought the day’s wurst und brot, always saying “Guten Tag!” as we entered each shop:

(courtesy Wikimedia)

(courtesy Wikimedia)

When I first came to the Pacific Northwest, my soul instantly connected with its dark forests and bright fields, its mountains and berries and soft skies. I’m convinced some of that was my inner child happily calling out to its habitat–“Hallo! Wie geht’s?” (Well, and there’s also the ocean, and Mt. Rainier, and I like our political system better. And Germans don’t make good sushi.)

My friend still lives in Germany, and we’ve stayed in touch over the past decades. (I call her my “longest friend”–we’re not THAT old!) In these next two weeks, The Mate and I are journeying back to see her. Our plan is to kidnap her and take her traipsing through the Bavarian and Swiss Alps for a week or so. (You know, that civilized kind of European hiking where you walk a few miles up to a high mountain valley, then sit down to a terrific beer. Forget trail mix–I’ll have a schnitzel.)

So, I’ll be back in Wing’s World in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, picture me here, with my Mate and my Longest Friend:

Beer in sight! (courtesy Wikimedia)

Beer in sight! (courtesy Wikimedia)

But if you’d like to share the special place where YOUR heart resides, if it’s somewhere different than where your body is–I would love to know.