July 27, 2015

The Importance of Being Authentic

Sorry, my dear family and friends, my sweetheart Lliam, our chickens, The Walking Dead and The Small Dog... But there are really only two great loves of my life:
 
1)  Eating Delicious Food
2) Eating Authentic Delicious Food
 
I am a very simple girl in this regard!  If given the opportunity, my 'perfect day' would consist of eating delicious food from someone or some place truly authentic for breakfast, lunch and dinner with good friends, laughing and having a ball.  Nothing in the world makes me happier than knowing this is the best I'll ever have or taste.  Addiction?  Passion?  *cough* Such a fine line...
 
So you can imagine my UTTER DISAPPOINTMENT when I realized that these two great loves were going to contend with my tech rehearsals for the play. This is a 1920's Gwendolyn Fairfax feeling 'rather put out' about her state of affairs:
 
 
 
 
Here's the scoop...
 
Our dear friends Jay & Vicki travel down to Louisiana six months out of the year.  The rest of the year when they're back home in the Methow Valley, we get an earful about all the great food, music and culture down there.  It's a real treat!  When you can't travel to these places yourself, it's nice to be transported through story telling.  We go over to their cabin for Happy Hour and Jay usually ends up cooking up something delicious.  Just a few weeks ago I tried frog legs for the first time!  Ahhhh!!! (Again, I say "Ahhhh!!!") Having spent a great deal of time in Louisiana, they've had the opportunity to meet some real Cajuns! 
 
 
 
Gwen asks, "Why is this important?  Is his name Earnest?"
 

 
No, Gwen. His name is NOT Earnest. His name is Marvin Broussard and he's the REAL deal.  His frenc family line dates all the way back to the 1800's-- it's pretty incredible. He is an astounding wealth of information about everything Cajun culture and its history and I find it utterly fascinating to get to hear his stories.  But instead of boring you with history I find riveting, I will tell you why this is important to me.
 
 A REAL CAJUN MAKES REAL GUMBO, DOES HE NOT!???
Therefore, I feel bound to state...
 
SCREW TEACAKE!!!!
 

 
When I learned Marvin was going to be in the Methow for a few months staying with Jay and Vicki, I nearly lost it.  Jay makes a killer gumbo.  He really does!  And I've always been super dreamy eyed about it.  But for a BROUSSARD to make a gumbo?  I would gladly be christened 'Boudoin Princess' if it meant that I got to try it. And, and, AND... even one better?  Learn how to cook it???  Maybe?  Yes?  A girl can dream about her ideals, can't she???

 
 
Well, our lovely friends invited us over for the Happy Hour to end all Happy Hours.  Marvin was cooking gumbo AND jumbalaya... "HELLO!!! Why all the cucumber sandwiches!?" And this Happy Hour was scheduled during the weekend of tech rehearsal. 
 
 
"I BEG YOUR PARDON?"
 

 
I was supposed to work Sat and Sun morning and then go straight to tech from 12-9pm.  There was no way gumbo was going to happen.


I cried. I wept.  I was not okay.  I was selfish and ugly.  I was where Oscar Wilde dreams go to die.

 
I went to rehearsal on Saturday hoping beyond all hope to get out early.  No such luck.  In fact, everyone kept asking where I was.  Because, you know, the gumbo was just THAT good how could I not swing by after? *sigh*  It felt like a cruel joke.

 
On Sunday, I went to work and then to rehearsal, utterly boggle brained out of my mind in exhaustion.  BUT... In a GREAT act of the gods, we got out of rehearsal by 6pm.  SIX PM!!!  Half asleep and drooling, covered in Tammy Faye Baker make-up, with pearl headband indentations on my forhead,  I peeled out of my parking space at the theater-- deer be damned!-- and I made my way back up to Mazama with one thought on my mind:
 
I must eat...
 
EVERY... SINGLE...BOWL... OF GUMBO! 

 
 
And wouldn't you know my dear friends hooked me up with some SERIOUSLY delicious eats.  First, an Imperial IPA from the Parish Brewing Company.Very tasty!!! And by that point, I was TOTALLY ready for an adult beverage.  *Hiccup!*
 
 
And despite CRUEL and HEARTLESS remarks like, "You think this is good?  You should have been here yesterday for the gumbo,"  I had the most amazing truly homemade and authentic jumbalaya you could possibly imagine.  The smoked boudoin is from our local butcher at Thompson's Meats.  Marvin said it's a pretty terrific boudoin for being from Washington.  He said it was a bit different than regular boudoin ("he must have added some things") but that, though different, would rival any boudoin in the supermarkets in Louisiana.  Maybe not the high end shops but he was really pleased just the same!  (Go Thompsons!!!) 

 
Then they gave me more beer.  It was not forced.  I was a willing and happy participant. In fact, I was in a state of bliss.  All of my dreams had come true.  I was so freaking happy to be drinking beer and sitting on my butt with friends!!!

 
And The Small Dog caught and ate about 18 bees.
She was super happy also!

 
They sent us home with the world's most amazing doggie bag.  I'm sorry, Oscars goodie bag, you're Calvin Klein sunglasses, just aren't gonna cut it.  I'll take gumbo from a true Broussard any day of the week!


I was surprised how little rice actually goes in gumbo!  And you gotta watch out for those bones!


After I finished off my bowl, I looked at the bones in an act of voodoo, to see what my future held...


 
A beautiful Banana Bread baked by my honey!???
He's always surprising me.  :)
 
 
After a succesful opening weekend, I am grateful to be a part of a fun show and even more grateful for a bit more down time.  We have two more weekends of runs and the cast is having a blast!  Last night, Lliam and I, with cocktails in hand, finally caught up on Season 4 of Game of Thrones... Bliss.

 

Whether it's gumbo, a performance or hanging out with friends, just don't forget the vital importance of being... authentic.  :)

Roux flavored kisses,
Mandi

July 15, 2015

Peppers and Plane Crashes

You may have recently heard about a girl named Autumn who survived a plane crash in the Cascade Mountains.  Over the next three days she followed water sources and ended up on Easy Pass Trail, found the highway, hitched a ride and ended up at The Mazama Store.  Yes, that is where I work! My uncle was the first EMT on sight just because he happened to be next door.  From what I hear, we've had reporters calling from The Seattle Times to CNN.  The story has been reported on NPR and the BBC.  A truly incredible story...

But guess what?

Though I was only six miles away, I didn't know a thing about it.  I was off Monday and Tuesday. Without Internet, THIS was my big news for the day:

OUR FIRST PEPPER!

This is a Carmen Pepper.  If I had let it get to a pretty red hue, it would have been even more sweet and delicious.  Alas, we have such a short season here, I'd hate for our little pepper plant to only produce one pepper.  I'm hoping she might be able to eek out another before it gets cold. 



It was around the time I was celebrating our pepper, that a friend posted the story on Facebook.  In a such a small town, I could tell you what Polly Pepper wore hiking last Saturday thanks to all the small town talk... Which is why I am astounded I didn't even know a plane had gone missing! 

In the meantime, I was super ECSTATIC that Moonbeam had come back from the Great Deer Buffet of June 2015 and has bloomed two new beautiful roses.


Aurora has also bloomed again as well!


While our little tiny, tiny, tiny world here was turning upside down oblivious me was thinking what a terrible mother I am to our plant babies.  I have been in rehearsals six nights a week for the play and working overtime at work. I have been neglecting our potato plants for sure.  They should have been covered with dirt a week ago!


So I spent a bit of time bringing some more tires and nice dirt over from Lliam's and making them happy again!




I was blown away at how much had grown in the past few days!  I went to snap some pictures when I noticed a voicemail on my phone.  I  got a call from CNN looking for my uncle. Apparently, Anderson Cooper's people were interested to have him on the show.  How they knew we were related or got my phone number, I have no idea.  *cough* BIG BROTHER.

Our plants have taken off like crazy... I'm afraid I may have over planted? Meep.


These are edamame!!!!  The went from hairy little appendages to full grown soy beans in a day, I swear!  Amazing!!  They still have to bake a bit more but nature is truly magical.


I got a text from a friend that said news reporters were calling the store off the hook.  I shared the story on Facebook a bit dumbfounded that this was the same Mazama that I live in.  I didn't witness a bit of it.  Instead, I witnessed two besties hanging out together.  


As I was swooning over this gorgeous romaine, my mom responded to my facebook post that she had also just heard the story.  It occurred to me, my mom in New York knows more about this story having internet and television, than I do six miles away.



I got to work today and a friend mentioned that she heard the story on NPR before hearing it through anyone in Mazama.  That's CRAZY.  But when you hole up in your cabin on your days off...

What we thought were watermelon plants are turning out to be pretty, shall we say, 'cucumber-lookin.'  Zod, the zucchini plant in the background, hasn't seemed ready to take over the world yet.  He talks a big game but he's all bark and no bite that Zod.


Our leaning tower of flower pizza, has also started to bloom!





She's beautiful!  Anybody know what kind of flower she is?


I'm so excited to finally see some tomato bulbs!  These tomatoes are hiding out probably like my aunt and uncle.  I haven't even talked to my uncle about it yet.  I figure reporters tried hunting him down through me, they must be inundated with calls.  I'd hate to add to the chaos!
  

All in all, an interesting few days for Mazama, a courageous, heartbreaking and heroic few days for Autumn. And for this girl?  Just a couple of regular days off.  I am grateful my days were full of soil and shade rather than scrapes and bruises.  I am THANKFUL I get to be inspired by the strength of the human spirit than to be the one having to carry on.  

I was just gardening... But I made sure my eyes were open.

All of our prayers are with you, Autumn.
Thank you for your courage.
And for the lesson.

Mandi





July 08, 2015

Philosophical Cold Feet

Weddings, weddings and more weddings!  It's wedding central around here.  My own wedding is taking place next year and we're very excited about it.
 
 
 
 
 
The Methow Valley seems to be the new destination wedding location for Seattlites so we've been doing a slew of wedding cakes, pies and catering orders at work. 

 
 
My brother and his beautiful lady recently got married in Vermont last May.


And then my own engagement and the shenanigans that ensue-- wedding planning, save the dates, dress shopping...  It's a lot to think about and yeah, yeah, yeah... all very exciting...

 
BUT WHAT ABOUT ADVENTURE????!!!!!


 
 
As I watched my girlfriends from college not only get married, but start having their third and fourth babies, I came to terms with the fact that this may never happen to me.  Along the way, I began to seek adventure.  I wasn't going to waste my life waiting.  I spent eight years in Los Angeles and three and a half years in Chicago.  I went on various road trips all over the country from Vegas to New Orleans.  It is truly a magical thing, the way life moves you, when you are living presently and fearlessly.  It is what brought me to Mazama for crying out loud!  That is why I trust it and the decision to set down roots here.
 
BUT...
 
A few weeks ago my friend and adventurous kindred spirit, Stacy, invited me to go to India with her in early March.  My thoughts were as follows:
 
1)  UMM, HELL YEAH!!!!!! MY DREEEEEAM!!!!!
 
2)  Shoot, the wedding in June.  I'll be preparing for that.
 
3)  Crap, the money.
 
4) Oh my God, I have a honey to consider now.  That is soooo weird.  What if he doesn't want me to go anywhere ever?  What if he finds my sense of adventure crazy?  He's lived here for 15 years and is totally okay with setting down roots.  I've lived here two years and I'm already looking longingly at the lumber yard!!!
 
5)  How would I wedding plan AND India plan!? You don't have internet.  It's difficult enough!  How would you know what to pack!?  Where to go!?  The customs!?  The do's and don'ts!?
 
6)  Well, think about it... If Lliam is okay with it, I could card the trip, have a last hurrah before settling down.  You know... Eat, Pray, Love meets The Hangover.  Namaste, dudes!
 
7)  Ugh, that's a lot of debt.  How will you pay for the honeymoon next November?  Then again, can we even afford to have a honeymoon regardless of whether or not I go!?
 
8)  The plan is to get married.  If we have no debt, we go on a honeymoon.  We come back, pay it off and then start having kids.
 
9)  KIDS.  *gut punch* Little joyous, wonderful...  money-sucking mongrels.
 
10)  Some people can't have kids.  Maybe YOU can't have kids, Amanda.  Did you ever think about that!? No, having kids will be beautiful.  I will teach them canning!  That will solve everything!  It will be it's own adventure! 
 
11) But KIDS.
 
12)  Sweet baby Moses in a reed basket, how will we AFFORD to have kids!!???
 
13)  All of those expenses...
 
14)  Wedding...
 
15)  Honeymoon...
 
16)  Get out of debt...
 
17)  Kids...
 
18) 18 years...
 
19) *sigh*  ...I AM NEVER GOING TO INDIA.
 
All that to say, those 13 thoughts happened in about three and a half seconds.  I may have suffered a minor stroke.  I saw my life flash before my eyes, outside my body, as I packed up Hannah Honda and headed south for the Mexican border. 
 
I definitely don't mean to sound ungrateful.  I know how ridiculously blessed I am and that there are people out there that would kill to have a house or a honey, or a deer trot right in front of them as they type their blog at an outdoor cafĂ©.  (True story!)
 
But I am not afraid to say that I am utterly TERRIFIED of feeling stuck.  Stuck in life.  Stuck in Mazama.  I am afraid of losing my magic, terrified that what I love most about life and about myself, I will lose. 
 
Everyone feels this way.  Whether it's fear about being in a relationship and losing yourself or fear about kids and losing your freedom.  Fear about donuts attacking Seattle by water...  It's all fear.  And I'm bound to find it, feel it and stay in it for a bit every now and then.  Or this year?  A LOT. 
 
BUT...Ever the Libra... There is another side of the scales-- a side that requires faith and trust.  A side that requires me getting out of my head long enough to be present in the moment with this heat, the noise of passing cars and my iced tea.  I'm right here.  From my own voice that lives less in fear and more in abundance:
 
1)  I trust the magic that brought me here.  That brought me a house.  That brought me Lliam, a small dog and chickens. 
 
2)  I am not in control of any of this.  I just have to be faithful in fearlessness.  That is when the magic happens. 
 
3)  I never expected to be able to afford a house on a baker's salary and yet, I have one.  Life has a way of making it happen.  YOU KNOW THIS.
 
4)  You can travel overseas at anytime.  You get that, don't you?  You look up the flight and you book the ticket.  There is nothing stopping you.  But it HAS to be a priority.  It has been impossible to you for so long.  You can't afford the time off, can't afford the ticket, the lodging, etc.  Maybe it's time to just book a ticket already.  People do this all of the time and consider it normal.  It is a small world, where one can travel every couple of weeks if one has the desire, IF you choose to see it that way. You went to Hawaii for free!!! ... Don't worry, I'm not offended you FORGOT ABOUT THAT.
 
5)  There are opportunities here that wouldn't have been so easy elsewhere.  You get to be Gwendolyn Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest!  In LA, you would have been too old! You wouldn't have been thin enough or had an agent to get you the audition or 18 million other reasons that are silly LA typical.  Key word SILLY.
 
6)  Kids are going to chaaaaaange your world, girlfriend.  You will never know such love.  Trust you don't know what you're talking about because you've NO IDEA what those rolly polly shit machines are going to bring to your life. More than diapers!  TRUTH.
 
7)  Besides, nothing says family like free child labor? Those chickens ain't gonna feed themselves!
 
8)  Those chickens?  Are the SHIT.  One little 'StuffOnMyChickens.Com' or 'RateMyChickenPoo.Com' website and you are financially free!!!!  Chickens... The New Pigmy Goat?
 
9)  Relax, homeslice... It all works out.  It always does. 
 
10)  Less fear, more abundance.
 
11)  But I'm not gonna tell you one way or the other to go to India this time.  That's on you.  SUCKA!
 
 
And those are my bipolar thoughts of the week from this eastern Washington hamlet called Mazama.   ;)
 
 
Namaste,
Mandi


June 30, 2015

The Garden

When I was four, I remember being with my mom as she was gardening.  She was about to pull a carrot out when a ginormous junebug wriggled out of the earth.  That was enough for me. Gardening was horrifying and I never looked back!  While I learned to appreciate ideas like buying organic produce and supporting local farms that would deliver regularly, any edible herbs I would bring home from the store would always die.  Interestingly enough, my mom killed every plant we had as well.  I really thought I had no hope.  Therefore, I left gardening to the professionals and to old hippies that had nothing better to do with their time!

Then I came to Mazama.  Everybody here gardens. My aunt has a garden.  The store I work at has a garden.  My manly motorhead fiance... has a garden.  In LA, shopping at Whole Foods is considered gardening.  I am ill with the information I don't know and way out of my league here.

But I was intrigued...

I loved the idea of spending less money at the grocery store.  My entrepreneurial spirit definitely liked the idea of having something to barter.  The morbid fascination survivalist loved the idea of being able to live off of the fat of the land; And the spiritual part of me that has such a deep respect for Native American culture, was incredibly intrigued to make a real connection with the earth.

Not only was I curiously trepidatious to see if I could grow anything edible in some raised beds but this little cabin, at the very least, was deserving of some lipstick and rouge!  

Here's our side yard as we bought it.  


And our backyard.


First things first, we bought some soil and went to get some horse pucky.  Unfortunately I had to keep Lliam company on this odoriferous, stenchy trip because that is something I can actually do.




Then I tore the metal siding off of the fence and Lliam used it to put together these these raised beds. The metal looked too industrial to me as a fence but looks totally adorable on these guys!!!  That's Lliam for you.  Resourceful, creative and cute.  


I bought these... 


And while I don't remember what kind of flower they are, I'm certain one of you will tell me.


This has piqued the interest of our neighbors.


I drank this...


...while Lliam put up a fence.


We also tore down the dead tree.  Lliam built an island out of large rocks to hide our water meter reader (on the left).  He filled it with soil & we planted seeds.  He collected all the slate we found and he made a little flower bed against the side of the house.  Lliam planted some flowers and I bought some rose bushes.

  


And then!  And then!  And then!  Things started to groooooow!!!  The hardest part about gardening is knowing what are flowers and what are weeds.  I made the mistake of not keeping my flower packets so I don't even know what I planted.  Also, I scattered them about a bit haphazardly.  Momentary gardening fail!  But you live, you learn, right?  



This guy took off!  


Don't remember his name either.
Sorry little guy!


This is our rosebush 'Flora.'  
We have an azalea bush next to it.


This is another rose bush named 'Moonbeam.'  (These flowers are named after the kinds of roses they are and probably after our future children).  A deer recently ate Moonbeams bud right off her as she was about to bloom.  So sad... But Lliam pruned her well and there are already new buds!  We've also sprayed her with some deer repellent.


This is our red rose plant so, of course, her name is Aurora.  We have an iris in the back and sunflower in the front.  It's like a mixed toppings pizza around here!  We also have another rose bush called White Licorice.  


We hung up one of the Indonesian wood chimes my dad sent Lliam and I for Christmas.  The other is at Lliam's house in his garden!


I had ZERO expectation about any of these things growing.  I figured the seeds would get lost in the soil and they would remain barren.  Lo and behold!!!  Things actually grew!!!  I am not as much of a numb nut as I thought!!!  In this raised bed we have:
  • rosemary
  • cilantro
  • thyme
  • carrots
  • spinach
  • kale
  • baby greens
  • romaine



Look at these greens!!!  
THOROUGHLY SATISFYING!!!



In our other raised bed we have:

  • broccoli
  • cucumber
  • beets
  • peppers (Anaheim & Carmen)
  • edamame
  • pole beans
  • tomatoes (romas, cherry and another kind I've never heard of!)
I bought starts for the broccoli, tomatoes and peppers as our season is so short here, they'll produce more this way.  The rest I planted.  When I was thinning my plants, I pulled up the roots on most of them, so I just replanted them!  Hence all the little plants to the right of the raised beds.  They're growing fabulously!  Who doesn't want more beets or pole beans!?  HOW IS THIS HAPPENING!!!???



I can't even tell you how wildly exciting it is to come home every day and see what's growing.  It's like playing the lottery!  What has taken off today!?  It always does!  I love the way these pole beans just wrap themselves tight against the trellis.  It's the cutest thing!  NERD ALERT!  


The ground floor of my edamame.
Hey!  I think I see Rick Moranis' kids!




This is Zod, our zucchini plant.  
He has BIG plans to take over the garden.



This is Sparkles, our rhubarb.


She's seen better days probably thanks to THIS guy.



Lliam brought over some baby raspberry starts.
These bushes grow to be a few feet tall!  Crazy to think...


I'm also growing potatoes!  You can grow them in tires.  As they grow, you put dirt around their stalks & they just keep growing.  Potatoes for DAYS!


This is our blueberry bush 'Shortcake.'  We've got some mulch around her now.  I am terribly excited to think about future blueberry pies with these berries...


We also planted some vines.
And hey!  A small dog.  :)



This all happened weeks ago!  We have recently harvested some leafy greens and spinach that were ready.  I ATE A SALAD I GREW WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS!!!


This Carmen pepper is starting to grow as well!
Salad is one thing but a pepper?  That's LEGIT.



Today I made rosemary, bacon & white cheddar scones with the rosemary we grew!!


And Aurora, though attacked by aphids... BLOOMED.
Of course she did.  :)



Bloom where you're planted y'all.  What are YOU growing!?

Join me next week as I do something else I haven't decided on yet. Yay!!!

Kisses,
Mandi