Del Fest(ivities)

After enormous amounts of deliberation and desperate scrambling to find transportation and dog-sitter, everything fell together and Friday morning we headed off with our friend Ben to Cumberland, Maryland for Del Fest. Del Fest is a bluegrass festival that bluegrass legend Del McCoury started 5 years ago. With bluegrass, I expected more red necks but the crowd was actually very hippie. Lots of tie-dye, long skirts, scruffy beards and plenty of funky tattoos.

Weather-wise we faced intense heat and humidity and a number of crazy booming thunder and lightning storms, but we floating down the Potomac River kept us cool and our Hubba Hubba tent kept us dry.

It was an awesome time of relaxing, listening to inspiring music, people watching (especially fire dancers and hulu hoopers), hanging out with friends and getting a taste of “the trail life” on a town day. Wow, I could really do with a slower pace of life!  I also enjoyed 2+ hours of free yoga each day and finally did a pretty decent head stand (but in tripod position w/help from my hands).

Some of the music highlights for me were Luther Dickson and the Wandering, Birds of Chicago (Allison Russell is my new girl-crush and I think J.T. Nero should inspire Dan to try a funky bun), Emmitt- Nershi Band (Billy!!), Della Mae and the Yonder Mountains String Band. And Steve Martin is pretty dang good on the banjo – and his cheesy humor comes out in his music too! We also camped w/two guys from the band “Herb and Hanson” and enjoyed some pickin’ sessions with them.

J.T. Nero and Allison Russell of Birds of Chicago

In the meantime, we’ve signed up for the Watermelon Park Fest in September and will have to try make it to more festivals and camping excursions this summer. Ahh… must fight business of DC area! Thankfully the pool has opened up… it’s not the river but it is relaxing!

Watermelon Park Fest 2012

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Spring Fever

Happy Vernal Equinox! Even though according to the flowers and trees here, spring sprang weeks ago, today we official usher in the Spring (and google celebrates spring-inspired designer marimekko).

I am captivated by the etherial pale pink blossom of the cherry trees, the electric green of tiny leaves, the shock of yellow forsythia bushes and the diminutive wildflowers. It’s so tempting to hit another trail…. or travel even further afield.20120320-230206.jpg

I just finished reading, Holding On by Jo Gambi, that chronicles their climb of the 7 highest summits on each continent. It’s the story of a husband and wife team who set off on an insane adventure, all while Rob is in remission from cancer. The book is more realistic about many of the challenges to mountaineering and living “life on the road,” than other mountaineering books I’ve read. Still the traveling and exploration, pushing yourself mentally and physically, and seeing the (literal) top of the continents has such appeal. Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to quit our jobs and travel, but we do need to plan some spring and summer holidays!

Thankfully, right now I want to stay right here in the beauty of spring.

Such Singing in the Wild Branches

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves—
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness—
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree—
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
stopped
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing—
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky— all, all of them

were singing.
And, of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then— open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

— Mary Oliver, “Such Singing in the Wild Branches”
Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays

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Sun Salutations

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Wow, we seemed to have skipped spring and gone straight to summer. It’s mid-March and in the mid 80s! I love my job but it’s torture to head inside after a lovely lunch break sitting in the sun by the lake, with branches heavy laden with flowers quivering in the breeze. Plus, it’s not getting dark till 7:30pm! I wish I had an outdoor kitchen so I could cook outside. I wonder if we could BBQ on our chimnea! I am such a sun fiend!

Meanwhile, I’m taking advantage of a free week of yoga at Down Dog Studio in Herndon. It’s hot yoga (but, no, not Bikram) which is new to me, but other than the fact I’m slipping and sliding all over the mat in my own sweat, I’m really liking it! Plus my yoga teacher turns out to be my neighbor! She recognized me when she saw my bike since she’s seen me biking to work each day. It’s a small small world!

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Happy Valentine’s!

We were too tired to do a big romantic dinner so we had a slightly spiffed up version of PB & J for dinner – Ekekiel 4:9 cinnamon raisin bread grilled lightly, with warm and gooey almond butter and strawberry preserves, washed down with Port City beer (some Tidings left over from the last holiday). Comfort kid food, but now were old enough to eat the crusts! And for dessert… my new fave – s’mores cooked over the gas burner of our stove (hopefully that method of cooking isn’t carcinogenic or anything)! I can’t seem to eat s’mores without covering my face in chocolate! Thankfully this is our 7th Valentine’s Day together so we’re not embarrassed by chocolate goatees.

Holiday in England

20120209-194440.jpgAlready our holiday in England seems like ages ago. Back in the throes of work and activities, I’m alarmed at the pace of life. Shouldn’t we still be hibernating? At the very least, let’s reminisce back to our holiday!

We saw great sights, had brilliant company and feasted on goregous food. One of the best things about the trip was eating the most delectable meals and not cooking a single one of them! Plus, with everyone chipping in, the clean-up for our lavish banquets was an ease. To be honest, I don’t mind cooking, it’s the dishes and clean-up afterwords I can’t stand!

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We spent Christmas with Dan’s phenomenal Granny, who’s 97 and still does a fitness regime every morning and mostly looks after herself! As Granny recovered from the full Christmas meal (very much like an American’s Thanksgiving sans pumpkin pie), we enjoyed a shot of sunlight while walking in the Clent Hills.

Christmas PuddingI have to confess, I’m not a huge fan of British Christmas desserts – they all seem like a variation on the same. Christmas Cake is like fruit cake with super-sweet frosting (though, I’ll happily eat the thin layer of marzipan!); Christmas Pudding is fruitcake dosed in Brandy (though I do like when they light it on fire!); and Mincepies are more dried fruits and booze, but baked into little tarts. However, I adore Brandy cream and Brandy Butter – which are a delightful addition to any dessert and may have even appeared on my toast at breakfast.

D&P’s house is always a place of supreme serenity. Pietro coaxes flowers into bloom even in the winter and the lighting is always cozy and perfect for snuggling. Dee made Bana Caldo, an immensely creamy anchovy fondu we greedily dipped an assortment of root vegetables into.

After dashing about the sales in Oxford, we regained our equilibrium with lobster bisque and samphire, a delicate green that grows on the British coasts. We’ve discovered that men’s clothing that is small enough to fit Dan does not exist in the US, so we made the most of the Top Man sales while in England. My dad, upon hearing of a store that sold Dan-sized clothing, mixed up the name, calling it “Little Man”!

We met up with friends in Aylesbury and London – our mini-reunions with Dan’s school friends are always great! Next, we were off to Nat & Umbi’s beautiful flat in Canterbury.

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In addition to it’s fame from Chaucer’s tale, Canterbury has many charms. The old walled city has a large pedestrian-only area with an eclectic mix of cafes and shops that entice you inside. We went for a walk in the seaside town of Whitstable, and took shelter in a small yet picturesque castle when it began to rain. Plus, we discovered a lovely path along the river that allowed us to run on trails, without the customary ankle-deep British mud.

On New Year’s Eve (remembering to wear our red underwear for good luck!) we all headed to London to Matt & Pete’s flat. They have the top floor of a terraced house, complete with clawfoot tub, gas fireplace and tiny garden too! Matt had fixed us a feast for lunch and Pete had made a scrumptious stollen, which I will have to ask for the recipe for.

After lunch, we participated in our annual book exchange, a tradition Dee began, in which we all bring books we have enjoyed to swap with others. We do this in lieu of presents and agree it’s a great way to give something meaningful, without falling into the holiday consumerism trap. This year I gave, Our America, a powerful yet disturbing book based on a project in which 2 young teens were given microphones and cassette recorders to interview people from their Chicago’s South Side neighborhood. If only more of our news was not just about the poor, but from their perspective, what changes there would be!

The book I received is God of the Small Things by Indian author Arundhati Roy. I haven’t read it yet, but it won a Booker Prize and many Pizzo’s recommended it!

That evening, after a curry supper, we headed up the hill to Ally Pally with mulled wine in hand. The park overlooks practically the whole of London and so eyes darted back and forth, watching fireworks light up the silhouettes of St. Pauls, Big Ben and the London eye against a velvet sky. In front of us, revelers set of small fireworks and sparklers, while in the distance larger displays sparkled on and off spastically. It was dizzying trying to watch all the colourful sparks.

At that was it, good-bye 2011, hello 2012!

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February

Dreamcatcher by Betsy Walton

It feels like spring is just around the corner! I know February can be one of the coldest months here, but the days are getting longer, the ground is soft, and today the air is warm. The first of February greeted us with highs of 65°F/18°C!

Tonight I made this phenomenal one-pot meal – Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes – from my new Moosewood Cookbook. The link sneakily doesn’t show quantities, but you get the idea – quinoa with sweet potatoes, spinach, currents, and toasted pine nuts. Delicious, nutritious and very filling!

Unfortunately, I still have to do the dishes!

P.S. Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!