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Rainin… Rainin.

Ok, maybe not NEVER… but can you give us just a few days of sun? Please, pretty please?

Is it annoying to complain about the weather? I know, last year I complained about the heat…

Perhaps it isn’t annoying but rather pointless? I mean, what can we actually do about it? Absolutely nothing. Which is why it’s so annoying!

Oh well, today I don’t care. It started raining Friday night, and hasn’t really stopped precipitating some sort of liquid. We’ve seen everything from torrential downpours to thick mist. I really. Am. Tired. Of the rain. The gloom. The cold, enveloping watery veil that seeps into every pore. Yuck.

It’s May, for f.’s sake! Where are my May flowers? Soaked in a puddle, that’s where—all my newly planted daisies and snapdragons are droopy and saturated saying “Enough! Show us some sun!”

I feel squidgy and sowish from not walking to work as I usually do. It’s weird to not walk my 4 miles round trip nearly every day. Walk in the rain!? No way. I’d get to work looking, and probably smelling, like a wet dog. The buses are full and soppy. All the people in there together, we look sad and smushed like marinating sardines. Lots of frowny-faces and frizzy hair.

And speaking of wet dogs, even Gordon doesn’t want to go outside. I tried to take him out last night before bed. It was pouring but he HAD to go out! He got to the top of the stoop and looked at me like “Are you f.ing kidding me?” and walked back to the door. I had to drag him by his collar down the stairs where he promptly peed and hurried back inside. Poor guy. Hasn’t had a decent walk in three days which means he’s extra ornery. I’m not joking, he actually gnawed open a carton of chicken stock, spilled it all over the floor, and lapped up whatever came out. We found the empty carton on the floor with tooth marks in it. Darn dog. He needs a good 10-mile run as much as we do.

Oooh poor us. Pity pity pity party. Boo hoo hoo. I know I sound like a whiny baby. I’m TRYING to find the good in this, I am.

For instance, everything now is so green. And so many shades of green I can’t even count them. It is beautiful. Also, the hot water bottle is perfect for rainy nights, and I do love using my hot water bottle. Hmm… what else. I do like the sound the rain makes when it hits the windows. It’s calming and nice. I haven’t had to water the plants outside, and I know when it DOES get sunny, they’ll do so well. AND, the lettuce I planted outside loves the cool and rain. We’ll have a nice harvest of greens this weekend. OHKAY… there are a few good things about the rain. I’m not so sad or jaded, just looking forward to some sun.

And, hey. I did make quite a fine soup yesterday for dinner—a hot cuppa soup IS the best remedy for a chilly day.

Here’s the recipe—I made it up as I went, but it was so easy. I call it:

Easy Veggie Soup with Pasta (deep. really creative.)

2 T olive oil
2 cups of grape tomatoes, halved
1 t minced garlic
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn (you could use fresh veggies – I just didn’t have anything but carrots)
1 cup diced carrots (really any veggies you like, up to 3 cups)
1 carton or large can of veggie, chicken, or beef stock
1 small can of tomato sauce (not pasta sauce, plain tomato sauce – Hunts makes a good one)
1.5 to 2 cups water
salt, pepper, spices to taste (I used rosemary)
any pasta you like, boiled to al dente **tip! keep .5 cup of the pasta water after it has boiled and stir it into the soup – gives a rich taste to it!

Pour the olive oil into a large pot. Heat the oil and add the tomatoes and the garlic. Let them get mushy in there, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if the garlic gets too brown. Add the veggies and saute them until warm. Add the tomato sauce, the stock, and the water. Let simmer until the veggies are well cooked. Salt, pepper, and spice to taste. Cook your pasta, strain. Add .5 cup of the pasta water to the soup and let simmer a few more minutes. Put a few pastas in a dish and pour the soup over. Eat and be warm.

That’s it. Easy as soup.

If it’s raining where you are, I hope you stay very dry and that the sun comes out soon. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to clear up, I suppose you can hunker down, make some soup, and listen to the rain with a good book and a warm blanket.

If it’s sunny where you are, please send some our way!

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I haven’t written in ages! I’m terrible. I’m the worst ever. I say this every time, too. But really I think this must be the longest time without a post. Three months? Bennett! Bad! BAD!

Last time I wrote it was almost Christmas. Now it’s almost Easter… well, almost. We’ve seen a whole season come and go and not a post on anything. Not a one about being tired of snow (And lots of snow did we have – holy cow! Something like 39 inches?) or exploring new places (the Art & Architecture Tour at the Boston Public Library is a hidden gem). No news on our Year of Bread baking challenge (Did you know we haven’t bought bread in THREE MONTHS!? We’ve baked every bit of bread we’ve eaten this winter!) All this including the sad fact that we’ve had zero giveaways, and NO pictures of Gordon. Sad face.

And I wish I could write more today but I have to-dos and projects I’ve been putting off and MUST get to them. I know, I know. You may say, “Isn’t this a project you’ve been putting off?” and yes, it most certainly is and I feel terribly about it. Not just because I’ve been neglecting the blog and my readers, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been putting it (and my other to-dos and projects) off because I’ve been a lazy bear. Very lazy. Winter got me bad and I’ve just been a bum. Watched too much TV, and really, it’s all been filth. I am no better for it. Shame on me. Shame on me and the time I’ve wasted.

But don’t you worry. It’s spring! The sun is out longer and fills me with all kinds of happiness and spirit and inspiration. I’ll be back and better than ever very soon, with lots of newsy posts chock full of happy happiness, food making, artsy fartsy goodness, and all other things LPE.

So until then, I leave you with two things:

1. A picture of Gordon – because that’s why you drop by LPE, right? To see Gordon’s sweet cheeks, and NOT because every time I write a new post and hit PUBLISH a little link pops up on Facebook and Twitter and that urge to click on a link comes over you and you click without thinking.

NO, you come here of your own volition, I know it.

And 2:

A giveaway!!! I will send a snail mail grab bag—colorful pens, lovely papers, envelopes, blank note cards, stickers, etc.—to the fifth new person to subscribe to LPE. Just hit “L.P.E. to Y.O.U.” on the left hand side ← over there and enter your email address. When we post, which is hopefully, and fingers CROSSED, oftener than not, you’ll get a little PING! Note: You can unsubscribe at any time (but I hope you don’t!) by clicking “manage” under L.P.E. to Y.O.U. Believe me, knowing I have subscribers who are expecting things of me will keep me motivated, so this is a win-win in many ways.

Wahey! We’re (nearly) back!

Would that it was snowing right this moment, blanketing the world with the fluffy, white, winter-y stuff.  I would go outside with Gordon and Mark and make tracks and angels and snowballs.

It is not actually snowing here in Boston town, nor is it in the forecast (although I’m sure we’re in for a good Nor’Easter soon.  It is, after all, New England).  Yet it is snowing here on L.P.E.  A beautiful quiet whisper of snow coming down ever so softly. The snow on L.P.E. is not cold and doesn’t blow away.  It doesn’t sting your face and you can’t catch it on your tongue.  But my hope is that it conjures up good feelings and leaves you thinking fondly of winter white holidays and happy childhood memories.  And hopefully it makes you smile.

Snow snow snow snow SNOOOOOOW.

It won’t be long before we’ll all be there with snow

Snow…
I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow

Snow
I long to clear a path and lift a spade of snow…
Snow
Oh, to see a great big man entirely made of snow

Where it’s snowing
All winter through
That’s where I want to be

Snowball throwing
That’s what I’ll do

How I’m longing to ski
Through the snow-oh-oh-oh-oh

Those glist’ning houses that seem to be built of snow
Snow

Oh, to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow

What is Christmas with no snow
No white Christmas with no snow
Snow

I’ll soon be there with snow

I’ll wash my hair with snow
And with a spade of snow
I’ll build a man that’s made of snow
I’d love to stay up with you but I recommend a little shuteye
Go to sleep

And dream … Of snow.

Hmmm… Me thinks it’s time for a giveaway!

Write your favorite snow memory in the comments, and I’ll send one lucky reader a sweet little surprise!

 

 

(The lyrics and song “Snow”, from the movie White Christmas, are © 1953, Erving Berlin)

 

This guy, right here:

Gordon. Gordon Benzickle, so called because Mark used to call me Anna Benzickle (I can’t remember why, he just liked — wait, still likes — giving me nicknames) and since Gordo was to be my dogson, I had to give him my last name and so Gordon Benzickle he was then, is now, and forever shall be.

I was prompted to write this post after Gordon was bitten on the face this weekend and I was confronted with his mortality. It wasn’t a terrible bite, just a bit of a gash he got in a mini confrontation with another dog on our walk.  I started thinking of Old Yeller and the rabies and the sad sad scene, and then we got a quarantine order from the Watertown animal people and had warnings and cautions and urgings and. Well, suffice it to say, Gordon is FINE and rabies-free.  But as I consoled him Saturday morning, cleaning the blood from his wounded mouth and as Mark held him still as the vet checked him out, I couldn’t help but think about a day when Gordon might not be with us.  Gordon will be 11 years old (or so, we’re not really sure) this January, and although his wise gray beard might show his age, he still runs and jumps around, chases a tennis ball, and hides his bone like a young pup might do.  We’ve had him six of his now ten years and they’ve been fun and silly and crazy and sometimes (when he used to run away to frolic in western Mass. horse pastures) scary.  But have I loved him enough?  Has he had a good life? Has he been happy here with us?

And why do such good and wonderful and loving creatures, who love us back no matter our shortcomings and imperfections and peccadilloes, and who bark and roll in the grass and smile and play, receive so few years of life when we receive so many more which we selfishly take for granted and spend doing far less fun things?  It’s not fair.  I said the same thing when we lost Gus and Sam last year.  It is not fair.

Gordon has taught me so much. Patience. Love. The life span of a stuffed toy is about 6 seconds. One can do anything with a little encouragement. And that it’s ok to nap…all day.  But perhaps above all these things, Gordon has taught me that life is too short to be doing less than fun things.  He lives life with such happiness and joy.  Look at that grin!  Come on.  Would that every moment of every day I had a grin like that on my face–what kind of life would I live?  How might my day be different if I got as excited about the little things as he gets over a small treat, a new smell, or a double layer dog bed?  Oftentimes I see walks as a duty, a chore, yet the moment we say the word “walk” or even motion towards his leash he goes jumping crazy.  Gordon will hear the sound of a spoon scraping out the last bits of ice cream from a bowl and come running from another part of the apartment to have just the slightest chance of licking the bowl. And yes, we always let him.  He stands beneath the fridge whining… looking at us… looking up at the snacks he knows are on top of the fridge… looking back at us… back at the fridge… back at us.  He knows that we know we can’t stand his cuteness.  And he knows when I’m sad, or sick, or down.  Because he’ll come jump up in bed and put his head on my thigh.  Sometimes he’ll stand a little bit closer a little bit longer so we can run our hands from head to tail and gain a bit of calm after a busy day.

Oh, sweet Gordon.  I love you.  I hope you know it.  I hope I show it.  I hope I can be more like you.

Today was the time-honored tradition of Mount Holyoke Mountain Day!  Started in 1838, Mountain Day celebrates the mountain, the fall, good friends, and time off from classes, homework, books, and studying.  The bells toll at seven o’clock in the morning for five straight minutes, calling the students from their beds and to the top of the mountain.  Some drive, some hike, but it is being at the top that counts, meeting friends, eating ice cream, and taking pictures.

The Summit House, Mount Holyoke
The Summit House, Mount Holyoke

While I, sadly, could not spend the day partaking in any traditional Mountain Day festivities, I did take time to remember some of my favorite Mount Holyoke outdoor moments.  My favorite two come from then and now…

Winter, 2003: Snow hiking and sliding with Michelle and Jessica


Michelle and Jess at the top

My friends Michelle Boudreau Mattingly and Jessica Ketchen and I decided, as trip leaders of outing clubs often do, to lead a hike.  It was the middle of winter, but we thought hey–winter hiking is fun!  We advertised the hike up the Notch on our website and sent an email to the Mount Holyoke Outing Club listserv, and yet we were the only crazies to show up.

In the cold and snow we hiked up the Notch, a hike up one of the Seven Sisters on the way to Mount Holyoke, to see… well, nothing. Visibility was low, the snow was falling, and it was COOOOOLD.  But fun, and beautiful.  It was just the three of us on this trip; everyone else was curled up warmly with their comforters in their rooms watching a movie, studying in the library, or hanging out in Blanchard.  But not us.  No, that Saturday we hiked the mountain.  And then we slid down:

Jess and I sliding down the mountain

And then, we drove to Harrells for ice cream.

August 2009, Hiking the Metacomet-Monadnock trail to the summit of Mount Holyoke with Mark & Gordon:

One Saturday this past August, Mark and I decided that we’d drive out to the Pioneer Valley and hike Mount Holyoke.  I’d promised him long ago that I’d take him there, but this was the first time we’d been together.  We took Gordon with us, because he too likes to hike.  And what a good hiker he was! This trail is steep in many places and easy in others, and has beautiful views of the Oxbow, North Hampton, and the Pioneer Valley to the west.

The Oxbow, from vista on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail
The Oxbow, from vista on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail

The day we chose to hike might have been one of the hottest and muggiest of the year.  It was quite warm and buggy and pretty disgusting but we had lots of extra water and snacks, and hopes of cool drinks and sandwiches after reaching the summit, so we hiked on.  We hiked past the Mount Holyoke Outing Club cabin, up a steep knoll and along the ridge towards the Summit House.  One of my favorite moments from this hike was about 2/3 the way through.  We had just passed one of the vistas looking out to the Oxbow and were continuing to move along the ridge and down one of the low points.  We reached a big pile of rocks from which we’d climb down into a little ravine that we would walk in for a while before going up the long push to the top.  Gordon approached the rocks carefully… he looked down, tried one path down and didn’t like it.  He tried another and didn’t like that one either.  Then he stopped and sat.  We urged him “Come on Gordon! You can do it!” as he’d climbed up and down other piles of rocks and steep sections like a champ.  But not this pile.  Nope.  Too steep, and he was no dummy.  So Mark climbed down about half way, picked him up and carried him down.  I’m not too sure Gordon enjoyed being carried, but Mark put him down and we all continued on our way up the trail to the summit.

Once on top we took the traditional photograph in front of the Summit Sign:

Anna, Mark & Gordon on the Summit of Mount Holyoke

and then drove to Mount Holyoke (the College) where we bought ourselves those cold drinks and sandwiches we’d hiked for and sat on Adirondack chairs on quiet Blanchard Green to rest our toes and weary minds.

Relaxing on Blanchard Green

Today there was no hiking for me, but I read tweets all day from @mtholyoke about all the fun times that students were having going on hikes, hanging out at the summit, and eating ice cream with President Creighton.

I cannot say that I hiked any mountains, or even enjoyed the wilds of nature.  But I did conquer something…

A mountain of BerryLine froyo.  Yes indeed.

Perhaps next year I’ll hike a mountain instead?

How did you spend your Mountain Day?

Gordon has a new toy.  Well, it’s an old toy.  But he just figured out how to use it so it seems new to him.

You stuff it full of treats and then roll it around and the treats pop out.  He played with this thing for about half an hour.

Here’s a peek (note: there are four videos and while they’re very short, I recognize that you may not love watching 266 whole seconds of a dog playing with a ball.  So if you want the quick version, go for videos 1 and 3.  I think they’re the best):

I love how he plays a bit, and then looks at me as if to say “Oh, hey!”

Here he gets me to play a bit too:

Now he’s got the thing cornered:

He’s had too much I guess:

What a Gordon! He’s so smart sometimes.  And funny.

It’s getting cold in Boston, and we’ve been trying to think of ways to keep the heat inside. We thought that stopping the stiff breeze coming through the living room windows was a good place to start… So, remembering what my grandma had growing up, we decided to make some window and door “snakes.” Basically some old fabric filled with rice. Anna did a great job sewing, even adding some buttons and stitching enhancements — like this:

dsc01430

We felt the difference almost immediately. Only problem is, some of them don’t stay put and try to escape into other rooms…

dsc01443

So good thing we have a Gordon to corral them!

dsc01440

Anyone else have ideas for keeping an old New England house a warm(er) this winter?

Let me say that today wasn’t one of Gordon’s best days.  No, indeed it was not.  I’m not sure if it’s a full moon tonight, or a dog-ette was in heat or the weather was changing–but Gordon the Dog was a little shit today.  It started this morning.  I woke up and took him outside, which is the normal routine (Mark will argue here that me taking Gordon for the morning walk is _not_ a normal routine, but he’s on vacation, so whilst he’s away, this routine is normal) and went around the block–as we turned the corner, a nice man walking a little brown dog came around on the other side of the street.  Well it was still 7:00 am and I wasn’t quite awake at that point, and didn’t have my full day’s strength yet–Gordon pulled me into the street, me shouting “NO GORDON!!” looking left only to see a car coming our way about 100 yards off.  The car was far enough off that I think it saw us and slowed down, although I was so pissed at that point my adrenaline kicked in and I yanked the little beast back to the safety of the sidewalk and sat him down for a talking-to.  Which seemed to last all but about an hour while I did some gardening, and then he proceeded to sit under my desk and chew on one of my hb pencils.

Gordon looking out for wild vegetable-eating beasts while Mom gardens.

The garden is doing really well.  I’m very proud of it so far.  It got a little overgrown and wild, but I took care of most of that craziness this week.  Took one of our cherry tomatoes out and put it into its own pot which seemed to help a lot.   I also created a little string fence for the beans to grow up.  I hope that works, because the first of the beans were really good, and the more beans the better.  We have two full cucumbers and a couple little ones growing too–I check the garden about twice a day, and didn’t notice these until this morning.  They just kind of appeared out of nowhere.

And I’m the most proud of our little yellow-neck squash that popped up this week.  We grew these squash plants from the seed (all of our other plants came from seedlings we bought at the store) so it’s quite special.  Isn’t it beautiful?

I noticed today too we have a few zucchinis, a couple more peppers, and way too many tomatoes of three varieties (romas, patios, grape) that will be ready to eat soon.  Our flowers are doing well too, and the lavender is finally taking some shape, and looks to be growing some flowers which we’ll use in our soaps this winter.  I’ve really loved gardening this summer.  It’s our first garden together.

We’ve had many many plants, but not any that gave fruit, so this is exciting and fulfilling.  I appreciate more and more the work farmers do when I’m out there–and I’m doing it on such a microscopic level comparatively.  Someday I would like my sheep farm with a big big garden to grow enough produce to sell or trade for other things.  But for now I am heartily content.

A pepper and some tomatoes that I picked fresh today.

I went to the grocery store and to the PetSmart because Gordon was running out of food.  Is it just me or are all big-name pet stores crazy and completely under-staffed?  I see the commercials and think, oh, those dogs and cats look so happy, and the people there are friendly and nice! And then I go to pick up dog food that I would gladly purchase anywhere else if I could, but PetSmart & PetCo etc. are the only ones who carry it.  And I feel like I always wait with 15 other customers in the only line of a flustered employee, while someone waits on the side getting pissed and demands a manager.   But where else do you go to buy 45 pounds of ground up flour, oil by-products and other unmentionable meats?  Where!?  Anyhow, despite Gordon’s bad morning behavior, I did decide that perhaps instead of pencils he needed some rawhides to chew on.  YAY! Gordon loves rawhides.  He loved this one so much he ate the whole thing in one sitting.  Sometimes he hides the ends, but not today.

Look at how he grips it with his paws and holds on for dear life.  I keep telling him “Gordon, I don’t chew bones.  I don’t want it!” but any time I walked by him with even the slightest look his way, he took the bone and ran to another part of the house.

What a Gordon!

I also made cookies today–Lemon Drop Cookies which are the easiest and most delightful cookies of the summer.  My mother used to make them when I was little, and she’d make bags and bags of them and stick them in the freezer, because they are best that way.  The Lemon Drop Cookies are made with frozen lemonade and they’re so sweet and tart and lemony!  You take a cup of butter, a cup of sugar, cream them together and add two eggs.  Add to that a mixture of 3 cups of flour, a tsp of baking soda, and a .5 tsp salt.  As you’re mixing in the flour, add half of a can of melted frozen lemonade (you can use pink lemonade too, if you can find it at your store–that’s my favorite!) and then turn out teaspoon sized balls on to a cookie sheet and cook in a 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, until the bottoms are light brown.  Then brush the other half of the lemonade on them, and sprinkle with sugar, then pop them into the freezer.  Makes 3 dozen or so.

Gordon really wanted me to drop him one, but since he’d already had a bone and just eaten his dinner, I said no.  No, Gordon, no cookies for you.

He didn’t like that much, so he licked a raw one right off the sheet when I wasn’t looking.

Hopefully he’ll be on better behavior tomorrow, eh?

This is our first joint blog post. It’s Summer in Belmont, and as you can see, the tomatoes are growing!

We decided this would be a fun project to share our writing, art, and fun times. And plenty of pictures of Gordon.

As many of you know, Le Petit Éléphant is the name of our soap and candy “company” that comes alive for the holidays. Anna says “it’s not really a company… yet.” But someday, perhaps. You can follow its development here, I guess. And since we do make soaps, and people do seem to use them, maybe we should start taking orders for Christmas 2008. Send us an email with your orders. They come with a cool logo stamped on them.

We just returned from a week in San Diego. Here’s a top-5 list of things we saw/did:

5) Anna’s first trip to In N Out: We got our fries well-done and bought t-shirts

4) Fireworks over San Diego Bay on the Fourth: Big and loud.

3) Baseball at PETCO Park: Added another stadium to our list… Padres not good.

2) Sailing the Western Starr: Sailed out of the Coronado Yacht Club, nobly escaped three near-disasters.

1) Met the Pugs: Aunt Susan has three, and they all shed a lot. Does Mark still think he wants one?

It was a great trip, more to come soon. And we just re-potted some things in the pot garden, we need to get some pictures online!

Mark & Anna

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