Monday, February 26, 2007

Lugging luggage

Oh my. I'm leaving TOMORROW!!!!

I am a bit discombobulated. I've got the bed covered with clothing, books, shoes, electronics, toiletries, purses, and a cat. The cat is trying to make sure that I leave with a fine layer of white fur coating everything so I can spread Dizzy's love wherever I go. He hates seeing luggage. He becomes very clingy and tries to make sure that I know he's upset. Eventually I'll ban him from the bedroom and shut the door, but right now I won't. He's sad, and so am I.

It has been a rough week. Charlie's death is still painful, and now I must leave my family and friends for three months. Wow. It is a lot for my little monkey brain to process. I know that Goat Lady Diary will keep me busy, and that is a very good thing.

Packing for three months is very hard. I've got to account for late winter, spring, and early summer weather. Possible ice, snow, rain, wind, sun, and heat. But ALL of that is better than the humidity of summer. Ugh. Working in North Carolina in a cheesemaking room in the summer sounds like one of the seven levels of Hell. It is right up there with trying to park in the grocery store parkinglot the day before Thanksgiving. No thanks. That's why I chose to go to NC in the springtime! Should be beautiful, once spring rolls around.

I'll miss seeing my freshly updated garden come into bloom. The wildflowers are starting to emerge from the ground under the apple tree. The California lilac is in full bloom right now. The first of the douglas irises are blooming, too! I told Jim to e-mail photos of my garden every week.

We had a small earthquake on Friday afternoon. Just another reminder of things I'll be missing. North Carolina gets severe thunderstorms. Hope I don't have to experience a tornado outbreak. I hate tornadoes.

Back to piles of stuff on the bed. How do I know what I won't need? I like to be prepared. I won't be close to an all-night drugstore. So many unknown factors. I better just take everything. I'll be fine, so long as I can still pick up my luggage.

Time to go make some cheese.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Let us pause for a moment

Sad day. Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our dog, Charlie. Even in the end he was still eager to please, full of kisses, and happy to see his friends, both human and feline, in spite of his pain and poor health. He brought a lot of joy and happiness to our lives and was quick to share his affection with anyone who wanted some love. For over fifteen years, he shared our lives as well as our leftovers. I feel very lucky that we found that little black border collie/flat coated retriever mix puppy at the Marin Humane Society on that sunny day in the Fall of 1991.

When Jim came along, Charlie's life was complete. He love my mother, my stepfather, and me, but Jim was #1 in his book. Jim would come home and Charlie would run to the top of the stairs and wait to cover him with kisses and plant his nose in Jim's crotch. It was great to see them both so happy. Charlie adored our cats, and even let Dizzy groom him and eat out of his food bowl; (Dizzy would simply nuzzle Charlie out of the way.) Angus would let Charlie play with him, when the kitties were tussling around the living room.

We'll miss that black dog who could do the hula, dig for gophers, chase pigeons, and sing "Home on the Range." There will never be another dog like our Bonnie Prince Charlie. Who will eat my cheese rinds?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The countdown is repeating itself

Here we go again. I leave in less than a week. Wow. I am currently trying to get my life in order so I can leave home for three months and not have Jim calling me with questions or needs. We're just wrapping up our income taxes. Gotta have $$$ in the bank for my share of the mortgage. Gotta leave him a check for other expenses. Hmmm. This internship is getting to be quite expensive!

I've got a mental list of things I want to take. Now I must make that list a reality and start packing. It is hard to pack for three months. Late February and early March can be quite cold and frigid. I could see ice and snow. You know the old saying, "March: In like a lion, out like a lamb." I looking forward to some nice lamb. I feel like I'm getting ready to go to college or summer camp. There will be a bed waiting for me, but I've got to make the place feel like home. Perhaps I should bring a few Fillmore posters for my walls and a few candle holders.

What cheese books do I bring? Steve gave me a reading list. I got the books. Read the ones that I didn't already have. I hate reading the dry stuff referring to the chemical reactions in milk proteins. Lipase, casein, etc. I learn my observing, doing and screwing up. A book can only sink in on one level. I'm all about practical applications.

Think I better start writing a comprehensive list of things to do and pack.

Tick, tick, tick. I leave early Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

NC eats on my mind

Things to think about when spending time in North Carolina seem to involve food. My fondest memories visiting my grandparents revolve around food. Mom left when she was 19, but she still managed to give us all good education in culinary gifts of her home state. Sure, we ate barbecue. Not ribs, but the finest in slow cooked pulled pork with a nice, slightly spicy vinegar sauce. Cole slaw was sweet and vinegary, too. Dessert must be banana pudding. See the side of a box of Nilla Wafers if you want the best banana pudding recipe. Or you can make one from scratch. But if you want to go all-out, try eating a slice of hummingbird cake.

Hummingbird Cake is a layered, banana cake with crushed pineapple in it. It is moist and delicious. It usually has a cream cheese frosting and pecans scattered around the circumference. I brake for hummingbird cake. One of my grandparents friends baked one and brought it to my grandpa's memorial. Why didn't I know about this cake before he died???? It is up there as one of my favorite cakes, ever! (Next to Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake or Blum's Fiesta Cake.)

Another favorite is going to get fish and eating hushpuppies. Fish is battered and fried, naturally, and the hushpuppies are usually better than the fish. What's a hushpuppy? Fried cornbread balls! Can't understand why I can't find this outside of the South or at Long John Silvers? Hushpuppies are a staple at fish fries. I'll often have fries and hushpuppies with my fried catfish. Then I wash everything down with a sweet tea.

Fine dining establishments like Bojangles have TWO tea options, sweet and unsweetened. In order to be sure the ice tea is sweet enough, your fillings must ache. Otherwise you must add more simple syrup. By the way, Bojangles makes some of the finest fast-food buttermilk biscuits on the planet. Their fried chicken isn't too shabby either. There are EIGHT locations in Greensboro. Yes!

What else is there to eat in North Carolina? Well, it isn't grape season, but there are some native grapes that are highly sought after: Scuppernongs and Muscadines. These grapes make some excellent jellies, as well as something called grape hull pie. Mom used to smuggle them home in egg cartons. The grapes don't grow in large clusters, but in small groupings or individually. Scups are greenish golden in color and almost a perfect sphere. They have a tough skin and lots of seeds. But the flesh is juicy and sweet. Mom now has a couple of grape vines on the hill above her house in San Rafael. Around late August, she'll start squeezing the juicy innards out of the grapes.

Pecans are another staple of North Carolina cuisine. The shells are used for smoking food. Goat Lady Dairy makes a smoked chevre using the left over pecan shells from the trees on their farm. Pecan pie is universal. Candied pecans are a nice addition to any salad, or just for snacking. Mom and I make some great spiced pecans. By the way, the CORRECT pronunciation of the word pecan is: PEE-can. Not pic-CAWN, nor pee-CAWN. You sound uneducated if you say it wrong. Jim, please take note.

Sure, you can find all kinds of food from all around the world in Greensboro today. But I look for the finest examples of regional cuisine. Yeah, there's a couple of good places for pho. Sure, I could go get a good hero at a deli, but I'd rather go to Giacomo's Italian Market to try their home made salami.

After I get through devouring my way across the Piedmont, I think I better go on a diet to lose all of the weight I'll gain eating like a local.